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Poor Choices: Return to King Saul

On Monday, we started digging deeper into King Saul’s beginnings. We found that by not acknowledging his God-given role and authority, Saul set the stage for his own decline. Today, we’re looking at some of the poor choices Saul makes that further separates him from his true identity.

The Passage

Saul, however, was still at Gilgal, and all his troops were gripped with fear. He waited seven days for the appointed time that Samuel had set, but Samuel didn’t come to Gilgal, and the troops were deserting him. So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” Then he offered the burnt offering.

1 Samuel 13:7b-9 CSB

Samuel said to Saul, “You have been foolish. You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you. It was at this time that the LORD would have permanently established your reign over Israel, but now your reign will not endure. The LORD has found a man after his own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over his people, because you have not done what the LORD commanded.”

1 Samuel 13:13-14 CSB

Saul answered Samuel, “I have sinned. I have transgressed the LORD’s command and your words. Because I was afraid of the people, I obeyed them. Now therefore, please forgive my sin and return with me so I can worship the LORD.”

Samuel replied to Saul, “I will not return with you. Because you rejected the word of the LORD, the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” When Samuel turned to go, Saul grabbed the corner of his robe, and it tore. Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingship of Israel away from you today and has given it to your neighbor who is better than you. Furthermore, the Eternal One of Israel does not lie or change his mind, for he is not man who changes his mind.”

1 Samuel 15:24-29 CSB

Poor Choices

Starting in 1 Samuel 13, Saul steps up to lead the twelve tribes of Israel. He quits avoiding his role. Rather dramatically, he unites the tribes by slicing up his ox and sending it to everyone as a warning if they don’t join him in battle. He pronounces a curse on anyone who eats before the Philistines are defeated, which winds up landing on his son’s head. When the time came to fight the Amalekites, Saul ignores the task to kill everything and avenge the injustice done when the Israelites left Egypt. Instead, he keeps the best of the possessions and imprisons the king.

Basically, Saul does a 180. His actions show his fear and insecurity. He still does not trust God or his God-given abilities to lead the people of Israel. This time, instead of hiding from the responsibility, Saul relies on intimidation to bring the people together. It’s the same negative perception of the world that plagued him when Samuel anointed him. Now, his fearful perception is strengthening, and Saul’s poor choices exacerbate the problem. His fears come true. God rejects him. His control of the tribes weakens.

In his last encounter with Samuel, Saul shows remorse. He reaches for Samuel’s robe, and it tears. I imagine Saul relives this day over and over in his mind. His poor choices pile up, and Saul does not know how to cope.

Do you agree that Saul’s poor choices influenced his mental decline? Let’s talk about it in the comments! Stayed tuned next Monday when we see Saul’s mental state affected by irrational anger.

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How Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz Overcame Depression

The book of Ruth in the Old Testament is known as one of the sweetest love stories in the Bible. It’s a tale of unimaginable heartbreak, a kind stranger, and a fairytale ending that continues the family bloodline from which King David and Jesus Christ eventually come. For good reason, we praise Ruth’s faithfulness to her chosen faith, and we admire Boaz for his obedience to the Lord. Girls everywhere use Ruth as a model for patiently waiting for a husband.

But what about Naomi?

The Passage

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 gone out against me!”

Ruth 1:11-13 NIV

So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

Ruth 1:19-21 NIV

According to verse 4, Naomi lost her husband and her two sons over the span of 10 years. She ran out of hope. Not only did she lose the three people closest to her and most important in her life, she lost her protection and provision from the rest of society. She decided to return to Israel, but as shown by verses 19-21, Naomi was full of pain and despair. She even tried to shut out her two daughters-in-law by sending them to back to their birth families in verses 8-9 and 11-13. So, how does Naomi get from this place of hopelessness to a place of purpose at the end of the book?

Ruth: A Constant Support

Ruth refused to leave Naomi, even when Naomi warned her that Naomi would not be able to do anything to provide for her when they got to Israel. In fact, Ruth makes the bold proclamation, “May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me,” (Ruth 1:17b). Ruth does not try to detract from the pain that Naomi is feeling. Indeed, Ruth probably felt a great deal of pain from the situation, herself. However, she stayed present with Naomi in her grief, even when that meant traveling to an unknown country.

