WE ARE MORE THAN CONQUERORS!

(Written 9/12/20)

Yesterday was the 19-year remembrance of the terrorist attacks. It’s hard to forget those things that seem unimaginable. My mother’s generation can very clearly recall where they were and what they were doing when they first heard that President Kennedy had been shot. My generation will remember the confusion we felt as we went to work. The attack and the news on the attack unfolded as we clocked in for work that morning. By the end of the day, I was genuinely worried about the kind of world my daughter would be born into only nine days later.

Nineteen years later and we’re under the attack of an unexpected enemy that we are only now beginning to understand. What we do know for certain is that many lives have been lost to a virus pandemic. COVID-19 has changed the way we do life, essentially hijacking our day-to-day activities, from seeing a movie to going to church, work, or school. It’s also revealed some of the best and some of the worst in out humanity.

Australia had already had one of the most devastating fires they’d ever seen, killer hornets were on their way (which brought back the memory of every killer bee movie I’d seen when I was much younger), the black community and their supporters determined that George Floyd absolutely would not be just another death this time. Megan and Harry said farewell to the royal life, that “little rocket man” was MIA for awhile, and the democrats just couldn’t seem to get rid of President Trump no matter how hard they tried. And they tried!

All in all, 2020 has become a good year to forget! And we’re not done yet. Even here in south central Minnesota, Summer has packed her bags and left without giving Fall a proper pass of the baton!

It’s no surprise that Christians are wondering if these are the end times. Is Christ ready for his Second Coming? None one knows. Not even Christ himself.

The other day, I was listening to a sermon from Alistair Begg. He was addressing the concerns of his audience. Just how bad does it have to be in order for it to be bad enough? (And remember, we’re looking at mankind’s words and deeds; God also sees the cruelty and utter depravity of our hearts.) Begg supposed it was something we were all wondering, especially “in light of recent events.” I naturally assumed it was one of his most current sermons, but it wasn’t. The recent events he referred to were the bombing in Paris and so many other terrorist activities. Apparently, things weren’t bad enough in November of 2015. The genocides in Germany weren’t bad enough. WWI, the “war to end all wars,”  wasn’t bad enough. They weren’t bad enough so many times when humanity felt it was hanging by a very thin thread.

I don’t know what “bad enough” will look like, but I’m in no hurry to find out. I think the only thing staying God’s hand has to be that “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV). I have n o doubt the heart of our Abba is breaking, but although he knows he wins in the end, he plans to lose as few of his creations as possible to the enemy.  That can only mean one thing….

We’re still at war!

Brothers and sisters in Christ,  I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling an urgency to take my Armor of God out of storage and check out the user’s manual.

Those of us – like me – who have been content to have heard the stories about God, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit, may want to get to know the Creator behind those stories more intimately. The Lord is our Shepherd, our God is our true north, and The Holy Spirit will tell us what is truth amid the lies and the “not-technically-wrong” things we are told.

While I’m as worried as the next person, I’m even more concerned about why the world and those in it are even able to entertain an ugly indifference to the pain and humanity of others, to stop seeing sin as sin but rather “an issue” to be discussed in therapy and normalized by advocates of aberrant acts against the weaker population.

Then I remember the words of a young man I met in our office. He was in summer ministry.  The riots in Minneapolis that followed the death of George Floyd were only a few days old, and I was interested to hear what this young man, who was as dark as I am pale, had to say about the situation. 

The first thing he did was remind me that Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The problem isn’t a president or protesters. The problem is the enemy whose dominion is the Earth and on it. It’s become too easy to stand aside as Satan takes what he has no right to. It’s too easy to see the horrifying things people do to each other and shrug because we don’t know what to do about it. It’s too easy to feel defeated when one school shooting is followed by three more. What can we possibly do about it?

I’m not so sure we are called to solve the problems of the world. Perhaps we’re called to trust deeply the One who can solve those problems and to kneel in unceasing prayer. We do what we can and then stand. It’s time for us to protect ourselves with the Armor of God, be familiar with its defensive weapons, and love others enough to pray for them, their protection and salvation. And we hold up the hands of our prayer warriors and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

If this isn’t the end game, then the clock’s still ticking, the score isn’t final, and we can’t let the enemy act like some Pokemon character who’s hell bent on catching them all. It may be that those of us – like myself – who have been overly focused on the pains of our individual pasts and the cutting insults from others, get in the game.

You are loved! We need to accept that so we can move on. Some of us may need to put some ice on our injury, wrap it up, and play hurt. I honestly don’t intend to disrespect what anyone has endured or experienced in physical or emotional assaults. I’ve had to escape my childhood home, myself. I’m still angry and scared and hurt. I’m still working on forgiveness. But Satan is more than happy to let me lick my wounds for another 10 years if that’s what I want to do. It keeps me distracted and he doesn’t have to lift a finger to keep me on the bench. But I know that my pain doesn’t compare to the pain others are living in now and will feel for eternity if I sit out the game. Personally, I know I need to stop acting like my past is more important than someone else’s future.

While there’s still time in the game, let’s suit up! It’s not over ’til it’s over. Our victory is guaranteed. Our comfort is not, but our victory is. The question is, which rules are you playing by? Those meant for Satan’s dominion or those in the heavenly realm? And just how many souls are we willing to lose because the enemy “just wanted it more than we did”? Is that really going to be our post-game defense for losing? Unfortunately it’s the sad truth, but it’s one of the lamest excuses we could hope to use when we face God!

God loves his children dearly – those who have accepted his Son and those who haven’t yet. We don’t have to like them all, but we do need to love them enough to fight for them. Just remember, you didn’t deserve your salvation either; but you were still loved enough to be offered it.

Let’s Get Started!

Over a year ago, my teen-aged daughter, Maggie, was helping me fold the laundry. She was bubbling over as she chattered about all the things the women of our church family had done for her over the years. She was so grateful for their tenderness and encouragement. Most of these women were old enough to be her grandmother. In them, she also saw evidence of a deep and solid faith in God. Then there were the women who all had children who had gone through high school or college already. Their children’s experiences were much like the ones Maggie would have over the next 10 years or so.  While theirs was a strong faith, it was also a growing faith, a faith in development. And Maggie kept them tenderly in her heart.

The thing she was turning over in her head that day was the wonder of how much these women cared for her. I told her it was because they loved her, which she countered with a modest sound of hesitance. Now, I love my two daughters very much, and my heart breaks whenever I sense that they don’t feel loved or are hurt when a relationship with a friend changes, or even when they experience the inevitable bumps and bruises that come to all of us as we try to navigate this world. But for Maggie to not accept and embrace the affection these women had for her…well, I wasn’t having it!

