Thursday, January 24, 2019

We have blood on our hands.

Nearly 27 years ago, we welcomed the birth of our oldest daughter in upstate New York. We were beyond struggling to provide for the one child we did have, had no family support nearby, and I wasn't even out of my teens. We'd already been told we were irresponsible and that our son "deserved better". Even the doctors attending to me were condescending. Everyone seemed to believe that our financial and social well-being (because hey, how was I supposed to have a career?) trumped the promise of Psalm 127 that this child who was not planned as a blessing, a reward, and had been given life that was entrusted to us by Almighty God.

Every time we have announced a pregnancy since then, regardless of how "well off" we were financially or socially, we have been met with as many disgusting comments as we have had genuine congratulations.

Somewhere between the time of the patriarchs and the present day, society (as a whole) stopped viewing children as the heritage and blessing they are and started believing that they are a burden--a curse upon freely expressed sexual appetites. We have removed the safeguards of morality from the God-given purpose of sexual intimacy, and of course the devaluing of its natural product was swift to follow.

Currently, pregnancy is either celebrated or viewed no differently than a sexually transmitted disease--something that needs to be treated as a detriment to proper female health.  The only thing that differentiates these two diametrically-opposed points of view is whether the child is wanted. The baby growing inside a woman who is financially unable to provide for a child or mentally unstable or unwed or abused or just plain doesn't want a child is NO DIFFERENT than the baby growing inside of the woman who has desperately longed for and is looking forward to a child to hold and love.

The problem is not the pregnancy. The problem is how we perceive that baby's worth. The problem is that our depraved society values personal comfort over the sanctity of life.

I have been a teen mother. I shouldn't have been, but I was convinced of the lie that a "little" sin had no consequence.  Our first three pregnancies came about in spite of three different means of prevention. We have two live adult children to attest to the fact that sometimes, birth control just doesn't work. It's incredibly difficult, but it's not an insurmountable task to accept responsibility when you view new life as a blessing.

I have a friend whose child was conceived in rape. She was encouraged to look at that baby as her reward for surviving something brutal--and she did. That child became her reason for healing and creating a victorious life instead of surrendering to victimhood.

I have several dear friends whose children were born with life-limiting challenges; some were even "incompatible with life". Ask any of them if they would trade a single second of that sweet child's life for all the comfort in the world; those precious lives, no matter how short or challenging, brought such joy to their families!

I have had three pregnancies that threatened my life near the end of gestation. One put me in the hospital for a week as they strengthened her for life outside the womb. The last three had to be delivered early because my body was just not capable of sustaining both of us simultaneously. My experience is not uncommon. But you know, I could never even fathom the thought of anything other than delivery as the remedy for my body's failings. I will gladly endure the battle with my health for the rest of my life, because my children's lives are worth far more to me than my own.

I won't dare force my own desires for a large family on ANYONE. Our choices are our responsibility as individuals to handle. Why in the world would we ever expect innocent babes in the womb to be forced to give up their very lives just so we can be free of responsibility? We wouldn't dare punish a young child whose parents do not provide well for him, would we? No--we would tell his parents to grow up, act like adults, and take care of the responsibilities they've got, or to surrender him to someone who will!

To think that I bore a child in the very state that has celebrated the option to kill an unborn baby up to the point of birth makes my blood run cold. This slippery slope needs a full stop before it gets any worse. The next step will be what other nations have allowed--infanticide and euthanasia of the "burdensome" elderly. If we let this continue, it will only get worse

The days of allowing blood to be shed on the altar of personal freedom needed to be ended. The days of slavery had an end, and abortion is a far greater atrocity. It's beyond time we stop allowing this evil to be celebrated as "health care".

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Not Fit For Human Consumption

Dogs will eat anything! It has been so long since our Jake was a puppy that I had forgotten this fact, but Remus and Draco are certainly good at reminding me! It is amazing how we can feed them ample amounts of the best foods, give them plenty of treats and toys, and exercise them till we're all passed out on the grass, and yet they still manage the energy to go find the most disgusting things in the house (and yard) to munch on when they have two seconds of boredom torturing them.

I don't get it.

But yet ...

God gives us His best and finest blessings. He freed us from the bondage of sin. He gave us a mission--to seek and save the lost, to minister to His people, and to walk worthy of our calling. We have the Living Water, the Bread of Life, and the Light of the World. Yet we choose to return to the darkness of sin and to take part in those things that will condemn our souls.

We trade the promise of healthy marriages for selfishness and impurity. We spoil the innocent hearts of our children by allowing the world to tell them that the things God hates are normal and harmless. We put down our crosses and exchange them for battle axes, drawn against those we disagree with philosophically while ignoring the mandate to teach the truth in love.

Are we any better than a dog returning to its vomit? (Proverbs 26:11)

Monday, February 5, 2018

Flashlight or Flamethrower?

Nearing the end of my hubby's twenty-year career with the Army, we purchased a home outside of the city limits where we could be comfortable. Living in military housing in urban areas had worn on us, and the idea of having corn, cotton, and cows for neighbors after spending so much time around interstates and airports was a breath of fresh air--quite literally, in fact.

Our first night in our new home was an adventure. We made everyone pallets on the floor, ate a picnic supper in the living room, and bedded down with the anticipation of getting settled into a new life of freedom in the peace and quiet.

And then we turned out the lights.

When you spend your entire life surrounded by bright lights and the glow of cities, that first taste of true darkness hits you right in the face. Or maybe that was just the wall I walked into, I'm not completely sure. Either way, flipping that switch and attempting to walk across the house to my bedroom stopped me in my tracks. Sure, I was used to having to adjust to the [relative] darkness as a brightly-lit room gave way to the dull glow of street lights that provided enough light for me to walk through the house without running into furniture or stepping on the dog. This, however ... this was a new sensation. The nearest street light is half a mile away. We are far enough out of town that the mountain blocks the glow of the city lights. When there is no moon and those house lights go out, it gets DARK. Can't see your hand in front of your face, dark. I froze. My brain locked up, unable to recall where a single wall was in relation to my current location. We laughed about it and still do, but being immersed in the suffocating shadow of the earth, apart from any of the sun's light was an experience that stuck with me.

Being in true darkness, in the absence of any hint of light at all, is a strange experience. There is an odd sense of false security in not being able to see any of the things that "go bump in the night", but it's the type of security that causes you to stop and measure your steps with anxious care because you just don't know if you're going to step barefoot on a Lego or if a bloodthirsty monster is going to leap out of the abyss and tear you limb from limb. The darkness takes on a strange life of its own; you can almost feel it surrounding you.

We humans crave light. Unlike some animals who were created with eyesight that can amplify even the smallest bit of ambient light to allow them to navigate the nocturnal world, we need it to be able to survive in this world full of dangers and obstacles. If we lose our ability to see, we require outside assistance to help us function.

