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R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Here are a few definitions of the word “respect” from various dictionary resources:
Dictionary.com:
“esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability.”
“the condition of being esteemed or honored.”
“a formal expression or gesture of greeting, esteem, or friendship”
“to show regard or consideration for.”
The Cambridge Dictionary:
“the polite attitude shown toward someone or something that you consider important.”
The Oxford Dictionary:
“Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others.”

Life for me over the course of the last few years has been a grueling lesson in self-respect.

I am a kind person. Known for giving family and friends second, third, and seventh chances. I think in many ways this is good and right. Forgiveness is necessary. It is necessary to purify the poisoning that un-forgiveness brings into our own soul. It is necessary for offering relief, mercy, and grace to the offender. And necessary in the greater recognizing of our own desperate need for forgiveness from a loving Savior and from people whom we have hurt.

I was also raised by an unassuming woman who would have rather melted into the walls behind her, than take anything for herself. Whether that anything came in the form of praise, rights, monetary gain, or respect for her opinions. Yes, more than once I saw her sacrifice her own self-worth in public only to cry lonely within the privacy of her four walls. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18. Selah. Bless you Mama.

And though I am her daughter, I am coming to learn a different way. I am learning that there is a fine line between losing one’s self for others, and giving them your self- respect. Because in the end giving your self-respect to others is doing them an injustice because it isn’t Truth. And anything that is born out of a lie will not manifest into anything good in their lives. When you give others your self-respect, you are also doing yourself an injustice for the exact same reason.

How do I know that as soon as you give your self-respect away you begin living a lie? Because The Bible tells me that you are VALUABLE. You can see this concept fleshed out here in my blog, The Value of A Person.

But there is another way that we can know that to give away our self-respect is to live a lie. And this is in a much more practical sense, if you will. When we live a self-depreciating life style we are equipping the people in our lives to a) not know who we really are, and b) not respect who we are. People will eventually view us in the exact manner that we have taught them to view us.

I came to recognize this as a grave error in my own life in my late forties. So when I achieved that grandiose milestone of 50 years, I made a promise to myself. “Never again”, I said. From this day forward, I live who I am. Not who you want me to be- because that makes you happy and comfortable. Not who you want me to be. And not who you want me to be.  Me.  The ‘Me’ God created me to be. It was good enough for Him. It’s always been good enough for me. The only one it maybe hasn’t been good enough for is you.

But life is funny. Here is the thing I have learned. As soon as the Truth takes hold in us and permeates our being, the appollyon- the father of lies- the roaring lion- abaddon himself- will show up. And true to his namesake, will stop at nothing to remove the Truth from our lives and render us devalued once again.

For the past few years now, satan has manifested himself in this stratagem in various ways, and as a result:

• I have had to stop initiating contact with a close family relation because s/he proved time and time again that s/he did not value relationship with me as a high priority. I wasn’t a medium priority, and as it turned out I wasn’t even a bottom of the rung priority. There comes a point when we must accept Truth. Live in it. Don’t rescue friends or family from the consequences of the behaviors they exhibit. Live in the truth of where your relationship is at. Allow them to do the same. This is their expression of your perceived value in their lives. Respect: “the condition of being esteemed or honored.”

• I have had to acknowledge the bullying mentality of another close relative, and remove them from good standing, and re-erect old boundaries toward them in my life. This person also exhibited lack of respect and support for me as an individual and my choices. Respect: “to show regard or consideration for.”

• I had to acknowledge that a friend’s loyalty and desire for deeper friendship was lip service only when I tested my suspicions and stopped being the one to initiate every phone call and plan our every outing by not calling him/her, and naturally he/she has never called since, and I do not expect to ever hear from him/her ever again. Respect: “a formal expression or gesture of greeting, esteem, or friendship”

• I had to accept the fact and cut lose another friend who told me that I was a very important person in their life and that this person had connection with me that he/she did not have with other people, but dropped me like a hot potato whenever any of those other people were around. Respect: “the polite attitude shown toward someone or something that you consider important.”

