Scraping Certain Memories Out The Back Door


My grandmother never wasted anything, not a plastic butter container, not a milk jug, not a scrap of fabric. What didn’t clutter her kitchen counters, cluttered her storage spaces. She didn’t throw away anything, not even leftover scraps from a meal. Surely a sheer reflection of the Depression. Because a scrap of fabric could be used to make a quilt, a milk jug could store water for electrical outages.

Watching her scrape off the plates, all extra food going into a tin plate, is a sweet memory. “I’ll throw it out to the dogs,” she’d say, and wipe her hands on the front of her flour-covered blouse. When all the plates had been cleared and washed, the counters and tables all cleaned, we’d take the tin plate, heaped with food scraps, and head to the back door. The screen door would screech open, and the dogs would come running. There was no disguising or mistaking her scrap-pile… the dogs ran to it and so did the swarming flies. Stomach-turning remnants covered the ground.



Memoriesit’s what we bring into the storehouse of our hearts and minds. It’s a precious commodity, something we keep. Something we hope to hang onto all our lives, until our last breath.

But we have good, and well, we have bad.

And sometimes it seems like the bad just grows and grows, like yeast has been added to the disagreeable ingredients. Just gets fatter and fatter, busting and bursting out the doors and windows of our minds and hearts. The guest overstays his welcome and takes up too much space. The guest gets bossy and decides who’ll eat where, who’ll sit where, who’ll sleep where, and who’ll need to make accommodations for the night. He pushes out all the good.

And he just eats and eats away at your nerves, your confidence, your faith, even your memory of good.

And we look around and see that our counters are covered and cluttered with leftovers, dirt and grime, and a stench that can’t be described, unworthy of description. Even the cow-trails remaining are threatened. Leftovers needing to be thrown out to the dogs and the flies.

We can’t always choose what comes in and out of our lives, but we can choose what stays, what stays inside. We can choose what needs to be thrown out.



Like standing at my front living room window, at only eight years old, watching my daddy drive away … away forever from my family. Tears pouring out my eyes, I cried, “Daddy, Daddy, I love you.” Oh, my daddy.

Like feeling the sting of rejection. The 8th grade boy who walked by my middle-school desk and said with a scowl, “You have long, skinny fingers. And your hair looks like Medusa.”


Like grieving over a huge mistake. Only a kid and ruining my life.


Those are leftovers, throw-out memories. Not throw-away, just throw-out. We’ll never be entirely free of them. But our good memories don’t deserve to be pushed out the door. Our good memories deserve the guest of honor place at our table.


And O Soul Within, some ground-breaking news, that’s what we’ll make up our mind to do. We have to be intentional in this life, tend to the memories, because another has unhealthy intentions for us.

O Soul Within, gather those leftovers, one by one. The ones that stink and destroy. Scrape them into the tin scrap bowl of honor. Because that tin bowl deserves a place of honor, too. It’s the temporary storage that keeps our countersour hearts and mindsfree and clean. Free of all the dirt and grime, leaving room for all the cleanthe China, the teacups, faith, Christ-esteem, space, lovely space.



Take those steps, one by one.

Open that back door and bask in the beautiful sounds of the screechy screenthe gatekeeper to our hearts, the one that stays closed and only opens when you choose. Only opens when the bad needs to be thrown out or used … blessedly used for good. Not used for bad. And that’s why they aren’t throw-aways because sometimes God uses our throw-outs. 

Scrape it out, sweep it out, let it drop, let it fly. Toss it to the bottom-land, like nobody’s business. Let it stay. Let the dogs come, let the flies swarm. Because that’s the back door. The scrap pile. No one else needs to go there, because it’s nobody’s business. Only your selected few come through there.



And then you smile, walk back into your clean kitchen, take a deep breath, and bask in the wonderful sights and smells of the new, the apple pie scent wafting, the fresh bread baking, the sun shining in through the front window, rays so vivid and beautiful you could reach out and touch them

Like knowing your daddy loves you with all his heart and remembering how he tells you often, how you’ll always be his little angel no matter how old you get.

