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Things PonderedFrom the Heart of a Lesser Woman
By Beth Moore
Broadman & Holman PublishersCopyright © 2004 Beth Moore
All right reserved.
I should have been ready. It was an event I had prepared for all my life. But right at that moment, my wedding dress itched, my hair was bushier than my veil, and I couldn't get to a mirror for my bridesmaids. It was just as well. I was bound to be disappointed that the glamour of a film star was not included in the rental of my wedding gown.
This was not the way my sister, Gay, and I had played it. We had hosted at least a thousand rehearsal dinners with our Barbies and a bag of Fritos. Calendaring was certainly not the problem. I had always known that I would marry at Christmas of my twenty-first year. (That's how old Mother told me Barbie was. According to Mother, she had finished college before she married Ken.) I never had a wedding dress for my Barbie, but Mom had given me the most beautiful red velvet dress for her I had ever seen. I used it instead which is exactly why she always had to have a Christmas wedding. Sure enough, it was December 30th and although I had on a traditional candlelight gown, my six bridesmaids were enchanting in their red Christmas dresses with capes, all carrying lanterns.
The groom also wasn't the problem. I knew he had to be from God. He came along the closest to the magical marrying age and my college graduation and God forbid I would graduate without a proper betrothal. And more importantly, he was the spitting image of Ken. This qualification was not a conscious test at the time; however, it never occurred to me I'd marry anyone who was not tall, dark, and handsome. He certainly fit that bill and he was the perfect companion for my Texas hair. Yes, the timing and the twosome seemed to be a match. Still, I had this sneaking suspicion welling up inside of me that I might be in for a slight shock.
The lightning bolt of a lifetime struck about one week later when we returned from our honeymoon to the old place we were renting from my father-in-law for free. Conspicuously absent was the portrait of me in my wedding gown over a blazing fireplace. In fact, the closest thing we had to a fireplace was the furnace to the left of the commode. The one I kept falling into because the seat was always up. There was no dishwasher, no garbage disposal, and no money. The only thing that house had plenty of was deer heads. They were everywhere. And they seemed to stare at me as if I had sold out. They did lead to the purchase of a secondhand dryer, however. Keith bought one the day after he came in with a friend and found our underwear dangling from their horns. I think that may have been the first time anyone had ever called me "sacrilegious."
My groom was not very impressed with playing grown-ups either. He took a cut in pay when he went from Daddy's allowance to hourly wages. He worked long hours out in the heat and worked with people who had no teeth. Then he'd walk in the door, say he was starving and look at me as if he expected me to do something about it. Think as I may, I cannot for the life of me remember a kitchen in the Barbie Dream House. Then it hit me. I wasn't Barbie. He wasn't Ken. This was no dream. And I wanted my mother. Now that I'm a parent, I have a feeling she wanted me, too, but she didn't let on. If I'd had a car that I didn't have to push to start, I might have been out of there. But there I was and there he was and even "making the best of it" seemed a dismal prospect. Had God not given us both the uncanny ability to laugh at inappropriate times, I don't think we could have made it. There were many months when we either laughed or cried, smooched or didn't speak. There was little in between.
We've suffered our share of bumps and bruises over the years since we drove off in our Barbie dream car and had a head on collision with reality. We've grown up a little and grown together a lot. We had entered marriage each carrying a deluxe, five piece set of emotional baggage, certain our own was heavier than the other's. We had expectations which exceeded the realm of possibility. I have finally forgiven Keith for not being Ken. I've almost forgiven myself for not being Barbie. And by the grace of God, we've made it in spite of ourselves.
Marriage is a serious matter. It is often embraced with less prayer than a college exam. I feel rather certain that the chief reason a Believer often enters marriage void of fervent prayer is because inherent in the asking is His right to answer us. And once we've made up our minds, a "no" or a "wait" from God is out of the question. Like us, you may have "accidentally" fallen into the marriage God had intended for you. Like us, you may have also suffered the penalty for not having built your relationship upon Him from the very beginning. And perhaps, like us, you're learning.
