Weakness Begone

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It was another great day at Kintsugi women’s self-defense class at Ka’en’s, learning how to wriggle out of a chokehold, hip-thrust to knock off the attacker’s center, grab the arm and toss them. Wooo. But when I rolled to the floor the pain of my bruised ribs screamed again and I had to sit and breathe for a while. I cried out in frustration — ugh, here I was rib-hurt again! and couldn’t do half of what I wanted to do in class.

Ka’en urged me to get some sort of mid-section support (yeah, I’d seen something like that down the knee-brace aisle at Walgreen’s). Then she got this spark in her eyes. She said, “I think we need to pray about this.”

She prayed for all my body systems to submit to Christ and function as they were designed. Then, as she placed her hand on my sore side, she prayed a different prayer. She told the spirit of weakness and fear to leave me, and immediately I saw it: bony hands, black curved claws sunk into my side, cloudy charcoal body clinging to me like some hideous parasite.

You see, ever since I entered the world at a mere 5 lbs. 8 oz., I’d been a tiny person. I was skinny, gangly, frizzy-haired and scared. The kids in gym class would “cover” for me, so I rarely got the ball in basketball or had to bump the white orb over the net in volleyball. Softball was terrifying — really, what sane person wants to whack a speeding hard ball (no ball is soft zooming at those speeds) — flying straight at them? Of course I never tried out for any school sport — an avowed anti-sport person embracing music and a happy “bando,” playing first trumpet all the way through to graduation. Secretly I wanted to try out for Track and Cross-country in high school but what if it was too hard? What if I wasn’t strong enough? So I self-protected, retreating to music’s happy bubble, only (barely) doing sports in gym class.

A late-bloomer, I cowered under the voluptuous girls’ taunts, even after my mom bought me bras and taught me how to stuff them. I was weak, small. Still skinny all the way till college when I finally fully blossomed. When I got married I was embarrassed by my frame till I saw my husband’s happy smile, convincing me that at least in his eyes I was enough.

As I began working out at the local Y, I grew muscles and confidence. But deep down I still considered myself to be the tiny victim of life’s cruel jokes, a skinny little woman, small and weak. A spontaneous lung collapse in my mid-30s revealed a possibly congenital lung condition that would likely spiral into a gasping grasping end of  life. Frail, weak.

flickering flame

But in June 2010 the Lord healed my lungs. They still presented as full of blebs or cysts, but I could kickbox and run and lift weights. Still, though, it took several years to not be terrified of another lung collapse every time I experienced the occasional shortness of breath or lung pain. Small, weak, frail.

Even now, as I’m typing this, I’m breathing through some lung pain, a sharp poke in the side, a cramping pain like a stitch in the side. But this time, I’m not afraid.

As Ka’en prayed that day, I saw the creature and I was angry. How DARE you cling to me? I am Leoa, Warrior Princess of the Most High God, and anything demonic has NO place in or on me. As she told it to go, I saw it shrink back, claws pulling out, Holy Spirit puff dissipating it in a terrified cloud.

 

And I felt strength surge into my frame, starting at my feet and burgeoning up through my legs, through my middle, through the top of my head — a blast of power straight from God Himself. I saw Leoa standing on a mountain ledge, head thrown back, roaring golden fiery blast into the sky! And I saw that I was finally free from the lies of:

Weak
Small
Ineffective
Victim
Fearful
Useless.

Instead, I saw with new clarity what had been true for many, many years — I am weak in myself, O yes, every human is. But in Christ I am a fireball of power, and the fear I once held in me is now afraid of me.

I went home and began to claim back territory the enemy had taken from me, from my children. My son hasn’t been able to sleep in his own room, as terrors in the form of sounds and poltergeist-like activity have kept him bound. I went into that room and roared and roared. I saw, in the Spirit, wispy forms blowing out through the walls at the blast.

 All this power held in human frame, this earthen vessel… Is it me? O please, I’m not that good, I’ve never been much in the natural. But as all of us Holy Spirit vessels come to realize (more and more as we are taught and grow in and by Him), a being filled to the full is a mighty force to contend with, and Satan doesn’t mess with us long. Not to say he doesn’t try and I’m no fool to think he won’t try again. But the battle is always as good as won when I stand on what is true.

I am:

Mighty
Strong
Powerful
Fierce
Meek (gentle in harnessed power)
A Warrior.

screaming woman warrior

An awful lot like my Big Brother, Jesus Christ — the God of Angel Armies, my Commander, Lord, Best Friend, Comrade-in-Arms!

And as I assemble my army around me, I see flaming torch eyes in my sisters and brothers. We are mighty in Holy Ghost power, wind like a hurricane blast in the face of all the evil hell itself can throw against us. This is the true Church, my friends.

