|Today was soooo surreal. My daughter graduated high school. To be standing there at her graduation took me back to the day I stood with my parents, in my cap and gown, taking photos. I, of course, was bawling. I cry at every momentous occasion. I can’t help it. The emotion of it overwhelms me. In this particular event it was extrememly overwhelming on many levels.
I remember the day she was born…she came so easily, not so quickly, but easily. I remember the few hours after she was born…we were in our room resting. There was a tape playing in the stereo, one I had made of George Winston’s Winter. The only song I remember completely was Carol of the Bells being played on the piano. She was in her basinet under the warming lamps and I was dozing in and out.
I kept waking up and looking over at her…she was perfect. She was a good baby. Slept through the night fairly soon after birth. Her brother was two and he wasn’t quite sure of her those first few weeks. He would give me this look when I was holding her, “are you gonna hold me too?” It was just us three then….us three against the world so to speak.
Those were painful times in my life personally but she and my son brought me soooo much joy and comfort. They gave me purpose to not quit, to not give up. They were also the reason that I wanted to learn to live outside myself. To learn to forgive and love again. I wanted to be an example to them. Especailly my daughter.
Seeing her walk across the stage to get her diploma brought all those years back. The years that I didn’t quit and kept on going even when things got rough. She faced so many obstacles in her life as well. And she, like me, did not quit or give up. She kept herself focused and set her goals. She seems to have a drive and determination that I am not so sure I had at her age.
The one thing that is stuck in my head right now as I write this is that since the day I found out I was carrying her, all the things I had dreamed for my daughter had not necassarily turned out the way I had hoped. To be raised in a family with a mother and a father, to protect her from the cruelty of others and to give her safety and security. I could not completely give those things to her. But in spite of this, she is strong, courageous and determined.
She has her future planned to some extent and I think she is excited about it. Nervous, but excited. I admire her strength, her fairness and her vision. I envy her potential. I love her for the gift that she is to me. The gift from a loving, gracious God!!!! I will be forever grateful to Him who chose me to be her mother!
Congratulations to my daughter!!!!
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12
I was visiting with friends today and recounting to them some things that God had spoken to me about this week. One of the things He brought back to mind was the blog entry I had written on May 1st, The Sum of These. The thought that we should recognize ourselves when we look into the mirror was something that caused me a little bit of fear. Year after year you have this idea in your mind who you think you are on the inside and you pretty much know the outside is changing with age. Does the inside? I mean, when I looked into the mirror that day, I could remember thoughts I had had at various times in my life. I felt old…like there were too many years between here and there. So why did I think that I wasn’t me anymore? After all, if I am growing and changing on the outside (to my chagrin), doesn’t it stand to reason that I would do the same on the inside?
The thing the Lord had spoken to me about, in my spirit, was that the changes that have been taking place in my life, in and around me, were meant to make changes on the inside. And by faith, knowing that He has been conforming me to His image since the day I accepted Him as my Savior then naturally I would not recognize myself. I should not recognize myself. For the old man (me) has passed away and I have become new because I am in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). I am not to look like the rest of the world….while He placed me in the world to be a light I am not to “conform to this world” but I am to be transformed (Rom 12:1).
3Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.
4And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
With that new perspective on the reflection in the mirror, I began to take another inventory. Instead of remembering what I was, I made a list of what I have become, through God’s hands. I know many of you have heard the passages in the Bible that paint the picture of God, being the potter and we, being the clay. If you have ever thrown clay, you know that to make something out of the lump, you have to work the outside of the clay, putting just the right pressure in just the right places for the image in your mind to form within your hands. Then as you patiently work the piece you stick your hands or fingers inside the vessel to do the same to the inside as you did on the outside.
When this portion of the piece is complete, what you have in front of you is completely unrecognizable from the lump of clay you started with. In this process, you have confirmed the image to what was in your mind. The only thing in common with what you began with is the material it is made of. Clay is clay, no matter what form it is in. What makes the difference between the beginning form and the end product is the process it took to get it into the state of usefulness.
The external changes God allowed into my life were the very thing that He used as “pressure” to mold and form me on the inside. My heart and mind forever changed with the movement of His hands in my circumstances. It drew me to God instead of away from Him. I am aware that this is not always the case with every Christian. I had never really looked at the process this way before. I had heard people say, “God is making you into something for His glory.”; “God will use these trials to make you more like Christ.”; “God is making all things work together for good.” I also have read, on numerous occasions, the verses that speak of His conforming us to the image of His Son. But what I had not done was hold God’s process up to my life, to the mirror so to speak, to find out how He was ‘conforming’ me.
