Find Me In The Clutter

All this week I found it tough to find my quiet time and focus. 

Being a wife, mom of 5, grandma of 10. a full time employee of a job that runs more like 12 hour a day and resource minister, what is alone time again? I had pushed my time with God to quick moments…out of focus and not very devoted. 

 Guilt tried to creep in several times as I had been carving some time this week to do some decluttering and downsizing as I am making decisions whether to renovate my cute little house built in 1955 or move on to something bigger. Like I found time for junk but not Him.

Amongst the piles of what to trash, what to give away, and what to keep for repurposing, I found treasures and tears. Joys and lows. Memories kept and some that needed to be let go.  I laughed as much as I cried. I held on to as much as I said “why do I still have this?”

This morning, I go to get up determined that God and I would have coffee no matter what!  Yet before I could fully get out of bed, my foot would rest on one of the many piles of sorted clothes. My mind immediately thought to tidy up a little first. 

“Find Me In The Clutter”

What?

“Find Me In The Clutter”

Clear as day. In my spirit was an utterance to see God’s Glory in all my mess. As I refocused, I see Him.

He is there with me amongst the colorful stick figure drawings and piles of mother’s day cards from the joy of being a mom and Nama.  

He is there with me in  the butterflies I collect in memory of the beloved twin daughters and a grandson lost at birth.

He is there with me in the college diploma I received though I was told as a teenage mother I wouldn’t graduate high school. He is there with me in all 5 of their diplomas as well.

He is there with me in the mesh and metal cage bra I wore during 25 radiation treatments after 3 months of chemo and a lumpectomy.

He is there with me in angel figurine of a woman whom I never met who died herself but left the encouragement to celebrate my 3rd year as a survivor.

He is there with me in every photo of every loved one, every saved wedding announcement, every saved funeral program. In old records, old books, tickets stubs, vacation shirts and on and on.

I am writing to you now atop a pile of clutter in a hot mess of joyful tears mixed with “God, I’m sorry.” 

 I can’t quite find the words to express this feeling of knowing that He is always with me and speaking,  even when I am a mess in a mess. What I had classified as a distraction turned into revelation and gratitude. A different kind of devotion….  initiated by Him.

I still have work to do…… both on working on “our time” and my cluttered environment.  But He urged me to be mindful to let go of the guilt and allow this to be a “rested work”.  A work that has purpose and meaning that will feel less like work as we clean it together.

WHEW GLORY!

So if any of you earth dwellers go looking for me today, listen out for the Hallelujahs in the hallway under the piles of kids clothes!!!!

  • Michelle

Have Faith

Because of our crazy blended family, I don’t get to see all my 10 grandkids during Christmas. So I gave my oldest son’s kids their gifts early so they could have Christmas together before the eldest boy leaves to spend Christmas in NJ with his mom.

The youngest in this bunch, Jonah, had a gift from me that hinted at a much wanted gift that his parents are giving him on Christmas day. He was totally confused as to why I gave him a video game for a console he does not have. I told him to go have faith. We then begin to sing his fav new phrase “Holy Spirit Activate”.

How amazing it would be it we would grab onto the promises of God this way? He has already dropped the hint. Now go have faith!!!!

Merry Christmas, Love Always Michelle

When I knew , I knew

The day my mother died is the day I really knew she loved me. A strange thing to say, I know, but my truth nevertheless.  The understanding of all things from the beginning came with the ending.

I had crawled in bed with her waiting for her last organic breath in a sterile room. My nose irritated by the scents of alcohol and i.v.  Her nose bloody from forcing oxygen. I tried to clean her face.  Lotion even but tears would fall from her left eye.  My strong mother didn’t  cry. She “leaked” as we would call it. I didn’t want to take it away from her.  Truth is, I didn’t  want to lose them myself. If I wiped them, I would never again see the strength of her womanhood again.

