From the Border…

It was only 335 miles – piece of cake – from the Arizona/New Mexico border to Tucumcari, our stop for the night. Driving it would be fun – something I could do in my sleep. Only I learned a valuable lesson – never, ever use the words I could do it in my sleep in the same sentence as driving.

20160728_182724_resizedIt was late afternoon when I took over the wheel from my husband. Both of us were exhausted from difficult days prior to this trip. I thought I could easily take the strain of this leg away from my husband. After the sun dipped low in the sky and eventually disappeared, I was beyond my comfort zone.

That’s when the name calling started…

Not from my husband, but from that well deep inside of me where my cruel self-talk resides. Idiot! What makes you think you are a good enough driver to drive all this way in the dark? You are so stupid!

Anytime I make mistakes or bad decisions, these thoughts spring forth. Part of it is impatience with myself; part of it is the knowledge I should have known better. No matter what, though, this name calling hurts! Instead of thinking positive and encouraging thoughts, I find the ugly part of me that has wiggled so deep inside it now feels part of me. I wound myself all over again.

That night, when I pulled into our motel’s parking lot, I momentarily placed my head on the steering wheel and lifted up a prayer to God. Thank You for getting us through. Thank You for keeping us safe. Thank You for keeping me on the road!

Even a strong prayer of Thanksgiving doesn’t negate all that brutal self-talk. Does it come as naturally to you as it does to me? We punish ourselves with contempt if we think we haven’t accomplished what we should, didn’t show kindness to others, or my favorite: couldn’t keep up with the dust, disorder and dirt in the house.

How we talk to ourselves matters.

When I approach God, this crouching attitude of derision often follows me. I am constantly apologizing for my stupidity, my pride, my laziness, my mistakes. I get so bogged down in these words of shame and disrespect sometimes I think God believes them, also.

With my head on the steering wheel, He whispered to me, “You are called my delight.” The warmth enveloping me as I slipped out of the car to register was palpable. His delight! No way! The next day, I looked up delight on Biblegateway. What He said in the 8th century BC is still as pertinent today. “No longer will you be called deserted. (or reckless or stupid or dumb) Instead, you will be called My delight is in her.” (Isaiah 62:4)

Before I fell asleep, those same negative thoughts invaded my sleep. It is so easy to punish ourselves when we are disappointed in our own behavior. It becomes so natural, we forget to stop it. Sadly, we begin to think we deserve it.

If God calls us His Delight, what business do we have of correcting him with our negative self-talk? We are loved by a God who called us Delight and never Disappointment. As a child of God, it is my birthright to call myself His Delight.

I slept soundly despite the difficult, tiring day. God brought me from the border of disappointment in myself to delighting in Him. No matter what I say about myself, He has the final word. And his ultimate, everlasting word is: My delight is in her.

A Father to the Fatherless

Every night, he’d quietly creep into my bedroom. As a restless child when I was awake, I was also one when I slept. So before he went to sleep, my father noiselessly checked in on me, once more pulling the covers I kicked off over me and kissing me tenderly on my cheek.  It wasn’t a big thing and quite honestly, I probably wouldn’t have even known this was his habit except my mother told me. This small gesture, though, was just like my dad. He listened when I was angry, kissed my boo-boos when I hurt myself, taught me his love of reading, shared his excitement of travel, complimented me when I needed encouragement – in general, he had mastered the art of making everything better.

family pictures031-1Today, Father’s Day 2016, would have been my Dad’s 93th birthday. Unfortunately, he passed away suddenly 44 years ago, when I was just a teenager. Sometimes my grief is so fresh, it feels like he died yesterday and not over 40 years ago. I miss his ability to see the best in me in any situation. I miss the hope he shared about my future. Mostly I miss his talent for always having the right words to heal my broken heart. I remember his encouraging words when self-doubt creeps in the midst of my tragedies, self-doubt and personal failures. His character, love and compassion are imprinted into my DNA.

