Sunday, September 4, 2016

Getting to the Right Place

Have you ever found yourself in a place you never planned to be, but somehow you knew for certain you were in the right place?

Last month, through a series of schedule changes, I found myself giving blood at a nursing facility; not my usual donation point. It was no coincidence this residence appears to specialize in patients with dementia and Alzheimer's. We have been blessed -- and I do mean blessed -- to care for my mom for the past year. And seeing what life could be like for her, has made that acutely evident to me.

Don't get me wrong, please. Elder care is far from an easy or exact science. What works well for one family does not always succeed in another. Families face difficult decisions regarding loved ones and their care. What one facility provides may not be possible in another. Most of these businesses and their employees do their jobs, do them well, and even go above and beyond to make the lives of their clients -- patients as well as their families -- comfortable and enriched.

That being said, my grandmother had been in a nursing home. As young as I was at the time, I can still recall how depressing a place it was. When I got older, my first real job was in a retirement community; things had changed since Nana, but the medical facility on that campus was little more than the nursing home in which I recall her living -- and dying.

The place I found myself last month? Well, as I walked to the entrance, patients lined the portico. Some chatting with others; some, heads lolling and eyes vacant, simply sat and waited. The grounds were beautifully manicured, but there were tiny signs of neglect and deterioration on some of the buildings. I heard something whisper, "Death."

Inside, sunlight poured through monstrous windows and danced about the crystals of grandiose chandeliers. Patients who were able moved about freely. One conversed with a nurse who playfully teased her about knowing the job better than she did. Another, peering into the windows of the dayroom, questioned me about the activity occurring before her.

     "It's a blood drive," I answered. Her face showed alarm or confusion; I wasn't sure which.

     "People donate blood to help those who need it." More confusion than alarm; I was satisfied there were no vampiric images running through her imagination.

While I was donating, a patient wandered into the dayroom. I believe she thought she was reporting for work. She approached the Red Cross nurse with confidence, her purse slung sassily over her shoulder; she proudly stated her name as if he should be familiar. He gently removed her from the donation area, all the while his eyes searching, pleading for a facility nurse to appear. Comical initially; poignant now.

As I looked around the room, I noticed the trappings of a nursing home dayroom: a TV with ample floor space around for "wheelchair seating"; a couple of wilting plants meant to cheer, but the lack of proper care given them only recollected an end to their glory days; worn out board games stacked up on a worn out bookcase; elementary arts and crafts proudly displayed about the room -- the latest achievements of adults who had yesterday contributed so much. The décor appeared expensive and tasteful, but bargain pressed-wood furniture and acres of stamped wall-to-wall carpeting couldn't hide the truth. This was a grave dressed as a soiree.

It is not my intent to be negative or critical of establishments such as these; this is not some commentary on healthcare or elder care. Let's face it, we do the best with what we're given. But the gravity of aging and death -- mine as well as my mother's -- weighed on me more heavily than ever as I left the grounds that day. I was unspeakably grateful for the opportunity to care for her, yet suddenly aware of gossamer threads holding that opportunity within my grasp. The tragedy of what has become since one fateful day in a garden, and the glory and grace of one fateful day at a cross were at war within me as I drove home to Mom. I could be overcome with grief and hopelessness, or allow God's Holy Spirit to overcome those things with His peace and hope.

I have to admit, one surrender is easier than the other. And I know now, just as I did that day, God is showing me something. He determined my steps that day, He will lead me where I need to be once again.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Commitment to Family

When I was growing up, the concept of family was pretty straightforward: Dad, Mom, a slew of noisy kids, and the family pet. Even the pets were traditional: dog, cat, fish, a bird, or maybe a box turtle, if you were known to walk on the wild side.

ALL of that has changed. Many of today's families are "blended." The way we decorate our homes, the churches we do or do not attend, the holidays we do or do not celebrate, even the foods on our "traditional" holiday tables are as varied as the backgrounds of the people gathered around them. And, of course, our pets are unique: ferrets, hedgehogs, pigs, exotics. "Nontraditional" seems to be the new traditional.

This morning I was reading the book of Ruth in the Bible; the account of a blended family. Ruth was from the country of Moab; she married an Israelite man from the tribe of Judah. Ruth's husband died and her mother-in-law, Naomi, also a widow, living far from her homeland, wanted to return. Naomi advised Ruth to leave her, and return to her family home. Ruth refused, with these words:
“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”
Wow! How beautiful is that! Such commitment. Such sacrifice. But stop for a moment and consider just how big a sacrifice!

