psst…You Deserve More

No complaining

“I think you just like to complain,” my husband declared to me.

The fiery arrow whistled through the air and straight into the center of my heart. Life blood gushed, releasing with it angry venom. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I wanted to spew words back that would feel painful, but only weak words formed in my mind: I do not.

Have you been here too?

Maybe God brought Solomon’s wisdom to my husband’s mind:

It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman. (Proverbs 21:19)

My wound was deep; not just from an introspective evaluation, but also because I didn’t feel that my concerns were heard. After all, I was trying to fix something that, from my high-justice vantage point, was wrong. Complaining justified, right?

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

I softly and self-righteously responded, “Well, maybe I do.”

Then silence, as I pouted and invited every thought to my private pity party. Hiding alone in a quiet place, tears ran down my face. I cried out to God for a verse to tell me that I was right, and He was going to exact vengeance. And God answered!

Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused (Numbers 11:1)

“You’re right, God. But couldn’t he have delivered that news better? Couldn’t he have understood what I was complaining about? Please remove this pain from my heart. Return a smile to my face and joy to my spirit. Please hurry. The pain is more than I can bear.”

I thumbed through the Bible searching for relief. And God gave it to me:

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance; (Ecclesiastes 3:3-4)

Well, God did not provide the instant relief I was seeking. Instead, it was more like: “wait to see the wonderful things I’m teaching you now.” I was not into learning right at this moment. Just respite from pain.

In Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts (a gem that should be read at least annually), she identifies complaining as a root of ingratitude.

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5:18)

Regardless of whether my concerns were understood or not, sadly, the point remains—I am a complainer. Sometimes I compare myself to the Israelites: God does miracles and provides, but it’s not enough. If only I had…, then I would be happy. I bought into the enemy’s lies that whisper, “What you have isn’t enough. You deserve more. You are entitled you know.”

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

 Can I say this wound is suddenly healed this morning? No. I’m soul searching; digging deep for all the roots of complaining. I don’t want to slap a sorry-about-that-bandage on this wound and then revisit this painful issue again.

As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3, there is a time for everything. This morning I’m hiding—not alone, but in God’s arms of forgiveness. I bring a repentant, thankful heart eager for a time of healing and change.

My husband is wise. He is gentle and kind. Sometimes, he is the tough love that I need. He is brave enough to say what needs to be said—what a gift from God!

Father, it is so hard to hear negative words about myself. It is also hard to be thankful especially in the middle of a wounded spirit. But it is worse to arouse Your anger; You have heaped many blessings upon me throughout my life. Thank you especially for my husband who loves me enough to deliver your message. Please forgive my complaining. Please revive my spirit of gratitude to You. Put a guard on my mouth and thoughts so I will focus on the things that are excellent and praise worthy.

 

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Mother’s Day—The Gift of Perfect Daughters

Courtney and Michelle

Yesterday, I shared how thankful I am for my three mothers. Today, I’d like to celebrate another gift from God—my two beautiful daughters.

For me, Mother’s Day focuses on my children. My calling came from God, “I give you these two babies … for a lifetime.”

“Thank you, God, for entrusting them to me. Learning from my mothers’ examples, I will love, nurture, and pray for them. I will teach them about You so they are prepared to serve You. Thank you for the best job ever!”

garnish in blue

I wrote the following essay to audition for Listen to Your Mother. While I wasn’t a finalist, it was a priceless experience to recount some of our daughters’ childhood stories and recall the richness of my life—all because of them.

Perfect Daughters, A Mother’s Reward

My first pregnancy was like going to heaven. I helped build my baby’s strong bones—one dish of ice cream at a time. People offered me their chairs. Others wanted to carry my packages. I sure felt like a queen!

A new queen took the throne on the day our daughter, Courtney, was born. Appropriately, the focus turned from me to the new little one in my arms. Time to put on my big girl panties—motherhood arrived!

