Tag: God’s love

“Mama, are you going to give that man some money?”

We stopped for after school Icee’s at the corner convenience store. The homeless man stood at the corner in his rumpled, dirty clothes and his blank stare.

“No. We don’t give money to those people.”

I continued the education that had been given me as a child. These people were different. They’re on drugs or drunks. They’re not like us.

My parents worked with these people, as my husband and I do now. These people I once thought so different.

When the dirt is washed away, when there’s food in their belly and light in their eyes; when they have clean clothes and a new smile, they don’t look like these people at all. They look a lot like you and me. But, of course, they’re not.

You and I have a permanent residence. We pay rent or a mortgage. We have a closet full of clothes and a washer and dryer in our house.

We have a shower to wash away the exterior that barely shows on our skin, the skin covering this body that is washed and fed daily.

No, we’re different. On the outside.

Poor choices don’t exempt us from being loved.

 

I suppose that’s what Jesus knew all along. He was surrounded by these people, called these people to follow him. When Jesus changes lives he changes us from these people to Chosen people

 

Our son and his wife were with us when we slowed to a stop at this corner we cross heading to our offices. They saw the man and this son who asked when he was a child if we were going to give the man money now said to his dad, “roll down the window” as he stretched across his father to press a dollar in the man’s hand. Our daughter-in-law said she has a “little man” in their town. They’re both tender hearts and even this mama who once said, “we don’t give these people money” has changed. Some days it’s a dollar pushed into his palm and most days a prayer said to keep him safe Lord.

These people are now my people because we are all God’s people. He’s just waiting for us to call Him Savior.

“The guard who is posted to protect the sheep opens the gate for the shepherd, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When all the sheep have been gathered, he walks on ahead of them; and they follow him because they know his voice.” John 10:3-4 the Voice

 

Post Script This seems more relevant today as our country seeks to identify and exclude these people. Christ, have mercy.

faith grace recovery Salvation Army

He sat in all humility, my guess is he wanted to disappear completely, but he had to come back. He had to try again to get this thing called recovery. He had a piece of it but it’s hard outside our walls. It’s hard to work your job, go to school and get in those recovery meetings and meet with your sponsor, the things that keep you alive. So you miss an AA meeting because your job has left you worn. Then another and another and no one is requiring a signed slip like when you were in the ARC. You don’t have a required group to attend where the tools of recovery will be reinforced. You aren’t surrounded by 99 other men and the staff supporting and pulling for you.

You’re out there. On your own.

And sometimes it’s too much.

“Welcome back”, I said as I saw him sitting in the chair outside the Intake office. He’s always a soft-spoken man and this day perhaps softer as he said, “thanks for having me back.”

Thanks for having me back? Really? As if we wouldn’t or as if we aren’t the ones grateful you chose to come back and regain order and sobriety and peace. Thank you! YOU for knowing this is a safe place.

His words have been playing in my head as I think of the times I’ve left. I know I’m the same kind of different as these men. The ones who have couch-surfed in crack houses or lost their business, their nursing license, their teaching positions; the one who have lost it all because of the disease of addiction.

We have a program too, we followers of Jesus. Because it’s hard out there. Out there where we so easily fall victim to greed and gossip, or envy and apathy. I’m only different in that my failures have been kept quiet. It’s like that for most of us. The envy, hate or whatever it is that haunts us makes us no different. Just more presentable. Not to God but to each other.

Still, God loves me. His forgiveness and grace are free and unending. His love, unconditional.

Thanks for having me back.

This is edited from the original post published in 2012.

faith grace hope recovery Salvation Army

When I fly with Henry I take the middle seat. I like the window but I fit better. At 5’4″ and not a wide body I can pull my arms in if the other person needs more room. But there’s no view from the middle.

Henry likes to say, or think 😉 that he’s middle-aged and realist that I am, I find myself reminding him that unless he lives to be over 120 he’s not middle aged. And neither am I. But we try to fool our minds and bodies because the view from here is….maybe too clear.

In those middle-aged years (I swear I don’t know where they went) we were running and rushed and life was buzzing and keeping up was a little like being in the middle seat on a plane: the view wasn’t clear.

I was thinking of the Sunday school song about Zacchaeus , a man short of stature and character until he got a closer view of Jesus. It changed his life.

You just don’t see as clearly when you’re stuck in the middle. But on the outside, we see the fingerprints of God on the times we thought we were alone. From a distance we can take more in. More of God’s grace and mercy. More of the blessings and more of the love. We realize that even in the times we felt sandwiched in the middle there was goodness in our lives.