To marry without the blatant inclusion of Christ is to have entirely missed the point. In Ephesians 5:31 the Apostle Paul quotes the original wedding vows God spoke over the very, first marriage all the way back in the Garden ...
"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."
In Ephesians 5:32, thousands of years after God instituted marriage, He revealed its lofty purpose ...
"This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church."
Marriage is sacred. It was created to be the wedding portrait of Christ and His Bride hung over the blazing fireplace of judgment. A match made in Heaven, a contract signed in blood. In the bond of marriage, we are to stand at the altar of Sacrifice or we're not to stand at all.
Colossians 1:16,17 gives us this assurance--
" ... by him all things were created ... and in him all things hold together."
God alone created marriage. Adam slept through the entire ceremony, live came in late. It seems to me men are still sleeping through marriage and women are still coming to their senses a little too late. God alone performed that ceremony and He alone can hold it together.
Much of our disillusionment over marriage stems from the fact that we've been duped into believing that good equals easy. In other words, we often assume that if something is difficult, it can't be of God. Nothing has been more difficult for Christ than the marriage to His Bride yet Jude 24 says He'll present her to His Father with great joy! The Greek root word is "Agalliao." It means "to show one's joy by leaping and skipping denoting excessive or ecstatic joy and delight!" Just picture it. After all the ups and downs in the relationship, after all the marriage has cost Him, He'll act like a love-struck boy introducing his girl to his dad for the very first time. Why? Because He thinks she was worth it.
On the pleasant days of marriage, gaze across at your groom and conclude he is worth it. On the difficult days of marriage gaze up at your Groom and conclude He's worth it.
"A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
Dear Bride To Be
Come to me, Dear Bride to be, And kneel before My Throne And I will share My heart with you And make your house a home. Listen well, lean closely There are secrets at My feet-- The marriage you will soon begin This Bridegroom will complete.
The man with whom you'll journey Is your wedding gift from me To teach you things beyond this world ... A precious mystery. Bearing all these things in mind You'll never lack for wealth For through your union I will choose To teach you of Myself.
Let him hold you tightly And keep you safe from harm Until I'll one day hold you In My everlasting arms. Let him wipe your tears away And trust him with your pain Until I wipe them all away And Heaven is your gain.
Pray to love his tender touch And want his gentle kiss I grant you both my blessing And ask you not to miss The reason why I've chosen For two halves to become one-- That you might see the Bride of Christ, Sweet Daughter and Dear Son.
So make his home a refuge He's to love you as I do Until your mansion is complete ... A place prepared for you. And if I should choose to leave you here When I have called him home Trust I'll be your husband near ... You'll never be alone.
Early one morning only eight weeks after the day we married, I heard an oddly controlled voice ascend from the kitchen. "It's positive, Beth. It came out positive."
"That's impossible," I thought. After all, my doctor had assured me that birth control would be a waste of time. I was told that the fashion in which God had fearfully and wonderfully made me would make conception an impossibility without medical intervention. I was certain that the demands of marriage, i.e., cooking and cleaning, had made me understandably ill. I went to the kitchen to see for myself. There it was. The first sign of our first offspring--a jagged circle in the bottom of a glass test tube. I screamed. Then I laughed. Then I jumped up and down all over the linoleum. I had wanted a baby since the time I had been one. It was not until I threw my arms around my husband that I realized he was either terrified or had died standing up.
I set an extra place at the table that night and left it there until it was occupied. I immediately poked my stomach out as far as I could and practiced waddling in front of the mirror. And, most importantly, I enrolled in a child development course at the nearby community college. I planned to be the most wonderful mother in the world. Second only to the Blessed Mother herself. I never missed a single class and spoke as an authority on every point. I rolled my eyes at the ignorance of many of my classmates. It was clear they had not acquired the depth of experience I had while babysitting. Among the host of vows I made before my class, two were priority--I would never spank and I would never say, "Became I said so." I was the fourth of five Army brats and the first one in line to ask "WHY?" The tip of my father's index finger and those four words were stamped indelibly in my gray matter. I would be a far different kind of parent. I would simply explain things to my children. I would draw them up to my level and speak to them like little adults. I would patiently escort them to understanding and bask in the success of my modern methods. The course ended. I felt it was a shame the teacher could not give an "A+" on a report card. An "A" seemed so common.