I stopped sorting and told her to put everything down and look at me. “Maggie, listened to me. You are so loved!”

That’s when I heard the Holy Spirit say to me, “So are you.” 

A lightning round argument with the Holy Spirit followed. I thought, ‘Wait a minute! I’m talking about Maggie right now. Not me.’ If you could be inside your head and still mutter under your breath, I would have. ‘Besides, I’m not loved. Or at least I’m not lovable.’

“John 3:16, LaRonda. You are so loved, too.”

Oh, I was going to have to ponder that for a while. 

And I’ve been meditating on it all year long. What if the verse were For God so loved LaRonda that he gave his only begotten son…? Go ahead and put your name where mine is. How awesome is that?! Not only does God love the world, he so loves the world. Have you ever hugged a child, a friend, a spouse, or a pet and said, “I love you so much!”

I used to think “so loved” was one of those King James Version phrases intended to fancy things up – you know, like thee and thy, but it’s not. It’s a hug-you-tight way of saying how very treasured you are. It says you’re treasured and hold a special place in the very depths of the heart!

But I’d grown up thinking it was a phrase that wasn’t for me. The truth is, I was worried about walking up to Heaven’s gate and feeling like the last kid picked for dodgeball after every handicapped kid was already taken and the PE teacher threatened the team captain with an F if he didn’t take me. Of course Heaven had to let me in because I’d accepted Christ as my savior when I was 12. I had my Get Out of Hell Free card! Rules are rules, right? Inwardly, I’d cringe and hope everyone would stop looking at each other for any loophole they could think of and, finding none, actually let me in.

But in the last year that I’ve been pondering the difference between begrudging technicalities and certain acceptance, God has put authors and speakers in my path who are reassuring of the tender, consuming, relentless love that he has for all of his children – including those who still run from him or resist his wooing. It’s as if cold, perfectly chiseled has been slowly becoming soft, warm flesh with a breath and a heartbeat. 

In fact, let’s go back to PE class. The teacher is threatening Bobby with an F and the room is absolutely silent as Bobby considers how much damage one F could to his chances at a football scholarship, when a voice from behind me booms throughout the gymnasium: “I’ll take her. After all, she’s mine,” calls out Christ. He’s the only one who can see a quagmire of shame, rejection, and self-loathing and still recognize the child his Abba Father loved long before anyone heard her heartbeat. Long before a handful of kids had measured me up and found me falling short of being an asset in a dodgeball game.

God is about so much more than a Get Out of Hell Free card! And I believe he just wants each of us to realize how very much we are loved. And that’s why I’ve changed the name of my blog to You Are So Loved!, which you can check out at https://larondabourn.com.

Here’s the embarrassing thing: I know absolutely nothing about building or maintaining a website! But I wanted to create a sort of “playground” that had videos, quotes, songs – anything I could think of to encourage others as I had been encouraged. But I can’t figure it out! And my perfectionism has only managed to keep me from writing new posts. So, here is my imperfect invitation to my imperfect website. Ta-da! I’ll figure it out someday. When I do, I hope it’s not like making a dish the whole family loves and not remembering how I did it because there’s no recipe, and who knew it would even be edible this time? Ya know?
But if I don’t post something soon, no matter how imperfect it is, I may never post or dare to write again. So if you check it out and it never looks the same way twice, just be patient and know it’s still the same place. And remember that you are so loved!

I Had No Idea.

I have never been a very political person. I trusted my husband’s advice when it was time to vote for anything. I used to jest that whatever was going on wouldn’t change the fact that I still got up every morning, showered, dressed, had breakfast and went to the same job that I went to the day before. If a soldier showed up to explain that things had drastically changed, well then I would pretty much do what I was told – because that would certainly change my morning routine.

I know my attitude was as wrong as it was cavalier. It was a blatant insult to the suffragettes who had sacrificed comfort to confront those who stood between them and the best option they saw to have a future that considered the beliefs, needs and values of all women.

It’s not that I am unintelligent. I have been, however, ignorant – by choice. It’s not that I don’t like a good discussion. I am always willing to change my views, even if they require changing my more values. But the information I base my views on had better be sound. It’s certainly not because I am unwilling to argue tenets. I love a good debate, but it had better be as close to a true debate as possible. Don’t ask me to entertain mere emotion, at the loss of reason and evidence. If you see a problem, show me what you consider a solution. I will patiently listen to you and expect the same respect from you.

That said, during the current racial protests, I’ve educated myself a bit. I freely admit that I do not know a lot right now, but I know more. And what I’ve learned is disturbing and heart-breaking.

The other day, I watched Pastor Michael Todd’s sermon from Transformation Church in Tulsa, OK. I was interested in hearing what this young Christian man of color had to say about the protests. He was pretty calm as he addressed that very subject, but was honest enough to eventually admit, “I am a Christian and I’m pissed!” Sounds fair enough to me.

He mentioned the Tulsa race massacre of 1921. From May 31 to June 1, 1921, mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses of the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The attack on “Black Wall Street” destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the wealthiest black community in the U.S., ultimately leaving about 10,000 black people homeless with no reparations made for the loss of businesses, homes, inventory or personal property. All those successful businesses and 10,000 Americans of color displaced, because of what one unidentified man may have done to a white woman – no one had time for a trial. The details horrified me.

I had no idea.

maya on hateThis riot started exactly 99 years after the Black Wall Street Massacre. I was checking out Facebook and kept seeing comments that used the words “tragic” and “sad” and “angry” and finally a name – George Floyd. A quick Google search and I understood. Within a few minutes, I watched something I’d never seen – a man died as I was watching. I couldn’t reconcile what I had seen – a man taking his last breath and laying completely limp beneath the knee of another man. I actually watched a man die. What followed since then has been an outpouring of anger and hate, a demand for a pound of flesh – a single match thrown into a vast pool of gasoline.

The protests throughout the country started in Minneapolis, MN, only an hour and a half’s drive from where I live, in a neighborhood I’d driven through often on my way to the hospital there. However, it just so happens that here in New Ulm, it’s rare to see a person of color. It makes it so easy to sit in the comfort of my whiteness, with the respect and safety it affords me. And that absence of people of color also makes it easy to think my story is everyone else’s story, and my story doesn’t include the anxiety of seeing a police officer, or knowing there is no point in applying at a certain company because I was the wrong shade. 

