Posted on 1 Comment

Know whose you are.

I’ve been vulnerable to petty distractions and attacks for a period of time. Of course I didn’t notice a pattern or recognize danger until I was deep in the grips of something destructive – anger. Recently, I had a very strong reaction to some workplace ridiculousness. It was the extreme ridiculousness of the situation and the fact that I allowed myself to engage in the ridiculousness that had me jerking myself up by the scruff of the neck. I didn’t like the fact that I was allowing myself to get distracted from my primary project goal by something that wasn’t even relevant to the completion of my project. Part of my self-correction included apologizing to my project colleagues: “My apologies for falling into a rabbit hole of ridiculousness. It’s rare that I allow my goat to get got.”

Part of checking myself consisted of asking myself two telling questions. (1) What am I really upset about? (2) What do I have to prove to the people I was engaging with?

The answer to the first question had nothing to do with the petty issues pelting me. The answer to the second question was: absolutely nothing.

The enemy was attacking me through very accommodating vessels, but it was up to me if and how I allowed the attacks to affect me.

These attacks that were aimed at the very heart of who I am and what I’ve worked hard for. Most of them literally came through people I didn’t know (a stranger appeared at my door one night to yell at me), people I haven’t spoken to in years (friends and relatives who had cut me off) were suddenly calling and emailing, and work colleague intent on showing me how insignificant I am in the whole scheme of things were making me aware of their disdain. And of course the most unexpected and vicious attacks were through people who knew me well (or thought they did). The attacks went on like rapid fire throughout this whole year. But it was only in the last three or four months that I cracked. I was extremely stressed and extremely tired.

So how did I respond when the cracks became big gaps in my peace and reasoning?

Well, I was only being told lies of hatred and unworthiness. After a while I didn’t have the strength to fight the lies. They kept rolling over me and eventually seeped into the cracks of my armor. That’s not to say that I thought less of myself in regards to the people attacking me, but I got extremely angry and wanted to attack them back. This was not a healthy anger. It was dark and seething. It was hateful. It recollected abuses, insults and wrongs long forgotten. And each new attacker was in danger of receiving the full brunt of the anger consuming me.

That’s what I saw in myself when I finally checked myself. But the strength to check myself didn’t come until after I completely shut down. I had to close out the voices. Eliminate the distractions. Reevaluate everything about my life. Who am I? Who do I want to be? Am I where I want to be? Where do I want to be? What have I done that truly matters? What needs do I have? What do I still desire? What’s next? What happens between now and then? How do I get there?

The months of October and November proved to be a period of recalibration for me. I didn’t dive deep, but I certainly cleaned the surface and started digging. I began uprooting the elements that didn’t belong in my spirit: resentment, bitterness, anger. Now I see all the attacks as requests for entry into my spirit. They were knocks at my door, cold calls and smoke signals seeking an invitation to come roost in me. After resting, thinking, praying and re-evaluating, I finally had the strength to say, “No, you’re not welcome here.” And, “The door to my life is no longer open to you.”        

I CAN JUST BE ME by Laura Story

HELLO, MY NAME IS by Matthew West

Posted on 1 Comment

Women in the Bible: RUTH

Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the LORD show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”

Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”

But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has turned against me!”

 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.

 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.  (Ruth 1:8-18 NIV)

Exploring Ruth

[from Grace Communion International,

What’s in a name?

Ruth is the leading character in this book, which is named after her. The name Ruth means “mercy.” The story shows that God’s grace and mercy extend beyond Israel to include all peoples.


Ruth can be read as a drama in four acts, with a prologue and epilogue attached. The prologue tells us how Naomi, her husband and two sons went to Moab, where her sons married. Eventually, Naomi’s husband and sons died, and she decided to return to Bethlehem in Judea (1:1-7).

In the first act, Naomi tells her Moabite daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, to stay in Moab. Orpah eventually agreed, but Ruth refused to leave Naomi and accompanied her to Bethlehem (1:8-22). The next act sees Ruth gathering barley in the fields of Naomi’s relative, Boaz, who showed special concern for Ruth (2:1-23).

