May 29, 2013

The Faker

I am too hard on myself. I really am. And I have been called out for speaking or writing things that reveal that reality---for putting words to my insecurities.

I wrote a letter to a friend yesterday and referred to myself as a "faker." She called me out on it. She wrote me back and in her straightforward way said, "I seriously in no way think fake when I think of you at all." What she wanted to say was, "Get over it!" but she was being nice. I appreciate that---that she didn't say what she was thinking. I also appreciate the fact that I have a friend I know so well. I can read her mind. That is a gift I don't take lightly.

I sat out on the porch today and I thought about what I was really saying when I was claiming to be a faker. The conclusion I came to was, at that moment, I didn't like who I was.

When I wrote the letter I was telling my friend how much I admired how comfortable she is in her skin. She wouldn't deny it because it's true. I need her to be who she is and she needs me to be me. Thankfully, that means she accepts the me that suffers with occasional bouts of insecurity.

It made me sad that I had revisited old stomping grounds yesterday. Today I've been reaching back to lessons learned the hard way, remembering that God loves me. 

If He's okay with who I am, couldn't I give myself a break and be okay with the person God created me to be?

Years ago I was processing, hashing through the weeds of things that had thrown me into a pit of despair. My psychologist took me to a place on the journey that, looking back, I know was a destination on a road map he had planned just for me.

"Dea, you love God deeply. And you love people. You love to tell people that God loves them. What I think you ought to do today is say aloud to yourself, 'God loves me.'" 

He didn't try to convince me, pull out any Bible verses. He let me sit with his suggestion, uncomfortable in my skin.

I sat there on the striped couch, my hands tucked under my thighs, holding them snug to keep from wringing them. I am sure I was biting my lip.

The doc, he was a patient guy and he waited for my response, nodding encouragement, giving me the yes, you can do this look. For weeks, I had looked away most days when he asked me to step up to the plate. This time I stared back into his eyes. I saw compassion.

I could do it---say God loved me, but not to his face. I had known him for a while. My depression had been long and deep and so was the recovery. I had trusted this guy with helping me move back into life. I needed to find the courage to do what he thought I needed to do. 

Finally, I slipped to the floor and lay down on the carpet, crossed my arms and went face down, resting my head on my forearm. My voice spoke first in a whisper, "God loves me." And then again louder, "God loves me." I don't know how long I was down there saying those three words. What I do know is--- I fell into a pit of love.

The words, the crying, the finally being able to say to myself what I had only said to others, broke me open like a soaking rain, the kind that comes slow bringing life to the earth. I was drenched in the knowledge of God's love, swimming in the depths of God's grace.

God had always loved me. He loved me even when I only let Him do it on my terms. He's tenacious, and I love Him for it.

I wish I had written down the date. I'm certain that day was the pivotal point of my life. God sent me the healing psalm but He didn't leave me to pick up the pieces of life alone. He brought me all the way through.

I am not a faker. There are times when I am not as comfortable in my skin as I want to be. I keep getting up in the same skin morning by morning and day by day. 

Somehow it feels a little more comfortable today.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
 (Lam. 2:22-23)

Linking with Emily at Imperfect Prose and Jennifer at:

May 22, 2013

She Keeps Her Dreams in Her Pocket

I ran into Kash at Cabela’s while wondering around the kid’s apparel racks.

She was doing her job and asked if she could help me.

She hadn’t heard of the controversy about Abercrombie & Fitch that erupted on the Internet a couple of weeks ago. I told her that I was convinced that Cabela’s was doing just the reverse of A&F. I found nothing in the women’s section for my small frame so I thought I would look around the kid’s racks. 

I had already rounded every rack in the men’s section for a size small. I had wanted to buy a couple shirts for my son to work in this summer. It had become obvious that men’s sizes started at medium.

“But you can order the small sizes.”

“Yes, I can but I’m a girl and I like to try on what I wear. Someday, you need to make it to a place in management where you can influence change in this store.”

That’s when the conversation turned away from the store and toward the twenty-three-year holding a handful of shirts on hangers.

Kash told me she was already working her way up, training others and that her plan was exactly what I had said---to work her way up into management.

I asked if she was getting her education. She explained that she had been told she didn’t really need it. 

I objected. She needed it, and she needed to get them to pay for it. She laughed.

