Favor

 

“The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, ‘Shout! For the LORD has given you the city!'”
Joshua 6:16 (NIV)

As a child, being the teacher’s pet was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you would get to do things like run special errands or be given fun projects to work on, but sometimes peers resent children who have their “head above the parapet”. I’ve noticed something similar at work – my managers always appreciate my work, and my peers come to me for help but I see the eye-rolls, oh there she goes again too.

When I was a student, a lot of the recognition I received came from effort: I’d read more books than anyone in my class, or I’d stayed back in recess to help another kid with multiplication. As an employee, while I’m blessed to be employed in a way that uses my natural abilities, it is a similar model, I offer my expertise happily and freely, I work hard, my manager and my peers benefit and I get recognized.

Favor is different. You can’t impress God. We are saved by grace not works, so that none of us turn into Pharisees. I think favor works on a similar model: you get favor because you ask for it, or God thinks you need it – not because you’re a star student.

Favor means that I get to start my new job on their second quarter day, with first quarter benefits – nothing I did allowed me to receive this, it was all about favor. Favor allowed me to delay a notice date until after bonuses were paid! Favor means my pre-employment check got done, even with hard-to-find consulting information and overseas stuff! Favor means I find stuff on sale. Favor means I can walk without fear making decisions, because God will guide me and help me, making sure things turn out how He wants them to. And that is a lot better than I could do, because I will always be surprised. He never is.

Favor means my children are liked by their teachers, learning to be Godly in a time of corrupt culture. Favor means we have enough. I am so blessed by Favor and the most amazing thing of all is that I have done nothing to deserve it.

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40 Days, 40 Years.

This year’s theme is 40.

I am 40 today. This is just a number, but I am thrilled to be here. Last decade, I moved countries, I remarried, I had four babies, I stayed home and then I went back to work. I doubled my salary and I doubled my ability to handle things, at least.

Last year, I gave up something for Lent. This year, I’m going to fast the 40 days. I have court to face in April, and I want to be armed and dangerous. I struggled with fasting one day before.

I have spent 40 days in the wilderness, figuratively, over the last decade and this is the first year when I see the edge. My decade was probably more like the Hebrews taking 40 years to do their 11 miles. My toes are in the water, I’m nearly ready to cross into Canaan.

Ten years ago I hated by first husband and would have probably sliced him into hors d’oeuvres if I could have gotten away with it. Now, I feel sorry for him and have forgiven the pain he inflicted. He is a damaged human. There is nothing to hate.

Ten years ago I thougt my value to the world consisted of being smart and pretty and entertaining to men all while maintaining a size 8. I’ve learned those are foolish and temporary things, hurtful to chase and hurtful to achieve.

Forty days in the wildnerness sharpens one’s sense of what is truly vital for survival, and what is an additonal extra you have convinced yourself that you need. Once you know what you really need, then it makes you a lot braver: after all, if the rest of the stuff is gone, you know you’ll be fine without it.

I have to face court again at the end of this forty days. I don’t dare face it without tuning out some world-noise and letting God have more space to use. A few days while my body yells at me about the lack of caffeine and the lack of junk food and the rest, and then those voices should die down. I’ll know my body is just that – fleshy and prone to weakness – but my spirit will come out stronger and I will hear.

And I know it must be working. Satan reared his head yesterday and my husband unwittingly let him. Ten years ago, an outburst like that would have destroyed me for days. This time, I just went for a little drive and thought about how I was going to react. I calmly arrived at an assessment. It’s not fair to expect me to manage ALL the stuff at home on top of a very stressful job, so of course, sometimes I’m going to forget or mix things up. This is human and I’m not mad at myself for it – nor should my husband have been.  The temper tantrum that finished with all the yelling and name-calling and thrashing around was totally out of order for a busy woman and mother juggling four kids to forget something.

That wasn’t him, that was some spirit with evil intentions noticing my fast was still on after two whole days. Alarm bells must have been sounding, and given I’m pretty prayed up these days – my husband was probably an easier target. But the devil didn’t get much satisfaction out of me, I had my drive, I did some errands (okay, at ten at night, but anyway) and went home. There was no yelling back or arguing.