The current racial situation is scary because I am white. If rioters were to come to New Ulm, they wouldn’t see my heart. They wouldn’t take the time to ask me how many friendships I’d had with people of color. They may not be willing to see beyond my skin color.

Maya Angelou Positivity Quote Typed on Typewriter - 4x6 White CardstockPeople of color have a history of being unheard, unseen and overlooked that I understand only on a very personal basis – not on a regular basis by people who don’t know me, and certainly don’t want to get to know me. Still any one of the violent rioters could see only my color, and I could feel the full impact of their anger over a history I wasn’t part of and, frankly, would have had nothing to do with and would never condone.

But I’d be white.

And to take your anger and frustrations out on a total stranger because they’re not the same color as you isn’t fair, it’s not right. Right?

“Americans, I think, have a great advantage. To renew our unity, we only need to remember our values. We have never been held together by blood or background. We are bound by things of the spirit, by shared commitments to common ideals.“ President George W. Bush, 2016

Breathe in, breathe out and try to relax

When I lived in Atchison, KS, my younger brother by nine years came to move in with me in order to finish high school. The very first piece of advice I heard? “Keep him away from the black kids.” When Chuck started school? He found every single student of color he could find and brought them to the house!

What they didn’t understand about me and my brother was that we’d been friends with more than a few people of color as we grew up. I thought that meant I understood them, that I “got” them. I didn’t. Not really. And I know that I still don’t, but I will never pretend to.

Let me explain. When I was in St. Louis, MO for a conference in college, my friend and I thought it would be wise to locate the building we’d need to find in the morning. So we took off, just a couple of white girls driving down the street, enjoying the opportunity to be away from classes for a few days. Everywhere I looked there were White Castle restaurants, which we didn’t have back home. The weather was perfect for leaving the windows down. It was wonderful!

We found the way to the university easily and then tried to find the route back to the hotel. This was a bit more problematic. Not realizing that White Castles were everywhere, we started using them as landmarks, confident that if we saw one, we were on the right track. As dusk set, the landscape began to look different. “Jane” I said, “When we drove to the university, there were white people in the White Castles. Now I only see black people. So either people ate shifts based on your particular shade of skin, or we’re lost.”

Oh, we were definitely lost! It was time to end our tour of St. Louis’s White Castle chain and find our way back to the hotel. As we waited for the light to change at the intersection of 14th Street and Martin Luther King Drive, a black teenager approached the car. Great! We could ask directions, which we got after this young man asked if we wanted to take him and his friend home. My heart absolutely shattered. This kid should have been home studying; instead he was offering himself to anyone who would pay him for the use his body for a price, as if it didn’t belong to him or had no other value.

We got back to the hotel, a little wiser and a lot more disheartened. What could we possibly do about it?

The next morning, I got up early to go to a nearby store to pick up some pantyhose. If the night before hadn’t been enough to unsettle me, my shopping experience sealed the deal.

As I looked for the pantyhose, it slowly occurred to me that there were none called “Nude.” In fact, there were none for a light-complected white girl like me at all.

Curious, I went to the cosmetic aisle. There were absolutely no cosmetics for someone of my color at all. In the hair products I saw products I didn’t even know existed and had no idea what any of them did. It  brought to mind the time a friend of mine said she was going to perm her hair later in the evening. I told her the thing I hated most about perms was getting all the curlers in. She patiently reminded me that she didn’ t want or need to make her hair curly; her perm was to straighten her hair. (Here’s your sign!)

I walked outside the store empty handed and realized I hadn’t noticed the billboards. Every single one had attractive black people showing off their product. Not a single white person to be seen. No one who looked like me, outside a store that didn’t have me in mind when they ordered inventory. A strange and uncomfortable thought came to me: I had a right to be able to buy what I want when I want it! How could anyone not carry the products I needed? I quickly squashed that thought but was ashamed by it.

I have never forgotten the moment when I realized my skin color excluded me from buying what I needed. It was profoundly disconcerting to have people with my skin color unrepresented in the images around me. In fact, as I looked at the people on the sidewalks, I began to search to anyone else who looked like me. I had an unfamiliar desperation to at least see another white person because this very small part of the world did not include me. Not because of any nefarious plan, discrimination or injustice, but simply because of demographics. And that sense of privilege and entitlement I’d felt earlier was a surprisingly ugly thought that simply came because I had never had what I needed or wanted unavailable to me.

I’ve had years to think on that snapshot of my life experiences. I look around and see white people in television and movies. Santa is white. Jesus is white (though I’m pretty sure that’s not accurate!). I see white people in political offices and upper management. It’s all very comfortable for a white girl like me to see the world when it reflects my ethnicity, my experience, my goals and dreams.

See, a lot of white women my age have grown up playing with the same toys, had the same celebrity crushes, the same encouragement and opportunities. We understand each other because we “know” each other. But we aren’t educated in what black women our age experience. We don’t “know” them as well.

While we can and should respect their experience, we simply don’t understand what doesn’t reflect ourselves. I don’t think it’s because we don’t want to! We just don’t know how to educate ourselves. I know that in the wake of George Floyd’s death, people have shared book and video titles that would help. But those books and videos only provide knowledge, which is a good start. It would take relationships to gain wisdom and understanding. It will take a lot more for us to understand how it feels to have people not look us in the eye as they pass by because we’re darker. To have someone hold their purse a little tighter because we’re darker. To be seen as someone to be afraid of or suspicious of because we’re black.

And when we watch the protests on television, we understand how senseless, destructive and quite frankly wrong they choose to be heard is. But I think we need to consider that, like so many other minorities, they don’t have a voice and they have no leadership like they did in Martin Luther King, Jr. And when you can’t speak, you scream. When there is no platform on which to build, you destroy. You take the only options and tools available and demand to be seen.

This is the same frustration that has lead to #metoo movements and #blacklivesmatter, etc People just want to be seen and treated with some respect and dignity. They want boundaries for themselves that are honored. And it can start very simply in the small details. When someone says “Stop” just stop. When a tall black man of substantial and imposing height walks by you, just flash a quick smile to him like you would to anyone else. When someone definitely looks like she’s “not from around here”, just talk to her.

I’ve never been too shy to draw someone into a conversation, and one day I saw a very nice looking black woman sitting at a nearby table, alone. There were no other diners around, so I went over to her and asked her if she was enjoying our town. She told what brought her to New Ulm. I shared some tips and recommendations on how to best enjoy the town.

