Fears

Another post combining assignments from Writing 101. This time I am completing assignment 17 (addressing one of your worst fears) along with assignment 19 (an unedited free write of at least 400 words).  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I was eight or nine years old, there was a scary incidence which involved me getting caught in a strong current while swimming with a friend. Actually, we were on the underside of a barge-type party boat, holding onto the metal frame and talking in the cool shade it provided. The barge was on the river, anchored but with the motor idling. No parents or other adults were with us, aware of what we were doing. In my memory, it also seems as if it might have been lightly raining as well, which was why we were perhaps underneath the barge, but of this I remain uncertain. However, one thing is always crystal clear in that memory:  I knew my parents would have disapproved of the activity in which I was participating.  Yet I was there … unable to say no to my friend, feeling guilty, but participating anyway.

At some point in the afternoon, my hands slipped off the metal frame, and I found myself trapped in a current. Although I knew how to swim relatively well in a safe pool, I wasn’t skilled at river swimming and I didn’t know how to get out of the current. Suddenly, I realized I was being pulled toward the motor of the barge. In that moment, I recall how everything moved in slow-motion. I never felt frightened, though I rightfully should have been.  Rather it was more like watching a movie of someone else instead of the feeling of impending danger being directed toward myself.

To this day, I don’t recall if anyone, including me,  shouted or screamed. I don’t remember who reached out and pulled me from the current, or whether I thanked them afterwards.  All I remember was the intense relief that washed over me.  I wasn’t going to be caught in my disobedience.

To this day, I have a fear of being caught in the act of doing something terribly wrong. I suppose as far as fears go it isn’t such a bad one to have. After all, it’s kept me from a lot of trouble and heartache over the years.

The older I get, the more I struggle with the fear of obedience rather than the fear of disobedience. Not obedience to parents or laws or even traditional morals. I’m talking about obedience to God, particularly the sort of obedience in which He asks us to do something hard and unexpected. I fear God asking me to do something I don’t want to do, something big and scary that might cause me some discomfort or a change in the lifestyle I’ve grown accustomed to living.

For years, I toyed with the idea of adoption. It was more talk than anything, a sort of respect and love for those I knew who adopted and a desire to follow in their footsteps. Even as a single mother, I expressed a desire and a longing to adopt a child, always imagining a special needs child from a foreign land. After Jon and I married, the topic came up for discussion more than once, but we were never on the same page.

A couple of months ago, Jon called me and suggested we find a way to go to a local Wait No More Conference, sponsored by Focus on the Family. All either of us knew was that it was for families interested in adoption or foster care. Obviously, I was mainly interested in adoption and Jon was still highly skeptical of both.

And yet, by the time the day was over, Jon and I were both on the same page … foster care with the option to adopt.

Let me be frank … obedience in this situation scares me to no end. The mere idea of bringing a child, one who has suffered so much, into our home. I’m sure any questions or concerns you can think of, I’ve already thought of and more. Jon and I constantly check our motives.

Up until about two months ago, I never really gave foster care much of a thought. I didn’t hear of it within my social realms or talk with others who were into fostering children. But once I began to hear God calling out to me, fostering is everywhere. I’ve met other bloggers who foster, became aware of former foster children in my own church, and even discovered a church in my community with a ministry geared toward foster families.

The most amazing part is how in a relatively short time Jon and I have gone from being divided and uncertain regarding God’s desires for our family to being united and certain of what God is showing us to do.  Our hearts and our home are opened to His plan for our family, and very likely one day soon, perhaps even by the end of the summer, there will be more than just the seven of us living here.

I’m sure there will be plenty of hard moments as a foster mother. My eyes are wide-open. And I’m a bit scared of the entire proposition, if the truth be told.

And yet, in the end, I am far more fearful of being disobedient to God than of being faithful to follow through in obedience to His calling for my life.

I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. Psalm 199:60

Advertisements

Spring Ridge Sundays: A Writing 101 Assignment

This blog post is based on two different assignments from the Blogging University Writing 101 Course. I’m combining Assignments 14 and 15.