• I always feel profoundly disrespected when dealing with ‘church’ people, since , when asked, I’ve always tried to patiently explain to them how my church service and worship to God may look quite a bit different from their church service and worship. And that I find the way I do it is, for me, more effective for my growth in His service. I always give them plenty of respect and space to worship God in any way they like and in their preferred gatherings. But when I do not show up to their particular form of worship, I am branded as backslidden or rebellious.” Respect: “Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others.”

• I love my husband. But he is a charmer. Sure, he charms me. But evidently he charms everyone else around him as well. Especially the women. I’ve been in a few relationships in my life, but can’t say that I have been in any before where I am pretty much invisible. I can sit down to visit with any number of our female acquaintances, and basically be ignored for up to two hours while they direct all of their eye contact, all of their questions, all of their laughter, and all of their dialogue at my husband. It cracks me up when they remember that I am there. You can see it in their eyes, “Oh, I should say something to her. But I have no idea what to say to her because I don’t understand her.” Then, bam, just as quickly as the thought of me got in the way, they are back to enjoying the light in his eyes. Ah, such is life. Disrespect. The world is rife with it these days. The course of action would be to say, “Would you like to visit with my husband alone? And why, exactly, do you introduce me along with him, as your friend?” But, really, what’s the use? At this point I have as little respect for you as you do for me. Even my husband says it is starting to get tiresome. Because, he says, when someone disrespects his wife, they disrespect him. Respect: “the condition of being esteemed or honored.”

So, it’s been a tough few years to say the least. Mainly because satan has attacked me through the people who once were the closest to me. But perhaps they weren’t as close as I thought after all. And if my standing up for myself and asserting some self-respect has cost me relationships, then maybe it is time to get new relationships. Perhaps it is not by coincidence that I find myself in a different country. And I do, actually, take ownership for some of it. For I have taught people how they may treat me. What they can, and cannot get away with. I thought I was being kind. But I wasn’t being kind, for I was only bringing a half Truth.

Still, I am not always good at assertiveness. In fact, it is my least favorite thing to do, truth be known. But it is becoming a little more a part of me every day as I realize the folly of other routes. These days the people who meet me learn pretty quickly who I am. Take it or leave it. I don’t run with crowds I have to impress anymore. I don’t run with people who aren’t impressed with me, or who haven’t got time for a little give and take.

Does this narrow my sphere of friends? Sure it does. But I would rather have one genuine friend than 10 friends who don’t respect who I am. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Still, I love those who have gone before. I pray breakthroughs in our relationships. I pray genuineness. I pray forgiveness, and God’s love to all. And to those who have gone before, I’m sorry for the confusion. Who I was twenty years ago, I am not today. Hopefully we are all constantly changing and growing.

With much love and respect.

*Note to self:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Marianne Williamson

The Forgotten Word

I felt her the other day.

She was floating above me as usual.

Her mood was pensive. She was staring at me, lost in thought. Well not really staring at me, more like gazing past me, but into me.

She was the last thing I’d expected. I’d been doing my thing. You know, the thing in the vehicle. Reveling in the freedom of the open road with sunglasses swag and favorite CDs blaring. Singing along in full voice, matching every note because I can like that. And quite the vehicle it was. I keep it immaculate you know. Inside and out. Aint no shabby run of the mill.

And there she was. The one who raised me. The one who’d never obtained a driver’s license of her own. The one who’d never owned a vehicle. Her husband owned one at intervals, but mostly didn’t. And when he did, they were eye sores. Run down, and barely limping down the streets.

She usually st­­­ood on the street and waited for rides. Rides from kind neighbors or church people. I can remember waiting with her from time to time and hating every minute of it. And then, because asking for rides strained her pride and her heart, there was the monthly taxi ride to the grocery store where she filled the cabbie’s trunk with twenty bags of food to feed her flock.

