Memories of Dad

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My brother, several years ago, asked for people who visit our Dad’s Facebook remembrance page to share their “Best Memory of Boxer”. I have lots and lots of awesome memories with my dad (and my mom) but at the time this is the one that came to mind. Dad died in 1999 at 52 years old, and sometimes it feels like he was here just yesterday.

The day that I went into labor, my parents were scheduled to fly out to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. My dad had an important appointment regarding his treatment that he couldn’t miss. My sister-in-law, Norma, graciously accompanied me through my labor, bless her soul. She didn’t know what she had gotten herself into because I was a big baby throughout the whole ordeal. Labor pain without an epidural can do that to you. Norma and the entire labor and delivery ward had to endure me screaming my lungs out all morning crying “Mommy, mommy, oh, mommy”. Most women cry for their moms during labor, right?

All of a sudden, mid-scream, someone, probably Norma, tells me to keep it down because my parents are headed into the room. It was a TOTAL, HUGE surprise. As soon as mom and dad walked into the room, I displayed my best fake smile and said in my Pollyanna voice (because what I was going through was a drop in the bucket compared to the months of turmoil dad had endured) “Hi Daddy, what are you doing here?” The Look of concern and love on my parents faces will live with me forever. My dad wanted to be there to see his “little girl” give birth to his grandaughter, but their flight was leaving soon. He hated that cancer was taking him away from what mattered to him the most in this world – his family. He took my hand and comforted me and told me it would all be okay. They could only stay a few minutes, and I was still several hours away from the “fruit” of my labor. My heart ached for them as they walked out of my hospital room. Who knows what news was awaiting them in Houston.

When they saw my beautiful Briana for the first time the next day, they were overjoyed. I’m so grateful Dad got a chance to meet Bri and spend a little over a year with her. My dad absolutely adored all four of his grandkids, and I know he’s watching over them from heaven.

I also just want to say a special thank you to my mom for all she did to care for my dad during those difficult years as well as helping this single mom get on her feet.

Quote Friday

If you become a necessity to a soul, you are out of God’s order. As a worker, your great responsibility is to be a friend of the Bridegroom. When once you see a soul in sight of the claims of Jesus Christ, you know that your influence has been in the right direction, and instead of putting out a hand to prevent the throes, pray that they grow ten times stronger until there is no power on earth or in hell that can hold that soul away from Jesus Christ. Over and over again, we become amateur providences, we come in and prevent God; and say – “This and that must not be.” Instead of proving friends of the Bridegroom, we put our sympathy in the way, and the soul will one day say – “That one was a thief, he stole my affections from Jesus, and I lost my vision of Him.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, March 24

Ezekiel? Seriously?

This morning I woke up about 5:30 a.m. I was up before the alarm…but intended last night to set the alarm for 5 so I could breeze thru my “quiet time”* and get busy folding the pile of clothes that have been hanging out on my bed since Sunday.

So, I got up, dragged myself to the kitchen to make some instant coffee (too lazy for coffeemakers). I wobbled myself to the living room, plopped down on the sofa and “opened up” my phone Bible. I don’t do this all the time but I said out loud as I stared at the screen “Lord, show me what you want me to read today, because have no clue.” As soon as the words were out I heard, not out loud, but in my spirit “EZEKIEL.” I responded, whispering, Ezekiel? Seriously? Ezekiel? OK Lord. I typed Ezekial and nothing came up. I realized the A was supposed to be an E. Found it! I clicked on Chapter 1 and because I’m lazy pressed play on the audio function. I wasn’t expecting a thing out of Ezekiel. Its not a book of the Bible I would normally visit. But then I heard this:

Ezekiel 2:3-7 MSG

He said, “Son of man, I’m sending you to the family of Israel, a rebellious nation if there ever was one. They and their ancestors have fomented rebellion right up to the present. They’re a hard case, these people to whom I’m sending you—hardened in their sin. Tell them, ‘This is the Message of God , the Master.’ They are a defiant bunch. Whether or not they listen, at least they’ll know that a prophet’s been here. But don’t be afraid of them, son of man, and don’t be afraid of anything they say. [This part is when my ears opened up like Dumbo and I sat straight up, rewinded and reread] > Don’t be afraid when living among them is like stepping on thorns or finding scorpions in your bed. Don’t be afraid of their mean words or their hard looks. They’re a bunch of rebels. Your job is to speak to them. Whether they listen is not your concern. They’re hardened rebels.”

There are some people in my life who make me feel like that, and quite honestly they scare the cr*p out of me. The thing is that I have been sensing for awhile now that I’m to do just that – share the gospel with them. Tell them just how screwed up I am, how much of a sinner I am and how desperately I need Jesus, who loves and rescues me.

Here’s where it gets iffy – these people are faithful churchgoers. They do a lot of “good” things for God and the church…but I have suspected in the last few years that they don’t know the gospel – the truth that IT IS FINISHED.

