Wide Walkways

It was beginning to drizzle a cold icy rain. I’d had a particularly difficult day and I was weary. She has a craft barn at her house and when I visit I often find she is in it making and creating, using her talents and gifts for such good. I was there to pick up one of those good gifts, t-shirts she’d made to distribute to the Bible Study Peeps. 

In all honesty I’d planned to arrive there earlier than the dark dawning 5:30PM, but things and life, my day really, hadn’t gone as planned. She told me to come to the front door of the big house. It was supper time and I knew it. I’d missed the mark on this one, but as she always is, I knew she’d be gracious when I arrived. 

I parked a few feet away from the sidewalk that diverged off from the driveway. I got out of my van and the cold rain hit me squarely on the shoulders. I grumbled inside. I was weary, worn, and cold. It was getting dark and the to-do list wasn’t yet complete. I made my way up her sidewalk, it leads to her steps. I noticed how wide is was. Perhaps it is because I’ve often walked up to houses and the sidewalk is narrow and I feel like I almost have to suck in, steady  my steps, and focus as I traverse them. Some sidewalks are cracked and broken, weed covered, crooked, all manner of things, some obstacles, some just cosmetic issues. I’d never really given it much thought until I was walking up to my friend’s big house entrance. The wide, warm toned sidewalk stood out in the darkness and it curved just slightly to the right. My feet were relaxed and I didn’t have to steer myself or focus in the least as my heavy footsteps traversed the wide warm welcoming sidewalk. The thought crossed my mind that a fiat or a golf cart could just drive up to the front door of the big house, never once having a tire slip into the neat, sodded yard. I made my way up to the door. My friend answered, she is older than me but she always looks younger, lighter, more carefree than I feel sometimes. She opened her arms and hugged me, I had been quiet until then. 

“Did you know you have a nice sidewalk. It’s so wide and welcoming.” Both were declarations, rather than interrogatives. She tilted her head and let out a chuckle, I thought she might comment on the randomness of my statement to her. She didn’t. She said simply the truth, “God gave me this house.” I nodded and marveled at how in His giving a gift to her at some point in history, He’d given me one too. I wondered at how on that cold and dreary evening when my heart was heavy and my burden worrisome He used a wide warm sidewalk that seemed to speak “Come to me you burdened and weary one, come walk this broad walkway to friendship.” It made me smile. It made me ponder further the sizable widths of walkways. 

I thought about one in particular in the King’s Word, one that talks about broad and narrow ways. 

Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Some years ago I’d actually memorized it in the KJV thanks to a repeated viewing of a movie when the verse is quoted as a line, “Broad is the way that leadeth into destruction. Narrow is the way that leadeth to life everlasting.” In the movie the antagonist tosses a coin with a portion of the verse on each side to the protagonist as he urges him to make a choice. He urges him to choose the narrow way of service, rejecting and forsaking the broad way of rock ‘n roll fame. The protagonist shoved the coin down deep in his pockets having declared “broad is the road to his success” and he’s gonna go down it playing the piano, pronounced in true southern drawl “playin’ the pea-anna.” 

I came back to that verse when I studied Matthew and I came away with a new understanding. An understanding not tainted by good screenplay writing and dramatic climaxes in cinematography. 

Not everyone is willing to traverse the path of life that is Kingdom Living, a life lived like Jesus led, a truly sold out heart for Jesus can be people lonely. It can be hard and at times. It often times is a divisive life. Being a Christ-follower means the ease and warmth of this world are to be rejected for the sake of souls in the next. The Narrow way of Christ means recognizing and dealing with the crooked, often overgrown with sin places of an already difficult path. Not everyone welcomes the narrow way because it can be uncomfortable and hard, but the traveler on the narrow path will know he or she will never walk it alone. There will always be another right there trudging through the hard things making the crooked places straight and when the path ends and the earthly walk is over the narrow path is the one that yields, 

“Well done.”

I hugged my friend as I left and I told her how much I loved her and would see her soon. I thanked her for the armload of goodies I carried back to my car. Despite carrying a physically heavy burden in the form of a package, I took those steps feeling just a bit lighter than I had before. 