And as I breathe through the pain of my healing ribs, I no longer see a weakling. I see a Warrior with some battle wounds to show she’s not afraid of a fight. And, through Christ, I can do all things. All things my Commander and Lord calls me to, for I already have all I need. Fear is no longer my enemy. It is my vanquished foe. It is now afraid of me.

“God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
~ Paul in 2 Timothy 1:7

We are called to be more than what we were, what we learned so early on we accepted it as truth. We call lies truth because we see the so-called evidence and human logic says what sure seems to be true. But God’s great Truths always outshine the lies, the “facts” life has taught us. We are not who we think we are. Through Christ we are so, so much more than meets the eye.

What are you afraid of, my friends? What are some of the lies you need to unseat? It’s okay to not know what they are yet. But I dare you to pray the brave prayer:

Father, show me who I really am. Show me what You see when You look at me. And teach me to grow into the image You dreamed for me as You formed me with Your hands.

It’s time to unglue the skins that don’t fit. It’s time to grow into your true image. It’s time to become like Jesus.

Jesus reaching in storm

 

 

Envy’s Wrestle

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 “Let not your heart be troubled. You are trusting God, now trust in me.  There are many homes up there where my Father lives, and I am going to prepare them for your coming. When everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am. If this weren’t so, I would tell you plainly.”
Jesus, as recorded in John 14:1-3

It’s early January and I’m sitting in the room I had envisioned for us, for our family, for our school room. It’s simply furnished, neatly organized, sweetly welcoming. Sun beams through a side window, just enough. Sturdy shelves, busy bulletin board, map of the world, art supplies stacked neatly in a rolling cart. An analog clock quietly ticks on the wall opposite the butterfly chart.

Perfect.

Theirs.

We are in the midst of our 23rd year of marriage, 21st year of parenthood, 17th official year of homeschooling. First born is launched, living happily in Denver, Colorado. Second born is back to classes at Cedarville University, in the cornfields of Ohio. Third born is an active eleventh-grader, busy with studies, social life, and a job at Chick Fil-A. Last born dances through each day, busy avoiding school work, busy doing it anyway.

I shepherd, I guide, I do my domestic duties, provide taxi service, meals, food for meals… general mom stuff. In the comfort of my mother’s house.

Where’s this house? It’s in southeastern Pennsylvania, the house I helped build, the house I lived in from age 11 through marriage at age 26, almost 27. It’s the house I’ve lived in off and on since then, fully on since our third born was about 15 months old. She’s seventeen.

It’s the house where my mom still lives and fills with her stuff, her personality. This place we called “Mom’s Dream House” while we were building it — her castle since 1980.

Where’s my house? Oh, yeah. That. We bought a serious fixer-upper back when fourth born (a.k.a. the Boy) was a baby, back in 2005. Built in 1906, the left side of a duplex, it turned out to be unlivable and remains so, at least for now. In the interim between buying it and now, my husband joined and left the Army National Guard, my Dad had a devastating stroke, and the kids grew up, almost all the way up, in my parents’ house.

Dad died in 2013, I had a mental breakdown a few months later that rocked our family and landed me in jail for a few months. The children struggled through that year, and we slowly rebuilt our lives, growing closer than ever. The House (the unlivable one) collected our stuff, a storage facility with a mortgage.

Over the years I watched my friends buy houses, build their families, settle in to happy life mowing their own yards, tending their own gardens, puttering in their own kitchens.

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That last one really got me. Still gets me. I’ve always been a kitchen person. Our first apartment, a carriage house over a three-car garage, was my sweet little haven for two years. Its huge open-floor plan had a spacious kitchen, my domain. No children allowed there and severe post-partum depression following first born’s birth landed us at my parents’ for almost a year. When I was well enough we moved into a two-bedroom apartment, where we lived happily enough, which we filled to overflow with three kids.

Then we couldn’t afford our rising rent. We moved back in with my parents in 2003 and have been there ever since. 15 years.

15 years. I say it out loud and it feels strange in my mouth, a sourness spreading through my belly. 15 years of wanting what I’m sitting in now, this sunny sprawling house in quiet suburbia, my niece across from me drawing in her sweet little school room.

Envy has been my wrestling partner for a decade and a half. But there’s something about being in an 8’x15′ cell for a few months, owning nothing. There’s something about coming out of there to a spacious place where I could cook again and wear colorful clothes, even if it was my mom’s house.  My perspective shifted considerably in prison. Stuff doesn’t have the hold over me it once did, and I’ve found contentment everywhere I go.