She hadn’t spoken for 3 days.  Not since she had given me some rather poetic instructions.  Even now I laugh that she and I could never have a straight conversation.   Always a movie script of some kind.  Meaningful now, drama back then.

When the silence came, her heart monitor spoke for her.  The number of beats would rise and fall as different voices entered the room and addressed her all with the same tone. “Sister?” “Ma’cia?”  “Mama? Mama? MAMA!!”

I knew her 3 day rule. If she didn’t rise in the three days like Jesus did, then she didn’t want to be hooked to nothing that would change that.  She was adamant about not being trapped in weakness. 

But I punked out.  I sang “He’s sweet I know” as if that were going to change her mind.  She waved a few times. I never knew if she was raising her hands in worship or telling me to shut up.

I have always felt I failed my younger sister by allowing her to sign those dreaded papers. I remember the mix of sadness and anger in her eyes as she penned her name and then literally ran from the room. It would be days before I saw her again 

I’m was not quite cognitive of where my older sister was in that moment.  I knew she was there. I suspect she was no longer the Big Sister at that moment but too was again the child with the single pocahontas ponytail praying for Mama not to go. She, like Mama, would try hard to not show it, but vulnerability reveals itself even in stone. 

 I only found out today that they had their private moment at some point  that I must have slipped away. There was a forgiveness time involved and a phone conversation with her best friend. I pray she will tell you all about that someday. 

The youngest was barely a preteen.  Sheltered in the room with the grandchildren.  The “adults ” always feeling the need to protect them from the inevitable. 

I too made that mistake.  I had sent my two youngest kids to school that Monday. Not sure if I was shielding them from death or from seeing me in a child like desperation. Children need to know that their parents are human too.

The treatment of my eldest, I regret the most.  I had him when I was 15. He was her baby. Her son that I birthed. She would laugh and say that I was just the “egg bearer.” 

Through well meaning “it’s going to be okay” I neglected to talk to him about God’s Will and how a person’s will outweighs our tears.  At the moment of her death, he comes flying in with a bouquet of get well balloons, not realizing that her version of getting well meant leaving us behind. 

Let me correct that. She didn’t leave us behind. She left this world behind and we just happened to be still in it.

The room was full though. Sister’s sisters and Sister’s brothers (one on the phone was in New York). There were so many, 10 of them total.  Being on the oldest end, she was a second caregiver to most of them. Missing completely was the youngest brother. He was her original baby boy and had been murdered by a robber a few short years before. Honestly, I believe that was the day she really died.  Her broken heart never quite recovered and affected her body from that point forward.

Her mother, the rock of our family, had been in and out,  wheeled in a chair. But I still  can’t picture her in the room at that moment. I was told later how she drew close to her daughter and gently rubbed her forehead. A silent expression of love that is the hallmark for much of my family. This was the second child she had lost at too young of an age. The baby boy, Ronnie at 33 and my mom not quite 54. Her soul was hurting in ways I cannot and will not try to imagine.

Slowing beeps and tubes being removed, counting each deep draw and release. Five. The number of grace. A number I now have a love / hate relationship with. On Valentine’s Day no less.  A day she has previously disliked and one I still avoid 21 years later.

 I remember my pastor/godmother trying to pull me away and I screamed at her “she brought me in this world, I can go with her out.” I don’t think I ever apologized to Cat for that.  Not sure I should,  that pull almost took my mother’s love from me.

In that moment, holding fiercely to my mother’s arm, I felt her.  Not just a shockingly strange amount of energy that only those who have held on to a transitioning person know.

But I felt her. 

It should have been a peaceful moment. But I was 31 years old  and wasn’t ready for her to go yet. I had questions only she could answer. I screamed. I cried.  I prayed in tongues so strong and loud that Cat asked the  nurse to give me a sedative.. Even now I believe my comical mother got a chuckle out of that. 

But I felt her.

She was free. She was seeing her Savior.  She saw that Ronnie was okay.. Everything that ever burdened her was being released. 

But I felt her.