I quickly enrolled in another class. It was called "Lamaze Guide to Natural Childbirth." My husband had warmed up to the idea of starting a family due to the rapidly growing evidence that it was inevitable. He dutifully attended each one of our classes and fell asleep every night to my breathing exercises and stuck as closely to my side as my anti-stretch mark cream. I had highlighted my lime green Lamaze manual in fluorescent colors and worn the ink off the pages instructing how to experience minimal pain. I was not into pain. I was also far too contemporary to consider any drugs. I was expecting my first child at the exact moment the partum pendulum had swung from being knocked out to all natural. I was convinced that if I took one iota of pain reliever, my child would not only grow up to take drugs, she would likely sell Heroin on the nearest corner. I hadn't made an "A" in Child Development for nothing. I made my husband promise that no matter how I begged, he would not let me take any medication. I faithfully practiced my "hee hee" breathing and braced myself for the big day. And a big day it was sure to be. I had already caught a glimpse of myself in the stainless steel bathtub faucet while taking a bath. My navel looked like a helicopter pad. My stomach looked like the Astrodome and my head and arms looked like they were down a few more exits. I took showers from then on.
One Sunday morning nine months and two weeks from our wedding, I awakened to my stomach doing abdominals independently. I whispered my suspicions into my husband's left ear to which he responded by jumping straight out of the bed into his cowboy boots. I convinced him we had plenty of time to run by the church and let me teach a quick Sunday School lesson to my sixth graders on the way to the hospital. He conceded reluctantly and we made a bee line for the church. I've never been known to teach a short lesson and by the time we headed back home to grab my suitcase, the contractions were growing powerfully. Nothing in Houston, Texas is vaguely close by and our hospital was considered far even according to our standards. As we began our trek, I said to Keith, "It sure is a good thing I practiced my Lamaze as much as I did. This really hurts. Don't worry, though. I'm prepared and I feel in control." Minutes passed and I was feeling a tad less controlled.
"Keith," I suggested, "you might try taking streets with no traffic lights. I don't think we ought to tarry at another one." By this time I was "hee hee" breathing.
A few minutes later, as my sweet husband began to panic, I said, "You stop again and you deliver this kid!" By this time my feet were on the dash board. With eyes that could shoot torpedoes, I selected Keith's face as my focal point and announced emphatically, "I'M READY TO PUSH!" We pulled up in front of Rosewood Hospital on two wheels.
My husband flew in the door and said, "Forget the labor room. It's too late! Get her to Delivery!" A worn out nurse with a dead pan face fetched the doctor with the speed of molasses. I squeezed my knees together and gritted my teeth trying to hold it off until they got there.
The doctor arrived, examined me, and said, "Mrs. Moore, you are one and a half centimeters dilated." It was a long day.
I divorced Keith during every contraction and remarried him in between. I didn't know a soul could feel pain like that and live and I was taking him with me if I didn't. My "hee hee" breathing had diminished to sobs of "He He made me do this!" Many hours and a large incision later, I gave birth. I don't know why they call it "expecting." There is nothing about it you could've expected. Her head was misshapen from the difficult delivery. Her head was bleeding from the forceps. Her cheeks were bruised from the pressure. And she was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen in all my life. Not many things in life are perfect but every, now and then, every once in a great while, there arrives a perfect moment. This was one of them.
That moment gave birth to the most joyful days I had ever experienced in my life. Keith and I thought all well parented babies sat happily in their carseats, slept through the night, and bore signs of brilliancy from birth. Her name was Amanda. She talked nice and early and walked nice and late. As the infant turned into a delightfully creative toddler, her mind became a constant bed of fairy tales and her nursery turned into a palace. An obvious "Save the Whaler" from her first words, she was born to crusade righteous causes, however off the wall, and stick up for the underdog. Deep spirited from the start, she once looked into the sky at three years old and with eyes spilling tears, said, "One lonely little cloud. I wish it had some friends." By senior high school she had changed wonderfully little.
