My sentimental journey

An ordinary girl's walk with an extraordinary God.


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We Are All God’s Favorite

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A shadow of favoritism formed over my mom at the birth of her younger sister, Donna. Her parents made the poor choice of comparing the two siblings throughout their lives… even on the most menial tasks. The sting of favoritism ,coupled with comparison, delivered a deadly blow to my Mom’s self-worth. She was daily reminded of failure to measure up and it haunted her long after her parents passing .

Mom carried a distorted image God never intended her to gaze upon .She learned of God’s love early on in life while sitting on a little bench in the basement of Minthorne Church’s Sunday school class. But, her heart never fully recovered from the deeply embedded favoritism wounds that plagued her all her life. Her tenacious love for God did enable her to overcome many hardships and disappointments she encountered along the way . And,God’s love gave her wisdom and courage not to repeat the same mistake of showing favoritism and comparison towards my brother and me.

When we look a the definition of favoritism , ” the unfair practice of treating some people better than others,” we know it’s contrary to God’s nature. Numerous Scriptures underline this intrinsic truth of His loving character. Romans 2.11 reminds us ” God shows no partiality .” He is no respecter of persons . Peter exploded with this good news  when God revealed there was not distinction between Jew or Gentile. All are grafted into the same tree. He declares in Acts 10.34  It’s Gods own truth ; nothing could be plainer :God plays no favorites ! It makes no difference who you are or where you are from. If you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open .” (Message)

How freeing it is to belong to such a merciful and loving Papa, who does not compare or measure,raise a high standard or base His love on conditions.

Today I rejoice in the legacy of my mother’s loving choices against favoritism. I am   thankful to a God who declares we are all His favorite.

Published by The Christian Journal May 2014 Lisa Thompson Jennings

 


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Innie or an Outie

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Before you go checking your God given belly button to answer my strange query you can relax no TMI required. Just a simple question birthed from my personal quest on the issue of pride. Apparently, mine is so cleverly disguised and utterly inverted I thought I was free from its’ glaring clutches.
Recently I’ve been lovingly outed on my “innie” pride while sharing a struggle I was desiring to overcome. During two separate conversations with two different friends, they tenderly said, “perhaps it is inverted pride your dealing with”… Gulp!

This reminded me of God’s truth in Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”.
My heart longs to pin down hidden or exposed lies to the mat, or better yet deliver a 1- 2 punch of victory rendering a KO in record time. Rather, I stumble in my human frailty unable to move like the fierce Muhammad Ali who floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee.
Instead, I stand with cauliflower ears scarred by shames relentless beatings, causing my natural defenses to swell with pride covering heightened  insecurities . Or at times, unintentionally hidden under the guise of false humility, pride driven “Innie-ward”, inadvertently … the end results remains the same for middle letter in pride is I . Lack of trust in God’s goodness lands me ,myself and I in the driver seat pushing the petal to the metal,singing Sammy Hager rebellious tune ” I can’t drive 65″
God’s word is clear “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall”..
So the journey continues towards healing my Innie and Outie forms of pride… asking God that I would “humble myself under His mighty Hand that in due time He will lift me up.”
Grateful for safe relationships spur us on to be authentic and open without the fear of rejection or ridicule. Becoming a safe haven of unconditional love that allows genuine transformation from our pride, selfishness, and other battles of our fleshly nature.
May we choose daily to no longer hide in any forms of pride forged from our brokenness but move in your Spirit of love. Perhaps with your grace I can float like a butterfly after all .
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

For pride is spiritual cancer it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment or even common sense. C.S. Lewis


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She Flies With Her Own Wings

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“Alis Volat Propriis” is the Latin words for “she flies with her own wings”. Discovering this little gem , written on my Albertson’s shopping bag while unloading it from our van. My eyes finally catching the full scope of the brightly colored bag’s design. Initially, the artist’s vivid scenes of Portland Oregon distracted me from the writing encircling the base. As a native Oregonian of nearly 54 years I may have already heard these Latin words when studying the history of Oregon.  Forgetting that on May 2, 1843 the Oregon Country Settlers voted to make Alis Volat Propriis our state motto forming a provisional government independent of the U.S. and Great Britain. Whether I learned this once before or not, these words are fresh and relevant for my here and now .

May 1st will be indelibly etched in my mind as the day I lost my mother. Sorrowful thoughts of what life would be like without her deemed unbearable to ponder while she was alive; now have become my altered and difficult reality. God’s word is a comfort to me and to all those who mourn, promising in Psalms 27:13 * “that we can be confident to see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.” His goodness descends from Heaven, gentle reminders of His love lessening the chasm of grief, bringing comfort to my heart.