When my ex-husband and I separated, his mom was sick. Being a senior, a widow, and having a difficult time handling some things most of us take for granted, Ellie required help. I would stop by with groceries on my way home from work, or assist her with paperwork or transportation. I was prepared to stick by her at any cost. When it became clear my ex-husband and I would not reconcile, and when he became more available to help his mom, she and I parted ways. But during that period, I often thought about Ruth and the decision she made. What I never considered was just how much credit I was giving myself!

We don't know how old Ruth was, but she may have been very young; I was 40 -- almost a senior citizen! Ruth and Naomi were from two entirely different cultures; we can't know how long Naomi had been Ruth's mother-in-law, but what if it had only been for a couple of years? a couple of weeks? Ruth would have had barely a chance to become accustomed to a Jewish way of life! Ellie and I were from the same country, the same state, and had known one another almost fifteen years! Ruth was willing to move miles away from the only land she'd known, to nearly the epicenter of Naomi's culture; I wasn't moving anywhere, much less living with my MIL. Ruth's act was real commitment!

And here's something I'd never considered before: Who says Naomi was easy to get along with anyway? What if that whole "No, go back to your family" thing was little more than a pity party? I mean, look at Ruth 1:8 -- Naomi puts herself  in association with the dead, locking in that correlation with certain doom. Almost has a ring of "No, death is my companion now; you go on with your rosy cheeks and your youthful gait," to it. Doesn't it?

And 1:11-13? "Turn back!" Reminds me of something you'd find at the end of a driveway to a vacant old house: "Turn back! WARNING: MISERY AHEAD!" Naomi then asks, (of course I'm paraphrasing) "Why would you want to come with me? What could I possibly have to offer you, or anyone else for that matter?" And Naomi laments, not that she is too old to have children, but that she has no sons to promise Ruth and her other son's widow: she is not pregnant with sons for them. And again: "Turn back!" Woe! Woe! "For I am too old to have a husband." Wait! What?! Too old for a husband, but never does she say she is too old to bear sons. In fact, she even speculates: "IF I had hope, for, of course, why would I?" (Again, I'm paraphrasing) "...but, IF I had hope, and I married today and bore sons, would you wait until they were old enough to marry?" Poor, poor Naomi. "I could never expect you to wait until my sons were grown; far too much for me to ask you to do that for a poor old widow like me."

And, here comes the crème de la crème: (paraphrasing) "I am so sorry you got caught in God's crosshairs when He turned against me. You were just collateral damage when God marked me for takedown. I am so sorry. It's so unfair for you, though I know I deserved it somehow."

What a sacrifice! Of course it could be in how you read it, but I tend to fast-forward to the end of the story, to God's reward for Ruth's commitment, failing to see how Naomi had lost hope, and how that was of little consequence to Ruth. It almost seems Naomi was a fount of despair and pity rather than the gentle, guiding mentor Ruth would have benefitted from following so closely. Instead, it is Ruth, the Moabitess, the pagan, who leads one of God's chosen people back to her God, and "sets her up" for installation in the story of her Savior!

The story of God's blended family: backgrounds, ethnicities, colors, cultures, and lands, grafted into His family tree!

Monday, June 27, 2016

This Is Me, Stopping...

Years ago, Scott and I began this grand experiment that resulted in a marriage recently celebrating its eighth birthday, and everyday is the highlight of my life. If I'd asked at the time, I'm not sure how many reasons Scott could have given me as to why he wanted to date me. I know I had two looming reservations as to why I DID NOT want to date him: the past, and the future.

My relationships in the past had been miserable. I'd start off dating this guy: I'd be "me," and he'd be smooth. Before I knew it, he'd be "him," and I'd be some fragmented being that vaguely resembled a human. My weight would fluctuate, my hair would fall out, my moods would swing; I couldn't make a decision to save my life. I can't blame the men I dated, or lived with, or married -- yeah, it was nuts! -- they were being who they were, and I had no discernment whatsoever. I was not a super nice person either -- proof that water seeks its own level.

And as for me and the future, I wasn't quite certain we were on speaking terms either. I couldn't imagine a good future for me; I couldn't imagine my "present future" could work out any better than my "past futures" had. And there were even more "past futures" stacked up against me since the last time I took a run at this relationship thing!

