Sign of the Times

“But the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them. Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt.”  (Exodus 1:7-8)

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Theodore Roosevelt

When my kids were about eight and nine years old, one of them said to me, “Mom, when I turn eighteen, I’m moving out.”  I froze.  “Really?  You’re gonna leave me?  Why?”  The last question was more of a whine.  This conversation was about ten years premature and I didn’t want to think about it, even then.  I geared myself up to lay on the guilt, heavy and thick because I didn’t want my baby to LEAVE me.  But then, my child stopped me with one question:  “Aren’t we supposed to?”  Which made me think:  “Ok, yeah – if I do my job right, raise them to adulthood and teach them how to take care of themselves and be responsible citizens, they‘re supposed to move out and be on their own.  Then they can raise their own successful families.”

It could be viewed, I reasoned, as a measure of success, maturity and growth.  So successful parenting meant encouraging my children to grow up and get out there on their own, not trying to keep them suspended forever THERE, as my babies.  Growth is a natural progression.  You’re supposed to move on after you’ve absorbed all that you can from that experience.

A phrase I’ve heard bandied about for some time is, “Bloom where you’re planted.”  It means you can grow or increase, right where you are.  You can flourish; you can create and go on to that next level or become something else, all within your current situation.  In essence, it means, you work with what you’ve got.  And that’s true, but only up to a point; this mentality can actually stunt your growth.  Think about it – a potted plant can only grow so much before having to be moved to a bigger pot.  There’s a limit to how much you can grow where you are.  Many of us have become complacent and stationary, spinning our wheels, treading water.  We find ourselves in situations that no longer fit our lives or enable us to use our gifts and talents.  We allow ourselves to be chained in relationships that are no longer healthy.  We get frustrated and wonder why everything is a struggle.   It’s because we have become stagnant.  But we resist growth because there is a very real fear that we could potentially outgrow something or someone.   And that frightens us because once you’ve outgrown your situation, it’s time to change your situation.

There’s that word again.  Change is scary.  It’s out of our comfort zone.  We fight to hold on to life as we know it because change can also be painful.  Who wants to change?  I mentioned this to my sister one day and she was surprised by my attitude.  After all, I AM the ADVOCATE for change!  But, I fear change as much as the next person.  It’s just that I’ve realized I am fighting a losing battle.  Change is the way of life.  It’s like a freight train.  It’s coming and there’s little you can do about it, except to make up your mind how you’re gonna deal with it.  When I see that change is inevitable, I see two choices left to me:  Get on board with it or get run over by it!  After my initial resistance, I usually enter a stage of acceptance.   Once you accept that things are changing, you can move forward.

The Israelites faced a similar predicament.  When Joseph relocated his family to Egypt to avoid famine, he’d moved them into a situation that would bless them.  The Pharaoh had great respect for Joseph and the God that he served.  So he made Joseph his second-in-command and later urged Joseph to move his family to Egypt.  The Pharaoh even gave them their own territory.  It was a very generous offer.  But there came a time when a new Pharaoh rose to power.  He didn’t acknowledge the God of Israel, let alone recognize their favored position as Joseph’s descendants.  He saw the Israelites as a threat.  He forced them into slavery and slew their newborn sons.  The Israelites blessing had become a curse.  The signs were evident, the new Pharaoh’s attitude was a BIG HONKING CLUE – it was time to move on.

So God sent Moses to tell the Israelites that he would lead them to their own land – a land of prosperity, flowing with milk and honey.  They’d spent generations growing beyond the large family of twelve brothers into a great nation of twelve tribes.  They’d outgrown their current situation and were being primed to move into the next level, their inheritance.  Moses was leading them to a land where God could bless them again.  So the Israelites left BUT they grumbled and complained all along the way.  At times they wanted to go back to Egypt because even though it wasn’t the best life, it was the life they knew.  They hadn’t truly moved on – their minds were still back in Egypt.  Their obstinacy led to their undoing – because they wouldn’t move forward in their thinking, they couldn’t possess the land God wanted to give them.  They wandered the desert for forty years like people lost, just out of reach of their promised land.