Of all the articles on this website, this one is the fourth most popular, in the number of times it is recommended to a friend. Perhaps you know of someone who’d like to hear about it. If so, go to the bottom of the page and click on “Email this page.” Fill out the form, and share the good news! There’s also a way to share the page on Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, and other websites.

The third act takes place at the threshing floor where, at Naomi’s instigation, Ruth hides until Boaz falls asleep and then quietly lies down by his feet. When Boaz awakes, Ruth expresses her desire to marry him according to the custom of the kinsman-redeemer. But Boaz tells her that another man has a prior claim (3:1-18). Finally, at the city gate, the other relative renounces his claim, and Boaz marries Ruth (4:1-12). The epilogue relates Naomi’s joy at this turn of events and then lists some of Ruth’s descendants, including David (4:13-18).

How to read this book

In stark contrast to Judges, the book of Ruth shows us a community that did what was right in God’s eyes. It is “the story of God’s grace in the midst of difficult circumstances. Ruth’s story occurred during the time of the judges — a period of disobedience, idolatry, and violence. Even in times of crisis and deepest despair, there are those who follow God and through whom God works. No matter how discouraging or antagonistic the world may seem, there are always people who follow God. He will use anyone who is open to him to achieve his purposes” (Life Application Bible, NIV, Introduction to Ruth).

Learning about God

Our fascination with the characters of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz notwithstanding, “God is the primary actor in the drama” (Edward F. Campbell, Jr., Ruth, The Anchor Bible, Vol. 7, p. 29). Even though human beings are free moral agents, God’s unseen hand directs events to accomplish his purpose, transforming Naomi’s sorrow into exultant joy and rewarding Ruth’s commitment to Israel’s God and community with an enduring place of honor in its heritage.

In Boaz, we see a foreshadowing of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. “Ruth’s inability to do anything to alter her estate typifies absolute human helplessness (Rom. 5:6); and Boaz’s willingness to pay the complete price (4:9) foreshadows Christ’s full payment for our salvation (1 Cor. 6:20; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19)” (The Spirit-Filled Life Bible, NKJV, Introduction to Ruth).

Other topics

  • steadfast love: According to rabbinic tradition, the main theme of Ruth is steadfast love (Hebrew: chesed, meaning “faithfulness born out of a sense of caring and commitment”). All the main characters in the book — Ruth, Naomi and Boaz — acted with chesed.
  • salvation: The story of Ruth takes place between the seasons of Passover and Pentecost. (Pentecost came at the end of the grain harvest season.) In the Hebrew Bible, Ruth is one of the Megilloth (Festival Scrolls) and is read during Pentecost. In accepting the God of Israel, Ruth foreshadows the gentiles becoming a part of spiritual Israel, the church. This became possible only after the Pentecost that followed Christ’s ascension (Acts 2)

What this book means for you

If the most effective teaching is by example, this book can teach us much about how to live:

The religious truths found in this book relate more to practical life than to abstract theology. Loyalty, love, kindness, the value of persons, and the need to understand one another stand out. In the midst of the chaos then in the land, meaning could be found by returning to the first principles of simple truth. The book of Ruth tells us that no matter how bad things may be, goodness can exist, if we are willing to make the effort. (Walter A. Elwell, ed., Baker’s Bible Handbook, p. 166)

Other articles about womenBathsheba: queen and mother
Deborah: the female judge
Jesus and women
Miriam: first lady of the Exodus
The Proverbs 31 woman
Women in the ministry of Jesus 
Women in the teachings of Jesus 
Women of faith
Women who spoke the word of God


All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Posted on Leave a comment

How do you celebrate a life that was not appreciated during its lifetime?

“Oh, the worst of all tragedies is not to die young, but to live until I am seventy-five and yet not ever truly to have lived.”  ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

My Grandma Bessie has been ill for quite some time. She has lived her whole life with epilepsy and for as long as I can remember, she’s been diabetic. Last year she was diagnosed with early-onset of dementia. She  received that diagnosis after prolonged treatment following an epileptic seizure that caused her to fall onto a lit stove the summer prior. No one was home with her at the time, so as she seized, she burned. She’s been disfigured from her burning. Her face is scarred, the tops of her ears burned off, she lost most of an index finger and a thumb, and her scalp was so badly burned that most of her hair will not grow back. During nearly three months in the hospital and rehab during the summer of 2010, she contracted a staph infection and fell deeper into depression. During my autumn 2011 visit, she looked like a wizened caricature of her former self.

