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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hello, It's Me

Today is Thanksgiving. The turkey has been cooked, and much of it has been eaten. The Lord has blessed Glen and me with a good day of peace and grace with one another and our kids. By this, I don't mean that there have been no conflicts, but these conflicts, I think, have been for our benefit and perfection, and to God's glory.

I take up now the task of clearly and thoroughly conveying how I got from there to here. What better day to do it, or at least to begin it, than on Thanksgiving? What better to be thankful for than for life everlasting and freedom from the burden of sin and despair?

I was born the ninth of ten children (no..eleven, my littlest sister, Dinah Ruth was born when I was 13, and lived only 13 hours: a dear little redheaded girl). From my earliest memories, I was in church. First (that I remember) was a Church of Christ. As I approached ten, the "age of accountability," I anticipated my baptism with enthusiasm. I was very disappointed that my family left that church just before this would have taken place.

While we attended that church, which was about 30 - 40 miles from our home, we spent Sunday afternoons in the homes of other members of the church, and returned to church for evening service. It was a pleasant time to be a child, and I had other "grammies" who loved me and my family. That church, of course was full of sinners and fallen men. In my youth, I wasn't privy to reasons; when we left, we left.

We went to another Church of Christ for a while, and then we had church at home for a period of time. We had communion and everything.

After that, we went to the Methodist church of my mother's family. Here, from about age 12 or 13 I stayed until I graduated from high school. I was active in the youth group, sang in the choir (because I loved certain women who were in the choir), attended Sunday School and church and on Thursday evenings, went to Campus Life (an inter-denominational Youth for Christ group). My best friend in High School went, without her family, to the Baptist church in town. I wanted to get baptized, and I went to her church for that.

Was I converted at that point? I don't know. I know that I was aware of my utter inability to improve myself. I know that I was burdened with the acute awareness of my own shortcomings. I know that I desired to follow and love Jesus with my whole self and my whole life. But... was that the mighty hand of God, or just adolescent self hatred? I really don't know, but I believe that the hand of God was on me, at least from that point on.

I graduated and began college at the University of Michigan, Flint. This is a satellite campus of U of M; a commuter campus. I went one year and dropped. I got a job at a gift shop in a famous tourist town, working Sundays, of course. I continued to try to go to Sunday School and at least part of church in the Methodist church in this town. I soon dropped this attempt because it was difficult, and seemed futile and irrelevant.

Soon after that I moved out of my parents' home and into a trailer with a friend from high school and her sister. From this moment on, I had little or no thought of God. The girls I lived with were faithful Christians.

I quit the gift shop job and got a job closer to my new home. I now sold candy bars, cigarettes, and booze in a convenience store. I was not prepared by my family, church, youth group, or personal devotion to the true and living God for the lifestyle I now found myself exposed to.

I slept little, ate poorly, popped no-doz, and flirted with the guys who came in to buy their beer, cigarettes, and booze. That was what they thought I was there for, and it was easier than being myself. I even accepted a date. A guy named Roger took me to see a movie called "My Bodyguard." Then I took him to meet my family. We then went to his place, and when I refused to have sex with him, he took me home, completely rejected me, and I never, ever heard from him again.

My hope at the time was definitely built on much less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I could have learned about looking for integrity in potential mates, or recognizing character and speaking my mind with confidence, or not being found alone with a date... But instead I learned what it is that men want, and, why was it that I wasn't in the game, anyways? It is just too hard to play by different rules, unless you are aware that you are actually playing a different game.

So I switched games.

This is much too ugly for me to wrench out of my keyboard. I cannot find sufficient reason to go into details about this, but, since God has allowed it, I am willing to expose my past if it will help anyone.

Suffice it to say, for now, that I strayed further and further from God. I even denied him. At the same time, I sometimes marveled at the pleasures that He created, at His sense of humor (ie: red hair--try getting an evolutionist to explain that one!).

I did not have a rock to stand on. I dishonored my parents. I denied the existance of the God who created me, sustained my very breath, and died for the sins in which I wallowed. I completely humiliated myself for the fickle approval of men. I convinced myself that by doing so, I freed myself from guilt, shame, inhibitions, convention, and ties that bind.

As I look back, I see God's hand in the details. Because of my rebellion and reliance on myself, and not His strength, it was a long, ugly road, but He worked all things perfectly together.

After an ill-advised marriage and divorce, I found myself married again. This time, God graciously opened my womb and gave me a daughter. Then He gave me another. Then, by means not to be exposed here, He put an end to the blessing of children. But these children were a blessing beyond expression, and the blessing of them has not seen its end.

One day, while visiting my parents with my daughters, I was talking to my younger sister. I was surprized to find out that she went to church every Sunday. When I asked why, she said that she wanted her kids to grow up in church.