On May 2, 2013 the day after my mama’s passing I wanted to get my mind off all that had happened, exhausted from mom’s illnesses, her death, and painful false accusations against me. I decided to watch American Idol that was recorded on May 1st. When the opening group song started I could not believe my ears… they were singing, “Mama told me not to waste my life she said spread your wings my little butterfly, don’t let what they say keep you up all night, they can’t detain you, wings were made to fly”.

Tears streamed down my face realizing that God had sent me a message about my mama; encouraging me not follow in her footsteps of worrying about what people thought of me. She is fully experiencing freedom from the fear of man that had become a snare, now in Heaven’s glory liberated from its’ restrictions.

My journey towards audacious liberty began at that very moment, albeit I didn’t know it at the time. This butterfly message fluttered once again and came into view a couple of months later. Appearing while my feet dangled out of the small opening into our attic. Staying seated close to the light as I sorted through the few boxes of my mom’s belongings. Grieving her loss was more stiffing than the attics dense, windowless air. While sifting through her stuff I became saddened she had thrown out a lot of her belongings before she moved from her last spacious two apartment, into a much smaller one bedroom apartment. One of those precious item’s I missed was her beloved roller skates. Having fond memories of my brother Troy and I taking turns skating around in our basement as children. The list of missing items was long, realizing her dementia probably was a factor in her out of character decision to toss them. Far beyond the scope of these earthly mementos was the loss of my parents. My soul felt darker than the farthest corners of the attic breathing in the stale air as a orphan. Intermittently, wiping tears from my flushed face as I divided mementos into designated boxes for family members that lined the attic’s opening.  As I continued  to gently look through her belongings I was suddenly surprised to see a bright pink butterfly on a 3X5 index card.  Excitingly pulling it out to examine it closer I flipped the card over to read “All That the father Hath is yours.” My Little butterfly Love Al. My dad had written this to my mother on April 9th 1977, one of the few things she had kept that he had given her. This orphan girl finding solace in his simple yet powerful words

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A few weeks after that profound discovery my sweet Bff and her hubby surprised me and my husband as I celebrated my first birthday without my mama. Debbie crowned me with a Birthday tiara and my eyes were masked to veil the secret of our destination. Once we arrived and mask removed, I was handed tickets to the American Idol concert. Joy and excitement bubbled within me as we made our way into the coliseum to our amazing seats. Just in time to hear this familiar opening song, “Mama told me not to waste my life, she said spread your wings my little butterfly”. God is over the top with his love and attention to detail , and Mama, you would be proud of me for I’m learning the true meaning of Alis Volat Propriis.

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Perhaps your longing for more freedom in your life? Whether your weighted down by a loss, rejection, fear or shame. Whatever the need, God wants to set you free!… for those He has set free are free indeed. Go ahead, fly with your own wings because God is the wind beneath them.


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The Best Brother in The World

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Comforting my brother when he had the mumps .

As we celebrate National Sibling day I want to take time to honor my brother and only sibling Troy. He has hands down been the best brother a gal could ever have. His long list of virtues could circle the globe with patience and joy steering the helm. God knew Troy would need a heavy arsenal of patience to grapple with the likes of me. Whether I ate his chocolate Valentines heart while he was at school, or sang “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music” repeatedly in the back seat of our Thunderbird, as he reminded a picture of calm. Rarely did I ruffle his feathers in the midst of my tomfoolery.

Like any good brother he brought protection and defense when situations proved dicey, even so far as telling my loving but frustrated mom when I was three, “Say something kind to her, she’s afraid of you”. Full of tenderhearted grace and laughter that simultaneously sparks a twinkle to his eyes. Troy has been a steady pillar of strength and unceasing joy to me and my family and undeniably his own as well.

Now that dementia has attacked his once strong body I reflect on God’s word that tells us, *“The rain falls on the just and unjust like”.  Becoming acutely aware we live in a fallen world where the excruciating truth is: bad things happen to good people; and no earthly umbrella is a worthy opponent against life’s blast of harsh realities.

My intentional steps move towards the cross laying the bitter blows of pain, loss and grief at the feet of Jesus. Solace found in the truth that You became, *” A man of sorrows and pains, and acquainted with grief, surely you have borne our, sicknesses, weaknesses and carried our sorrows”. A trustworthy Father to see us through dark hours of our soul as we find rest in all His good promises. Reminding myself this life is a mere dress rehearsal as we await the glory of heaven where * sighing and sadness shall flee and You will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Today as I reminisce looking through copies of Troy’s baby book, I’m especially touched by what my mom recorded him telling her when I was two,  “I just love my sister, you got her because I wanted a sister “.  Heavenly Father, I want you to know, “I just love my brother, you got him because I wanted a brother” and I thank you that you picked the best one ever!

100_1044  “ Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero.” –                                                                                                                                                                     Marc Brown

In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. Matthew 5:45

Isaiah 53:4 Amp Bible

Those the Lord has rescued will return.

They will enter Zion with singing;

everlasting joy will crown their heads.