All this may sound horrible to you, and truly, my heart aches to think of the pain of my grandmother’s life and to look at how she wears her struggles, but her greatest ailment (in my opinion) is not one of the aforementioned diseases. Her greatest ailment is bitterness. Bitterness has choked out the concepts of joy, appreciation, grace, compassion and love. Her bitterness is rooted so deeply, I don’t think she knows when or where it was first planted. She’s hateful and mean-spirited and has cursed the lives of her children since birth. She doesn’t trust anyone and believes everyone is out to destroy her. Before you assume this is the dementia manifesting, I tell you this has been her personality and demeanor for my lifetime, the lifetime of her children and the lifetime of her marriage.

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears. ~ Hebrews 12:15-17 NLT

As I write this, I’m on my way to visit her in the hospital after an attempted homicide and suicide. My heart is heavy on this trip because I keep thinking I could be returning for my uncle’s funeral instead of for a visit to my grandmother’s hospital bedside. She attempted to stab her son with a knife she had in her purse after he stopped her from leaving the house for an errand she didn’t need to make on a bustery cold winter day. In his words, “She almost got me, Shawnda.  I didn’t know she had a knife.” After he got the knife from her, she then swallowed handfuls of her medication. I asked him if she said anything to him during this ordeal. All she said was in the ambulance, “I’m ready to go.”

My uncle sounded so broken on the phone, so unsure of what to do and where to go, so bereft of help, that I told him I would be there the next day. His only response was, “Thank you.”

My heart broke for my uncle. How would I feel if my mother had tried to take my life simply because she had no desire to live her own? What a horrible memory to give your child.

My main goal for my visit was to sit and speak with my grandmother. And to pray over her. I wanted to hear in her own words what was going on with her. During the thirty-six hours between hearing of this traumatic incident and getting to her bedside, all I could think of was her life and the very real possibility of her death. What type of eulogy could she honestly receive? My heart grew heavier by the moment, not because of the circumstances leading to her hospital stay this time. No, what weighed on my heart like a  stone and dragged me down into a sadness that was incredibly difficult to face is the knowledge that my Grandma Bessie has not enjoyed her life. There is no joy to be found in her. Every story she tells reminiscing of times gone by ends in a string of accusations and curses of the relationships involved in the story. During one of my prior visits, she told me, while her home was filled with three generations of her seed (children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and the ex-husband that contributed to this dynasty) that she “didn’t have shit to appreciate.” It was Mother’s Day.

Her words stunned me then and they continue to stun me when I think of them. My heavy heart comes from knowing that she has never valued her life or the lives of her children. How does a family celebrate a life that was not celebrated during its lifetime?

Personally, I think it would be the height of hypocrisy to celebrate the life of a person who didn’t know enough to appreciate the life that God gave them. Of all the family members I have lost during my lifetime, I’m sure I will mourn for my Grandma Bessie the most (when her time comes to cross the Great Divide) simply because she is a Believer who has chosen to exist and die without true knowledge of God, without learning the character of Christ and without inviting the Holy Spirit to purify and cleanse her.

“When they cry for help, I will not answer. Though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me. For they hated knowledge and chose not to fear the LORD. They rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected them. Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way, choking on their own schemes. For simpletons turn away from me—to death. Fools are destroyed by their own complacency. But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.”  ~ Proverbs 1:28-33 NLT

Posted on 2 Comments

Trains, Planes & Automobiles!

Remember Oleta Adams’ breakout hit, Get Here?

You can reach me by railway
You can reach me by trail way
You can reach by airplane
You can reach me with your mind
You can reach me by caravan
Cross the desert like an Arab man
I don’t care how you get here; just get here, if you can.

Love that song. And when I’m asked for, I travel anyway I can to get there. I am now on hiatus for an undetermined amount of time from that tendency! I spent an extended Mother’s Day weekend being where people wanted me and I returned home with an adjusted outlook on life. A sharpened focus from a different perspective.

