Nobody Told Me There’d Be Days Like These

 

I see the tag on the neighbor’s newly planted bush, which remains after its transplant into the ground from the nursery only weeks earlier. As we round the corner into the driveway, small talk exits our mouths between sips of warm cappuccino. Our behavior is predictable to any other day, hardly evident of extreme reaction from the abrupt turn in the landscape of our future.

The diagnosis was spot-on to an episode on television. “The doctor would like to speak with you both. “ the nurse stoically exclaims. After entirely too brief pleasantries, the doctor throws into the air the word that creates heaviness heavier than humidity:

Cancer.

As I fidget around the house, I decide to sit and project my thoughts. Tears attempt to enter; still I refuse them access to go beyond the sockets, and down the cheeks.

Wrap that present, yes, that’s what I’ll do. I know if I don’t get it out today, then I will be late yet again for my friend’s birthday. Since this is her 50th, I will make sure it arrives on time.

I cannot seem to get the gnawing feeling in my gut to settle down. That feeling, which is similar to when I stand in line at an amusement park for a roller coaster ride I dread with each step.

I don’t know why I should feel exempt from cancer, but I do. Cancer only happens to others—not the one I pledged to live with until death do us part.

What if he dies? I cannot go there.

I pleaded with God on my morning run similar words, “God, he can’t die–I can’t live without him.”

I know. Not at all the right reaction of a dedicated Christian.

The thought is crippling though.

Fast-forward twelve hours and I sit here waiting for the biopsy to confirm the conclusion we were already given, even though I am not convinced of its accuracy, when I hear faint breathing–

I break out in a slight giggle as I hear the man next to me break into full-out snore. The same kind of noise that accompanies me to bed most nights—yet, coming from another male.

Funny, only moments earlier, this same man fidgeted in his seat awaiting  results from his wife’s surgery.  After the doctor spoke a positive diagnosis (I am guessing here by his emerging broad grin), he made his way back to the vinyl seat and fell immediately into this high decibel slumber.

His loud breathing was like a sigh of relief.

Rest from his weariness.

Reminding me that the Author of Life places each breath of our existence into our lungs until HE decides our final breath.

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4

The results are in—

An internal rush attempts to steal my breath as the doctor draws near. Apparently there was an issue that kept him from performing the procedure. Instead, they placed a stent in place and will attempt confirmation again on Monday.

Trying not to cry at the thought of waiting another three days.

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Betty Crocker is Not Real

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No, she never was a real, live human being.  Ever.

Yes, there are many-a-lady with such a name, but the one with the before-her-time-Anthropologie-apron, who stood front and center to sell the world-famous cookbook, is make-believe.

So why aspire to such dreams?  Dreams of home cooked creations by a model who mastered the art of fine dining?

No wonder so many of us struggle to add up in this world.  Was this the beginning–when fictitious characters raised the invisible, unattainable bar into the stratosphere?!?!

No wonder we feel we can never add up.

My eggs stick.

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My toast burns.

A crack results from the hard boiled egg mid-boil, while the rest of the shell cannot seem to break free, and eventually I am left with whites that look beaten.

Maybe that’s it.

Break free people.  

Stop trying to mold yourself into another–chances are her mold is plastic, and not gelatin.

Allow Him to mold you into the person He desires.  

And maybe then, and only then, will we live the lives we were meant to live.

 

 

Blind Sighted

2 Corinthians 4:4 – The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

I nervously sit in the black leather chair and await the interview with a dangerous character whose reputation precedes himself. I fidget from side to side as perspiration causes my clothing to stick damply to my skin. I wonder, “Why so edgy?” Sure he is known for his dark antics, but this meeting is in broad daylight. What harm can happen here?

Before I can respond to the internal dialog, the man of the hour appears in my peripheral vision. As he saunters across the room to the empty seat across from my own, I am somewhat surprised by his quiet demeanor. Near stealth-like as he makes his appearance known.

I try in vain to get a hold of myself and attempt not to stare, but admittedly the striking features that accompany his impeccable wool-suited attire startle me. To avoid embarrassment, I fill the awkward inner feeling with words that seem to stammer from my gaping mouth, “Thank you for joining me today—I understand with a busy schedule like yours—to find time to meet like this.”

A broad white-toothed sneer responds with an air of absolute confidence, “I have all the time in the world for you.”

Heat surfaces in the form of a blush, embarrassed that I feel a slight attraction to this dark figure as I nervously respond, “I must admit, I imagined more of a red-horned attired depiction—and, well, you look remarkably light-like.”

“I do have an aura of brilliance that seems to radiate from within.”

Uncomfortable with our initial small talk, I decide to go in for the jugular right out of the gates, “Satan, you have built quite a reputation for yourself over the centuries. All this horrible talk about you and your band of evildoers. So, I am curious, how do you respond to what those in various circles say: ‘The Devil made me do it.’”

