Can’t Handle the Tooth

In honor of the incredible toothache pain I’m in right this very minute, I’m going to share a quote by one of my favorite authors of all time (and then a book of his, too). Or maybe two books of his. Or three. Or…

“If only this toothache would go away, I could write another chapter on the problem of pain.” -C.S. Lewis

That guy, up there, wrote exceedingly well about the God. And life. And pain. And love.

And friendship.

I like what he wrote about friendship so very much.

The first book of C.S. Lewis’ that I read was “The Four Loves”. Although still hovering over Christianity as though it were a possibility, I was still too full of Bertrand Russell and Friedrich Nietzsche to land.  And as I read Lewis’ take on charity, eros, philia, and storge, I realized there were enough “thinkers” in this Christianity gig to make it a pretty sure thing.

And then, I got to the part about friendship and I exhaled. Because, exactly.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

But, then in The Abolition of Man, Lewis brought me down to my knees. I thought I saw through all that religiosity and hypocrisy.

“You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it.”

Oh boy! He had my number. And as I speed read every book I could get my hands on (because, BOOKS!), I realized that there was no more denying God.

So I didn’t.

Ultimately, C.S. Lewis, turned my eyes outward and upward.

And they are ever upward.

Even as I sit here feeling like I can’t handle the tooth (pain). 

Yes indeedy.

If you are hovering over Christianity, grab a copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Or, The Great Divorce. Or, if you are more fantasy fiction leaning, The Chronicles of Narnia series. (And no, it’s not just for youth. I daresay you get far more out of it as an adult!)

And then, if you missed any of my previous posts on the Best Books Ever, click the button below. I am writing this series as part of the Write 31 Days Challenge.

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Time for a Tune-Up

Typing away in the other room while a playdate ensued, I heard the voices of my Sweetgirl and her friend carrying loudly in the air. They were singing along to a popular song about sunshine in their pockets. One of them was out of tune. Jarringly out of tune. But, singing along no less enthusiastically.

Isn’t that just the way we humans do, sometimes?

We become glaringly out of tune with what’s good, true, honest, or noble. And we can’t even hear it.

Maybe that’s just me.

Sometimes, Grace has to swoop in on the raised eyebrows of one forced to listen to each off-key note, to get my attention. Other times, Grace opens my eyes to the words set before me.

That’s exactly how He found me this morning, wedged between Sweetman and Sweetboy on the shiny wooden pew at church. Listening to a message about our very human and very real need for second and 432nd chances, I felt my attention shifting to the list of things to be done this week. Because, clearly, I am intimate with the notion of third and 303rd chances.

Soon, I began considering my lunch options after church was done. IHOP was firmly on the short list.

But Grace reminded me (yet again) that church isn’t ever “done”.

And nothing shakes me from my irreverent reveries like a call to worship.

The opening notes were strummed and I realized we were about to sing one of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”.

I stood up, perked up, and prepared to sing, thinking, “Oooh, I love this one!”

God wasn’t finished getting my attention, though.

Nope.

As we skipped to the third verse, my eyes read what my heart already knew.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart Lord,
Take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above.”

Now Grace had my full attention. Just some of what was out of tune sprang to mind:

  • The willingness to read one more chapter of the latest story over one more chapter of The Greatest Story
  • My eagerness to join conversations about others without grace even as that very grace was being heaped out upon me
  • Forgetting the joy that comes out of sacrifice as I stubbornly refused others’ needs for my wants

Friends? Forget about my inability to carry a tune, physically. Singing The Truth in that moment, my heart’s distance from the heart of God felt like a million spiritual miles away.

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Clearly, it was time for a little tune-up.

And God, in His boundless beautiful grace, whispered love. He tuned my heart to His, as He has countless other times.

Yes indeed.

I left church this morning reminded that I don’t need a tune-up because I’m bad, but because of my human ability to become dissonant. Oh-so-easily.

And, because Grace is always good, He tightens those loose strings. He replaces the frayed ones. He adjusts the pitch.

He gently brings harmony back to my heart.

Thank you, God, for binding my wandering heart to thee.