Day 1 – Rank Order Friends

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.

~ Ecclesiastes 1:2, 9, 17-18

My weekend started Friday on an express train to Chinatown to take the Fung Wah bus to Boston for an old friends’ wedding. Up to two years ago, I considered her one of my closest friends… my ace… my girl… my spiritual sister. Then she distanced herself with no explanation and wouldn’t answer my questions as to why. Most of last year (June to November) passed with no communication until I wished her a Happy Thanksgiving. I’m guessing that broke the chill of the silent treatment and a couple of weeks later she text’d me to tell me she was getting married to an old flame she had reconnected with that summer. The wedding was in five months and she wanted me there. I immediately put it on my calendar, promised to be there and offered any assistance she should want or need. She directed me to her sister for further details.

No details came. A couple months later I followed up with her directly, got the run around for a couple of weeks. Eventually, I received the official invitation with location details two weeks before the wedding, by which point I had stopped considering this event as something momentous or special.

Around the time she began distancing herself she had made a comment about how she had shared details of a prior romantic interest with her Muslim friends and was only mentioning the situation to me to see if I agreed with them, since she thought they were off. That was the first time I felt as if I was in a category of friend-type, not only that, but also became aware that I was in a lesser category in her mind. As a result, I was more uncomfortable at her wedding than any I’ve ever attended, even knowing I wasn’t her only non-Muslim friend.

However, my initial unease wasn’t an issue for me that day. What stood out for me was the realization that she had no intention of introducing me to her husband. Towards the end of the reception, I approached her and said, “I haven’t met your new husband yet.” The blankness on her face as she stuttered out an, “Oh, really?” pretty much said it all. Though she turned and said she’ll introduce us (I had pulled along another college acquaintance who hadn’t met him either) I had the distinct impression she would’ve preferred not to. The blankness on his face as she introduced us as “two college friends from way back who were interested in meeting him because she talks about him so much” spoke more than her “oh, really.” Awkward!

What I came away with: I’m glad she got married first. She held a place of honor in my heart and my life for nearly ten years, my wedding would have represented that. Seeing how little she valued me as a friend in return had me doubting my ability to be as open in future friendships. If such a closeness can be feigned or dropped, why bother?

Day 2 – Ill Appreciation

A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.

Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.

~ Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, 8

The college buddies and I left the reception around midnight. We stayed up talking till 4:00am, at which point I headed to the airport for my 6:30am flight to Milwaukee. My Grandma S had been hospitalized the prior Friday. She’s been seriously ill for years and the prognosis wasn’t positive, in fact it was quite dire. Though she bravely or rather rashly told me “they should’ve had sense enough to send me home,” she admitted that a particular bout of illness one night that week had her scared.

Grandma S and I have been relatively estranged since I moved to New York nearly five years ago. Over the years, I’ve attempted to bridge the gap. Though she never rebuffed me, she never reached back. Of all the family I’ve had difficulty with over the years, our estrangement hurt the most.

I had asked her a couple of times over the last couple of years if she wanted to see me. She answered only, “I love you.” That meant nothing to me when she wouldn’t talk to me. This time, I said simply, “I’m coming.” She replied, “That would be nice.”

So I went. We talked nearly every day that week before my arrival. We hadn’t spoken so much since 2000.

At one point, as I sat at her bedside, she looked over at me and said, “Shawnda, your breasts have grown huge!”

“Yes, Grandma, but I plan to breastfeed for two years straight… that should shrink’em.”

With a wistful expression, she said, “Ahhh, a baby…. Please hurry up; I would like to be around for that.”

“I want you around for it too, Grandma.”

What I came away with: During one conversation that week, Grandma said she had “waited away her life” and when she got out the hospital she had a list of things she wanted to do. I didn’t ask what she had been waiting on because it didn’t really matter. I know she didn’t enjoy a good portion of her life because she was always waiting on something better, something else, someone else…. I’ve been living from her lessons most of my life: enjoy each day as it comes with the people who are present.

Day 3 – Blessings & Hellfire

Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly….

I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness.

The wise have eyes in their heads, while fools walk in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both.