I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I thought that it was an invisible thing that happened to us. As long as I read my bible, went to church, fellowshipped with God in prayer and worship and won others to Christ, that He would through those things transform me. So in that thought, one day I would go to bed and the next morning wake up and like the magical night cream, I would be transformed. I am not naive enough to believe that but somehow I equated my trials, burdens, and loss to my walking with God. His Word says we will have trials in this world…so it is a natural part of life, especially the Christian life. I saw this as a way for God to make my heart yearn for my home, Heaven. I guess I did not understand that without the trials, burdens, and loss, I would not be able to apply the things I read in the Bible, nor would I seek God as often in prayer and worship and certainly would not, through my response to the trials, burdens and loss, be an effective witness to others.
It is very clear to me now that looking in the mirror is futile. It does not matter to me what I see in there, for I know that each time I go back, I will be changed. His Word says so. His Word does not lie, therefore it will be done! This message from God this week was especially poignant…for I had asked God for direction in a decision I needed to make about stepping out, in faith, to make a fresh start. He led me to a memory of when I first got saved and where the fire burned the brightest for me in my walk with Jesus. It was through soul winning, evangelizing and discipling. Those ministries excited me like no other since. Do not misunderstand me, those things have been important throughout my walk in the last 17 years but somehow in these past few years, my eyes and my heart were fixed on the trials, burdens, and loss. I managed to keep my faith (not without good Christian counsel, accountability, and fellowship with other believers) but my passion for these things had not burned so brightly.
So when God answered my prayer through an open door for a new ministry starting in my area, I knew exactly what God was saying….”Get back to basics” (go back to your first love). One other thing…when I took that step today…God gave confirmation (as He always does), about a month ago, God had laid it on my heart to memorize Romans 12. I had told several friends about it and tried to set about doing it…my memory is not what it used to be, LOL, so it is taking a bit longer than I anticipated…anyhoo…I had managed several verses and am still working on the rest. In doing this exercise over the last several weeks, God has given me some wonderful nuggets to use each day…well today at church…guess what scripture the Pastor preached in? Yep, you guessed it, Romans 12!
I want you all to know, specifically those who are struggling with their walk with God, that there is N-O-T-H-I-N-G in this world that will even come remotely close to being as awesome as God’s love, care and faithfulness if you will just keep your eyes on Him and off of yourself! I know that from experience!!!!!
Grace be to all of you this week!
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18
The memory of the just is blessed.
I remember one Christmas when I was a little girl how my parents had told my sister and me to go to our room and wait for a surprise. Of course, I am not sure the exact words they used but they wanted to set out our presents under the tree to open on Christmas Eve. I could hear them out in the living room moving around. It seemed to take forever. I must have been five, maybe six at the time.
In your mind, when you are that young everything in your memory seems huge. I don’t know exactly when they came and told us to come out but if I close my eyes, I can still see the door opening, looking from my room, through the hallway into the living room to the Christmas tree. I can see the hardwood floor, the color, and texture of it next to the white walls. The tree was real. The large glass Christmas tree lights in the five colors, red, green, yellow, blue and orange, wrapped around from top to bottom. The tinsel was gently moving on the branches. Even now I can still smell the metal scent on my hands after hanging it. The picture in my mind sparkles like magic.
Entering the room, glancing toward the bottom of the tree we could see all the gifts neatly arranged into two piles one, for my sister and for me. We always got matching gifts, well not exactly matching, the same thing, but different colors. If we got dolls, they were the same type of doll except for the color of the hair might be different. It was like that with our clothes too. I think it was because whatever one of us got the other wanted it too.
My mother was very creative. She liked to sew and make things. She would make clothes for our Barbie’s. I remember them being so intricate. One outfit had a wrap-around skirt that was reversible. One side was a solid color and the other side was a print. She used a piece of matching yarn to tie it all together. It was adorable. She did that with some of the outfits she made for my sister and me. Especially our Halloween costumes, she had made some of them from scratch or when sewing special dresses for some occasion.
