Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 2015, The Month of Serendipity

This past month has been nearly flawless. Yesterday totally sucked, I'll get to that part later, but I am still going to call March of 2015 the Month of Serendipity.

It was crazy good, in some big ways but in all the tiny little details too. The days unfolded before me like that scene in the movie where Marilyn Monroe is gliding through a sea of men in tuxedos and being lavished in diamonds and squealing at the Cartier's and Tiffany's as she's belting out "diamonds are a girl's best friend." But screw the diamonds, I've been squealing over spring's bursting jasmine and this wild tree in front of my house that is blooming like never before.The tree has lived here as long as we have but we have never seen such flowers on it. The branches are weighing heavy with pure white blossoms and carpeting the path underneath. Even the neighbors have come over to ooh and ah at it's glory.

But more importantly, I've been belting out about Jesus. He's done a New Thing in me. A while back, my sister in law Jif started praying a scripture over me. She read it to me at some point when I was still neck deep in fear and confusion. But already knowing the scripture in my head, I mumbled off a quick thank you and then returned promptly to my mire.

The scripture is Ephesians 3:16-19, "I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

I must have read those words a thousand times in the last twenty years, I'm sure I spouted them off more than once to one friend or another whilst trying to sound deep and super spiritual.

But now, I know these words in my heart...and they know me.

Ut oh, I feel another tattoo coming on.

Earlier this month I tattooed Isaiah 43:18-19 on my wrist. I know, I know, scandalous! My kids were shocked. I have always forbidden them from getting tattoos. Like super forbidden, like I-won't-pay-for-college-if-you-get-a-tattoo-forbidden. But now I may have to re-evaluate my rules.

Isaiah 43:18-19, " Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a New Thing! It springs up now, Do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wasteland and streams in the desert."

Almost 5 years ago God gave me this verse seven times in ten days. I know that sounds crazy but it's true. It just kept coming to me, the first time, it leapt off the page at me during a bible study with such weight that I called Jon at work to read it to him. He was working at a super crappy low-paying job at the time and was quiet on the other end of the phone.

Later that day I bumped into my neighbor Elisha and told her about the verse. The whole neighborhood was knee deep in the recession at the time and the verse was very encouraging to her as well.

The next day I went sobbing to a local church that has a prayer room.  It's a beautiful place, a candle lit room with pillows scattered on the floor. You don't need an appointment, you don't even have to say anything. You just lie down on a pillow and people will come and lay hands on you and pray for you. I was crying so hard I just collapsed on the first pillow I saw. Things hadn't been going so well. Like everybody else, we were broke, in fear of losing our house, Jon and I were fighting all the time and it seemed like each of our kids had insurmountable challenges going on. And then there was the whole part of my heart that deeply believed I would never be good enough, that I wasn't really a child of God and that one day I would surely go mad and ruin the lives of everyone I love.

A woman with a soft voice put her hands on my back and soothed me as I whimpered hunched over like a child in a schoolyard. I don't even remember what she prayed, I just knew the Holy Spirit was there. And eventually I began to catch my breath as I rested my head on the pillow. She sat with me for a few moments and then she said I could lay there as long as I like and she went to pray with someone else on a nearby pillow.

After a little bit, I rubbed my eyes clear, tucked my hair behind my ears and got up to leave. But as I walked to the door, the lady who prayed for me, stopped me.

"Oh, wait sweetie," she says, "God wants me to give you something," and she hands me a thin piece of paper, pre-cut and pre-typed. #2

I raced home and showed the paper to Elisha, "Wow," she says, "God really wants you to hear that."

We laughed and marveled at the coincidence and then I went inside to start dinner.

But first I checked my email and then got stuck in some rabbit whole on the internet. I don't even remember what I was looking up...but #3 the verse came flashing across the computer screen. I stood up and held my hand over my mouth.

Then I picked up the phone and called Elisha.

"Come over" , I said.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Just come over", I repeated.

When she got here I was standing about ten feet back from my computer and I just pointed.

We just stood there quietly in awe for several moments.

Then the next day it was again repeated in my bible study, #4, I just chuckled to myself and said, "Okay God, I hear you."

But apparently He wasn't totally sure I did because a couple days later, my mother in law called me and she says, "Ya know, Tami I heard the best sermon on Sunday and I was totally thinking about you. It was on the verse...#5.

Then the next day I bump into my friend Sylvia and she says to me, no joke, she says" You know what verse has really been speaking to me lately?" #6

Then I went to my women's group, and of course the verse they were studying that day...drumroll please...#7

Yeah, so now I tattooed it on my arm.

