I Am the Manger

As the hostess for our sisters’ weekend, I splurged at the party store—a ten-buck balloon to adorn the mailbox for a more festive “WELCOME!” than my intended  “TURN HERE.”  Since I had invested so much in the Mylar exclamation, I meticulously wound the red ribbon ‘round and ‘round and ‘round my wrist for extra security.  

However, a mischievous wind caught the helium-filled orb as soon as I opened the door, jerking it hither and yon like a hooked trout. I quickly reeled in to catch the bottom plastic tab for a more secure hold.  Reaching the truck, I released the tab in order to get the keys from my purse.  As I opened the door, the red string suddenly fell limply to my shoes.  Confused, I picked up what had been the top of the tethering line.  My heart started pounding as I quickly looked up.  There! I saw my sister’s shining “Welcome!” flying away to heights unknown.

“How did I lose that balloon?” I wondered, staring at what had been the business end of the ribbon, the remainder still wrapped around my wrist—now just string theory fashion.  All my strategies, all my plans, all my investment—who gets the blame?

Silly, I know.  Yet, I tell this story knowing there are many others with disappearing balloons and sagging string and gazing eyes toward heaven, pondering the more important question: Will a video of this fiasco go viral with #womanlosesit? 

Honestly, I most often derive my worth from the glaring evidence of lost balloons; literally and metaphorically I have no gift to bring to lay before the King, pa-rum-pa-pum-pum.  At the stable in Bethlehem I stand empty, barren—a woman come undone.

YET, somehow I start to wonder: What if, in the holy night, God cares not about what I bring?  What if it is about what I am willing to be?

Ann Voscamp vociferously declares this inexplicable truth in The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life:

I am not the mistakes I have made; I am the righteousness He has made. I am not the plans I have failed; I am the perfectness He has finished. I am not the wrongs I have done; I am the faultlessness He has been. I am not the sins I have chosen; I am chosen by the Beloved, regardless of my sins. In Christ, I am chosen, accepted, justified, anointed, sealed, forgiven, redeemed, complete, free, Christ’s friend, God’s child, Spirit’s home. (p. 193, Kindle edition)

I AM THE MANGER--shrouded in darkness and encrusted with dirt.  
I AM THE MANGER--a yawning, empty space, void of majesty or glory, obscure and destined for decay.  Until one Night, until one Moment, until one Baby, until one divine Plan, when the darkness becomes Light, when a stable becomes a nursery, when a manger becomes a cradle to hold the Hope of all people. 

I AM THE MANGER—my heart is God’s dwelling place, His light streams through all the cracks and brokenness.

#womanonfire #cuttheribbons #iamthemanger

Pa-rum-pa-pa-pum, rum-pa-pa-pum, ra-pa-pa-pummmm



It was a day like any other day. 


I was meeting my friend for dinner at a favorite Italian restaurant, and I was early. 


As I was looking down at the menu, suddenly a beautiful, mocha waitress swirled into the booth seat across from me and exclaimed, “How ya doin’, Pumpkin Pie?!” Immediately I responded, “Hey! I like you!” Much to my delight, I seemed to surprise her as much as she had surprised me. I love that “Do unto others” stuff.


My friend came moments later, and we ordered. As we ate, our waitress checked on us periodically, and we began asking questions to learn her story. The young girl was surprised at our interest but lined out her daily schedule of working at the restaurant four days a week and then attending a beauty school the remaining three days, having just graduated from high school a few months back.


Then, OUT OF THE WILD BLUE, my friend mentioned her daughter-in-law taught math at the young woman’s alma mater. “What’s her name?” she asked. “Mrs. ----,” my friend answered. “NO WAY!” our waitress exclaimed. “Mrs. ---- was my favorite teacher! She is the best! I’ve got to call my friend who is still in her class to tell her I just met Mrs.---‘s mother-in-law!”




My friend offered, “I’ll call ---right now, and you can tell her yourself.”  After ending the call, our new favorite waitress said, “You gotta bring Mrs. --- on one of the days I am working. I would love to see her,” to which my friend replied they would bring the whole family the very next Sunday.


As we were preparing to leave, I looked at my friend and said, “You just never know who God will put in our paths to love. He sure knows what He’s doing!”


Jeremiah 28:17—“’Ah, Lord God! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for Thee.’” (NASV)


Desperate times call for pulling on my boots.  Two days ago torrential rains flooded streets and parking lots, high winds blowing the wet slivers sidesways. I had no choice but to venture into possible harm’s way because the Sears Outlet was having a special sale, deducting from already low prices an additional 13% for “Spooky” Halloween savings, PLUS 5% more if using a Sears card.


Although I was the first through the door, the salesman asked if he could check out another couple since I was still deciding (well, he had not shown me the correct items yet). Of course, I graciously agreed—and then the couple said, “Oh, we need to add a dishwasher, if that is okay.” 


OF COURSE, it was not okay, but they already knew that. One hour later I was still waiting, but admittedly much less graciously. Then my salesman said it was taking longer with the couple, and now he also had a return, pointing to an older lady who was holding an unhappy baby for an even unhappier young mother. 


OF COURSE, the salesman was instructing me of the importance of the needs of others over my own. I had heard this same sentiment before; someone even wrote it down for me . . . on a paper plate: “Love one another.”  I realize that no matter how many times I am told there is something I need to do, my hearing does not empower the doing. As a matter of fact, not even my good intentions empower my doing when I am being treated unfairly.


