Tag Archives: forgiveness

The Gaping Mouth of More

Crazy as it sounds, once upon a time, a meal at one of our more “common” fast food restaurants was a pretty big deal; a luxury. If you came from a big family, eating out was an expense reserved for high, family- feast days and a trip to the local burger joint was sometimes as close as you’d get.

So I remember this moment clearly.  A brand-new “Golden Arches” was big news for our little mountain town and all anyone could talk about. If you got to eat there you were certainly going to brag about it.  Seriously, it was a ridiculously big deal when we loaded up to go that evening.The Gaping Mouth

Excitement mounted as the six of us kids sat waited as patiently as possible for the parents to serve up our burger, drink and fries. Unwrapping that crinkly paper, I stared down at what seemed like the most perfect little burger on the face of the planet…all glossy and slick and warm. I felt all kinds of happy looking at that meal. I wanted it to last forever. I’m pretty sure I inhaled.

With the green light to eat, my little brother suddenly slid from his seat to use the bathroom, leaving his sweet little burger and fries untouched— and unattended— right there in front of me. I can’t tell you why, so please don’t ask. In the moments it took for him to step away and slip out of sight, the deed was done: I took a B-I-T-E out of his burger. Yep. With my own still untouched, steamy and glossy in front of me, I stole a bite of his first.

Shame on me.

And shame there was. Caught red-handed with a cheek full of burger and hot tears stinging my eyes, I faced the embarrassment of the loud and exasperated “WHY?!?! What is WRONG with you?!?”   Heck if I knew…..     I just wanted….     more.

More.

As you can imagine, the craving for “More” got me into trouble that day and, in one form or another,  it’s gotten me into quite a bit of trouble since.  God + Maturity + Time has revealed to me how it’s not been so much an issue of unmet needs or expectations. Instead, it’s about learning what it means to be satisfied and how ultimately, it’s God alone who can satisfy. That’s not as easy or as cut-n-dried-Christian-cliche as one might expect.

I am a Christian. I’ve taken the studies and I’ve read the verses teaching the truths and how to apply them. I am a Christian, so of course I’m expected to espouse and emulate always how God is the ultimate source of my ultimate satisfaction. Make no mistake: I know in my gut He is.  But allow me to confess that while I’m much further along than I was back in my “Burger Biting” days, at times it’s difficult to remember and recognize I’ve been drawn off course until I’m a little ways out there.

Search me God

Through my personal Lenten journey this year, God has been gradually revealing another level of “tweaking” He wants to do in this area. I thought I’d been doing pretty good— or at least better. But God wants to do what God always wants to do: Go Deeper. Further. Higher.

It’s this “call to missions” I keep going on about.  I’m justifiably terrified of getting settled into a place of self-satisfaction and somehow missing it.  Factor in how 1000+ personnel from the agency we’d been speaking with were brought back home due to budget adjustments. Now we’re not sure what to do. Continuing to pray and seek the answer,  I fear losing momentum or, as I was telling my dear friend Jane the other day— afraid of unwittingly tripping over the line between contentment into complacency. As if God couldn’t shield, protect and guide my willing and obedient heart. 

Now, you’d think… “Oh, well missions is a “God thing” so it must be OK to be discontent and crave more.”  Yes and no. Maybe…it’s complicated.

Yes to pressing in and on towards that upward calling in Christ Jesus.
Yes to flexibility and teachability.
Yes to all the “yes’s and Amen’s” of now.

That’s  also where the “No” comes in:

No if I can’t wait well.
No, if I can’t learn and be humbled during the waiting.
No, if the “thing” from God starts to take the shape of a God-replacing idol.
No… if I can’t joyfully do whatever where I am as if the mission field is always “someplace else”.

And especially NO if I give in to discouragement, unable to appreciate the good and beautiful gifts he’s placed right in front of me because I’m constantly looking towards something “More-better”.

Here, the craving for “more” gets me in trouble and it’s where God is gently, but firmly convicting me sin in my life— how I keep looking past the good gifts right in front of me, afraid to enjoy them for fear of missing the MORE I, for some reason, sense is out theresomewhere, waiting for me.  I’ve been convicted of impatience and lack of trust…and even, in my spirit, of “despising” His pleasure in small beginnings.

