I’ve been mulling over a sign I’ve seen on one of our local churches for a few weeks now:
God hasn’t forgotten the recipe for manna.
I wasn’t sure right at first why it kept catching my attention. We know from the book of Exodus that when the Israelites escaped Egypt they endured hardships and grumbled, even suggesting they had been better in slavery if they would only starve in the desert. So the Lord told Moses that he would rain down bread from heaven. For some, the message of the manna tells of obedience and that’s an important lesson of course. But as I thought of that church banner, my heart was focused on the faithfulness of God. What is his recipe for manna?
We lost my sister suddenly about nineteen years ago this coming Thanksgiving. It was my first year of marriage and my husband and I were out of town with his family. Meanwhile, my family was gathering at my parents’ house. A undiagnosed aneurysm took eighteen-year-old Cori that afternoon with all of my family there. All but me.
Circumstances were such that I couldn’t get back home until the next morning. I was devastated when I heard the news. I remember screaming and throwing the phone. I spent that evening crying in bed, clutching my rosary and wondering how this had happened and begging God to help me.
My mind was hazy and my heart lost as I board the airplane early the next morning. But the moment I stepped off the plane, His strength bolstered me, cleared my mind. He nourished me with “just as much” as I needed to take care of my family in those days of laying my sister to rest.
Unequivocally, it was Him, not me that saw us through that. Because I was a broken soul, so lost in my grief that I would have had no ability at all. But he was my manna in my hour of need. But too, He made me the manna for my family.
And I thought of this, of the manna that nourishes our souls daily. Sometimes without us even knowing it. Because there is never, ever a day that he fails to rain down for us. But sometimes we are as the Israelites, grumbling about what we don’t have when we have only to look up to see the truth.
My husband and I have had a rough year. We’ve been embroiled in lawsuits within our community that pitted people we once considered friends against us. We moved here to our lake home seeking a community to which we could enjoy his retirement years. In some ways, it began to seem like our bane instead of our dream.
I’ve been using my new series as a cathartic release for my anxiety, hurt and my anger. And it’s helping, but the one area I’ve had the most trouble with is my anger. And because of that, I’ve found it hard to offer forgiveness. In fact, I’ve rebelled the idea of forgiving. I’ve held my fury in my hand and shaken my fist towards the heavens in abject rejection of forgiving the hurts… but lately, I’ve felt this little whisper in my ear that I have to let it go.
So God provided the manna. Earlier this week a post appeared on Faithful.live with a big banner that said: “as we Forgive those who trespass against us.” And I wept as I read it because I knew that my Lord was speaking to me. And after that I pronounced in my heart that I forgave those who wronged us (if you read the article you’ll understand that I haven’t yet forgiven them. But I’ve opened my heart to God’s grace so that I will eventually.)
I’ve realized more lately how blessed I am to have my husband by my side. We’ve often joked over the years that we take turns if one of us isn’t feeling well or has a bad day, the other picks up the slack. But isn’t that His gift, to give us our helpmate in times of need? Again, the manna in the form of a partner for our lives.
And now that God is working on my heart, I know that now my husband and I can work together so that we can both reach the point of forgiveness. And so that someday soon, we too will discover the peace that can only be had by our Lord within our hearts.
So today the lesson of the manna is twofold. One, that I should always try to be open to receive whatever nourishment he provides. But also, just as importantly, that I should accept God’s calling that I be His manna.
This is my first blog for “A Pen and A Prayer” and it isn’t the one I originally thought I was meant to write. But something began to move on my heart and I’m going to run with it.
Last month I placed my Rawley Family Romances Collection into Netgalley, a portal for readers to request and review books. Now many people say authors shouldn’t read their reviews, especially bad ones. Still, I’ve often found that I can learn something from a meaningful review, even a negative one. At the end of my month-long run on Netgalley, I received a review from a reader who didn’t finish the book.
“I got through most of the first story. I liked the characters and the premise and got vested into the story. What set me off was actually the terms the author used to describe heavy people. I didn’t really care for it and when it occurred a second time, particularly to describe a character I was starting to like, I decided to not finish the book.”