But the grueling work God has been doing these past five years was no slight thing. So many days I pounded my fists on my bedroom floor saying, "No God, No! I do not perceive it! I do not perceive a new thing, I feel stuck in the same old crap and the same old fears!"

I fought Him hard.

And I also fought several demons...

and then I gave up. I gave up fighting...

and then for a while there, I even gave up hoping.

And I felt like I was left with nothing. The story of the verses from Isaiah given to me seven times, fading and still not really making much sense.

Jon eventually got a better job and gratefully we didn't lose our house, and the stuff with the kids worked out, but of course there's always new stuff. So life remained that ebb and flow of good and bad days, but still so many fearful days where my heart felt hard and always exhausted. And even on good days, I never felt like I was fully engaged, I felt like an outsider in my own life. But still... I pressed on, catching the glimpses of hope in my children or in nature or in art, but always still just waiting for that other shoe to drop.

But then something changed, this month on March 1st, my heart re-opened. I don't really know how else to describe it. I wish I could tell you a formula or tell you where to buy a magic potion, but it is truly nothing short of a miracle. It wasn't something I did or conjured up, it just happened, it happened to me.

I was standing in church barely singing, believing still the lie that I will never be good enough and that I don't belong and that I was probably already going mad and surely destined to ruin the lives of everyone I love, and then I started to weep uncontrollably and I couldn't catch my breath...

...and then it stopped.

The lies stopped, they just stopped.

And I heard the truth.

And I realized... I am the New Thing! My heart is a New Thing!

And all these years, these long quiet years... He has been reshaping my heart to fully receive Him, without restraints. I had so many restraints, so many conditions. And he has been taking my broken parts, the parts that really scared me...shamed me...confused me...the old things... and replacing them with ways in the wastelands and streams in the desert...

So that, I could be rooted and established in love...so that I may know...and not just know it in my head, but in my heart, my whole heart...how wide, how long, how deep and high is the love of Christ, that surpasses all understanding... that I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God!

Man, heart surgery hurts! And it takes too long!

But now everything feels brighter, lighter, the spell has been lifted. Satin can't use that lie anymore, He's been exposed. I belong. I am a New Thing. I am Loved. I am a child of God.

I jokingly said to my sister in law, "I think I became a Christian!" She had a good laugh. But that's how fresh it feels, like that day twenty-five years ago when I wandered into that Calvary Chapel and became born again. Now, I'm born again...again!

(oh, and never mind about yesterday, it doesn't matter anymore.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


My friend Elisha invited me to her daughter's grave. She went yesterday and texted me from the site. She said that she would love for me to come with her sometime because it would be sort of like I could meet a part of her. She said, "kind of like how we like to show off our kids cause of how proud we are of them."

My heart swelled. I met Elisha a few years after her daughter had died and several years since mine had died. Our friendship met deep from the start as we bonded in sorrow and longing for our daughters in Heaven.

Today would have been her daughter's 18th birthday. There should have been 18 parties, 18 cakes, 18 candles, but the virus took her before she even saw her first.

Yesterday, before she went to her grave, she stopped at the cemetery gift shop. She says she rarely stops there, even though the people there are warm and they place nice music, there is a smell in the shop that is unsettling. She bought a small jar of oil and a dusting cloth and a handful of bright yellow daises. She said the flower petals reminded her of baby's slender fingers.

She told me how she knelt down in the grass, and with her finger, traced each letter of her daughter's name... Meghan Noelle Towles... She dusted the letters with the cloth and rubbed the oil deep into the stone until it shone in the sunlight. She wept heart-washing tears as she retrieved the water from the spout and placed the daises in the ground. She lay at the grave and told her daughter about good things...great things...how she and daddy were still married, still in love and how she had two more brothers now.

She told me that she thought it would make Meghan happy and proud to know that her family was still intact in this complicated old world.

It was noisy at the cemetery. There was construction going on just behind the hill near Mehgan's grave. But Elisha said she didn't mind, because the hammering and voices of the crewman were the sound of life happening.

This morning over coffee Elisha and I talked about Heaven. She said she would be lost without it.

We are all lost without it. It is where life is happening. Sure we get glimpses of it here, wonderful glimpses even, in our children, in friendship, in nature and in art.

But there is still so much darkness, so much death.

But in Heaven... Meghan is alive! All the babies are alive there...and they will never die. No one will ever die there, no more sorrow, no more death.

Imprinted on Meghan's gravestone are the words of Jesus, "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God."   

See God! Meghan sees God!

I can't even begin to grasp that.

But I can see it in Elisha's eyes, the quiet knowing of a mama that she will see her baby girl again. It's undeniable. So much of Elisha's spirit is so obviously trapped between this world and the next.

And maybe that's just where we are all supposed to be...