Verge of Tears

College sophomore Caroline Hite pulled my thin jacket around and zipped it up to my chin. I wasn’t quite prepared for the cold this Tennessee Fall was threatening. It was dark and I could not see the green circular lawn as I walked the diameter from the library to my dorm room. 

With a dreary attitude, I slumped up the steps to the third floor. With dramatic disappointment, I flopped down on my simple twin bed and gave a large exhale. 

“What’s the matter?” My roommate and best friend inquired. 

“I miss him!”  I was seriously on the verge of tears. 

“Who?” She asked with a tinge of girly excitement, yet knowing that I told her everything and she knew I did not even have a current crush. 

“One day I am going to love someone so much. One day it will hurt to be separated from him…I don’t know who he is…but I miss him now.”

Obviously, I am a hopeless romantic to the core. Randomly, that vivid memory crosses my mind and I smile. I still feel the cold breeze blow against my cheek and I remember that longing that I had in my heart that has now been filled.  James. James is that man that I was missing. 

And today that longing grabbed my beating heart in a whole new way. Bleeding and still pumping, the Holy Spirit grabbed my heart and tenderly yet firmly looked me square in the eyes and said, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

Did God long for me?!  Like that!  In a perfect, complete way know that he had created me and I was yet to be born?  Does he look at me now, at every detail of my little life and know that he made me to love coffee, know that he made me to crave the words of CS Lewis and while I read “Surprised By Joy” it was an event created to be at the beginning of the world?  Did he long for the day when I would have my own daughter and cry tears of love and joy at the realization that this is just a glimpse of the love the Father has for me?

And I am humbled. How?  HOW!  How can GOD love me?!  Want me?!  Wait for me?!  And I realize, he made me for Him. He has a purpose for me!  Oh God!  Grab me!  Kicking and screaming, wholly addicted to myself, and lazy out of selfishness and begin your work in me.

My toes are wading in the water, but I want to dive in!  

And I walk the diameter of this world. It is dark with arrogance. My heart is not in the right place. But I miss someone. Someone I will be with for eternity. One day I will sing HOLY. HOLY. HOLY. And one day I will be complete and whole and all my questions will be answered and all my hurts will be undone. Dear Jesus, my heart aches for that day I will be with YOU!  And the Good News is that You want to be with me too!

Momma is Packing

“There are three types of people in this world:  sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs.  

Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world, and if it ever darkened their doorstep, they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. 

Then you’ve got predators, who use violence to prey on the weak.   They’re the wolves. 

And then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression, an overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.”  

-quote from Chris Kyle’s father in the movie, American Sniper 

Oh gracious we have come a long way!  From the pilgrims that died of starvation and sickness while seeking religious freedom to the PC police that call out every single damn little word that hurt their tender little feelings. (As a little side note, these wolves sometimes disguise themselves as “Christians.”)

And I have this baby, this girl that has been running ahead of me since she was born. A tough little cookie that is growing up a Noah in this world of sheep and wolves and where does she fit?

Well, if I may, this woman I am is a natural sheep. I like to graze in my little pasture and lay in the sun and drink from the clear flowing creek and not worry about what is beyond the fence and get along with all the other sheep. 

But then something happened. She is blonde and loves every single animal (even the ugly scary ones) and reads every single written word put before her. 

And I took one look at her and fell so deeply in love and then I stared that big bad wolf in the eyes and said, “Ohhhhh HELL NO!”  

And while I do not always write to one particular group, I realize that I am writing to parents here, and educators, and leaders, and those that care to voice their opinions to influence others. We have two jobs in this life as mom and dad and those caring for children:  protect and prepare. 

Protect.  I have been accused, the finger is pointed and they think they are laying the final blow, “Your daughter is in a bubble.”  My response?  “Hell yeah!”

Do you know what this world is like?!  In big ways, my daughter is protected that she has no clue what it means to be hungry. My daughter is among the few children that still lives with her mom and dad. She does not know what it means to wonder where we will sleep at night or how are we going to pay for medicine or any of the other luxuries that so many of us in our protected culture take for granted every single day!  