I didn’t have to wonder what she meant. I knew immediately which character and verbatim which terms I’d used.
You see, the Rawley Family Romances Collection is a bundle of the first 3 books about the Rawley Family. I actually wrote the first book when I was in high school, then revised it and published it fifteen years later. My world was very different from when I first created that story to when I put it out into the world. And just as different today.
He took a step forward, and a short, pudgy woman came from behind him.
That line comes from All for Hope, the original, first Rawley Romance. The “short, pudgy” woman wasn’t the main character. She’s on the sidelines, key to the story but certainly not the star. And why would she be? She’s not slender with a nice bust and gorgeous hair. No, she’s just the “short and pudgy” one, right?
I can remember sitting in class in high school uncomfortable and nervous as all teenagers are when two guys, a few years older, start making conversation. They laughed and joked and seemed to want to include me in things. It took at least a few weeks for me to recognize the word they were hissing under their breaths when the spoke to me. That was when I discovered that “Fats” was the name they’d give me. And I will never, ever forget that moment.
So you see, when I referred to Meg Rawley as “short, pudgy” it wasn’t that I was making fun of persons with extra weight. It was a self-deprecating reference to me. That was how I saw myself.
But that’s not how God sees me. To Him, I am beautiful because He made me to be beautiful.
But it’s easy to forget that these days. We, especially women, are so obsessed with our appearance. We work and toil to look better, to stay young, to stay slim. And yet deep down inside I think so many of us are constantly hissing those ugly words to ourselves. It’s almost as if we are seeking to remind ourselves that we aren’t worthy on some level.
But God tells us that isn’t true. We can be made beautiful, not with makeup or diet fads or fine clothes and jewelry. It is only through Him that we can discover the inner radiance that creates true beauty. And that’s something that no one can sell us or give us or tell us. We have to learn that for ourselves through Him.
I’ve struggled with my weight since my teen years. And I eventually ballooned to nearly 250 pounds at one point early in my marriage. I remember my husband once telling me that I needed to learn to love myself.
What? Love myself? Pfft! I’m too busy loving him, my family, my friends. Who really loves themselves anyway?
Listen, learning to love yourself isn’t easy to do. Whether it’s your looks, your past, your vices, etc. we all have some reason to find ourselves unlovable. And it’s funny how it works, at least for me. When I see myself as “un-pretty,” I mentally feel unhappy, depressed, anxious. And when I’m worried and sad and emotionally wrought, I tend to feel unattractive. So clearly the physical and emotional aspects are very closely related.
Still, God’s love for us is perfect. He sees our weaknesses and our faults, but we are His children. His adoration for each precious one of us cannot be overstated.
I haven’t learned this lesson. The fear of being un-pretty, un-lovable, un-worthy seeps into my heart at some point each and every day. I am working on it and will probably do that for the rest of my life. And sometimes, when I look in the mirror I can be pleased with the person that my God in Heaven created me to be. And for that reason, I can also try to take better care of myself, not in the sense of losing weight to look better, but to live better.
As part of that growing process, I eventually wrote a story for Meg. And in it she still struggles with her body image and with loving herself. All for Family gives just a snippet of that journey and how she eventually learned to love herself as much as others loved her. Because just like that reviewer, I had come to truly like Meg in the first Rawley Romance. And don’t we all deserve love?
Don’t ask me, just ask God…
A few years ago I attended a talk by Liz Curtis Higgs and each attendee was given a “Ta da” Bookmark and Mirror decal. If you don’t know the story of “Ta da”, I’d encourage you to look her up because she can tell the story much better than I can. But gist of it is this… each morning before starting your day, look in the mirror, throw up your hands and say “Ta da”… because God made you in his image and made you beautiful! It truly does make for a wonderful start to your day. Do any of the things I’ve talked about here strike a chord with you? Leave a comment below and I’ll send a few of you a “Ta da” Bookmark.
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