Determined to be the perfect mother, I pampered her. Like Johnny-on-the-Spot, I jumped up for every little cry. I wiped her runny nose until it was red. I kissed all her boo-boos, patched them with Band-Aids, and added more kisses.

Just about the time I had motherhood figured out, I announced my next pregnancy. Carrying a toddler and several shopping bags while pregnant didn’t evoke the same feelings of sympathy from passersby. But, in those two years, I seemed to have grown twelve hands, and was pretty self-sufficient.

All the pampering flew out the window when Michelle, our second daughter, was born. If she fell, I’d say: Jump up! Brush it off! Throw it away! Sometimes I missed seeing her runny nose until she was licking the snot from her lips. Yep, times were busier with two children, and certainly more laid back.

Children can be very opposite, and our family was no exception. Courtney was our book reader and adverse to risk. Michelle was our daredevil and limit-pusher.

One of the many mom rewards is spending time with her children. Our favorite activity was baking chocolate chip cookies. I taught the girls about the danger of getting too close to the mixer’s whirling beaters. To avoid injury, the girls measured the ingredients, and I added them to the mixing bowl.

One baking day, while they were measuring, I turned around to grab another ingredient. Yes, I should have turned off the mixer, but I didn’t. Courtney, my risk-adverse guard, was standing by. I guess Michelle couldn’t see inside the turning bowl, so she leaned a little closer. Suddenly, I heard panicked cries for help. I dove toward the girls. Michelle’s blonde hair was entangled with dough, and the still-moving beaters were smacking the side of her head.

I turned off the mixer and removed the beaters. Then I pulled two scared little girls into my arms. Once Michelle’s clean hair was in a ponytail, we threw out the batter and started over.

When we moved to Memphis, we intentionally chose a neighborhood of new homes with young families, lots of kids, and a cul-de-sac for safety. Naturally, new construction provides an amusement park of fun. There were mounds of dirt to climb and slide down. There were pieces of wood with which to build walkways. However, sometimes the wood had nails jutting upward. So I cautioned the girls to be vigilant when playing in these areas.

One day, Michelle came limping into the house, crying hysterically. Blood was oozing from where a rusty nail had penetrated the sole of her once-white Keds and then pierced her foot. I snatched her up into my arms and my husband drove us to the emergency room. Much to her chagrin, Michelle received a tetanus shot, with a big needle.

In her young adult years, Michelle brought the story back to life as she revealed it actually wasn’t an accident. Instead, it was the result of a dare—to see who could stand on top of the nail the longest.

When the girls started school, our house was a few blocks from the bus stop. On rainy days, I drove those few blocks, and we waited in the car for the bus to arrive. If driving to the bus stop to keep my girls dry would get me the Mother-of-the-Year Award, then drive I must!

One of those rainy days, Courtney and I were chatting in the front while Michelle was singing in the back. When the rain started to come down harder, I pulled on the electric window lever and started to close all the windows.

Michelle’s little voice said, “Mom, put the window down.”

Without turning around I replied, “Oh no, honey, it’s raining too hard.”

“Mom, PUT THE WINDOW DOWN!”

I turned to see her head stuck in the almost-closed window. Her smashed little guppy lips, were pleading for help. Sheepishly, I put the window down.

In spite of the childhood mishaps, motherhood has privileges beyond any other calling. I found rewards in things like teaching my daughters’ about life while their eyes reflected amazement, feeling their little fingers play with my hair, a hug from their tiny arms, the privilege of listening to their secrets, and hearing their voices say “I love you, Mom.”

And now in adulthood, the girls and I reminisce and laugh about the many crazy childhood stories. Our bond is anchored as best friends.

I’m not the perfect mother, but I’ve got perfect daughters … perfect for our family.

garnish in blue

P.S. Congratulations to my author friend, Dorothy Hill, who was selected for the cast of the 2016 Listen To Your Mother, Little Rock. You can also follow her blog, Dorothy’s Desk.