But I still want a house I can live in. I want a place of my own. We are planning to whip the old house into some shape, moving out what no longer serves, making it livable — if not for us, for someone else, some other family to make their own dreams in.

And I know that someday I’ll have a place of my own, a home I’ll never have to leave. It’s promised by my Jesus, who always keeps His promises. He knows I want one here, that often I want it immediately if not sooner. When the wrestling match starts up, unseen hands squeezing my gut from the inside-out, I draw close. I call a friend to pray for me and with me, so I can make space for what I don’t want to stuff inside anymore. I crawl on Dad’s lap and cry for a while, letting the feelings wash over and through me. I grieve what I don’t have and may never have.  I accept what is and ask for wisdom for the next step.

The wrestle is not as strong as it once was, nor as frequent. But it’s still there. It must be faced and felt — then entrusted into the care of the God who, when all is said and done, is my home.

The wrestle threatens to pin me down, and sometimes it does. But the strength inside is stronger and together the Lord and I disarm envy. I look into my Daddy God’s eyes and find all I need, a shelter for my soul. My heart’s true home.

“Home could be the Pennsylvania turnpike, or Indiana’s early morning dew; High up in the the hills of California — home is just another word for you.”
~ Billy Joel, “You’re My Home”

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Drop Everything, Dear One

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While I’m tempted to do a bit about Christmas (i.e. the deeper meaning, the Christ child, the relative insignificance of gifts…) — I feel the Lord stirring my heart in a different direction. The direction I’ve never really been comfortable with. The direction of contemplation.

 “As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of             Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. ‘Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.’

 The Master said, ‘Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.'”(from Luke 10)

Now those of you who know the story of Mary and Martha and Jesus’ visit may see a hint of where I’m going. Poor Martha left to do all the work, Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, oblivious to all around her… and, indeed, that’s part of where I’m going. But really, we’ve been so hard on poor Martha. Some may even see this as an account of Jesus essentially throwing poor Martha under the proverbial bus for just trying to have dinner on the table on time.

But what was Jesus really saying (with incredible love and nary a smidge of condemnation)? Essentially: Martha, what you’re doing is important and I’m so grateful you want to give me a delicious dinner. I also understand you want it on the table in a timely manner so YOU can have a seat at my feet. But, dear one, sometimes the most important thing is to simply drop everything for me. And for your own heart’s sake.

Confession time: I’m NOT by nature a good at-Jesus-feet-sitter. I’m NOT good at dropping everything. I get an almost drug-like high from GETTING THINGS DONE. Ah, the glee of crossing off the checklist, occasionally writing additional things down for the pleasure of crossing them off! Ah, the delight of that tired feeling at the end of the day, looking back on a pile of things DONE and falling asleep exhausted! Ah, the coffee-fueled buzz of whizzing about the house with a clean path emerging behind me!

But what of my heart?

Ah, that. Well, who has time for that? Really, my heart is FINE, just keep moving forward, clicking off the To-Do list! If I have time at the beginning of the day (before the coffee spurs me on), I’ll check in with God. And at the end of the day I’ll pull away from my phone to heft my Amplified Bible. Let it fall open to — wherever — and start reading before my mood-stabilizer meds kick in and I fall asleep (usually a good 10 minutes). Isn’t that enough?

No. How I wish it was at times! I could get a lot more DONE if Holy Spirit didn’t keep nagging me about sitting down and just being with my Lord for a while.  Honestly, especially when the caffeine has me humming, the LAST thing I want to do is sit down. And when I do sit down, all I can think of is, When can I get up again and DO something else?

Now hold on a minute. I’m not talking about a religious I HAVE to do this An Hour a Day Keeps the Devil Away scripted Quiet Time. I’m talking about daily connection, taking time to be inwardly still, at least, before my God, loving Him. I’m talking about walking in the Spirit, as He leads, into daily delight. I’m talking about taking His hand and letting Him lead. About, as 12 year-old Jesus said so succinctly “being about my Father’s business.” This, for me, starts with stopping.

Deep down, way down deep where my heart is crying out I hear the call: Be still and know that I am God. He is calling me to connect. And that’s ultimately all my very being wants, to connect with my sweet Daddy and receive all the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control — He pours lavishly into me. Ingesting into my very being sweet Spirit fruit. But I rarely get this when I don’t stop. Acknowledge Him. Gaze into His sweet face and thank Him. I rarely get the gift of fullness in Him when I’m so busy on my own agenda I forget who — and Whose — I am.

My inner and outer whirlwind hears the Master’s voice:  Peace, be still. And Martha drops her dishrag on the counter, smooths her hands on her apron and simply stops. She gazes into those eyes and can’t resist the pull to sink at His feet, startled when He lifts her up, gives her a hug… and we sit together.

