I don’t have any children of my own, but I notice that God seems to like to impart lessons to me by way of children.
This blog has two lessons I learned just moments apart. It was last summer after a full day celebrating the Fourth of July with several Christian musical artists at a packed stadium followed by fireworks. I joined my friend and blogging partner Destinee and her family for a meal before heading home.
It was very late and we were all getting tired, but were hungry and I think the parents concluded that stopping for a meal was simpler at that point than feeding the kids at home. We settled on the International House of Pancakes as our eatery of choice for that late evening.
We were seated around three sets of tables against a wall. One side had booth seats with the opposite side housing chairs. Three adults and four children went to work poring through the menu selecting the most decadent pancakes possible.
“I want a ‘Funny Face’ pancake.” Shayla declared.
Funny Face Pancake
There were so many delectable selections such as Belgian Dark Chocolate Mousse pancakes, Cupcake pancakes, even New York Cheesecake pancakes. The funny thing is I can’t remember for sure what I got, but Desi’s husband, Chris got the Mexican Tres Leches pancakes. I remember because he let me taste them and they were amazing – better than my selection, which I think was the Vanilla Spice pancakes.
Destinee helped the younger two children make their picks from the kid’s menu. Nehemiah, the youngest and just over 2 years old at the time, was infatuated with all the syrups and had to be constantly pulled back from the syrup caddies containing a multitude of flavored syrups – blueberry, strawberry, plain, butter, etc.
The restaurant was especially cold with the air conditioning blasting frigid air. Even I felt cold and I’m almost always warmer than everyone else. The children all complained of the cold and their father was able to retrieve extra tee shirts from his car that he passed out. The kids bundled up in the oversized tees seeking warmth. The server got the A.C. reduced and we began to warm up as we tucked into our meals. After our appetites were satisfied fatigue began to hit the children harder as we were in the process of getting checked out with the server.
It was about this time that Shayla loudly declared, “I’M COLD!”
Destinee replied, “We know.”
Her complaint grated against the comfort and satiation of full bellies. It was still cool in the restaurant, but we were preparing to leave and there was nothing more to do. We all knew it was cool, but extra layers had been provided, the air conditioning lessened and the time in the restaurant almost over.
And it hit me. I do this with God. When I have a problem and God doesn’t remove it, this is what I do. He has lessened the pain and provided comfort, but the problem, the discomfort remains, and I come to him to say –
“HEY!! I still have this problem and I’M UNCOMFORTABLE! I’M UNHAPPY THAT YOU HAVEN’T REMOVED MY DISCOMFORT!!!”
It made me think how I keep complaining to God sometimes because I think he must not have heard me or understood me since he has not removed my trouble. But the scripture promises that he hears our cries.
Psalm 116:2 Amplified
Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I will call on Him as long as I live.
Psalm 18:6 NIV
In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.
And it made me wonder if the tone of my complaint to Father God was as sour seeming and as discordant as Shayla’s gripe about the cold. I want to make sure that I also note that Shayla has many sweet moments where she expresses a tender, sensitive heart. I don’t want to make her out to be the bad guy, but it was a moment the Lord used to catch my attention about the attitude I can get with him. And it helped remind me that even when I feel like God must not have truly heard me or fully understood me, that how I feel isn’t as true as what God’s word promises.
Just as that happened Destinee had the two youngest children, one balanced on each knee. Honestly, her ability to carry/hold two children while directing the others and carrying on conversation is quite impressive to me. It’s a mom-thing I definitely don’t have.
She held Eli and Nehemiah, each on a knee. Sitting across from them I saw Eli’s face melt into woe and despair as he cried out in fear and concern, “I’m FALLING!”
Destinee barely skipped a beat, wasn’t frightened, wasn’t fearful as she confidently replied, “I’ve got you.”
Again, it was one of those moments I felt the Lord pull me out of time as he nudged me in the ribs with his elbow.
“Did you get that?” I hear the Holy Spirit prompt me.
All the times I feel out of control and spiraling downward, sure that I am plummeting to my demise and final failure, and the Father, sure and confident, says, “I’ve got you.”
But it doesn’t feel like it to me!
John 10:27-29 NIV
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
Isaiah 43:11-13 NLT
I, yes I, am the Lord, and there is no other Savior.
