Thursday, May 29, 2014

Square Pegs and Puzzle Pieces

At the end of May my graduating high school class had their 30th year reunion. I didn’t go; I was celebrating a wonderful young man’s college graduation.
I did, however, look at the photos for days. I looked to see if I could recognize the 1984 faces in the now forty-something faces. Most I could. Deep down you can’t change bone structure and eye squints and laugh lines. Or light behind the eyes.
It was very bittersweet for me.
Some of the people in the photos changed my life. They invested in me when I was still the wayward girl from the basement days. They prayed for me when I didn’t know Jesus and didn’t really give a flip. And their investment weighed in on the fact that I am here now writing.
Some of the people I didn’t know at all. Perhaps I knew their names when we were in school. Perhaps, we passed each other in the hall ways. Or perhaps we knew each other and avoided each other. We all know how high school is. And there were a couple of groups I longed to be a part of, but never managed it at all.
Until the last decade of my life I have always struggled with belonging. You know, the proverbial square peg to be fitted into a round hole—partly because of my own choices. Partly because of things I had no control or choice in at all.
I lacked an innate sense of belonging. I wanted so much to have the assurance that yes, this is where I fit. I am the puzzle piece  that belongs here.
As I looked through the 1984 Reunion photo albums I felt that odd sense of square-peggedness again. Sadness crept into my spirit; this deep longing.
We are wired for the eternal. We are mapped for community and belonging. It is an innate need.
Earlier this week I had breakfast on my porch with a new friend. During our two hour conversation there were many things said, prayed and hoped.
One thread of our conversation remained with me long after breakfast was over.
We discussed identity.
Who are we?
Who defines us?
What roots us?
Whose voice will rise above the din and chaos? Or the silence?
Because it matters. Who we believe we are determines everything about us.
And for a brief period this week I seemed to have amnesia.
I looked at the photographs and wondered had I attended the reunion would I have had a place? Would I have fit anywhere? I scolded myself at first because I felt that I was regressing in my growth and having a little woe-is-me party. Yet, this was not true at all.
God used it to remind me of who I am lest I forget.
On the porch sitting around a little round table with Frank’s donuts and the birds singing and the breeze blowing God reminded me who I am. As I was attempting to remind someone else the Spirit spoke the words right back to me. 

This is what the LORD says… "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
Fear not.
I often fear I am going to forget who I am. In so many ways.
Fear not the LORD says. Tamera, don’t be afraid. I won’t let you forget who you are. I have redeemed you. I bought you back from that black place you used to abide. I ransomed you, paid a high price for you because I love you. Tamera, I have summoned you. I have called you. I have called you by name. What is that name? You Are Mine. That is your name.
Your name is You Are Mine.
I no longer have to be concerned with where I belong. Or where the edges and curves and corners of my puzzle piece fit.
My belonging is in Him.
No one can take that from me. Or modify it. Or reverse it. Or negate it.
That odd sense of square-peggedness dissipated.
The reality and truth of God’s word swallowed it right up.
Everything we do is determined by who we believe we are.

(Please take a little over three minutes to listen to this song by Jason Gray. This has been the sound track in my spirit this week.)










Friday, May 23, 2014

The Rooster Will Crow

God’s word says we are often like someone who looks in a mirror—we see the person there. We look and assess, but then when we walk away we immediately forget what we saw.
How often have I looked into the mirror of God’s word with what I think are epiphanies and revelations only to turn around and forget all I just read. I forget what I just studied. I forget what the Word of God says even after reading it over and over.
I get frustrated. As many times as I have studied Paul’s letter to the Ephesians I should have it memorized. Seriously. Memorized.
But I don’t.
And I forget what it says.
Until the Spirit reminds me. Until that Word becomes pertinent. Until it is needed to speak to my circumstance. My situation. My predicament. My crisis. My heart.
I think of Peter who spent 24/7 with Jesus for three years.  Yet he forgot.
He assured Jesus he would die for him. Would follow him anywhere. Peter meant it at the time. Thought his words were truth. Thought his words were the reality. But Jesus looked at him and spoke in sorrow.
Peter, before the rooster crows you will deny me three times.
Incredulity crossed the weathered face of Peter. His eyes locked with Jesus and he waited for the familiar twinkle indicating a joke was coming; he waited for the punch line. But the punch line didn’t come. Jesus’ words were not in jest. He wasn’t teasing. And Peter couldn’t shake it off. He mumbled and muttered he would never be the one to do such. He had been through everything with Jesus.
Like a man looking in a mirror Peter turned away (Jesus asked him to pray, remember?). The events of the night began to unfold. Fiercely intense.