People can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

~ Ecclesiastes 2:12-14, 24-25

Sunday was Mother’s Day, though I hadn’t given that any thought. I drove to Gary, IN to see my other ill grandma. Grandma B should probably be in the hospital, however, every time someone somehow gets her to one, she unhooks herself and walks out. She claims the hospital staff doesn’t treat her well. When I spoke with her earlier in the week, she mentioned pains in various parts of her body and said she thought she had had a stroke a couple of days prior. When I asked her if she had called anyone (she lives alone), she said, “No, I wasn’t going to that hospital. I just talked to God. There’s nothing to worry about, baby, I’m fine.”

Wooooosaaaaaah….. I told her I was coming to take her to another hospital to run some tests.

When I pulled up to Grandma B’s house my uncles were barbequing and my grandma had a shocked look on her face. I read her like a book that day and it wasn’t nice reading at all. For years, she’s been telling me how horribly her children, especially her sons treat her, or rather neglect her. For the past several holidays, she told me no one bothered to show up or call her, and that she spent most holidays alone. Her coup d’état would be a sad, pitiful, “I wish I could live with you.” Over the years, I hadn’t been able to take her in because of my unemployment or small living space. That week, however, I started looking for two bedroom apartments in Manhattan. I was determined to figure out a way to ease her life and provide better care and figure out the wherefores and how-to’s later.

Well… when I got out the car, the first thing she said was, “I thought you were coming tomorrow!”

“No, I said, arriving Sunday, leaving Monday. Remember? Today I was going to take you to the hospital and tomorrow I was going to review your financials.”

She turned on her heal and rushed into the house. My Uncle M looked at me, shaking his head, “If you came to take her to the hospital, you may as well make other plans. She’s not going to let you do that.”

Apparently, I rattled her nerves and the Bessie Mae of legend came out. I’m sure she’s shown her to me before, but I had never really seen her. I visit my grandma and all the surrounding folks on average once a year. Usually for one to three days. Now, I’m sure on some level I sensed the menace… but this time I saw it.

So, this is how it all when down (condensed version). I’m out shooting the breeze with Uncle M while he’s barbequing; he looks me over and says, “Dang, girl, you done got big!”

“So? I still look good. Look at you, why you talking?”

Fast forward to Granddaddy coming in. After a barely lukewarm, “Hi, Shanda” (southern pronunciation) he looks over at me as I’m trying to talk to him, “You larger than last time.”

“Wow. Really, Granddaddy? That’s, like, your greeting?” An aunt reprimanded him for his rudeness.

A couple of minutes later, my grandmother came into the room and said with the most unsettling smirk, “Shawnda, your Uncle M said bring your fat bleep bleep bleep outside.”

Did I walk into the Twilight Zone?!?

“Grandma, you don’t have to deliver any such messages to me. How disrespectful! I don’t respond to verbal abuse.”

I sat there for a moment stunned. Then the tears came. I couldn’t comprehend how any one of them could think their comments were ok, but most especially my grandmother who apparently thought her message was cute (going by her smile). From my viewpoint, I was on a goodwill mission, – the “I come in peace” kind! How could they only have negative things to say to me? No kindness, no welcome (I did get hugs), no questions about my life (one uncle did ask if I had a man yet and how much money I made an hour – another “wow” moment). A few minutes later I stood and started to walk out the house. Another aunt got in my way in an attempt to apologize for her brother. My emotions erupted in a pitiful flare, “This is bullsh*t! I need some air.” Outside, I put on my head phones and turned on my audio Bible. Grandma followed me and attempted to apologize for her son. “That’s just how he is; he don’t mean nothing by it. Your fat is in proportion to your height. It fits you.”

“First of all, Grandma, I don’t consider myself fat. Second, you and Granddaddy also made unnecessary comments. But I’m fine; I’m listening to my Bible and want to be left alone.” {Btw, who apologizes for calling you fat by calling you fat?}

“You don’t need to listen to your Bible; you need to talk to God.”

“Listening is a way of talking. You should go back inside and enjoy your people. Go enjoy Granddaddy.” Popular opinion has it that the “Granddaddy” comment was the one that unleashed the Demon Lady of legend. They’ve been divorced since ’84 or thereabouts. She would gladly get back with him, if the philandering 82-year-old would stop spending his money on 40-somethings.