Though it was only mere minutes it felt like hours. Holding on to her arm,  that ironically had no more strength or warmth, I believe I was selfishly trying to hold on to her.  Hold on to her because  I still needed her. I still wanted her.  

But I felt her. And she was finally fierce. 

Her love was intense. It was given. It was written. It was unspoken. It was taken for granted. It was appreciated.  It was too much and not enough all at once. It hurt her. It hurt others. It healed her and she healed others. 

And in that moment, I felt her. I felt her love and I didn’t cry for her again for one full year.  My mother showed me she loved me when she let me feel her.

November 8, 2021. An excerpt from “My Mama’s Love Is Like …”

#rudeaboutboobs

On this last day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I just want to remind you that it is not just about one month but about one life, one family, one community, and one world at a time.

I still believe there is a cure out there but in the meantime there are things you can do to help yourself and your loved ones fight against a disease that robs so many families of the caregivers. Early detection is key. Get them Smash-A-Grams, do your monthly feels, and have honest conversations with your doctor.

Love each other enough to be #rudeaboutboobs .

Heart Hungry

I was out in the Carytown area yesterday. One of the worst places to be when you know that you can’t have solid food for 36 hours before a medical test. But I was looking to pick up my last meal for a few days and wanted something special.

However my husband and I ran across homeless people near the trash cans of so many of these trendy restaurants . I began to weep when I saw them because this is America….the land of excess…and yet so many are living like this. Carytown flows with cash. Most times I can afford nothing there. It was heartbreaking seeing people of all ages and colors hoping for some wasteful person’s scraps.

This situation is only exasperated by Covid closing so many churches and shelter resources. It is also created by a ” I got mine. You get yours” attitude so many financially secure people have.

We don’t have a lot in our house but we are blessed. My husband and pooled what we had and bought as many sandwiches and fries we could handle. Thank you to the Carytown McDonald’s for asking what we were doing and donating a matching amount of bottled water.

I was shook so much by one married couple out on the corner with what seemed to be all of their possessions huddled against the cold. I freaked when I noticed a baby stroller but was relieved to find it was a very old dog wrapped in a blanket. I’m not a pet lover but I had to feed it. The poor thing was so tired looking he barely lifted his head at the smell of food. The young husband was so grateful he started to cry.

In the age of Covid you can’t touch, get too close or even see smiles anymore. But I was struck by all the emotions in his eyes and they spoke the volume of the problems in the human experience. His eyes were a golden brown color that I have never seen before and pierced right through me as a reminder to be grateful in all things. Even under the dirt and behind a make shift mask his face glowed.

I also noticed that they still wore their wedding bands. Tells me that they have not been out there too long. Most folks would have pawned for a room. Also tells me that they are determined to stay a family.

My husband and I made one last pass thru the street to make sure we hadn’t missed anybody we saw. Thought I had gone crazy because the couple and that old dog were suddenly gone. No way they could have moved that fast. We had just circled the block.

All I can do is wonder if we had been visited and tested. I pray we passed. My own food is still in the fridge. No need for it. My heart filled me.

My Team Of Incredibles

Incredibles2-759x500Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have always been fiercely independent and never wanted to lean9 on anybody….but yet would do and be for others whenever possible. Hey, it took years for me to let go without having a back-up plan written out for God.
Now that I am in a season of finding strength in weakness and finally allowing “folks in”, I am finding peace and joy in the presence of others that I never quite knew before.

It is not quite easy and it is never going to be 100% comfortable but in this hour God is using my team of “The Incredibles” to show me the love in the leaning.

I won’t start naming names because you have become numerous. You know who you are: family, friends, “used to be” strangers, in-laws and outlaws, survivors, fighters, care professionals, prayer partners, Bible Buddies, and my amazing team at Virginia Breast Center.

I just want to thank you all for “wearing me down” with acts of kindness, words of encouragement, prophetic utterances and hugs that I used to hate but suddenly welcome.

Again I love my “Incredibles”!! You are my strength, my stretching, my fire, my speed and you cover me in the invisible realms!!