First I predicted your rescue, then I saved you and proclaimed it to the world. No foreign god has ever done this. You are witnesses that I am the only God,” says the Lord.
“From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done.”
Hebrews 13:5 b Amplified
For He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]
And I imagine my distress is as real as little Eli’s and Papa God’s confidence greater than Destinee’s. Destinee had no fear or concern that Eli was slipping. She was absolutely sure he wasn’t and that her grip on him was firm. I think maybe the key for me to remember is it isn’t always about how tightly I can hold onto God or feel his grip or sense his hold. It’s about how firmly he has me in his hand. It’s about the truth that he is not a man and he is incapable of lying. [Numbers 23:19] It’s about his promise to never let me go or let me slip out of his hold.
God’s got me. God’s got you.
I don’t have any children of my own, but I notice that God seems to like to impart lessons to me by way of children.
Traveling around town with my friend and blogging partner Destinee in her vehicle with her four children last fall, her youngest, Nehemiah was behind my seat. When we reached a stop light, his little feet would pummel the back of my seat as he urged, “Go, Mommy! Go!”
Destinee would patiently explain that we were at a stop light and couldn’t “go.”
“Go, Mommy! Go!” Nehemiah persisted at each stop light and stop sign punctuating his words with kicks to the back of my seat.
“I can’t go, Nehemiah,” Destinee attempted to explain another time, “I’ll go to jail if I don’t stop at the light.”
“You no go to jail, Mommy, it okay, you go!” Nehemiah insisted in broken toddler speak.
We chuckled at his inability to grasp the purpose of our traffic laws. I thought about it at one of the stop signs as he urged us to go. I thought about how we don’t always get to be first. I thought about how even in traffic we need to take turns and give others an opportunity to “go” even when we’re in a hurry and it doesn’t necessarily suit us.
And I realized toddler “Nemo” simply wasn’t ready to grasp those concepts. He’s a bright sweet two-year-old, but he isn’t yet able to comprehend the complexities of American traffic laws.
Shortly after this, I was reading Joyce Meyers’ book on Healing the Soul of a Woman when I came to this section:
“I think it is safe to say that we all begin our journey with God full of self-will, and trading that for God’s will takes a lot of time and is often painful to us. Spiritual babies are no different than human babies. Both want their own way and will behave badly when they don’t get it. Just as we train our children, God trains us.”
Suddenly, my whole perspective of Nehemiah’s childish demands flipped and I saw myself as the toddler pounding on Daddy God’s chest.
“Go, Daddy! Go!”
“No, Daughter,” he says gently, “It’s not time.”
“It time, Daddy – Go!”
So many scenarios in my life where God has had me on pause, in the waiting room – waiting, waiting, waiting spun into the analogy.
And in this moment I see my childish demands full of self-will and Father God chuckling lovingly at me, realizing that I am unable to grasp the complexities of his purposes and timing.
This is trust training. Learning to say, I trust you God in this place that you don’t respond to my repeated demands for change. I don’t necessarily like it. But I trust you.
You are the creator of the heavens and earth. You have been a father for longer than I have been a daughter.
I trust that your plans for me are good. I trust that you won’t withhold any good thing from me. I trust you. We go when you say so, Papa.
**Originally published on Girly Christian blog as a guest blog by me.
Twas the first eve of Driver’s ed –
Who knew if we’d make it through alive or dead?
Many had gone before and many would follow,
But I only pray dear Lord to be alive tomorrow!
We cautiously entered that battered, worn, torn car
With cruise control gone and A.C. below par.
Signs emblazoned about and above for all to see,
Proclaiming that beginning drivers were we.
A handful of giggling girls filled the load
Out to conquer the mysteries of the road.
Just to make sure we made it through alive
Was Mr. Moony staunchly at the driver’s side.
“Girls, no need to fret,” he boldly declared,
“I’m fabulous! Not average or fair!”
Thus knowing the ego of our master
We began our quest to the sounds of – ‘Slower, no faster!’
For ages upon ages he had faced the fears
Of riding with drivers just skimming 16 years.
Many a time he’d looked death in the face
As he tried to regulate the driver’s pace.
Highways and city traffic held no fear for him
As he bravely risked life and limb.
A noble man, a martyr no doubt,
Teaching others to survive traffic’s tortuous routes.