Ruth also ensured that Naomi’s physical needs were met. After they arrive in Bethlehem, Ruth offers to pick grain from the fields to provide for their need for food (Ruth 2:2). It was not an easy job, nor a safe job (see verse 20), but Ruth knew that food was an imperative part of their physical and emotional survival. In fact, when Ruth brings grain back on her first day, Naomi says her first hopeful words in the book. Her rapid questions in chapter 2 showed that she didn’t expect kindness, but the provisions surprise her into a glimmer of hope.

Boaz: A Generous Provider

Though Boaz’s support of Naomi is less direct than Ruth’s presence, he provides support for Naomi’s physical needs by ensuring Ruth always has plenty of grain when she works in his fields. He even gives extra portions when Ruth interacts with him directly at Naomi’s urging (Ruth 2:14-16, 3:15-17). Not only does he provide for their needs, Boaz provides generously, and his generosity gives Naomi hope.

In addition to food, Boaz provides for Naomi and Ruth’s protection by seeking the appropriate kinsman-redeemer to purchase their land (Ruth 3:12, 4:1-9). He is generous with his time and seeks out the closer kinsman-redeemer first thing in the morning. He obeys the processes that the Lord established to protect the poor and widowed, and when the first kinsman-redeemer backs out of the task, Boaz immediately provides protection himself as second in line. Boaz does not think of how bringing a foreigner into his family might injure his reputation, as the other kinsman-redeemer does in Ruth 4:6. He simply obeys God’s laws and ensures the women are provided for.

Lastly, Boaz’s redemption of his family’s land led to him bearing a son with Ruth. This son, Obed, gives Naomi hope and purpose again (Ruth 4:16-17). In caring for Obed, Naomi receives the family she thought she would never have again when her two sons died.

Three Tips from Ruth and Boaz

It is often hard to know how to respond to someone struggling with depression. In my experience, I often don’t know how to help myself when I’m in a funk, which makes it even harder to ask others for what could help me. Here are three things Ruth and Boaz showed us that we can do to help those who are struggling with depression.

  • Provide for their physical needs. Ruth and Boaz both ensured that Naomi had food to eat and sustain her. Boaz also provided physical protection by becoming her kinsman-redeemer and giving her a permanent home.
  • Be present. When Naomi was deep in her pain, Ruth acknowledged the situation and pledged to stay with her. Most importantly, Ruth followed through on her promise and lived with her mother-in-law, which ensured Naomi maintained interpersonal relationships.
  • Remind them of their purpose. When Ruth and Boaz have Obed, they brought Naomi in to be a part of his life. This gave Naomi hope and a productive task she could enjoy.
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How Hannah Coped with Depression in 1 Samuel 1

Happy New Year, everyone! Today is the first day of my new devotional series on coping with mental illness in the church. To be honest, I’ve gotten progressively more nervous about writing these posts the closer it’s gotten to 2020. I take that as proof that this is what I’m meant to be doing. Prayers are appreciated!

When I started thinking about depression, anxiety, and mental illness in the Bible, Hannah’s story was the first that came to mind. I always remember her story with the image of her weeping and praying so desperately that Eli the priest thought she was drunk. I can feel that swallowing hole in my chest that she must have felt. I can feel the sobs that come so hard I believe my eyelids flipped inside out. If anyone knows deep emotional pain, it is Hannah.

The Passage

Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb. And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Elkanah her husband would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

1 Samuel 1:4-8 NIV

As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.”

“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”

She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.

1 Samuel 1:12-18 NIV

I imagine Hannah’s husband and rival wife did not help her depression. In fact, verse 7 says that Peninnah would remind Hannah of her barrenness so often that it led to Hannah refusing to eat! She exacerbated Hannah’s negative thinking out of sheer pettiness, as best I can tell. Then, there is Hannah’s husband, Elkanah. Verse 5 says that he loved Hannah, and he did give her a double portion of sacrifice to prove his love and care for her. However, his response to her weeping winds up being pretty selfish. I think if I was unable to have a child and my husband asked me, “Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” I would be ready to slap him. Hannah’s feelings weren’t about Elkanah. She was struggling with an issue of her identity.

Then, we meet Eli the priest. Eli’s first response to Hannah’s anguish isn’t much better than Elkanah’s. He asks her if she’s drunk. Whether as a cry of indignation or an outpouring of pent up hurt, Hannah tells Eli her story. Eli responds with the first helpful statement in the whole chapter. Eli recognizes Hannah’s strength of character and faith, and he offers her a blessing.