We talked about the importance of education for a minute and then she said, “Can I show you something?”

She handed me the shirts she was holding and pulled out a sticky note from her jeans pocket. 

“I make goals everyday and write them on a little note. Today I have four goals. I put pennies in the pocket with the note, one for each goal. Each time I complete one of my goals I move a penny from one pocket to the other. I have already moved one today and I am about to move another.”

She unfurled her life before me with an air of determination I don’t often see in women her age.

As soon as I saw the neat line of goals scribbled faint with pencil lead, I asked what she was doing with the small pieces of yellow paper---- her everyday goals. “Do you journal? Are you keeping track of them?”

She nodded left to right. No.

“I think you should keep them. Get a little black book, put a date on the page and stick them in it. In a year, you will be so thankful that you have them and you’ll see how far intentional living has taken you.”

One of her penciled goals was to learn something new from a customer that day. 

I told her how much I admired her writing her goals down and loved the idea of using something as simple as a penny as motivation and a concrete way to measure her progress. I shared my goal of encouraging at least one person everyday, particularly a woman, to let somebody know that she is important in the world, and to the God who created her.

“I hope that you have found this conversation to be a blessing because I think you are awesome.”

Her wistful look let me know the conversation was ending. 

“I’ll see ya, Kash. It’s been nice talking to you.” But I knew I wouldn’t. My life is hours away from hers. I knew in my heart this would be my only encounter with this girl who had just pulled vulnerability out of her jeans pocket and shared her life with me. 

At the front counter, I found a manager. Her posture told me she was ready for the worst. “No worries,” I said. “The girl named Kash back in apparel--- she is awesome and I wanted to make sure you knew. She is an incredible girl in her generation and what an opportunity you have to help her accomplish her goals. There are big dreams tucked away in her jeans pocket and she needs people like you to help her to achieve them.”

“Wow, we never hear the positives. She is quite an incredible young lady. Yes, I will email corporate and tell them about Kash. Thank you for taking the time to tell me something positive. It’s a nice change. I appreciate it.” 

I carried no bags out of Cabela’s that day. As I walked toward the exit, the sensor finally caught my frame and the big automatic doors slid open. I walked into a beautiful spring day and made a mental note to put sticky notes on my grocery list.

Truth be told, Kash may have thought she had learned something from me last Saturday, but really it was the other way around.

May 14, 2013

Midwife to Hope

She stared back at me from the mirror this morning. Her eyes peered through acrylic bi-focals, through amber frames, the color of her eyes.

The forty-nine year old woman with hair wild from the pillow, wrapped in a white chenille robe looked strangely familiar. I wonder if I know her?

She is writer and she is not. She’s been filling yellow pads and tapping on a laptop for a couple of years trying to figure that one out. At the least, she had hoped in all those words there might fall out of them her purpose, the one for the middle of her life.

She’s closing out the last chapter of parenting, the greatest story she ever wrote. Only she didn’t write it with a pen in hand; the story was not written in words, but on the slates of her children’s lives.

Twenty-five years ago, she began the story when she bore down to give life. The delivery room had emptied except for her nurse. Vivian Becko was a South African nurse/mid-wife who immigrated to the Deep South to work beside a doctor.  

The doctor was out with the family, giving an update on a baby stuck high in the birth canal. He prayed with the family while she lay up in the stirrups, Vivian Becko by her side.

With deep passion, Vivian, in accented English, spoke assurance over the young mother’s swollen womb, “We’re gonna have this baby.” 

Vivian spoke “words that make souls stronger.” She entered the pain of the twenty-three year old frightened laborer, gathered strength for the young mother by bearing down with her in the midst of the pain. Sliding her beautiful brown arm under her back, she lifted her patient to the rhythm of a line scribbling along a path of hills and valleys etched on paper.  

“We are gonna have this baby.”

Vivian seemed determined in hope. It inspired the young mother to believe what she could not see, what might really be happening, that she was really going to “have” the baby.

At forty-nine I look back and I think of Vivian as one of the first women to bear down with me in the midst of incredible pain. But she wasn’t the last.

Vivian joined me in her words, her actions, her intensity that cold December night. She bore down with me, knowing just what was necessary for my small frame to move that baby down, to push that life closer to breathing earth’s air.