As she hovered above me in the spirit world, I saw her peer into my eight seater. An eight seater! And only me in the relatively new SUV! “Where are the folks, Kathleen? You have all that space and you haven’t loaded up a needy family? Told them to climb on board and shared what you have? Have you forgotten your beginnings and from whence you came?” Oh Mama, how can I explain to you that I don’t really know any people who are in need? You have to understand that where we live there are no poor people, Mama. At least, if there are any, I never see them. And then I wondered how it is I moved so far away from that realm- where the poor people reside, where they hang out. Why don’t I see them anymore? What and who have I become?

In our defense we have made a conscious decision to move off the “hill” where we currently reside. The elite hill with all the other elite and special ones. We are moving back to the land of the usual, the common folk. But our move has been postponed for one year due to extenuating circumstances. Soon, Mama…Soon I can and will help more people. But as soon as the thought inadvertently left my lips, I knew soon wasn’t good enough. Somehow, on some deep level, I know that I have fallen short of the calling of my Master. It is my problem, and lies squarely on my shoulders.

This same day, I bought over $200 in groceries for two weeks for an abode that houses a mere two people. And as I was unloading the groceries into an already abundant pantry, and clearing out some deteriorated vegetables from the week prior, I saw her again with that same pensive look on her face. Mama wasn’t judging me. I didn’t feel that. I only felt her concern.

“You have so much Kathleen and you are only two people. Dear, why are you throwing that out? How could you have let that go to waste? You know I could have fed all seven of you kids and your Father on what you throw out each week. Precious food that could have meant the difference between my children going hungry and health to their bones. Couldn’t you try a little harder to preserve what you have and share with more people? You have so much.” So much. She was right. And for the first time in a long time, I hung my head in shame.

Shame. It is a forgotten word. And I’ve been above it for so long. I hardly ever wear it any more. Shame is kind of outdated isn’t it? Kind of like repentance. I mean, who really does that anymore?

Excuse me. I have a date with my knees. On the floor. With the Well Spring of Life. He can fill me up and fix me. Remedy this mess. Right this wrong.

Don’t shower me with excuses. I know what I need. This is between me and God. This is the difference between a seared conscience and a broken spirit.

Still working your magic, Mama. Long after you’re gone. Those prayers you prayed for my soul are still producing roots that are running deep. May God help me.

I love you Mama. And though I don’t deserve you, I’m always glad when you come.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1

Vibrant- alive- energy returning.  Pretty in the mirror again. I’ve got this.  I’ll just pick up the pieces. They’re still there on the floor. I can just put them back to where I had them arranged before— before the fall—and start again. I’ve got this! Hope.  Belief.  Joy.  A good two weeks of productivity. All is right in the world. Point A to point B.  Simple stuff.

And then the physiological madness drains every bit of sensibility, every bit of cohesiveness from my mind and body.  Subtly at first, like a whisper. Stealth, like a cougar above its prey. I never see it coming. I am never prepared. The dinner dishes are left undone. The guitar is laid to rest.  Routine is out the window. Meticulously traced plans are as lost as the discipline that formed them.

The object of my affections becomes my enemy, and all people must be held at bay at all costs. Nobody gets in. If I ate right, drank right and exercised well, the pain and duration are minimized to a degree. But the mounting guilt never is. The self-abuse and loathing at the fruitless, useless thing that I am reduced to, is too much to bear.

My faith and prayers endure relentless onslaught.  Where I used to be so strong and bold for the Lord, I now waver. Feeble is my walk. Sketchy is my follow through. I blame myself.  I beat myself up. I simply fall down without the gumption to get back up.

But I forget that I am not to blame.  There is nothing I could do better- no line of defense- no blockage- no preparedness that I could set in place. The child-bearing years will go out in travail with a shriek, like the physical act of birth itself, and the road to redemption for a woman is not easy.

To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children” ~ Gen 3:16
But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.~ 1 Tim 2:15

And then, finally, a week and a half in- a faint light glimmers at the end of the tunnel. I might just make it if I can hang on just a few more days.

And then the sun comes out. Vibrant- alive- energy returning.  Pretty in the mirror again. I’ve got this.  I’ll just pick up the pieces. They’re still there on the floor. I can just put them back to where I had them arranged before— before the fall—and start again. I’ve got this!