Unintentional Eavesdropping

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” Acts 10:4

As I flipped the pages of the gold dotted pages I noted how pretty this shiny spring Bible study book is. It is mostly black with a pop of gold. Faith and Fire are melded together and this study is pretty, but to my sometimes struggling self it is hard. I’ve noted questions I have, written plenty in the margins, and find myself repeatedly having to take a break, walk away and ponder for a hot minute, or ten

I’d written this statement, “Elijah means ‘Yahweh is God,’ what are people saying about you in your absence?” as one I’d been pondering.

I think about this a lot and in the days of late I’ve really been pondering it. 

I was at work and doing just that when I heard a conversation. I tried not to listen and made an attempt to walk away. A little feeling of panic welled up within me, I don’t like to hear people talk about other people. I feel responsible if I’m hearing it and do nothing. I looked around for a way of escape, afraid I would hear something I shouldn’t. I was trapped. I had a time-sensitive task before me. I wondered if I could shove cotton balls in my ears. I looked side to side, no cotton balls. Nothing with which to dull my sense of hearing. My panic was escalating and was manifested in irrationality. I’d have to sit, quickly finish the task, and hope I didn’t hear anything I would be responsible for.

“You know her. Annie. Annie Persons.” I continued with my calculations, head bent. I thought to myself. Nope. I don’t.

“Yeah I do but I hadn’t seen her in a while.”

“Well you know Annie Persons is old, she kinda real old. You remember? She used to just stand in a corner over there or somewhere and pray. She’d be praying all the time. “

The conversation turned from the Annie Persons person but I was stuck, struck really. There are many ways one can be remembered in life. Epitaphs as numerous as the souls to whom they are attached, but here I’d just heard an epitaph like I’d never heard. An epitaph that I ain’t even gonna lie, I was a little jealous of.

The conversation turned from the Annie Persons person but I was stuck, struck really. There are many ways one can be remembered in life. Epitaphs as numerous as the souls to whom they are attached, but here I’d just heard an epitaph like I’d never heard. An epitaph that I ain’t even gonna lie, I was a little jealous of.

She stands and prays. “She’d be praying all the time.” I didn’t know Annie Persons from Adam’s House-cat but I knew this about her, she prayed. And evidently she prayed without ceasing. She was truly known for her prayer life.  The shiny spring Bible study book question, came back to me, 

“What are people saying about you in your absence?” 

Truth is I figure they’re talking about how I look or what I make, maybe my circumstances or my family. Most likely they’re talking about what I wear or if I’ve got it all together or not, the state of my housekeeping, the state of my finances, if I’m funny or not so much. I figure they’re saying I’m alright, nice, or I serve or write or I’m married to a weatherman, but I can guarantee you I’ve never once thought they were talking about my prayer life. Based on my choices and behavior one would think folks spend an infinite amount of time studying my outward appearance, where I am gonna each lunch, or the study habits of my offspring. I have neglected to remember and to behave in such a way that serves as a reminder that I am called to be set apart and in essence marked by that very thing, a life of prayer.

Here I was overhearing a conversation about a person marked by prayer and it had never crossed my mind that in my absence that is what I want to be known for. It was those slight pangs of jealousy that made me realize that.

I was glad that there were no cotton balls to be found and that in the end my proximity and preoccupations forced me to sit and to listen, to overhear what was being said in the absence of another and to reevaluate exactly what it is I want people to remember and to talk about in my absence.

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18

Evidence of Grace

I’m not much of a crime show, podcast, law and order kind of gal. I am fairly sure I might be the exception in that regard though. I do like a documentary and recently I ran across a crime docu-series slash drama-mentary, or two and the same word occurred in both and caught my attention.

One, because I had never heard the word before and I like a new word. I will typically make a note, I have a running list of new words.

Two, because I had no idea what the new word meant and thought I might like to know. Perhaps it would add to my overall understanding of the documentaries I’d been watching.

And three, something told me I’d want to come back to that word and ponder on it a bit. 