The first assignment was to open the nearest book to page 29, pick a word that jumps out at you and write a letter to someone regarding the thoughts or ideas that you got from the word. I chose the word horses from page 29 of These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

The second assignment was to imagine that an event which shaped my life and worldview was being cancelled forever, and write about how it made me feel. I chose to write about Spring Ridge Sunday. Part family reunion and part church homecoming service, Spring Ridge Sunday is a real even held the first Sunday of each May in the rural hills of Catahoula Parish, Louisiana. Though the tiny one room church doesn’t have regular services any more (and hasn’t since the 1940’s), the ancestors of those original members still come and fill the pews to sing, pray and gather in worship on that one Sunday each spring. Every year I look forward to attending as a way to connect my daily faith to the legacy of  God’s faithfulness throughout the generations. (Psalm 119:90) I cannot imagine my little world without Spring Ridge Sunday.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Brooke,

I suppose you’ve heard the news by now.

Can you imagine beginning the month of May without Spring Ridge Sunday? How can that possibly be?

I suppose I can count on one hand the years I’ve spent the first Sunday of May some place other than Spring Ridge Baptist Church. It’s simply always been a part of my life.

Do you remember the spring we all had the chickenpox? Mother wouldn’t let us go that year. Who could blame her? All of us were still covered in spots which were in various stages of healing. You and I were as mad as the proverbial wet hen. We begged and pleaded, but Mama stood her ground. It was one of the few years we stayed home from the annual Spring Ridge church services.

Hard wood benches. Humid Louisiana springs. Swatting at flies and fanning with the old cardboard fans provided. What was it that made us love Spring Ridge Sunday so much?

Fascination with the old outhouse? Maybe at some point. For a few years I felt sort of like Laura Ingalls Wilder, as though I had stepped back in time. The lack of indoor plumbing was  … well, it gave me an appreciation for more modern conveniences. Thankfully, the charm soon lost all appeal.

Ma’s chicken and dumplings? Oh, definitely! You could only get that particular delicacy three times a year. Spring Ridge Sunday, Papaw’s birthday and Harvest Day Homecoming Service. I can still taste the deliciousness of those dumplings.  I guess it was more than just the chicken pie though. Seeing all that food spread out on the make-shift tables, piling plates high with food, sitting on lawn chairs, visiting with people who I wouldn’t see for another year. Dinner-on-the-grounds was certainly a Spring Ridge Sunday highlight, but not the real reason behind the event.

The sermons? Some years the sermons were encouraging. Other years … well, not so much. I still laugh every time I think about that poor preacher who couldn’t find his text. He flipped all over his Bible, and never did land on the verse he promised to read aloud. Part of the fun each year was guessing what sort of preacher might show up to share God’s word with us. But that certainly wasn’t the reason I wanted to attend those once-a-year church services.

The history behind the service? Well, certainly there are some interesting stories to come out of that small church in the middle of the piney woods. Do you recall how Ma used to tell of the horses neighing whenever they heard the congregation begin to sing the words to the parting hymn, God Be With Us ‘Til We Meet Again? Still, just history itself isn’t reason to go back to Spring Ridge again and again, year after year.

The people? Oh, I love so many people who came to Spring Ridge. It was as much a family reunion as it was homecoming church service. But there were just as many unfamiliar faces in the crowds, people I didn’t know and never found the time to meet personally. The ones I really cared about I could always find other ways of keeping in touch rather than continuing to drive 20 miles into the rural hillside of north Louisiana on a particular Sunday in May.

So what is it that made Spring Ridge Sunday so special? Why continue to travel the dirt roads to the old one-room church house, year after year? Why does it feel so wrong to know Spring Ridge has been cancelled forever?

To the best of my reasoning, it has to do with my favorite part of Spring Ridge Sundays … the recognition of the original families who attended the old church. It’s the same each year. As the old church roll is called, those who have returned stand up when they hear the names of those who came before them. Some names are called and no one stands. But not for Jim McGuffee and Minnie Belle Allbritton. The wooden floorboards shake as half the crowd rustles to their feet, paying homage to the faith of two simple people, husband and wife, who raised their children to love the Lord.

The Bible is clear. You can’t get to heaven on the coat tails of your parents or grandparents.  And yet God is promises to show love for a thousand generations to those who love Him and His ways (Exodus 20:6).

This is the reason I love Spring Ridge Sunday. It’s a reminder of God’s promises. It’s a reminder of where my family has come, that I am who I am because someone who lived long before me decided to love God … and because of that decision, I have come to know a personal Lord and Savior as well.

Oh, I know. The cancellation of Spring Ridge Sunday won’t change any of those things. It certainly won’t change my relationship with Jesus Christ or my personal faith in God.