When we parted, she thanked me for talking to her, telling me that she’d been in town for two days and no one had spoken to her. I assured her that the folks here are cautious with anyone they don’t know. However, I could attest to the fact that you couldn’t find kinder people. It just took some time, but once they warm up to you, they won’t hesitate to tell you about their son’s ex-wife’s hysterectomy!

Just let them talk and then listen to them. Really hear them!

I certainly don’t support the way some protesters are acting. And I’m definitely not an expert on the black experience! But I know what it’s like to not be seen, to not be heard.

In his devotion for today, Rick Warren shared Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV): “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Besides the black community, we have…

  • the poor
  • the uneducated
  • the handicapped
  • the mentally ill
  • the babies
  • the children
  • the geriatric
  • the obese
  • the single parents
  • the nerds
  • the homosexuals
  • name your own

It’s a long list because there are so many circles to classify ourselves in. But right there in the center of our Venn Diagram, right there in the middle, we find the one thing that we all share. We are all children of a powerful and loving God, who must grieve over he way we treat other children of God. Those of us who know better need to do better when we can.

It’s suffocating to never be heard. And I suppose that’s why George Floyd’s last words will linger for a very long time.

 

Have You Ever Wondered?

I sometimes wonder if Jesus looked into the night sky, through his all-too-human eyes, and whispered, “Oh, Abba! The stars are beautiful from here. Yes, they are good.”

I wonder if his heart stirred when he recalled what the psalmist said: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3-4, NIV) Imagine the fire, compassion and sheer love he felt as he may have thought, “If they could only understand what we are about to do, Father!”

I wonder.

 

Not Another Crisis!

I’ll be honest. When I hear new details of the George Floyd protests, I get a bit anxious – because the protesters are angry, violent and, most frightening perhaps, unpredictable. When I hear an update on our government, I grow concerned – because some politicians are duplicitous, powerful and, perhaps most frightening, unpredictable. I don’t know what’s true or what to expect. You know the feeling?

Spurgeon_ discernment definedWe live in a time in which there is very little information we can not access. You may even say too much information, and too many people sharing or creating that information. And far too little experience discerning fact from fiction. Harder still, I believe, is determining what’s true from what is almost true

So what can I count on to be both true and unchanging? What can I take comfort in knowing? The Word of God and the nature of God.

This year has been hard on all of us. Even the introverts are tired of the limitations the Coronavirus has left us is. And at this writing, businesses and neighborhoods are being destroyed in protests spurred by the loss of a black citizen’s life at the hands of a white authority. And none of us really know what to do. About anything. It’s now that I take comfort in my salvation and adoption by my Abba as his child.

This morning, my husband and I were discussing whether our current condition is a sign of the end times. Is Christ about to return at any moment? Will it get even scarier out there before he does. And we determined that we’re no more intelligent or wiser than Christ, who himself doesn’t know when the God who has the moon and stars in his hand will give the charge, so what do we know.

But that brought to mind 2 Peter 3:9:

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

In the same chapter, the church is encouraged to be prepared and to live so as to be found spotless when Christ returns.

Today, it would be so easy, as a Christian, to sit in self-righteousness and be confident of my readiness, to think “I’m ready!” And while checking the news and reading social media, seeing hatred and deception, it would be easy to be the Pharisee who publicly thanked God that his God saw him as a righteous man was not a sinner like the tax collector. We are right with God…unlike the vipers in government and the vandals, looters, and other ne’er do wells.

But before we get too comfortable with this increasing polarization, I want to remind you of 2 Peter 3:9. God is staying his hand so that the people who we’re about to pronounce judgement on still have time to accept Christ as their savior, understand they’re sinners, and repent.

Before Christ ascended into the heavens, he commissioned us to share the Gospel. It’s great to be on Team God!  But we can’t just join the team and be done, proud that we’re there. We still have the daunting task of waiting diligently so as to be acceptable at his son’s return. We can’t just stop because we got our Get Out of Hell Free card. We’ve been commanded, by the one to whom we belong, to invite others to join the team. That’s why we’re still waiting. 

_God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be__ -Brennan Manning #SpeakLife

It’s so easy to look at a fellow sinner and condemn them for their behavior and polarize ourselve opposite them.

Us, them. 

Saved, unsaved.

Worthy, unworthy. 

Loved, unloved.

We are all sinners. And we are all unworthy and completely dependent on the grace of God. But we are all loved by our Abba. 

And so God waits. The house is on fire, we’re safe, and we even saved one other person. What are we going to do about the others still trapped in the house?

WELCOME TO YOUR NEW NORMAL! (for now, anyway) has

This coronavirus sure has been something, huh? As men and women, we’ve grown very comfortable with the idea that we have control over so many parts of our lives – both personally and as a community. We’re so confident that we can can predict, plan, and prepare for every eventuality. That helps us feel safe, doesn’t it? And then something like this virus comes along and puts us in our place within the cosmic universe.

Day by day, hour by hour, one public notice at a time, we’ve begun to realize that we’ve been sucker punched by an unprecedented unknown that has had every medical team across the map scrambling to, at the very least, identify it. We didn’t have time for the learning curve this virus demands. Now, we’re are biting at the leash that’s keeping us at home, away from anyone who wasn’t already living with us.

Suddenly, nothing looks familiar. Not work, hanging out, shopping, church, school, weekly Bible study groups. Nothing. And just when you get bored and think about going to a movie or having lunch with a friend, you’re reminded that you can’t.

I have a daughter who will be graduating in May, though we have no idea what that will look like. (My money’s on a Power Point presentation.) But Maggie also works about 30 hours a week at Walmart and has seen just about any version of civilized humanity you can imagine. A couple of weeks ago, she developed an upper respiratory infection that kept her home for a week. Just as she was ready to return to work, my husband found he had walking pneumonia and strep. We’ve become acutely aware of the choices we must make to not go to work and risk infecting someone else and lowering their immune system, or to bring home something to our family while our immune systems are weaker.

Minnesota’s Governor Walz pointed out a significant source of frustration for many of us. Yes, it’s obviously frustrating to be stuck in the house, not knowing when we’ll ever get back to our routine. But what’s even more frustrating for us is realizing that the most powerful and helpful thing we can do now is nothing. If our area was facing flooding, we could sandbag for days. If we were surrounded by snow, we could shovel. If a neighbor had a death in the family, we could make enough hot dishes (that’s “casserole” for the rest of you ;D) to fill a freezer or two. If someone needed help paying medical bills, we could hold a fundraiser.

But right now, we will do our best by doing nothing and going nowhere.