The word, exculpatory, in the context of the show, was in relation to evidence. Back in the day if I’d’ve wanted to know what that word meant I’d’ve had to wait until I could find myself a World Book Encyclopedia, or an Encyclopedia Britannica. The latter was my least favorite of the two as it seemed antiquated, with yellowed thin pages, fewer illustrations, and it was generally bulkier and heavier. The World Book was sleek and streamlined with gold lettering, a snazzy index, colorful illustrations and photographs. I tended to prefer it’s overall organization. Also, it seemed to weigh just slightly less despite its thick and substantial page quality. Yet now we are living the Age of Information and have volumes more information at the end of our fingertips. So courtesy of my backlit handheld device which incidentally has more computer capabilities than it took to take man to the moon, I set to searching. 

A quick internet search revealed that exculpatory evidence is evidence favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial that exonerates or tends to exonerate the defendant of guilt. It is the opposite of inculpatory evidence, which tends to present guilt.

In the cases that I had watched, in both instances, the exculpatory evidence had been withheld presumably resulting in unmerited incarceration. 

As I pondered not on the guilt or innocence of the documentary subject matter, the perhaps wrongly convicted persons languishing in the penal system, my mind meandered to my own guilt. 

The guilt of sin, the very thing that separates us from God, condemns me to death. There is nothing I can do to exonerate myself, to declare I am innocent for that would be a lie, an untruth, and would condemn me further. Yet because of my King and the salvation He has provided, He became Exculpatory Evidence on my behalf. He has absolved my sin and annihilated the sentence of death. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, His death on a cross, He has become my sin and I have taken on His righteousness. In the cases I was watching, the Prosecution allegedly withheld the exculpatory evidence, and it struck me how freely Jesus gave of Himself to set this captive free and to exonerate this guilty party of her sin and pending death, evidence of the grace and mercy that are the very definition of Christ Himself and Salvation He offers.

I Have Called You By Name

The parking lot to the barbecue joint was crammed full of work trucks and sedans with triple A stickers on them. A law enforcement vehicle or two dotted the premises. I made note of those indicators at midday. 

Those are the hallmarks of a good food purveyor’s parking lot. Working men, law enforcers, and the elder generation always know where to find the good food and always seem to know just where to get a good midday meal. 

Ours was the only minivan in the lot and my skeptical teenagers were protesting that this place was looking “all sketchy and stuff.” I laughed at their inaccurate assessments. I started to remain silent and let the old as Moses BBQ place stuck somewhere in the past speak for itself, but I didn’t. 

“Y’all have no idea! I used to eat here every week when I was a kid, and if it’s half as good as I remember it, y’all are gonna be asking me to come back here in no time!” 

They remained skeptical as we crossed the threshold and made our way into the place.

The aroma of barbecue smoked meat met us like a warm, old friend and engulfed us like a warm welcoming hug. I looked around, just as I had remembered it. The decor was dated, the menu unchanged and basic at best, a TV or two silently flashing sports in one corner and news in the other. A buzz of chatter filled the place peppered with the sound of cleavers clop, clop, clopping on a chopping board turning pork roasts into chopped culinary meat mixed with magic. My mouth watered at the sensation of it all. Every sense bombarded and intertwined with one another making me think for a minute I could see the smells and taste the sounds. 

We made our way to the table where we were greeted by a boisterous server. She passed out copy paper menus, told us she was happy we were there, asked for our drink orders, and introduced herself all in a matter of seconds.

“I’m Tilly. That’s T-I double L-Y. Tilly.” 

Tilly had a party of twenty who each called her by name as they shouted and said their goodbyes as she was taking our orders. I thought for sure she’d lost track of our water to tea ratios in the midst of that, but knew I was wrong when she said,  “That’s two teas and  three H-two-ohs comin’ up!” She never missed a beat. 

Tilly made her way around the room delivering food items and filling drinks. She handed out extra napkins with the proficiency of a Vegas Card Dealer. She said “My Pleasure” when she’d been thanked, and she joked with an obvious regular who commented on her good as always service. Laughter rolled out as she said he best put his tip money where his mouth is. He laughed in response and assured her he had indeed. He waved as he left and said, “See ya next time Tilly!” 

Everyone knew her name. Everyone seemed to  remember her name. 