Obviously, we went through with it. But it took a lot of looooong phone conversations and a lot of -- sometimes brutal -- honesty just to be sure we weren't completely wasting our time. And after we'd decided, there was the issue of making "Us" work. If we could get that up and running, we'd have children to introduce and family to consider; there'd be exes, and property, and jobs, and lions, and tigers, and bears -- O my! Young adults starting out have it rough, but love at middle age is no bed of roses either.

The other afternoon, one of our daughters was in her room, getting ready to go out. She was going through her closet as teenagers do, singing along to the radio as most of us do. Bishop wandered in, and she stopped to scratch him behind the ears, telling him what a good dog he was. Bishop has always gravitated toward the ladies in the house, invading their rooms and their personal space -- most of the time, accompanied by the screaming of names: "Mom!" "Bishop!" This time, Olivia allowed him to stay. Watching the two of them, this relationship that has grown through the years, reminded me of how far this whole experiment has come. Our children are getting so big, and time is moving so quickly. The miles we've travelled -- literally and figuratively -- are countless. We've been through moments of pain which God has used to turn our attention toward those precious moments of joy; mayhem through which He has taught us to appreciate the peace; grief from loss through which He has reminded us to hold a little more tightly to the ones we love; disagreements that threatened to do us in, but God showed us how to forgive; and poor health that forced us to take better care of ourselves for the ones we love. To do anything less than praise God for the victory He works -- even in suffering, chaos, sadness, loss, conflict, or sickness -- is to cheat Him of what He is due.

And to do anything less than stop at a moment -- like the one between a girl and her dog -- and appreciate how far God has brought you, how good He has made this, is to ignore what a loving and mighty God we serve.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

God Is Good No Matter Where I Am

My Pig is dead. The Ford Explorer I've driven for the past fourteen years has breathed its last. At 2:40AM on March 17, 2016, the paragon of mileage and memories known as The Pig Mobile crawled her way up the exit ramp off I-95 and bled to death in a parking spot right in front of my eyes. She was more than transportation; she was my companion, my daily living space, my prayer closet, my ticket to freedom, my dance floor, my workhorse. She had so selflessly conformed her seat to mine, beginning on the day we met. She had endured terrible weather, loads of "stuff," bumps and bruises, kids, dogs, barf, poo... I digress.

"Oh, it'll all work out."
"You know, all things work for good."

I assume the folks dealing out these platitudes like some fateful deck of cards, are trying to embrace a remnant of Romans 8:28:
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
The fact is, I know it'll all work out. And I even know the entire verse. And the one after it. And it all applies. But, what I didn't know until this morning is how grossly I had misused that verse; how twisted even Bible-banging, spiritual warfare-waging, church-going Christians get this.

I'd had a particularly rough night last night, dealing with the Pig's untimely demise. (It sounds silly and shallow, I'm sure, to someone who's never had a close relationship with a piece of Georgian tonnage.) As I was reading in Philippians 4 this morning, I paused at verses 6 and 7:
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
I paused and gave thanks. I know this assurance to be true; I know this peace to be real. I know God was with me the morning my precious Pig passed; I know He's with me now. I know He is handling this entire situation, and I know it's going to be better when it's done than it was before. I claim it because my Father God is sovereign and working for my good. Now, here's where it got real.

Why? I mean, why is God working on my behalf? Why is God working for my good? Because I love Him and He loves me. Well, yes. But this is not some saccharine-sweet, big purple dinosaur, facile relationship. We are not His equals; we are His creation. And He loves us -- it's true -- but being good and being loving are part of who He is! He has instilled goodness and love in us; we can relate to those qualities, but the "familiarity" of His goodness and love should not dismiss the reverence due Him. There is no other who is always good, always loving, sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent. Only God! He has earned and will continue to earn our worship; and -- here's the "real" part -- He is working for the good of those who love Him because of who He is!

God is not handling my situation for my good because I love Him. He is not handling my situation for my good because I am seeking His will. He is not even handling my situation for my good because I am walking in complete trust of Him. (Grace is just that, grace; it cannot be earned; it is not a conditional situation. But that's a discussion for another day.) My Heavenly Father is working for my good because that is who He is, and if I am joined to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, I experience the benefits of His goodness. Did you get that? Let me run that past you one more time: My Heavenly Father is working for my good because that is who He is, and if I am joined to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, I experience the benefits of His goodness. And His love. And His sovereignty. And His omniscience. And His omnipotence.