Peter forgot the rooster.
He forgot much of Jesus’ teaching that night. Turn the other cheek among them.  In the midst of his sword slicing off Malchus’ ear he forgot so much of what Jesus taught.
Somehow Peter followed Jesus. Made it to the outer courtyard. Close enough to have a line of vision to the interactions happening with Jesus.
But he forgot the rooster.
You are not one of his disciples are you? Don’t you wonder what the tone was considering how quickly Peter spouted back in defense?   
And Peter forgot. Forgot Jesus’ warning.
Aren’t you one of his disciples?
And Peter forgot. Forgot who Jesus told him he was. Forgot that he was a rock, albeit a small one, but a rock nonetheless.
Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?
And Peter forgot. Forgot that the kingdom had come. Forgot all the words he had proclaimed. HE forgot.
The rooster crowed.
The last faint strains of the early morning crowing pierced through Peter’s flesh. Daggered his heart. Collapsed the air from his lungs.
Even before the rooster’s beak closed and his wings folded Peter remembered.
He remembered Jesus’ words. Remembered the warning:  the enemy had asked to sift Peter like wheat.
The ash from the fire floated up on the warm currents of air, but Peter saw it only as chaff flying.
And he wept.

Peter ran out of the courtyard, bent.
This great burly, hard-core fisherman wept until his tears were spent. Depression threatened.
Darkness loomed.
The enemy hovered.
But the Holy Spirit, who is the counselor and reminder of all truth, came to Peter.
The Holy Spirit enabled him to remember something else he forgot.
He remembered Jesus’ divine conjunction BUT.
But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.

Peter remembered.
I thought my apostle crush would be John, but no, it is Peter.  Precious Peter.
Like him I forget God’s word. I forget Jesus says the rooster will crow.
Surely not I say. Certainly, Jesus, you jest.
Tamera, Tamera. Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.
In the midst of that horrible revelation I could forget. Have forgotten. But like my brother Peter, the Holy Spirit comes to me and reminds me of God’s truth.
The Spirit reminds me that Jesus stated very clearly, but I have prayed for you, Tamera.
Jesus has prayed for me. That my faith would not fail. That I would turn back. And then I would strengthen my sisters.
Friends, perhaps you have forgotten. Forgotten the Word. Forgotten the warnings. Maybe you feel like you are being sifted like wheat. You could be frustrated with yourself because you study and pray, and study and pray some more but you just can’t seem to remember or internalize.
Today, I want you to remember: Jesus has prayed for you. He has prayed for your faith not to fail. He has prayed for you to turn back. And then when you do he has given you a mission: strengthen those around you.
Don’t panic if or when the rooster crows.
I would prefer to not EVER hear the rooster, but let’s be honest here. We are frail and fragile humans.
The rooster will crow.
The Holy Spirit will remind and counsel.
The question is will we be like Peter and remember and believe what Jesus said?













Monday, May 12, 2014

Immeasurably More: Pantries and Perspectives

Seven years.
There’s a pattern in my life that swivels and often bends around seven year increments. Awareness dawned during a Beth Moore bible study which encouraged the reader to mark and map out your life in increments. When I did this I realized there was a distinct pattern.
Every seven years some rather significant things occur.
Guess what? This seems to be a seventh year.
It’s the middle of May and I am just now recognizing this pattern. You would think I would recognize it immediately now, but no. No, Tamera fails to see until she is situated right in the middle and wondering why in the world she is so dizzy.
The last major changes happened in 2007. The changes of that year rippled far and wide and deep. In 2007 I got divorced, my second daughter moved out of the house, got a third dog, started walking three miles a day six days a week, broke my ankle and wrist resulting in surgery and I missed six weeks of work.
My perspective changed.
Ephesians tells us God will do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine; Paul wasn’t kidding or exaggerating. Paul was and is speaking the truth.
In the course of the events and circumstances of 2007 God forever changed my perspective. He changed my angle and viewpoint. The circumstances shifted me. Staggered me. But Almighty God shifted my balance and kept me from falling too many times to count or recall.  
It’s 2014.
My balance has been off all year. I couldn’t seem to steady myself in place—like a child standing on one leg too long. My Bible study time fell off into oblivion. Deep reading disappeared. Reading and studying long passages of Scripture dropped away into nothingness. Winter suffocated me and left me with a claustrophobia I hadn’t experienced in years. Spiritually I lived out of my pantry and the shelves were depleted. What remained was edible, but as a friend suggested there wasn’t anything that could be put together to create a real meal. I seemed to be the stereotypical camper eating pork and beans right out of the can with a plastic spoon. Focus seemed futile. Spiritually I was a quintessential case of ADD. The only thing that remained consistent and steady and solid and fruitful was prayer.
In recent weeks as the earth has rotated and shifted its axis in Kentucky’s favor I have felt a shift in me. As the sap rose in the trees and buds formed and leaves and grass greened I wakened. I came slowly out of a long slumber—wakened out of a hundred years of Sleeping Beauty sleep, but I certainly didn’t feel like any Beauty; I only felt the prick of the spindle.
My perspective needs some adjustments. My viewpoint needs to be pivoted. My angle needs to be shifted.
Every morning now I put on my walking shoes and Henry (that third dog I mentioned) and I go out for a walk. We haven’t hit three miles yet, but we have done one and a half. I sit behind the wheel of a new vehicle (A Mother’s Day gift of sorts)—it’s higher off the road and completely changes my perspective.
Walking with Henry