T-I-double L-Y

Tilly. 

Tea-Eye-Double-Elle-why

Tilly. 

As we left and I was recalling her name immediately, the skeptical teenagers had thanked us for bringing them there for lunch. It was amazing and I actually had been right. They were already asking when we’d be back. As I pondered her name I was reminded of one of my favorites. 

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;  and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior, I have called you by name. Isaiah 43:1-3

There is something poetic and beautiful about being called by name, and to think, if one server who introduces herself in a memorable way is remembered as special, how much more must I be precious to the God of the Universe who remembers and calls me, and you by name. 

Lizzie and the Locusts

She’s had a rough life. I’ve made up her early life because I don’t know the actuality of it. I’m convinced she was loved at one time, a squishy older lady who patiently leash trained her and encouraged her to snuggle and give kisses. A compassionate lady who didn’t mind Lizzie’s heart murmur in the least. 

I imagine she made her pup a big fluffy warm bed in her crate.

I imagine her original owner was named Mildred or Ethel, maybe she was named Rose or Eva May (like the matriarch of our church house) and that she loved my Lizzie. But as it is bound to do, time marched on and Lizzie’s first owner succumbed to the thief we know as death and Lizzie was forced to go somewhere else. 

I imagine Lizzie looked for her beloved owner after death took her away and I imagine Lizzie was sad and maybe she was scared. That makes me sad to think about so I don’t dwell on it too much. 

I reckon Lizzie had some really difficult days then, I don’t know if dogs pray, but if they do I suppose she prayed a lot then. She found herself somewhere she wasn’t wanted; she had her tongue cut out, by what means I am unsure, but I can’t dwell on that too long either. She lived among locusts and that was most certainly not living. Her heart murmur worsened, she longed for death to end her daily suffering, maybe she prayed for that. I don’t know. 

One day Lizzie was taken to a vet where her wish fulfillment would await at the hands of a “man who threw them money and the dog.” 

But a sympathetic veterinarian saw something in her cataract filled eyes that contradicted the requested euthanasia. So that wise vet took the money and the dog from the insistent person and in an instant, that decision would change a life… or two.

Lizzie was given the once over and she was found in decent health, all things considered. She was old and had the myriad of health issues mentioned, but she was spry and a docile little doxie. Lizzie made her way to me by way of my Mama. I was supposed to “foster” Lizzie, but history should’ve dictated to my mama that when I foster I’m very permanence-minded. Lizzie became Lizzie Lessenberry Martin and she is my dog.

Now she tells me with her actions how grateful she is that she has found a new life. We laugh sometimes and say Lizzie thinks that Heaven is pretty alright, but it’s a lot louder than she thought it’d be when she prayed for it so long ago. We have also determined she thinks the angels are more clothed than art depicts, although they are still chubby. 

Nowadays she is spry as she once was. She enjoys sitting by the window and snuggling with her new mama, and although she can’t kiss anymore she does try. She is resilient, and even the hard-headed rarely in agreement Martins agree on that. 

Several weeks ago she had a toe issue, she adapted and would walk on 3 legs but I watched her over time begin to decline. I bandaged her foot and took her to the vet but she worsened. I could feel her heart murmur become worse, and I knew it was the stress of her bad foot. I began to pray myself. I asked the King to heal her foot. I don’t rightly know if He is in the vet business too, but I do know His word says he saves Man and Beast (Psalm 36:6) so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask. 

Remarkably, resilience reigned and she began to improve some, eventually making a full recovery, adding no toenail to her list of maladies. She is walking on all fours and her appetite has picked up and she’s back to being a lap dog again. One cool December morning as we took in an episode of Perry Mason (we like the overly dramatic music and Della Street – or maybe her first Mama enjoyed it also and it strikes a familiar chord with Lizzie.) As we were watching, well I was watching the TV, she was looking out the window. I thought how carefree she looked. How content and blissfully happy that she’s found life after living a life wishing for death, and I was overcome with gratitude for the One who is Life and has the power to replenish what the Locusts have stolen (Joel 2:25) and give hope to the hopeless. 

“Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; then My people will never be put to shame. Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, And that I am the Lord your God, And there is no other; And My people will never be put to shame.” Joel 2:25-27

If You Give a Pig a Pearl

It’s gotta be my overactive imagination that gets me where it does sometimes. One shining example is when I was five years old, it was late summer, and I was starting Kindergarten that fall. I was outside swinging on my swing set and playing with my dog Suzy Q. She was to be my trusty steed and I was to jump out of my swing onto her back whereupon we would ride off into the sunset, carefully avoiding Mama who was cutting the grass in the backyard. I had outlined the plan to Suzy just as I had seen it played out on a black and white Western television show. I had explained in great detail the trajectory of my five-year-old body arcing and coming to rest upon her back; I had taken great care with explaining at what point my trusty steed was to ride away. Suzy was half a saint Bernard and half a basset hound dog. She was low and slow, perhaps riding straight, tall, and briskly off into the sunset was not to befall us, but ride we would. As I pumped my legs and gained altitude, ready to exit my swing onto Suzy’s back, tensions climbed. I closed my eyes and leapt from my swing. My trusty steed, low and slow indeed, stupid…no.

Suzy saw me, gravity pulling me to the ground like opposite poles on a set of magnets, and she moved. I hit the ground squarely on my right arm. I cracked my wrist just before school began, and as I am right hand dominant, Kindergarten proved to be a difficult, cumbersome, and itchy task. That plaster of Paris cast weighed more than half my scrawny body weight, and I felt like I leaned to the right all of that fall. It was my overactive imagination and expectations that got me there. I see it now. In hindsight.

So it should come as no surprise to me or anyone else when I heard this verse,

Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

that I imagined a pretty pink pig wearing a pearl necklace. I imagined that the King was saying, you can’t pretty up a pig… it’s still a pig, albeit one wearing an expensive accessory, a pig nonetheless. 

For years that has been my mental picture, my imaginative interpretation of that scripture and for years, much to my dismay, perhaps I have been wrong. 

I read the verse again, lined the words up in my brain, and realized that the King was speaking plainly, I had just not seen it. Pigs are notorious for being… well pigs. They eat a mess of slop without regards to their origins. They are dirty and love to roll in the mud, and while pigs serve some purpose, they are not known for their genteel disposition. To be called “a pig” is not a complement. 

Pearls can not be eaten, not by pigs anyway, and despite the value of a pearl, a pig has no way of understanding that a single pearl could purchase him scrumptious slop for a lifetime. A pig doesn’t pause long enough in his gustation to ponder and examine such things. If you give a pig a pearl he will turn and attack you. Throwing your pearls before swine has nothing at all to do with a pretty pink pig in a pearl necklace. 

The reality is pigs were not domestic in Israel, and if you threw them pearls, something not edible, they’d turn around and attack you for it. Be discerning to whom you toss your pearls, and trust Jesus to give you the wisdom to do so. 

Hashtag BoyMom

We have known each other for a while now. We are all older, a tad wiser, and we have experienced much of life together. Years ago when we first met at work, our children were young, single digits in age, they – like us – have grown and aged. We all have sons and we had landed there a while. They are all different ages and in different stages of life. Many of our experiences are the same; we could all trend on the social media with the hashtag BoyMom.  

Their sons are grown and have entered the professional world. One has been drafted by the NFL and will no doubt do extraordinary things, the other is a bussiness-man in Atlanta. I wondered if they could have foreseen what the future would hold for their own boys so many years ago. I wondered what it takes to raise boys that become those kinds of men. 

“Motherhood looks different when your son outgrows you,” I thought. It saddened me to think what that was going to look like for me as my own son grows into adulthood. As I was thinking, their conversation shifted. They were talking about their boys becoming men, growing into adulthood, taking on responsibility. 

My thoughts shifted to another mother of a son. Another Boy-Mom

A young virgin, who was blessed and chosen among all the women to be the bearer of the long awaited Messiah, she would give birth to a son and he would save His people from their sins. Could she have foreseen all that the future would hold for her own boy? 