OF COURSE, things got worse. By this time at least 20 customers were waiting on 3 salespersons., and neither of the other two wanted to “help” me so as not to take away the first man’s commission.  OF COURSE, I wanted to scream that without my business, NO ONE would get ANYTHING. 


OF COURSE, I did not scream, I did not pitch a fit, I did not play the “I was here FIRST” card; nor did I raise my hand to offer prayers of blessings on all who were gathered together to get the “Spooky” savings. AH, HA!” Some of you yell. “You were at a sale honoring Satan’s special day, and that is why God did not bless your time there!”


OF COURSE, I do not agree with that. God did bless me by clearly showing that I was not the point of my time at the Sears Outlet’s Spooky Sale; the lady who finally had mercy to wait on me was. While the computer experienced glitches, she kept apologizing, and I kept declaring it was not her fault. I had time to make friends with the beautiful baby of the waiting to return mom. That gave my saleslady cause to share excitedly of her first grandbaby début in December, and that she was always telling her daughter to take care of herself just like her great grandmother had instructed her momma (apparently in the absence of her mom’s momma).


OF COURSE, after 3 hours of shopping the Spooky sale at the Sears Outlet, I had no dryer to show for it. Finally I told my lady just to hold my paperwork until the next day when things weren’t so busy. She promptly replied she was off that day but would be back the next.  


OF COURSE, I could not remember if I had given her my Social Security number for a credit check (since I had not used my Sears’ card since 2001 when I purchased the now non-working dryer), so I lived with a horrible, sinking, “YOU ARE SO STUPID!” feeling until opening time on the day after my saleslady’s day off. Even though the doors opened at 9, evidently knowledgeable sales’ staff was not required to arrive until 10.


OF COURSE, day two at the Sears Outlet Spooky Sale and I had more waiting. I imagine whatever I did not learn the first day was coming back around again for my benefit. However, when we did locate the dryer I had decided to buy, I noticed a large dent in the shape of a “Z,” an alphabetic extra that somehow missed my notice two days before, an “after factory” addition that possibly would affect the proper function of said dryer.


Oh. Hmm. Ah. Well. 


Was it possible that the whole crazy wait-a-thon had not been just about my learning that love in action does not come from just possessing a plate with love written on it by someone else? Was it possible that God was protecting me from buying a damaged product that would cause more trouble, more waiting, more wet clothes? Was it possible that every situation isn’t just about teaching me a lesson of how pitiful I am, but it is also an opportunity God takes to show me how much He loves me, which in actuality is the only way I will love another more than I love myself?





Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live.  Chesterton, Gilbert Keith (2013-06-17). Orthodoxy (Moody Classics) . Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.


I don’t know about you; but since joy has not been a constant companion upon my lifelong journey, evidently I have not experienced the “more than me” Chesterton notes here, my soul has had little or no “praise fuel” propellant, and I sadly am more accustomed to off-days due to unemployment rather than doing the heavy lifting of hilarious joy.


Damn. And I thought I had this Christian deal down. 


WAIT! I just remembered my old friend, Abe---ROMANS 4:18-20—“In hope against hope [Abraham] believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, ‘SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE.’ And without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God.”


Thanks, God. I needed that—a giant gulp of joy juice.


“[God] . . . comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NASV)


It was a day pretty much like any other. I did a load of wash and then put it in the dryer, adjusted the heat setting and pushed “START,” without a conscious thought. All went as expected until I realized the dryer had stopped after a few rounds. I thought, “My, how time flies!” I opened the dryer to unload, but ugh--the clothes were warm but still wet.


What could be wrong with my faithful co-worker? Possibly this was simply “operator error.” However, when I looked at the dryer’s panel, there was a flashing “E1.” Huh? What in the world does “E1” signify? Is my dryer trying to communicate to me?


What now?


Possibly you can relate to my dilemma or probably have had much worse happen lately, and like in poker you could “see” my dryer stoppage and “raise” me a house a-fire.  


Whenever that stone wall of difficulties falls, most of us are not surprised, possibly even saying, “Of course, my dryer broke--company’s coming, including my mother-in-law! Ok, God, why do You hate me?!”


I decided to go a different route this time. “Lord,” I asked, “what should I do with these wet sheets and quilts?” Then I whined and felt sorry for myself for a bit. Suddenly, I remembered seeing a length of strong cord while cleaning out the barn. I grabbed it and had just enough (not even kidding) to stretch between 2 mature holly trees, the only ones out of range of hackberry tree drips.


My poor neighbors probably had a fit when they drove by while my laundry was flapping in the breeze near my front fence. However, when I gathered the dried items from the line, their wonderfully fresh-breeze aroma reminded me of washdays of my childhood and how excited I was to sleep on sheets and underneath quilts that had soaked up sunshine while drying outside.


Last night as I got into bed, I thanked God for my broken, electric dryer because it reminded me of how hard my grandmother and mother had had to work just so we would have clean clothes and bed linens, and then also gifted and comforted me with that wonderful smell I had totally forgotten.


I have delayed fixing my dryer; I will hang laundry outside until temperatures become too cold; however, to spare my neighbors any more horror and shock, I’ll keep my underclothes inside and out of sight.


Besides, they are lucky it was the dryer and not the toilet---totally different outdoor solution, as well as a totally different smell!