I am so thankful that Jesus used lessons that we can visualize to help us understand His will and our purpose in this life and the next. Darkness and light are concepts that we can comprehend even from a very young age; in fact, the unknown terror in the dark is the first true fear that most people have. Jesus never sugar-coated evil; He likened it to the paralyzing darkness that is found in the absence of light--and seeing the truth of the Gospel as the illuminating light in the darkness is a very clear word picture that anyone can understand.

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."  (Matthew 5: 14-16) 

Can we talk just for a minute about HOW we're supposed to shine that light? I don't know if it's because I'm one of those weird people who have major sensitivities to light or not, but have you ever noticed how it feels to be faced with those high-intensity headlights as an oncoming vehicle crests a hill? How about having someone turn on a bedroom light when you're struggling to wake up? Ever have an insensitive camper shine an LED flashlight right in your face while you're looking for something at a dark campsite?

It hurts.

There are a lot of people in this world who are trying to feel their way around in a spiritual void. We know, because we're IN Christ, that they need the Light of the world to give them direction, security, and peace. However, we have a bad habit of shining our light--our high-definition, super-refined, LED light--directly into their eyes, and then we wonder why on earth they turn away and don't want to hear another word. Or maybe they try to humor us, but it's just too much for them to deal with? Are our well-intentioned efforts unwittingly blinding them?

During a power outage, we use flashlights to get us around until we can get to matches and candles. When we camp, we use campfires and torch-lanterns to illuminate our base camp, but we use flashlight and headlamps to navigate from place to place. Have you ever thought about why? Why is it that our tiny little portable light sources aren't enough? 

Natural light is always a superior source of both light and heat. No one needs to turn on a table lamp in a room with lots of windows during the daytime. Unless you're a kid who doesn't care about wasting batteries, we all turn off our flashlights when we sit around a campfire. Being in direct sunlight, even when it's cold outside, is the best way to get warm--with a wood fire being the next-best thing.

We all know that Christ is the Light of the world. He said so in John 8:12 when He told us that anyone who follows Him will not walk in darkness but have the light of life. As followers of Jesus, we bear that light, with the dual purpose of bringing glory to the Father and drawing others out of the darkness. We can visualize His church, our fellow laborers, as that campfire that radiates the light and warmth when we gather around it. Staying near the source is necessary for us, but of course, we have to carry our light into the darkness of this world to hopefully help others find their way to God. We're just tiny little flashlights! 

Brethren, when you use a flashlight, you don't shine it in someone's eyes. You cast the light at the path they need to follow, so they can see where they need to go. We walk beside them, so they can visualize every step. If we cast the beam too far ahead, they could trip and fall on something that's right under their feet. Those we are trying to show the way need to see that we are willing to walk with them, and that their eternal safety and security are most important to us, but also that we care deeply about every dangerous step they are taking! We may know the way, we may understand the path, but not everyone does. We would be wise to tread carefully around those who are taking those first steps!

Perhaps the most dangerous thing we could do is to think that since a little light illuminates the path enough to take a step here and a step there, that bringing a flamethrower to them to blaze a fiery trail would be better. After all, faith is the most important thing, so wouldn't a scorched-earth method work exceptionally well to burn the bridges we know they need to leave behind? Shouldn't we show them just how brightly we can shine as God's chosen people? Shouldn't our fires be so hot that we melt every trace of evil we come in contact with?

Brothers and sisters, flamethrowers are destructive weapons. They may emit both light and heat, but they burn up everything in their path. God forbid we leave a trail of destruction in our wake in the name of "shining the light". We should take special care with those who are struggling to adjust to getting a glimpse of the light in this dark world. We can easily cause more harm than good if we are reckless. Don't throw flames. Be a flashlight. Walk with those who are fearful of the dark until they are comfortable carrying lights of their own. Give comfort; share warmth.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bite the Bullet?

To bullet journal, or not to bullet journal? That is the question. I was actually enjoying my bullet journal as a creative outlet and to keep track of my fibromyalgia symptoms and how they correlated to external stimuli like sleep and barometric changes. And then came the nasty depression and bad health pit after the Christmas of 2016. I found myself no longer wanting to write, to track anything, or really do much of anything. Even reading and seeing previous journal and blog entries was too painful, so the bullet journal was put away, only a third full.

Now I'm to the point that I'm finally craving that creative outlet again and missing the organization it brought to my life, but I'm wondering ... was it too involved? Did I actually become a slave to it? Am I able to prioritize my time well enough to put it down and ignore the imperfections?

I'll admit it; I'm scared. I don't want to revert to wasting time on organization when I need to be actually doing what I'm organizing. It's a struggle that seems to get harder to fight when I'm mentally weak. I need to be sure I'm keeping myself strong.

It could help.

Or it could hurt.

Silly, to be afraid of something so mundane as journaling. However, depression seldom makes sense. I don't want to simplify one part of my life only to complicate another, perpetuating a downward spiral I could have prevented.

I'm going to choose to believe that what helped before will probably help again, especially since I'm at a better place now spiritually than I was before I began it last time! I'm going to have faith in God's ability to renew a steadfast spirit within me.

It's time to bite the bullet and get those creative juices flowing again.

So ... How do YOU handle journaling while struggling with your inner self? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Packing the Kitchen Sink

About six months ago, we took a major step into new territory. Hubby and I have always shared a love for traveling, but as of late, he's been pretty much the only one to enjoy that luxury, thanks to a job that requires frequent overseas trips. It is an inescapable fact of having a large family that being away from home for even one night is complicated at best, hugely expensive no matter what. So we did something we had discussed for quite some time--we purchased a travel trailer. Neither of us is getting any younger, and we don't want to wait another ten years until our nest is empty to get out and experience other places, so why not just pack up our house and take it with us?

Believe it or not, this plunge into RV travel brought with it an unforeseen side effect. Suddenly we had to evaluate what was truly necessary and what was just extraneous fluff. Stuff equals weight, and weight in an RV is a precious commodity.
We had researched our purchase options thoroughly and made our decisions practically rather than aesthetically (No, Mr. Salesman, we actually DON'T need a couch more than we need a table big enough to seat seven somewhat comfortably!) and we found a model that would suit our needs, but as we started filling those cabinets and storage compartments, we realized quickly that we could either prioritize what we packed into our little home on wheels or we could become the types of consumers who quickly get discontented and seek an upgrade because "we need more space".
Unbeknownst to us, this would trickle into our sticks and bricks life as well. The more I prioritized and organized the camper (and took things OUT that I found were not used and just taking up that valuable space), the more I felt claustrophobic in our house full of stuff.