 

Still, I know every first Sunday in May, I’ll pause and give thanks to the generations before mine who loved the Lord. My our generation do the same for those who will follow us.

your loving sister,

Paige

My dad and son Nathan sitting on one of the pews in the old Spring Ridge Baptist Church.
My dad and son Nathan and daughter Julia sitting on one of the pews in the old Spring Ridge Baptist Church. (circa 2007)

 

Song of My Heart (Writing 101, Day 3)

Captured.

It’s the best word to describe my feelings upon hearing “Worthy of Worship” the first time.  I felt a strong desire to draw myself fully into the act of praising my Savior.

I had recently moved to a new town.  To paraphrase Dickens, this particular season of my life could be described as both the best of times and the worst of times. The reality of divorce and single “mommy hood” was quite overwhelming, and yet I never felt God’s presence more.  Finding God in that hard place made me want to praise Him more. I desired to learn to live my life as an act of worship.

With the move, everything about life became unfamiliar.  Constructing new routines is hard, and even things I normally love and look forward to doing (like church attendance) became more of a challenge. While I loved my new church, often I felt alone in the congregation, not quite at home or comfortable.

Sunday after Sunday, my children and I sat towards the back of the sanctuary. And most weeks, I just asked God to give me the strength to get back to church the following Sunday morning. I wanted to be there, and yet nothing was harder than going to a place where I didn’t completely fit in, at least not yet.

One Sunday morning towards the beginning of the service, the pianist began to play familiar intro to “Worthy of Worship.” Everyone in the congregation was seated. The music minister did not ask us to stand as we began to sing.  Along with everyone else, I sang, enjoying the beauty of the music and the sound of the words.  I certainly felt like I was worshiping God … until the lady on the pew directly in front of me suddenly stood up.

“Why on earth is she standing?” I thought.

I looked around. Everyone else was still seated. No one seemed to be concerned about the lone lady standing. But I certainly was.

While I’m not exactly shy by nature, I do not like to attract attention to myself, especially attention for doing something which might be considered unorthodox or strange or even out of the box. If the truth be told, deep inside I felt ashamed for this lady, who stood when everyone else was seated. I even felt like she was drawing attention to me. I just wanted her to sit back down, so that I could go on worshipping God.

“You can continue to sit here and sing, or you can stand and worship.”

The words were audible, as if the person on the pew behind me had leaned forward and whispered them into my ear. Yet even as I heard them I realized no one near me had spoken. No one else around me heard them either. I knew instantly this was the sound of God’s voice. Though I had heard Him speak to me many times before, I was still surprised to hear His voice again.

My stomach did flips. I felt a little dizzy. For the briefest of moments, I was paralyzed. The Holy Spirit had just given me a choice:  continue to sit and sing, or stand in worship.

Suddenly I found myself standing. Immediately tears began to flow down my cheeks.  I don’t recall if I even sang the words, or if I simply stood … but what I realized as the song came to an end is what I assumed was worshipping God wasn’t even close.

Each time I hear the song Worthy of Worship, I am reminded of the moment I first tasted true worship of my Savior, completely surrendered in my heart, my mind and my soul to Him.

And I am reminded of the wonderful someday when I will get to stand before His throne (or fall face down) and worship at His feet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This writing 101 prompt was to write about the three most important songs in your life. However, as I am already behind on the daily assignments (by two days), I figured I would just write about the one song. There are so many others which have personal meaning to me. Maybe I will save those for future posts.

What about you? What song (or songs) have been important in your life?

Is there a particular song God has used to teach you how to worship?

A Room With a View (Writing 101, Day 2)

I’ve never had a room with a view. 

Photo by Sarah McKellen of McKellen-Messiniaki Properties
Photo by Sarah McKellen of McKellen-Messiniaki Properties

My childhood bedroom looked out over our front yard, which faced the main highway running through the rural town where my family lived.  I recall there used to be a large pine tree close to the road, but at some point it was cut down. My brother and sister and I loved playing around the pieces of wood for several weeks afterward.

Across the highway were the houses of our neighbors. Occasionally we would get permission to walk across the road to pay a visit, but generally my parents expected us to keep to our side of the highway.

I don’t think my parents cared whether or not my bedroom had a lovely view. My parents were far more concerned with teaching me right from wrong, who God was, and how to live a life pleasing to Him.