Grandma’s eyes blazed at me… “You’re gonna tell me to go enjoy Granddaddy? I should be the one pissed at you!” She stormed into the house. By the time I calmed down and went back in she was cursing everybody out. I can’t remember all the curses – it went on for about 30-40 minutes – as long as it took everyone to finish eating and to pack up extra plates. Ridiculousness! Standing in the kitchen with most of the aunts and uncles, I asked what happened. According to them the trigger (or final straw) was that no one wanted to gather around the table so she could bless the food. Everyone had scattered with their plates. Uncle M and others made loud comments about not wanting to sit through a ten-minute-long blessing before they could eat. She called all her children heathens and swore she didn’t raise them in such an ungodly way. At one point, as she stomped up the stairs, she glared in my direction and told us all to go to hell. Uncle L did some kind of whipping hand motion around his body and said, “That’s not where I’m going!” I chuckled and said, “I don’t receive that one either!”

A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.

~ Ecclesiastes 6:3

When she came back downstairs I followed her from room to room, “Grandma, you’re missing the bigger picture here. You have all your living children, except for the two incarcerated, in your house celebrating Mother’s Day with you. You have grandchildren and great-grandchildren here today. Everyone’s here for you. This day isn’t worth ruining because they didn’t want to gather around the table. You can still bless the food.

She sat there in tears and said, “That’s not the way God intend it. I’m the head of the family and they should respect that. No one is here for me. They only came to eat my food and then they’re all going to leave. No one cares about me; they’re not even paying attention to me.”

She had been telling me that for years over the phone. But that day, I was present to see people coming with dishes of food; they came to prepare, cook and clean. They came with presents for her. They came to enjoy each other’s company. Even her ex-husband was there to enjoy whatever he could with his children and their children. She didn’t see or appreciate any of that. I briefly thought of how controlling, manipulative and tyrannical she was being. I also focused on how she repeatedly claimed to be the head of the family, and thought that one belief could’ve led to the destruction of her marriage more so than all the wrong-doings she’s accused Granddaddy of throughout the years.

“We all came to see you, Grandma. Everyone brought dishes, no one came just to eat off of you. It’s a beautiful day and all your children are here to celebrate it with you. Why can’t you appreciate what you have?”

“Because I don’t have sh*t to appreciate!”

After that, I had no more words for her.

What I left with: Relation does not equal relationship. God showed me what He delivered me from. My mother was protected and guided away to such an extent that none of my grandmother’s venom ever entered our home or our hearts. Yet here I was planning to move her into my home – fully loaded and undiluted with just me as a target. I understood that was not part of the plan He had for me. He’s done far too much work cleansing me to allow me to put myself in jeopardy. So He allowed me to see. And by the time I got there, a cousin had moved in with her.

Day 4 – Love Covers & Soothes

Moreover, when God gives people wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

~ Ecclesiastes 5:19

I stayed with two cousins over the weekend and their families. The one in Gary (I followed her home after Grandma’s blow-up) has four young ones. Her 2yr old and 8 month old were full of hugs, giggles and love. I couldn’t get enough. The cousin in Milwaukee and her three children nearly tackled me as I walked through the door. Her 8 yr old daughter stayed hugged up on me whenever possible. At one point, as we watched a movie, she laid on me and started patting my belly. “Why are you patting my belly?”

She looked up at me with a big smile, “It’s soft!”

With a bogus growl and a roll of my eyes, I said, “I’m working on my abs! But go ahead and pat away.” I fell asleep before she did.

Monday afternoon, I drove back to Milwaukee to visit a good friend. Her home, her presence, her children, her mother, her conversation relaxed me. Soothed me. The greetings were exuberant and heartfelt. It was a fitting cap to an exhausting, roller-coaster weekend.

My take-away: We will go through hardships but joy is always right there with us. For each negative comment, feeling, or situation over the weekend, there was a multitude of positives. I chose to enjoy whatever I could, wherever I was.

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, you cannot discover anything about your future.

~ Ecclesiastes 7:14