Hannah dealt for many years with a situation of barrenness that no one ever wants to go through. Coupled with undeniable relationship stress at home from Peninnah, it is not surprising that she sometimes feels hopeless and has no appetite. Thankfully for us, the author of 1 Samuel included three ways that Hannah responded to depression that turned her hopelessness into joy and generous obedience when her son finally was born.

Three Ways Hannah Coped with Depression

  1. She reached out for help instead of hiding. If I were Hannah, I would have run away in embarrassment and anger when Eli asked me if I was drunk. Instead, Hannah took the opportunity to reach out for help. She told Eli her story and entered in a brief conversation with him. Likewise, we can reach out to others in our depression and engage in a conversation that reduces our feelings of isolation.
  2. She allowed Eli’s blessing to reshape her view of herself. Before Hannah went to the tabernacle to pray, the identity spoken over her most often was from Peninnah. Peninnah, a petty rival wife, probably forced the idea down Hannah’s throat that she would never bear a child and that she was the lesser wife for being childless. However, when Eli spoke a blessing over Hannah, Hannah allowed herself to view her situation positively. She believed that her situation was not a flaw of her character but one in which God would prove His faithfulness. By listening to Eli, Hannah turned a negative view of her circumstances into a positive one.
  3. She addressed her physical needs. In verse 18, the Bible says that Hannah ate and then her face was not downcast. Praying and talking to Eli did not immediately fix her situation. In fact, verse 20 says that Hannah did not immediately get pregnant after this event, but that bearing a child occurred “in the course of time.” Instead, Hannah addressed the physical needs she had been neglecting by not eating. The combination of food and a changed mindset redirected Hannah’s path from hopelessness to praise.

Hannah’s deep pain of childlessness is exacerbated by a cruel rival wife and slightly clueless husband. Though the Bible does not call her depressed, her symptoms of anguish and not eating indicate that she probably struggled with years of depression just like many of us do today. Thankfully, the Bible shares a few tips we can use to cope with our depression like Hannah does so that we can praise God for His faithfulness in difficult situations.

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Psalm 32 and Finding Your Voice

When I was in middle school, I quit talking.

This is how I start most conversations when people ask me to tell my story. I became a Christian at five years old, so I don’t have a crazy salvation story to share. I just have a story of hardship and God’s faithfulness, which one day turned into doubt and despair, and which ultimately reminds me that God is in the smallest of details even when I believe, “[God’s] hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer,” (Psalm 32:4).

Verse 3 of David’s psalm struck me as so succinctly encapsulating how it feels to stay silent. He says, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long,” (Psalm 32: 3). Based on the rest of the passage, I believe David is speaking of staying silent instead of confessing his sin to God, because once he does, he says he is blessed. That said, I imagine David also had days when he stayed silent to other people because he felt afraid and sought shelter in God. He says, “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance,” (Psalm 32:7). Staying silent from fear feels different from the silence of rebellion.

I spent the first part of eighth grade walking through fluorescent white hallways with my eyes trained on the speckled, white laminate below me. My brain only input as much information about avoid the black backpack, don’t run into the blue sweatshirt, and those guys are really loud as would get me through the halls with as little interpersonal contact as possible. I had refined the method over the span of four years, and I was pretty good at it. For some reason, though, a guy in my choir class couldn’t stand for the silence. He spent three minutes every other day walking me to computer class and alternating between asking me, “Why don’t you talk?” and “Can I wear blue socks with black shoes?” (He knew the second question almost got me to answer.) But at that point, I was so afraid of the words that might come out of my mouth, and that the words might end up hurting someone, that I refused to say anything at all. A dull, constant loneliness seemed less painful than the stabbing throb of knowing my words had cost me a friendship.

Eventually, I did speak to him. Then, I thought we had lost him. I spent a good week of my life thinking every time the phone rang, it would be my best friend’s mom calling to say the boy had killed himself. Thankfully, that call never came.

I didn’t learn to talk again immediately after that week, but I do think that week jolted me awake. That, and another boy in my gym class asking me how I could still smile when the other girls were so mean to me, and I was too shocked to say “Because Jesus” before he ran off to play basketball. I was learning that staying silent could cause as much pain as speaking.