Yes, growing up in church is a good thing. I would take my kids to church. So after a sufficient period of procrastination, I began the difficult task of choosing a church. I went to the first one (a Methodist church) on Palm Sunday. My daughter wore her only dress, a beautiful white dress handed down from her cousin. One of the ladies cooed over it, and commented that she couldn't imagine what my daughter would wear on Easter Sunday. My heart froze. She never found out!

Next I went to an Evangelical Presbyterian Church that my husband's nephew had gotten married in. I sat down and checked out the pew Bible. NIV...hmm... Don't really recognize Zephaniah, but other than that, nothing suspicious. They had all the stuff that I wanted for my kids, and coffee hour between Sunday School and church. There was a lady who found my kids every Sunday and gave them a piece of sugarless gum. She also came along beside me and helped me learn stuff. She held Bible studies, and she just knew a bunch!

One Sunday, while the preacher was preparing for communion, the words he spoke about the purpose of the table and the warnings about eating the bread and drinking the wine unworthily, were used by the Holy Spirit to convict me. I was unworthy. I was the reason that blood was spilt. I had despised the perfect sacrifice of God, and He loved me. I was undone.

When I got home that day, Glen asked me what happened. He somehow could tell that something was different. He realized more than I did at the time the distance between light and dark. He was afraid that our life together was over. In fact it was. The woman he married was gone, and a new creature had taken her place. From that moment on, God's hand was upon Glen's life, and nine years later, God called him as well.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Basking in the Goodness of God

God just amazes me, His goodness, His wisdom.

He is able to do more than we can ask or imagine.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Princess and The Yogre

AKA: A Really Happy Ending

Once upon a time, there was a princess. She was full of beauty and wisdom. She was friendly and everyone in the kingdom loved her. She was generous and hospitable, and her home was always bussling with guests. She was wise, and many sought her wisdom and confidence.

Then one day, a yogre moved into the kingdom. Like many yogres, when this yogre smiled, it often looked like she sneered, grimmaced, or growled. Because she was a yogre, like her mother and grandmother before her, her countanace was stern. When she laughed, a great "Gur-hoof, gur-hoof, snorrt" could be heard from a great distance, and many in the kingdom slipped silently away upon hearing it.

A yogre knows that she is a yogre, and will generally speak and laugh only with those who do not flee, and let the others go, not wishing to distress them further.

When she spoke, she usually got her words all mixed up, and sometimes made no sense at all. She came from a kingdom much different from this one, and often her speech and manners were misunderstood. She loved this kingdom, though, and so she continued on in it. In it was the air she breathed.

She loved the princess too. From time to time, she would muster up her courage and seek the pricess's wisdom regarding customs of the kingdom. When she did this, she tried really hard to choose her words carefully and not to laugh much so as not to frighten the princess away.

The princess was kind, as well as wise and beautiful, and always stayed long enough to answer the yogre's question. The yogre thought the princess was also brave, for she thought she saw a look of trepidation in the princess's eye whenever they spoke.

Then one day, the yogre, afraid of frightening one of the peasants away, chose herwords frantically rather than carefully, saying in haste, "I love you, don't flee!"

"GARR-UF!" the peasant heard the yogre say, and fled to the princess to confide in her how the yogre had frightened her.

The princess said nothing of this to the yogre.

Then one day, the yogre was walking on a kingdom path, enjoying the life her King had granted her, when she saw one of her peasant friends walking across a bridge. The yogre had seen many of the kingdom peasants walking on this very bridge, although not all of them took that path. The yogre smiled and waved a greeting at her peasant friend, who saw her sneer and heard her say, "Wheeeefle!" She quickly turned away. She did not flee, but stayed on the bridge. From then on, though, that skittish look came upon her whenever the yogre came near.

The yogre loved her friend, and began to worry that she was living on the bridge, instead of traversing on it. The bridge was sturdy, but was not for residing on. So, choosing her words ever so carefully, she began to talk to her friend about the bridge.

"Grr-gar-hooph! Warr!" the friend heard her say, and scurried away to the princess to confide in her how the yogre had frightened her.

The princess said nothing of this to the yogre.

Then one day, they came to gates of the City of which the kingdom was only a reflection. They went in, and they knew, even as they were known. Their King wiped away their tears, and they loved one another perfectly.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I Hear Voices

I hear voices.

Usually it is my own, and that one drones on in my head endlessly.

Tonight, while I was coming home from Bible study, the radio was on, and they were talking about the weather while I thought of something else. Suddenly, from behind me, I heard, "MAMMA ..." My entire skin contracted from the top of my head on down, and I nearly got in an accident trying to figure out what child was speaking so loudly from behind the seat of the pick up truck. Then I realized that it was a commercial aimed at mothers who felt like they were being pulled in all directions, and needed a quick and easy time with the Lord. Upon realizing that, my skin (all of it) having begun to relax, contracted again. I couldn't believe the effect this had on me. It seriously hurt! I was suddenly physically and emotionally exhausted.