That’s about as close to submissive as I can get. I also didn’t argue with my boss who told me I have to be in five days a week. I would have liked to, but it just didn’t seem to be the right thing. A year ago – let alone ten – that would have been cue diva tantrum. Not this time. Small victory.

I’m not enjoying a growling tummy, or caffeine withdrawal or restless sleeping but that’s just my body pitching a fit. It will live, and I know the control and discipline I will have at the other side are worth so much more than indulging in a soda right now. If one of my less favorite colleagues calls or picks a fight, I may feel differently in a little while – but I’m determined and I know I need to do this.

The truth is: the quicker you figure out where you need to grow, the quicker you get on with the rest of it. Hanging around fighting God when he wants to do something only results in a longer fight. Eventually, He is going to win and you are going to be sorry you didn’t just give in gracefully (or at least give in) earlier. So this is about me demonstrating, yes, I understand Who is in charge around here, and it isn’t me. If I want you to show up  and be God when I need you, then I also need to let you be God the rest of the time.

Selah. 3 days down. No fatalities, no tantrums and no cheats.

Who Is Like Us?

Two passages from 2 Corinithians:

4: 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

10: 3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

This week’s Southern conversation was around “not NICE” (pronounced NASS) versus NOT nice (still pronounced NASS, but the first word has the emphasis and an extra syllable – NA-AH-T).

Try explaining to a Yankee this Southern verbal quirk. The two things have totally different meanings. Once is that some one’s behavior could be better, that the person in question may have suspect motives (social climbing?) while the other one, with the two-syllable “not’ implies suspect morals. Neither is a good thing. But never, ever assume because a Southern woman has referred to you as “nice” that this is a good thing either.

How nice. Bless your heart!

Southerners are different. This means that those of us who live in the North have had to adapt a little bit to the language, the culture up here. It’s a relief to know or bump into other Southerns – the language barrier falls away and you can have a real discussion.

So this is how I read the two scriptures from Corinthians: we ain’t like them. Our battles, our conflicts are different. Try explaining to an athiest how you’re battling a stronghold of pride, or struggling with obedience in the area of stewardship (and if you don’t know any, come to New York I can find you some without any trouble at all). Our fighting is different. For one, we fight. We don’t just say oh well it’s genetics or it’s a habit and accept the state of things. We don’t say how all our friends are doing it. We don’t roll over when Satan starts lying to us or to our families. WE fight and we fight hard. But to look at us during a heated battle, you might not know what you’re seeing: Bible out, hands up, oil on the forehead and the rest. Doesn’t look like warfare to those outside our faith. Probably, it just looks odd.

And we believe different things about our bodies. We don’t mind our weaknesses – the ones that aren’t strongholds – because those are the cracks the light shows through. My cracks look a lot like scars from my abusive first marriage for example, but it means that I understand fear and anxiety and total dependence on God through faith. I get survival. I also know when to be quiet and let God do the talking for me.

I don’t buy that I’m only of value as long as I’m under 25 and wear a bikini. I don’t agree that my value is in providing sex to a man, who is allowed to treat me as a commodity and upgrade when he feels like it. I’m not acceptable because my home puts Martha Stewart to shame (for more on “Martha” – it seems to be something with the name – check out Luke. Housekeeping, not always the top priority in God’s Kingdom). 

I am a princess, the daughter of a King and if you’re planning to put your hands on me for anything other than prayer or a friendly hug, change your plans! The same is true of my daughters. My body is a cathedral built out of broken bones and a broken heart, made to serve and praise and my God lives there. If I do my job right with my kids – every one of them will be a house of the Lord and I won’t get to live in it, but HE will.

Our culture shows us “perfect” bodies that we’re supposed to want, achieved through hours of deprivation, hours at the gym or plastic surgery, bodies that are so perfect there is no room for brokenness, or light to shine out. But the fact is those perfect bodies will decay either with age or with death and then where will their owners live?

I’d be delighted if my earthly home were a little less expanded after the last few babies, and I’d be delighted if it didn’t remind me of the passing of years with some aches and pains. But it’s my house for now, and I know the one I get next will be indescribably better. So this one doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be revered as the producer of babies, the holder of my husband and the temple of the Lord, treated carefully like the fragile clay jar it is and then left behind when I don’t need it anymore.

So no, we are not like the World, and we aren’t supposed to be.

