Peace by Peace

Plenty of people in this world walk around putting on heirs.  They pretend to be so happy with where they are in their life, when in actuality, their actions tell quite a different story.  Whether it’s nasty behaviors toward most people they come in contact with for no other reason than the fact that they are miserable inside, or judgmental talk about just about everyone in their lives, the hubris seeps out through every pore until you barely recognize who you’re dealing with anymore.   They have themselves convinced they’re living under the guise of honesty, and cannot recognize that their words and actions don’t match their proclamations.  I am a firm believer that our behavior is the best reflection of our true character.  We can talk a certain way, but if our walk doesn’t match that talk, it falls on deaf ears.

I am, in no way, a perfect human being.  I have never claimed to be in my lifetime.  I fall short  But I know who I am – a child of the King who forgives me for my shortcomings and meets me where I am at.  His love is fresh and new for me every day, and I don’t have to every worry about disappointing Him, because His love never fails.

I also know my responsibility as His child – to love Him, and to love others and I love myself.  See that last word – myself – it’s bold and underlined for a reason.  Often times we leave off this key word.  Jesus was asked specifically by the Pharisees what the greatest commandment in the Law was, to which He answered love God, but the second portion of the answer is where we get hung up.  Matthew 22:39 says,” 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  First we are charged to love our neighbor – ALL of them – not just our white neighbor, our Christian neighbor, our young neighbor, our cool neighbor, our nice neighbor, our conservative neighbor, our straight neighbor,  our non-addict neighbor, our sober neighbor….but ALL OUR NEIBHBORS.

And the next part…here’s the deal-breaker.   To love the way God loves, I have to love me first.  This isn’t selfish or haughty, it’s just plain fact.  If I have issues with me, I can’t love like God loves.  If I don’t feel worthy, I can’t love like God loves.  If I have issues with forgiveness, or hate, or self-loathing, or identity, or relationships, or bitterness, or self-control, or selfishness…it is impossible to love like God loves.  Because God does not struggle with these issues, plain and simple.  So until we can lay these issues down at the feet of our Father, we cannot love as we are asked to do, thereby fulfilling the greatest command.

We can walk around thinking we’ve arrived all we want, talking up a good talk, telling all who will listen that we are Christians, but until we’ve laid all down all our junk, we’re nothing more than clanging cymbals in the ears of those around us.  God knows we’re not fooling Him.

My prayer is for a time when we all – us and ALL our neighbors – love ourselves and each other enough to step forward in unity.  We’ve spent far too much time looking at differences.  Far too much wasted time.

Love God ~ Love others as yourself


Gone but Not Forgotten

Four years ago today, we lost my Father.  A simple phone call 12 days prior had me packing a bag, rearranging my schedule, and booking a flight without a second thought.  I wasn’t sure what I’d find once I arrived, or how long my trip would last – I simply knew it was my obligation, and eventually my honor, to walk our this journey with my Dad.

My only outlet during this time was Facebook, and each night in the quiet and solace, I poured out the day’s events onto my page.  Looking back, I am so very grateful for the chronical of the events as they unfolded, the outpouring of support, and the opportunity to reflect back on those last days even today:

(As posted to FB October 24, 2011 through November 5, 2011)

‘Arrived in SC this afternoon to tend to my Dad…he’s not doing well at all.  Please pray for strength for the days ahead for my brother and I as we do what needs to be done for him.’  10/24/11

‘Update on Dad:  Very bad day today; morning started well with Dad on nasal cannula and talking well, but he quickly decompensated just after noon, with continuous A-Fib/tachycardia episodes that lasted into the evening and continues intermittently; severe apneic episode which was terrifying to witness as he gasped for breath.  We were informed definitively today that Dad is in the end-stage of his disease, and that this most likely is the continued course he will take – duration unknown.  If he does recover, he will never be able to return home alone again.  We continue to have a busy week ahead, regardless of the outcome.  Please continue to lift us all up in prayer for strength to submit to God’s will, and endurance to stand by our Father in the days to come.  Thank you for those who have sent your prayers along – they are felt and appreciated.’  10/25/11

‘Today’s update:  Dad was off the BIPAP all of today, but struggled for every breath.  He slept all day because of the huge toll the simple act of breathing in and out is taking on his body.  His vitals remained fairly stable, but the slightest movement or attempts to take a bite of food sent his respirations soaring, as he now cannot breathe and eat at the same time since he requires his nose and mouth to maintain breath.