I always ponder on her this time of year. I was doing just that, imagining her wrapping her baby boy in swaddling clothes, lying him in a manger, tired, weary, elated, and unsure; pondering in her heart what it meant to be this boy’s mom, when the Preacher Man caught my attention. 

“You know why the shepherds knew right where to find Him in a town packed to the gills with people who’d come to town for a census?” 

It was a rhetorical question I knew, but I realized I did not know why. I’d always figured it was the star, or the… well the innkeeper let the cat out of the bag… maybe it was the… well… I didn’t actually know how they knew, I had never once asked myself that.

“Those shepherds weren’t just any ol’ shepherds, they were the keeper of the sacrifice.” This part I knew, the Bethlehem shepherds were responsible for rearing lambs to be sacrificed in the temple. Those sheep were special, they were to be blemish free perfect lambs to be sacrificed for the sins of the people. 

The Preacher Man  answered my question for me. 

“Those lambs were special. They had to be perfect so they were wrapped in swaddling clothes at birth and placed in a designated place of safety, like a manger, so as not to hurt themselves from thrashing around at birth. There was a place that was done, those shepherds woulda known where that was when those angels announced it.”

All my life I’d missed it, I can about quote this one from memory

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12 

 I had missed a little word, sign. There it was, written out in scripture – the how they knew. 

That new mother, that ultimate boymom, had used what she had available to calm and quiet her little one. The Baby born that would change the world. That once and for all sacrifice for the sins of His people, the sins of His Mother, and the Sins of you and me. She likely couldn’t have known nor understood what was to come, what we have the perspective of history and scripture to know, but she was obedient and faithful beyond her seeing and that is all that was required of her in that moment. As time would unfold she was, and is, the ultimate Hashtag Boy-Mom. 

She’s Just Makin’ Noise

It had been a particularly difficult Sunday start. It was nothing short of miraculous that we had arrived to the Church-house intact. 

I found myself in the position of adversary for the teenage daughter. She was angry at my insistence on her obedience. My mama used to say to me that I’d better “toe the line.”  I had no idea what that idiom meant in reality, but in our house it meant I’d better straighten up or I was going to experience the dire consequence that accompanied my choices. 

On the way in the door I’d said a quick prayer, the kind mothers everywhere must pray. It was something along the lines of “Lord give me the strength not to lose my mind up in here.” My other two children heard me and giggled at their not-a-gansta mama prayer.

As I worshipped and sang, prayed and petitioned, my adversary sat beside me and fumed with protest. She declared, “Don’t touch me!” when I’d accidentally brushed up against her, and I thought for sure we’d go toe to toe when I removed from her possession a smuggled in tumbler filled with apple juice. 

She applied her lip gloss during prayer, and just when I’d had almost enough and was certain that not-a-gangsta mom prayer might go unanswered, she unzipped the loudest sounding zipper in Alabama. Even the Preacher-Man who was speaking on the authority we have been given through Jesus, glanced in our direction.

Her Daddy was to my left, and while he had not been with us when the showdown began, he has learned to read the signs. He had patted me when he made his way to us as he left the stage from his weekly praise band gig. He had heard the zipper and felt me stiffen. 

He leaned over and whispered in my ear, “She’s just makin’ noise.”

He is observant and direct. When he speaks to me, a man of few words. I’ve learned to listen when he speaks, to focus and pay attention because he doesn’t often repeat himself. I have also learned while he is not always profound and earth shattering with his words, he is wise.

“She’s just making noise.”

It was his way of saying to let it alone, let it go, and do not let the action of someone else influence me so much that I lose focus on the task at hand, on the King and what I had been instructed to do. 

I’d allowed her disobedience to become my own.

Without even being aware I had lost sight of what I was to do. The noise of another drowning out the whispers from the King. In wisdom, my husband was telling me to ignore the noise, focus and pay attention to the One who is never just noise and Who has the ability to speak peace and calm to my tumultuous heart even in the center of conflict. 

“They have made a noise in the house of the Lord.” Lamentations 2:7

Badger Baby

There were blankets, quilts, and a comforter on the floor. My little doxie tilted her head in puzzlement. I had seriously interrupted her world of play so early in the morning. I was making my bed and as a direct result of fitful sleep my sheets needed tending to. The fitted sheet had popped off the corners and the flat was nowhere to be found. My husband stood opposite of me on his side of the bed, staring. I could hear what he was thinking. 

