You are worthy

As I sat in church for Easter Sunday, I was overwhelmed with God’s love for
me. I sat in awe of the fact that I am made worthy by His love-His
sacrifice.

Many of us walk around feeling unworthy. We have allowed the stress of
life, the lies others speak about us or to us, the negative thoughts we tell
ourselves, our fears, our guilt and so many other life situations to keep us
in a state of striving and struggling.

But guess what? We don’t need to try harder. I already know tomorrow, I
will make mistakes. I quite possibly will utter a curse word under my
breath that matches the new puppy’s present on the kitchen floor. I may
forget a child’s dentist appointment, someone’s birthday or not have my
dinner menu planned out. Hey, it could be a day where I secretly think,
“Really, do they have to eat again?” But, I am still worthy.

I am worthy because by grace through faith, I have trusted and accepted
Jesus as my Savior. He paid the price for my unworthiness. Nothing can
keep me from the love of Christ.

So often we walk around trying to be a better person and then, maybe we will
feel worthy, be worthy. We strive so hard to get the muck and the mire of
life’s stains washed from our hearts and minds. But scrub away, we will
never, ever feel like we are good enough.

And we don’t have to be good enough. The One who is truly good – Jesus, the
sacrificial Lamb -paid the price, and He lives! Rest in Him. Take your
guilt, your fears, your inadequacies and sit down at His feet.

Worthy is the Lamb, and in Him you are worthy.

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Our dog Lexie

Just a quick post to introduce our new puppy Lexie. We have had her a week and we are crazy about her! She is still not a fan of sleeping in her crate at night, but she is getting the hang of it! She is gentle and sweet, and thinks she is a lap dog. We will see how that turns out when she weighs another 50 lbs or so.

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Copycat

Yesterday afternoon I was at Whole Foods with six of my children. I was feeling very sleepy and extremely relaxed. I had spent a little time earlier in the afternoon practicing some relaxation techniques I had recently learned.

We had finished our shopping and we were walking out of the store when my children exclaimed in unison, “Mom!”

I dazedly replied, “What?”

Phoebe informed me, “You said that out loud!”

In an instant, I realized what I had just done. The cashier had seen two of her friends, Tambien and Cathy and had called out to them. While I have no idea why I repeated her greeting and was really not fully cognizant until my mockery was complete, the following is true:

While the cashier’s greeting was friendly and casual, I apparently had, in a loud and very sultry, accented voice, said, “Tambien, come here and let me touch you!” To complete my parroting faux pas, I added for good measure a saucy shoulder roll and jiggle and sway of my hips.

And yes, according to my children, heads did turn. We laughed the whole way home.

Happy Friday!

Lessons from driving school

Today, I have the privilege of sharing a guest post with you. My dear friend Denise and I were childhood friends. Through the wonderful world of technology we have reconnected and she is a treasure in my life. After my story on grace she sent me this email below. I loved the story and found it to not only be full of grace, but her situation was one we can all relate to in one way or another. Thanks Denise!

I don’t know if my story is about grace so much, but your story reminded me of an encounter I had with someone. I had been taking an online traffic course at home to get out of a speeding ticket, and it is timed so you can’t just skip through it to the test. You have to stay on each screen for a certain number of minutes. I was taking it as fast as I could because I had to be at my son’s school for an appointment. Finally I finished, jumped in the minivan, and headed for the school.

We lived in Destin which is a tourist area – very crowded, full of drivers unfamiliar with the area. To get out of my neighborhood I have to turn left, which means I have to wait for the traffic on my left to clear, cross the street and then wait in the median for traffic on the right to clear. Sometimes the median is full of cars waiting to go both directions and can be quite a mess. I waited and watched as the car in the median in my way let several opportunities to go pass her by. I finally lost my patience and drove across the street and got in front of her. She honked and in my hurried, frustrated, angry state I rolled down my window and yelled, “I couldn’t wait all day for you to decide to go!” She said, “You should have gone around” (meaning turned right and made a U-turn). I shook my head and drove off.

Yes, I know, I didn’t learn a thing from that online driving school.

I was seething. Who was this woman to tell me how to drive out of my own neighborhood? You have to be aggressive to get across 98 in Destin! Otherwise you will never get anywhere!

When I got to the school, I immediately calmed down. I felt ashamed of my behavior. I had confronted this woman and might have even ruined her day. I might have upset her so much that maybe later in the day she would take it out on her husband, her kids, or make a costly mistake somehow because she was upset. I knew I had to apologize. From her car’s position in the median, I knew she was going to the medical center directly across the street from my neighborhood. After the meeting, I wrote a note and went to look for her car so I could put it on the windshield.