Gladness and joy will overtake them,

and sorrow and sighing will flee away. Isaiah 51:11 NIV Bible


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Tender Hearts & Thick Skins

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Janet and I were neighbors and all around best buddies, our closeness evident by the telltale photo of the matching outfits we sported on our grade school field trip to OMSI.  We completed our wardrobe down to the lucky rabbits foot dangling from our Levi belt loop’s.  Really, how lucky could that poor rabbit have been?  When I think of Janet my mind is flooded with happy memories and funny stories, they are like brilliant stars nestled in a night sky of gratefulness.  A treasured childhood friend to share silliness and secrets, whether walking to school, playing together, or during sleepovers; experiencing laughter till our sides hurt brought on by our countless goofy ways we could amuse ourselves.

One of our favorite games was playing Montgomery Wards catalog, in our day (which sounds incredibly old ) you could pick up and return your orders to the Mall 205 Ward’s store. During that age they relied on employee customer service and good old fashion handwritten files to keep track of it all. What fun it was to play after school, setting up shop downstairs on my parents covered pool table.  A toy pink phone for imaginary calls… check, a Ward’s catalog… check, files made up with fake names like Frank Frone… check, all the proper tools to ignite our wild imaginations. Why we never worked at Montgomery Ward’s when we got older I will never know. We had serious mad skills I tell you!

Some of our other memories were going door to door collecting money for the Christian Children’s Fund. One time, we chose to clean the handwritten graffiti from bathroom stalls during recess just for fun!  Each school week was occasionally mingled with some mischief… at times less than angelic.  Rounding out our Friday’s with our hit single we belted out our song, “We’re going home today, today, today!! ushering in our weekend.  It makes me giggle at the very thought of it.

One moment we walked to grade school as children, next thing you know we were catching the bus to Junior High with the first stroke of blush applied to our cheeks. Time flew by but the memories linger remaining a steady source of joy.  Recently,  while at the check stand I was gazing at the outrageous tabloids that slander and exploit people without grace or kindness. I wondered how does one being attacked handle such lies, falsehoods and slander without being able to tell their side of the story? A two sided coin only baring one side oblivious to the other side’s details.

We have all struggled with hurtful and untrue stories told that slammed against the walls of  our integrity. Casting suspicion on our foundation we hold so dear.  Sometimes, I am guilty of setting my eyes on only one side being represented, believing that to be the whole truth without hearing the other side.

As I wrestle with my own personal pain from untruthfulness spun against me, it presses me into seeking endurance for the injustices. Causing me to mumble this question to myself as I unloaded my shopping cart ”  How do they do it God?  I gently   heard the words “thick skin” rise up in my spirit, and the memories of how Janet and I had a pre-summer ritual.

Before summer arrived we would prepare our tender feet for the freedom of barefoot days by toughening them up.  Our solution: A “foot boot camp” without boots.  These tender feet that were previously cradled in warm socks and comfortable shoes, barely seeing the light of day, would be exposed not only to the sunlight but the dark hard asphalt and rough cement, going… “all natural”.  Quickly acclimating our tender soles to lessen the nuisance of feeling every poke and jab of the harsh ground beneath.  Thus, giving way to a foot loose and fancy free summer!

It made so much sense to me back then, and it so applicable to me now. My tender heart and thin skin feels every poke and jab of harshness and disapproval of others toward me, focusing my attention on my wounded soul.  Instead, I want to use these opportunities to develop a thick skin of grace foregoing being callous to their deep woundedness.  This allows me the freedom to enjoy the green pastures the Lord leads me to. His endless glory stretched out beneath my eager feet.  His glowing canopy of  approval and forgiveness gives me the strength to say, *1  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  *2  “Being able to throw open our doors to God and discover at that same moment that He has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand–out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praises… with our Tender Hearts and Thick Skins.

1*  Luke 23:34 NIV

2*Romans 5 1:2 The Message Bible


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The Letter

vintage-floral-free-letters-cards-powerpoint_156393One day in 1986 it suddenly dawned on me, I wanted Kevin to move out of the friend zone into the “Dating Zone” Asap!.. only hoping he felt the same way. The eyes of my heart soon opened to this new realization after he payed me a visit at Mall 205 where I worked as a manager at Foxmoor clothing store.
Unbeknownst to us our first meeting in the basement of Laurel Park Bible Chapel in 1983, would one day become life changing. Our sweet encouraging friendship blossomed in the soil of our personal brokenness. Sporadically touching base during the next few years, with occasional phone calls and hand written letters, though we lived a mere three miles apart.