Linking up with Kate Motaung for a weekly free-writing word prompt called Five-Minute Friday.

faith Five-Minute Friday

Annie stood back casting a hard look at my very pregnant belly. “You’re having a girl” she said with a nod.

This was the time of predictions and guesses and the build up to the reveal which would be announced by the baby herself in the hospital delivery room. There was no cake with a pink layer inside or box of blue balloons. We waited the full length of pregnancy and bought baby clothes in yellow and green, the gender neutral shades of our time.

Henry and I spoke of whose complexion we hoped she had and the brown eyes we were certain she’d share like both of ours. I doodled names on my art tablet and all I could consider were girl names. I scribbled Annie and Amber, Jesse but not Jessica, Danielle as a middle name…maybe? A friend mentioned Heather and Henry was definite that would be the name but what if. As certain as I was this would be a girl we needed a boy name too.

DaddyH11-78blkWht

HmommyDaddy11-78 copy

Heather and Me

 

I read the books and we took the classes and a full month and two days before her predicted due date a 6 lb. 9 oz, dark haired baby girl announced her arrival to a room full of nurses and a last minute Doctor. Henry cut the cord and the Dr. placed her right on my chest.

Her eyes were deeper brown than either of us could have expected, so dark they are like pools of liquid dark chocolate. She’s our brown-eyed girl with his olive complexion and easy going manner but she’s my mini-me, a full inch taller. She stole our heart all pink and messy naked in that hospital room. We just had no idea how far she’d take it.

Having a child changes everything. Everything.

The first few months were exhausting. She was happiest in the day when she was being held. By me. When she woke for middle of the night feedings, she went gently back to sleep while I was wide awake. How long was this going to last? It was breaking me and there were times at night I’d cry as I looked at this sweet baby. That’s when you know how deeply in love you are, how you will do anything for this infant and when you know God’s grip of love is firmly on you.

Thirty-eight years ago our world changed when our Heather Lee entered our lives. Thirty-eight years God has gotten my attention as I’ve come to understand unconditional love. That he loves us period. Not because we’re good, skinny, smart, rich, talented, but because we’re none of those things in comparison to who He is. He just loves us because. Because He is love.

I get it now. I get how my parents prayed for me, how I drove daddy crazy when I started dating and how desperately they wanted me to know God.

I get it when the Psalmist says “Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life”. Psalm 23:6 I learned it with our first born and it was confirmed with our next and I haven’t stopped being amazed by God’s love for me.

For me, it took becoming a mom. How is God showing you his love without limits?

PS Happy birthday girl. You changed our life. For the best.

faith family

“I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.”

Granny recited the words of that old poem with a twinkle in her eye and sly grin on her face and I believed every word that she loved me. I didn’t know of bushels and pecks but I knew about hugs and a Granny’s love.

I love youa bushel and a peckand ahug around the neck

Granny Mc
Granny Mc

“I love you” wasn’t a routine saying in our house. The actions spoke it when I was little. When my adult years and geography separated me from my parents the words became a regular part of our long distance conversations. “Love you” was the last thing we’d say to each other. The words  were sincere and flowed without struggle.

They knew me. Granny, mama, daddy, these people knew me. Knew my best subjects in school and my favorite hobbies. They knew the best parts of me and the parts that still needed work. I was born from their love. To believe they loved me was all I’d ever believed.

We take that word seriously. That love word. Sure, we toss it around in casual ways like I love that song or that movie but don’t play with that word when it comes to people.

Don’t tell me you love me if you don’t know me.

 

My brother and I know this guy who likes to tell his employees he loves them. He’s known them a few months and as he’s leaving their office he looks back and says, “Love ya”. Ah, no.

Much like Jack Nicholson’s famous scene in A Few Good Men when he says: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” I want to say, ‘You love me? You don’t know me!”

You think you know me but you only see the good part. The part that posts pretty photos, inspirational verses and wise quotes on social media. You see the smiling face and easy laughter. You’ve seen me not at my best; a headache or a bit teary over disappointment or loss. You’ve seen me frustrated but that ends up in laughing at myself.

You don’t see the other parts where depression and anxiety rear their demanding voices and the fear of not being enough lurks around every thing I want to be good at. You don’t hear my tongue when it’s wicked with anger or gossip and tears down instead of build up. You don’t see that part of me. But here’s what I know, God does. And that’s the struggle.