Though you’ll find, if you look very close
Past the seemingly peaceful pose,
The worn steel brake on the passenger’s side
As he heroically tries to make it through one more ride.
You’ll notice also how he clings so tight
To the fraying seat belt as he valiantly battles his fright.
What drives a man to such lengths you might ask,
What spurs such commitment to completion of a task?
Many have pondered over long years this very query,
Longing to understand the heart of such dedication clearly.
The conclusion to which we must arrive
Is not money, for could money motivate such drive?
Neither is it love that provokes such devotion,
Nay tis only insanity that could pursue a man to such notions.
Yet, despite unsoundness of mind and just to show we care,
The cost of your necessary therapy we promise to share,
And selflessly we give enough to cover (in part)
The surgery duly required for your failing heart!
by Jenne Brown
This is from a paper I wrote for an college English class. I edited the ending after finding this some 17 years after it was written, some 23 years after the incident itself occurred.
She had a soft, southern accent that slurred her already gentle voice. She held herself nervously, shoulders slightly hunched, head bent forward, eyes gazing up. Shelly, the temporary brought in to help me get through the excess of work.
She wore a pale blue, button-up with short sleeves and a long, straight skirt of white with blue roses printed on it. Pearls and sensible navy flats completed her ensemble. It was a first-day-of-an-assignment outfit. It was the kind of outfit that could be found in every discount and department store across the nation. It was the kind of outfit I always thought I should buy, yet never did. In stark contrast to her prim attire, I wore a ruffled skirt that landed just above my knees. Every ruffle was a different pattern of blue and white and green.
I found a spot for her in the break room where she could spread out and assemble the quarterly statements sent to the Columbus Jewish Foundation fund holders. I stopped in to check on her after about an hour. “How you makin’ out?” I inquired brightly.
She pointed to a run in her tan hose. “That just happened,” she explained. “I wouldn’t want you to think I came in with that. It just happened a few minutes ago.”
“Oh,” I replied, staring at the tear, trying to understand the depth of her distress. “It’s okay, don’t worry about it. Happens to me all the time,” I told her with a smile.
I returned to my desk and began typing a letter when I heard a crash through the doorway. I ran into the kitchen where I discovered the coffee mug I had lent her shattered across the linoleum floor in solid chunks.
“Oh, my gosh! I am so sorry!” Shelly cried fretfully over and over. Surveying the remnants of the mug strewn across the floor, I squelched my frustration. It was one of my favorite mugs. With a deep breath, I placed a smile on my face.
“Don’t worry about it. It was just an accident,” I reassured her as I began wiping up coffee, gathering moss-covered clay fragments, dodging the sharp edges.
Once everything was cleaned, we resumed our separate projects, working in silence for another hour, before I invited her to join me outside for a break. Standing on the stoop next to the side door, soaking up sunshine, she confessed to me in a scared voice, “I’m not Jewish.”
I laughed, “I thought the same thing when I came here last fall. Actually, about half the people in the building aren’t Jewish.” I explained lightly. She made no reply and the silence grew heavy. “Have you been with the employment agency long?” I questioned, longing to fill the emptiness with words.
“We just moved here. My husband’s cousin is giving him a job with his construction company. Back in South Carolina we went to a non-denominational church and some of the people there know some folks up here. They go to a church that’s in the same conference as ours and they’ve been helping us get settled,” she divulged in quick words and sentences without periods. After her flurry of words she fell silent, looking at me expectantly.
Stumbling awkwardly from the uneven exchange, I groped for an appropriate response. “Oh, that’s great. Yeah, I go to a non-denominational bible fellowship on Tuesdays and Sundays.” I thought maybe telling her I was a Christian would ease her discomfort. I recognized that it was a little scary to come in to an environment so foreign and strange.
As we descended the stairs to the lower level I reflected on our discussion. Shelly’s nervous comments took me back to the previous November. I had felt so torn in accepting a placement at the Jewish Foundation. I had truly believed that working for a Jewish organization was somehow a compromise of my own beliefs. It had taken me three days to recognize that neither my parents nor my ministers had taught me this. Through Chanukah and Christmas, Passover and Easter I was forced to examine my own beliefs and assumptions.