I had never spanked her nor had I ever said those four deplorable words. After all, I had made a vow. And I almost got away with it. That is, until I had that one fleeting thought when I glanced at her pink cheeks and pigtails as she swung at the neighborhood park, "I'm so good at this, it would be a shame for me not to do it again. After all, Keith wants another so badly." Just as the thought went through my head, the loudest clap of thunder I had ever heard nearly collapsed the sky. I know now that it was God having a good knee slapper.
I feel sure this was the moment when He summoned Gabriel and said, "Remember that little spirited spirit we've had around here all these centuries just waiting for the right mother? She just reported for duty."
I had no idea what God had planned. As usual, I had plans of my own. After all, planliness is next to Godliness, is it not? Without informing my husband, I plotted my next pregnancy. I planned to be in the family way by Thanksgiving just in time to give him the ultimate gift on Christmas Day. I couldn't imagine ever loving another little girl as much as I had my first and I had always heard every Father needed a son, so I chose just the right formula of words and petitioned God for a boy, in Jesus' Name ... and in advance. I thought it would be simpler that way. My timing worked perfectly according to plan and by Thanksgiving I was kissing Keith as he headed out the door by 7:00 A.M. and throwing up by 8:00 A.M. I wrapped a darling, but very manly pair of blue booties in crisp red and green wrap and stuck the special delivery all the way under the Christmas tree.
December 25th finally rolled around and we gathered with extended family at my parent's home and began to exchange gifts. As forever his custom, my Father passed out every gift one by one. Finally, a single small package was under the tree. Having no idea what the present contained, he announced to my husband that it was addressed to him ... from Santa Claus. Keith didn't waste much time tearing away the Christmas ribbons and paper, then stared totally puzzled at the fuzzy little booties. He finally looked at me across the room and mouthed the words, "Does this mean you want to?" I responded loudly, "No, my Darling, this means WE ARE!" He swept me up and swung me around while my family cried and I threw up. After the hysteria had died down, he inquired, "Just one more thing I'm curious about. Why are these blue booties?"
I quipped, "Because, Honey, I asked God for a boy, in Jesus' Name." How could he be so spiritually immature?
My tummy was swollen by the time I ate the second piece of pumpkin pie. I didn't care. I was filled with a complete satisfaction over well executed plans. What could be better? A handsome husband, a precious daughter, a wonderful son, and a wiener dog named Coney Island! Boy, was I feeling sassy.
Seven months into the pregnancy the obstetrics nurse, who was a friend of mine, offered to do a sonogram for which she had been recently trained. I drank the four and a half gallons of water required and sloshed all the way to the doctor's office. She smeared the monitor with a clear, ice cold jelly then whacked it on my tummy pushing as hard as she could on my bladder. She positioned the television screen right in front of me and we began to watch a performance of award-winning caliber. It was a miracle. The child flipped and turned and sucked its thumb. We saw everything! The eyes, the nose, the fingers and toes! Everything but one. After thirty minutes of Star Search, I finally said, "Have you been able to tell he's a boy yet?"
She responded reluctantly, "No, I just can't seem to get the right angle."
That baby didn't have an angle we hadn't seen. I retorted, "You're telling me a story. That baby's a girl!"
"You're absolutely right."
I went home, sat on the couch and looked up at God. "You can change this, You know. You can either do it now or You can do it right in front of the labor and delivery staff. I don't care when or how, just do it!" I added one little footnote. "But if You're going to do it, be sure You do it all the way." I didn't need anything else to worry about. I positioned myself very still to see if I'd feel anything. I didn't.
It wasn't that I didn't want another daughter. I love little girls! It's that I had shot off my big mouth to everyone this side of the Pecos and I was far too pregnant to be sitting out on any limb. Somehow I had a feeling God had made up His mind. I broke the news apologetically to my husband. After a moment, he chuckled and asked, "Am I supposed to be disappointed or something?" That was all I needed to hear. The next two months we ecstatically prepared for daughter number two. When I say we prepared, surely you're believing by now, we prepared! This time I passed on the Lamaze classes and entered the hospital with my "Say Yes to Drugs" T-shirt chanting those three magic words, "Just say yes!" The way I saw it, bugs and turnips were "natural" and I didn't like them either.