Mother’s Day–Celebrating My Angels

Peona for Mothers Day

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.   Exodus 20:12

Mother’s Day celebrates those women who spend nine months being pampered while they carry a new life in their wombs. Pampering is the reward they receive while their bodies are ravaged with morning sickness, imbalanced thermostats, the inability to reach—or even see—their ten toes. Finally, they experience the pains of birth as their child enters the world.

Miraculously, looking into the innocent, dependent face of their newborn annihilates the memory of pain suffered in childbirth. They lavish their new baby with love.

Whether you’ve become a mother through blood, marriage, or adoption, it’s at this point that a mother is responsible for influencing and nurturing another’s life. Not just until the child leaves the home or becomes an adult, but until that child and mother are separated from this earth. We are never too old to need our mothers.

This privileged God-given role for a woman has been held in high esteem since the beginning of time. Indeed, it is a place of honor.

Today, on the beginning of Mother’s Day 2016 weekend, I would like to do just that: honor my mothers. I’ve been blessed to have the influence of three mothers actually. Louise (my birth mother), Doris (my stepmother), and Ruth (my mother-in-law).

What follows is a snapshot of the memories and gratitude I hold in my heart for these women. Each came into my life at different stages with unique influences and divine roles.

Ruth

Ruth was the birthmother to my husband and his sister. Like Ruth of biblical days, she was a loyal lover of her family. Ruth was an industrious woman who loved to cook and bake. She took food to those who suffered from illness or had deaths in the family. She possessed a servant’s heart. As a creative woman, there wasn’t a craft she didn’t know how to make. She patiently taught me how to stitch and sew (and rip out mistakes even when I didn’t want to) projects of which I could be proud.

Ruth, who is in heaven now, was especially gifted with a listening ear, discernment, and sage advice. I was blessed to have her be a part of my life for 20 years.

Doris

Doris is the birth mother to six children and a stepmother to four more. She makes time to see beautiful details around her. Like the baby bluebirds in the birdhouse that hangs in her rose garden. Hospitality is her gift. With flowers cut from her garden and placed in vases all around her house, she whips up food for friends to come enjoy and relax in her home. Having experienced much joy and pain in life, she lends an understanding ear and imparts grace and mercy. As a tenderhearted prayer warrior, she kneels before God bringing all  concerns for her family. Thankfully, Doris has been my mom for 37 years.

Louise

Louise, my Mother, and I have been together now for almost 60 years. I’m the oldest of her four children. She must have the best sense of humor to endure our pranks. For example, salt in her glass of water at dinner, or chocolate-covered dog food to look like chocolate-covered peanuts. Mother laughs easily and seems to know kids will be kids.

Mother sewed many dresses for her daughters—even matching smocked Easter dresses as was once fashionable. Mother loves holidays, especially Halloween and Christmas. We always had special foods and decorations for these events.

Some other especially delightful memories are that she helped teach me to drive (bless her heart!), and threw a surprise 16th birthday party for me.

Mother has showed me her love in many ways. Her most valuable gift to me is a love for God. She taught me to memorize Bible verses, pray without ceasing, and accept Jesus into my heart as my Savior.

Life requires much navigation. God called these three godly women to mentor and guide me. I pray that my daughters will also be deeply rooted in this generational blessing.

Thank you, Lord, for creating mothers. Indeed, they are your angels—messengers of love.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Blindness: A Gift?

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.    John 9:3

Yesterday

Gift of Blindness
Photography by Ed Hansberry

Don’t know his age, but he was a man blind from birth. Perhaps it was just a condition that he’d learned to live with because it was all he knew. I wonder if he felt inferior? Insignificant? Angry? Cursed? I doubt he considered his blindness a gift.

One day, Jesus came to this blind man’s town. The disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

These words almost jumped off the page at me. What a revelation! I’d read this story before from the perspective of a miracle. But I never saw that God created a baby without sight so that as a man his restoration of sight would be the deliberate avenue to glorify God Himself. That’s a gift!