Just a few years ago that’s where I was – living a life of performance based Christianity. I still have to constantly ask “Lord, help my unbelief”, but I have a peace now that I never knew before the dark night of the soul I went through…even if people still scare me.

I really don’t know where I’m going with this post other than to ask for your prayers. Stepping on thorns sounds a little less threatening.

*I am far from consistent with quiet time.

Ms. Nice

snow-white-coloring-page-10 The other day someone said something about me being “so nice”. I’ve heard it time and time again throughout my life. It has been the one quality when I am riddled with shame and guilt that I fall back on and think to myself well, at least I’m still nice. So, in other words, my identity has centered on me being Ms. Nice. Somehow, I’ve learned over the years that “niceness” equates to “godliness”.

Ms. Nice doesn’t rock the boat, start fights, set boundaries, and almost always lets the other person have the last word. Ms. Nice gets involved in codependent relationships where the stronger, more “put-together” person is always in charge. Ms. Nice doesn’t speak up when the workload gets too heavy. She gets involved in as many “churchy” good things as possible. Ms. Nice is known to buy her way into peoples’ hearts, either with material gifts (she can’t afford) or creative talents.  Ms. Nice has mastered the art of the syrupy, smiley “Sure, I can do it. Not a problem.” Ms. Nice has been known to keep quiet when the “put-togethers” bully her daughter into submission…because who wants to make waves? She knows the intricacies of displaying the “everything-is-awesome” smile. She majors in over-showering people with compliments. The list goes on and on and on…the nauseating list.

The truth: Ms. Nice is not really nice.

No, I let people terrify me too much…and I can really be quite mean. In order to perpetuate my identity as being the “nicest” person in the bunch, I have really hurt people…the people I love the most. My niceness has gotten me, and my daughter, into one too many chaotic, troubling situations.

The exhaustion that I experienced as a result of all of my years of “niceness” aka “people-pleasing” aka “approval addiction” catapulted me into a very dark hole where despair entered in and truth of who the “me” beneath the mask is became apparent. The sins of a lifetime flooded in like lava into the crevices of the dark pit. I couldn’t breathe. The scenes of all the broken paths that my wearing of that mask led me down became very vivid.  I knew/know I deserve death for all the years I had been playing religious masquerade games with my life and the lives of the ones I love.

But God (one of my favorite things to say) never left me alone in that pit and after the diagnosis He reminded me of my true identity. An identity grounded in what Jesus has done for me, not in my niceness, strength (or lack thereof), or put-togetherness (not).

This morning I read this…

Galatians 3:2-4 The Message (MSG) Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

I asked myself those questions, and the truth is that I have gotten caught up in the craziness again. On my lunch hour today I ran an errand for my little brother who just recently moved to Florida. It was my nice deed for the day.  As I was sitting in my car at a stop light, I was already patting myself on the back (in my mind…that would be hard to do while driving). I’m glad I was able to help out, but I know my motivations were probably 90% this…please see me as your nice sister who will go to any length to help her little brother out.

So, should I bully myself into submission and vow to not go back to being Ms. Nice? No, that won’t work. I can most definitely set some boundaries and be more aware of when I am falling back into people-pleasing behavior…and that is what I will try to do. What would serve me best, though, is to remember my true identity – a beloved daughter of the King, covered by the blood of Jesus. The need to please vanishes in the light of the gospel. I am already accepted and unconditionally loved by my heavenly Father because I have an “older brother who is not ashamed of me.” Elyse Fitzpatrick -Liberate

#ItisFinished

My daughter introduced me to this song. It speaks to the culture we live in where people feel the need to wear masks and hide their struggles and weaknesses to be accepted. The video is a little disturbing, so I have included another version below if dolls freak you out.

Melanie Martinez – Dollhouse (Official Music Video): https://youtu.be/HcVv9R1ZR84

Nightcore – Dollhouse (Male Version).: https://youtu.be/3WIOHRjgzuU

Book Recommendation: Grace is Free

I finally purchased my new friend Marci Preheim’s book Grace Is Free: One Woman’s Journey from Fundamentalism to Failure to Faith. I’m so glad I did. I have been crying since the Foreword. Every woman who has suffered under the heavy weight of “checklist” Christianity would benefit from reading this book.

I want to copy and paste the whole book here, but there’s this thing called copyright, and I don’t think Marci would want to be my friend anymore if I were to do that. Here is just one excerpt:

We don’t like messy people we can’t fix. Our solution is to come up with a code of behavior we can live by and enforce on others. Our motivation is guilt and the fear of man’s (or woman’s) disapproval. We give them rules to follow and schedules to keep. The one who will not (or cannot) follow the code is met with disapproval when she fails. She may be told to “do better”and sent on her way. This unfortunate disciple may then merely pretend to follow the code, hiding her failure—thus, a hypocrite is born. This is how the church loses her first love. No one is motivated long-term by guilt. Guilt may reach the behavior, but it will never reach the heart.

 

Grace is Free