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Saying Good-bye to a Dress

Nothing about the estate sale was easy, but it was essential. Mom had slipped into the presence of Jesus a few weeks earlier. She was 97 and had left a house full of furniture, clothing, dishes, and massive amounts of other miscellaneous items. Many of the objects really weren’t things that would evoke much emotion, but some had the potential to tear your heart out.

Were we wise to sell her clothing? Maybe, maybe not. We offered great deals. Day One–pants and shirts 50 cents apiece; Day Two–half price. Mom had always had a heart for the poor and our clientele were 95% Hispanic working poor. She would have been pleased to see so many people leave with great bargains.

However, when the red shoes which she wore so often walked away, it was like a part of Mom walking away with them. Several of us experience lumps in our throats as we watch them leave.

The most difficult for me was saying good-bye to a dress. There was a story behind it. My parents had gone through a rough patch in their marriage and had divorced when I was in my late twenties. Two years later, when they planned to remarry I made Mom a wedding dress. It was not made with miles of lace and sequins, but rather a simple long dress made of pink brocade fabric and trimmed with silver lace.

For forty-two years, that dress had either hung in her closet or been kept in a drawer. I had seen her wear that dress when she and Dad were married. I had tremendous emotional attachment to the dress. It was my choice to either put the dress out with the other clothing or take it home, put it in a drawer, and let my kids decide what to do with it after my death.

Mom and Dad on second wedding day

The dress was pretty and I felt maybe we could bless another person with a lovely outfit for a special occasion. It would not be put with the 50 cent pile of clothing. I put a ten dollar tag on it, feeling I would be absolutely fine if it didn’t sell at all. The difficult choice would be made for me.

Day One and no one seemed to give the dress a second glance. That was all right with me.

Day Two is coming to an end and still the dress is hanging where we had placed it on Day One. Then I see a lady pull it down and take a long look. The lump in my throat returns big time. She is a Hispanic lady and she has her husband and two little girls with her. One is probably six or seven years old and the other is younger. The lady struggles with English, but the husband and the older girl understand well.

She comes and lays the dress on the table along with her other purchases and asks, “How much?”

I hesitate as I try to swallow that massive lump in my throat. God gives grace and I reply, “Today is half-price. I will give it to you for five dollars.”

Her husband looks at the waistline of the dress and then at the waistline of his wife and says, “Too small.” She understands and decides to leave the dress behind.

My emotions are in turmoil. I don’t know whether to be happy or sad.

The family takes their other purchases and get back into their car. A moment later the older girl comes back with a five-dollar bill in her hand and says, “We want to take the dress.”

I take her money and hand the dress to her. Sadly, I cannot keep the tears from pouring down my cheeks as she walks away with the dress in her arms.

I feel my daughter’s gentle tug, “Mom, turn around so they don’t see you crying.”

Too late! They have already seen what I could not hide. The entire family has come out of the car and I hear this precious little girl ask, “Are you sad because we bought your Mama’s dress?”

“No, it’s OK. We want you to have it.”

My daughter tries to explain, “This dress has very special meaning. It’s kind of complicated, but her mama and daddy got married two times. She made this dress for her mama and it was her mama’s wedding dress.”

This sweet little girl wraps her arms around me and gives me the longest hug I have had in ages. Then she says, “My mama wants to make dresses for me and my sister to wear to church.”

“Oh, that would make my mama so happy because she loved Jesus very much!”

She smiles and exclaims, “I love Jesus, too!” and I reply, “So do I!”

While I am still an emotional mess, I am comforted by the caring concern of this family of strangers. I am genuinely happy they took the dress. It was meant to be.

I’m not sure if the extended hug and the expressions of love were a gift from God or a smile from Mom. I like to think they were both.

(Photo is of Mom and Dad, April 2, 1973 – the day they married the second time.)

 

 

 

 

The Reach of God

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

I was a teenage mom, not by accident, but by choice. From the time I was a little girl, dragging around a baby doll, my greatest desire in life was to grow up, get married, and have babies. I was just 18 when I married my High School sweetheart. A week later, we headed across the country to Florida where he was serving in the Air Force and would be for another seven months. Did we want a baby? Absolutely! Did we have any sense? None! Did we stop to consider he would soon be unemployed and we would be uninsured? No, we didn’t think of that.