But do not think for one second that while I am protecting her, that I am not preparing her!  While we are laying the Biblical foundation at home, we are preparing her faith to be attacked. While we are strengthening her confidence, we challenge her to stand up for the weak. 

Lord Jesus, I am overwhelmed!  I am just a little sheep!  But you are not only a sheepdog, YOU ARE THE SHEPHERD!  You love your sheep!  You are not afraid of the wolves. And you have sent your sheepdogs into this world to protect. 

So, while I bring my little sheepdog every day to the Shepherd for lessons and while I know that my power and protection come from the Shepherd, when I am just a sheep hanging out with my sheep friends in this world of PC sheep that do not even believe that wolves exist, I have been pushed to the limit where I do not have the luxury to be silent anymore. I am stepping out where I know I am going to get shoved back and I know not everyone agrees with me. (AND THAT’S OK!  I am perfectly content to agree to disagree!) 

But when civilians are being massacred in GUN FREE ZONES, it is ignorance to claim that we need more gun control!  When ISIS is thinking up new cruel ways to murder Christian children, we can no longer tolerate leaders that will not identify radical Islam as our enemy because they are afraid of hurting feelings!  We have moved past that!  

And I will close my, what I hope is seen as a thoughtful opinion backed up with facts and not a rant, with something I believe so firmly in that has been lost in our modern comforts:  The Second Ammendment. 

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

So, while everyone likes to talk about “my rights,” what really is my right?  Well, one of them is to carry a gun. Go ahead. Label me. 

My Panic is Healed

I turned the corner of the isle in Target, panic struck my face. Panic struck in an instant to the center of my core. 

“MAADISOOON!”  I yelled at the top of my lungs. 

From just the next row, in the other direction, a very young Madison stepped from the end of an isle. She had slipped away for the eternity of just a few seconds. 

I hugged her tight with real love and continued with our day. 

My daily life consists on spending time making my hair look the best, using my very best manners, correct posture, and choosing my words correctly. I care what people think about me. But there is a time that it all goes by the wayside. 

He had one thought on his mind. Sight. His life was a dark one, full of handicaps and inabilities. He was consumed with one idea, something that the crowd never gives a second thought. 

Bartimaeus cried at the top of his lungs, “Son of David!”

The streets were busy with religious people. It was the beginning of Passover and many were setting out on the holy journey and beginning their religious preparations. But they were even more blind than this man with no sight as they urged him to hush and be quiet. 

What is that thing?  The one you dream about?  It consumes your mind. You would not care to be made a fool if it meant that you could possess it?

As Bartimeus sought his miracle, he did not listen to the advice of the crowd. When he was summoned by Jesus, he did not stop to fix his appearance.  He did not have all the theological answers. He looked away from the religion of the synagogue and the Pharisees to the man, to a relationship with Jesus. 

And Jesus did summon him. He is not safe. Jesus is not the feminine, PC Sunday School story. He was on the road to torture and the most extreme suffering ever endured by a human. But he has a heart for the hurting. He is here for those that do no have it all together. 

While I am the first to know my shortcomings, I also know my strength:  “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Spread the Secret

There are many me, there are lots of me’s that enjoy a big pot roast, me’s walking the isles at Publix, I see me picking up my kid at school, or even the multitude of me’s sitting in churches across this Western World. 

I have lived my life following the crowd of the must have. The media has influenced what I say. Oh!  Don’t get me wrong!  I have spoken out enough to make enemies with those I don’t like anyway, but never enough to get a label. I have lived my life in search of bigger and better, prettier and stronger, richer and more powerful. 