And maybe, just maybe, the madness is finished for good this time and the cycle is forever broken. Hasten the day! For a life interrupted is injury and insult- A crooked gait, gravely misunderstood by everyone in its path.

I can only ask forgiveness loved ones.  I can ask you to love me and not leave me.  I can ask for you to wait for my beautiful to return in all of its glory. (If God should grant us life to see that day).  I can ask you to hold the hand of the confused.  The novice navigator. Consider this: the greatest nurturers and caregivers on the planet are suddenly in need of so much care.  Don’t look past us or dismiss us.  Forgive us our outbursts and our angst. Love us unconditionally this one time, more than all the times before.  Hold us and remember how much we truly love you, and how brilliant we can be.  Remember that we are hurting, but will, one day, in the not too distant future- be set free.

empty-tomb

The echo of believers came to me in song. A harmonious chorus lifting in joyful noise.  And we stood arm in arm swaying sure and strong against the atrocious evils of this world.  For the world, right now, has slipped into a darker place.  Reverted, once again, to an uncivilized era of Godlessness, where the prince of this world runs rampant with hideous crimes and cunning deceit.

It started on Friday with a Facebook post from my friend Matthew W. in Canada,

“It’s Friday….but Sunday’s coming.”

He was, of course, referring to the fact that this is the day that we have put aside to remember that fateful Friday when Jesus was nailed to the cross, but rose from the grave three days later on what we celebrate as glorious Easter Sunday.

This was the first reminder and it was more than a little encouraging. For hadn’t I just read another post that very day lamenting the massacre of 150 university students in Kenya? Hadn’t that week also brought disheartening news about the impending loss of Israel’s greatest ally while she howled in disbelief? Hadn’t this year to date seen mass executions, desecrations, plunder, rape, hangings, corruptions and peril?  Did one not have reason to mourn?  Did one not have reason to shutter in disbelief?

Did one not make assessment as to how one might protect one’s own if, and when, the violence invaded one’s own land?  Did one not have cause to weigh one’s own faith to assess their willingness to stand in belief even unto death?

“And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” Revelation 12:11

And for those who do not know or understand the prophecies- for those who do not know God, His written word, or His nature- was there not cause to wonder where HE was in all of this?  How He could allow such atrocities under a loving and watchful eye?

And then we are reminded,

“It is Friday….but Sunday’s coming.”

I saw your posts on Friday.

I saw your posts on Saturday.

And then, I saw your posts on Sunday:

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not there, but he has risen” Luke 24: 5-6

“He is risen.  He is risen, indeed.”

“Happy resurrection Sunday.”

“Why the folded napkin matters”

“Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.”

etc. etc. etc.

And then, some lovely emails from some beautiful family members came in Sunday morning:

Happy Easter! Today I’m reminded of how much Christ has done for me. I’m especially thankful that He was gracious enough to die for me, so that I could grow up, live , and be apart of an amazing family. I’m ultra blessed to have you as such amazing parents, but more importantly, amazing friends :) Christ really knew what he was doing when he put you both in my lives. I’m blessed beyond words to have you both always there encouraging me with my walk with God and always being amazing role models of what being a Christian looks like and what unconditional love looks like. Thank you both from the bottom of my heart. I love you!

Happy Easter back at you-This morning the birds were singing as the first shadows began to strain the darkness from the air. I stood outside for a moment, with the fragrance of spring recalling a thousand memories. I considered that morning, so long ago that brought us all hope of an eternal morning. No pain, no sorrow, no tomorrow.

Upon reading all of these beautiful words, I was reminded that those of us who believe are strong in our belief.  I did not feel so all alone.  I did not feel so disheartened.

Many of you who know me, know that I am not a huge fan of the North American church model.  I think that we have gone way off course and have entered into a hearty corruption all our own.  I do, however, believe wholeheartedly in the gathering together with the saints, I just believe it should be done quite a bit differently….quite a bit more scripturally.  But today! On this day, I longed to stand with you- together arm in arm in our collective services- and proclaim with you in unity and in power that Jesus rose from the dead “…and if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” and that, “this promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”  I missed that opportunity to gather with you today, and I was sorrowful because of it.  I missed it, not by intention, but by circumstance.