If we find ourselves conforming, rather than transforming, we need to stop and think not only WHO we are, but WHOSE we are. Our God isn’t like their gods. We are a mighty, mighty people of the Lord, however our vessels look to the rest. We are a royal priesthood, a nation apart. We are the sheep who know His voice. We are the remant of Israel, the Covenant people, those redeemed by the blood and passed over by the Angel of Death. Our names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life. We are manna-feeders and blood-washers and we are NOT like everyone else. Praise God!

Deuteronomy 33: 29

 Blessed are you, Israel!
   Who is like you,
   a people saved by the LORD?
He is your shield and helper
   and your glorious sword.
Your enemies will cower before you,
   and you will tread on their heights.”

Proverbs 31 Mama

This is my idea of a career woman:

She seeks wool and flax,
      And willingly works with her hands.
       14 She is like the merchant ships,
      She brings her food from afar.
       15 She also rises while it is yet night,
      And provides food for her household,
      And a portion for her maidservants.
       16 She considers a field and buys it;
      From her profits she plants a vineyard.
       17 She girds herself with strength,
      And strengthens her arms.
       18 She perceives that her merchandise is good,
      And her lamp does not go out by night.
       19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
      And her hand holds the spindle.
       20 She extends her hand to the poor,
      Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
       21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
      For all her household is clothed with scarlet.
       22 She makes tapestry for herself;
      Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
       23 Her husband is known in the gates,
      When he sits among the elders of the land.
       24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
      And supplies sashes for the merchants.
       25 Strength and honor are her clothing;
      She shall rejoice in time to come.

She is up while it is dark. She helps her husband provide for the family. She supervises a large household, but she’s also diversified into farming and a few other things. She’s making clothing for people, but she’s also doing commerce. She’s nicely dressed, and her household is spiffy enough that people respect her husband. I imagine him a little well-fed looking, sleek and content. She gives to the needy and later on it also tells us she is wise and her advice is sought.

It is interesting to me how some Biblical teachers go from this womanly ideal (granted, she isn’t Deborah or Ruth or Esther or Mary)  to arrive at a vision of submissiveness, demure, quiet. Nowhere in this chapter – or elsewhere – do we read “she is adorned from head to toe in gray wool, as a Bruderhoff woman ought to be.” Nowhere do we find her sitting quietly in the kitchen playing with food all day.

She’s busy and she’s clearly working at home and outside the home. Wherefore, oh stay-at-home Christian mothers, ariseth the condemnation?

We have a very busy God, and he likes to see us busy too. That doesn’t mean women have to work outside the home, but it also doesn’t mean they must be at home either. I am persuaded this choice is based on the needs of each family,  in alignment with both spouses’ gifts. Martha wasn’t chided for being busy, she was chided for her stress levels (and for not taking a time out when she should have). Mary her sister wasn’t praised for being lazy either, the Lord approved of her decision to put Him first. So there is a balance, between our activity and our quiet, our rest and our calling, our children and our work.

I would dearly love to be back at home with my children. They are growing very fast, and in eighteen short months they will all be in school. I was at home for three years while the last three were babies and it was heavenly. I consciously enjoyed every minute because I knew it would not be forever, and it wasn’t. It is heartbreaking to kiss them every morning as I’m leaving while they are still in bed.

At the same time, I know my sisters who are at home with their children are also painfully busy, experiencing some of the same struggles that I do: do I clean or read to my children? Do I serve at the church or spend the time with my husband? Do we manage with a little less money or should I find a job to help with our bottom line?

  15 She also rises while it is yet night,
      And provides food for her household.

I’m home in time to make and serve a family dinner, to do the homework routine and I don’t miss the special events – performances, teacher meetings and sick days. Our weekends are totally and completely family-centered, and there is not a lot of “me” time in my life, mainly because I don’t need or want it. I want that time with the small people I spend the rest of the week working for.

They love it when I’m working at home, or taking a day off, or doing an activity with them. But at the same time, they enjoy all the things my additional salary provides, and they see us giving, sharing and providing for others. Unless God tells me it’s time for a change – and shows us how to live on one salary without my husband imploding from panic – then this is how it will be for now.

This is my dilemma: the path before me is my current post, safe and familiar with lots of flexibility, or the new one that I think I’m being directed towards, but with it – the chance of returning home to the babies is diminished.