“How exactly do you manage to do this? How are you capable of tearing sheets completely off the bed in the midst of sleep?” 

He doesn’t actually say it anymore, twenty years of being bedmates and he doesn’t have to. He is a solid as a rock sleeper. He stays in one position, on his side of the bed, his bedding is nearly just as it was the night before when he entered  the bed as when he awakens. 

I had removed everything and thrown it into a tall pile on the floor while I sorted out my post slumber sheet confusion. 

The most playful doxie has earned many nicknames since becoming a Martin. She is “Happy Baby”, “Crazy Baby”, “Crazy Eyes”, “Mae-Mae”, “Happy Eater”, “Stinky-Baby”, “Silly-Baby”, “Kissy-Baby.” She responds to most any name and is most enthusiastic when she does so. She is a dapple doxie with unique coloring. She looks like a myriad of chocolate foods. She resembles cheesecake brownies, Baskin Robbins Chocolate Peanut butter ice cream, a Toasted Marshmallow, and a chocolate ribbon I make for the family, “That good cake you make” is actually what they call it. 

So as she tilted her head toward the towering obstacle in her path blocking her exit, I giggled. “What’s the matter Mae? Did Mama mess up your plan and block your path?” The tower of blankets where ten times her height, the passageway between my bed and the furniture hugging the wall completely occluded. There was no way over, no way around, no way under the pile. Macy was stuck and there was no way out, no way to the other side. She whined as she surveyed her circumstances. That got my husband’s attention. He leaned over and saw her predicament. I made some comment about having to work quickly to clear her path because she had no way out. About that time he said, “What’d you say?” as I caught a flash of her brownie-colored body heading out of the bedroom door. 

Where I saw no way out,  overwhelming obstacles, Macy had not been deterred. She realized what I had not. She had been made for just such an obstacle as this. Where there was no way out, her long and low body flattened out and she crawled beneath my bed to freedom on the other side. She had been given just what she needed to make it through a most daunting situation. She couldn’t have walked under my bed. It is too low for that, even as vertically challenged as she is she would have not had clearance for her head. Immediately the King’s Word came to mind. 

 

Isaiah 43: 19

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

That puzzled pup reminded me that the Lord makes a way when there doesn’t even seem to be a way and that He can be trusted to do that even when my eyes can not see how that is even possible. 

I do not have to try and figure out the way out of so many impossible situations if I trust and have faith in Him to make the way.

In fact, I would even go so far as to say, if I can figure it out, that isn’t faith at all. 

Macy’s ancestral dachshunds were made to hunt badgers, they are low to the ground, to track scents, and long so they could hunt into badger burrows. She was equipped to make that escape long before I had presented the obstacle before her. She rarely uses that equipping, she is more of a snuggly baby than a ferocious badger hunting baby.  She did remind me though I am like her in that I have been given the Holy Spirit through my faith in Jesus to equip me in those moments of obstacle presented to me and that He has promised He will make a way. He is the way. 

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

              -Jesus Christ 

Good Works and Ground Beef

It was to be a lovely birthday party. Gracie had requested a “camping-princess party.” One can search the General Dollar Store all day but I can assure you, one will not find a princess in a sleeping bag printed upon a plate. My friend, Michelle, had already checked. She called me and asked if I would be up for just such a challenge. I couldn’t guarantee a bunting with a sleeping-bagged princess but I would see what I could come up with. We arrived at the campsite early and hung paper lanterns and buntings, we glittered and sparkled that campsite up so well, the soon to be campfire would pale in comparison to the decor. 

We left the campsite to run by the grocery store for supplies and to pick up the birthday girl and her guests. It was to be a lovely spend-the-night camping princess party. As we stood in the grocery store, I watched Michelle toss buns in the cart, and she declared she had “cow at home” she was picking up.

I knew precisely what she meant, as I too offered my cow, “Do you need me to grab some of my cow, when we run by my house to get my girls?”