And that is why your posts from the Facebook community hugged me and held me up.  And your diversity was impressive and eye-opening.  You were bikers. You were musicians who have never graced the doors of a religious ‘building.’ You were evangelists who had fallen from grace. You were littered with tattoos.  You smoked marijuana. You drank beer. (Shhhh…I won’t tell the church goers who are addicted to food, and whose drug of choice is coffee). You were housewives running after rambunctious toddlers.  You were Baptists (heaven forbid!) You were Catholics (good grief!) You were Churches of Christ (but of course!) You were Holy rollers (rock on!) You were Mormon (huh?) You were business owners.  You were blue collar workers. You were Dylan fans.  You were U2 fans. You were Metallica fans. You were republicans. You were democrats. You were independents. You were doctors and nurses.  You had just…. lost….a ….child….

But you stood up, and you spoke up.  What does this tell me about all of you?  This tells me you are committed.  This tells me you are courageous. In a world that is offended (translated, convicted) when you say ‘God bless you,’ you still rose up one more year to proclaim that God came to earth, took on the form of a man and lived among us.  And He, who created us, we killed. And He willingly died as a sacrifice for our sins, then rose again on the 3rd day so that we, too, could live again, though we might die.

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

…in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Brothers and sisters, it’s Friday….but Sunday’s a comin!

The Gift Of Discernment

discernment                                           The Most Discerning Man I Know  :)

I created some confusion in my last blog. I said that I was “afraid” of people and that was misleading.  It was a bad word choice.  I’m actually quite good with people. Many friends and acquaintances would attest to that. As revealing an exercise as writing is, it is important to note and respect its unique power and unique danger especially with words inadvertently penned.

A better phrase would have been, “I am overwhelmed and exhausted in the presence of many spirits.”

Let me explain.

I was raised in a poor family with six brothers and sisters.  One of whom was mentally handicapped. Please don’t query me on my politically incorrect word usage for mental retardation.  We’ve lived through several of the world’s changing phrases my brother Len and I. Mentally retarded, mentally handicapped, mentally disabled, mentally challenged, intellectually disabled, to name a few. Whatever phrase you want to use, it will mean something different to you than it will to me.  For you, it’s the latest, greatest, most accepted, and most sensitive LABEL. For me- he’s my brother and I love him no matter what label you put on him.

My brother Len was a year younger than me.  That made him my shadow. That made him my charge. It also meant that every insult hurled his way hit me first- full on. It wasn’t enough that we tumbled out of the Rocky Mountains, dirty little waifs, shoddy in second hand clothing, and the brunt of every joke that cruel and unenlightened children contemptuously slathered upon us.  Here, too, was an oddly moving and speaking character whose abundant “difference” incurred wrath from other children and one heartless family member as well.

Some say that I have the gift of discernment. And I do. It is of the heightened variety. It is not on its practice run, nor in its rudimentary stages. It is developed. Keenly.

But I have often wondered- at what stage does God give out the gifts? Is it at birth? Is it when He decides we need them the most? Or are they developed over time?

For many years I did not realize- was not aware- that I had the gift of discernment. I thought everybody could do what I do: read people’s hearts based on spirit lurches that were plainly visible to me.  It wasn’t until around the age of forty that it became apparent to me that other people did not all share in this experience of knowing- or that I did indeed carry in my spirit the gift of discernment.

Looking back now I see this gifting probably as a kindness and a stabilizer from the Lord. A protection and a guide that would lift me above the chaos that would ensue. I was always on high alert. I never knew what  special form of misery was going to present itself with each new school day.