You’re waiting for the bible verses, aren’t you? The ones where God declares his love for us. His unconditional love. The kind of love that can’t be earned but is given like an undeserving gift. The love that keeps no record of wrongs, loves me when I’m good, loves me when I’m not.

God so loved art

Those verse are good. They are true. I believe them. More for you, but I believe God loves us without reason, forever and completely. The Psalm that tells us he knew us in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) and the verse that says how much more he cares for us than the sparrows of the sky (Matthew 6:26). He loves.

old television

When I was in kindergarten, I remember watching a show in black and white on our boxy television, called Romper Room. I remember two things from that show: the Do-be and Don’t-be song and the ‘magic-mirror‘. The teacher held it up, looked into it and called out names as if she was seeing that child in front of her. I waited every show for her to call my name. In my child-like faith I knew if she said Debby, it was me.

I long for that childlike faith to believe, every day, that God loves me. To lay down the struggle of not being good enough, of messing up again and again. To put aside the feelings and accept the truth that God loves, as the hymn says, even me.

The first step is a big one. It’s in learning to love ourselves first. On our good and bad days. We’ll never deserve it. But we don’t have to. That’s the good news.

Jesus loves me, this I know….and accept.

Linking up with Holley Gerth at Coffee For Your Heart

faith

hearts on chair

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.

If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!

Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

1 Corinthians 13 NLT

faith photography

faith

He Loves Me...

He loves me (pluck), he loves me not (pluck), he loves me (pluck), he loves me not (pluck)

Did you play that game? Pluck a petal from a flower while saying the words and whatever you said on the last petal was the truth. He loved you, or he didn’t.

Maybe your mama told you about the apple stem? How you said a letter with every twist of the stem and the letter you said when the stem came off was the initial of the boy who liked you.

Those were children’s games we played but we’ve grown up. So we play grown up games. We take the magazine quizzes and buy the books and watch the movies and t.v. shows and we get swept up and away with Olivia and Fritz or the latest Hollywood couple.

I loved when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan were on screen together. Or Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally. Those were love stories. They had challenges to overcome and love won! They gave us all the feels and everything worked out in the end.

Just like your marriage. Right?

Lean in a little closer and I’ll tell you a secret…..I didn’t get butterflies on my first date with Henry. Or on the second or third.

I’m not sure I’m a butterfly feeling kind of girl but sort of. There was something different stirring when I was particularly interested in someone or when the dates really clicked but it wasn’t happening with Henry. He was undeniably handsome. I mean really good looking. And a nice guy. Very nice. Daddy even liked him and he’d only liked one other guy I ever dated.

It was clear Henry was interested in me as he called often and continued to ask me out. It wasn’t clicking for me like it had before but, friends, I was confused, uncertain about a lot, and a 19-year-old mess.

irresistable

me-Henry1977 BW

with my uncle, who performed the ceremony, and aunt (Majors John and Juanita Tharp)

When one of us is usually behind the lens we find there are few pictures of us together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t realize it then, but my parents divorce 6 years prior and the constant moving had devastated me. It didn’t show on the outside.  I was a happy young woman enjoying life. I’d had a serious relationship a year before and another that had sparks flying but left me confused and what did I really know of love? I didn’t. I bought what Glamour magazine and the movies were selling and it wasn’t about love at all.

I’d never included God in my dating life. I’m not sure it ever occurred to me. But I did what I’d never done before, I prayed for God to reveal to me if I should keep dating this guy. He was being quite persistent and I felt like I needed to know if this was going anywhere so I prayed I’d feel something. We’ve been married 38 years so I guess you know how that turned out.

Our daughter was in 5th grade when she talked about a classmate ‘going out’ with a boy. “Where are they going?”, I asked. I was fairly certain the term wasn’t literal but wanted to open this conversation.

When the whole liking business started with our kids I knew heartbreak was coming. Young hearts are fragile and tender and you know they aren’t likely to marry the first one they date but they aren’t thinking about the future past the next moment. They just want to be liked by someone they like. They want the feelings. (Maybe our grown-up selves haven’t changed as much as we think.)

We are bombarded with a distorted view of love. We drop the word for everything from our favorite song to God.

We equate romantic love with feelings, nothing more than feelings and only good feelings. The Greek word for this kind of love is eros, from which we get the word erotic.

A study of the Greek words for love from McLean bible church describes eros this way:

“It is a love that is an emotional involvement based on body chemistry. The basic idea of this love is self-satisfaction.”

Self-satisfaction, that seems right today. What do I get out of this? What will you do for me? How do you make me feel? I deserve someone to make me happy.