Over lunch, I pondered how much of life I had taken as a “given” before I came to the Foundation. It had been a “given” that everyone around me shared some similitude of my beliefs. It had been a “given” that the person sitting next to me in the restaurant or pumping gas by my side had a similar background and future as I. Evaluating my “givens” challenged my narrow perceptions and exposed me to the full, and sometimes, harsh light of other realities than my own.
After lunch Shelly came to my desk. She stood in a half-crouch, leaning over me with a distraught expression on her face. “I’m so sorry, but I can’t stay,” she almost whispered in an unsteady voice.
Instantly concerned, I probed, “What’s wrong?” Did she feel sick, I wondered, or had something happened to her husband? I was not prepared for her answer.
“I’m a Christian,” she replied. “And you know, in church we pray for these people, the Jews, and I’m sorry, but I’ll finish the day, but I can’t come back tomorrow.”
The only response I could muster was a look of surprise. I continued to sit stunned while she returned to her seat. Ten dozen contradicting emotions crashed incoherently in my brain. I felt anger. Anger at Shelly’s ignorance. Anger at the teachers and pastors and parents who fostered such ignorance. I felt insulted. I had told Shelly I was also a Christian. Telling me she could not stay because of her Christianity was a slap in my face, an invalidation of my beliefs. I felt hurt. I thought Shelly, like me, would find the Foundation a rewarding environment ripe with potential.
I sat looking at her hunched profile through the open doorway of my office, across the hall and through the doorway of the break room. There she sat. I could feel her anxiety like a tangible force, reaching across the hallway to engulf me. I wanted her gone.
I grappled for composure. Slowly, deliberately I went in to her. I measured my steps and voice, knowing I stood close to the edge of rash actions. In a calm, even voice that wouldn’t betray my inner turmoil, I relayed, “Shelly, if you really feel that way, I think you should go ahead and leave. You won’t do yourself or us any good in the state you’re in.”
Her lips clamped together and her brows hunched over her eyes. She inhaled sharply through her nose, causing her chest to puff out, and her shoulders to go rigid. Her eyes turned red as she fought the burgeoning tears.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have accepted the assignment. It’s just, well, I…it was the first thing they offered me and I was afraid if I said no they wouldn’t give me anything else. I’m sorry.”
“Shelly, you don’t have to explain. I just think it that’s how you feel, then it’s best for everyone if you leave now.”
She stood there for an instant and I could see words bumping together frantically in her mind, but none reached her lips. Yes, I too longed for a nice, tidy way to end our acquaintance. Unable to articulate her thoughts, she sprang into motion, grabbing her purse, not bothering with the strap, looking anxiously for any stray pieces of her presence and finding none, she walked out. She looked back once as she turned the corner to the stairs.
I returned to my desk where I sat for a long time after she departed, sorting through the emotional debris left from our encounter. The anger resurged, anger that fear had choked Shelly, anger that she couldn’t breath the sweet air of understanding. Her fear made her blind, unreasonable, illogical. I ached for her lack of understanding. I cursed life for being such a tangled weave of right and wrong, of muted grays and strained whites. I wished it were easier to set oneself in the very midst of broken humanity, look straight on its chipped face, and still find the beauty among the scars.
I dreaded having to tell the Executive Director, Jack. Shelly’s decision was not a personal slight against Jack, but it felt so terribly personal. It was late afternoon before he finally returned from his meeting. I hurried unskillfully through the incident, reciting as few details as necessary.
“Jack, should I call the agency to see if we can still get someone out here tomorrow?”
He thought for a few seconds. “No, I’ll just ask my wife if she can come in for a few days,” he spoke without his normal exuberance, a weary note in his voice that I had not heard before.
Once Jack was settled in his office, I called the agency. The representative began a barrage of criticism against Shelly, but I stopper her. I’d had time to think and I knew what I wanted to say to Shelly. “Can you do me a favor?” I asked.
Eager to rectify the situation, Nichole could not respond fast enough, “Sure, anything. What do you need?”
“It’s a little unorthodox, but could you ask Shelly to review the account of Joseph working for Pharaoh?”