Back then, mentally handicapped individuals were integrated into the regular classrooms without special assistance or attendants. Len was a sitting duck for ridicule. I learned to see them coming. At first I bought their phony kindness hook, line, and sinker. You know, that sweet manipulation of our emotions just before they went in for the kill.  Where a friend at last turned out to be the meanest bully of them all.  So this is where my gift of discernment was developed. Or this is where it was given to me, there, when I needed it the most. I learned to discern every little body flinch. I deciphered the layers beneath their words. I dissected intent. And I did it all in a flash. In a split second. I absorbed it all. And that is how I lived my entire life.  I did it unconsciously.  I did it with grace. With giggles. In shyness. In movements, mannerisms, and conversations. “To survive it you play deaf and dumb.” (a brilliant quote from the man pictured at the head of this blog).  I have the gift of discernment and it is strong.

And this is why I say that” I am overwhelmed and exhausted in the presence of many spirits.”

My gift of discernment has morphed into a sophisticated and grown-up understanding of people.

Like you, I try to surround myself with people I trust. People who I know have my best interest at heart. People who are genuinely kind and easy going. I like hanging out in those crowds. A safe environment where my zanny, creative and audacious self can shine forth. And I do have these people in my life, pockets of them here and there. Oases in a desert. Sparkling water chugging down a parched throat.

But put me five minutes in a room with a mixed bag of people who may or may not fit into this category and I start to absorb. I may be carrying on a conversation, but consciously and unconsciously I pick up every little thing. I pick up motives. I pick up intentions. I pick up arrogance and agenda. I pick up pain and inadequacies.  I am especially sensitive to the odd man out- the least popular. I pick up hurts and loves.  I pick up goodness. And I am drawn toward it. I do not even have a name for everything that I pick up. But it sticks to me and I carry it around like a lead weight.

That’s why I retreat. That is why I go and try and work out all of this mess quietly, privately in song. “Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

I’ll come back again after a day or two. And I may even be the life of the party for a while. Why?  Because I genuinely love people and desire relationship. It’s just an awful lot for me to absorb- that great big world out there, because I pay attention. Not by choice, but by design.

Chaos!

ministry

I have been afraid of life.  Afraid of people. You have to understand. I have a crazy background. Some of you know the story first hand.  others have heard abbreviated accounts. But only my husband has felt the true weight of my tears, my joy, my triumph, the lessons learned, the wisdom gained from such a chaotic past.  He sees the good fruit, but he has also quietly listened to, and then prayed over, my confessions of fear.  Fears that become more evident with each passing day. For healing and maturity will not come without truly embracing what lives inside of us.

I can truly understand and relate to the words of Bob Dylan when he knowingly proclaimed, “I accept chaos, I’m not sure whether it accepts me.”  My sister June probably summed it up best when she asked, “WHY are you not in a mental hospital? How is it you are still standing?”  The answer to that question is, of course- Jesus.

And he has protected me. But in the past ten years I have padded that protection myself.  I have built walls.  I have also built my house.  Comfortable and beautiful.  A place for everything and everything in its place.  My days are carefully orchestrated and predictable.  I like it like that.  No surprises. No inconveniences. No chaos- no mayhem. No……….Ministry.

Ministry, as it turns out, is messy. Ministry involves people. People have, and bring, mess. I, for one, do not need any more mess in my life.

I recently made a trip to Panama City, Florida.  It was a forced trip out of necessity. I was scouting out the land. We used to live there eight years ago on that beautiful Florida coast. We have friends and family there.  We have roots. Recently we moved to Texas and have been living here a few years now.  But sadly, some of our basic needs are not being met here, namely:

Gardening: I am a grower. I have to feel my hands in the soil. The need to grow my own food is as innate as my need to walk. As it turns out, we live in the deer capital of the United States.  We have about a dozen deer in our yard every day. They eat everything.  Everything I plant is gone within a week. I can barely accept that I will not be able to grow my own food- but my narcissus? Come on now! I bought the bulbs expressly labeled, “Deer Resistant.” As it turns out the deer in our neighborhood are profoundly ignorant, for not only do they eat everything in their path, they also, clearly, cannot read!.  Now perhaps, with thousands of dollars, we could put up a seven foot fence around the back yard to protect the produce, but I am not also going to try and enclose my entire front yard to protect all of my pretty flowers.  And life without narcissi is no life at all.