I am thankful for God’s faithfulness during those years. He kept sending these boys I didn’t know to ask me random questions that stunned me speechless. And in the years since then, He has continued to send people who force me to speak, including my husband and some of my dearest friends. As David points out in verse 3, staying silent slowly eats away at your spirit until you feel dead inside. That’s why I’ve learned to pray for courage and speak up. I’ll mess up the words nine times out of ten, but it feels so much better to have the words out in the open instead of eating me up like a disease on the inside.

I’d like to end today’s memory with the praise at the end of the psalm. David gives us such a hopeful exhortation to leave with. I pray over you today, “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11). Shout for joy so those words don’t get trapped inside you. Someone just might need to hear them.

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Why I Write

It was our third science teacher of the year. We sat in the corner room with the door-size window that let in what hint of light a Tennessee-gray sky provided in March.

This teacher had grouped our desks into five sections around the room, as opposed to the rows our last teacher had instituted. She then passed out little quiz packets, but this time, the questions weren’t about the phases of the moon (praise God… we learned that chapter 3 times that year.) This quiz was a personality quiz, and we tallied up our answers on the last page to discover what type of “animal” we were.

“How many of you are lions?” the five-foot-tall teacher with spiky hair asked. Of the 30 kids in the class, 28 kids raised their hands.

I glanced a couple of chairs over to the only other kid in the class not raising his hand. He had skipped a grade to join our class of 6th graders, and his voice was so quiet when he told me about quantum mechanics that I could hardly hear him yell about the idiots believing something about atoms that went over my head.

“How many of you are otters?” the teacher asked. The quantum mechanics kid raised his hand.

“And how many of you are golden retrievers?” I raised my hand just next to my ear. I was the only one left, after all. I didn’t want the extra attention of my arm reaching closer to the ceiling than everybody else’s because of my extra height. I scrunched lower in my chair and wished I were reading the historical fiction novel in my backpack instead. The Redcoats in 1775 Boston had nothing on these middle schoolers.

I learned later that day that golden retriever was the most common personality type. “Yeah,” my lion-friend said, “you’re the most normal person in the class!” My other lion-friend nodded in agreement, but I had to admit, that emptiness in my chest sure didn’t make me feel like I was the normal one. As soon as I got home, I burrowed into the couch and dove into the Revolutionary War and a love story of two spies racing horses in the night to tell colonial militia about the British Army’s next move.

Books became my escape. My mom tried to pre-read all the grown-up novels I was reading in an attempt to challenge my vocabulary and comprehension, but she ran out of time between the dishes and driving us to baseball practices and drama rehearsals. So, I focused exclusively on the Christian Fiction genre, and even then, some of the books had scenes edging on topics too strong for my 12-year-old brain to handle. The school principal kept telling us on the morning announcements, “Be the best you can be. The choice [*pause for effect*] is yours,” and I suppose that daily brainwashing had an impact. I decided that I, with my pencil and dragonfly journal in hand, would write books to give girls hope that God had a plan and would use all things for good.

No question – I’m a dog person at heart.

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A Little About Me

Hello, everyone! Since I’ve revamped my blog and hope to see several new faces visiting in the near future, I thought it would be fun to fill out one of those cheesy getting to know you questionnaires we filled out as kids on the first day of school.

  • Favorite color: Green!
  • Favorite book: I have three favorites (give or take a few…): Emma by Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, and the entire Mitford series by Jan Karon. After all, how many English majors can pick just one favorite book?
  • Favorite song: Currently, I love I Don’t Dance by Lee Brice because it is the song my husband played the first time he asked me to dance, and I love If We Have Each Other by Alec Benjamin because my brother sent it to me (cue the tears on verse 3…)
  • Favorite food: Pepperoni pizza or cheese tortellini with marinara sauce
  • Least favorite food: Mashed potatoes (and yes, I have been informed that is strange)
  • When I grow up, I want to be… an author of quality Christian Fiction books that are suitable for any age to read. Longer post coming on that next week!
  • My best friends are… My husband, Joe, and my brother, AJ. I don’t know what I would do without those goofballs!
  • My hero is… my mom, and she always has been. I think most people my age recognize our moms for the superheroes they were as they raised us in a really transitional season. I mean, flip phones were the coolest thing ever when I was 7! Now, I can post formatted articles with edited pictures and graphics all from my iPhone. It’s been a crazy world post-9/11, and it took a lot of guts and prayer from my mom to raise me right. I would also like to add my dad to the list. He works so hard to provide for my family, yet he still takes the time to send me a funny GIF every morning and make sure I’m always ok.
  • If I could go anywhere in the world, I would go to… Scotland and Ireland! I’ve always wanted to visit the land of the redheads.