From their story, I learned this lesson:  The time to “bloom where you’re planted” eventually comes to an end.  God wants to take us forward, to bless us and do something wonderful and to move us on to bigger and better things.  Life is about moving on.  Somewhere along the line, I realized that fighting growth meant fighting change and potentially, fighting my blessing.  Now, when seeming calamity comes along, I am able to consider that it may very well be God, shaking me out of my comfort zone and telling me it’s time to move on.  Actually, I’ve resisted change so much, at times, that the only way I would or could move on is because God, himself, moved me.  That’s when he reveals that my landing place was only a launching pad.  It was meant to be a period of growth and preparation; merely a transition to take me to the next level.

So, sure, do what you can, where you are … and then move on.  Don’t put down roots where you’re only meant to make a pit stop.  I’m learning how to recognize the signs that a situation is no longer working for me AND that there is value in knowing when to move on.

Be blessed,


Growing Pains

“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”
(Isaiah 46:10)
My last semester in college, I took Speech 101.  My teacher had written the textbook, literally, on making speeches.  And I had visions, dreams, ambitions of standing before great crowds, speaking and singing.  Problem with that dream was, I was shy and afraid.  So, I dreamt of a future where I wasn’t afraid.  I thought that taking a speech class would improve my ability to speak before audiences and get rid of my stage fright.  I put a lot of faith in that plan.  It would be my cure-all and the perfect solution to my problem.  My salvation.
I wrote my first speech and delivered it in front of the class.  I was a good writer so I guess I anticipated a good grade.  But when I got my graded speech from the teacher, I was stunned.  She had scrawled across the front:  “Next time remove the gum from your mouth for clear articulation!”  What?  Huh?  How was that possible?  I didn’t even have any gum in my mouth!  I was indignant, dismayed and discouraged.  I knew that I didn’t have any talent as a public speaker – that’s why I was taking her darned class!  I thought she could help me.  But she didn’t.  Apparently, she couldn’t work miracles.  I was so discouraged that I dropped a class for the first time, ever.
I carried that memory with me my whole life.  Even as I was thrust into leadership roles, I knew in the back of my mind that I was no leader.  Even as I gained more courage to sing from my soul, I knew that I had no stage presence.  Even as I was thrown into situations that required me to speak publicly, I knew I still sounded like I had gum in my mouth.
So imagine my surprise when I was drafted into a speaking role at my church one day and the minister replied, “It makes sense because you’re such a natural.”  Uroo?  (In my Astro voice – from the Jetson’s)  Wait, I mean, what?  “You’re a natural –you have such a wonderful speaking voice.”  As I continued to look at her in a strange way, it dawned on her.  “You’ve never been told that before?”  No, never. 
I recounted that story to my friend and counselor and she had this to say:  That disappointing experience with my speech teacher then, prompted me to be more careful when I speak, thus causing me to become a better speaker today.  That experience molded me and made me who I am.  Even as I believed what she’d written on my paper, I persevered.  I still tried.  I spoke in public settings.  I sang before audiences.  I became the girl in my vision.  God’s will was accomplished in my life, not only in spite of the adversity I’d faced but because of it.  Amen.
It occurred to me then, and now, that some of the things that have happened in my life NEEDED to happen, just so I could get where I am supposed to be.  That means every disappointment or setback, every victory and exultation, every challenge; every obstacle has a purpose and a meaning.  And God uses every single one of them, nothing’s wasted, to get me to the place where He has determined and ordained that I should be.
I think of the history of Israel and how Solomon’s death created a rift that split the kingdom in two.  Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, maintained control of two tribes and was about to go to war with his brethren.  But God revealed that splitting the kingdom in two was actually his plan to save a remnant of Israel.  The two tribes comprising Judah, Rehoboam’s portion, are likely the remnant that is recognized today as the nation of Israel.  The other ten tribes did not survive as a nation and were conquered and assimilated into the surrounding cultures.  So the separation, which was painful, ultimately served God’s purpose of preserving his people. 
Then there was the early Christian church which was persecuted after the crucifixion of Jesus.  They were forced into hiding, fearing for their lives.  Their fears were justified, eventually resulting in the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  This seemed to be a horrifying turn of events and the Christians fled their homeland, on the lam but also, taking the good news where ever they went.  So that really horrible thing turned out to be the catalyst that made the Gospel available to the world.  Even then, God used that situation to bring about his good purpose. 