Am I supposed to be a voice for God in the workplace? Am I supposed to be like this woman, and clothe my family in scarlet? We shall see, we shall see. Either way – this is the truth that I know that I know that I know: Serve the Lord with Gladness, enter into his gates with Thanksgiving.

Where there is serving, there must also be gladness and thanksgiving. Wherever there is serving, there must be gladness and thanksgiving.

Gifted and Talented

Gifts aren’t always easy. (not the wrapped kind, the talent kind).

My husband and I have an ongoing discussion. He is an avid drummer, he would play four hours a day if he could but he didn’t even start lessons until he was 17. I started piano lessons age 7, I play whenever the children let me (not often) and that’s okay with me. I refuse to try to compose because I hate sounding musically trite. He composes all the time. I can play just about anything if I practice, or I could at one time, and my teachers all used to pester me about music school. I never felt driven to pursue it – I knew I could play better than most people my age, but it wasn’t a passion. Just a talent. I have others that I was more compelled to develop. My husband continues to hone his skills, and because he can’t stand to rely on other people for the other instrumentation, he’s also taught himself piano, bass and guitar. That’s something more than talent – it borders on obession, if he didn’t have family and a day job. But if I earned enough to pay the bills by myself, I think he might consider it as a day job.

This is the difference between talent (something you are naturally good at, without a lot of work, probably better than many others even if they work and you don’t) versus a gift (something you can’t “not” do).

Gifts aren’t always the performing kind, like some people have the gift of hospitality and their house is always a wonderful place to be. Some people are gifted with business acumen, or at sports.

Some gifts – the spiritual kind – come with real responsibility attached, so they aren’t always easy. I have a friend who is discerning. If you’re not Christian, the natural reaction to hearing this would be, and? But what it means isn’t just that she is wise, sometimes amazingly so, but that she can “read” people with an uncanniness that borders on unsettling. She knows when something is wrong at my house before I call her. Knows, doesn’t sense, think or feel. She can “read” what some one is thinking – about her, for example. Fake smiles and cheery voices doesn’t work on her, she can tell if the other person is upset or, even worse, doesn’t like or want to talk to her. That would be a hard gift. She has tremendous grace with it. I can’t think of anyone who impresses me more.

Her husband is the most patient, generous and long-suffering person I know. THAT is a gift I would struggle with mightily. The ability to tolerate pain (stupidity in others without strangling them, for example), in large quantities, over a long period of time. Wow. I hope he has a HUGE mansion in heaven for all of that. I am not long-suffering, unfortunately I am more likely to be long-bitching. That’s not a gift I need to develop. I’m working on the reverse (the ability to show grace and love to those I’d rather strangle).

The other hard part about a gift at least for instant gratification people like I’m prone to be – they can take decades to develop, or decades to emerge. I could NEVER sing in high school when I’d have liked the cute lead part in the musical. Ohhh no. But now? In church? Sure! Just when I was old enough not to care or get especially prideful, NOW I can hit the Phantom high notes or sing with Cosette. Had I been able to sing like that in high school, I’d probably have become unsufferably vain. Which is probably why I didn’t have the ability then. Or I’d have wasted my other gifts by chasing something stupid for me like Broadway. Which in my case, would have led not only to incurable vanity but probably actor liaisons, anorexia and seriously bad choices. The lack of early gifting was definitely a blessing in disguise.

Now I’m just plagued by a worry that I’m not sufficiently discerning to recognize what I’m supposed to be doing all the time. I am driven to distraction to write (do I have time? Not so much, but I think this is going to change in the future). People talk to me, even if I don’t know them (that has to be a God thing because I live in NY and no one here does that. Except to me). And, I see things.

Not in a creepy Sixth Sense kind of a way, although that is probably what a secular person would call it. In the South we call it fey, and apparently I’ve always been that way. Like my friend’s discernment, sometimes it borders on “ESP” (what a load of tripe). But it isn’t. You sometimes hear Christians calling it the third eye – although I associate that more with one’s spiritual vision and the reason things like the Swimsuit Issue that showed up this week bother us VERY MUCH.