As I spent my entire day caring for my Dad – feeding him when he could tolerate a few bites, wiping down his body with a cold cloth when his temperature caused breathing to be that much more of an effort, rubbing lotion on his dry and ever swollen legs, removing numerous bandages from days of blood draws, ABGs and IV attempts I was acutely aware of the comparison of infants, newly helpless to the world, and the dying…equally helpless.  And while one occasion is full of joy, the other sadness – God has allowed us the privilege to participate in both events as teachable moments.  As I spend these 8 hours per day I am allowed in as many days as Dad has left, I am learning so much – about nursing, about my Dad, about myself.  And as painful and taxing as these days are, I wouldn’t trade them – 22 years ago I missed all of this with my Mother in an instant.  When this is over, there will be peace for me, for my brother, and most of all, for my Dad.

Thank you all for your prayers and notes.  It is certainly day by day, and looks like I may be extended down here.  I will continue to post updates in the evenings as long as I can.  Love to you all.’  10/26/11

‘Today’s update:  Well, I just typed out a long update, but lost it before I could post, so I’ll leave you with this song that was playing on the radio when I got in the car to leave the hospital this evening.  God’s timing is perfect – for all things.  Hoping we can remember this in the days to come.  Love to all.’  10/27/11

‘Dad’s update:  I guess I probably say this each day, but by far today was the most emotionally draining and difficult yet.  I am typing as I sit in the ICU – thankful for the special exception that was made to allow me to sleep here tonight, but knowing at the same time these ‘privileges’ are only extended to those in their very last hours and days.

After prayer and much contemplation, we have formally changed Dad’s status to DNR, allowing only measures to keep him comfortable.  Over the night he acquired a GI bleed and was NPO (no food or liquids) until he could be scoped, which we declined.  Upon entering the room, Dad immediately gasped to me that he was tired and he wanted to be done.  Hearing those words from this stubborn, strong man gave me more than pause – it has now become my mission to honor his request with all my being.

Several rounds of strong meds were brought on board to alleviate any pain he was having and to allow him to rest, but his body’s instinct to fight kicked in – and fight he did for the next 5 hours – through hallucinations, pulling out his NG tube, removing his oxygen several time, attempting to pull his Foley…he became the 8 armed bandit who could find no peace.

By mid-afternoon it was decided to let him try the BIPAP once again, not so much for the oxygen benefit but more for the opportunity to relax and let sleep come.  Within 3 minutes he was out, with his vitals lower than they’d been in days.

As I sit here now with one of the first opportunities to reflect back on the days’ events, I realize I am reduced to death watch…a mission I missed with my mother and failed my grandmother in.  My brother and I view our responsibilities very differently – neither is wrong or right…just different.  I imagine this is quite common in the dying process…each member experiences their pain in their individual way.  Mine defaults to duty first hidden by a shroud of numbness followed by a few more bricks being added to the bunker around my heart.

The amount of pain and the number of bricks would be insurmountable by now were it not for my Heavenly Father holding me against His chest as I cried out to Him, sometimes daily.  Today when the pain washed over me like a tsunami though I tried to put on my bravest face so my dad wouldn’t be scared, I could only cling to the hope and faith I have in Him.  I am not doing this…He is in me…guiding my motion…standing beside me as I weep…stroking my dad’s hair with His hand…sharing His love through me.  I learned to love from Him…and He’s still teaching me, even today…’  10/29/11

‘Update:  Quick Dad update as I know many of you are having your own personal struggles right now trapped in a Halloween Wonderland…Friday was a really bad day…I think I posted that day.  Saturday he woke up, completely coherent and stayed stable and alert for the entire day – it was such a gift!  We had the opportunity to ask about a lot of unfinished business and make several important decisions.  Satan tried to get a foot-hold within the family, but after talking it out and getting some perspective (and much needed sleep) I am happy to report he failed miserably.