I never could tell that the anesthesia I had longed for had any effect at all until a few moments after I struggled and gave birth to that wonderful child. I awakened in the recovery room to my husband's tender words as he whispered in the tiny ear of his Christmas gift. She was dark complected like my "Ken" and had a white gauze cap on her head. He had her propped in his left hand and was holding up one little slat of the mini-blinds with the other. Her little eyes squinted as he promised, "It's a mighty big world out there, but don't you worry. It won't hurt you. Daddy will be right there." It was a perfect moment. My second.
That beautiful child was an angel from Heaven for two solid weeks when she abruptly opened her mouth and, to date, has not shut it. I began to have a vague recollection of that mighty clap of thunder on the pinnacle day of my piety. She sat way too early. She crawled way too early and she ran way too early. She has yet to learn to walk. When her screams turned into vocabulary, she was finally able to put her frustrations into words. The first sentence out of her mouth is accurately recorded in her baby book--"Don't boss me!" Melissa has never been one to take sides. She came to take over.
We could always tell what kind of day it was going to be by the way her hair looked when she walked down the stairs in the morning. If she had experienced a rough night, it was going to be a rough day. We tried cutting her hair nice and short but she still came down those stairs looking just like an angry banty rooster. Then came that fated day when she was four years old and demanded to go outside on a cold, rainy day. I said no. She asked why. I explained why. She said no. I explained again. She threw a fit again. "But WHY can't I, Mom?? You're just plain ole mean!" Just then, I felt a strange allergic reaction occurring around my mouth. It felt as like ants were crawling all over my tongue. My lips began to blow. Then it happened. I couldn't control it. It just happened. In a compulsory refrain, I screamed, "BECAUSE I SAID SO!" Once was not enough. Every single one stored up inside me came out in a flash. I yelled it at the dog. I yelled it at the cat. I yelled it at the swing set. I yelled it sharp and flat. It was freedom! Liberation to my soul! Free at last! I fell exhausted on the couch at which point my older child said with hands on her hips to her precocious little sister, "Because she said so. That's why." To which she responded, "Oh. Okay." And she skipped away. When answers aren't enough, there is "Because I said so." Thanks, Major Dad.
Her stubbornness is half her charm. One day after Mother's Day Out, she announced to me proudly, "My teacher called me a different drummer? I was furious. I knew what that teacher had really said. "Melissa sure marches to the beat of a different drummer." Just about the time I started to turn right back around and give that teacher a piece of my mind, I thought about the words Melissa had quoted. Her teacher said it one way. She heard it quite another. She didn't march to anyone's beat. She was the different drummer. And she still is.
I marvel at the ignorance of a mother who thought two daughters might be too much alike to enjoy. Their appearances were strikingly similar but their personalities were gloriously unique from the start. One lived in a fairy tale. The other a tail spin. One cradled a red and black lady bug in her palm and said, "Oh, my pretty little ladybug." The other, half her size, looked over her shoulder and retorted, "It's dead, stupid." One aimed to please. The other aimed to push. One was my favorite. And so was the other.
Only God could have created a parent's love. Only to God can we all be His favorite, the "apple of His eye." (Ps. 17:8) How can we ever doubt that He loves us as much as another if we, as human parents, are capable of the same? What unfathomable depths of love must be in the heart of One who said,
"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
I would give my children anything I could afford if only it wouldn't hurt them. He gave us everything He could afford--the riches of Heaven--His Son, and oh, how it hurt Him.
Today, with daughters I have to literally look up to, I arrive at the same conclusion I suspected many years ago when I danced with glee over my first babysitting job. I like children.
Excerpted from Things Pondered by Beth Moore Copyright © 2004 by Beth Moore. Excerpted by permission.
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