A slight chuckle accompanies Satan’s lengthy retaliation, ”Ah, I made you do it. So what exactly did I make you do? And for that matter, are you telling me that you do not have the ability to make decisions for yourself? Is that it?”

He continues, “And while I suppose I would love to take all the credit for every turmoil and tumultuous event of every individual on the planet, you appear to be quite capable of making your own decisions. You do know what you are doing, right? Or am I actually the one pulling the strings and you are just a puppet of sorts?”

Confused, I stumble out a response, “No, you are right. I can very well think and make decisions for myself.”

“And furthermore, I don’t see any chains on you. Do you? So tell me exactly how I make you do anything?”

“Um, well I guess you have a point there.”

“I want you to have real freedom to live life the way you want to live it. Make your own decisions. A life to do what you want when you want. Don’t you see—or maybe you can’t see because of that other One—you know Him. He doesn’t want you to see for yourself. He wants to hold you back from your true potential. Don’t you see that?”

“Huh?” Something is not right as warning shouts from within my insides. I shoot up a quick prayer to the One above, and clarity instantaneously breaks through the confusion, “Wait a minute, I know what you are up to. You are trying to “pull the wool over my eyes”. Your intentions are anything but good. Oh, you pretend you are out for my welfare and have my best interest at heart, but you are really out to steer me away from The Light of the World by your dark, deceptive diversion tactics.

I continue as a newfound confidence surges that causes me to sit taller in the chair, “Is that all you have got up your tailored sleeve is this? Surely I expected more from you.”

He leans in a bit closer, I can feel his breath as he quiets his tone ever so slightly, “Oh, no, Honey, I am only getting started.”

A hint of fear rises up my spine as he sits back in his seat and I sink a bit in mine. Feeling I may be in over my head going head-to-head with darkness, I call in the reserves, “I think it’s time we allow Jesus to have the final word to help us from being blind-sighted by the pursuit of darkness:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

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That is all the time we have today, but join us again when we discuss, ‘The Bait and Switch’.

Do Not Disturb

“Shh”, can I let you in on a secret? Promise you won’t tell?

I was involved with someone else. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t resist. He was my everything. Before I knew it, we began a torrid affair. I know, I know–but he had me convinced he was different than all the rest.

Was I ever duped.

Since he has the reputation of getting around, perhaps you’ve entered a relationship with this pitiful creature–

Self Pity.

The whole relationship started innocently enough. I was frustrated at a turn of events that appeared unfair, and he just “happened” to be there. He stood beside me during my difficulty, when others seemed to express little concern over my circumstances.

He was the exception. It was as if he knew me. I mean, really knew me. He listened with his gaze focused and he ears alert to my grumbling and complaining and frequent bellyaches.

Occasionally, he interjected words of encouragement to my discouragement. He assured me I had every right to feel the way I did.

My ego felt satisfied by his sweet nothings. I was comforted to know someone finally understood my pain. No one else had encouraged me this way. On the other hand, it was as if my so called “friends” tried to discourage my persistent negativity. They would throw out calculated glib expressions like, “You will get through this, Josie.”

Get through it? Really? That was the best they could offer? My life was is in the toilet and all they have are pep-phrases of encouragement? Easy for you to say since my misfortune does not really make a difference in your life. You haven’t had to leave everything you love to go down a path that was not of your choosing.

How dare you minimize my situation with such a pathetic response.

About that time, Pity desired to take our relationship to the next level.

He began to pursue me on a regular basis. He would sneak over to my place of employment and other places that should have been off limits. He filled me with explosive emotions.

He completed me.

Deep down I knew it was wrong to continue on with this tumultuous relationship. We were a destructive pair. But, it felt kind of good and horrible at the same time. You know what I mean?

Soon, I stopped feeling remorse over his advances.

Eventually, I crossed the line when I invited him into my home.

I gave him a space of his own in my heart.

He began to change though once he moved in. It was as if he wanted more than this little space. He attempted to invade other areas of my heart, demanding my undivided attention.

He wanted all of me.

He no longer completed me; he actually depleted me.

I began to avoid him when he entered the room. Oh, he would really get ugly when I ignored him.

I finally came to my senses and told him he needed to move out. How could I have been so stupid? I should have known.

What a mess I made.

Let me give you a piece of advice on the other side of pity. It is not worth it. It will suck the life right out of you if you do not walk away from this extreme form of selfishness right here and now.

It will drain you. Run from its gaze. Pull away from its advances.

I became reacquainted with a dear friend recently. He actually was there when I was all alone to pick up the pieces of my self-created mess.

He listens to me. He encourages me to come to HIM when I am discouraged. He helps me in ways that no one else has before. He is faithful.