Sunday fell somewhere in the middle with a few periods of alertness but mostly sleep and pain medication.  Dad was also moved to the PCU – basically the step down unit.  He handled the move OK, and I stayed the night as the end seems to draw closer each day and I don’t want him to be alone when that moment does come.

Today included a lot of pain and the question “How much longer?” from Dad early this am.  My mission was to make sure he got his morphine every hour on the hour so that pain could not touch his frail body.

God also used today and Dad’s semi-conscious utterances to chastise me for judging his heart.  Only God knows a man’s heart, regardless of how that man presents himself to the world.  Yesterday my sister-in-law Crissy asked Dad if he had Jesus in his heart and he told her yes.  I would love to believe that was true, but I was immediately skeptical, not because of the wrongs done to me but the way he’s walked his life.  But several…and I mean several times today he came out with confirming statements that let me know that I was not only hasty but out of line in my judgment of his heart.  And all I can do is praise God for His unending forgiveness – for me, for my dad and for anyone who seeks Him.  What an awesome God we serve!’  10/31/11

‘Update:  Moved Dad to hospice about 24 hours ago – such a freeing experience in so many ways.  I cannot say enough positive things about the staff here – this environment is just what we all needed.

Dad sleeps most if not all of the time now.  He hasn’t eaten solids in 3 days.  He’s taken a few sips over the last few days and his breathing becomes more labored each hour at this point.  He is on a regular schedule of morphine and Ativan, with more available as he needs it.

The nurses and the doctors with so much more experience  seeing this process and this disease have now said we are down to days or hours – certainly by the weekend…all the signs are there.

This center is much more equipped for round the clock visitors, so I head into night 4 by his side.  Crissy and Bobby are bringing me my things as it is no longer practical to leave because of the distance – nor do I have a desire to be anywhere but here.

You who know me know I am far from a Biblical scholar…I am much better with songs.  The latest one rummaging through my head is John Weller’s ‘While I’m Waiting’…one line is particular speaks to me right now, ’I will serve You while I’m waiting…’  I cannot begin to tell you how many times a day God shows His face as I sit here waiting…I can just tell you I am so very thankful even in this quiet room with just me and my Dad.  I am never alone.’  11/2/11

‘A gift from God via Joyce and FB…thank you, Jesus…message received.’

“Know that you are not alone.  The Lord understands what you are going through and has promised to be with you in every trial in live.”

‘Afraid to sleep tonight – Jesus, please hold us both tight…’  11/2/11 late evening

‘Finally at peace – 4:45 am.  We love you, Dad.’   11/3/11

{I have purposely left out the comments due to length, but in no way am I diminishing their importance to this story.  Each night before the new post, I soaked in the love and support and it helped to drive me forward in one of the hardest tasks I’ve ever done.  The following comment, however, as I reread this transcript, brings me to tears – each and every time…with its simplicity, its timing, its truth.  I include it today for that reason.}

-Jenn Daniels “Oh Melissa…I send you much love and prayers.  You did a good job.”

Faith in the Darkness: Fear in the Light

Most of you know I’ve been in training for the Hartford Half Marathon, coming up on October 10.  It’s a pretty big deal, since it’s my first athletic event, and I am by no means an athlete of any shape, form or kind.

I have to say, though, I am darned impressed with myself.  From the day I decided to do this thing, I started on a path, albeit a path I had no idea to where it led, and I have not stopped moving.  I can’t say I’ve been this motivated to do anything for me – ever.  With the exception of one week, where Mama Commitments limited me to one day of walking, I have been out there no less than 3 days per week, sometimes more, with miles on my sneakers (yes, that was plural!) and the sweat to prove it when I’m done.

I recently found this great wooded path not far from my house, and I decided I wanted to conquer it.  On my 1st visit, I wasn’t exactly prepared for what I found – an offering of several paths; a few short distance ‘loop trails’ and a long distance marsh trail – and I spent more time surveying and backtracking rather than conquering anything.