Soon we’re laughing and I find my mind awakening to deeper understanding. My soul is cleansed from the inside-out as fresh perspective washes away futility. My heart warms and I snuggle into His embrace. And I’m startled to discover, laughing at the improbability of this miracle in me! — I really don’t care anymore about what gets done today.

Because the most important thing has already been done.

Now, dear friends, can you relate? What strategies have you found helpful in connecting with the Lord? Let’s help each other by weighing in in the comments, below. Love you all!

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A Quick Poem, As Tech Week has Stolen my Brain

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I am in a play this week, which has swallowed up my life and my mind. As this was written before the advent of Tech Week, I am fairly confident it will be coherent. Here’s hoping…

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Thee I freely give…
(Ah, that dear old hymn, how apropos!)

Surrender like this:
Trust
Give in
Release
Drop
Fall…

Down, down
Free fall!
Scooped up, pulled close
Your chin on my head,
Your breath ruffles my
hair, surrounds me…

I gulp You in
Weep
Weary
Love force presses out
All fear
“How can I doubt wh
Your love is surrounding me?”
(Ah, that dear old Matthew Ward song!)

I giggle, amazed — stunned
Joyful —
Because all fear is gone, somehow
Absorbed by You, dissipated in
Lion of Judah’s gentle growl
Purring pure
Strength and
Leoa inhales, exhales
Rising in humble,
Holy power.

 

Take Back the Day

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It’s raining again. Steady, penetrating, cold, continuous. A beautiful day! Wait, what?

Back when my girls were little, before the Boy entered our lives… no matter what the weather was like I’d do the same thing. Every morning, I’d walk into their room, push open their pink and pastel hearts curtains and say a variation of It’s a beautiful day!

It’s a beautiful sunny day!
It’s a beautiful cloudy morning!
Look — snow!!!
It’s a beautiful — rainyful — day!

I’d especially get excited about the most miserable mornings, a kind of reverse psychology I hoped would work on all of us. Because I used to be so jerked about by weather conditions…

Atmospheric pressure = sinus headache = irritability.
Cloudy = where’s the sun? = annoyance.
Sunny = glaring light = pull the shades.
Cold and rainy = the worst = pull the covers over my head, let me sleep some more. Except I couldn’t because two little girls and a baby don’t allow for such extravagances.

One morning, while it was still dark (when I could have time with the Lord, uninterrupted by the cacophony of tiny female voices, their insatiable activity) I reflected a bit on my brief stint as a temp in the work world. Every week was the same:  Monday we’d slog in. Misery reigned as the general consensus seemed to be “just get me to Friday.” Tuesday was filled with “tomorrow’s Hump Day.” Wednesday was — well — Hump Day itself, but small talk often featured “two days to go.” Thursday was  “tomorrow’s Friday.” Friday featured a countdown of hours till Happy Hour. And other planned and unplanned weekend extravagances.

Sipping tea and thinking of this, I remembered what those weekends were like for me, a 20-something English major working full-time during the summers, part-time the rest of the year, putting myself through college. Weekends were wonderful, for the most part — except for catching up on all the laundry and other cleaning shunted to the side during the week. And yes, Sunday evening had me frowning over the coming week’s landscape… Another week of drudgery slated for temps: making endless copies, helping someone or other reconfigure her workspace (actually that was kind of fun, but I digress), and — eventually — my daily heap of credit disputes to enter into the system.

And I saw that I had, at least in part, succumbed to the temptation to only live for what, two days out of seven? Realizing this with the proverbial slap in the face one day at work was a wake-up call. On my crawling commute home through Wilmington rush-hour traffic that afternoon I asked the Lord to change me. Thus began a complete mindset shift. I would (with the Lord’s help) find delight in each day. I would (God helping me) enjoy every day as much as humanly possible.

I initially found myself a bit of an enthusiastic, upbeat oddity in the office. But over the next month or so (before I went back to college), I discovered some comrades, a few who found plenty to laugh at and ways to inject delight into the usual tedium of working in a credit company cubicle farm. I marveled as I rode the elevator alone on my last day — I was actually sad to leave.

Sipping the dregs of my tea as that mom of three little sweeties, I decided that dark morning to impart a love of every day — regardless of its proximity to the weekend or lack of sunny skies — to my three little treasures. And, eventually, to my sweet son. It’s been an ongoing project for almost 16 years now. And I’m still amazed at the delight I feel, a steady gratitude for every day. And their (mostly) unflagging optimism going into their own days. A hard-won, God-given gift.

Every day a delight. Even this cold, rainy one. Especially this one. Thanks, Daddy God. From the bottom of my astounded, joyful heart.

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