Jesus then made a mud patty from His spit and some dirt, applied it to the blind man’s eyes, and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Imagine the excitement he must have felt after washing the mud away from his eyes and, for the first time in his life, seeing his new world. Can’t you see him sprinting back to town to share the miracle with the townspeople?

Back in town, he was immediately escorted to the Pharisees whose focus was not on this beautiful miracle given to a blind man. Instead, they plotted to discredit Jesus and convict Him of a crime.

The once-blind man repeatedly answered the Pharisees’ tedious questions. “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Can’t you hear the hearty belly laughter from the healed man as he mocks the Pharisees?

He further testified, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this were not from God, he could do nothing.” The Pharisees cast him out of the synagogue. Was the now-sighted man feeling reassurance in his gift, or was the ugly head of rejection rising?

I love that at the apex of societal rejection his gift of blindness opened the door to significance. Upon hearing the man was cast out, Jesus found him and bolstered his faith. Jesus taught about spiritual blindness giving the man a purpose. He gave value and a future mission to the man’s life.

Search

In my early years, questions about my value filled my mind. Retreating into hopelessness, insignificance, and fear, I wondered what God was thinking when He created me. Surely I have something of value to offer someone, I hoped.

For many years, hope was deferred. I listened to, and embraced, the enemy’s lies. I reasoned: I’m not important because… I’ve not won awards. I’ve not delivered life-changing speeches to millions of people. I’ve not discovered the cure to a great illness. I’ve done nothing of significance. I blindly looked at what the world values instead of looking for my gift that would bring glory to God.

Forever

Then, Jesus found me. He washed my blind eyes. He refocused my eyes and showed me the accomplishments that had brought Him glory.  The painful experiences, that I’d perceived as harmful, were actually my pre-ordained gifts from God. Discovering these gifts transformed me forever.

Like the blind man told of in John 9, I had to be trained by difficult discipline in order to bring glory to God. Today, with new vision, I recall His words to me, “When you were cast out, I found you. I healed you so that you will be My tool to help others. You are significant to me. My works will be displayed in you.”

What other God-given gifts feel like a disability or trial? How will God use them to bring Him glory somehow? Yesterday’s blindness is now a gift of sight, forever.

He Doesn’t Bring Me Flowers

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.     Ephesians 5:25-28 (MSG)

HeartHe says he doesn’t bring me flowers because “they just die.” But I say those sweet smelling petals folded into perfect rose buds are the traditional way to say, “I love you.” But, he still doesn’t bring me flowers.

Instead, each morning I’m awakened to a shower of kisses rather than the annoying buzz of an alarm clock. I drag my half-asleep self to the shower. There are no flowers on the bathroom counter. Instead, there’s a steaming cup of coffee to help me pry my eyelids open.

In the middle of my workday, when the stress level is building and I just don’t think I can handle anymore, the phone rings. It’s not the florist with a delivery. Instead, it’s my husband’s comforting voice, “I love you. How are you doing?” My heart melts to think that he cares so much for me that he stopped his busy day to call me. No, he doesn’t bring me flowers.

Driving home, my heart is heavy with the burdens of the day’s problems. Then, I think of the tasks that must be completed before bed tonight. Throw in a load of wash. Make dinner. Unload the dishwasher. The list is long.

Fatigued, I change and head to the kitchen to begin the evening’s chores. No, I don’t find any flowers on the counter. Instead, I find an empty dishwasher and cabinets full of clean dishes—evidence of his lunch hour handiwork.

In the evening, despite his own business challenges, he asks, “What can I do to help?” We pack lunches for the next day, make dinner, fold the wash, and make coffee for the morning—together. Oh, how light the load is together!

Exhausted, we fall into our bed. There are no flowers on the dresser, but he takes my hand in his and whispers, “You know what? I sure do love you.”

I breathe a prayer, Thank you, Father, for creating this adoring husband just for me.

I’m glad he doesn’t bring me flowers that fade like yesterday. I much prefer his forever gift: his love.