Prior to my 2nd visit, I spent time online studying where the marsh trail actually traveled throughout town, and purposely decided to start at the opposite end of where I’d started a few days earlier.  After finding the access footpath, complete with cobwebs from lack of visitors, I found the first orange arrow, a sign I was headed in the right direction.  About a mile into the marsh path, however, the signs became a bit more ambiguous, and I soon found myself in a neighboring town, clear across town from my car, as darkness was beginning to fall.  The only way out, as it were, was in…into the woods.

I’m not exactly sure when this marsh path was first established, but visually you can imagine a lush forest footpath, carpeted by roots and tree limbs.  As time wears away the soil, the roots become more prevalent, making each step increasingly important, especially in the darkness.  As I continued to look for the orange markings, ever aware of the decreasing light, I wasn’t afraid; just mindful of my steps and my purpose – to get back to my car.  I started singing along to my music streaming through my headphones, consciously choosing not to remove them as the distraction helped me focus on the task at hand.

I was also mindful of the battery-life left on my cellphone…very low.  And while I’d been tracking my walk, tracing my path and streaming my music, apparently my phone was in revolt.  Again I made the conscious decision to keep those apps running – they all served a purpose at that moment, and with them I felt certain I would get to where I needed to be.  As I reached this unmistakable boulder that marked the access footpath from the marsh path, I knew I had made it back alright.  The crisp moonlight and car headlamps lit my way along the grassy terrain to my lonely car in the commuter lot.

For my 3rd visit, I set off completely prepared; I’d studied the internet map yet again to see where I’d gone wrong; I brought a flashlight in the event I made another fatal directional error; I brought water and a protein packed snack –  just in case; and most importantly…my phone was fully charged.  Off I went, determined that I had it figured out this time.  While I didn’t get lost, I got overconfident once I got close to the exit, making a wrong turn that sent me back out toward the marsh instead of toward the parking lot, essentially adding another .6 mile to my walk.  My only shallow victory was that I did not need the flashlight I had brought, as I emerged from the brush with still some daylight overhead.

Today, I woke up determined.  This marsh path was not going to outwit me.  It was a beautiful first day of fall, and I was going to make the most of the daylight.  I gathered my normal walking paraphernalia (minus the flashlight) and headed to the marsh.  But today, I sat for a minute on one of the benches at the entrance.  I stretched out, which I haven’t been doing appropriately, and could possibly be why I have a slight pull in my right calf.  Lastly, today I decided to bring my iPod instead of using my phone for music.  This proved to be the most important decision I have made all week, probably in all of my training.

I started off strong, as I usually do.  Good typical pace for me.  Passed a few single people walking, a man and his son, other than that the path was isolate as I generally find the farther out I go.  Mile 1 flew by, and the grueling steep climb of mile 2 began.  But today, something was drastically different.  One reason I keep coming back to the marsh, besides the fact that I’m so stubborn, is that it is unmistakably beautiful.  Everywhere you look little touches of nature spring out and you know God has touched this place.  From wild growing cherries and grapes, to unique trees growing intertwined upon each other, to fern outstretched toward the light, to the man-built bridges and planks peering out from nowhere – you are inspired and pulled along step by breath-taking step.

Today, though, as my eyes were pressed onward, I found myself distracted by an abundance of sights, and not in a positive way.  Light crept in where usually it did not, causing need for my sunglasses more than usual – up, down, up, down – an irritating cadence erupting.  As I observed my steps, those holes in the dirt I’d assumed were from chipmunks were now filled with mud wasps, and I scurried around them careful not to disturb their meeting.  Wood planks laid on their side revealed steep drop-offs I’d not noticed until today, causing me to shrink close to trees opposite the drops.

And just about this moment I became acutely aware of my music, streaming loudly, the most perfect of songs for that very moment.  See, my iPod has two playlists – one with pop music and one with Contemporary Christian music.  My iPod was set to ‘shuffle’ and these lyrics rang through:


Giver of every breath I breathe
Author of all eternity
Giver of every perfect thing
To You be the glory
Maker of Heaven and of Earth
No one can comprehend Your worth
King over all the universe
To You be the glory

I continued walking, slowly, as these words sank into my soul.   I knew I was being touched by the Holy Spirit at that moment, I was just trying to grasp the full extent.