It used to be dreams, and it used to be people I knew. That’s a good starter kit because God knows we humans freak out easily. Phone calls from dead grandparents are strange, but they’re strange in a familiar way. I was tiny the first time I showed this peculiar gift, apparently, asking a neighbor about snakes when her husband had killed their first ever about five minutes before I arrived with my mommy.

As I’ve gotten older and more comfortable and more trusting and more…receptive…the sense has grown, and I’m thankful, even grateful, even excited about what I’m allowed to see. Sometimes it’s a glimpse of heaven, like once I saw the minute after the crucifixion. Jesus gave up his spirit (I didn’t see that part) – I saw angels, holding their breath, waiting and then, suddenly the most beautiful cheering I’ve ever heard and such stomping, dancing, excitement. Wow. I came up to the knee of the one standing near me. I don’t get the sense that time means much in Heaven, because that was a long time ago.

Then another time – in a dream – Jesus came to talk to me and I was hysterically upset. “I haven’t built you any cathedrals, I haven’t done anything, I need to do so much more…” I couldn’t stop crying as he sat by me. But he just smiled and said you are raising children who love me, and that is cathedral enough. How to make a struggling, busy stressed mommy feel a million times better about everything, just like that. Our God is kind and he loves us so much. He knew exactly what I needed to hear.

The last dream I had was hard. I don’t remember what I was doing. Then, suddenly I felt a whoosh like I was caught in a hurricane only it was faster than anything I’ve felt. I looked at the angel beside me and said, my children! He nodded and said, don’t worry, they’re here too. (Why I wasn’t concerned about my husband I don’t know but I was concerned about my small people!). So then my human brain caught up and I realized…this is the rapture and I’m seeing a tiny piece of it.

Methodists don’t really talk about rapture or tribulation or anything after about Acts, usually. I grew up Methodist. Our bishop has touched on end times only rarely. I have studied Revelation, but I don’t pretend to understand all of it. Or even much of it. But I know what rapture is all about, and I know that’s what I saw. And felt. I was rushing up through blue and white and the wind and the air and it was wonderful and the sense of joy I felt – oh my goodness, I don’t have to go through all that awful AntiChrist stuff and NEITHER DO MY BABIES, was amazing. The angel looked at me, and smiled, and then I woke up. What was that all about, God?

I have no idea.

I’m not one of those Christians who dwells on end times thinking. I figure there’s not a lot I can do about it besides make sure myself and my own are ready, if it is in our lifetime. I see the signs like everyone, but with so much of my life – I know I can’t worry about this one either. My God has taken over a lot of things that would usually cause me stress, and this has to be one of them. But wow. If it isn’t now – what an incredible privilige to see just the tiniest piece of it. Already, but not yet – like the vision in Daniel when Christ ascended – already but not yet. I don’t think time means a whole lot in heaven.

It seems like all times are “now”.

The drawbacks to a gift like this are obvious: if I ever walked up to a non-Christian and said, oh I had a great chat with Jesus in my room once, they’d put me right into that “crazy Bible beater Southern” bucket right away. But on the other hand, I’ve always been a little crazy for a belle, haven’t I?

The thing is, a gift is just that – a gift – meant to be used, enjoyed, and shared with others. God grant me the grace and discernment to do that.

Context for Cranky

We’ve now been together for nearly ten years. In June, it will be ten. A whole decade with Handsome.

I remember in the beginning, he stopped emailing me daily once. The first day I didn’t hear from him (understand, he was in NY and I was in London so email was a really BIG DEAL to me), I was mildly curious and didn’t think much of it. Day two, I was concerned – had he bailed? Had a supermodel turned up in his IT department and sat on his lap? Was he mad? Day three, my turn to get angry. Dude, what are you playing at. So I didn’t write him. For a couple of days. Finally, geek boy got a clue and wrote a nice long email.

He is naturally quite a quirky creature, as a lot of technology people are. So he gets grumpy. When we were dating, I would go into a flurry, smoothing anything around him that might be the source of the grumping. This could involve anything from a nice cold beer for Mr. Stress to TUMS for Mr. Tummy Ache to making him cut our date short to get some rest.

Then we shared a home. And the grumping really freaked me out, because now we have context and no easy escape hatch. Cue elaborate dinners, spotless home (hard with a toddler, even harder by the time we had four toddlers). Attempts to iron work shirts.