But last week, I took a trip that I didn’t want to take. Remember the day I had to write?  Remember me holding in the tears in Target?  Well, my levels were up where they shouldn’t be up and my oncologist ordered lots of scans. It sounded just like the previous six times that led to surgery. And not all surgeries are created equal. Add the C word for a dramatic effect and as the surgeries multiply, the risks and recovery are harder. Well, that time I wrote about what I couldn’t write about, it was that. Last week, Nana stayed with my girl and James and I took that oh so routine trip to Duke Medical Center. It is worth the drive. It is the difference between life and death. 

A sick feeling rises in my stomach while I try to prepare myself, thinking about things I had not let myself think about before. But my husband slips his hand into mine and then it can’t all be wrong. What I care most about is right. And I get an email from my mentor sent around the 5 o’clock hour and she has prayed in the presence of the Holy One on my behalf. And I get a text and another text and more that dear friends are praying and what more can I ask?

It all begins with an ultra sound, I grab James’s hand and I am prepared for the worst, “Completely normal. Nothing to worry about.”  Followed by a CT Scan and a bone scan:  My oncologist sent in his PA. (Pause here. I absolutely adore my doctor but when he sends in his PA, that is the news I want!)  All normal. 

But, ya see, this is the third time in 2015 that I have lived a similar situation. It never gets easier, maybe even harder, but each and every time I learn something. And they will continue. I am a 19 year cancer survivor. Since 19 long years ago, my blood levels are off. My doctors continue to search and scan to locate that microscopic cancer that they know is somewhere. But their hope, and my prayer, is that I live my life being poked and prodded and that it never grows to a size where they can find it. It has before. Six surgeries. But I live my life with routine medical bills and visiting the best doctors in the world and this cancer is slow growing therefore I proclaim that my life is a beautiful life with cancer. 

And living my life from this perspective teaches me enough to write about it. The thorn in my side can also become the blessing. Although I would have never picked this road on my own, and I would switch lanes at any point that I could, the suffering is never wasted. And what did I learn this time?  

I learned MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Yesterday, I accompanied my eight year old and her classmates to an assisted living home to spread some holiday cheer. My daughter, her friend, and I sat across from an elderly man coloring a picture.  As Madison chatted, like Madison does, the man must have told her a hundred times how smart she is. I smiled and introduced myself. He followed suit with his whole name. I then introduced my daughter and her friend. The sweet man we just met, smiled and told me he had two children, he pronounced the full name of one of his children and then paused with great pain on his face, “I am not smart like her. I forget.”

Not able to fathom the pain of forgetting the name of my own child, we moved on with the conversation. Because my God is awesome, he moved my daughter and her friend to share their recent memory work. They memorized all of Luke 2. (All 20 verses!)  As they recited the story, this precious man beamed. It was spiritual. 

When I do not have the option to take this life for granted, THANK YOU JESUS FOR SHOWING ME WHAT I LIVE FOR!  There was this tiny little baby, he was God Almighty coming to earth to save me!  There is no other religion where god loves me like that!  No other faith that says that I am good enough. No other spiritual life where I measure up to the God of the universe pursuing me! 

There are so many me’s walking around this world. We know God but we don’t want to get too weird about it. Ladies and gentlemen, ISIS is cutting off the heads of the infidel, mass shootings are the new norm, our president does not even recognize our enemy…this world is headed straight to hell!  I will strive to be more like my eight year old daughter:  “Here is the story of Jesus.  And when life hurts more than possible to endure, there is hope!  The story starts with a virgin birth, announced by angels. Hosanna in the highest!  I have good news of great joy for all the people!”  

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

If You Feel My Heart

Put your hand here, upon my heart, you will feel the memories of our early days. It beats in my chest, pumping my blood, you are in my body. 

Feel my pulse, it is you beating. Made for you, longs for you, blood in my veins. 

And when you are not here, it rips apart, the thought of missing you, impossible to survive. Take my body and split me in two. That is what I am without you. 

Put your hand here, upon my heart. It used to beat in expectancy,now it is complete with thee, if you ever leave it will beat out of my chest in need of thee. 