I have many regrets. For a time, my failed marriage was one.  Even though I thought I was over it, I wasn’t.  Not completely.  There was still residual anger and pain from how things ended between us.  I could go on and on, at times, ranting about it.  Lately, I seemed to be doing more and more of that.  But going forward, I resolve to remember something else.  The person I am today, I owe, in part, to my ex-husband.  Not just because the pain of divorce changed me and made me wiser.  Besides my children, I owe some very good things about my life to him.
I get my outgoing nature from his example.  He was the opposite of me – charismatic, gregarious and extroverted.  Shy was not in his vocabulary.  He just barreled right through his fear and waited on the other side to receive his due praise.  I picture him, hands upraised in a victorious pose, Ta-Da!  When it came to performing for God, he had no reservations.
Introverted by nature, I prayed for boldness.  I realized my shy demeanor stemmed from fear of how my performance would be received.  It held me back until I learned to perform for myself and God, alone.  Once I no longer worried about my reception, I was free of debilitating shyness.  Pretty soon, I started to be very much like my (then) husband.  So I’m thankful for his influence.
Even if I could do it again, would I change any of it?  If pressed, I’d have to admit:  He is part of who I am and how I came to be.  I wouldn’t change who I am now.  I like who I am now.  I know who I am now.  I can’t even wish I’d never met my ex-husband or that we’d never gotten married.  So I choose to let go of the last vestiges, the bitter remains of any anger or hurt that linger. 
After battling drug addiction, Natalie Cole came out of rehab and was interviewed by Oprah.  She was asked, “If you had it to do over again, what would you change?”  Natalie replied, “Nothing because everything I went through made me who I am.”  Yeah, I get that.  Now, I can appreciate and accept that God used these events to get me where I always wanted to be. 
Be blessed,


A Perfect Love

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”  (1 John 4:18)

The U-Haul handled like a bus and I drove it with trepidation as I pulled into the dorm’s parking lot. It was a huge van, set on big wheels and terribly intimidating to me. But, I drove it. I had to – my need to do this for my children overrode my reservations, causing me to “drive” right through that fear. I’ve always told my children: Courage doesn’t mean you’re never afraid. It means doing what you have to do, despite being afraid. So, here I was, afraid, yet still doing it. There’s something about facing your fears that empowers you. It gives you strength to face down the next obstacle.

As we unloaded the van at my daughter’s dorm, one of my ‘besties’ came out to greet me. See, a funny thing happened on the way to college – not only was my daughter attending the same school as my son but she was also rooming with the niece of my good friend, through no design of our own. They were matched completely at random. My only misgiving was could they get along as roommates? But I could not be happier with God’s choice for a roommate (because this was surely God working and no coincidence) – my kids have known her since they were small and we all attended church together. She’s tall and beautiful, with legs that go on forever. (Sigh. I’d like to be her when I grow up.) She’s also incredibly sweet, carries herself well and is, I think, a good role model for my daughter.

It occurred to me that God had a two-fold reason for putting these girls together.  In doing so, it resulted in my friend being there for me. For all my illusion of strength and control, I could still potentially wind up a basket case when the time came to actually let them go. Just seeing my friend encouraged me. It let me know that I was not alone. Help was right here, just in case I needed it. That made me feel strong. Although she came to deliver her niece to the dorm, I felt like God had her come just for my sake.