Small Beginnings

Soul-wearied,  I’ve asked the girl in the mirror, “WHY?!? What’s WRONG with you?!?” Heck if I know… I simply crave more.  More God-glorifying unity and diversity. More God-centered teamwork and working hard for Him together.  More of seeing Him move mightily in the lives of others and using me up to do it. I wanna be there, wherever and when it happens….and I forget, painfully forget… it’s happening right here…right now…

  • In paper cups filled with seeds and dirt and harvest promise with plenty to share.
  • Working with a community of women to open God’s grace to 91 of our young ladies.
  • In relationship with neighbors who know about Jesus but nothing yet of His saving grace.

(Sigh)… see what I mean?

So, this is where I am today— humbled, repentant and somewhat embarrassed to make these confessions. But I’m willing to put it all out here because I believe, on some level I’m not alone here. Maybe you’re struggling too? Maybe you’re having a hard time in the waiting place or in knowing how to remain satisfied with what IS even in the light of what MAY (or may not) BE. Maybe it’s a reminder to live the “someday” NOW.

Less than Living

These words shake me. I don’t wanna be “That Girl”… preoccupied with the once was or might be only to find that spent my life doing “something less” instead of the more I’ve always craved.

For the record, although I can’t tell him myself, if my brother was alive today I’d want him to know…”Hey, I’m really sorry about that whole burger thing”.

Trust me, he’d laugh.Lorretta signature

Linking with Jennifer@ Tell His Story

2500 Miles, A Story of Life, Death and Resurrection

We bought a large paper map.
Tri-fold.

It covers the entire Eastern portion of the United States and the major roads, towns and cities between here and there. I pinned it to the dining room door so I could take in the whole picture— see the entire journey spread out before me and somehow plot the course for the weeks ahead.  For a trip like this, a GPS or Google Map just won’t do.

2500 Miles

We’re back.

Of course, even a brand-new paper map can’t show everything. It didn’t show the place in Virginia where we pitched our tent that first night with hundreds of pet-grade bunnies hopping around.

It didn’t show Pennsylvania roadsides strewn with wild raspberries, ripe and ready for the picking by the hand, mouth and bucket-full. The mountain ranges were etched on there, but not the rows and rows of windmills planted along their ridges like monstrous, aluminum and steel daisies. 

In so many ways, this land we call America, is breath-taking and beautiful.

RaspberriesWindmills

There was a purpose for the going.

Practical, promised and somewhat sacrificial, the youngest had qualified for a special Ranger School that had us delivering him to the Eastern Pennsylvania mountains adjacent to the Appalachians and very close to the hills I once roamed in Northern New Jersey.

Kinda crazy and massive in it’s scope and somewhat bigger than any trip we’ve taken overseas, this was about as organized as we get.  Some parts were planned— the camping, the visit with dear friends, the whirlwind tour of DC. Others were tentative— open-ended and accidental, possible but not set in stone, leaving plenty of wiggle-room for change if something didn’t look or feel quite right.

Mountain RoadBig Beautiful Barn

My husband was insistent.

He’d never seen this part of the country—never imagined how beautiful it would be. I’d always told him about my childhood home— the open spaces, rolling hills, farms and fields and now he’d see for himself.

He insisted on taking me further.

Insisting I needed to go all the way back this time..and he was right. Going all the way back was the next step to going fully forward. It was time:
any sooner, I wasn’t ready. Any later, and I might have missed it altogether.

Franklin Pond SignFranklin Pond

Franklin Pond Waterfall

From a picnic at Franklin Pond where memories of day camp and swim lessons in the summer mingled with frostbitten remembrances of ice skating in the winter, to walking the grounds of Franklin Elementary school and remembering this place that sheltered me during some of my darkest years. I halfway expected it to be torn down, replaced by something more modern. Instead, the well-worn brick and mortar gave off a sense of warmth and familiarity I hadn’t expected to greet me.