I had an easy pregnancy, happy to be carrying my new husband’s child. As we got close to my due date, the doctor commented that the baby was not turned in the head-down position, but expressed confidence he could turn it before birth.

Unfortunately, she arrived more quickly than anticipated, coming feet first with her umbilical cord collapsed against the birth canal. I was in imminent danger of losing our baby at that moment. I was rushed to the delivery room where they cut me and literally pushed and pulled my baby out of the womb.

As they pulled her out, she was ghastly white and I thought that my baby was dead. There were no congratulations, no happy cheers, and most ominous, there was no cry from the baby. She was immediately whisked out of the very somber delivery room. In panic I kept asking, “Is my baby OK? Is my baby OK?” I could not bring myself to say what I feared most—was my baby dead?

They could only respond, “We’ll know in a few minutes.”  That few minutes seemed such a long time for this panic-stricken young mom. Finally, I heard a weak little cry and someone said, “That’s your baby.”  Words cannot describe the incredible amount of relief I felt with hearing that tiny cry.

A few minutes later they brought her to me, and I was certain she was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen.  She had totally captured my heart.

As I think of Mary, another teen-age mom, I wonder how it felt to know she was carrying God’s child. As she gave birth to her first born, I cannot imagine what it must have like giving birth in a stable instead of a cleaner setting. She gave birth not to the son of her new husband, but to the only begotten Son of God.

Knowing mankind’s desperate situation, God reached out and became a helpless baby to bring salvation to all who would receive. At Christmas we celebrate God’s incredible gift to mankind. Stepping out of heaven’s glory, Jesus became human. His mission was to become sin for us that we might receive the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).

If you have not yet received the precious gift of salvation, I urge you to invite Jesus to be your Savior and Lord. God in His grace is reaching out to you today. Celebrate Christmas by rejoicing in the most precious gift ever given—God’s beloved Son. Let Him capture your heart.

Daddy’s Pet and Yet?

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather through the law, we become conscious of sin. Romans 3:20

I was a born pleaser, blessed as a child with two loving parents. I tried so hard to do everything they asked. Not understanding the deep love of good parents toward their child, I came to the twisted conclusion that they loved me because I was such an obedient child. I knew my parents loved my siblings, but being the first-born daughter had given me a special daughter-to-daddy connection

When my baby sister was born and Mom’s lap became occupied, I climbed into Daddy’s very open lap and almost took over sole possession. My place at the dinner table was right next to him and no one else had better try to sit there! I would watch for his car coming up the dusty country road to our house as it neared time for him to come home from work. When it came around the corner, I ran as fast as I could to the gate at the end of our long drive way to meet him. He would open the car door and I would climb in to greet him and ride to the house by his side. I was teased about being “Daddy’s Pet”, but I relished that position.

Although I tried so desperately to be the perfect child, there were times when I messed up. Any harsh word from my father crushed me. Could I lose my special place as Daddy’s Pet? A nagging thought crept in–would he still love me as much?

As I grew up, I tended to view God the same way. I tried to be his perfectly obedient child, but I was hopelessly unsuccessful. As an adult, I wanted to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect Christian, and I dreadfully failed at all three. Ugly attitudes plagued me even when my actions hid what I felt.

Overwhelmed by feelings of failure and doubt, I wondered if God could still love me.  Through a miraculous demonstration of God’s grace, I came to the realization that he loved me not because of my goodness, but because of His.  What a tremendous relief and a life-changing revelation! Feeling secure in His love only increased my love for Him and my desire to serve Him more fully.

God revealed His holy standard by giving the Law, understanding that we would never be able to keep it completely. No matter how hard we try, we cannot be good enough to make ourselves right with God. We are desperately lost apart from the grace of God.

The Law was intended to demonstrate our hopeless condition and to draw us to the One who loves and forgives. Only Jesus was able to perfectly obey the Law. Through Him, and only through Him, we can come into God’s presence assured of His love and acceptance.

Take a few minutes to thank God that He did not leave us in our helpless and hopeless state, but chose to send His beloved Son to bring us into right relationship with Himself.

Loved and Adopted

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the kind intention of his will.. Ephesians 1:4

My Aunt Jo and her husband were favorites of my generation of cousins and siblings. They loved kids and were fun to be with, but this loving couple carried a deep sorrow. Aunt Jo’s two pregnancies had ended in disaster at about six months and the last one almost took her life. They had so much love to give and wanted children desperately.