Like being named Homecoming Queen your senior year, and the one who called you all those names wants to escort you.


Like feeling the tiny fingers and toes of your newborn, 18 years ago, and counting them one by one. And knowing your mistake may very well have led you here, to this child, to this beautiful place.



  


Like knowing with all your heart that God knows what’s best and directs your steps, and even uses your past.

Prop open the front door, and hang the welcome sign. Bring out the white, clean tablecloth, unfold it a tad, and thrust it out. Open wide. Spread it out over the dining room table in your spacious heart, and place the best China because … well … it’s time for a new meal, for a real meal, for a feast. A beautiful, clean, new feast. With guests of our choosing. Only guests of our choosing. Welcomed guests.

With remnants of love, blessing, and honor.


~~~

Do you have difficult, painful memories? Have you struggled with letting them keep a prominent place in your mind and heart? Do you have any thing you need to toss out?



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Gentle Applause To A Generation Not Crippled By Acne


Daughters, I’m so impressed with you. I want to be just like you when I grow up.

Standing at the glass back door, I overlook the shimmering water in my swimming pool. Perfection. I can’t believe I have that in my backyard. I’m so pulled to open that door, step outside. Oh, how I’ve longed to take one of those pictures of my feet propped up at the pool on a hot summer day. But one has to be outside, in the sun, by the pool, to do that.

One day, Daughters, one day.


One has to slip on the bathing suit, the horrid reminder. Of all those years of pain, of fear, of embarrassment. The reminder of imperfection. Of being different. 

What happens when you wish your self away? The very skin you’re in.

Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution;<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30167BK" data-link="(BK)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30167BL" data-link="(BL)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> You suffered along with those in prison<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30168BM" data-link="(BM)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30168BN" data-link="(BN)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> So do not throw away your confidence;<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30169BO" data-link="(BO)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; color: #783f04; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> it will be richly rewarded.
You need to persevere<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30170BP" data-link="(BP)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30170BQ" data-link="(BQ)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> For,
“In just a little while,
    he who is coming<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30171BR" data-link="(BR)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> will come
    and will not delay.”<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30171BS" data-link="(BS)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>
And,
“But my righteous one will live by faith.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30172BT" data-link="(BT)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30172BU" data-link="(BU)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>


But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. –Hebrews 10: 33-39


Do you hear that, Daughters?


















Years spent wishing away acne-prone skin, especially on my back, can cripple a person. My confidence, confiscated. The lack of confidence still follows me around today, like a shadow. Go away, shadow. 

Years thrown away.

I’ve shunned the outdoors for years, only able to bear it with joy alone. We have the most amazing swimming pool, with a hot tub and even a fireplace. The view is incredibly beautiful and serene. We’re so blessed. Who wouldn’t long for that?



Who wouldn’t long for freedom?

I slip into my memories of yesterday. But some reminders are not longed for in the heart.

Starting in high school, for years, I didn’t want my bare back revealed. Being in the drill team made that extremely difficult. Going to my changing area, I’d try to hide, hurry to change, cover myself. Cover my shame. 

Keep your back turned from everyone. Don’t let them see.

A visit to the dermatologist for slight facial breakouts led me to the threshold of help, but I was too embarrassed to tell them about my back. 