Until next time, Michelle

You Are Normal!

 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities;

–          Hebrews 4:15 KJV

We often joke in my household that I would never make a good politician because I tell everything about and on myself so there would never be any dirt to dig up…unless you looked under the carpet.  I believe the wearing of my heart on my sleeve comes from having a testimony of a loving God that has been too good to me to keep it to myself.  I pretty much live an open book. Or so I thought.

My ministry is the often sharing of being joyful in troubled times, trusting God no matter what and believing how He would restore all.  Nice, tidy, wonderful sounding inspiration…missing one major detail.   Maybe it was pride. Maybe it was fear.  Maybe I could not stand to have to utter words aloud that would cause me to think and deal with it or myself.

But recently I was faced with three persons that “outed” me.   One was struggling to hold on in faith when modern medicine said “no way.”  Another because of past mistakes was wondering how God could ever love her.   Finally, the third who had lost the roof over her head due to medical and legal difficulties.  Each supposing lack in their faith because they were scared, they were hurt, and they were ashamed of the way they felt.

Normally, I would have an easy answer for their queries of “I don’t understand how you do it?” But God challenged me to pull the last bit from under the rug.   It didn’t sound like such a testimony to me, but from each of the “three” I received either a “why didn’t you tell me” or “gee, you hid that well.”  Finally I was convicted by “I really needed to hear that….I am normal”.

My secret you ask?   It was simply the answer “ME TOO”.

Most of you already know that it has been close to 5 years now since my son simultaneously went deaf and into final stage renal failure.  I have not been slack to share most of the experience… highs and lows.  What I failed to share… and even now I hesitate to say it…..the day I got mad with God.

You see, after years of countless surgeries, repeated illness and thrice weekly dialysis treatments, a suitable donor match had been found.  We immediately went into preparation mode to get the house ready for infection control, not spending a spare dime since I would be out of work for weeks, and tip toeing around family and friends because we wanted to keep the surprise quiet until after the procedure. We cancelled all travel, all vacations and even my participation in what could have been a career changing convention concert.

And then “it” happened!  I was in devotions one morning and I clearly heard God say to me “Forget the Back-up Plan…”   I didn’t have a clue what that meant at the time, but I knew it meant to trust Him.   In my mind’s eyes I immediately applied that thought to my finances, my job and so on and so on.  Everything except what would come next.

Just a few days before we were supposed to check into the hospital, I get a cold emotionless call from a third party nurse.   She gave no explanation. She would not answer any of my questions.   She offered no empathy or sympathy. She simply said a very technical version of “No Go. “

I don’t remember any reports of earthquakes that day.  But I felt it.   I didn’t know how I was going to tell my son, who was so excited about finally being free from the pain and isolation of dialysis.   I was furious. Was God playing with me like a cat with a string?   Imagine if you will, me going off by myself because I didn’t want any people to know though I knew in my spiritual mind God had a plan…..my heart and my head was all jacked up.  I wanted to know what I had done wrong.  I wanted to know what I needed to do better

As if God had not seen me, I reminded Him of all the nights I stood by my son’s bedroom door praying and listening for his breath making sure it was still there.   I reminded Him, how we believed through all the extreme body pain when the high dose narcotics wouldn’t do.   I reminded Him, how we stayed faithful even when were too tired to function.   I even bargain that even if my prayers were no good, then surely somebody amongst all the folks that prayed for our family there had to be one….even just one… whose faith was greater.

My screams were met with simply “Forget the Back-up Plan.”

It became clear that God was telling me to trust Him even when I could not trace Him. We found out later than the donor had a sudden condition that disqualified him.  If we had received that kidney, it would have failed us quickly.    We would have been in a bigger mess than what we started with.  Just like His Word says in Jeremiah 29, He has a plan that has a good and certain end.  For our Good and not to harm us.