God loves me, of that there is no doubt. But God does not stop being who He is because I decide not to be in relationship with Him. He's not some jilted lover who stops opening doors or lending me His stuff. Doors might still be opened, but if I'm not walking with Him, how will I even see them? His stuff is all around me: creation, joy, charity and kindness; He's not going to remove them from the world simply because I've chosen to do things my own way. But if I am not looking at that world through the eyes of Jesus, if I am not growing to be more like Him each day, if I am walking in places where He is not leading, I will see a world very different from the one He has for me.

Who knows? On Easter my mind is geared toward resurrection. Maybe The Pig will rise again. But I know God is working for my good because of who He is and -- thanks, God -- where I am!


Sunday, February 14, 2016

God's Work, Good Works, and Surviving a Long Grey Winter

Valentine's Day again, and for the second year in a row I am spending it hiding in my office. Last year, I was quarantined from the radiation I'd had the day before. This year I am hiding from my mother. It sounds terrible, I know, but she has been glued to my hip for the past seventy-two hours, and isolation is crucial to the preservation of my sanity, which is crucial to surviving the remaining days (weeks?!) of Winter. (Besides, Scott is an incredibly wonderful man, and is standing-in for a bit.) These days are particularly difficult for her. She loves to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine; the cold temperatures we are experiencing right now, and the past weeks of grey snow skies and mere glimpses of sunshine have kept her restless and ill at ease. She is forever looking to me for cues: "What are we doing now?"; and she stares at me almost the entire time we are doing it: "What should I be feeling now? What should the expression on my face read now? What is your expression telling me? What should I be saying now?" The role of caregiver goes far beyond meeting physical or financial needs; emotional needs are just as important, if not more, to someone who is trapped in a life going in reverse. "I don't have a problem doing [God's work]; I just have a problem dealing with it."

Many people see "doing God's work" as a Mother Teresa sort of thing: unbelievably selfless, full-time, deeply devout; rubbing shoulders with the destitute and privileged alike, hugely public and incalculably effective. But the majority of God's work doesn't remotely resemble that. The majority of God's work takes place in "the small," "the mundane:" the kind word, the smile, the polite gesture; the brilliant green of the trees in Springtime, or the vibrant colors of Autumn; the soft warmth and clean cottony smell of flannel sheets in Winter; the emerging glow of fireflies at dusk. God's work is found in His creation and in one another. We tend to think God's work stems from us, from the things we do; but God's work comes from God, and when it is revealed in the things we do or the things we experience, it is a privilege and a blessing for us as well as others. Ephesians 2:10 tells us "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Good works like telling the truth and obeying your parents, sure; good works like helping and blessing others, also; but good works like revealing and appreciating how awesome God is! Good works preordained. Imagine that. God set in motion before we were ever born, those we would help, those who would help us, the sunrises we would see and the wafts of wildflowers that would reach us. For His glory, to make His character known, and to edify one another! Whether I am "doing God's work" in the largest or smallest of ways, or experiencing God's works outside our windows, knowing all this is part of God's plan makes me think I should take even the smallest opportunity pretty seriously. And it reminds me that God's work is not about me or even the people I might serve; I -- like skies and birds and seasons -- are His workmanship, created to bring Him glory.

About this time last year, Scott and I were discussing what it meant to "do God's work." That's when he looked at me and uttered those words: "I don't have a problem doing it; I just have a problem dealing with it." How true! God's work doesn't always fit our plans or preferences. God's work sometimes means unhappiness and spiders and cancer; or "private people" relinquishing some privacy; or poverty for the sake of sharing the Gospel with those in poverty. God's work sometimes means having to witness a loved one sink further into addiction, or dementia, or apostasy, or ALS, or despair each day, but striving in Christ to be light and salt and fragrance to them; to minister to their needs in whatever capacity we are called. And it's not always easy to deal with. But God would never prepare good works for us to walk in, and not go with us on the journey: "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6) God will supply all I need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19). Therefore, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13) -- all the good works He prepared for me to do; all the good works He prepared for me to experience, even a long grey winter.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

I Want to See!

"What do you want Me to do for you?"