“Do you have any other problem areas?” 

“No, I don’t.” 

Fear and embarrassment, even youthful foolishness, lingered.

I’ll never be free.

In my very own prison. The prison that moves when you do. Secret miseries running deep through your pores into your very soul.

I hated to wear bathing suits, tank tops, bridesmaid gowns. No, don’t make me put my hair up. Torture. The beautiful topknot with ringlets hanging down only reveals my ugliness. Let my hair hang long, covering my back. Covering my embarrassment. Covering my shame.

Don’t see. Don’t look at me.

Shrinking back. Destroyed.

And who knows the pain of acne? Like needles sticking into my back. The slightest touch brings pain, to my back, to my heart. 

Years of on and off antibiotics, only to have it come back once off the medication. Persistence could define me.

Ushering out my appendix, along with an ovary, ushered away acne. Praise be. After all these years, praise be. After 30 years, I finally love the skin I’m in.

My daughter fights the same thing. How amazing that even though she’s adopted, God made her just like me. She comes to me. Her dress is gorgeous. Zipping up her dress, I notice the speckles of acne on her back, her shoulders. Acne that persists once off antibiotics. 

“Daughter, do you want to wear a light jacket? To cover the bumps?” My handicap trying desperately to cripple her. Generational bondage. Bondage that yearns to imprison others. I think I’m trying to help.



“Mama, I don’t care about it. All kids have it.” She smiles. She even beams. She doesn’t care. Well, okay then. Her confidence is like the dawn of a new day.

Daughter drags little sister to me. “Mama, look. She has her first bump on her face. Isn’t it the cutest thing?” Both girls are giggling, unencumbered, unembarrassed, unafraid. Beaming.

I’m amazed. 

Fearless. Flawless. Free.

Go therefore, beautiful girls. Love the skin you’re in. Don’t take 30 years to go out in the sunshine. Throw open wide that door, release your hands, and embrace life. Do not throw away your confidence, sweet girls. Remember the One you belong to, Beloved of the Living God. Go out into this world. Persevere, Daughters. Prop up your feet. Live and love. Bring pleasure to your King.














Dear Me, Please Love Me For Me


Dear Me. 

I wake up feeling a frazzled mess. I look a frumpy mess, too. Hair going in every direction. My part off. Oily feeling. Bad breath. No make-up. Pale as a ghost.





I see you notice me. 

You watch the way I chew my breakfastmy “Mama cereal” as the girls call it, with fiberprobably thinking I’m chewing all wrong. I know I’ll never get that tooth straightened outthe one I can barely chew on because it’s so sensitive. I really can’t help it. No, I don’t have perfect teeth. Yes, thank you for reminding me that I ate too much sugar in my younger years. I regret that now.



You notice every new wrinkle. And you even have the audacity to say something to me about it. “Look at that new engraved wrinkle under your eye.” You point at it, touch it, probably measuring it.

Why are you so hard on me? Oh, Me. 

I’m not young anymore. I’m standing in the middle of the road. I deserve to have a few wrongs that are right. They are right. God made me, so they must be right.

From my head to my toesyou know. Nothing escapes your scrutiny. Do you not have anything better to do? Why do you care so? 

You notice my every gray hair. I had a breast cancer scare just weeks ago, afraid I’d lose life and all my hair to chemo. And you’re worried about gray hair? You even run your hand over my new ones, pointing them out. It kind of crushes my heart. You even encourage me to use black-and-white photos so that my gray hair doesn’t show as much. I just had my hair highlighted for the first time in my life, thanks to you. $$$ I’m trying to cover the discolored. But to be honest, I’m thankful you don’t pull my hair out anymore. That really hurt. My daddy’s hair is totally white. He used to pull out his gray hairs, but he had to stop that or he’d have gone bald. I know the thought of my hair color permanently changing forever hurts the heart a little … but if you pulled my gray hairs now, I’d be partially bald. So really, I’m glad you stopped that. Thank you very much.

Oh, Me. No, I’m not going blind. Well, yes, my eyesight is getting worse. So I guess technically I’m going blind. But readers are cute, right?