Somewhere around the time I finally got a ring on my finger – without making any threats or veiled threats or doing anything silly, just my ex finally decided to sign papers he needed to sign – my confidence levels increased. I realized, actually – he’s just grumpy. I probably didn’t do anything to cause it.

For a woman who has lived with domestic violence, this is gigantic and headline-worthy (for the rest of you, probably not such a big deal). Newsflash – if the dinner was slightly less cooked, or the wife was slightly skinnier or the kids were quieter or the house was cleaner, he would PROBABLY STILL FIND SOMETHING TO GRUMP ABOUT. This is just how he is wired. There’s no monthly schedule, there’s no clear statistical relationship between bad day at work: grump, there isn’t even a pattern that 10 years of data will bear out.

There’s just a high strung, high energy dude who hasn’t quite grown up in this area and sometimes, he grumps.

Well, I’m sure he misses the Southern Belle in its un-corrupted state, the one who used to fly into a frenzy of caretaking every time he looked even slightly disgruntled. Lest anyone feel sorry for him – he is not neglected and he is very well groomed, fed and pampered. However, with ten years of grumping data, I know – he just has to deal with it. If his grumping veers into unacceptable ranges, then he gets told – another trick that a domestic violence survivor has to learn despite a lot of trepidation.

I’ve also learned my grumping freaks him out a thousand times more now than it did in the beginning. In fact, my grumping causes the same kind of reaction his used to generate. Not that I’m going to abuse this piece of information, but it is empowering – I grump, he doesn’t leave. I grump, he fixes things. This is good information.

Grumping with context has a totally different meaning and ethos to grumping combined with new. Grumping with some security is just grumping. The lesson for me is that I wouldn’t ever want a girlfriend or a child of mine to be in a relationship where there wasn’t a little grump space – respectful grump space – allocated. No one needs to be on pins and needles as long as I was (and it wasn’t his fault, it was the DV). No one needs to nurse that kind of insecurity. If he keeps you insecure, you leave. That’s not fair. If he lets you grump, and responds with the right kinds of noises, that’s a good sign. If you respond to his grumping with a totally secure, okay what do we need to do here? kind of reaction, that’s a sign you may be in a reasonably adult relationship.

The other huge piece of news in this area is that grumping and rage are not the same thing in normal, healthy men. In abusive men, it’s a trajectory and one leads to the other (quite rapidly). Whatever triggers grumping will (sometimes but not always) trigger rage, and it’s the lack of ability to predict when those dots will connect that makes abuse so damanging. You can’t prevent and you can’t halt.

What that means for women who are single or thinking about getting involved with some one – the line between grump and rage SHOULD be very dark and very thick with clear triggers and none of those triggers should involve you. Period.

Now back to wondering if Mr. Grump got over it before he got to work today, or is he going to be eating his dinner by himself in front of the TV?

Abigail The Re-Marrier

Facing custody court (again), I was led to the story of Abigail.

HOW with my history, did I manage not to read this before?

Abigail – married to a truly unsavory character (probably arranged, in her defense – he was loaded and she was pretty and we know in the ancient world those two things sometimes led to an unwanted or at least undesirable union). One day he did a truly foolish thing and his wife, after the fact, learned he had laughed at and scorned King David.

I don’t think I would have gotten past the YOU DID WHAT? stage if my first husband had done such a thing. Although he did have a habit of offending anyone who knew him any length of time. I’m envisioning Abigail among her handmaids, doing Old Testament house wife kinds of things – and a servant coming in with a mortified look on his face to inform her “guess what he did THIS time”. The servant was smart to tell her. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time servants ratted on Mr. Nabal.

And Abigail – far, vastly superior woman – didn’t panic when she heard that King David was doing exactly as one might expect of King David and coming to deal with her buffoonish husband. With an army. Rather than chasten the hopeless case who shared her bed, she prepared gifts for the offended king and went out to meet him. Despite her own standing, wealth and apparent beauty, she humbled herself. A wise woman, she understood there was nothing her husband could or would do to avert the marching disaster, but that she might be able to speak reason to the offended king.

Her argument why David shouldn’t destroy her entire household was much cleverer than anything I would have thought of: King David should leave revenge to God, and spare her stupid husband for his own sake. Let her husband deal with what was coming; David should remain above such a trivial and potentially dangerous action.