New View
These are physical changes wrought in the last week.

During these walks behind and beside Henry I am praying differently. I pray for myself which I realize I rarely ever do. And when I drive I am looking at the road from a different angle and while I do I am making a spiritual grocery list for my pantry. I love Old Mother Hubbard, but I want the pantry full again.
This is the seventh year.
And He will do more than I ask or imagine. Immeasurably more.






Sunday, May 11, 2014

My Little Women

My Little Women: Abby, Anna, Katherine and Olivia

I remember my first Mother’s Day. My first child was only hours old. The nurses made pink construction paper tulips with Happy Mother’s Day written in faded magic marker ink. They taped this homemade flower to the glass bassinet where my daughter slept (I still have it).
I spent my first Mother’s Day in the haze, wonder, euphoria and weariness of birth. After twelve hours of Pitocin exacting labor I thought the hardest part was over, and I also believed I had reached the pinnacle.
How naïve.
Three more times I repeated this extraordinary wonder. Four times I looked into these little faces and wondered who these little people would become, what would they do and what they would look like.
Each time there was a moment when I held them in the quiet—when the nurses pushed that little bed into my room and it was just them and me. I held them. My fingers traced the downy line of their hair and the swivel of their tiny ears. I stared at the outline of their perfect little mouths memorizing every curve. They looked at me with those dark eyes so deep and eternal and I came undone.
I couldn’t get enough of them (still can’t).
I remember fear rising up through the center of me. This quelling, frightful feeling pushed up through my throat. I’d swallow it down trying to identify it as I did. Why fear? Why this metallic taste in my mouth? Why this shadow in the happiest times of my life?
Somewhere in the depths of me I knew I’d fail with these four little girls. I’d disappoint them, let them down or simply not do something right that would cause a deficient. I feared inadequacy. I knew the mistakes were inevitable, but I didn’t want to make any. Any at all.
Do any of us?
I have fought that battle for twenty-six years now.
I have failed many times. I was not wrong in my assessment of my abilities. I was not mistaken that my efforts would be inadequate.
Mothering is not for cowards. Or the weak. Or the fearful. Or the timid. Mothering is not a hobby or part-time pastime.
Recently someone observed that when you have children you wear your heart outside your body.
I agree. Yes, you wear your heart outside, but this heart is not stationary. No, it moves around and away. And the strands of this muscle are stretched and torn.

I made too many mistakes in my mothering. Far too many. I look back and there are things I would do differently. Situations I would have chilled more. Circumstances I should have unsheathed my mama-bear claws quicker. Events I should have understood were far more pivotal than I realized. Conditions I should have asked for help in my inadequacy.
In spite of me these girls are now beautiful women grown.
Extraordinarily so.
Miraculously so.
God knew this mother’s heart. He heard the cries I whispered over them in the hospital and over the years when I held them close and rocked them to sleep. He heard the urgent pleas in the deepest places for his grace to make up for my lack. For his grace to fill in the gaps. To fill up the deficits.
Today I look at them with the same kind of wonder and awe as I did when they were born. Often I shake my head at the loveliness of them.
They all come home often. They come in and hug me and kiss me.
And I bless them for this gift.
In spite of my failings and mistakes they still come home. They still come back.
And this grace, this beautiful grace is so reflective of the grace of God.  
Today I thank my four daughters for making me a mother. It is because of them I get to celebrate this day.
I stand in this sacred place because of them.
Thank you, my little women.
Thank you.
Happy Mother’s Day!



Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sore Knees, Scary Phonecalls and Sad Goodbyes

We have had ten days of interesting (life here is rarely anything but…).
What has contributed to this interesting?
My Steve hurt his knee playing softball; he hit the ball, turned cockeyed and headed toward first base. In the short jaunt to first base he realized his knee wasn’t right. But he continued in the game, and according to others finished two awesome plays.  
I sat with my grandson in the doctor’s office as they wheeled my Steve back for x-rays of said knee. Elijah’s little face grimaced with worry as they wheeled Gran’pa away. X-rays came back clear, and it has just been a steady daily process toward healing.
Last weekend I received a call while at work that there was an emergency. Everyone is okay; I’m okay she said to me in a shaky voice. I begin to shake too—all my insides suddenly going to jelly. An accident. She assured me she was not hurt. I wasn’t convinced. I wanted to see her for myself. I did. I used every mother sense I have to assess her state of being. She is stiff and sore and stressed. But she is alive. And beautiful. And carless—the vehicle, all crumpled and crunched metal, is immovable in the driveway. The latter can be remedied.
A couple of nights ago in the late of the evening, right before it was time to go to sleep, I slipped out of the bed and tiptoed downstairs.
I knew it was time to say goodbye to a longtime friend. I wanted to be alone in my goodbyes with no one watching or hearing. I wanted to be quiet and solitary in my grief. I eased down beside her, put my face up next to hers and sobbed. Tears, hot and gushing, ran down my face. I ran my fingers across her stout body. And she looked at me with sad knowing eyes and licked my face. I put my head down on her broad chest and wept more.
Zoe has been in our family since she was three and a half weeks old. According to some she was the ugliest dog in a large litter of boxer puppies that the mother abandoned.  The girls and I wanted a puppy to join our Molly. We brought all the puppies to our front porch, put them in the middle of our circle and weaned them out one by one by behavior. We narrowed it down to three puppies, put the others back in the box and began the choosing process. The girls picked Zoe. A white-faced Little Rascals looking dog. My two oldest daughters took turns feeding her through the night, waking every four hours to fill her tiny little tummy. Zoe would curl around their necks, and when she got big enough to tip the box over they crate trained her.
She became our friend. Early on we realized she liked to sneak out of the gate and run through the neighborhood. The girls would run after her furious and scolding and yet scared to death we would not find her. In the course of one of her runs a van clipped her back leg as she skittered across the road. The van’s tire ripped the pad of her paw and her spirit of running. When I broke my ankle and wrist I spent my time divided between a wheelchair and a loveseat. Zoe would come to the loveseat, lift the upper part of her body and lay down beside me. As close as she could get. Back legs still on the floor. She remained in that position for very long periods of time just to be beside me.
She put up with us getting a third dog. Ever so patient with him as he learned his place. There were many fights and blood shed over dog food bowls and rawhide bones. Zoe usually came out of the fight the most wounded. It broke my heart.
In the last six months her health and condition deteriorated rapidly. Zoe can barely walk unaided now, for the last month she has been on her rug rarely moving unless necessity forced her to do so. Even this morning she is curled in a tight ball—and Henry, the third dog, is as close to her as he can possibly get.
On Tuesday I made a very hard call to our vet—a friend of the family who has been taking care of our dogs since their arrivals. Two years ago he helped us say goodbye to our Molly. Today he will help us say goodbye to our Zoe girl.
Years ago before Molly I never understood the grieving. But now I do.
Yesterday someone very wise and kind told me to not be afraid to grieve for my friend—this sentient being who has made me laugh, protected me and comforted me on too many occasions to count. Today when we say goodbye to her I will bless God for twelve years of good friendship. All good gifts come from the Father. ALL good gifts. Zoe’s name means life. And through her God gave my girls and me a great deal of good life. I thank him. I praise him.
Yesterday in the rain My Steve, my Katherine and my David dug her place beside Molly in our backyard. 
Later we will bring this faithful friend back home.
Perhaps you will pray for us?


Elijah and Zoe
Judah, Anna, Elijah and Zoe.



The Thrill of Hope--Jeremiah, Part 1

One April evening in 2017 we reached for your Mama and Daddy’s hands and led them into the stillness of an empty sanctuary. At an altar we...