As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working for you?”

We can’t deny that eros plays a part in initial attraction. But it’s not sustainable, not in any kind of healthy way because it is a self-serving love.

There is this other love, the Agape love, that describes the love God has for us. This word for love has been seldom used outside the Bible but it is an extraordinary love that only God can fully possess. It’s a love that loves even when not returned. It loves the unworthy and unlovable. McLean Bible Church says, “It is a consuming passion for the well-being of others.” It is unconditional.

This is why the bible says God is love. (1 John 4:8)

We’ll never be able to love like God loves us but he gives us clear guidelines on what love is and isn’t.

Love never gives up and cares for others more than self. It doesn’t keep score and puts up with anything.

Those are a few ways 1 Corinthians 13 from the Message describes love.

That’s what God shows us when he lavishes his love on us, love we can’t earn and don’t deserve.

I’m blessed to have a husband who is easy to love. But I’m still part of this duo and I can be impatient, anxious and too quick to speak.

We have had difficult times and shared angry words. Worse, we’ve not shared any words and pulled away in silence at the hurt caused by the other. But we stayed because love never gives up. One day at a time. We stayed in the same house, the same room, the same bed. Time wore the rough edges down and grace came to stay.

But now faith, hope, and love remain; these three virtues must characterize our lives. The greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 the Voice

faith

The day before is the day I start recalling her birth. The announcement from my aunt that I’d never make it to my due date that led the nurse to say something to the doctor that changed the whole course of things.

In the days before home pregnancy tests and sonograms to determine gender, a wise mother of four took one look at my first time pregnant belly and knew what the doctors would have missed. It’s a story I love remembering and retelling.

How,  after that encounter with my aunt, I had a dream the baby would come and we had nothing but a blanket to swaddle her in-between us in our bed. That dream led Henry to tell his parents we better get the crib. Soon.

One month and two days earlier than predicted our little Heather Lee made us mama and daddy and she came home to a crib with sheets bought two days before. She came home in clothes bought by her aunt because her birth came before the baby shower was scheduled.

You could call her a surprise, I guess, but isn’t all of motherhood a surprise? What did we know? What were we thinking that we could parent this tiny little darling that cried at the most inconvenient times and would have nothing to do with pacifiers and preferred being cradled in my arms rather than in her crib?

They seemed such hard times then, the sleepless nights the uncomfortable bits that will get no further description 😉

Newborn Heather with her grandma Hudson
Newborn Heather with her grandma Hudson
Dress I made to hide the baby bump.
Dress I made to hide the baby bump.
1982
1982
With my girls 2012
With my girls 2012

me and sissy

I reckon it’s best to do these things when we’re young and think we have it figured out. When we’ve studied up on the latest and have the newest. When we have just a tad more energy than our infant and still enough left to run after the toddlers. Yes, I’m glad we did this when we were too young to think clearly. When we were innocent enough to think, let’s do this again!

Truth be told, it’s been my best times. The first few months of motherhood were trying. Time hasn’t colored that rosier. But there’s never been a moment of regret. We’ve shared our challenges and tears and a mama will also have concerns and fret over her young, even when they’re not so young. But regrets? None at all.

The good times are precious memories and the trying times bring tears, prayers, hugs, more tears and more prayers. Children teach us about God’s unconditional love. They show us how to believe in miracles, to never give up hope and how much we need God’s grace each day.

Somehow, God looks at us at our very worst,  and calls us His own.

This girl is a mama herself now and a good one. She’s shed her tears and more will come. But she’ll have no regrets. None at all.

faith

I have lost

money

time

socks

and my patience.

No matter how organized I want and appear to be, things are lost. The day swallows up my best intentions and this house continues to hide what is often in plain sight.

Typically, I am the one to find whatever is being looked for at the moment. I’m not sure if it’s a man thing, a husband thing, or just a my husband thing but why, for the love, can’t he see what is in the refrigerator?

We take turns rescuing each other that way because I can never find anything in the garage. hmmmm

IMG_6369

What I’ve been looking for most these days are words. They aren’t coming freely and the ones that come aren’t feeling sure and alive. This usually means it’s time to examine myself. Am  I feeling sure in what matters and alive to what is in front of me?

Am I investing time in truths that restore and sharpen my faith?

I have felt complacency creeping around the edges as I wrestle with comparison and truth.

My value is not found in the words I write, or don’t write.

I will never find myself in accomplishments but only in God’s gracious love.

 

 

 

faith