It is hard for me to discern – David’s ego (it was nice to have praises of such a woman heaped on your head, I’m suire) or David’s better self (after all, his God did indeed claim all rights to vengeance and still does) won out. The twit was spared. The pretty, genteel and very clever wife saved the day. Home she went to tell the drunkard how she had averted disaster, but not until the next morning when he had sobered up enough to understand – you nearly got yourself killed and I fixed this. I am confident she managed to relay this news with grace. I would have likely thrown pottery.

Her husband did her the tremendous kindness of dropping dead very shortly after, and King David did her the even greater kindness of wooing and marrying her. Bathsheba might have set his pulse racing, but Abigail apparently held his heart. They had a long and joyful marriage. She was the advisor, the companion and the consort.

We know enough about King David to understand this: he did like beautiful women, but I’m sure he appreciated a woman of her standing who wasn’t afraid to defend her home and her husband, showing tremendous loyalty to an oaf who didn’t deserve it. Abigail would not have laughed at David for dancing in joy. Abigail would have brought him a glass of water or danced with him. Abigail would never have taken a bath on the rooftops. David likely reasoned that this mature, wise woman would whisper Godly counsel in his ear, guide him thoughfully and gently, defer to him with respect but ensure that whatever he did, she would be there to smooth over or defend the imperfect moments for him. She didn’t gloat over her silly husband, she wouldn’t chasten or gloat over the King. This was a good wife to add to one’s collection.

And for Abigail? Sure, she must have thought, oh my another husband…the streak wasn’t exactly a winner so far. But David was reputedly handsome, and strong, and even with his occasional issues with impulse control he was a steady, Godly man and a fierce warrior too. If I were Abigail, that last one would be enough all by itself. No one is going to mess with me or my family with King David and his sword in front of me.

I know exactly how she feels. I married a wonderful man the second time, but I can’t claim any of Abigail’s cleverness or sense in going about it. But I do see how her patience, her insistentence on the high round was rewarded and very generously. What could be better as payback for time in a special Hell than to marry the most desirable man of your generation? And live in a castle?

I’m not expecting my first husband to be struck dead in quite such a dramatic fashion. And I might have to do some more fighting – that’s okay – it took seven times around Jericho to get those walls down. I can do some more marching. God’s people have faced laughter, scorn, ridicule and overt hatred all over the Old Testament and yet they were never defeated. God only rarely swoops in and does mass destructions. God usually prefers to equip his people and give them the test of the fight, and the rewards of obedience, determination, focus on Him and an attitude of service. Not my war, but Yours. Not my strength, but Yours. Not my glory – but Yours.

As Beth Moore points out in one of her teachings – it’s a fight “for” not a fight “with”. Fight for my daughter. Fight for my family. Fight for the right thing. Fighting “with” my ex is an unfortunate consequence but it’s not the centerpiece, not by a long way. And Fight With only matters when it’s “fight alongside”…when the one you are fighting with is the ruler of the universe, that’s critical indeed. After all, where was I when he hung the stars?

I will Never Leave You or Forsake You. It’s a promise – it was true for Abigail, it was true for Joshua and it is true for me. I will step on those high places – and one of them will be custody court. Those high places are MINE to bring down – not on my own strength or righteousness, by any means. But My God has a plan and he’s going to come out of it looking as amazing as always. All I have to do is keep marching, trusting, obeying. Those things aren’t easy, but they are possible and they are necessary.

Abigail inspired me through the hardest three days I’ve faced in a very long time – in court, listening to the other side list every minor parenting mistake I’ve made in eight years, put them ALL together and then blow them up. It was rough, but I survived. I had a shield.

Abigail probably did it with more grace. But I did it, and My God made sure I did. I’m not sure what he’s planning, but having seen what he did for Abigail – and having seen the charming man he found for me the second time around, I’m okay with letting Him do it His way. We have to finish this fight in a few months. This time, it won’t be my shield that I need, but my sword. I’m relying on and trusting my God to lead me to fight fairly, to fight for and not fight with, and to know that He is there, always.

Anyone who gets in the way had better know, the Mama Lion you’re looking at is the least of your worries. My God hasn’t lost one yet.