They would never call themselves midwives, but God has blessed me with incredible women over a lifetime who have been willing to bear down with me when life was painful, to speak to me words of hope.

I could never do what Vivian did (or what millions of Labor and Delivery nurses and midwives do everyday.) But I can bear down with someone who is hurting. I can speak the “we” into their lives, help them know they aren’t alone in their pain.

So as I have labored these past months searching for my purpose, maybe this is what I am called to do? Maybe I am called to be midwife to hope? 

One thing I do know is that women need women to help them believe that they can make it through pain into the broad place of peace. I am made to be a hope-giver and a truth-teller. When my sisters are bearing the weight of depression or heartache, I can hold my arm up under them, bear what pain I can, speak the “we” into the loneliness of pain. I can do this, because by God’s grace, my life has birthed more than babies.  

I know there is life, beautiful life, aching life, grace-filled life on the other side of pain.

Real life always comes through the crucible of pain. This is the gospel. It was through pain that Jesus Christ bore our sins and gave us life. And every time we enter into pain, we move close to heart of Jesus who knows pain like no other. 

He bore our pain on the cross to give us life.

And it is through this life, that He gives us the opportunity to stand beside someone in pain and say these powerful words---“we can do this.”

We can take no one out of their pain---no more than Vivian Becko could take me out of mine as I was birthing my firstborn. But we can be there with them in the midst of it, stand beside them, remind them they are not alone.

I am a mid-wife to hope---not because I am hope but because I know Hope. All of us, who know Him, have this same opportunity, to believe with others that there is a way through the pain that leads to life.

…but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
It is hardest to see God is good when we are in pain, when we hurt so badly and we are losing our grip on hope. To help someone in the midst of pain isn’t easy. They don’t always accept the pain that inevitably comes with living. They believe their pain is in vain and are sure the death of hope is their destiny. 

What about the pain that comes when the womb remains barren? When the baby is stillborn? When the child lives but never speaks a word? When the DNA reads challenged? When the life with a future, dressed up in dreams, ends too soon? When tragedy rips a hole right through a heart and a world is turned upside down? Can they stand as midwives to hope?

Yes, yes, yes. They do stand as midwives to hope. I know these women and they have given birth to both life and pain. Despite the challenges, the suffering, and the pain, they call out to others that God is good. By God's grace, they have found life after pain or in the midst of it. They are midwives to hope and their testimonies bear their sisters up with truth. 

Thank you, Vivian Becko and all my sisters, who have encouraged me along the path of life. Directly or indirectly, your lives have often spoken louder than your words. God has used you to help me see my late in life calling--- to be willing to enter another’s pain, to speak words that strengthen souls, to love without condition, and to embrace the privilege of placing the hurting before the throne of Grace--- to become a midwife to hope. 

May 8, 2013

I Am His Rib

He stood on his feet all day, turned babies over this way and that. Placing the cold metal disk of his stethoscope on their little chests, my man listened to life beating new. His day filled with caring for little ones, he’d been hugged, or shunned, and almost unquestioningly spit-up on. And there were boogers, lots of boogers.

After a long day, he walks in the door, dinner on the stove and reaches to hug me. My arms fold up criss-crossing between my breasts as I lean into his heart. His arms easily draw my small frame into his barreled rib-cage.

This folding--- every time I do it--- I feel a twinge of guilt. I know I am creating a barrier between my heart and his. He reaches toward me. I hold back.

I was made from his rib, made to protect his heart.

All these years later, why do I always try to protect my own?

When we started our lives together we began the dance to a rhythm that didn’t come easily to me. I’ve stepped on his toes and he’s stepped on mine more times than we could count.

In high school, I skipped the home economics elective, packed myself for college after graduation, and headed off to make my way in the world.

I fell in love my sophomore year to a senior who found out a few months into our relationship that he was accepted into medical school.

He asked me to marry him promising me that he would always love me and that he would find a way for me to see the world. He wanted me to finish my degree. Marriage would wait for my dream to be fulfilled. He never wanted me to look back with regret. It was a hard reality to wait during years when Skype was only a sci-fi fantasy.

He was giver and I was needy. He was everything (and more) than I had ever thought I would find in someone to share my life. From the start, he made his vision for our future clear, that if God blessed us with children, he wanted to provide for me, for them, so I could stay at home and raise our children. It is what his mother did and it was what he wanted for his children.

