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"Many times they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me" (Ps 129:2).
I've had complex feelings about Valentine's Day most of my adult life. I was married to an addict for many years. Binges were sure to occur Christmas Eve (my birthday), Christmas Day (Jesus' birthday), and New Years Eve. There was never enough time to heal and forgive before Valentine's Day rolled around. Subsequently, I developed a habit of rolling my eyes in February when heart-shaped balloons hang in clusters from market ceilings like grapes on the vine. Can't a single girl buy a gallon of milk in peace?
Enter, Valentines Day, 2013. My brother is visiting from L.A. My husband has just returned from camping for the second time this month (allegedly) when he takes me aside to whisper, "I'm moving out. Not to worry. God told me He will send someone to take my place."
Um, Okay. I swallow the pain, stuff the humiliation, and in typical doormat fashion cook a beautiful dinner for my family. I didn't have the heart to not give my husband a gift on this special day, so I purchased a box of Girl Scout Cookies for him. Thin mints. The cookie of champions (and co-dependent women who've yet to develop the self-esteem to hold their husband's accountable for their destructive actions.)
I've been on my own now for seven years. I've dated once; Mr.Charming. Too charming, and the relationship ended abruptly a week before Valentines when it dawned on him that I was serious when I told him I was saving myself for marriage. Who gets dumped before Valentine's Day--twice?
The saving grace in this scenario is that God created me with considerable stores of weird humor. Laughter is a gift. And crying. The curse is to be numb. (I've been that, too.) So I schlepped my sad-self to Sports Academy, where I purchased a volleyball and later painted to resemble "Wilson", Tom Hank's make-shift companion in the movie Cast Away. (Because no one should be alone on Valentine's Day.)
Me and Wilson. Going strong since 2015. Not to brag, but he's an actor. "Perhaps you saw his work in Top Gun and Cast Away." (Funny quote I saw on facebook.)
What could have been a lasting "bad" memory has morphed into something I find hilarious year after year. Know what I did today? I bought myself a box of thin mints. Oh, yes I did!
The subsequent years go unparalleled in what God's shown me about loving myself. It began with a prayer: Father in heaven, In the name of Christ, I ask for the greatest gift of all . . . A love that allows me to be at ease with myself when life isn't' easy.
God commands us to love others as we love ourselves. But do we really know what this means? I see now that the will of God always begins within. The question isn't what shall I do next, but rather, will I yield to the Love who resides within me and allow Love to shape me in such a way that the desires of my heart are fulfilled naturally.
This Valentine's Day, cry if you must. But allow room for laughter. Ask God to give you something to laugh about if you're going solo.
Let God love you so you can get on with the business of loving others as you love yourself.
Mark 12:30-31; The greatest commandment.
"Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself."
Peace out Bohemians!
Published on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 @ 10:57 AM CDT
With Thanksgiving just around the bend I would be remiss not to share a little Indian humor. Note the politically incorrect school art project and family keepsake.
Enter lunchroom. I've invited my mom (full blood Cherokee) to join my son's class as they "break bread" and offer humble thanks for the role Native Americans played in creating a holiday destined to repeat on iPhone calendars across North America until Jesus returns.
Imagine long tables lined with make-shift table clothes. A roll of white paper from art class roughly the length of a football field and some crappy tape that doesn't hold. The finishing touch is brought to fruition by dressing half the children as Pilgrims and the other half as Indians. Can you see it?
My sweet mother, within ear-shot of my son's teacher says to me, "If they really want to be accurate they should segregate the Indians and the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims refused to sit next to us, ya know."
And now for what I am most grateful for. I mean it when I say that I am grateful my life fell spectacularly apart in 2012. At the time I wasn't grateful. At the time I felt confined to a tunnel of pain with despair at one end and rage at the other. I'd loved my husband for so long; given so much. All that "praying and staying . . . to no avail.
Betrayal is a vicious beast of a thing that can cause a person to feel as insignificant as humanly possible. The first Thanksgiving and Christmas on my own I felt like a discarded speck caught in a vortex of disillusionment. Who was I? How would I relate to God as I moved forward?
I didn't feel compelled to read my Bible. I'd always read my Bible. At night I'd place it over my heart before drifting off to sleep. In the mornings I'd read a sentence or two at my kitchen table before closing my eyes and resting my head on open pages. Several months passed before it dawned on me that my Bible studies were rooted in only hardships.
I didn't know "the joy of the Lord is my strength." I only knew how to pray harder. Try harder. I was exhausted from my attempts to manage the damage. For the first time in a long time, I had nothing to offer anyone. It was all I could do to get out of bed and breathe.
I fell apart. But then I made a commitment to face the pain, the confusion; the illusion I'd wrapped scripture around for years--expecting God to bless the world of denial I'd built in the name of Jesus. Well, He did bless it. He brought it down Old Testament style. If life was a board game, I guess you could say the God of the Universe cleared the pieces of mine with one breath.
To be stripped of oneself is a great gift from God. I remember the first day I opened my Bible and could read again. Really soak it in. Not because I had something terrible to survive, but because I had a life to live. And a God who desired for me to live it abundantly. What would become of my relationship with Christ . . . as a single mother? More importantly, as a woman who no longer lived in denial.
What I've learned so far; what I'm most grateful for this Thanksgiving is that today, when I open my Bible, chalked full of highlights from years of study, what means the most to me are the pages stained with tears. God used every one of them to water what I'd highlighted in yellow. He brought me back to life.
I'm alive in Christ. Which is to say, I'm not afraid to let myself feel or face anything. Good or bad. I've learned that in all things Christ communes with me. What I find most touching is that just this morning as I thanked Him for a life replete with the manifest evidence of His goodness, in my heart I heard the gentle whisper, I'm grateful for you, too, Wendy.
I am not a speck.
I am somebody.
I am grateful to be God's child. And He is grateful to be my Father.
I wish you the same peaceful resolve this Thanksgiving. You are not alone. You are not a speck! You are God's child. You are somebody!
Peace and good,
Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him (Psalm 126:5--6).
Published on Wednesday, November 27, 2019 @ 6:27 PM CDT