Twice, though I have "heard" answers to deep questions. One was about two years ago, I was trying to figure out what to do. I was racking my brain, and, in prayer, asked God who I could talk to about this. "Glen." "My husband?" I responded, "no, no. I know what he will say." "Glen." So I talked to Glen about my (our) delemma. He gave wise counsel; totally blew my mind.

Today, I was thinking about a problem, and wishing that I had Glen on my side about this, just in this one matter. Why doesn't he see things my way? I pray for God's wisdom for him. I honor him. I submit to him. "But do you love it?" "Love what? You told me to submit to him. I pray for your wisdom for him, and I submit to him." "But do you love it?" "No, I pray for your wisdom for him, submitting to him while I wait for you to change his mind." "Love it. Rejoice in it."

God has given me a husband to lead me. He has given me protection, and my children a father to lead them and love them and protect them. I mindlessly ask God to give me joy in submission and then pray for wisdom for my husband while in my heart meaning, "Make him think like me. (just in this one matter)" This is despising the gift that God has given me. It is puffing myself up as the wisdom of God.

God has given me good. I need to love it, and rejoice in it. My deceiptful heart wants to add, "even if I disagree with it," but that is where I was. That is what I repent of. That is what I want to turn away from. That is what creates bitterness.

I need to see with eyes of faith that God has Glen's heart in His hand, and His ways are much higher than my ways, and His thoughts than my thoughts.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tuesday, Fish Dinner!

Today, Tuesday, I was not fish-bait, but a side dish in a wonderfull Fish Dinner with a dear sister.

Soft spoken and tender-hearted, and 17 weeks pregnant, Van arranged to meet me at Planned Parenthood. She is the strong one; she is the brave one.

God is good, and it rained, a steady drizzle. Not enough to get really soaked, but enough to show God's glory.

It is the same sidewalk and parking lot as on Thursdays, but not. The parking lot at 10 or so was sparsely used. A woman pulled in and parked and got out. The words stuck in the back of my throat and she walked to the building. So far I have only uttered a friendly "Good Morning" or two. She returned immediately to her car. We asked if they were closed. She said that they open at 10:30.

While we waited we talked, getting to know each other better, and sharing the courage that we gave each other. Three young-looking black people got out of a car, two girls and a boy, but would not respond to our greeting. We moved around to look at the smoking area, where on fine days, those who are waiting for their appointment will sit and smoke, or eat and apple, or read a novel. It is like a place appointed by God to sow seed, or draw them or call them or snatch them from the flames. When it rains, though no one sits on a stone bench and smokes.

We found that when we stood in the alley, they could turn away from us to walk to the door, and thereby ignore us easily. When we stood on the sidewalk, near the privacy fence, we could greet them as they approached the door, and they could see, from their natural periferal vision, that we appeared to be friendly and harmless. To respond to us, in this position, they had to go out of their way. They had to turn, in the rain and come to us, instead of to the door of Planned Parenthood.

I was amazed to see the glory of God in the rain. I was amazed to see a young woman, walk past the entrance and approach us when we called to her. Her claim to not be pregnant and not here for an abortion was her acknowledgement that she knew what we were about. It was her "Peace, peace." We learned from her.

I was amazed to see a young man whom we saw go in alone, turn away from his car, which now was only three feet from him, to approach us and accept an information sheet. He did not offer an explanation about his presense there, and we did not ask. We learned from him.

I was amazed each time someone, in the rain, went out of their way to come to us.

I was amazed when Van called me later, for she stayed when I had to get back to work, and told me that a young woman, with an umbrella and a satchel, whom I had seen go in, but missed the opportunity to speak to her; came out and talked with Van. She listened as Van told her that she herself is 17weeks pregnant. She even waited (if I understood her correctly) while Van called Car, and asked where the Crisis Pregnancy Center is.

God is amazing, and I extol His wondrous works.

I was going to include a neat document that David (Mr. T) in our church created to hand out on campus, but I couldn't get it to stick. I made copies and we handed them out today. It was a very good thing to have, I think. It was something for them to look at while we fumbled for something to say. They were read intently on occasion.

I am greatly encouraged.

Monday, November 06, 2006

My name is So, and I'm a Sower, and I work at a Button Factory...

AKA: Just Tell Me

There once was a button-maker, who made fine buttons. One day she was asked to make zippers. She was one who would help where she could, a lovely woman, so she aggreed. She was given the fabric necessary to make the zippers, and the little metal pieces to make the teeth, and was told to have five of them done in a week. Although she had made a zipper or two on occasion, it was not her specialty, and these ones seemed very complicated, but she was determined to her best, so she worked and worked. She was not going to finish the five zippers in time, so she accepted help from a zipper-maker friend who zipped through the remaining two in no time. When the button-maker gave the zipper-maker her zippers, they were found to be incorrectly constructed, and the zipper-maker had to take them apart and remake them. She refused, however, to tell the button-maker of the error. She thought it would hurt her feelings.