2650 square feet is by no means a small dwelling, even when it houses seven humans. Okay, yeah, when you add seven cats, two dogs, and two turtles, it feels a bit smaller! At any rate, though, we have fought a long battle with clutter in the thirteen places we've called home in the last twenty-eight years, and it seems as though no matter what the square footage or availability of storage space, the battle rages on.

The only time I can recall feeling completely at ease in the four walls we called 'home' was the four months we lived in a tiny two-bedroom apartment with our oldest two children while hubby was in training between duty stations. We were only allowed to ship 400 pounds of household goods to that location, and the only other belongings we had with us were what fit in our little four-door sedan with us! We didn't have the financial means to get a furnished apartment, and we couldn't buy a bunch of stuff because when we moved again, we still had to fit it into the car or in the 400-pound shipment we were allowed to carry us to the next duty station!

At twenty and twenty-two years of age, respectively, we got an experience that we wouldn't come to fully appreciate for many years. Sure, we learned that life isn't about the stuff you surround yourself with, but with two toddlers in tow and little more than air mattresses, a few toys, a playpen, and very basic kitchen equipment, we were just trying to survive. It wouldn't be until two and a half decades later that we would realize what we really learned during that period of forced minimalism:

You don't need a lot of stuff to live well.

Packing this camper for two different short trips set something in motion in my mind that I'm truly thankful for. I was forced to realize that all this STUFF I've been surrounding myself with at home was not just unnecessary, but it was actually causing some of the stress I was trying so hard to eliminate! Even four nights away from home, I came to appreciate the simplicity of not being in a cluttered environment, and returning home to it brought all of the stress back as quickly as it had been removed.

It wasn't *life* I needed a break from, it was the constant, never-relenting drain of managing an environment that was quite literally overtaken with stuff that gives very little (if anything) back to our lives.
It's crazy how freeing it is to just leave it all behind--yes, even the laptop (although hubby isn't at that point yet, he can't leave the electronics behind). I don't have to maintain piles and stacks. It has taken maybe three hours of active time in eleven days for me to wash, fold, and take care of laundry for the five people who are calling this RV home for the time being.

Three hours. Tops.

You don't even want to know how much time is devoted to laundry duty at home. All I'll say is there's a hidden meaning to the name of my blog.

At present, I'm swyping out this blog post on my phone, sitting in my bed while sipping coffee and watching the sun come up. The kitchen is completely clean, the bathroom is completely clean, the living space is clutter-free and clean, and the floor is even swept. It takes maybe an hour a day to maintain the ENTIRE camper, including washing and putting away the dishes!

That's freedom, folks. And I'm loving it.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Mom's Losing It!!

When we finally reach the end of our homeschool days and our seventh child graduates from high school (who, given her current level of energy and the width of her damage path, is obviously geared toward either catastrophic world domination or the colonization of Mars), I wil have been at this for a grand total of thirty years. THIRTY. I am tired just thinking about that number. My mother retired from teaching in the public school system with just a couple more years than that. I'm thinking that's quite enough, thanks much. I'll go volunteer at a funeral home after that, where it's quiet and my charges don't talk back.

Yes, today was one of  **those** days. How could you tell? You know, when I have my homeschool retirement party the week after that last graduation, I already know what the theme will be. Let's recap today's highlights and see if you can guess. 

Child: "Mom, I don't get this."
Mom: "What are the directions asking you to do?
Child: "I don't know."
Mom: "Read the directions to me."
[Child reads directions clearly]
Mom: "Now what do you need to do?
Child: "I dunno."
Mom: "What did the directions say?"
[Child repeats directions]
Mom: "So what do you need to do?"
Child: "I dunno."
[Mom explains directions slowly and in English, pointing to dictionary to reference any ill-understood words, then looks into child's eyes for some signs of life.]
Mom: "Doooooooooo thhiiiiiiiisssss."
Child: "But I don't get it."
Mom: "Read the directions."
Child: "I did."
Mom: "So what are you supposed to do?"
[Child explains assignment with precision regurgitation of mom's instructions.]
Mom: "Great! So do that."

Child: "Do what?"

Have you guessed the theme? This has now happened with three of my seven children. It never gets less exasperating. It has become the padding in my cell. So it's only fitting that the theme of my homeschool momy retirement party be ...

"Who's On First?"

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Identity Crisis or Crisis of Faith?

Putting fingers to keys and letting these words flow out of my brain for the first time is terrifying to me. It's one of those things that I really would rather no one know about me, because while it doesn't matter to me what people think of *me*, it very much matters to me what image I bear of the One in whose image I am created. I'm not a perfect person. I never have been. I've had some huge lapses in judgment throughout my life that have had painful consequences--some of them have taken half a lifetime to overcome; I really don't want this to be another of those poor judgment calls. However, I know that the trials I have faced and overcome through my faith in God and by His sometimes-unbelievable provision of strength can and should be used to help others overcome similar trials; not stuffed in the dark recesses of my memory to never again see the light of day. Certainly God didn't bring me through all of this for my own sake. I'm just not that important. I may not be able to help the one I wish I could reach, but maybe if my struggle could help strengthen just one ... then it will be worth it.

Most everyone who knows anything about me knows that I'm not a girly-girl. I often quip that God was displaying His sense of humor by giving me six daughters. Jeans, baggy t-shirts, and sneakers are my comfort zone. The color pink, glitter, rhinestones, all of those frilly, fancy, fru-fru things that "normal" girls love are my kryptonite. I did have a favorite baby doll when I was tiny--I used to dress up my cat and haul him around in my little doll stroller. But the other stuff? Yeah, no thanks. 

What most people don't know about me (even those who are very close friends) is that I spent my entire childhood believing I was one of God's goof-ups. No, I'm not being dramatic or self-deprecating; I truly believed I was not born with the physical body to fit "who I was". From my earliest recollections of playing house with my best friend, every escape into the world of make-believe had me playing a male role. What's crazy looking back on it now is that no one ever questioned it; all of my friends naturally assumed whatever character I was pretending to be was going to be male. I remember vividly, at the age of six, going to bed every night praying to God that I'd wake up a boy so I wouldn't have to pretend to be a girl anymore. 

I *hated* being a girl. I hated dresses, skirts, turtleneck shirts, lace, tights, and those awful patent leather Mary Janes. I hated being told that 'girls don't play football", "act like a lady", or my favorite, "girls have dolls, boys have action figures'.  I wanted to play with "boy toys", throw mud around and not have to worry about being dirty, ride a BMX bike with the cool pads while wearing a football jersey, and go fishing. 