He doesn’t drain me; he actually has my best interest at heart.

He completes me.

His reputation precedes him–this selfless man with whom I love…

Jesus.

Remote Control Issues

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He enters the room a few steps before me, knowing if he doesn’t, there is a possibility I will take hold of it before him–and the results will be catastrophic.

You see, if this item happens to end up in my possession, the lineup will look entirely different than he envisions. Home improvements, cooking contests and reality TV, with perhaps a nice romance in between, will highlight the evening. Instead of sports, sports, sports, and did I say, sports?

By now, you may have guessed…

I refer to the coveted item known as the remote control.

Whoever possesses this little, dark device ultimately rules the television world.

We all have our ways to manage this hand-held device. For me, I tend to land on one show and stay there the entire duration, with the exception of commercials. At that point, I journey a few stations away from the channel, making sure to not travel too far, or I’ll forget what I am watching.

Now for hubby, he is more adventurous than me. Channels breeze by with a blur, until, I am not sure how he notices, but something will catch his interest. Then, he lands there just long enough for me to become emotionally attached, before quickly moving onto another channel.

Let’s just say we have remote control issues.

On a serious note though, is it possible to have remote control issues when it comes to my relationship with Jesus Christ?

To be honest, there are times I am remote with Him.

Far-removed and distant, I keep a safe space away from emotional attachment–never fully embracing Him, or allowing Him complete access to the depth of my soul.

You see, it is because I desire control–I want to be the final authority on my life. I want to watch what I want to watch, and do what I want to do. I want the last say on decisions– and ultimately my destiny.

The problem is, when I do this, I miss out on so much more. The story of my life becomes a low quality ‘B’ movie at best, with me as the central character, instead of an on-the-edge-of-your-seat epic saga it was destined to be—with Jesus Christ as the central focus.

It is time to let allow HIM access to the control of my life.

Question: Who has the grip of control in your life?  

Space Invaders

I saw him again today.

My heart is beat up over this lost soul.

Standing at the intersection, unwashed and disheveled, he holds up a cardboard sign with both hands firmly gripped to either side. I glance over the few words as I approach the green light telling me to proceed.

He is homeless.  He is hungry.  

No sooner do I commit to the turn, I find myself turning around in the parking lot to make my way to him yet again.

$16.00 leaves my wallet and into my hand as my heart beats rapidly.

We make brief eye contact as I hold out this small provision.

He says, “Thank you, ma’am.”

Each time I encounter him, he is coherent.  This is huge since he has a mind-altering, mental illness.

“Mom, don’t invade his space by putting his life out there.”

(Week’s ago I began this post about this young man, with whom I am heartsick over.  So, to protect his privacy, I will not include a pic of the cup I mention two sentences from now.)

Too late.  He had already invaded mine.

Fluid filled my dark amber eyes as my daughter handed me a disposable cup, which was filled with random words he wrote on the exterior until not a blank space was left.

The words of the empty cup spoke of a man void of reality.

I saw him earlier, and offered to buy him lunch; instead he chose to eat the residual waste in the trash can.

I think it was melted ice cream.  It was 90 degrees outside and he ate warm milk from a smelly trash container.

I offered again.

“I’ll buy you whatever you want.”

No.  He would rather eat garbage.

He grabbed another cup from the trash can as he walked away.  Another empty cup to fill with words that I conclude were ramblings in his brain.  Obviously intelligent by the one-word dissertation he displayed on the cup.

This is a ritual with him–to pick up empty cups and write words on them.

Maybe this is a peek inside his mind.

I hear he has family who cares, but he refuses to take medication.  He is so young–early twenties maybe.  Could be one of my children.  Could be the fact the initials woven throughout the cup, possibly his initials, are the same initials of the name of the boy we never had.

Anthony Joseph.  Yes, Hubby is all-Italian!  And, yes, Hubby wanted to call him by either the initials, A.J., or T.J.  I pictured them sitting side by side–daddy and son in their matching white t-shirts,  sprawled on the couch, glued to a ‘Rocky’ marathon.

I digress.  My daughter handed me the cup.  And I cried.  I am puzzled by my emotions.  Why does he bother me so?

If you offer them a cup of water…

But, what am I doing to help him?

So many times I attempt to avoid the person who is obviously emotionally off center.

I notice one word on the bottom of the cup:  Infini.  A quick Google search brings me to a science fiction movie.  But, a deeper dig describes a derivative of a French word meaning, infinite.

Infinite.

This lost boy roaming the earth is not lost by the one who is the First and Last.  I pour out petitions to my Savior—His Savior, on his behalf.  I am all over the place on this post.  Every time I try to put words to the feeling in my heart, I tear up.