This heart, it beats in me. It is you. The you in me that completes me. Beat, oh heart. Beat, you in me. 

Talitha Koum

Trees walking around. Her ears seemed to protrude and I noticed them like I had not before. I lost the focus of her beauty and despite my efforts to concentrate, her whole body seemed a jumble of pieces that no longer fit.

The spectacles of which through I saw this world had been removed, or I put on the spectacles, I’m not sure which, but I no longer saw people as I had before.

I had gone through my days with a need to impress others around me. I chose the finest clothes my money could buy, hours upon hours seeking not to be healthy but to have a thin appearance (I know this for sure because I cheated in such an unhealthy way), more hours of application to make my cheeks pink, my eyes colorful, and my lips protrude. My conversation was centered around the appraisal of me. Entertainment, career, family, even my place of religion was centered around my god:  me.

I did not see him coming, there was no reason to even notice that man. I was blindly rushing about my stress. I do not know why, but he ran after me. He grabbed me by the collar, I fought and I struggled and I yelled at him to release me. He did. And I fell upon the ground. Cursing, I complained and was insulted at his presence. There was complete hate in my heart and pulsing throughout my body.

Then two words he said to me, “Talitha koum.” (“Little girl, I say to you, get up”)

I don’t know how it happened, but I was upon my feet. The makeup was removed, I was bare naked but more fully clothed than I had ever been.

For I saw that I was just born. I had walked from death to life. He was all that pursued me and I turned and saw him everywhere. No longer was I a mere body, I had been born a soul.

The lostness of the human race struck me. The beauty of symmetrical bodies, youth, and wealth, all but filthy rags. Useless.

Then I saw her approaching. Her soul a glowing spirit. She smiled of joy and she loved with service. Her humility found herself when she gave herself away. I blinked and rubbed my eyes. I saw but an elderly woman. Poor. Aged. Sick. And at the end of her life on this earth. A mortal useless tragedy. But I saw, as I had never seen before:  the soul is where we find beauty.

Take Up Your Suffering and Follow Jesus

Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. 

Jesus sent him out with a strong warning, “See that you do not tell this to anyone.”

Why?!  Why not tell anyone?!  Hey!  Knowing from experience, if that was me, I’d tell the world!

Facebook update status:  JESUS HEALED ME!

Text message to the world:  are you sick?  Look what he did for me!

News report:  Let me share my story:  Sick. Healed. Jesus. 

WHY NOT TELL?

This is not the only verse where Jesus heals someone and then warns them to keep it a secret. It used to really get to me. And then I lived. I learned. I suffered. I matured. Sat under some good teaching. Had cancer and realized, “This life is so fleeting.”

HE IS BIGGER!  He is more than the here and now!  He heals more than this physical body!  Like a father, he looked on them and had compassion, he healed them but in their excitement they could not see that he was healing more than their bodies. 

To my live news broadcast, Jesus would respond, “I told you not to tell anyone because you don’t get it!  I did not come to heal bodies. I did not come to be king and ruler of this earth. I still had a lot to show you. I would suffer. I would die. Not what you were expecting?  Huh?  But watch. I’m going to do something even bigger than that!  I want to heal your soul. Not just the now, the eternity.”

Jesus is not the quick fix. “Take up your cross and follow me.”  And that is when the masses say, “oh never mind” and walk away. 

Then he performs a miracle, he tells the woman that had suffered for so many years, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”  

Do you think she never suffered again on this earth?  She did. She was a human living on this earth. It happens daily. But she got it. When Jesus healed her body, he healed her soul. That is what matters!  You know she saw every single day that her suffering  actually led her to Jesus!  If she had not suffered all those years, she would not have been determined to just touch the hem of his garment.

I want to suffer and let it lead me to Jesus, to the greatest healing of all!

I want to learn from my mistakes and change. I want to suffer and learn, get the big picture, not live for the now. I want to have eternal healing, not just of my body, but of my soul. I have decided to follow Jesus, I will take up my cross and follow him.