I said goodbye to my friend and then unloaded my son’s things at his dorm. I wanted to make sure the kids had everything they needed, so my daughter and I took a trip to Wal-Mart to stock up on supplies. As we were standing in the grocery aisle, I noticed my daughter was suddenly quiet. I turned to see a face, peering around my shoulder and leaning between me and my daughter. I drew in a sharp breath as recognition dawned on me. I gasped three times – My FRIEND! It was my good buddy and co-worker from my call center days. We used to study our bibles together there. I hugged her to me. It was so good to see her again and doubly so on this day.

She’d sent me a message that her own daughter would also be attending the same college and added; maybe we’d see each other on move-in day. I thought it highly unlikely as they stayed in different dorms but here she was – another good friend, there for me on my big day. I knew God had done that. I knew he was taking care of me. My heart swelled with joy.

As we left the parking lot, my cell phone rang – my sister calling. She made some excuse to hide her true reason but I knew: she was concerned about me. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t lying somewhere in a puddle of my own tears, having a complete breakdown. She was worried that my legendary strength, in this, would fail me. She wanted to be there for me, if needed, even if only via phone. Of course, she denied it. But, I knew. I also realized it was her love and the love of my friends that gave me strength on this day. I felt like God had surrounded me with his love. Who could cry then? I felt migh-TY blessed.

We drove back to the dorm. As I prepared to take my leave, my daughter said, “Come back. Sit for a while. Have a bowl of cereal.” By this, I knew she wasn’t quite ready for me to go. So I delayed, helping put away her things and assembling her fan. Then I called my son over to her room and hugged them both, saying my goodbyes. I’m sure my nose turned red (it always does, I’m told) as I fought to not cry. I clasped their hands and prayed for them, speaking the same benediction over them which has evolved in the years since they first left for kindergarten: “Heavenly Father, In Jesus’ name, watch over my children and keep them safe from all hurt, harm and danger …” I choked up from the memories of it. My son gave his sister a look that clearly said, “Here she goes!” He expected this to be the BIG breakdown. Mama’s gonna lose it. But I didn’t. I kept it together and walked out of the dorm. I soon realized my daughter was beside me.

“What are you doing?” I say.

“Walking you to your car,” she said. Left unsaid was, “Making sure you’re OK.”

Her concern was my undoing. My vision clouded and tears finally began to fall as she hugged me to her. This time, my tears were only for her. I was letting my baby go.

“That’s it, forget it!” She joked. “Let’s go back and get my things and I’ll go home with you.”

“Not after all the money I’ve spent!” I said. “You’d better stay.” Besides, I didn’t want her to become like me, a bucket of fears walking around on two legs.

“Don’t worry – we’ll take good care of your baby!” Another voice said.

I turned to see a man in a suit walking by. I had faith in his suit; it comforted me. I hoped it meant he spoke with some authority and that I could trust him. In any case, I was holding him to his word. As I looked into my daughter’s happy face, the face of a young woman now, the final piece fell into place and a light came on. I realized I could trust God to take care of her. He loves her, too. He would be with her. He put a lot of people in place to guide her and keep her safe. He is invested in her. With that thought, the last of my fears evaporated.

“Perfect love casts out fear,” I quoted to my friend and counselor one day. She responded, “There’s no such thing as perfect love.” But I thought to myself then, thinking of my relationship with God, “Yeah, there is.” God’s love is perfect. His love on this day, manifested through the kindness of others, eased my fear.

As I drove home, I shed no tears. I was jubilant.  I was triumphant. I felt safe in the knowledge that God loved me. I felt secure that my daughter would be taken care of. I knew that I would be taken care of.  I had no worries.  I drove to the library to get a book. I got out of the car thinking, “Oh, I have to hurry home because of the kids…” No, I reminded myself, I don’t. Then, I went to the grocery store, thinking of all the things I would need to get for the kids … No, I didn’t. So, I pushed my cart, thinking of all the things I would get just for me. And I grinned. I was truly single, again.

Be blessed,