As I got older, my disassociation with my "assigned gender" only got worse. Some time during the eighth grade, I came to the startling realization that girls made friends in different ways than boys did. I had never been popular, but that year I somehow lost most of my friends to a hormone-charged beauty contest that I had no interest in participating in. I was suddenly no longer "pretty" enough for the few friends I had, who used their increasing adolescent freedoms to hang out at malls and have make-up and hair parties. I found myself painfully aware that being a tomboy who was described as "plain" and "homely" made navigating middle school a very lonely adventure. I didn't really understand who I was supposed to be, because what I was being told a "girl" was certainly did not fit me at all.

In ninth grade, I gave up. I decided that I'd enter this new school with a new philosophy--be who I want to be, because obviously I wasn't going to fit in one way or another. I shortened my name to its androgynous form, started wearing the loose-fitting shirts, jeans, sometimes even dress shirts with a necktie (all put on after I'd gotten on the bus because I dare not allow my mother to know I was dressing like a boy) and guys' high-top Reebok sneakers that I actually liked. I listened to Bruce Springsteen and Def Leppard while most of my middle school friends were fawning over some boy band called New Kids on the Block (side note--I was so oblivious to teen girl culture that I didn't know Donnie Wahlberg was in NKOTB till we'd been watching Blue Bloods for almost two seasons. DUH!); I hung out with the guys and other tomboys that I found in the marching band who really didn't care much for pretense and accepted me with all my quirks. But through that year I encountered what was no less than emotional and mental abuse from the older band geeks because of my ambiguity, and I spent most of the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school thinking I didn't belong in this world at all because I obviously didn't fit in anywhere. I found myself praying another impossible prayer--that God would let me just die in my sleep. I didn't know who I was, what I was supposed to do after high school, how I would ever fit in with the things I was learning at church about what a woman's role is. I kept thinking over and over that somehow, my brain had faulty wiring somewhere. How could I fall in line with typical women's roles when I hadn't felt female for a single day of my life?

What I grew up feeling is currently called "gender confusion". Were I born into today's society, people would encourage my parents to allow me to identify however I chose to identify--that clearly it would be healthier to let me change my name, have people start referring to me with different pronouns, and for me to live my life "as a male", despite whatever DNA biology had randomly stuck me with. HOWEVER ... my story didn't go that way. Thankfully, even though I will admit that the gender stereotypes that existed when I was born (and that still exist today even in this ridiculous world of gender fluidity where there are an infinite number of genders based upon your current state of mind or your feelings/emotions/personal preferences) were the cause of my mental anguish, I came into this world in a time that it was still expected practice to figure things out for yourself and to work through your problems instead of embracing them as your identity. I grew up being assured that God didn't make mistakes and that the idea that He did was an outright LIE.

It took me a good ten years and a ton of hard-fought, painfully-gained personal growth for me to realize that the lie I was being fed actually came from my own mind. That lie said that because I didn't fit with what society said I should be, then obviously it's God's fault, because He clearly screwed up. DID HE? Did God somewhere say that when He created the female of the species that He also created a rigid, never-to-be-deviated-from set of character and personality traits that each and every female throughout time would HAVE TO have? Or was woman, taken from the side of the image-bearer of God Himself (who, by the way, has three distinct "beings" with three distinct roles and traits), created with the same makeup but with a differing role? Did God determine in that surgical suite in the Garden of Eden that this woman He was forming was to never venture into the Craftsman section of Sears or become giddy when a new Bass Pro Shops opened up, but instead stick to girly things and craft stores? Did He remove from Adam the desire to express himself creatively or to appreciate beautiful things? Did God endow only one of those two garden-dwellers with the ability to be loving and nurturing?

See, given my own personal experience, I tend to halfway agree with the current stream of thought about gender being a societal construct--but not to the extreme that it is taken by the crowd that seems to add another letter to their identity every few months. I firmly believe that gender **stereotypes** are a societal construct. Take for instance that cutesy little childhood rhyme: "Sugar and spice and everything nice, that's what little girls are made of. Snips and snails and puppy dog tails, that's what little boys are made of." HUH? Now go to a gender reveal party. Blue or pink? Skip ahead a couple of years. Do you get that two-year-old a baby doll or a tiny little baseball bat (or Tonka truck) for his or her birthday? When he's six, can he take up crocheting? Can she play with action figures and wear a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirt?

Society tells us (go ahead, look it up--I did) that gender is "the identity you present to the world, based on your own personal truth and what you believe yourself to be". God's Word said that He "created them male and female, and blessed them." One of those two things is a lie. God's Word has never changed; society's definition of things changes like the tides. The big question is where does this lie come from? Think back to the Garden of Eden with me for a second. What did the serpent do to get Eve to sin? All he had to do was to get her to think that God was holding out on her; that she deserved more than what God had given her. She took the bait. All Satan had to do was get Eve's mind off of what God HAD given her and start thinking selfishly about what she ... what SHE wanted.

There is nothing special about me. But looking back, I can see that Satan had me in his sights from the time I was six years old. It took him seven short years to convince me that what God had in mind for me was a lie. It took him very little effort to convince me that I was an ugly, useless mistake that was born in the wrong body. He used passive stereotypes and people's flippant comments to build layer upon layer of lies.

So what changed for me? Motherhood. I kind of lost the ability to deny who I was created to be when I held that baby that I had carried for nine months and birthed with this body I once believed was a complete mistake. Seven living beings walk this earth because I was born female. To say I am anything but a woman would be the most ridiculous assertion one could make. Do I *feel* feminine? Nope. Never have, probably never will. I've also never once in my life felt "pretty". I've never felt "good enough". I've never felt "important" or "nurturing" or "loving" ... but I know that despite what I feel, which is an absolutely worthless gauge of reality, I can still fulfill my God-given role as a wife and a mother, as a daughter and a grandmother, and especially as a Christian. What changed was the realization that what I feel has no bearing on who I am.

Unless I let it.

I'm still the same person I was in middle school. I still have the same insecurities. But I don't let them rule my mind like they used to, because I know that keeping my mind focused on what God wants me doing here in this life will drown out the lies that Satan is trying to get me to believe. I also haven't let the world tell me I'm not "feminine" enough. That's not something I see as important, if I am fulfilling my duty as a woman made in the image of God with a specific, unique purpose that no man can fulfill. I still hate dresses. I get to play in the dirt more now that I'm gardening on my own patch of land. I still love the outdoors, although physical limitations have swayed me away from playing sports to hiking and camping. I'm not the huggy, lovey-dovey type that has to fawn on every baby I see. I am admittedly not a huge fan of children, although I won't deny I have learned to relate to them because I have a responsibility in raising up future warriors for God's kingdom and my responsibility far outweighs what I "like". I will never be a girly-girl like my middle child. But even she isn't "typical", because she enjoys things that are considered more "masculine" pursuits. And that's okay. Because God doesn't use cookie cutters.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Honor to Whom Honor is Due

Twenty-three years ago when our tiny family visited Washington, D.C., as we were headed to visit Arlington Cemetery, we were stopped in traffic as the Presidential motorcade approached. Pete groaned audibly, because he really did not appreciate the way President Clinton had handled his first year in office. Lots of changes and unpleasant assignments for the military left him rather jaded as a young soldier. But as that black limousine with American flags on either side of the hood came into view, Pete put the car in park, opened his door, stood facing that limo and saluted. He held that respectful salute until the other limousines in the motorcade passed, then got back in the car and sighed.