Early on I declared I was doing this walk because I can, in fact, walk.  Because I am healthy; because I am happy; because I am free.  But I never once stopped to give the glory to GOD for all that means to me.

Then I heard Him say to me very clearly “You have excellent faith in the darkness, and yet you fear in the light.”  How on point is that?  I find it so very easy to blindly trust what I know that I know, but things I have partial vision of, I need constant reaffirmation before I can believe.

This marsh path is just like my walk.  In the darkness, I had no fear when I more than likely should have.  But in the light of day, I wouldn’t trust what I could see.  I was fumbling and stumbling, and allowing fear to creep in, making vision an obstacle rather than a support.

It was at this point on the path a very distinct fork occurs, and you can easily become disoriented.  Your inclination is to go down, but that choice leads you deeper into the woods.  You must choose up to clear the trees.  You must choose up.  Let me tell you something else – today, I didn’t get lost, not one wrong turn, and I made it out before dark…best time yet.  No coincidence there.

What are you putting blind faith in where you shouldn’t be today?  And what areas are you questioning what you can see clearly, perhaps because you don’t like the answers you see?  Lastly, are you giving glory to the One who gave you everything?

Today is a new season, the perfect time for a fresh start.  I know I’m glad for the times I chose up.

Let Freedom Ring

“Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer.  The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you.  You will suffer for ten days.  But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you a crown of life.”                                                                                                                                                                     Revelation 2:10

Even after living in Connecticut for 24 years, I still consider Charleston home.  My roots, my heart, my soul are all stored deep in the south – I don’t believe that will ever change.  The news of the Emanuel AME Church shooting Wednesday evening rang through me like a shockwave.  Someone, an intruder, had violated MY HOME…killed MY PEOPLE…damaged MY TOWN…it feels just that personal to me.

I scour social media to get the latest on the offender, his whereabouts, input from President Obama, outcries from the families, reactions from the community – but I know one thing I don’t have to ready myself for – more violence in retaliation.  That is not how MY HOME works.  I love the response of my people…banding together in churches and sports fields, to PRAY.  These people have been through this experience and worse before, and they know who to turn their troubles to, and who not to blame.

Being raised in this community, the difference of race was out in the open, always.  My Mother’s best friend was African American, half of my classmates were African American – heck, the first boy who ever loved me was African American…it was there, and you were either going to deal with it, or you were going to be the problem.  Sure, ignorance existed back then too, but we kids didn’t tolerate it, at least my group of friends did not.  If someone had the gall to actually say something ignorant out loud, they got stared down mighty quickly by about 10 people more than ready to ‘bring them to Jesus,’ and then they were allowed the grace to retrieve their dignity and simply move on.

I understand I can be fairly naïve about many things, though I am not naïve enough to believe my experience was the sum total of race relations in South Carolina, with its Confederate Flag whipping in the wind and the good ole boys making deals in back wood bar rooms.  But these references, as I’ve heard mention, as well as a few others in the last few days, are not the origin of racism, of the hatred displayed Wednesday night.  This story, unfortunately, is not new.  And as the pieces of the puzzle still unfold and we hear from the offender himself, a variety of conclusions can be drawn.  One point is transparent:  this young man messed with the wrong town, the wrong people – the evidence is clear.  His repayment for such unthinkable acts?  Riots, looting, burning my precious city down?  Quite the contrary…prayer, worship gatherings, vigils…inviting Jesus right back to where He was forced out by gunpoint.

I worship a God worth dying for.  I have that right because men and women have given their lives for me to serve this country I call home.  They gave their lives for Dylann Roof without him ever asking or approving as well.  I read an amazing quote last week that I really loved…basically it said Jesus died for you knowing that you might never love Him back.  Jesus died for Dylann Roof, knowing he might never love Him back…he was worth the risk.  Jesus certainly died for Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Daniel Simmons and Myra Thompson, and though they may have feared what stood before them Wednesday night, they had the promise of eternity with God ahead of them and freedom from this broken world, and we must try to focus on that positive picture.