I fix my eyes on a few words to pray that will penetrate beyond the ramblings–to the truth.

Jesus Great Physician Healer Savior Love You died for him Abundant Life Healing Wholeness Child Loved Eternity Hope Desire to be well Sovereign Author The Cure

These words are reminders to me also.  The One Who sees–sees our afflictions.

We are not too lost to be rescued.

Upside Down

Imaginary Journal Entry #1

It was a trip down memory lane. I was three years old.  We went across the world for an adventure of my short-lived lifetime. The small facts from the trip are random at best. Apparently I experienced my first attempt with shaving, and was left with bloodied legs.

I remember my teddy bear went missing. He may have decided to backpack Europe and stuffed himself in someone’s luggage when I wasn’t looking.

That is about it.

Well, with the slight detail that my world was upside down. Well, at least in my field of vision.

For years, etched in my mind was a made up version of the modern day movie, ‘Flight’, starring Denzel Washington. In this very R rated movie, the plane turned upside down as it flew through the air with dramatic cinematography of a movie only Hollywood could pull off.

Here we were, mid-flight over the Atlantic on our way to the United Kingdom, when the plane turned upside-down. My three-year old frame was securely belted in this small aircraft as I saw myself peer through the window at the outside world.

Yes, I believed this was a real-life ‘flight’ until one day, I reenacted this moment with my sister, and after what seemed an eternity of uncontrolled laughter, she assured me this was not the case. I should have known as no one mentioned it in all these years.  Surely something as remarkable as that would have been discussed by now.

Sometimes what we see as reality is not real at all.

Maybe it’s real, maybe its make-believe.

Imprinted in my mind as truth, I didn’t recognize it wasn’t, until someone pointed it out to me. How have I lost the ability to distinguish between up and down–reality and imagination?

But, what if what I experienced was figuratively more of a clue to a little girl’s emotional instability?

What if, even though the airspace was still, this little girl’s reality was anything but?  What if the turbulence actually occurred on the ground?  I don’t know. That is the problem.  I do not know. I think I know, but sometimes my memories are scarce and scattered.

I had a vision of another moment–actually it was like a snapshot of a memory from long ago. I would say it was forgotten somewhere along the way, but since I don’t really know if it was really real, how do I know for sure?

With my feet securely tied in place with a rope, I hang upside down by my feet.  I am behind the garage.  I am not sure how old I am.  Maybe eight.

What the heck!?!

A friend is at my house for dinner one night and I decide to share with her my back-to-back moments from childhood of my imagination gone wild, when she stops me mid-sentence, and warns me to not be so sure that this moment is fictitious like the airplane.

Immediately, a sick feeling enters my stomach cavity concluding she may be correct. Okay, time to change the subject. Let’s move on, because, if you know me by now, you realize I suffer from ‘Pollyanna persona’ and this disturbing detail disrupts the cupcakes and ice cream and all things good peace of mind.

But, she apparently does not receive the mental memo and shares a small observation on these moments.  Such a minuscule piece of info it virtually went undetectable by me:

In both occasions, I happen to be upside down.

With an added detail that maybe, because a child does not process information as an adult, me being upside down was actually how I felt.

I felt my world was upside down.

I know.  Deep stuff.

So, the next day I pick up the phone and casually call my sister and mention this moment about being tied up. Now, as I share, the sickness returns, as I instinctively know this is a memory reel of a real memory.

She confirms my guttural groans–yes it is.  She remembers walking up on me as I attempt to simultaneously escape and keep my shirt from falling forward to expose my torso.

I remember.

I was lured out there. I am certain of it. By some neighbor kids. I remember not feeling safe. This was in no way a neighborly game of Cowboy and Indians.

I felt out of control. Captured.

The ropes held me against my will.

Blood rushes to my head as the memory unfolds before me. How long was I there? Did I remain silent, or did I scream out for help?  I change angles in my mind to attempt to expose hidden clues in the memory vault.  Nothing.

Blood rushes straight to my heart as the adrenaline makes me feel weak.

Who exactly were they?

Another memory surfaces of me peering around the corner of my house– wondering if they were waiting to jump out to get me.  I remember begging not to go to school for fear they would hurt me.

My world was literally turned upside down.

The ties that bound me down were only in place for a moment, but the captivity remained for years.

Sometimes the ties that bind us are not visible to the naked eye.  But, we are invisibly held captive all the same.

Struggling to break free from who knows what.

What I have noticed is this:

In order to cut the ties, we need to first recognize we are being held captive.

Father, help us recognize where we are held down by showing us where the Enemy has a tight grip on us.  
Help us to find freedom in You.  Point us to the answers in Your Word so we can break free of his ugly grip.  
You came to turn our world upside down by freeing us from our captivity and releasing us from the prison of darkness.  Cut these ties that bind.