At that time, I wasn't impressed; I was somewhat angry. I was young and arrogant, and I  knew that the passing President would never have been the wiser if Pete had let his car pass without acknowledgement. I expressed my displeasure with my just-barely 22-year-old husband for giving respect to someone I felt didn't deserve it ... and was then taken to school. He told me he didn't express honor to a MAN, but rather he extended the honor of his salute to his Commander-in-Chief. He had zero respect for Bill Clinton as a person, but nevertheless, this was the man who had been chosen by our countrymen to hold our nation's highest office. Pete's was not a political statement; it was the response of someone who understood that those in authority are due honor and respect because of their position--not whether we like them or agree with them.

It didn't take me very long to grow up after that humbling lesson.

It's a lesson I've seen repeated several times over the years, including when President George W. Bush visited Fort Stewart to speak to the 3rd Infantry Division upon their return from Iraq in 2003. These were the soldiers who had been sent to spearhead the invasion--and some of them very much disagreed with his reasoning for ordering that invasion--yet thousands of soldiers saluted him that day; they stood, they held their tongues, and they respected their Commander-in-Chief because of the office he held. Because of the respect due his Office.

In the last twenty-four hours since Donald Trump was announced as America's President-elect, our country has lost its collective mind. Violent protests, social media firestorms calling for his assassination, threats against those who voted for him, and a ridiculous declaration that he will never be "their" President are filling the news broadcasts. We are being bombarded with the vitriol from the "losing side", lashing out and insisting that anyone with a differing point of view be removed from their lives. What is this insanity??

Differing opinions and disappointment are a given. In any election, there is a winner and a loser. But this? This shows that our countrymen have lost a fundamental respect for authority. The President isn't just a figurehead. The Office isn't an award given to the most popular celebrity. Our President, and by default the President-elect, holds a position that commands respect. Like it or not, it will not be changed. We go through this every four years. A good number of people are going to be disappointed no matter what the results. But folks, it's time we trained our children to recognize authority and to RESPECT that authority, regardless of the person who wears the badge, returns the salute, or occupies the Oval Office. There is a time to disagree and express opinions, but at some point, there also has to be a time to concede respectfully.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I'm too young for this.

Today is a good day. Tomorrow might not be, but today is a good day, and I'm going to enjoy it while I've got it. The last ten days have been anything BUT what I now call "good". Funny thing is, my "good" now used to cripple me--before I met my new alter ego, the Fibro Minion.

Several years ago, I started having pain that doctors couldn't explain. It started in my back, which of course was dismissed as "mom fatigue"--bending, stooping, kneeling, lifting, carrying, all that rough-on-the-back stuff that I'd done with seven children. I had headaches for weeks; not migraines, but just incessant, unrelenting headaches that wore me down. I chalked that up to eye strain, because the older I was getting, the more the sun was bothering me, and being outside almost always left me feeling the wrath of my optic nerves.

The game changer was my bout with histoplasmosis. For almost six months, I felt like I was getting the flu--body aches that made me want to curl up in a corner, night sweats, and fatigue ... oh goodness, the fatigue. Thanks to my immune system's little temper tantrum fighting an infection that most people never really even know they have, I ended up having major surgery to remove part of my lung that had developed fibrosis and was dying. Lovely thought, that. I thought that was the end of my pain and malaise, but when my pulmonologist could not find any reason my symptoms had reappeared despite the lack of infection, he referred me back to my doctor to discuss the possibility that something had triggered the onset of a nemesis I never knew I feared--fibromyalgia.

All my labs revealed that, other than feeling like I have the flu all the time, I'm pretty healthy! Even my blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar is within normal ranges. The only thing my labs pointed to was a severe vitamin D deficiency. The physical exam, on the other hand, made me understand what is meant by the term "trigger points". Oh, WOW!! Just shoot me across the room, why don't you?? I left the doctor's office that day knowing what I was diagnosed with, but not knowing what it meant. It took a long while to understand that I have a new reality now--and it's one I continually struggle with. Too many months, I find myself falling into a slump of exasperated depression. I just don't like this. At all.

I used to be able to do so much. Being exhausted was earned; there was a sense of accomplishment behind sore muscles and a worn-out body. Now? Well, now I wake up exhausted. It takes at least half an hour just to get out of bed. I don't mean just tired from not sleeping well--I mean exhausted like you haven't rested in days. Most days, upon waking, I have to spend at least ten minutes waking up one of my limbs because it's painfully numb. Don't understand how numb can be painful? I'm glad for you, truly. I honestly don't remember the last time I woke up feeling rested or refreshed. Fibromyalgia took that away from  me. It took away my ability to complete tasks I use to do without even thinking about it. I pay dearly for physical exertion.

Never, in my wildest nightmares, had I ever thought I'd feel like this at 43 years of age. I know 80-somethings who don't deal with chronic pain, yet here I am, in what should be my middle age "prime," barely making it through each day. I must admit, this one fact is humiliating. I want to be able to do so much more, but when I attempt it, I suffer for days afterward. What's even harder is keeping tabs on the depression that creeps up alongside the pain. I don't want to take medication, but I want to feel better. I want to do more, but I don't want to be "rewarded" with pain. I just want my life back. I'm too young for this. There are days--those awful "bad" days--when I'm overtaken not just by pain, but also by hopelessness. It's not surprising that suicide is the biggest killer among those fighting fibromyalgia. The thought of enduring another 30 years or more of this pain is too much.

The only option worth considering is to take life one day at a time.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Why Didn't You Warn Them?

Earlier this week, the news of yet another tragedy hit social media, and it didn't take long for people to start wielding blame like a poison-dipped sword: A man-made lagoon should be safe; tourists shouldn't have to worry that a dangerous reptile will come out of the water and steal their toddler away, why wasn't it safer?? Why weren't there signs warning that alligators *could* be present? Surely if these Midwesterners knew the danger, they'd have been more cautious!! It's Disney's fault; they were irresponsible!

No ... this isn't another Disney-bashing blog post. It isn't another shame-shaming post either. I just can't help but think that there is a much larger lesson here that could be learned. I feel nothing but sorrow for the family of that little boy whose life was snuffed out by a tragic accident. I don't think it does them or anyone else ANY good to go on and on about what they--or Disney--could have done differently. I just want to take this a different direction for a minute.