My nose? No, it wasn’t broken. The x-ray showed it wasn’t broken. And no, I don’t have nose cancer like Ma-Maw thought. Yes, I did fall out of the bed once when I was a little girl, but honestly, do you think it’s possible that my nose profile is the way it is because that’s how God made me? I know that one profile side is terrible. I know. You really don’t have to remind me. No pictures taken from the right side. I got it. I see you throw away pictures that accentuate that side profile. How do you think that makes a person feel?

My slightly deviated septum? Really? You’re actually gonna go there? You see me use nasal spray most every morning. No, I can’t help it. Yes, I have allergies.

That one dark hair that keeps popping up above my lip? No, I’m not growing a mustache. I’m a girl. I try to keep it pulled. But I just forget about it. This is all new. I’ll remember. I’ll try. I’ll get it pulled and any friends that try to accompany it in the future. Yes, I’ll try not to embarrass you.

My teeth. No, they aren’t as pearly white as they used to be. I know. But yes, I’ve started using whitening toothpaste, and I even stopped drinking Diet Coke and coffee. What else do you want from me?

My neck. How could you point out the wrinkles on my neck? Aren’t they beautiful? No, my skin isn’t as firm anymore. But yes, when I hold my neck a certain way, the wrinkles aren’t as visible. I’m trying.

My back. Crooked spine, I know.

No, my skin isn’t creamy smooth like in years past. Yes, my arms are speckled like bird eggs, like my grandmother’s and my mother’s. News flash: it’ll only get worse from here on out. We have fair skin. And maybe we spent too much time in the sun. I had a few brown spots removed the other day, causing sores temporarily on my arms. Face it, you didn’t like me with the spots or with the sores.

And I’ve been working on my biceps and triceps. I’ve improved. I’ve gone from lifting 2 lb weights, to 3 lbs, and now up to 5 lbs. 



My pectorals? Now that’s just cruel. But just between you and me, maybe the weightlifting will improve that, too. I’m trying to remedy the sagging. Stop nagging.

But could you just make up your mind about me? 

Could you just love me for me?

Don’t you dare look at my stomach. No. Don’t you dare. But you do. Don’t you? I’m not slim enough. When I eat anything with fiber, you comment on the pooch. And maybe there’s a pooch without the fiber. Okay, I’ll be honest. But why? Why do you always have to look and comment? Can’t you just keep quiet? Keep your thoughts to yourself? But no. And then you tell me not to wear those shorts or that skirt because they make my tummy look poochy. Really? Yes, I’m working on my abs. Haven’t you seen me doing tummy crunches? I ride the imaginary bicycle most every night, on the closet floor.

Don’t you dare say something about my thighs. I know you’re dying to. I don’t know how to fix the dimples there. If I run, I’ll just end up needing knee replacements. My grandmother needed knee replacements, living years in pain. My mama had knee replacements. Bad knees run in my family. I’m walking. I’m trying. I’m trying to age gracefully.

Stop looking so closely at me. 

Stop inspecting me.


And my glutes … stop it. I’m not 18 anymore. I know I wasn’t very consistent with the squats. I tried to be. I really did. Six months or more. But clearly, you didn’t notice an improvement anyway. 

Stop it. Stop it.

Dear Me. And you wonder why I have so many headaches.

My feet? Really? I can’t help it that a toenail got crushed years ago. My baby dropped her full apple juice cup … it’s a sweet memory. My body is like a photo album full of memories. So stop picking on me. I keep my toenails painted in red to hide that nail. Ugh. What else do you want from me?

What? Is the roughness on my heels so horrific to you? So you bought me a sander. Stupid me … I grew up thinking only wood needed sanding. Thank you. I’m trying. And I sand my feet Sunday mornings so I can wear my sandals … maybe not as often as I should, but I’m trying.



Can’t you just love me for me? Please?

Me,  you are so hard on me. 


God wouldn’t be.

Dear Me, please love me for me.

~~~

Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them. Deuteronomy 28:14

Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31

You were ready to pummel “ME” for me? You were, weren’t you? Thank you. 

How do we remain content with ourselves, when the world tells us we should look this way or that? Because how can we possibly accept others if we can’t even accept ourselves? Regardless of our size, shape, status, or color, we all need to be loved. But loving others begins at home.

Loving and accepting imperfect others begins with loving and accepting our imperfect selves.