Buried for two years in medical school syllabi, I rearranged my degree plan from pre-law to education. Our long engagement ended when I slipped off my graduation robe one weekend and slipped into my wedding gown the next. That was twenty-seven years ago.

Last fall, his heart fluttered. Literally, he felt as if a moth was caught somewhere between his heart and his esophagus. He had been rolling into exam rooms all morning, pushing door after door open with his shoulder, pulling the top off the black roller ball pen with his teeth, setting one little one after another onto a tall examine table covered in cartoon printed paper.

He was tired but people get tired when they work hard. Twenty years of practice experience had his schedule full by nine in the morning. Two trips to the hospital book-ended long days standing on his feet taking care of babies and children.

The moth that seemed to flutter down in his rib cage only subsided occasionally. It never freed itself. He felt no pain but he did feel unsettled.

The flutter was a silent alert---a signal that could have gone unheeded in the midst of a busy day. He didn’t ignore it and few days later I sat in the waiting room outside the cath lab drowning in coffee, my nerves quickened with caffeine.

I watched a clock as time slowed, until a male nurse in blue scrubs knelt in front of me, looked me straight in the eye, “Mrs. Moore…” (I gulped at such formality. It could mean nothing good.) “Dr. Moore has a 80% plus blockage in his left anterior descending artery, commonly known as the LAD. It has to be stinted. Hopefully, the procedure will go smoothly and there will be no complications.” 

The doctors might call that major artery the LAD; the world calls it the widow-maker.

My heart skipped a beat and my heart of hearts broke open, a silent cry, “Oh my God…” Even in silence I hurdled my prayer passionately toward the holy altar at heaven's throne---a heart cry like no other I have ever prayed.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.

Life finds me changing diapers again, now for my sweet grand-girls. My last baby is stepping out on the branch of his senior year in high school, a blink away from spreading his wings. I don't know that I have ever been very successful when it comes to home economics. I have kept some kind of chaos held together in a home over the years. I never learned to bake bread or sew a quilt. The food network taught me to cook. My passport is full of stamps.

I haven’t lived the life I planned. I have lived the one I would have never let myself dream. Somehow in God's grace, dreams I didn't know I had came true. 

A couple of days ago, I heard the back door open and shut. He met me in the kitchen. I was drying my hands on a dishtowel. As he turned to me, I tossed it onto the granite counter. He opened his arms for a hug and I started to fold up. But I caught myself. Wrapping my arms around him, I pull his aroma deep in to my lungs. I listened for his heartbeat.

I am his rib. I protect his heart---- and in holy mystery he completes me.
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”  (Gen. 2:23)
Linking with Shelly Miller at Redemption's Beauty and Emily Wierenga at Imperfect Prose.
And Jennifer Dukes Lee at:  

May 1, 2013

In Which I May Have Slipped a Millstone Around my Neck

When I was twenty-nine I was asked to lead a Bible Study class. I had no business leading women who for the most part were older than me. I felt some hesitation. I feared misspelling words on a chalkboard where I would make lists for my class. I didn’t think about the fact that I might not know the truths that I was teaching. I reflect back twenty years ago and think, “What was I thinking?”

I wasn’t.

I read recently of the in-fighting going on in Christian communities online. People are lining up behind different writers (teachers) or against them. Some leaving snarky comments they probably would not say face-to-face. Could be wrong on that one?

Seth Haines addressed this issue on a post on his blog and did so in a vulnerable way that I appreciated. But I didn’t agree with him on every point---at least not fully. Though I don’t know Seth, I think it would be okay with him. If he knew me, and we sat down to talk this out, our conversation would probably lead us somewhere unexpectedly meaningful. I think he might be from my neck of the woods so maybe we might get the opportunity to have the conversation some day.

The Christian blogging world has set quite a table.

When I was a child, I came home from church to my grandmother’s table, an offering of all the bounty of her gardens. The other months the bounty came from the freezer and the canning jars. It was always a feast.

The Internet has opened a table set with food from all kinds of writers and teachers, a feast from teachers all across the world. Of course, there are differing opinions on the same subject. When I read two points of view, I don’t feel the need to set up camp with one or the other. And I don’t feel the need to cast snarky stones when I don’t agree.