What if I knew that there was a danger lurking just out of your sight, one that could steal your family away from you; a monster that could destroy everything you love; one that could take your life away from you?

Now what if I just sat back and didn't say anything ... I just let you go on thinking you were completely safe going about your business without a care in this world?

Would you think then, knowing that I was willing to let you be destroyed, that the monster was ME? Would you think I didn't care about what happened to you? Or would you feel that because I left you alone to enjoy your carefree time, surely I loved you more than someone who wants to oppress you with rules and warnings?

We KNOW that the loving thing to do when someone is in imminent danger is to warn them; to go out of our way to get them to realize what is threatening them.

Yet ...

"Don't tell me how to live my life!! Don't judge me!!"

I would be spitting in the face of my Savior, who left behind His throne to become the payment for the sin that threatens all of mankind, if I neglected my duty. There is danger in the darkness. There is no safety in ignorance! It can destroy families, steal joy, and bring about an eternity of suffering. Denying that this danger exists may not lead to tragedy today, tomorrow, or in a year ... but it will. This danger--the sin that separates us from God--is unavoidable, and it is as certain as death.

This life is so short, and there is no guarantee that any of us will have even one more minute to turn away from that danger. It won't make this life any easier--we still live in a world where humans have free will and bad things still happen--but paying attention the warning sings and doing what is necessary to protect our souls will insure that we have the hope of a perfect, flawless home with Almighty God after this life has ended.

The answer to the question "what must I do to be saved" hasn't changed since the first time it was asked almost two thousand years ago. Sure, we can place our hope in the cheap life preservers that man offers, but isn't it best if we are seeking God's answer that we go to His Word?

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
--Acts 2:38

Don't ignore the warning signs. Sin isn't harmless; it is deadly.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Shiny Squirrels and Rabbit Holes

What did we do before social media? No ... really, what did we DO?

Can you remember life before Facebook and Twitter? Can you recall being witness to something amazing that you had to recount from actual memory instead of being able to do a quick search to find it uploaded onto YouTube from someone's cell phone just a few hours later? Do you remember being OH so impressed that the first super-awesome DSLR camera you scrimped and saved to buy had such clarity ... and now you have more megapixels in your phone's camera than in that bulky behemoth you hang from your neck?

Just last week, I stumbled across one of those Facebook "trending" article things about how people were posting about life before Facebook. Things like using real photo albums, displayed on the coffee table, or having actual conversations, or reading lengthy newspaper articles, magazines, or ... wait for it ... BOOKS. It's been part of our every day lives for SO long that we are starting to recognize it has literally become integrated into our LIFE to the point that other things are being pushed out. Sure, there are people who, for one reason or another, haven't sold their soul to social media let it take over their lives, but there are far too many of us who are ... stuck. Yes, stuck.

I'm going to be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with social media. It's a fun way to stay in contact with family members and dear friends who we don't get to see often enough. It's a wonderful way to reconnect with people I'm thankful to have back "in my life", even if just through cyberspace. But Facebook (and Twitter, YouTube, etc.) has a dark, sinister side to it. Social media is a thief. It steals time from relationships, motivation from those struggling with laziness, and contentment from those who allow themselves to be tempted by covetousness or pride. Every possible temptress--every sin known to mankind--is given an open forum right there in the palm of our hands, and we just keep on clicking, scrolling, and tapping.

I happen to have a rather short attention span. It's been known to get me into a lot of trouble, because I tend to forget BIG things when I am scattered between fifty little things. If I'm completely honest with myself, social media exacerbates that problem. Got two minutes? Pick up the phone and see what people are up to. Thing is ... it's never just two minutes. With social media, you're constantly flipping through tiny little stories; it's an ADHD nigtmare, because you can quite literally lose yourself in 30 different things, right there at your fingertips, and the next thing you know, you've wasted not just two minutes, but thirty.

Back when my middle schoolers were toddlers, there was some awful preschool show on with bright colors, lots of dancing and repetitive music, and to be honest, it annoyed the stuffing out of me. I remember telling my hubby that it stunned me to see how the girls could become engrossed in that show, sitting for a full half hour without even moving with their little eyes glued to the screen, but I knew why. The show never had a "spot" that lasted more than 90 seconds. It was always changing. That was the draw; that "oooh, SHINY!" reaction happened over and over again, and it moved quicker than they could lose interest and be distracted. Y'all ... it's no different with us on social media. It's a continuously-changing black hole of rabbit trails to follow.

The sad part? The connection with our real-life social groups is now interconnected. To give up Facebook, we would have to cut off an entire segment of communication that is actually useful. We'd give up so many of our treasured friends. For us introverts, we'd have to give up the only "safe" interaction we can have with the extroverted world. It's just easier to be with people when you are within your own four walls.

There has to be a middle ground. I'm told that foundation is something called "self-control". I wonder if that comes in size ADHD?

Is it shiny??

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What Does Fibromyalgia Feel Like? (Midnight edition)

It's just past midnight and I'm hopelessly awake. My body is exhausted, yet there is no rest to be had. I have worked my mind into a frenzy these last two days, culminating in what was both a wonderful opportunity for personal growth and the crashing of a wave of stress all at the same time this evening.

My jaw is clenching, and now my teeth are hurting. The muscle spasm in my back at the biopsy site (from three years ago) is causing me to contort to one side, and the burning thigh on the other side keeps me in this odd quasi-fetal position that is becoming more painful by the minute. I'm both sweltering hot and freezing all at the same time. The soft whooshing of my hubby's c-pap machine is starting to make my ears ring. I can scarcely keep my restless legs still, but every movement feels as though the skin is being peeled back. I've tossed and turned so long that my nightshirt has bunched ... and every wrinkle feels like wadded up cardboard. There is a grain of sand, certainly from a shoe or kitty paw, somewhere under my left leg, but I cannot find it. I can, however, feel it, and its jagged edges seem to be grinding into the flesh mercilessly. My neck muscles are spasming now, and as another heat wave hits me, I toss the covers back off of my already-icy legs to try to gain some relief.

Every night, to some degree or another. Every night, this is my norm.

This is fibromyalgia.

There is little rest, when the still silence magnifies every tiny little twinge into a complete nerve explosion. Pain can't be rated on a scale anymore, because there are so many different kinds of pain. Some, by necessity, I've created a mental block to. Others, like that silly grain of sand, I can't ignore. It seems ridiculous, really, like some sick exaggeration of The Princess and the Pea.

But it is the new norm. And now, it's half past midnight. So I stretch my stiff legs out, straighten the nightshirt, try once more to find that sand ... YES!!! It's gone now!! Maybe now I can sleep, between the neck and chest spasms, the burning thigh, the restless legs, the hot flashes and freezing feet ...