Franklin Elementary

Driving around to park in front, my breath caught as spotted “her”: The Tree. I’m not really a tree-hugger by definition but I came close to hugging this one. I was so glad to see her. I’m pretty sure it was 3rd grade with Mrs. Fitzgibbons: every morning after the Pledge, as a class we’d turn toward the window look out at the tree and sing,

I think that I shall never see,
a poem lovely as a tree

I confess… the sight of this tree made me cry for all that was and was not… and well— never would be.

Trees 3

But now, it was OK. This time, I could say a proper goodbye and move on… thankful for what IS.

Nearly missing the turn, we found that trailer park and drove all…  the way…  to the top.
I think I spotted Elsie’s trailer.
I know I saw the other one.
It looks like she still lives there.
The place is a dump.
I didn’t knock.

It’s enough to know the slight satisfaction of having left as a weak and wounded child— and to now return as a whole woman of God— as an outside observer to the mess that was and still remains.

I came.
I saw.
Choosing to be moved lightyears beyond…
I walked on leaving her…. all that…. behind.

The last place would take me further than I thought I wanted to go. But he was waiting for me and in 26 years had never met my husband. Again, it was time.

The first pictures tell all: my shields are up, not quite ready for that “Hallmark moment” to be thrust upon me— not ready to easily  dismiss all the hurt and disappointment that had accumulated over the years. I didn’t mean for it to be so obvious but it’s just where I had to begin. I had to be sure. I had to wait and see.

Shield's upShields up TWO

Inside I watched him shuffle around the kitchen happily chatting and preparing for dinner. Watching as he helped feed and rock his great-granddaughter to sleep. Observing his frailty and age, his tenderness and patience to those around him. All the while, somewhat keeping my distance, looking in from the outside at this scene my heart had craved for so long.

Three times he told the story.

Warning them not to toss the baby around like that because once, he’d been playing with me that way.  I was eight months old. He was tossing me back and forth to my mother — and missed. I landed at his feet. “Horrible.” he said , “You just don’t know how horrible you’ll feel if you miss.” 

Three times….. I heard his voice quake at the memory.

I thought— “Really?!? Because 33 years ago, You dropped me again and walked away.”

Through the years I’ve struggled quite a bit with getting back up.   There were times I missed the mark, wrongly trying to fill those gaps through other ways and people. God picked me up, it’s true, and my husband has been a strong arm to lean on as we’ve walked this God-guided road together. I had to learn these GREATER things along the way and I wasn’t expecting any of that to change this day.

Listening and watching I stood my ground til he moved around the kitchen island toward me and with few other words, simply said, “I’m sorry”.  In that moment nothing would replace the relationship denied to both of us. Nothing would replace the damaged years or innocences lost.          Nothing could or was supposed to.

In that moment, yesterday was not the point tomorrow was.  Forgiveness was requested and it was mine to give. The power and the gift, first given to me by God, was mine to transfer to him then and there. He opened his arms for a hug…  and I let him. After 33 years, he came back to pick me up….to begin, somehow… again.  

It was time.

Ephesians 2-4-10

We all ate dinner together.  My husband took many more pictures.  I played with my niece and helped with the dishes. Then we said our goodbyes, got into the car and with a paper map in my lap, we turned towards home.

Towards tomorrow and whatever tomorrow brings.

Lorretta signature

iron maidens and the dragons they slay

A giant nearly ten feet tall stepped out from the Philistine line into the open,
Goliath from Gath. …”  (1 Samuel 17-4)

She cussed like a sailor.
She smoked like a freight train.

unnamed-4For awhile she drove an eighteen-wheeler from one end of the country to the other to earn her living.
She lived large, laughed loud and drank her whiskey straight.

When she set her mind to something, it was done— five minutes ago.
She tore apart several houses and put them back together the way SHE wanted them.
Sadly, sometimes it wasn’t her “house” and she left a trail of men in her wake.

She intimidated the crap out of me and yet,  I wanted to please her most of all.
I often felt like I didn’t and I’m sorry I didn’t understand her better.

She was my mother. The toughest thing going and to this day, a good bit of who she was remains a mystery to me. There are not many folks alive who can tell me much more than I know so I’ve gotten used to the fringes and shadows of what few memories I possess.