Do we have any of the same answers? If you want to see more of these posts, leave suggestion questions in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

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Why Share?

It has been about a year since I really wrote anything. I quit calling myself a writer about a month ago. Too many rejections, too little content to display, too many months between now and the prolific college years when my days revolved around writing assignments and editing work. Now, days look like struggling to push the weighted blanket off my chest and get out of bed; look like putting on scrubs that used to be comfortable ‘yoga material’ but now feel like hard plastic; look like another hundred miles of wear on my little Subaru’s tires and engine.

…..

On the day of her anniversary with her first husband, my coworker and I sat in the low round stools to turn on our computers. “Did you get caught in the traffic going home last night?” I asked. “It took me an hour to get home. The road was closed because a dump truck had barreled into a small car like a Honda Civic. My mom and brother saw the aftermath. We don’t think the Civic driver made it.”

“That’s what happened to my husband,” she said.

My family has a knack for bad timing.

I listened to her tell her story with such calm and peace about her. I tried to imagine the numbness of her pain, the asphalt in her knees. I couldn’t help a few tears falling down my face.

“I didn’t mean to upset you,” she said. I told her she didn’t; I felt things deeply, but I was bad at expressing them. I told her that’s why I wanted to be a writer. “One day, you will,” she said, “and your book will be great because it will be so full of emotion.”

I passed her a Kleenex and wiped away mascara with my own.

…..

It was quiet in the office today. Only a handful of people passed our office window on their way to other appointments. “People tell me I should share my story,” my coworker said between scanning papers littered in sticky notes. “I usually put it off, but sometimes I wonder if it would help someone.”

“I think stories are meant to be shared, but…” I re-stacked the patient forms in my hands. I stared at the black box we called a scanner for another second. “I think there is a difference in sharing your story for bitterness, and sharing your story for hope and healing.”

My coworker cocked her head and nodded.

“If you ever need a ghostwriter, I’m your girl!” I spun my chair back to the colorful glowing schedule in front of me.

….

I’ve had to increase my exercise routine because my wedding dress isn’t fitting over my hips like it did when I bought it. I panicked at first. “When am I going to find another hour to exercise? And how am I going to lose enough weight before the wedding?” The wedding planning season has me sweating more than this Tennessee humidity.

I was reading a friend from college’s blog, one I hadn’t kept up with in a year. It felt good to dive back into the world of words where faith and writing and walking the dog all merge into one singular space. She wrote about staying creative being as much of an effort as exercise and being healthy. I had flashbacks to discussions of Anne Lamott and just writing that blankety-blank draft.

Good for the soul, and healing.

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Hummingbird Redemption, part 2

Find part 1 here.

*

As the bird continued to flit around the silent garage door motor, my mom and I watched him grow weaker. His wings stopped closing tight against his body. His little body heaved. His body leaned sideways off his perch.

I sat on the carpeted garage steps and looked up “how to get a hummingbird out of a garage.” Thankfully, Thriving Home had a post with exactly that title. As we skimmed the explanation of why hummingbirds get trapped in garages, I worried when I saw that hummingbirds could only last a few hours without nourishment. It certainly explained why our trapped friend was drooping so badly.

Thriving Home suggested using a rake to coax the little fella to perch so we could safely carry him outside to open skies. Well, our rake was in the shed, but we did have a broom with a red dust pan that would work similarly. I plucked a flower off of our butterfly bush outside and tucked it between the broom handle and dust pan, hoping that at least the sweet nectar might entice the little guy away from the ceiling, which was currently covered in red dots from the hummingbird’s hungry tongue.

Broom PerchIt wasn’t working. I carried a ladder over to where the hummingbird flitted and held the broom closer to the bird’s beak. He landed on the garage door motor, not a foot from my face. His feathers were ruffled, his eyes were glazed, and his head started drooping back. I was afraid he would fall and die on me. I shoved the dustpan under his little body so his carcass wouldn’t land on my shoulder or foot.