Monday, March 24, 2014

We did it all wrong.

Today is my 41st birthday, and it's difficult to avoid the introspection. Last year, hitting that big-4-0 was more than a little anticlimactic, probably because I was just a little over a week and a half out from major surgery and felt like doing little more than curling up in a heap of pillows and sleeping. This year, I still don't have the fanfare of birthday celebration ... it quite literally is "just another day". I made breakfast for everybody, washed everyone's laundry, and will spend the rest of my day doing the same things I do every other day of the year. That's pretty much the way it's always been. My husband is not one to go out of his way to make grand (or even small?) romantic gestures, and as several have quipped, at my age anything grand or spectacular could be dangerous to my health ...

I shouldn't be surprised that things look different at our house than in most other households. We've never really done anything the way "everyone else" does it--be it birthdays, Valentine's Day (most people don't have birthday celebrations ON Valentine's Day ... but we do!), Mother's Day, birthdays, anniversaries, even Christmas are all rather unconventional here. That's just how we roll.

Pete and I have always marched to a different drummer. In fact, by almost every societal standard, we are marching to the WRONG drummer. We have done everything "wrong" since our relationship began. I really wonder sometimes how on earth we've managed to keep seven children alive, considering how completely incapable we are of doing anything right! (If you can't appreciate sarcasm ... well, you might want to stop reading my blog. I season liberally with it.)

Our relationship began under the most ridiculous of circumstances. I said yes to that first date because I couldn't get RID of the guy. I knew he'd asked out one of my best friends and she'd said no ... and I knew I was his second choice. I'm ok with that; I just wanted him to leave me alone, and if that meant going out with him just so I could break up with him, then fine. Anyway ... we never should have even dated in the first place. He was a senior, I was just a sophomore. Neither of us had a clue what a healthy relationship was supposed to look like. He was from a military family, and the military was completely foreign to me. We had two completely different religious backgrounds. Hmm ... pretty much the only thing we had in common was music. Ahhh, yes, that band geek thing. Disaster waiting to happen.

Actually, it really was.

Instead of doing things the way everyone KNOWS they are supposed to be done--graduation, four years of college, getting the career started, THEN looking for a mate and starting a family--oh NO. We just threw all common sense to the wind and broke every rule in the book. I quit high school because I was pregnant, we got married, he joined the Army and started basic training ten days after the wedding, leaving me to live at my parents' house until the Army decided his wife could live with him. Instead of staying in the "teen parent program" (which, quite frankly, was a complete insult to anyone with a brain ... just because we did something we shouldn't have doesn't mean I suddenly went from AP-level courses to below-average grade level ability), I signed up for the GED test. Of course, taking that exam without all of the suggested preparatory classes was a bad idea; I have no idea how on earth I managed to ace the exam the first time. Must have been sheer luck. It's sad that my parents will never be able to say that both of their children are successful; I'm so thankful that at least my brother graduated from college so they have someone to be proud of.

We never should have made it to our first anniversary. We were way too young and immature. People told us we were being stupid, that we should either give the baby up for adoption or abort him so we could both "enjoy our youth" and get married when we were actually ready to instead of when we "had to", because we might decide that we didn't want to be together anyway. The big question was how would we ever manage to have a successful life without college, and how would either of us go to college if we got married and started a family so young? Everyone knows that the military isn't a good way to support a family. With all of those deployments and separations and all of the hardships that we went through, combined with never having enough money to do anything other than survive from paycheck to paycheck, how were we ever going to get ahead, or even be happy?

Of course, we have a whole list of did-it-wrongs. There's that whole homeschool thing ... you know, our children should have turned out to be antisocial pariahs, completely incapable of holding intelligent conversations, and there's no way any of them would ever be able to get a job. How would they, as crippled as they are by our poor parenting choices? And then there was the fact that there are SO MANY of them. Goodness knows we obviously just had  no self-control; it's a shame we never figured out what caused it before we were "stuck" with seven children. Surely we'll never have any way to buy them all the best of anything, and they'll never be able to go to college and escape the cycle of poverty that we cursed them with. Right?

Sound harsh? Guess what? I have heard EVERY SINGLE ONE of these zingers over the course of the last twenty-five years.

Since when did it become okay to tell people that there is a right or wrong way to approach this life? Since when do we have to follow a formula to achieve that level of success that we're "supposed to" achieve? Since when is success measured by the number of degrees we manage to attain or the number of zeroes in our bank account balance (although ... we've had plenty of zero balances over the years, so ... hey, success!!), or even the order and spacing of major life events? Are children who are born 11 months apart really going to be that messed up?

My hard-working hubby will start yet another college term tomorrow evening. After completing his work day, he'll spend five hours in a classroom. He's just two classes away from completing his Associate's degree, and after that will only need a few more credits before he's finished his Bachelor's degree. He spent twenty years in the Army, working harder than many people ever will. Funny thing is, even without a single day of college, he was able to secure his DREAM job--one he'd told me ten years prior to retiring from the Army that he wanted to have "when he grew up". He didn't need a degree to support his family for 25 years. He's only going to college because the corporation he works for wants its employees to have a degree. His degree isn't even related to what he does for a living. If it wasn't for his GI Bill, I'd say it was a complete waste of money ... except it gives him job security. Am I proud of this man, who is living his dream despite doing things totally contrary to the norm? YOU BET I AM. But I can also say that him getting a college degree won't make me respect him ANY more than I already do. The only thing it will change for him or for the rest of the family is a slight pay raise--the incentive his employer offers for their ability to say that hey, all of their employees have done things the right way!

We've both done a lot of growing up in the two and a half decades we've been together. We're both far more mature, more secure in our own skin, and far stronger spiritually than we were when we made that rather brash decision to cast off all common sense and get married. But looking back, now at the "old" age I'm at now, I can say with 100% certainty that I wouldn't change a thing. We have a WONDERFUL life, even if we did all of it completely WRONG.

**DISCLAIMER** My adherence to grammatical rules was tossed aside while I composed this blog post. To. Make. A. Point. Mmmkay?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

More than just a dog.

We said goodbye today to an old friend, a furry, gentle soul who has been as much a part of our family as our children for twelve and a half years. A tearful goodbye, for certain. It was not easy for me to coordinate messages, text conversations, email communication, and video chats between three states and two continents, just so all of the immediate members of our family could be aware of the sad events of the day. We all know this was goodbye "for good', and that this day had been approaching for a long while.