As I drove through the parking lot, who did I see walking but the very same woman. I pulled up next to her and rolled down my window. The look on her face – surprise, then anxiousness – made me speak quickly to put her at ease. I said, “I just wanted to say I’m sorry. I know encounters like that can ruin your day, and I don’t want that to happen to you. I am so very sorry and would like to ask your forgiveness.”

She was surprised. She said, “My girlfriend said, ‘That girl is going to get herself killed.’” I said, “I behaved badly, I know. Here’s a note I had written you. I’m so very sorry. I just want the rest of your day to be good.” She said OK and took the note and away I drove, thanking God I had made the effort to find her and marveling that I did.

It did strike me that her girlfriend had been concerned with my well-being. I don’t know that I would have if the situation was reversed.

Closing like a crocus

I think we are all ready for spring. Actually at this point, I think we are all ready for warmer weather – who cares the name of the season – just bring on the sunshine! I know you can’t hear me, but trust me, I am screaming that last statement with every fiber of my being.

I really don’t mind the cold weather and even enjoy a good sled-riding snow once in awhile. It is the lack of the star at the center of our solar system not shining its rays down on me that I miss. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not looking for it to be hot. No thank you, I do not tolerate the heat well. But as far as the sun shining its rays down through a window, I may as well be baby Trixie from the Hi and Lois comic strip talking to Sunbeam, her ray of sunlight. I empathize with her disappointment when she realizes she can’t catch the sunbeam and keep it in a jar. Oh, gloomy winter days would be so much easier if we could just pull out our jar of lighted rays from our captured sun.

I was so excited to see the crocuses appearing out of what seemed like nowhere in our front flower bed; I thought it meant spring had sprung. The deep purple with the orange on the inside brightened my day and put an extra zip in my step every time I walked by them. I found it fascinating how at night or during extremely cold temperatures the petals would close up tight, hiding the inside completely only to open little by little to the warm greeting of the sun.

I can be like a crocus. I think many of us can be like a crocus. We close up and close shut when people or life circumstances are too cold, too uncomfortable, or too uninviting. We wait for the perfect circumstance or scenario to present itself first and then we will slowly open up, reveal ourselves. It is just easier, it is just safer.

Or at least that is what we think. I have always thought of myself as an open book-a transparent person. But I realize a lot of times I play it safe, waiting for the optimum temperature. I am learning to be vulnerable. Honestly, it takes courage.

Can you imagine a world where we aren’t waiting on something else to help us open up? Where we awake each day, no matter the circumstance, no matter the temperature and we freely share our inner beauty? And just as the crocus is a gift amidst the cold, dreary winter, our beauty would radiate to all around with a warm and welcoming glow.

Beauty

Beauty

Bananas

In my last post, David was driving away from me to interview for a loading shift supervisor position at UPS. It was 2001, he was in seminary school, and was earning $554 a month with six children and a wife at home. I am happy to report he got the job along with full health benefits and double his salary. But before you rejoice, realize he brought home $1158 a month. That’s right, you read correctly. All eight of us lived on $1158 a month. That’s less than 14K a year.

Fortunately, the seminary had two wonderful ministries that involved food. One was called The Manna Ministry. It was a day-old bread ministry; local grocery stores donated products that were expiring. Students and spouses volunteered to pick up the assortment of breads, bagels, pastries, cookies and other items as well as take turns operating the free store. It was open during select hours and days of the week.

The other ministry was called The Sunshine Seniors. It was run by a group of senior citizens from a local church. An individual or family was allowed to shop twice a month. Everything was free and food allotment was based on family size. So along with the generosity of treats from visiting grandparents, we ate solely what The Sunshine Seniors and Manna Ministry and a few other off-campus food pantries offered.

So there I was in the spring of 2002, nauseated and belly-deep in my first trimester with Joshua. I was craving bananas, but desperately needing saltines to help ease my queasy feeling. I had $1.50 to spend, anything more would be digging into the water bill payment. I stood in the grocery store and uttered a quick prayer, “Okay God, bananas or saltines.” I felt a nudge to buy saltines. I spent the weekend nibbling my crackers and praying for my craving of bananas.

The next day at the Manna Ministry there was a box of bananas; it was unusual for there to be fruit. I peered in the box and turned my nose up at the black-skinned bananas. The volunteer saw me and said, “Oh, I know they look awful, but I ate one earlier and it was one of the best bananas I have ever eaten.” I took a few with me, ate them and she was right, delicious!