Life hasn’t come to a complete standstill, though, has it? The school year isn’t over, so our students and their educational staff are getting schooled in distance learning. Zoom is making sure it’s business as usual for businesses and groups and families. Church services are available online, even making it possible for church members to comment in real time and engage with each other during the service (which would otherwise be frowned upon inside the building itself).

We’ve become an international community, and that’s the very thing that has allowed the coronavirus to become a pandemic. We also have an incredible amount of technology available to us, which has helped us avoid closing up shop completely. No, our best efforts to do business as usually has not been smooth or pretty because we weren’t given time to prepare, and some businesses are unfortunately closed for now. On the other hand, there are those businesses who have reinvented themselves in remarkable ways – some by changing how they do business and others by changing what they do as a business!

I genuinely believe our strength can be found in how adaptable we are, how inventive we are, how creative we are, how very resilient we are. Sure, some of us might hoard and stockpile toilet paper, leaving others without. Some of us may buy tons of hand sanitizer and uncharitably try to sell it for a profit. But at the very heart of our humanity are those who are at their absolute best!

John Kennedy is credited with saying, ““The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.”

This pandemic is a crisis to be sure! I think we’re beginning to adopt a healthy respect for the danger this virus presents. I also think we’re beginning to see the opportunities it presents.

We’re being given the opportunity to evaluate and reimagine our world and the way we live in it. How do we learn? How do we work? How do we worship? How do we get together with friends and family? How do we comfort each other when a loved one has died? How to we do anything?

Do we need to go to a school building to learn things from a teacher and book? Does all of our work need to be done inside a building? Can we only worship if we go to a church building every Sunday?

one room schoolIn the past, the answer was a resounding YES! The only way a child was going to learn was to go where the information was and receive it from the teacher. (You might enjoy this thought-provoking TED Talk regarding this.) Today, we don’t lack information! We need critical and discerning minds to determine is true and what is almost true. We need creative minds to apply what is learned. Which means it might be time to recognize the power of introversion or attention deficit and invite them to the table – but only if the introverts want to hang out with the extroverts around the table! ;D

j k in a tutuIn the past, our businesses made things, tangible things made with machines inside buildings that were absolutely too heavy to move. We still do that today, but we’ve also made a business of ideas that can be shared from anywhere in the world. We can hold meetings in our homes wearing a shirt and jacket on top and comfy fleece and bunny slippers beneath the table – or a trendy tutu like John Krasinski recently wore during one episode of SGN (Some Good News) when he and the cast of Hamilton surprised a fangirl.

And worship? How sad to think we can’t worship, honor, and love our Creator only if we get dressed up and go to a building. Our Father is everywhere we are, all the time. He takes up residence in us by means of the Holy Spirit. Still, I am missing face-to-face fellowship with my church family, or anyone who wants to share their love of and appreciation of our Father. I believe it’s good and right to gather when we can – even if there are only two of us and we’re in the pet food aisle at the grocery store – once we’re allowed to get closer than 6 feet from each other again.

This crisis has also given us the opportunity to take inventory of our lives and adjust our perspective. For example, self-isolation has given me a chance to take a really, really good look at my house. When we bought our home 10 years ago, it came with a three-season porch. Over those ten years, we’ve used it for general storage and as a cooling unit for pop and food in the spring and fall. At one point, the rubber roof had been damaged and rain had soaked part of the roof, leaving pieces of the ceiling just hanging there. They’re still hanging there. In all of those years, we have never actually looked at the work it would take to make it usable for its intended purpose – a place for us to enjoy! This past week, we finally began the process of deconstruction that should help is in a better reconstruction, and as you may guess, it’s old and it’s gross! But all it will take to make it better is an affordable list of supplies, some elbow grease, and some time. For 10 years, our windows have had glazing that’s fallen off and collected at the bottom or is currently curling up to die. These are Frankenstein windows – if you’ve ever had an old house with windows and their hardware painted shut, you know just what I mean! But today, I know they can be restored!

What about you? In addition to the Honey-Do List, have you taken a look at your life and realized there are some things you miss greatly and will treasure all the more when this pandemic passes? Are there things that had kept you incredibly busy that you can’t currently do – like running your kids to practices and games for every sport or activity your child was signed up for? Have you remembered how much you enjoy reading and plan to intentionally carve out more time for it? Are you reacquainting yourself with your spouse and children?

bunnyHave you found that Easter is more than the clothes, Easter egg hunts, going to Grandma’s and getting your child’s picture taken with the Easter bunny when you’re the only one who wants a traditional Easter photo – even if it turns out like this one? This is my favorite. Maggie wouldn’t stop crying, Sophie was completely done with the whole thing, and if you look close enough, you may even see the agonized scowl of the Easter bunny himself. (Sure, I could have put an end to the agony, but we’d already stood in line for 45 minutes and I’m no quitter!) Just be careful about saying this was the year we didn’t have Easter.

Yes, it’s important to be cautious and follow the lead of those in a position to inform and guide us. Being cautious and careful is smart. And don’t worry because when God doesn’t protect or prevent the way we think he should, he will provide.

Above all, please don’t miss the opportunity to take inventory and reimagine your world! You never know when something completely unimaginable is exactly what we desperately need.

resurrection
Resurrection of Jesus Christ by Vintage Works (2009)

WHEN YOU RUN OUT OF PETALS

In reading Brennan Manning’s The Furious Longing of God, I had to stop and meditate on a section, much as you would stop at a solitary painting in a gallery. Not because it’s the most spectacular painting in the show, but because it touches you – and perhaps only you on this particular day – in an imperceptible but undeniable way. This section of the book spoke to me of the incredibly fierce, passionate potential of love; rather than the simple sweetness of a valentine card we mandatorily distributed in grade school and often enough didn’t receive in complete reciprocity in grade school.

IMG_6773

This kind of love is hard for me to understand when it comes to my children, much less for the rest of world. I struggle to love someone very close to me when the “love” I grew up with was conditional, with strings attached, at a price that I could never hope to repay. And repayment would be expected, although I never knew when or how.

What I’m coming to understand about loving others as my Father loves me is this: God loves me always and anyway. If I were to hold a daisy and play “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not,” it would have but one single petal. Because he loves me!

But what about my sin? Surely each sin should add another link in the a shackle for the world to see, a reminder of my human failings, an ever-growing statement of my shame, a testament of God’s exhaustive mercy. Yet it’s not only forgiven, it’s undeservingly forgotten, and I doubt very much that God’s glory would be as evident if his children walked around with the chains of their failures dragging behind them. No. We are set free!