To be honest, there were many years I was flat out mad at her. Might have said I hated her. Hurt and disappointed by her choices and behaviors— and though it wasn’t her fault alone, I didn’t know how to process what I was experiencing.

In fact, for a while if you wanted to make me so mad I might punch you hard and cry harder, all you had to do was say I was a lot like her. That was enough to draw me out swinging. Not anymore.

So much more is clear to me now that I’m older with a fresh perspective on life and it’s struggles and also… now that she’s gone.  I realize now, we were both tragically misunderstood. I loved her more than I feared the pain of her rejection but somehow never found a way to break through.

I miss her. She was strong and amazing.  She was a tough cookie with a soft spot for the underdog, the downtrodden and the strays. And….in at least the best ways I can tell— I’m a lot like her.

She wasn’t a very big woman but recently I have begun to realize that the pain that once passed between us has cast a giant shadow over me for most of my adult life.     It was a giant I had to slay.      One of many actually.

“David asked …Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?(1 Samuel 17:26)

Iron Maidens

 

People…     giant slaying is some downright dirty and difficult work.

 God has wrought so much healing out of this painful place of struggle in me as I’ve done that dirty and difficult work and I willingly open myself for Him to use whatever He deems useful to heal those deep wounds in others. It’s why I’m here. In the process of it all, I find myself now surrounded by a number of other “tough cookies”…. Iron Maidens is how I like to refer to us — as in the “iron sharpening iron sort of way described in Proverbs 27:17.

None of us exactly chose to be this way. None of us asked for this responsibility or the difficulty of having to slay some pretty terrible giants from our past in order to get here.  But none of us would have it any other way if God can use us. It’s the way we are and because we are His, this is also how He’ll use us if we allow it. Imperfect yet beautifully useful… restored for a purpose. Set apart for a holy privilege. Iron Maidens are brave.

***************************************The becoming

And you know writing through my brave here may seem like I’ve gotten a bunch of stuff figured out but if there’s one thing I need you to know — I’m mostly figuring it out as I go along.     Like everyone else.

There are days I’m just aren’t feeling it. Days when all the molehills become towering mountains covered with gigantic problems that seem tainted and flavored like my past. Those are the days when I’m not sure I can— or even want to fight the battle or slay another stinkin giant ever again.

It’s hard.   Me?      On those days I want to quit.
I feel unqualified to speak on behalf of God or to anyone else.
Maybe even like it’s not worth it.
It’s so much….bigger than me.
Sometimes I feel naked… because I forget Who’s really got me covered.

“Then Saul gave David his own armor—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before. “I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again.(1 Samuel 17: 38-39)

The Sure Cure of the Light

In those moments, God shows me the truth of what it truly means to surrender… ALL.  He may use another person in my life to remind me of the preciousness of this place and the call to keep slaying those giants. Or He might simply meet with me in His Word, under a tree, “face to face as a man meets with a friend.”

But He reminds me that in His hands— everything about my life and journey is useful for this Kingdom call and the tools He’s given me to fight these battles with are ones I know how to use well.      They fit.

 David quickly ran out to meet him. Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground..” (1 Samuel 17:48b-49)

***********************************

This early story of David flew home to nest in my heart this past week because this is the very same situation we must apply to any and all giants we must slay in the name of the Living God.

As I re-read the story God spoke and revealed there was more than one giant present that day. The obvious one— yelling and screaming and looking all scary, then David’s own family members who mocked and belittled him. He had to respectfully stare down the giant of a wrong authority-figure who wasn’t willing to face the giant himself…and there might have been the giant of pride in there somewhere too.   All these and more he’d face again somewhere down the line.

But the biggest thing God revealed is that in the end, it wasn’t a stone that slayed the giant that day. God could have done that Himself.     What killed the giant…… was obedience.

Faith in God and obedience to the call.   As David eventually learned,   it’s the only way to slay ANY giant.   In fact, it may be the biggest brave of all.

So…. what giants are you facing down today?  Let’s do this thing.

An Iron Maiden Dancing,Lorretta signature

This article originally appeared at  the Brave Girl Community.

and I’m linking with Lyli  and Holly too!