When I read different points of view, I go to the Teacher and I wrestle them out with Him and not with people. He is the Truth Teller and ultimately, my allegiance is to God and God alone. I have learned much from Him since I was twenty-nine. The more I have learned, the more I know that I will never have a total grasp of God Almighty even though I seek Him everyday.

Jesus gave the command to teach in the Great Commission but it shouldn’t be entered into lightly. As Seth inferred in his post, those called to teach should do it with fear and trembling because there is a greater judgment for those who teach falsely.

"It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”

The millstone is a sober reminder not to teach if you are not called. This soberness is highlighted and underlined in light of the greater judgment that comes to those who teach. It is that reverence, that understanding of the consequences of leading others astray, that keeps me humble before a Holy God who has called me to write and speak—to teach in my generation (as a fisherman and not a theologian.)

My Sunday dinner plate at Grandma’s table was like filling a painting with color and texture. She offered up two meats, usually fried chicken and roast beef and a couple of desserts-- a banana pudding and often a Coke cake. I can remember scooping out a hole in the mashed potatoes and filling it with purple hull peas. All the other offerings laid side-by-side on the plate, corn and okra, fresh tomatoes, radishes and onions, some of the vegetables pulled from the garden minutes before the meal.

Before the meal was over, the food on the plate had mixed to make the few last bites a conglomeration of all the piles of deliciousness that had covered my plate. At the last, I would reach for a piece of light bread and sweep up the last bite, wipe my plate clean.

I know people who never let the food on their plate touch. And I know people who camp out with one teacher (or a few)---some that rely so heavily on them that one human teacher and never consider sitting at the feet of the Teacher. They bristle at anything on the plate becoming contaminated with something that didn’t come from the mouth of the one they believe has the last Word on God’s Word.

Human teachers are people God created who might have something to speak into my life. I ask for discernment and sometimes I add to the conversation. I realize the person writing is coming from somewhere--- somewhere true, untrue, or dare I say, somewhere in the middle. If I stumble onto someone who is dishing out “truth” with no grace, then I am out of there. That offering isn’t going on my plate. And no, I am not even going to try it.

The disciples were the first to receive the Great Commission (which included teaching.) I wonder how well prepared they were for what their calling would require of them---- take from them?

Jesus loved the disciples. He gave them the greatest opportunity ever to walk with Him, sit with Him, and eat with Him everyday as He accomplished God’s purposes on this dirt.

When Jesus called the disciples, He didn’t tell them they would die as martyrs ( all except for John and Judas.) He didn’t give them an out by saying, “Hey, you are going to see some unbelievable things in the next three years, your lives are going to be forever changed by following this call, but down the road, you are going to die just so you know and can weigh your options.”

Only God knows the end from the beginning.

Surely Jesus looked upon them in compassion at times thinking of the pain they would endure after He left to go and prepare our place.

When James stepped near him, did He grab hold of James’ shoulder swallow hard knowing that James, part of the inner circle, would be the first among the disciples to give his life for the Teacher?

Be sober-minded about being a teacher but don’t opt out of your calling because you fear the millstone. Remember its warning. Test your heart and lay it before Holiness.

I could grieve that I feared misspelling words when I was twenty-nine. I stepped up before a class of ladies full of pride, wanting to look like I had it all together. I did not. Yet, I know had I not stepped out that day and followed that call, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I would not love God like I do and I would not be awed by the fact I will never know all the mysteries of a God who is so big, so loving and so purposeful in His ways---ways that I will never fully grasp. He has never given up on me. I am so grateful that He didn't kick me to the corner because of my pride, my lack of knowledge, my naivety. He never gave up on me even when I gave up on myself.

I am grabbing hold of grace. I am sober-minded about the millstone. I don’t post snarky comments because how would that reflect the life that is mine in Christ Jesus--the life He has for all those who would receive his great love.

I remember this rebuke from Jesus to the accusers, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.”  

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 

This God, He leaves me wonderstruck and so very grateful to the One that tastes so very good, my God, full of grace and truth.

(Seth, if you read this I want to thank you for being used of God to prompt me to think through these things. I hope you don't mind me mentioning you here. If you do mind, let me know and I will happily take it down.)

Linking with Shelly Miller at Redemption's Beauty and Emily Wierenga at Imperfect Prose.