Several years ago, about a week before Christmas, I told my husband I was going to Kmart to pick up a few stocking stuffers. Everything I got was less than $3.00, more often under $2.00. Imagine my surprise when the cashier informed me that I owed her over $200.00! As I drove home, I considered every plan I might use to return at least half of the items. Would I return a few things at a time, or should I just bite the bullet and return half of my haul at once?

Neither option allowed for me to hold onto my dignity. And I gave up any hope of simply not telling John, because I’m a lousy liar! He was naturally taken aback by my abundance of small stocking stuffers. Two hundred dollars was way more than we could afford! He said, “Just keep it all. It will be fine.” I’ve always remembered his quiet mercy. But here’s the thing – when I told this story to some friends a few years later, he said, “I’d forgotten all about that!”

Actionable Steps to Create Body LoveI can’t imagine how! I’d spent years keeping that mistake on my list of “Things to be Ashamed Of”, and he had stopped thinking of it entirely! I began to wonder what other things he may have forgotten, how many other things should I be cautious about reminding him of – just in case he’d forgotten them as well. (Wink, wink, nod, nod, know what I mean?)

To make the comment all the sweeter, he wasn’t aware of how very many times I’d heard my mother say, “I’ll remember that.” And she did, bringing up a slight on my part every time I did something wrong and she wanted to make sure I, as well as my step-father and brother all knew how very horrible I was. Yet here was someone who had not only chosen to not keep a $200 mistake in his arsenal, but had managed to forget it. And he loved me.

Now, if my husband could not only forgive but forget one of my wrongs, what God promises is mind-blowing! But this is exactly what our Abba promises. Imagine what we could do without the weight of remembered faults. Imagine the freedom of being able to not only forgive others for being just what they are – people capable of disappointing us, failing us, hurting us, ignoring us, or just plain getting on our last nerve – but to actually treat them as if they hadn’t slighted us at all. What if our mercies could be new every morning, too?

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV

What if, before I even open my eyes in the morning, instead of getting irritated because I know that I know that I know a certain empty can of Pepsi is not in the recycling bin, but rather right where my husband left it – so close to falling off the counter next to the recycling bin that a faint breeze would be enough to push it off the edge, I thank God for the man he gave me? (I have a more adhesive memory than my husband does, which is inconvenient for him. ;D) What if, instead of expecting my co-worker to misfile something because she “always does”, I look for the woman God sees; a woman who loves her family dearly and has immeasurable potential?

Don’t expect a sermon or a Power Point presentation on how I learned to forgive and forget. I stink at both! (Although forgetting seems to get easier each year that I grow older.) Sadly, I simply cannot grasp how anyone can forgive and forget. I can’t imagine there are many of us who can. Remembering where our pain has come from can be as much a means of survival for us as remembering where the nuts are hidden is for a squirrel. And part of becoming a good, upstanding citizen depends upon our behavior being rated on a scale from selfless to horrendous. Our parents, teachers and other authorities are there to nudge us back to mid-scale so we don’t hurt others, to prevent anarchy. Unfortunately, those “nudges” are sometimes tainted with shame along the lines of “Naughty boy!” Some of us have had those lessons reinforced with the more effective use of punishment and fear, from being disregarded and unloved to being beaten and malnourished.

Have you ever thought that if people knew more about you, they’d be amazed that you can function at all? I have. Often. But then I realize that there are a lot of us out here who are functioning the best we can, in spite of so many things. If only we could extend to them the same compassion and patience we crave.

_I think it’s just that kind of love that Jesus was here to share and demonstrate. When he healed the crowds, I very much doubt that he stopped to decide if someone was worthy or not. I would imagine there were those who were cruel and abusive to their families, those who had stolen from their neighbor, betrayed their spouse. Perhaps they were among the very ones who needed Christ’s touch the most. The kind of healing they required had the potential to create healings far beyond a broken hand or restored hearing; this was the kind of healing that impacted everything and everyone the hand ever touched thereafter. To think that Jesus knew the hearts of everyone he touched and still loved them enough to heal them. He had to have known there were people for whom a healing touch may not change anything, but such is his love for us. His healing provided hope that things could be different!

Today Christ doesn’t see just what is, but what should have been when we were formed in our mother’s womb, and what still could be because of the future he has spoken over us.

It’s not too late until we draw our last breath, because our Father loves each of us always and anyway. Imagine…He loves us as much as he loves his own son.

Wile E. Coyote, Simon Peter & Me: A Christmas Story

[Note: This is a long one! And it’s not for everyone; in fact, it may only be for my own edification. Just know that while this post may appear to be a snapshot of discouragement, it’s actually about the ashes from which I anticipate beauty. To paraphrase Rumi, this is my descent from which I plan to rise.]

If you grew up in the Warner Brothers generation, your first physics lesson probably came from Wile E. Coyote. You are not bound by the law of gravity unless and until you look down. Then you crash. Simon Peter combined this lesson with a more powerful – and  authentic – lesson in faith when he took Jesus’s invitation to step out of the boat and walk on water in the midst of a raging and terrifying sea storm. Gravity is a bear if you take your eyes off the One who created the earth & its natural laws and start to look around. Then you get wet.

And me? For as long as I can remember, I believed that I was holding my world in balance, everything held in place by two other laws: The law of motion and the law of cause & effect.  If I did this, then this would happen, and as long as everything kept moving along, everything was fine. I truly believed I could keep myself safe by maintaining careful control over everything.

I need that!

  • Say the right things and be seen as bright, competent & clever; always offer to help, and I’d be liked.
  • Keep all the bills paid on time and in full because that’s what responsible grown-ups do.
  • Make sure the family has food to eat, and they stay healthy and happy.
  • Work harder than everyone else at work and be rewarded with respect, raises, better opportunities and preference.
  • Above all…Don’t make a mistake!

However, I’ve been in the process of having any of the identification or security I thought I had ripped and stripped away from me.

Old Hag by TurnerMohan on DeviantArtTo be brutally honest, I am a 55 year old woman who stands 5′ 1″ and weighs about 225 lbs. Both of my knees are in great pain, so I waddle. I also lose my balance easily, so my gait is unsure and cautious. When I’m tired, excited or frustrated, my speech is slurred. My left shoulder, being dislocated, fails to fill out my clothes the way it once did, so it’s not unusual for my shirt to be nearly falling off my shoulder. I seldom notice my bra strap showing because I’m busy trying to stay focused and on task. The hair on the top of my head is so thin that there’s as much skin showing as there is hair, but I finally gave up wearing wigs because they insinuated a deeper shame than my thin hair did. And in the last few months, I’ve lost two crowns – both of which are right up front.