The food pantry was held in a 950 sq. ft. three-bedroom apartment. Once it was our turn to go inside, we shoppers would systematically work our way through the house into the converted rooms stacked with shelves of food, and finish in the kitchen. The kitchen was the command central for dairy products, refrigerated items and meats (some types and cuts of meats which I had never heard of before or eaten since). Mr. Harold, a man who had a very harsh bark but whose bite was pretty soft, was the commander-in-chief of the entire process. It was a stimulating, organized-chaos mix of arms reaching, ham bones passing and heat rising as we all gratefully gathered our week’s bounty.

As Rachel and I stepped inside the doorframe of the pantry, our mouths dropped open. From the floor to the ceiling and along every wall, carton upon carton of bananas were stacked. I felt like I was in the poem “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” when what to my wondering eyes should appear… BANANAS!

As I stood awestruck by the supply God had given, tears were brimming over my eyelashes. Rachel turned to me and slyly said, “Jamie, we are all really glad that God has provided your desire for bananas, but the rest of us our getting sick of them. Could you start praying for grapes?”

Philippians 4:6 ESV

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

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I don’t want to be that woman

My husband David went to seminary in August of 2001. So I guess I should say our family went to seminary too. We had been living in Richmond, VA for nine years when we sold the house, quit David’s job, found a new home for our dog, shed tears with many great friends and loaded up the moving van and headed south to Wake Forest, NC.

We traded in our beautiful, large, four-bedroom house with a fenced-in backyard for a tiny 1,000 sq. ft., three-bedroom corner downstairs apartment. There were eight of us in the family at this time – three boys in one room, three girls in another and well, the looney adults in this master plan in the final room. We sold three-fourths of our Richmond home’s content to fit in the new apartment and even then, using the word cozy to describe the situation is an understatement. We found ourselves making decisions like couch or piano; the piano won.

David found a job working for UPS. He brought home $554 a month. We knew the meager proceeds from the sale of our house would not last long. Thankfully, about mid-October, David was given the chance to interview for a loading supervisor position. It was one of the quickest opportunities given to a new employee in anyone’s recent memory. We were very grateful, or at least I thought I was grateful.

On the afternoon of the interview, I walked David out to his car for a good-bye kiss. As he was getting in the car, I started thinking about how this promotion meant we were beginning to put down roots in NC. I said, “Don’t go. I don’t want you to go for the interview. I want my life back.” Visions of my house I loved, the children’s private school, vacations at the beach, dinners out, afternoons spent at the pool, and my fantastic friends all flashed before my eyes.

“Jamie, honey, I know this is hard and a big adjustment, but I have to go to this interview right now. We will talk about it when I get home,” David gently replied.

David was now in the car and the door firmly shut. I leaned in towards him through the window. “No, please, we need to talk about it now. I don’t want to stay here.”

“Jamie, honey, I am going to roll up the window now. I have to go or I will be late. I want to hear about how you are feeling, I really do, it is a blessing this interview came so quickly. We will get health benefits and a little more money. Now kiss me and back away from the car, honey.” I held on to his window for dear life as it slowly began rolling upward. Somehow I had decided that if he were to go to this interview my life would never be the same. There would be no turning back. It didn’t matter that we had no home to return to live in, had sold most of our worldly possessions and had moved – he could not go to that interview. The window stopped right before my fingers would have been smashed. “Honey, we are here right now, so I have to provide. We will talk, I promise. But I am going to pull away now and I really don’t want to run over your feet. Take your hands off the window, please, and back away from the car now.”

I let go. As the car started to pull away, any rational thought left in my head vanished as I remembered I had two feet. I began to chase my husband up the street as he drove off. I shouted, “Please don’t go! I want my life back! I don’t want to do this anymore!” Tears were streaming down my face as my arms swung wildly in the air. I was running out of steam as the road had a slight incline. I bent over, hands on my knees, and cried out one more battle scream, “I mean it! Get me out of here! I want my life back! Do you hear me? I want to go home!”

As I stood there panting, crying and gasping for breath, with the car’s taillights rounding the corner out of the neighborhood, it dawned on me I was in the middle of the street. Who on earth had witnessed the spectacle I had just created? I turned to walk towards home when I saw her. My new friend and neighbor Janet was walking towards me. She put her arm around my shoulder, fell into step with me and sympathetically declared, “It’s okay, Jamie. Seminary draws men closer to God and makes women wonder if there even is a God.”

Her words brought me comfort and there was a lot of truth with each syllable she shared. But we both made a pact that day to encourage one another and sharpen one another. To not be that woman who wondered.

I have to be honest, with all the reality shows on television, it has always amazed me that no one has thought to create one called “Seminary Wives.”

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