Please continue to lift up Charleston in your prayers – for healing and wholeness, and continuing to let God reign.

The Truth Will Set You Free…Or Will It?

“The truth may hurt for a little while but a lie hurts forever.”

I have always prided myself on my honesty.  Not in an “I’m better than you!” kind of way, but mostly in an admirable quality way.  I will always tell you the truth, even if it leads to trouble – certainly not my intent, but in my attempt to be transparent, the line between ‘brutal honesty’ and ‘loving kindness’ sometimes becomes blurred.  I often tell too much, as has been mentioned to me before, again, under the guise of transparency, rather than misrepresenting myself in any way.

I’m not exactly sure where this strong belief in truth came from.  I know as a young child I struggled with lying.  I remember my mother and her disappointment regarding this very issue.  I also recall the secrets that were necessary that I keep – secrets that no child should be required to keep.  I do remember vividly my resolve that once that ugly revelation met the light of day, I declared mostly to myself that never again would I ‘hide things’ from people.

I also find it more than ironic how we convince ourselves that we’re not really lying by giving little pet names to the acts we commit – white lies, fibs, stories, half-truths, omissions of information – the more glorious the name, the less guilt we associate with the actual act.  But the bottom line remains the same; any time we answer a question with less that the facts, we are in essence, lying…nothing glamourous about that.

For the past 2 years, this very premise of mine has faced some strong adversity that has challenged myself and my faith to its very core.  And while I cannot yet quite share the full extent of what I am referring, suffice it to say that the very moral fiber on which I stand has been called into question throughout this entire timeframe.  At each bend in the road, I have stood firm, opting to choose truth over the perhaps easier path of least resistance, all the while wrestling with my logical brain as to why it was this way.  Why in essence was truth the ‘loser’ in this battle at all?  It would seem only right that opting for truth would lead to freedom on several fronts, not the least of which included in the world’s eye.

I think this has been the most difficult lesson of all – that the world, who at large never ceases to disappoint me, falls short on my expectations of holding up a measurable bar at all for values.  That in the choice of truth over covering your butt, hands down, covering your butt wins every time!  Even more, the fact that this shocks me has been the source of ridicule as well.  That a grown woman in 2015 has the audacity to stand for anything, let alone the truth, and walk out the courage of her convictions – well, apparently it’s simply unheard of…until now.

Now is when you’re going to want to scoot up in your seat…it’s getting good.  I don’t give a hill of beans what this world thinks of lying, covering your butt to stay out of trouble, saying the popular thing, looking the part, taking the easy way out…whatever.  Bring it on!  First, I don’t scare easy – my God is bigger than anything you could throw at me.  Second, I am raising 3 teenagers, essentially alone in this messed up world.  They are watching every move I make.  If I cannot be their good Christian example, who the heck will be?  Lastly, you know that saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”?  I do stand for something…I stand for good values.  I don’t care how rare they are.  I don’t care how old-fashioned I’m called.  I don’t care if I’m ridiculed.  I don’t care if this crazy world doesn’t understand me.  I know who I am – I know where I’m headed – I know where I’ve been – I know the truth…and with God by my side…I AM FREE!

John 8:32

32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The Masterpiece in Me

‘You know my name, not my story.

You’ve heard what I’ve done, not what I’ve been through…’

I, like everyone else on this planet, am a person who comes with baggage.  I have lived 46 years on this earth so far, and in that time, I have done things…some things I would proudly write on my epitaph, and others I still beat myself up about daily; I have struggled with challenges – sometimes failing miserably, and sometimes surprising even myself with strength I never knew I had; I have made poor choices, some that impacted those around me, and some that brought me to my knees because there was nowhere else left to go.  But the one thing I know in my heart of hearts – I have done more good than bad in my life, helped more than I’ve hurt, and at the end of the day, I know I’m right with my God, so to me, I’ve accomplished my goal.