I am not attractive to look at. And some days I feel a deep sympathy for anyone who has to look at me. (Not really, but pretty much.) I’ve given up my driver’s license in the best interest of everyone because my brain and body don’t work they used to.

I wonder what people see when they look at me. Do they see a woman who’s had too much to drink staggering through the store? Or perhaps a “special needs” woman who needs to hold someone’s hand? I’m confident they don’t see an intelligent, clever woman whose wit puts others at ease and makes them laugh. I’m sure they don’t see a woman in pain who’s absolutely terrified of falling. I do know they no longer see a woman who is quick to flash a wide open smile at a total stranger because it just bubbles up out of her spirit.

I’ve whined, complained and explained so much of this in previous posts. It would be simple enough to say I have been a big baby, but in all fairness I don’t think I’m all that different than most people. In the past 12 months, I’ve dealt with a lot of unknowns that, quite frankly, I can’t even Google. If I can’t Google it, I can’t research it. If I can’t research it (for at least 36 days in a row until 2 am each day), I can’t understand it. If I can’t understand it, I can’t control it. And if I can’t control it, I am vulnerable. 

I can’t bear to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is a sure opening for pain, fear and discomfort. And I am no match for pain, fear and discomfort. This last year has changed me more than any other year.

So now, I have to reset my idea of who I am. Who is LaRonda now?

Festival oder eine Person zu erinnern oder um zu akzeptieren @ 宁馨 郁金香 éI know the answer is that I am a beloved child of El Roi, the God who sees me. I know I am loved by a Father who is merciful and gracious and who longs to bless me for his glory. I know that when my Father looks at me, he doesn’t see a short, fat, toothless woman who can’t walk straight; he sees the child he formed in my crazy mother’s womb, a child he chose before I could choose him, a child who now stands before him covered in the purifying, sacrificial blood of his son, Jesus Christ, redeemed and his.

That should be enough, shouldn’t it?   

But it’s not. What I know and what I feel are often mutually exclusive. I need to feel affirmation, appreciation and affection.

I can’t be the only one who didn’t get those things from their family or had them kept away from them as a means of punishment and control or had them horribly perverted.

I can’t be the only one who bartered herself for attention or affection, hoping to be “picked” by anyone, even if it was closing time at the bar and I was the last girl standing, feeling like the last kid left to be picked for a miserable game of dodgeball. Again.

I can’t be the only one who wanted a baby, thinking that if no one could love her, she’d give birth to someone who would love her – because that child wouldn’t know any better – for a few years at least.

At 32 years old, I was still hoping for a man who would keep me. I wasn’t delusional enough to expect love. I would be content with someone who would just help me make sure my needs and the needs of my daughter were met – shelter, food, clothing and – eventually – wifi. In turn, I would do a good job of making sure we had groceries in the fridge, all the bills were taken care of, and I didn’t embarrass him among the people he knew. That’s when God gave me John. And since God always seemed to know what he was doing, then I figured John would keep me, and I would secure my position by doing for him everything that needed to be done.

For 22 years, I’d genuinely thought that was the arrangement. Then God’s renovation project came along. I came to the end of 2019 worn down and tired, as was John. Everything we thought we had – decent insurance, acceptable health, enough money at the end of the month, a secure relationship – all fell away bit by bit. 

Just after the middle of December, our “Night before Christmas” looked like this:

  • My husband had a $55 bonus and some rebates from Menards.
  • His weekly paycheck was half of what we were expecting because he didn’t get paid for Thanksgiving after all.
  • I didn’t know if I was even getting a bonus.
  • We had no savings account.
  • We had no credit left, and we couldn’t have afforded higher or additional payments even if we did.
  • We had already advanced our checking reserve in full.
  • And we hadn’t gotten anything for our daughters yet.

This is EXACTLY how I feel sometimes_ Why is creativity so exhausting_I was looking at our balance and the carefully maintained Excel spreadsheet that listed our bills, due dates, monthly payments due and balances (you thought I was kidding about control, huh?). When there was no reconciliation to be found, I turned everything off.

In utter defeat, I turned to John and admitted, “I can’t.”

“Can’t what?”

“I can’t do anything. I can’t pay this bill. I can’t find a way to get the money to pay it. I can’t tell you how we’re going to buy anything you can’t get with $55 cash and Menards rebates to give to our girls for Christmas. By the way, Santa’s off the payroll so you’re getting nothing, and all I want for Christmas is some Xanax.”

I’d like to say a Christmas miracle happened that night as the miserly old neighbor drove 12 miles in the moonlit snow on a sled that was full of food and gifts for our starving family, but it’s not true:

  • Our neighbor is just next door, so it would have been silly for him to drive 12 miles simply for the sake of a good story. 
  • It wasn’t snowing – which was uncharacteristic of southern Minnesota.
  • The only thing our neighbor has ever blessed us with is the excess leaves that Mother Nature (that’s what we call his trusty leaf blower) happened to leave in our yard. A yard with no tree. 
  • We were far from starving, unless not having enough dip for the chips counted.
  • Our daughters are 18 and 27 years old. They each have their own jobs and can buy what they want for themselves. As could we, and we had; hence, some of our debt.
  • None of us even needed anything!

So now that it’s too late for me to say, “Long story, short”, follow me down the spiral  recap (because I obviously like bullet-pointed lists):

  • Big changes in 2019
  • History of low self-esteem with a crumbling facade
  • Hopelessly low expectations of a marriage
  • Dismal pre-Christmas/year-end
  • I CAN’T!
  • Wile E. Coyote and Simon Peter

So…the laws of nature! Wile E. Coyote looked down and fell. Peter looked around and began to sink. And I made the mistake of looking in. I’d counted and recounted all the things that had gone wrong that year ad nauseum! I was terrified of losing what little grip or control I had on things. And I crumbled.

The Whaa-ambulance came to a sudden, screeching stop at year’s end, and everything that wasn’t tied down was hurled forward into the new year. In the stress of the mess, I questioned everything – my life, my job, my marriage. I looked to find what had gone so wrong – so I could make sure it never happened again. After sorting through the debris, labeling and cross-referencing it, I came to this irrefutable (and most obvious to me, of course),  conclusion: It was clearly my husband’s fault. What a relief it was to be able to finally wrap up this mystery and pit a big bow on it in time for Christmas. 