My mom always made things nice. As I look back on those memories I realize how hard she tried to make our childhood magical. How she decorated for the holidays, made specially crafted items for the occasion. One of my favorite things to watch her do was when she made ice candles. I couldn’t believe my eyes. She poured the wax into an empty milk carton and then dropped ice down into the wax. When it hardened, she cut the carton away. There were some cool looking holes where the ice had fallen. They burned so beautifully!
When I became a mother I wanted to do those things for my kids. I wanted to plan birthday parties, make picnics fun and bring magic into my house. I was privileged to be a stay at home for a time so I tried to do that for them. I miss those days so very much, both my own childhood and my children being young when I could make everything seem magical for them. I don’t know if I did as good a job as that of my mother, I guess that will remain to be seen. Though one of the things that God has impressed upon me since my sister went home to be with the Lord on September 17, 2006, is how precious each memory is and how so important it is to pass on to our children. I hope you all have a wonderful Mother’s Day!!!
Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.
~From the television show The Wonder Years
I have been literally looking in the mirror lately, trying to really see who I have become. Often I don’t recognize myself. I can see similarities to the younger me that I once knew but there are significant changes that are somewhat bewildering. Have you ever stood, staring into your own eyes for any length of time? I have and sometimes I have the urge to talk to the stranger I see staring back at me. Who are you? Where did the real Michelle go? What have you done with her? Tell her to come back, please?
And then pictures start flashing across my mind of other times, years before, I stood in the exact same place, staring at a younger version of myself, asking myself other questions pertinent for that particular time. But this precise moment there weren’t any tangible answers. Only the memories of what I was at one time or another emerge.
The memories flood into the corners of my mind, one after another…a high school graduate; a woman wearing a military uniform; a carefree young lady seeing the world for the first time; a young woman, getting married to the first man she loved; a first time mother excited & loving life; a wife being left & losing her dream; a woman overcoming loss; a woman achieving a goal; a new woman in Christ; a panicked mother of 4 young children; a woman with the rug pulled out from underneath her; a 9 to 5 woman; a fallen woman; a woman restored; becoming a new mother-in-law & a grandmother. All those women staring back at me, saying to me,”You are the sum of these!”
I am aware that this is an age-old dance human play over time. Age begins to press on our heals and we begin searching for the meaning in everything we have experienced. We begin to examine the places our choices have taken us, the occasions that became turning points in our lives. We take account of the memories that have stayed with us and put them into categories, like childhood, teenage, young adult, mid-life, etc. It is a wonder that our minds can even recount these events let alone the hours we have spent living our life.
Let me take this opportunity to make a point here…
There are 8,760 hours in one year.
I have been alive on earth 397,824 hours
Length of time as a Christian 140,160 hours
And in one year I spend…
Approximate time sleeping 17,885 hours
(based on average 7 hrs a day)
Time at home or other 5,524 hours
Time at work 2,250 hours
Time commuting to work 690 hours
Approximate time at church 338 hours
Vacation time 90 hours
Looking at my little time chart above you can see, just calculating basic time spent in a one year period, how it would be impossible to account for every one of those hours. I tried to calculate certain activities like eating, watching TV, web surfing, bible study or praying but understandably they were virtually impossible to do so. But the picture became clear to me when considering that I do participate in these things, time is indeed spent, never to be gotten back. Time, the Lord has given me.
All my memories of certain hours in my life, goodness, I could not even begin to add them up.While sometimes unsettling, I may not recognize myself at this stage in my life but I know that God is, at this very minute, forming me into the image He has in His mind. His memories of me are complete. He remembers all 397,824 hours of my life. When I submit to His time management program I will become what He has planned for me. My responsibility is to be grateful for the time given to me and to praise God for His goodness in my life even when I did not know Him…because He certainly knew me, loved me and called me.
When I read the scripture below, the last line struck me as odd. “He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.” What would keep someone from reflecting on the days of their life, especially when they are standing in front of a mirror asking themselves questions about their identity? I believe it has to do with contentment where God has placed you. If you are truly grateful and contented with your life and the place God has put you then you will not spend the time worrying & fretting over the future or regretting the past.
I have to be honest and tell you that I am not completely contented but I am grateful for the hours of my life. I am grateful for the sum of all the women I have been. And I know that whatever God has for me next will be a wonderful addition to the sum of these.
18 Then I realized that
it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find
satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of
life God has given him—for this is his lot. 19
Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions and enables
him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a
gift of God. 20 He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.
(New International Version)