Water: We live around several lakes. Perfect, right? It would be, I suppose, if one lived on the water. For everyone else there is no lake access.  None within walking distance.  No decent place to swim. You can, indeed, drive twenty or thirty miles and find a rocky shoreline, or pay to get into a state park….sigh.  I am Canadian. Public access into any body of water is a given. Our tax dollars pay for luxurious outdoor locations free for all. Not so, here, in the land of the free.

Music: If gardening is as innate as my need to walk, then music is as innate as my need to breathe. And it just aint happening here. For the sake of brevity, I will not go into detail about why that is. But trust me, it just aint happening.

Culture: My husband is a beautiful African American and let’s just say he has certain…ummm….African American needs. I can’t explain that to you if you aren’t black. I would have never known myself, except that I am so closely knit to him. He has needs- and they aren’t presenting where we live.  He’s good about it, though.  Tim can get along with anyone. He’s lived all over the world and speaks three languages. He assimilates well- even with white folks. So much so that you will have to do a double take and re-examine his skin color to ascertain if it hasn’t possibly faded to white after all. But he isn’t white. And though extremely patient and giving in his marriage to a white girl, that is not his color.  He is African American with African American needs.  Namely a taste, at least every now and then, of his African American culture.

And so I took a trip. A fourteen hour both ways journey by myself to Panama City, FL. I admit, every single reason why I went to Florida was selfish. I went to re-asses the land where we began, to see if it could provide the things that are so desperately void in our present existence.

And, indeed, in Panama City, the gardens are not overrun with deer and there are no need for fences. There is public beach access everywhere.  I already have several venues set up to play music in and there is an abundance of African American people and culture.

But in the last three places we have lived in the last ten years, I have worked tirelessly and quite successfully at keeping mess and chaos far from me. I have indeed been safe. I have been comfortable.  WE have become extremely comfortable.  Every need we have has been met. But I have also become very sad on the inside. Lonely. And lost.  How can it be that I have perfected my life to such a degree, but it does not bring fulfillment or contentment?

I have to say that everywhere I looked in Panama City, FL there was mess. Even the most organized, perfected, and together individuals will encounter chaos in this beach town as soon as they step outside their door. Every kind of people are drawn to the beach- to the ocean. There is a kind of variety that is akin to what I experienced on the streets of Manhattan.  It is that vast. It is that engaging.

To live on the Florida coast is to engage. To live on the Florida coast and have Jesus in your heart, is to minister. To live on the Florida coast is chaos. To live on the Florida coast, for me, is learning to love again. To throw myself out there into the arms of those in need. I have good reflexes. They are always tested there. No more predictability.  No more fine orchestration. No more comfortability.  A life interrupted. A messy life. But to quote Mr. Dylan yet again: “He not busy being born is busy dying.” And to quote the wisest man who ever lived,”I have set before you life and death…. therefore choose life.” Ecclesiastes 7:12

Am I strong enough to engage in life once again? Is Tim strong enough? I doubt him far less than I doubt me. Are we ready?  Today we have both said “Yes” and offer our lives up in prayer. Lord Jesus bring what may.  Be our strength and our stay.

Wild Flowers!

Women- started off as little girls. butterfly

Who played with the boys
sometimes in the mud.
And tramped through the forest in their back yards
and built forts by the stream.
And rode on stallions with the best of them.
Defending the kingdom and rescuing prisoners
From the evil lords.

Yes, all women started off as little girls.

I have a heart for women. I have a heart for North American women aged 20 through 90. There is a collective, continental cry that is so profound in its sorrow, it becomes inaudible, and is scarcely heard at all. And yet this cry is so cumulative, so united, and so thorough in its sweeping of this demographic that I’m surprised at the oppression of its sound.
I think the silence is due to the women themselves. I don’t think women are even aware of one of their deepest needs. One of the North American woman’s deepest needs is to be wild like a flower. And for me, it is the most delightful thing on the planet to see a woman who has allowed herself to become a Wild Flower.