As I told my three friends, it didn’t happen overnight.  Months have passed now and I still jump a little when the phone rings at night.   I will be honest and let you know that this piece took days to write because tears started to flow amidst a whole lot of “God I am sorry. “

I reveal all these things to simply let you know that whatever you are going through, You ARE normal.  Being faithful and believing is not always easy, but so very worth it.    Yes, Philippians 4:4 tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord Always, “  and then goes on to say “Again I say rejoice. “  I surmise that if we have to be told and then reminded to rejoice then apparently it “aint” always easy.

Believe it or not, He knows you hurt.  He is not a God so far out that He is not touched with our personal pains (Hebrews 4:15).  He is okay with you being honest about it.  He will not strike you down for asking questions.

Just remember that it is faith that moves mountains… not tears.   Cry but keep pushing!!!!

Does It Still Hurt?

   Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”                      John 20-27 NIV

 Our topic for the day was “God is Not Picking On You…..Trials Vs. Temptations.” It started as a lesson on discerning the difference between trials and temptations and how to rejoice in the trials that God gives you.   However, very quickly, it turned into a discussion of past hurts, disappointments, and especially abuses in childhood.

As I watched several people compare stories and physical scars, instinctively I glanced at a recent one on my arm.  A footprint shaped burn I received thinking I could cook a meal for my family the day after my youngest grandchild took his flight for heaven.

Forgetting I was the one teaching the class,   my eyes began to well up on me, but the Holy Spirit nudged me to look again and then asked, “Does it Still Hurt?”

I was like “Of course Lord, it still hurts”.

“No, Chelle. You really mean that 6 month old scar still hurts?”

“No, Lord, of course the scar doesn’t hurt.”

“Okay then, give me all of it.”

Uggh, I felt it in my spirit and I asked the class and I asked you, the same question the Holy Spirit asked me.    “Does it still hurt?”

In John Chapter 20:25, Thomas makes a bold statement, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.  This was even after Jesus had appeared to several of his fellow disciples during the 8 days since the crucifixion proclaiming that everything Jesus has said would happen had come.

Jesus had forewarned that He would take the sins and sickness of His people to the cross.  That He would take on the pains of abuse, disappointment and despair.  That He would whip these things to naught and deliver them and death to the gates hell, while snatching the keys from satan so that nothing the devil had could really win over us.  And as evidence of His work, he broke the grave wide open and showed that freedom from all manner of trial and temptation could walk the earth.

However, how many of us now need to take on the title of “doubting” that history has given Brother Thomas? How many of us have received the written, heard, and Rhema Word of God and been flooded with the freeing testimonies of how others have seen the Lord move in their lives, yet still keep looking down at our scars declaring  disbelief until we receive a full manifestation with our own eyes.

Jesus is still reaching out to you saying, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”…

He wants you to know, that though yes there is a scar on your body and your heart that evokes a memory that will move you…….and yes, He understands because He was touched with every trial and temptation you face….., it is paramount that you understand that He bears scars on His hands, feet, and side that are witness that He took it all for you.   He doesn’t want you to carry the burden any longer. He does not want you to smell like smoke though you have been singed by  the fires of life.

When Jesus, invited Thomas to “Thrust his fingers into His side”, Jesus was still bearing the evidence of His wounds (aka your wounds), yet they could not have possibly hurt to the touch if he would allow Thomas to do so.

In essence, Jesus was reaffirming that it was possible to be bruised, beaten, broken and horribly scarred, yet be so healed in the promises of God that the discolorations and disfiguration become “smoothed out proof” that God’s Living Word is still living.

Jesus wants you to receive that gift from Him.   He took it.  He bears the scars.  He gives you the freedom from what life delivered.   Though you bear evidence of it, He does too.   And since His wounds healed, so did yours.  That moment when we trust in Him enough to give the pain to Him, even when we can still see and feel the scar, He will take that anomaly on your heart and make it a tattoo of your testimony instead.  He will make you a walking, talking, scar bearing evidence that He is very much alive!!!!