In a burst of energy, the bird flew back up. My mom grabbed the broom from me. She started to cheer. “He’s on the broom!”

I scrambled down the ladder and followed her out of the garage. Sure enough, the little bird sat peacefully on top of the dustpan. We headed for the butterfly bush so the bird could find food. Two feet from the purple blooms, he flew into the night. The red sky of dusk left his little body in shadow, and we watched until his shadow got lost in those of the trees.

*

It amazed me how much of saving the hummingbird involved saving him from himself. Had his beak pointed at the ground once, he might have seen all the red lights and sustenance we brought for his survival. But not even putting the bloom to his face could entice the bird to eat.

I was reminded of how often God has to redeem us from ourselves. He redeemed us from sin once and for all, but so often we bump against the ceiling, leaving tiny red marks, when the whole world awaits us outside. When the hummingbird eats, he causes plants to grow. When humans work with each other, we can cause the world to grow. Our purpose is outside: to care for the world God gave us and the people God gave us to work with.

No matter how many times we bump against the ceiling in God’s name, if He has the garage door open, we will die trying to find our own way out above us. Thankfully, God’s pretty good with a rake, or a dustpan attached to a broom, to lend us a perch.

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Hummingbird Redemption, part 1

Redemption

  1. The act of making up for
  2. An exchange for something of value
  3. The act of saving from sin

*

After dinner, my dad called my mom and I back to the garage. He pointed to the window where two hummingbirds had flitted against the glass before we ate our meal. “One flew out, but the other one is stuck above the garage door.”

Garage WindowI ran into the empty space where my brother’s truck normally sits and stared up at the ceiling. The hummingbird now flitted around the metal structure holding the motor for the garage door. When the tiny bird rested, I could see his coat was an iridescent green. His wings were tipped almost black and dotted with small white specks. His beak, long and thin like a sewing needle, had an even smaller tongue poking out. The poor little guy was hungry.

My mom and I ran around the house grabbing every red thing we could find, since we believed hummingbirds to be attracted to the strong color. I peeled the Coke wrapper off a plastic bottle and held it over my phone light. My mom found an old emergency flashlight with a blinking red setting. We grabbed a red bird feeder and filled it with water. We even sang Zipadee-doo-da, but nothing could distract the little bird from pointing his beak straight at the plain white ceiling.

*

At church Sunday morning, a visiting pastor spoke on the importance of finding our purpose in God. Jesus’s mission, the pastor said, could be summarized in a single word: redemption. Our mission was the same. We are to redeem our city and our nation. We are to love God, not serve Him out of fear.

The pastor challenged us to find our true purpose with the question, “Is it what God wants you to do, or is it doing what you want in the name of God?” The pastor said his life had two redemptions: the first, redemption from sin; the second, redemption from self.

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Location Provides Identity

InductionI have a particular identity at home as my parents’ daughter. I am the peacemaker, the one who needs protecting. At school, I was the planning one, the one who made good grades. At work, I am the well-recommended one, the one for whom teal seems an appropriate color. Growing up in church, I was my mother’s daughter, the one who stood next to her mom on stage every week in choir. When the church began to change (or perhaps it was me changing,) I lost my home church and big chunk of my identity with it.

I don’t believe I am the only one who has aspects of her identity caught up in the places she lives and frequents. There is something about the protection of a building, or the vastness of an ocean, or the heights of a mountain, that provide stability to our souls.

When I started writing my book, I focused heavily on a hospital as the setting and identity-creator for my main characters. In fact, the hospital became a character who influenced their relationship as much as any other human in the story. As the story progressed, I added home as a change of scenery. However, as I reflect on how my identity is wrapped up in the places I inhabit, I see how important home is to the couple in the story. Home is just as much a character influencing their relationship as the hospital. The couple works together and lives together, but they possess very different identities.

Old HouseI think my brother substantiates my same-place, different-identities theory. We grew up in the same home and went to the same schools. Where I sought my family’s peace, my brother never feared to bring problems into the open. Where I was studious at school, he was the class clown who made good grades without trying. Where I was my mother’s daughter at church, he was the witty teenager who spent his free time teaching kindergarteners. To have always inhabited the same spaces, my brother and I are very different people.