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We have a history. It begins around age twenty. We learn very quickly to leave the outdoors behind. We must forget about alcoves under aspen trees, picking our way across rocks in the stream, and leisurely reading books in the grass. We simply cannot drop everything and run out to build forts with the boys anymore. We have babies to hold, and change, and feed. We have meals to cook, and houses to clean. And at the end of the day when exhaustion sets in, we have sex to be delivered on demand like a vending machine. What we once enjoyed now becomes a chore when it is not coupled with conversation, compassion, camaraderie, and help in the kitchen.
The “boys” are still out hunting, riding motorcycles, monster trucking, poker playing, hiking, and diving into swimming holes. Insult is added to injury when our children complain that we are not any fun at all, and that with Daddy is the preferred place to be, while we are left at home with mounds of laundry still to finish.

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And what do women do? We stop looking for adventure. We replace our deepest need with shopping sprees, girls nights out, jewelry, the finest furniture our money can buy, the nicest car in the neighborhood, a rich husband, status in the community, our children’s apparent success, the fancy dishes that we serve, and our pretty clothes. And yet we are empty inside and we don’t know why. When really all we needed was one good sturdy bike and the courage to use it.
The courage to ride it every day to the market and buy fresh vegetables. The courage to plop it down by the river with our baby in his pack on our back, and our book to read. The courage to sink our toes in the grass. The courage to leave the dishes in the sink and not worry what the other women might think. The courage to dig our own gardens and sow our own seed. The courage to take a road trip with our friends and babies in tow. The courage to scale any mountain at any time of year. The courage to wear hippie clothes and build fires on the beach. The courage to visit the coffee shop daily and visit with the old timers in town. The courage to lie in a meadow with butterflies floating all around. The courage to be intentional about getting out in nature every single day, so that we DO NOT LOSE OUR CENTER. You can point to a thousand things that center us- meditation, prayer, reading good material, etc, but all of these lose their greatest potential for the greatest good when we fail to find time out in nature.

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You see, we were placed in the garden of Eden initially. We were not placed in a concrete sea. In fact cities were not anywhere to be found. That is not what God created for us. He created for us trees, and grass, and wind, and flowers, and animals, and rivers, and clouds, and sky instead. Why? Because He knows what is best for us. He knows where and how we will thrive.
And yet, we have come so far away. So far away from what we were created to be. We are children of the earth… and we are wandering around in shopping malls. We are lost. We are sad.
Before the industrial revolution Mommies and Daddies stayed on the farms and worked the land as a family unit. Babies were on backs, children were dropping corn into the rows, Mama was hauling water from the creek, and Papa was holding the reins on the plow horse. Everyone was in stellar shape and soaking up the sun. Then the factories took Daddies away, and eventually even the Mommies too. And Mommy traded her life in nature for a life indoors in a grand house, with a grand scheme to make her grand house even grander, and without even noticing it she became a slave to this endeavor, and very sad on the inside.
And so the cry. The silent cry. A cry strong enough to change white fluffy clouds into grey. And all across the nation I hear this cry every day.

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So I have started the ministry Wild Flowers. I want to reach out to women and offer them fun outdoor things to do together. I want to offer outdoor church on the beach for those who are interested (Once we relocate. Ask me privately where we are going and why we have chosen this spot if you like). I want to rescue young Moms especially who look like they need a little good, clean adventure in their lives. I’m interested in older lonely women who need a bigger purpose in their lives. For all who would appreciate daily hikes, bike rides, lifestyle changes, encouragement, and camaraderie in our quest to come alive again and to become comfortable in the outdoors often, with the wind on our face. And kudos to all of the courageous women out there who are already Wild Flowers and don’t need my encouragement at all. How you have inspired me!!
There is so much more to say, this is just the beginning!
Like how about becoming the catalyst for a Wild Flowers group in your area?

There is so much more to say AND DO, this is just the beginning!

Come and join my Wild Flowers group on Facebook. It is a group for women who already are, or would like to become, Wild Flowers and the men who support this lifestlye.  Wild Flowers group on Facebook

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