She and I, along with several of our friends and acquaintances would purchase and share a cow, have it processed, frozen and would then consume it. She and I had been known to split a quarter of a cow. When we did that she was always responsible for the mathematical part, the dividing of our quarter into eighths. 

We arrived back at the campsite, had pizza for dinner and made s’mores and crafts. Those 8-year-old girls had a lovely time. They laughed and laughed and my friend and I did too. While they danced and played and behaved like little girls full throttle in the middle of a princess camping party, we laughed about things middle-aged women laugh about. It was a glorious night that lives on in my memory as one of my most favorite. The party was set to culminate in a cookout-picnic to include the boys and families of the girls, the next day. 

The next day, the boys arrived, brothers and daddies. I helped to prepare burgers and fixings while a candy crammed crown pinata was strung from a tree by the tallest of the dads. As Michelle removed packages of white-butcher-paper-wrapped ground beef I saw her counting. She was drawing imaginary lines in the air, I watched her hands move, she moves her hands whenever she is figuring mathematical things out. Her fingers dance in a rhythmic way akin to drawing; it looks like she makes plus signs that hover invisibly over the object she is focused on. 

When we first became friends, she was an accountant turned seamstress so that she could be at home with her small babies. She always drew those imaginary lines when she was sewing and figuring fabric dimensions. I have seen her move her hands just like she did over those packages of ground beef more times than I can count. 

She asked me how many buns we had. I told her the total we had purchased the day before. She reached down into the cow cooler and pulled out another package of meat. She pattied the meat into burgers and headed out to the grill. I laid the table with buns, chips, pickles and condiments in an atmosphere of the princess camper theme: pinks, sparkles, shiny napkins and party horns.

At the end of the cookout-princess-picnic I marveled at how the clean-up lacked one element that is always characterized by my party or meal planning. There was not an uneven number of burgers and buns, thereby resulting in either a leftover, bunless burger or excessive buns destined to become breadcrumbs. As I cleaned up, the thought never crossed my mind, the answer lay within the prep work and an action I had seen a half a dozen or more times. 

I was thinking about that event one day recently when I stood over the meat counter at the grocery store and I was trying to figure out how much meat to buy, too little or too much is my typical. I remembered how she stood over those packages of meat. As I meandered down Memory Lane, I had recalled something she mumbled simultaneously as her fingers danced over those 1 pound packages of ground beef. 

Four, into one is a quarter. It would take two packs of beef for every one – an eight count package of buns. When she asked me how many buns we had, she simply calculated that number by four and figured out how many packs of meat she would need. Then she evenly divided those packs into four quarter-pound patties. I stood there in the Piggly Wiggly and I laughed out loud in the direction of the meats. I was amused that I had finally figured it out. 

I am fairly certain, the rump-roast-purchaser to my left was not nearly as amused by my seemingly random meat induced hysteria. 

“Four.” She had simply said “four.” My mind worked as I stood in the Piggly Wiggly, my gaze fixed downward into a sea of red rectangular mounds. 

Four. 

She had prepared perfectly  in advance by way of her mathematical skill the task set before her. I had witnessed her do it numerous times before and never quite figured out how she always managed to get numbers correct. I always just figured it had something to do with how her brain worked. 

It dawned on me later, in that perfection of plan and preparation she is like the Lord. And like my taking a hot minute to figure it out, I am like…well…I am like me. As per usual, sometimes it takes me a while to get it, to connect the dots, and figure it out. 

His  word says is Ephesians 2:8-9, 

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We were created to do good works, not for our salvation but because we are saved. And not just random haphazard works but good, perfect, works that God prepared for us in advance. Taylor made. Specific to me, specific to you. Good works that the King of the Universe determined in advance for us. 

Perfect callings that each of us are to fulfill. We are not all called to be preachers and teachers. We are not all called to be writers and speakers. We are not all called to international missions, but we are all called and created for a specific purpose in the family of God, in the Body of Believers.  

Michelle asked me to merge the world of dainty princess and rustic camper because she knew and had the confidence (even if I didn’t) in me to pull it off. She sees in me a potential I do not always see, and in that, yet again, demonstrates how she is like the King.