In the coming days, Jack relayed the story to a number of people. For weeks, I would be in the midst of some project and would be stopped to discuss the episode. In our small corner of the world, I had become the goyim champion, standing up in the face of antisemitism. I became a hero of sorts, but I wore the praise uneasily. The truth was I felt ashamed of how much I could relate to Shelly. The assignment to the Jewish Foundation had also been my first assignment and truthfully, I had only accepted because, like Shelly, I was afraid I wouldn’t be offered future assignments if I refused it. Like Shelly I had grappled with working at the Jewish Foundation.
Unlike Shelly I had come to recognize the error of my thoughts, but I didn’t want to admit to my Jewish coworkers and friends how truly similar I was to Shelly.
I have so many Shelly scenarios in my life now. So many moments where I so narrowly escaped becoming prisoner to fear and ignorance. And I have many years, many decades where I did succumb to wrong ideas that governed my actions through fear and intimidation. It still scares me to see how close I came to never becoming free from the cloying containment of those ignorant beliefs. It still steals my breath to see so many people who never choose to pursue the uncomfortable path of confronting the limiting belief systems they are familiar with.
If you missed the previous blog, click here!
I was given bag after bag after bag of gorgeous, mint-condition clothes, coats and accessories from an acquaintance I made.
I tell you just writing all of this and editing it, now that there is a little more time and distance from these scenarios, I’m even more amazed at all God did for me and also that I survived! Part of me is in awe and part of me still feels slightly traumatized from some of the experiences. Times with the Lord can be like a roller coaster with highs and lows!
And there were many, many times that I didn’t know where my rent was coming from. That Friday night when I came home to a phone call before the long Fourth of July weekend to be told that my work assignment was over, I responded by walking into my unfurnished living room, lifting my arms and my voice to praise God.
I didn’t praise God because I was happy, but to show my confidence in His supply and to stand in defiance to the negative emotions that stood eager to consume me.
My friend treated me to two new outfits for my brother’s wedding and rehearsal dinner. Prior to getting on the plane, she handed me a cash gift that helped with incidental travel expenses.
The rent during those times came through differently, but it was only the last time that I asked my parents for help. Every other time, it worked out different ways, different people offered me help without me asking. It usually moved me to ugly cry when loving friends stepped in to help me out as I did my best. I prayed and praised and wept a lot – before and AFTER the answers came. I actually wailed with joy when I received my food benefit for the first time. It was so much more than I had been living on for a long time. It was so abundant compared to what I’d been getting by on. I realized then that wailing in joy sounds the same as wailing for sorrow!
My father treated me to a trip to the salon for a trim, highlight and style for my brother’s wedding.
Provision has come a lot of different ways, and they aren’t always obviously supernatural, but I see the hand of God often in helping me. Then there are other times, I never have it on paper or in the bank and I get through. And sometimes I’m eating ramen noodles, but I tell you, often in those places, it’s like the Lord does a work for me on those inexpensive noodles! I have wondered if he did something like that to make manna taste good for the Israelites after so many years and so many meals. Or maybe manna doesn’t need that kind of help.
I used to cry, “God, if you don’t provision me, people will think you didn’t commission me. That was honestly one of my biggest fears coming here to Albuquerque. I felt like I’d flopped so many times before in my life. I believed this time was different, and it has been. It has been gloriously hard and filled with wonderment and weeping in both frustration and jubilation.
Gifted a crock pot with liners.
God has been so glorious and so generous to inspire people to be kind and loving to me. I endeavor to always bring my requests to God. I ask him for help. I do the best I know to do. I endeavor to be wise with my money and my health and seek the Lord’s aid and he inspires people to express goodness to me. I can’t even show it all here. I can’t show all the meals, the concerts, the events, the conferences, the gifts I’ve been showered with by good and giving people.
As I was pulling all these pictures to put into this blog, I kept thinking how I would end the blog by pointing out that the greater gift has been the gifts of friendship. And I do believe that. But then I realized, the greatest gift has been the depth of friendship found with God through all this. Discovering how truly good and faithful God is to his character and his word and his promises to be my supply and my sufficiency. The greatest supply, the greatest provision through these times has been the supply of relationship with the Godhead, the provision of comfort and friendship that I have found in the company of my Father, my Lord and the Holy Spirit.
Praise God, hallelujah, amen.
My first shopping trip with the food benefit. I went a little crazy in the chip aisle! If you look, you can see how I don’t have furniture in the background. Just a lamp on the floor.