Reflecting on some of that old ‘baggage’ this past week, someone who didn’t know me really at all responded to some of my history in a way I felt was critical and hurtful – something others who know me well would have never said or even believed for an instant.  I immediately felt judged all over again, as if I were back in that moment of when the event first happened, defending an inexcusable action that was full of lies and mistruths.  In that moment, I allowed this person who knew a thimble-worth about me to cast me in the role others had set for me, instead of what I know truth and integrity say about me instead.  I was angry, not at this person, but myself, for allowing someone to hold power over what I thought of myself, swaying my opinion with such ease.

I realized that I am still – everyday – a work in progress.  That for as hard as I’ve worked to redefine who I am – what I know to be true about myself – I am a sandcastle…one mediocre wave, and what I’ve built comes crashing down, with little left to rebuild upon.  I need to be wiser about where I chose to build.  While I love the sound of the crashing waves and the tickle of the water on my toes, that same beauty is hazardous for what I’m trying to accomplish in me.  If I rebuild, but farther back from the edge, I can still experience the beauty – the sounds and sights will all still be present – I just won’t be so exposed to the dangers of lashing tongues, boisterous judgments, and harsh critics who lounge by the water’s edge.  The sand doesn’t shift as easily farther back, either – a better foundation for where I’m headed – a hope and a promise of what’s to come.  Sure, it’s more work to build your castle back there – but when I’m finished…wow!  Can you imagine the masterpiece?

The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:13 –

‘I can do everything through him who gives me strength.’

Paul was in prison because of his decision to follow Jesus.  Imagine how low he must have felt.  If he could write books of the Bible while suffering for his beliefs, I’m fairly certain I can adjust my sails and keep rebuilding until I get it right.  That’s the resolve I want to wake up with each day – I can do EVERYTHING – no matter who thinks different.  It’s all up to me to start.

Wounding with 80 Grit

“When people hurt you over and over, think of them as sandpaper.  They scratch you and hurt you, but in the end, you are polished and they are all used up.”

Even though we have the ability to walk away from the people in our lives that cause us pain, some of those relationships cannot ever be completely ended for various reasons.  Because I share 3 glorious children with their father, that relationship – or some loose interpretation of the word, will always be in place.  I have chosen not to speak ill of him in their presence, a practice he chooses not to reciprocate.  Over time I have learned I cannot control his actions any more than I can control the direction of the wind.  What I can control, however, is my reaction to the choices he makes.  This is not to say for the briefest of moments that when word gets back to me that he’s spoken harshly of me in front of them, disparaging me once again in their eyes, that the all-too-familiar feeling doesn’t sweep that tiny mound of confidence I’ve started to rebuild right out the door, faster than I can possibly rebuild it.

We do this dance – the tearing down and rebuilding – on a regular weekly basis now…the only problem is he is completely unaware of the angst I go through each and every time.  Oh, I am quite certain he is expecting some ‘direct hit’ – just like lobbing his move in “Battleship”…B-6…HIT!  But the personal attack on myself I do privately – and he is certainly no longer privy to the score I keep, a much more gruesome account of battle scars, personal shortcomings, life-long ineptness and the like.  At the end, it looks much more like a replay of ‘Shark Week’ than ‘Battleship,’ as I huddle in the corner assessing the damage, trying to determine which areas can withstand another hit and which need attention – STAT!

The lingering question, mostly to myself, is why I continue to log unknown conflict time, particularly when the causalities remain so costly to my well-being.   If he chooses his actions, and I choose mine, why do I continually choose this self-inflicted kill-shot each and every time?  What is my reward?  Otherwise, why can’t I simply let him say and do what he is going to, and let that roll off me without a care?  Obviously somewhere inside the core of me, I must be gaining some twisted prize from the battle with this demon, over and over again…right?

And then I think about that quote…the sandpaper disappears, and the one who’s hurt is polished.  It reminds me of one of my favorite Bible verses, 1 Peter 1: 6, 7:

‘In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.’

This relationship – it’s really just another trial, another test of my faithfulness before God.  And my reward, not for the self-deprecation, but for staying the course, is worth more than any gold here on earth.  So the next time I start worrying about what he’s saying about me, to whom…I just have to remember the truth of this verse.  My real reward is with Jesus – always has been…always will be.  No words of man will ever change that fact.