I’d gone to a lot of effort to create a nice family letter, and I’d asked him to do one simple thing – just address the envelopes. But he didn’t do that. I don’t know how our marriage had lasted as long as it had because I obviously couldn’t rely on him to do anything I asked. Ever! Furthermore, if he didn’t want to help me, we each may as well go to our own metaphorical corners and JUST EAT WORMS!! (Except it was nastier – a lot more Dr. Phil than SNL.)

But I submit that there may have been a Christmas miracle in there after all.

After the curtain closed on my personal drama, I sat down with my husband. I explained to him that I didn’t think I had ever asked for much from him and that all I’d ever expected from him was to keep me, not walk away from me, and meet the most basic of my needs – like addressing 10 envelopes! Then I asked him what he had expected from our marriage. John simply said, “I just wanted someone who would love me.”

I thought that was a pretty stupid thing to say! Hadn’t I taken care of him? 

I had, actually. If it needed to be paid, organized, remembered or resolved, I had probably been the one to take care of it. I’d handled the lion’s share of anything done in the kitchen. To be fair, I cannot take credit for any cleaning! But God revealed to me over the next few days that the one thing I hadn’t done is love my husband. John had given me what he needed – love – yet he was so afraid of not meeting my standards and he had a such a stronghold of anxiety that he wasn’t as confident as I was at doing. And I needed some doing. What’s more, I realized that every single day that John had told me he loved me over the past 22 years, those three words had been lost in translation because I really didn’t understand love for the sake of love.

It’s time for some changes, I think. It’s time to let go of so many of the beliefs I adopted early in life, beliefs that once served as strong survival skills but have been keeping me from enjoying what’s been mine all along. I am lovable and loved – by my husband, my two daughters, my friends and a gracious Father. It’s time to take comfort and joy in that love. No more keeping score.

Buh-Bye!

Saturday Night Live had a skit back in 2010 that left most people hating a single phrase: the oh-so-irritating “buh-bye”. And no one made those two syllables sound more obnoxious than David Spade. It’s almost as if this was the line he was born to say. As passengers disembarked the plane, each received the same insincere, just-keep-moving “buh-bye.” And that, my friends, is exactly what I have to say to 2019. I can’t wait for it to be over! I’m worn, overwhelmed, exhausted, broke, and so completely ready to be done with this year.

I’ve been ready for 2019 to be over since January 4th, when I totaled our car in an against-all-odds single-car accident – on an in-town, two-lane highway 20 minutes before 8:00 am on a work day. By the time Maggie got her driver’s license in October, I was more than happy to surrender my license.

I was ready for it to be over in February when we had to replace our furnace. 

I was ready for it to be over since the end of March when I fractured the glenoid fossa in my shoulder and it dislocated about 4 days later. For a couple of reasons, the specialist I saw said it really can’t be fixed, which means it is permanently dislocated.

But just as I was beginning to think some very mean person had signed us up for some twisted version of the Fruit of the Month Club, we stopped having big monthly issues. All that was left were the “regular” financial, medical, vocational and emotional things. I’d like to say things got better, but that’s not quite the same as things not getting worse. Here in Minnesota, they like to say, “It could be worse.” I don’t recall accepting that as a challenge.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, you have a year I can’t wait to say “buh-bye” to.

It’s probably too late to warn you that this isn’t a warm, fuzzy holiday post. However, it’s an honest post. It’s really not my intention to whine. (Trust me! If I wanted to whine, this would be a much longer post.) I’m writing this because I’ve had the nagging sense that I failed or have been foolish.

I’d felt so bold and certain when I wrote that I am no longer the child of my mother, but rather the child of my heavenly Father. Since that post, I’ve been wondering who I think I am to say anything encouraging. I’ve felt especially powerless and hopeless about my chronic pain, which is honestly pretty exhausting because it never goes away. And yet I keep trying to do the things I did before the chronic pain. Like Job, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering WHY? Haven’t I had enough to deal with? Why can’t I get a damn break?! Or am I really as undeserving of mercy, grace, and goodness like I’d believed I was most of my life?

It would be so easy to think I’ve been foolish and pathetic to believe I could have a happy life. Was I that stupid school girl who was so gullible as to believe that the cute guy really wanted to take her to the dance, while his friends laughed and she sat alone at home in the dress she’d begged her mother to buy?

Or had I failed? Had I done something wrong? I’m not always the most sensitive person. I can be judgemental. And I know I can have an ugly heart sometimes. But am I really that bad? I try! I try to make sure everything gets done, that the bills get paid, that every customer I help gets good service. I try so hard to be good, but it never seems to matter or make a difference.

I’m beginning to think that my deepest wound, my greatest fear, is learning – not thinking, but discovering – that I’m insignificant, unworthy of anything good and definitively unlovable. 

This scares me because it leaves me with two possibilities:

  1. This is true and there’s nothing different for me to expect.
  2. This is not true and I’m lowering my standards to make things more palatable for my sense of self.

Neither is very exciting.

Yet, as I sat pouting and kicking at the collateral damage of this year, I wondered what I could possibly have to say that could encourage someone else. Then last night after ripping out some paragraphs better suited for other posts, I found this:

Please don’t let it overwhelm you. I promise God is with you. You don’t see him working. You do not get how a loving God could allow you to be where you are, but you’re alive because he loves you. You will come out blessed, stronger and able to help others.

Don’t quit. Pick your head up. God is with you.

How about that? God is with me. As in Immanuel – “God with us.” Hmmm.

So maybe it isn’t about all the problems I have, or even how they seem to pile up. Maybe it has more to do with what I do when they pile up. Do I sit there in a mess that could show up on, frankly, anyone’s front step? Or do I continue to hope against all hope that God is real, that he does love me and he does want to hold me close to him as a child? Do I just sit where I am, or do I hold my hand out in the faith that someone will reach out to take my hand in theirs and pull me into their arms – but not in a creepy way that tells you that it’s too late to worry if you left the door unlocked.

Some, including myself, will think I’m a whiner. Others, also including myself, may recognize the childlike fear of being unwanted. And it really is an all-or-nothing, this-or-that deal, isn’t it? Either God is who his word says he is and there is hope and love to be had, or God is just another Wizard of Oz. That’s the choice I have to make next year. Which still gives me a few hours to wallow in self-pity.

I want so desperately to be loved by a God about whom things like this are said:

KnowGod_Facebook_BlogPostIf I can be convicted of my justification with a God who loves me enough to sacrifice his only son in order for me to be made righteous through his blood, then I will do all I can to convince every other aching person out there that they are not unlovable, that there is a good Father who loves them the way they were always intended to be loved, but weren’t.

That would be nice way to end 2020.