What would it take to adopt? They knew it would take time, money, and effort. The application process was expensive and tedious. A mountain of paperwork had to be completed and submitted. Aunt Jo’s house which usually had a well-lived-in look was cleaned and shined for visits from the case workers. It could have passed inspection from a tough Marine sergeant. The case workers would determine if this couple should have a baby. Then came the agonizingly long waits, not knowing if they would be approved or not. However, no effort was too great and no sacrifice too large to be able to adopt the children they longed to have.

What great joy for the entire family when finally that first baby arrived. My aunt and uncle deeply loved their baby boy. We older cousins adored him and his baby sister who joined the family three years later. In case you’re wondering, these two precious little ones were authentic family members from Day One. They shared all the legal rights of our family. They were the heirs to everything that had belonged to their parents. Because one special couple had a great love to give, these children were adopted and became cherished members of our family.

Ephesians tells us that God had a plan to adopt us, according to the kind intention of His will. He had much love to give and He wanted children with whom He could share that love. No cost or effort was too great: He sent His own son to provide the way. It is through Jesus that we have been adopted. We have become cherished members of His family, with all its privileges.

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ…” (Romans 8:16-17) God’s plan from before the creation of the earth was to give us an eternal inheritance in heaven.

Do you understand that as children of a loving God we can boldly enter the presence of “Abba Father”? Take some time to consider His graciousness toward you. He chose us. He adopted us. We are wanted, loved, and highly valued. As God’s adopted children, we are family.

 

Finding Grace

I look in the mirror and failure glares back—failure as a wife, failure as a mother, and failure as a child of God. Drowning in great waves of doubt, I hesitate to pray. Why would God answer the doubt-filled prayer of a miserable failure? I recognize I am woefully inadequate in the three most important areas of my life.

One Sunday evening this failure walks into church fighting to hold back tears. A godly woman grabs hold of me and asks, “Can we talk? I have something I need to share with you.” We find a quiet room where she looks me straight in the eye and boldly proclaims, “God wants you to know that you are precious to Him. You are the apple of His eye.” The tears that I had fought to hold back refuse to be held back any longer. The dam bursts and with agonizing sobs I share with her the many ways I am failing.

That woman totally ignores my pathetic assessment of my miserable self and simply begins to pray.  “Lord, show her she’s the apple of your eye. Show her how precious she is to you. Bring her joy and laughter.” Her prayer is very specific, seemingly stuck on the apple of God’s eye theme. She prays that same prayer every time I blurt out another area of failure—at least half a dozen times.

Parting company an hour later, I am emotionally drained. I don’t feel particularly special to God or to anyone else. I certainly don’t see myself as the apple of God’s eye, but I walk away with a faint glimmer of hope. Really? Could God see me as special when all I see is failure?

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Arriving at work the next morning, I find an envelope on my desk—a card placed by a co-worker who has no idea of the turmoil I feel. On the front of the envelope is a small sticker—a picture of an apple with the words, “You are great!” Remembering the very recent prayer session, I smile and open the envelope to find a brief three-sentence note of encouragement. The middle one reads, “You are the apple of His eye.” A huge lump forms in my throat and my eyes grow misty. Could this be a personalized message from God’s heart to mine?

 When I return from lunch a few hours later, I find a humongous apple on my desk. That afternoon our most recent publication is distributed to employees; its cover—a huge red apple with the title, The Gift of Love. I laugh out loud, throw my arms into the air in praise to God, and say, “I get it, God! I get it!”

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That life-changing day I move from the oppressive drive of perfectionism and legalism into the glorious freedom of grace. God has shown His precious acceptance of this miserable failure in such a personal and tender way. I have freedom to boldly enter His presence, freedom to seek His help, knowing that His grace receives me when I have failed, and He receives me exactly where I am.

Grace is all about the freedom we have in and through Christ. Jesus has set us free to enter God’s most holy presence. He specializes in taking messed-up failures, cleaning them up, and demonstrating His glory though them.

Do you realize how deeply God loves and treasures you regardless of failures in your life? Grab hold of the freedom that is so lavishly offered through the grace of God. His love is reaching out to you today. Receive it, cherish it, and enjoy grace-based freedom.