Tonight, as the padding of heavy, burdened paws on the hallway tile has been replaced with the clicking-on of the heater and the sniffles of little girls fighting emotions and sleep simultaneously, I'm reminded that this pain is temporary, even though it is deep. Our lives will continue without our beloved Jake, almost without interruption. Almost. Without him, there will be no wet nose to inspect our legs and feet every time we walk into the door. No deep brown eyes searching for love and just one more peanut butter cookie. No one to feed that last piece of garlic bread to, and as a heartbroken 8-year-old pointed out, no one to eat those pizza crusts the girls never finish because he loved them so much. No silent companion on walks down the road outside our house. No big, near-invisible-in-the-dark guard standing watch in the living room to trip over during the night. No ... those have all been replaced with this aching hole in our hearts that has filled with tears far too many times today.

Of course, all of us--the adult children in Maryland and Tennessee, the husband in Abu Dhabi on business, and all of us here at home know Jake is well deserving of this relief from his last few years of physical decline. We nearly lost him last Thanksgiving from a severe reaction to prescription flea treatment, and he has been tortured by those awful pests because the non-toxic treatments don't work. His joints have been growing increasingly more painful to him as he's aged, but this last month has been miserable. Our once strong, fast, and agile dog became weak, unable to stand without assistance, and was falling down almost as many times as he'd get up. It is agonizing to watch someone you love deteriorate physically, but when the only means of communication they have are those "old soul" eyes that just look straight through to your heart, and they scream for help, for understanding, and for relief, it breaks your heart. I have listened to him whimper and whine these last two days in pain from just getting up to get a drink of water, and I promised myself I would never let an animal get THAT bad.

That decision to call the vet was likely the most difficult decision I have ever made. I knew what it meant. I knew I'd have to take him there by myself, without his "daddy" there to offer him comfort or to do the same for me. I knew there was no going back. I knew I was making the call that would end his life. Nothing can prepare you for that. It's probably the worst part of being an adult, and I have been through some "stuff" in my forty years. No one else but me could make that decision. It ate me alive last night. I didn't sleep, because I knew what today was going to bring. I wanted to make the right decision. I didn't want to put him down too soon, but I didn't want him suffering, either. Mental anguish. Over a dog. Someone said today that "it's just a dog". Well, no, Jake was much more than that. He was OUR dog. He was the one we committed to caring for, in exchange for nothing but his unconditional love. And he deserved to have the end of his life treated with the utmost care and respect.

We sure will miss you, old boy. We have those memories to treasure, but none of them will ever come close to the real thing. It has been a pleasure being your family. Rest well.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Some people never learn.

"From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so."  
                                                                                                       --James 3:10

I wondered, maybe only casually, for many years whatever happened to Jonah. There was no response to God's chastisement of him in chapter 4. No mention of some "come to Jesus" moment when Jonah finally "gets it". No mention of him doing great things in faith in that Hebraic walk of faith chapter. Just ... nothing. We do know what happened to Nineveh, on the other hand. Some 150 years later, Nahum delivers a much different message from Jehovah. No mercy, no compassion, no more second chances. Just utter destruction. Something they did really managed to get on the Almighty's bad side, you know? Maybe ... just maybe it's that God doesn't take too well to people slapping Him in the face with His own plan. Nobody knew this better than the Israelites, but only every few generations--you know, between aspostasies? Seems God's people, and anyone He had on His side for the duration of the abundant blessings and covenants and years of milk and honey eventually forgot WHO buttered their unleavened bread. They eventually forgot WHO was the real one in charge.

Isn't that what happened to Jonah? Here this mighty prophet of God was, going about his business passing on the word of the Lord to God's people when his boss gives him a new assignment. He didn't particularly like that assignment, so he does what any red-blooded American ... er, uh, Israelite would do. He runs the other way. Insert miraculous storm, God-appointed fish, and a three-day stay in the Acid Reflux Inn, and poof, Jonah's a changed man, right? Well, sure, he goes to Nineveh, he tells them God is going to destroy them. He did his job. All's well with the world, except the evil, mean, wicked, and nasty Ninevites didn't do what Jonah expected them to do, and neither did the Almighty!

Ok, here's where it got real for me tonight during our [adult] Bible class. See, I've taught this lesson before to kids of varied ages. My own, other people's kids, no matter. One would think I'd have known this story inside-out and upside-down. I thought I did. Nineveh, the upchucking fish, the sackcloth and ashes, the little shade tree, the worm, the east wind, I had it. And then tonight I got fish-slapped with the one thing I'd somehow managed to glaze over, read past, whatever, for 30-something years. Here it is, but to see it you've got to put aside the chapter divisions for a second. God didn't put those there--man did. Just read these two verses TOGETHER, as they are in order--the last verse of Jonah 3 and the first verse of chapter 4:

"Then God saw their works [speaking of the Ninevites covered in sackcloth and ashes, fasting in repentance and hoping and praying that God shows them mercy, that is], that they turned from their evil way, and God relented from the disaster that he had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry."

Did you catch that? Yes, yes, I know--we've all noticed that Jonah was angry that the Ninevites didn't get obliterated with holy lightning. I know that. The part I had just not made that connection to was what Jonah was REALLY mad about. See, Jonah had forgotten who was calling the shots. He forgot who he worked for; WHOSE message he was bringing. Jonah was mad that God had the audacity to call an audible on the field and change the play! Not too many verses before this, (albeit after a rather lengthy walk across the Assyrian landscape covered in the remains of fish-sick), Jonah had been singing God's praises for saving his own hide from certain death! And now here he was, telling God that he'd rather die than to live if these foul Ninevites were shown mercy and compassion.

Makes you want to shake him, doesn't it? What, did he never read that verse in James that I put up at the top? Well ... actually, no, he didn't ... that would come just a few hundred years later. HOWEVER ... why do you think we're given the story of Jonah and his Ninevan excursion? We learn a bunch of things from the Old Testament--namely about the character of God. He's loving, He's patient, He's willing to give people second chances ... but those Ninevites didn't just get a second chance because God was having a particularly happy day. God SAW their repentance. He SAW that they'd changed their ways. This is something that isn't very PC to say. Lots of "fluffy" religionists like to say that "God loves you no matter what, and God doesn't want us to judge each other, He accepts everyone equally". Well, not so much. That didn't come from the Bible. Nineveh got a second chance, but not until they'd repented! And not quite two centuries later, the gig was up when they'd forgotten about that second chance. Don't take advantage of God's compassion and mercy; it will eventually come back to bite you. And it could make you into someone like Jonah--hardened against God Himself, simply because you just don't like the way God sees fit to run His own plan!?

Be careful. Jonah didn't have the "right" to be angry with God for, well, for being GOD ... and neither do we. If God says it, that settles it. Believe it or not, it really doesn't matter except to your soul. Don't be a Jonah, and don't be a forgetful Ninevite. Be the fish. Let God prepare you, let Him use you, even if it means you might have to swallow something rather unpleasant from time to time.
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