Maybe It’s Just Me

Brad Paisley got it right. When he described his girl as “sunshine mixed with a little hurricane”, I’m pretty sure he was describing Sweetgirl. That kid is a whirlwind of toothless eight-going-on-eighteen.  Ahab and The Nana would surely describe me similarly… plus a few teeth. And pounds. And years.

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The times I have to watch my Sunshine hide behind clouds of doubt or insecurity, though, because of the way others treat her, it’s my own inner hurricane that starts brewing.

I can’t be the only one who identifies with the inner hurricanes I see within these tender-hearted girls. Self-doubt is a powerful ingredient in an emotional storm and it surely does seem like there are far too many of us huffing harsh words out onto others in hopes that we will feel smarter, prettier, more popular, and even seen. We whip our attitudes around and lash out at others in an effort to boost our own meager confidence. We think more highly of ourselves than we ought in hopes that we matter more than the next girl.

And none of it does a single thing to advance love, joy, peace, kindness or goodness.

No. In fact,  witnessing how hurtful and mean girls can be toward one another is distressing. Watching the devastation left in the hearts of the hurt is heartbreaking. Too often this meanness starts a vicious circle of behavior: Be hurt. Hurt another. Feel better. Be hurt again. Hurt another again. Feel better again. And on and on it goes.

And, I’m tired of hearing that this is just how girls are with one another. Responsibility gets to fly off on the shoulders of Blame, that way. And, assuming that girls will determine social hierarchy with little emotional fallout makes about as much sense to me as throwing a non-swimmer into a pool and saying, “Good luck with that swimming thing.”

Comments sharing how there will always be mean girls fall hard on my heart, too, because I’m a firm believer in doing what you can. Don’t we all remember the Starfish Story? We can throw one starfish starving for it’s watery habitat back, and it will make a difference for that one single starfish, won’t it?

Aren’t the hearts of girls worth just as much effort and attention?

With their increasingly younger noses perpetually pressed to their smart phones or tablets, and seeking social acceptance there, it seems obvious that guidance is needed. We adults need to be checking in often enough to know who and what these girls of ours are trying to get their self-worth from.

And, while we’re at it, where are we trying to get our own self-worth from?

As I’ve mentioned here and here, I do believe our worth is something a few of us adults need to be reminded of, too.

Or, maybe it’s just me.

What do you say we work on battening down those hurricane hatches together?

God knows Grace gushes in my general direction because I desperately need it.

Often.

Can we agree to work on showing, not telling, our girls how to treat themselves, first. Can we remind them again and again that they are created in the image of One who loves them more than any Facebook or Insta “like” ever will. And can we do that together, by caring more about the eyes watching us refresh our screens than those on our screens.

Sweetgirl needs some help learning how to combat The Mean with the truth that we are each a special God-designed mix of sunshine and hurricane. Especially as we boot up for a new school year.

And, quite frankly, her mama can always use some more work in that area, too.

Always.

Yes indeedy.

Who’s with me?

Restore Unto Me

I’ve been calling out to You, Lord.

And you keep answering.

Thank You.

But, Lord, may I ask of you one more thing?

Restore unto me, the joy of my salvation.

Because, it’s missing.  And I feel like I’m chasing it down like a one woman army, lately.

But life is like that – one moment I’m sure of my place within my days and the next morning I plant my feet on the floor and feel the whole thing shift. I know that You won’t leave me or forsake me in this place where I feel unsure, unsteady. I also know that You will be there to catch me and put me back on my feet.

Every time.

You are the surety to my movements.

But, it’s in the calling out for You that I am most surprised, these days. Just the seeming need to blurt out, “I need You, God! I don’t even know why or what for. Please! Be near!”

I feel much like a toddler who has discovered the word “Dada” and has seen the effect speaking this word has on The Hearer. I keep calling it out, over and over. Because, for reasons I can’t fathom, and am not sure I’m ready to at the moment, I am needing my Father in that way.

So, I will continue to lean on You, Abba, and claim it as gift that You answer when I call.

Every Time.