This gem of a soul mate was hidden in plain view during our friendship. Blinded by heartbreak of a short lived first marriage, I plummeted head long into an eating disorder, my futile attempt to gain a measure of control in my life. There In the midst of the pain and brokenness God had a plan, to bring beauty out of ashes, oil of joy for mourning and a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

Within a couple of weeks of Kevin’s pivotal visit we waved good bye to the Friend Zone. Now standing hand in hand at the threshold of a new beginning eagerly awaiting God’s leading.  Excitement sparked our faith and faith moved us toward what the future would hold for us. We became increasingly aware that we had an adversary that was not ready to see us walk in victory. A persistent seven year battle raged within Kevin that unless he had total freedom from it, our relationship could not proceed to a commitment of marriage.  My heart was not only longing to be married to Kevin, it was longing to see a tormented man set free. Faith rose within me to stand in the gap on his behalf and believe that God would deliver Kevin once and for all. On one particular day I felt the Lord’s strong pressing to write Kevin a letter filled with God’s truth of His deep love for him and mine as well. These truths were the keys that opened up the prison cell that kept Kevin in mental, emotional, and spiritual torment and set him forever free from his particular battle.

Twenty nine years later I still marvel at this beautiful tapestry woven with threads of God’s faithfulness, grace and redemption. Whenever God’s love is coupled with loving safe relationships it never fails to bring healing. I’m eternally  grateful for the love of God and committed friendships that loved me into wholeness. My life has forever changed for the better because of it.

Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times ,and is born, as is a brother,for adversity”..

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The Way We Were

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Climbing the summit to adulthood can be rough and challenging terrain as you mature through various obstacles including awkward teenage years. Childhood to adulthood, from wonder years to blunder years, finding your personal niche with family and friends. We all have stories that inevitablity shaped our character and helped forge us to mature, calling us onward and upward.

For me childhood’s sharp turns began as I carefully wrapped my beloved dolls with crisp white tissue paper preparing them for a slumbering storage. Aware of saying good-bye to my dolls was only the beginning of more farewells to crossover my hearts’ threshold. One of the things I dreaded most was the thought of my brother moving out, I simply was not ready to be left home, feeling like an only child. Sadly, that day  came way sooner than expected as my brother chose to move out at 16 ,  when sowing his wild oats (as so many of us have done) collided with our disapproving parents,  sealing his decision to prematurely leave the nest. Causing plenty of ruffled feathers  due to the intensity of the situation that surrounded his final choice.  Now the unfurling of his resolve thrusted me into a front row seat, watching my family fall apart before my very eyes.Packing away my childish toys was one thing but growing up without my brother’s presence in our home deemed itself unbearable.

Longing for his good nature and playful attitude to grace our four walls again, wanting to hear him call me “Lisgang”, even though to this day I don’t know why. Trying somehow to process my raw pain I gathered extra loose photos of us growing up, carefully cutting the pictures edges with my mom’s pinking shears, unknowingly gearing up for day when scrap booking would be a household word. Because Barbara Streisand was my all time favorite singer, I could think of no better lyrics than “The Way We Were” to gingerly paste into the middle of a poster board; placing photos around it. For those of you young en’s that don’t know this gem it goes like this ,
The Way We Were

“Mem’ries, Light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories of the way we were.
Scattered pictures, of the smiles we left behind.
Smiles we gave to one another, for the way we were.
Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we? Could we?
Mem’ries, may be beautiful and yet, what’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget.So it’s the laughter we will remember
Whenever we remember…
The way we were…
The way we were…”

Securing this collage of recollections underneath my canopy, clothed in pink and white gingham, I uttered prayers for my brother… heart crafted prayers for his speedy return and for our family to heal. A rousing prodigal welcome home ending, with celebration and feasting… slamming the door shut to sever the misunderstandings that caused such a division. After wrestling heartache and a unwavering fight from my parents to get my brother out of JDH, he finally returned home. Though there was a long road ahead of us to work through of regrets and forgiveness, we had my brother back in all his zany glory.

Now 40 years later, I’m preparing myself to go to see my brother again at his memory care facility. My husband’s comforting presence each visit is paramount in enabling me to it make through each overwhelming visit. Bittersweet is woven through nostalgia that  intertwines with harsh reality… my heart pulsating, beating to the melody of the “Way We Were”. This time disease has locked him up, imprisoning his body and placing his mind in detention from the freedom it was created for. Grappling with these restrictions we do what these limitations permit. We hug him, tell stories, share photos, go on walks in the facilities gardens. Tell him we love him and pray with him. Since his speech is difficult we share the powerful and universal language of laughter.

God’s word promises, “A merry heart does good like a medicine”. I’m so thankful for my brother’s good nature and jovial personality in the midst of his extremely trying circumstances. Thank you God that in the end, “it’s the laughter we will remember “. Not focusing on the “Way We Were”, but who we are in the light of eternity. One day we will all be home together again celebrating our new celestial bodies in our heavenly homes. Walls reverberating with laughter, filled with love that knows no measure… once again hearing my brother’s familiar voice calling me Lisgang… What a beautiful reunion!