Perhaps, like me, you have no one to call on Father’s Day. Going through life without a father is a bit like sailing at night without a lighthouse.  Adrift on the black waters, navigating the unknown dangers of the dark with no one to call, no one to ask for advice, no one to lean into for guidance and fatherly advice.

Yet God…He never wanted us to drift through life like a boat without a rudder. The Psalmist wrote that God is a Father to the Fatherless.  In Psalm 68:5, the writer declares God to be, “A Father to the Fatherless, a defender to widows, is God in His holy dwelling.”

I used to wonder what these words meant, A Father to the Fatherless. There were many times when I didn’t want an unseen, vague figure as a father, but a living, breathing man who could wrap his arms around me, stroke my hair and gently whisper in my ear that everything would be okay. I thought that human touch would conquer everything.

But now, when I look back on my life, I see the places along my journey when God was there. Where He intervened to save me from danger and where He had my back. Protecting, guiding, loving just as my daddy would have done. God was always there, before and even after my dad passed away.

When I wanted to call my father to ask his advice, I learned the most natural next best thing to do was pray. I started seeking my heavenly Father whenever I wanted a piece of paternal advice. This turned out to be the very best thing of all.

When I sought God, I found Him. When I asked Him the tender questions a daughter asks her daddy, God answered. His voice was clear. His peace was real.

A Father to the Fatherless, indeed – one who was always guarding, guiding, giving. I know this now to be true.

The shifting shadows of life disappear in the radiant light of His love. Like a lighthouse on a hill, God beckons the fatherless homeward and into the safe harbor of His care. He is the heavenly Father who loves unconditionally, provides unreservedly and protects unceasingly.

If you are like me, fatherless on Father’s Day with no one to call, celebrate that God is calling you.

Proposal

I was robbed! When I found the man of my dreams, I envisioned a marriage proposal for the ages – with hearts and flowers, violins softly playing in the background as candles lit the scene. The fellow on his knees, professing his unending love for me, complete with a gorgeous wedding ring. We’d end the evening close to one another, two hearts beating as one, while we sipped sweet champagne and ate decadent chocolate covered strawberries.

wedding 041616001Mine was the polar opposite. Richard and I were in the midst of an argument, so that night I almost didn’t let him into my apartment. I certainly didn’t expect a proposal, so when it came, I doubted his sincerity. There were no candles, no soft dreamy music, not even a flower – much less a ring. I didn’t believe Richard was serious until he called a friend who was mostly negative about our relationship to break the news of our engagement. Instead of champagne and strawberries, we celebrated with pie at Baker’s Square. Richard didn’t even get down on one knee until I requested that. Not a romantic proposal at all!

It isn’t how a man proposes that is romantic, rather how he tenderly lays his life down for his wife. Romance is how a man willingly lets his beloved bore a hole deep into his heart, so that his heart is forever seared by her. It sounds painful and in a way true love is. It will make you suffer because it grows only through service and faithfulness. For 25 years of marriage, Richard has been down on one knee.

Love isn’t about hearts and flowers, but about a mutual laying down one’s agenda for the other. Both husband and wife relinquish their own desires in order to strengthen another. Love is not passion; it becomes passionate only through sacrifice.

Dancing in the moonlight on a rainy beach is splendid, but true romance is about the tough task of taking two lives and molding them into one stronger than its distinct parts. It is about commitment that grows deeply sacred while fixing toilets, staying up all night in order to avoid going to bed angry and enjoying the mundane days simply because they include each other. The good, the bad and all the things in between are challenging, yet both husband and wife do them voluntarily for the sake of love.

Romantic men and women know how to treat their beloved with dedication, devotion and surrender. The courage to so only comes through the strength of Christ. While I may be disappointed about the proposal, I am ecstatic I have a man whose love is based on Christ’s.

Love is more than a feeling. Real romance is heartfelt sacrifice. And it is the only way two lives grow deeper in time, more firmly rooted in love with each passing moment.