I choose to trust in the reassurance I find in Psalm 143:8,

In the morning let me hear about your faithful love, because I’ve put my trust in you.

Show me the way I should live, because I trust you with my life.”

And You will. 

Because, You do.

Every time.

Without fail.

I will be restored because I believe you are The God of Restoration. Anytime the world swirls, my head spins, or my legs sway, You are there – sure, steady, and strong.

Ready to restore:

              Joy

                  Peace

                          Love

And I?

I want it all.

I need it all.

Yes indeed.

May I pray that for you, too, Friend?

For the Quitters Among Us

Let me start by admitting I go by another name. It’s true. While “Missy” is certainly one way to turn my head toward the sound of your voice, so is “Quitzilla”.

As we wrap up our study of The Five Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit by Nicki Koziarz over on the P31 Online Bible Studies’ blog, I’m reminded of my “other” name.

And I don’t like it. Or her. (Quitzilla, not Nicki Koziarz, because she? She is LOVELY!)

This person inside of me who doubts she has what it takes to see a new adventure through to completion? I don’t care for her.

And, I know I’m not alone. Friends share constantly about issues they quit over and over again. We all seem to have issues that just can’t seem to be overcome.

  • The weight that won’t come off
  • The relationship that won’t heal
  • The risk we just can’t seem to take

 

Slowly, I’m seeing the patterns of behavior where my inner quitter starts getting most vocal. No surprises in the patterns, either. The enemy of my soul, the one who won’t quit trying to turn my eyes from He who makes everything possible, will press on. It’s my job to see when I’m most prone to hearing his hollow tune over the steady song of my Savior.

And, I think I’ve nailed down how I can do that best.

Just do the next thing.

Simple, right? It should be. But, I tend to get wrapped up in the whole goal. What is my end game? And, I start looking down the barrel of that goal and I get tunnel vision. Big time.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who forgets to take it one step at a time?

Recently, Sweetman and I had to make a financial decision that hurt. It ruined a perfectly good summer vacation plan and put a wedge in some perfectly wonderful friendships. What I most wanted to do, as Sweetman and I approached this hurtful decision-making process, was quit. Flat out throw caution and wisdom to the wind and do what I wanted to do. And that Quitzilla voice roared the whole time we wrestled with the choice before us.

But God…

He keeps reassuring me our resolution was not just the wise thing to do, but exactly what we needed to do to be good stewards of all He’s given.

And He has given much! He has blessed when I deserved less than half a devil dog. He had seen fit to right too many of my wrongs. He washes me new with grace and mercy All The Days.

Moving forward is a matter of taking that next right step.

I’m quitting the quitting.

Yes indeedy!

What’s hard for you for you to quit? What gives you strength to keep going?

 

Getting To the Other Side

I can raise my hands in the air like I just don’t care. Mostly because I’ve learned, after 40 some years of life that it doesn’t matter much what the person next to me thinks about me. In fact, I’m a firm believer in the adage that what others think of me is none of my business.

We’re trying desperately to get Sweetboy to own that mindset, too. The one of not caring what others think of him.

Recently I pulled on my Smart Mama pants and told him how one of the most comforting verses to me, in all of the Bible, is where we are told that people look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.

He was only mildly comforted.

It did, however, distract him. And so, he started perseverating on his looks.

Oh joy.

“But, mama, people are looking at me and seeing my stupid autism!”

Sigh.

I reminded this Sweetboy of mine that it’s okay to detest his Autism. I detest pollen. And allergies. And horses. And clowns.

But, I also (while desperately trying to keep those Smart Mama pants hiked up) reminded him that detesting what is not good should drive us toward what is.

He wasn’t buying what I was selling.

Tempted to hang my head in parenting defeat, I was reminded that although we like to focus on the positive around here, sometimes… sometimes, we have to shine light on the negative to reveal it for what it is.

And, in this case, I recognized some of the hurtful comments from his classmates as Fear.

Seconds away from feeling a parental failure, I remembered that we struggle through the trials so that we can see the mind-blowing beauty on the other side. God’s great reveal, really, is how incredibly beautiful something can look from the other side.