My childhood wasn’t about having a room with a view. It was about getting a God-view.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. ~Proverbs 3: 5-6

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

College dorms do not generally offer much of a view either.

Once, I lived in a dorm in which my room came with a balcony. It looked over a large parking lot. In the end, the balcony was rather pointless. I could have used the extra space inside my room instead of on the outside.

I suppose college was never about the scenery anyway. After all, most college towns are fairly typical with their clusters of fast food restaurants and coffee shops, campus book stores, large brick classroom buildings, and of course dormitories.

The eye-opening experience for me was not the physical view of my world, but rather beginning to understand exactly how many different world views (or mindsets) there are in the world. Growing up in a tiny village (population 600) in the Bible Belt had certainly given me a strong understanding of my own worldview, which was then (and still is) decidedly Christian. When I left for college, for the first time I was interacting with people on a regular basis who did not look at the world through the same lens as me.

Looking back on those days, I can see how my own Biblical worldview was challenged, which forced me for the first time in my life to dig down into the beliefs my parents had passed on to me and decide for myself whether or not I wasn’t to continue to accept them as truths.

College wasn’t at all about having a room with a view. It was more deciding on my personal life-view.

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. ~Psalm 119: 114

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve lived in so many homes as an adult, I’ve lost count of where they all were and how long I lived in each place.  Most of those were nondescript brick homes in little subdivisions, but I’ve also spent my fair share of time living in apartments, duplexes and even for a short while in a tiny rental mobile home in a trailer park.

Once I lived in a home far out in the country, with fifteen large pine trees in the front yard. Other than the pine trees, there wasn’t much to see except for the occasional squirrel.

Another time I lived in a very old duplex on an army base in Seaside, California (close to Monterey). If it wasn’t too foggy, which most of the time it was, I could catch a small glimpse of the Monterey Bay out of the corner of my living room window. But mostly, I could just see all of the other drab military houses farther down the hill from where my home was located.

Even the home I live in now isn’t one in a particularly beautiful place. Not to say I dislike where I live. Quite the opposite. I have great neighbors.  And the location of my home couldn’t be better. It’s within a five or ten minute drive of nearly every place I go on a regular basis. It’s not perfect … but then, is any home?

I’ve decided I like living here.  Some days I have to decide it more than others.

 

After moving some 17 times in 20 years and calling five different states home, I’ve learned the location of my home has very little to do with my personal happiness.

In adulthood I have learned to be content with where God has placed me  … even if I don’t particularly like the view.

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. ~Philippians 4:11

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

But one day I will have a room with a view … a fabulous, marvelous, completely unimaginable view. It will be my forever view.

Already, I anticipate that day. God says the streets will be of gold, the waters like crystal, and the city gates made of pearl. Jesus has gone there to prepare my home.  Once my time on earth is done, I will live for eternity in the presence of God.

What a view that shall be!

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”  ~1 Corinthians 2:9

Of Swimsuits and Swimming (Writing 101, Day 1 Challenge)

Maddie and Megan are going swimsuit shopping today with their mother.

I have to admit that a part of me is worried about what what sort of swimsuit they might bring back home.It’s not that I don’t trust them to pick out a nice swimsuit. It’s just that … well, standards are different between our two homes.

Jon and I prefer the girls to wear more modest suits. A one piece. A tankini where both pieces touch.  Plenty of coverage over certain areas of the body.

I realize not every family, even among Christendom, feels the same way.  But Jon and I both feel rather strongly about modesty, for both genders.

It’s hard when our children’s other parents do not agree and share the same values. And since their mother is purchasing the swimsuits, Jon and I have to simply trust our girls to make wise choices.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I probably haven’t been swimming in ten years.

Actually, that’s not exactly true … more like six or seven. Still, it’s been a long time. In the past twenty years, or all of my adult life, I’ve probably gotten into a swimsuit less than a dozen times total.

I actually love the water and enjoy swimming. But I don’t do it very often. The reason?

I am insecure and uncomfortable with the appearance of my own body.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don’t for a moment believe I am the only woman in the world with a bad body image.

Yet, if you were to place me on a scale of one to ten (where one represents a great body image and ten is for a terrible body image), I’d probably fall off the chart with a score of 13. 5 or something awful like that.

It’s not just swimsuits either.

I avoid mirrors if at all possible. There is nothing worse than a full-length mirror in a bathroom. A couple of years ago, Jon and I were house hunting. We came along a really nice home well within our price range. I recall being very pleased with the kitchen, living area and spacious backyard. But when I walked into a master bedroom that had an entire wall as a mirror … well, let’s just say I was no longer an interested buyer.

I really dislike having my photo taken. If it’s a group shot, I always try to arrange myself on the back row.  While most people I know love random photos, to me there is nothing worse than having your picture taken when you least suspect it.  Well, the only thing worse than having your picture taken randomly is actually looking at the said photos. Especially if the photo is more than just a headshot. Especially if the photo is of me at any age older than twelve or thirteen.

I’d never judge another woman’s worth based on her size or on any sort of physical feature she might consider to be a flaw.

So why am I so hard on myself?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shortly after my 21st birthday, I was diagnosed with PCOS, but I began having the symptoms very early in puberty. There was the unexplained weight gain, the inability to lose weight, the anxiety attacks, the unwanted hair growth, and the severe acne among many other things. About the time I began to desire to look beautiful, everything about my outside appearance began to go wrong. As a 13 year old girl, it was extremely emotional.  I didn’t know the cause. The best I could figure, I was just destined to be unattractive. By the time I was finally diagnosed, I had been experiencing the symptoms for more than seven years.

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects approximately 1 in 10 women of child-bearing age.  In addition to all the health risks and yucky symptoms, PCOS is perhaps just as much an emotionally devastating syndrome for the women who suffer from it as the symptoms actually strip away at the very essence of femininity.

Originally, my doctors indicated it would just be hard for me to conceive children, as most women with PCOS experience infertility to a certain degree. That much was certainly true. But I was also blessed. After three years of infertility, God gifted me with three beautiful children in less than three and a half years.

And yet PCOS has been far more than simply experiencing infertility. It continues to affect me every day, from my physical health to my emotions to even the kinds of foods I am able to eat.  PCOS has even affected my relationship with God.

You see, I am guilty of feeling angry with God giving me PCOS. Were I to count the vast numbers of prayers I have offered which  were nothing but raging over this syndrome, questioning “Why me?,” and begging God to take away this burden I never wanted to bear, the sum would be far larger than any number to which I have ever counted.

I hate to admit it, but deep inside, a part of me felt like God didn’t care about me or this problem. I felt abandoned to an illness no doctor could cure. I felt unworthy of a healing. At times, I even wondered if I were being punished. Even more, I blamed God for giving me the PCOS in the first place.

While I worked through many of these emotions during my adult years and came to a place of acceptance of the way things would be in my life, I still didn’t exactly make peace with the skin God put me in.

Moreover, I felt righteously justified in having my bad body image.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There are a lot of Bible verses that immediately pop into my mind whenever I think about trying to change my bad body image.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. ~Proverbs 31:30

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Your beauty should not come from outer adornment … instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. ~1 Peter 3:3-4

While I am challenged by those scriptures I shared above, the one that convicts me the most is Psalms 139, the very prayer I used to pray when I was pregnant with my babies and over them as sweet newborns.  I still use this scripture today when one of my five kiddos has a moment of feeling physically unattractive. It goes like this:

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ~Psalm 139:14

Recently, I read these same words from The Message Bible, a paraphrased edition of the Bible (as opposed to a word-by-word translation) which tends to be more conversational in style.

Body and soul, I am marvelously made!  I worship in adoration—what a creation!  ~Psalm 139: 14

Wow. I never thought about my body being marvelously made. Nor had I ever once praised God for my body.

Perhaps I’m not perfect by MY standards, but I can see and hear and use my limbs. I’m relatively healthy. I don’t have a debilitating illness. And I was created by a loving God, who gave me life. What reason have I to complain? Why am I so against myself instead of loving me for who I am … a creation made in the image of God?

Perhaps even more wonderful is I discovered the solution to correcting my bad body image …

praising its Creator in worship.

psalm139_14

I certainly don’t think I’m completely over my bad body image.  After all, I still have no desire to put on a swimsuit or gaze at myself in a full-length mirror. I suppose after more than 25 years of believing a lie, it’s going to take some time for me to heal those parts of my soul.

And yet, just as there is hope for my husband to restore his relationship with his step-son, there is hope for me to grow to love the person God created me to be  … outside and inside!

I am definitely looking forward to that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Do you have a bad body image?

Have you ever had to come to terms with a “thorn in the side?”