The other side of awful-ugly.

Like, hurtful-ugly comments from preteens whose cheeks you’d like to squeeze clean off their faces. In love, of course.

So, I pulled up those pants and secured them with the belt of Truth. Particularly, 1 Samuel 18. We read through that whole chapter together. We uncovered some treasures.

The truth in this passage was that Jonathan, Saul’s son, found a friend in David, the soon-to-be-king that Jonathan’s father detested. I’m speculating here, out of the ugliness of Saul’s hatred for David came a beautiful realization for Jonathan.

You see, during those dark times, Saul was certainly not pleasant to be around. And, I’m guessing that Jonathan quickly realized, to his relief, that he was not alone. That David, too, suffered the wrath of Saul.

As I shared this story, afresh, with my Sweetboy, I saw light begin to spread through his eyes.

I then relayed that infamous incident during my fifth grade year where I was the recipient of cruel comments because I was the only one who hadn’t shaved my legs yet. The cutting remarks nicked worse than any razor blade ever would.

But, I found a friend, that year. We commiserated during gym about being the only two girls, surely, in the history of ever, whose cruel parents kept them from fitting in.

Miraculously, just as God likes it, grace washed over Sweetboy’s face as he realized that he and his two best buddies had each other. That he wasn’t the only one to be at the receiving end of spew from Jealousy.

“I’m glad I have a possie, mama. They get me.”

Yes indeedy, child.

He realized that he isn’t the only one.

Neither are you.

Nor am I.

And that, friends, is a beautiful truth on the other side.

I Almost Wore the Fake Rings

As I sat on a plane, slowly descending back into my home state, God nudged me. He’d been nudging me for a couple of months, actually. But, the glint of the overhead light, off the diamond in my wedding ring, was His final hip-check.

I had spent the previous few days listening and learning from some of the best Christian Speaking and Writing professionals. Filled to the fullest would be an understatement. Session after workshop after keynote speech, the same few words kept being repeated. It felt much like Morse Code, alerting me to a message meant for my heart alone.

I started to decode the message in my journal after that first day. But, distractions were everywhere and my eyes weren’t fixed.

And, I know that because the next day, I found myself copying those same few words again. Only, this time, I chose to just sit with them a bit. I knew they were meant for me to hear. I just couldn’t grasp why.

Days later, enjoying some pool time amongst precious friends, the conversation flitted around those same words.

Again!

And then, twenty-four hours later, sitting in seat 6B and enjoying the unexpected pleasure of a row to myself, guess what? As I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, it became clear that God wasn’t finished laying that message on my heart.

Clearly, I hadn’t received it the way I needed to.

Hearing and receiving isn’t always the same thing, is it?

I’m going to tell you something that I’ve told you about four hundred times, already.

I.

Need.

Grace.

As I confidently share with others, all the time, God declares we are enough. God declares that I am enough. Made so by Christ. The solid rock on which I stand.

Because, friends?  All other ground surely is sinking sand.

I’ve found myself descending in it a time or twenty.

But this particular message, the one where God fills my empty places, and declares that He is enough, just hadn’t sunk in.

In fact, prior to leaving for this particular trip, I was so hoping to impress the outside world with my worth that I was willing to wear my fake wedding rings. (If you’ve experienced pregnancy or weight gain… or better yet, pregnancy AND weight gain, then you know exactly why I even have the fake rings!)

I was willing to wear these rings to a conference of OTHER BELIEVING WOMEN!

Oh God, how I still need You!

I didn’t… wear the fake rings, I mean.

At the last-minute, I reread a piece I was going to submit for a Writing Critique session. The following Bible verse was central to my piece.

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”   (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV)

This verse is central to my being.

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Indeed. The entire five days, God filled me up, poured me out, and shined His light in dark places. In me. Through me. He showed me, much like he showed Samuel, that He has no need for me to impress anyone with anything other than the heart He’s given me.

And as that light glittered off the diamond, the real diamond, of my wedding ring, I realized all over again how very much grace I need.

Still.

And always.