Imagine Jesus walking through the streets of your neighborhood. The crowd is stacked three-deep curbside. His people -- throngs of them -- are following close behind. His reputation as a healer and life-giver has preceded His visit, and you anxiously await your first glimpse of Him -- oh, wait! Not a glimpse at all. You have been blind since birth. But the crowd is going crazy; the noise is deafening. You know, He is here! So you begin to call Him, as loudly as you are able: "Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!" Those around you try to hush you; your cries are drowning out the crowd. But you know He is the One. "Have mercy on me, Son of David!" And Jesus tells His disciples, "Call him." What?! Really? He is asking for me? You immediately throw off your bulky long coat; you move toward Him as fast as you can. Your hands probing the crowd in front of you, your feet shuffling. And suddenly you feel His warm strong hands in yours. He draws you close, presses His forehead to yours, so you can hear His every word:

"What do you want Me to do for you?"

This morning, I was reading the account of blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10. And Jesus' question, as open-ended, as incomprehensibly blessed as it is, is not what got me. It was Bartimaeus' response:

"Rabbouni, I want to see!" Bartimaeus didn't tell Jesus, "I want You to heal me," which would have been the grammatically, contextually correct answer to the question. Bartimaeus responded from the depths of his heart. What did he want most in life? "I want to see!" His answer came out impulsively, spontaneously, unrehearsed. His answer was grounded in complete faith Jesus would give him just what He asked; Jesus was fully capable and Jesus was fully willing.

If Jesus appeared before me one afternoon as I was paying bills, and asked, "What do you want me to do for you?", how would I respond? I'm sure I would say something like, "Pay this bill'" or "Drop some cash into our checking account, please." Pay this bill? Pay this bill, really? One lousy electric bill? Is that all I believe He is capable of or willing to do for me? "Drop some cash..." What? I'm going to tell Him how to do it now? Maybe I should remember to "pray" the account number to Him just so there's no confusion. There are no limits on Jesus! Bartimaeus certainly didn't limit Him: "I want to see!" He didn't ask for his vision to improve a bit, or ask for Jesus to heal one eye. He didn't ask Jesus to give the doctors wisdom to know how to heal him. Bartimaeus spoke from the depths of his heart and made himself available to whatever Jesus wanted to do -- or wanted him to do, in order that he might see. He wanted transformation, and fully trusted Jesus to make it happen. "I want to be cancer-free!" "I want to be married!" "I want to be sober!" These are transformative, intimate, limitless, honest responses to what Jesus offers. These are the answers of one who wants more than change -- they want to be changed.

Just a few verses before, John Mark (probably) recounts an incident in which small children were rushing to meet Jesus. Jesus' disciples began turning them away -- after all, what would a teacher like Jesus want with a bunch of kids? But Jesus welcomes them, teaching those who heard that childlike faith is what is required to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:15). Bartimaeus was a perfect example of "childlike faith." Have you ever heard a father ask his child as they stand there listening for the carillon call of the ice cream truck: "What do you want me to do for you?"? "Oh, dearest, best, strongest Father (sort of like the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17), I would really appreciate it if you could reach into your wallet and remove the necessary funds to buy some ice cream for me. And, if you have found favor with me, perhaps I could have some jimmies on it. I could work really hard next week and repay you." NO!! "I want ice cream! -- with jimmies!" is what that child says. Simple. Childlike. No pretense. Fully confident. And fully aware that Dad is asking because he intends to give him just what he wants. Dad is capable of giving his child just what he wants. And Dad wants to see the confidence, the enthusiasm, the adoration on his child's face when he blurts out, fully yielded and fully invested, his answer to his father. "I want to see!"

What is it you want? What transformation is your hearts desire? Your Heavenly Father already knows what is in your heart before it is even on your lips. He is able to give good gifts far beyond those we ask from even our earthly fathers. What do you want Jesus to do for you?
  “'Go your way,' Jesus told him. 'Your faith has healed you.' Immediately he could see and began to follow Him on the road." Mark 10:52

Monday, February 1, 2016

Ah, Leah

Ok, it's time to get down to business here. I've started writing this post about four times. Each time I do, I fall into distraction; not because I don't know where I'm going with this, but because I was there when MTV was born. Yup, that's my story. You see, I graduated high school just as MTV was blasting it's way into living rooms all over the country; they actually played music videos then. One such video was "Ah! Leah!" by Donnie Iris; it was as bad as they come, but the tune became his signature. So, as I was reading the account of Jacob, Leah and Rachel the other morning, and as this post began to form in my head, so did Donnie and the rest of the 80s: Red Rider, The Knack, Aldo Nova. I digress.

That decade was truly a turning point in my life. I had my entire adulthood before me. Fresh out of school, a couple of full-time jobs, my own wheels -- I was free! I wasn't going to have one more person tell me what to do. And I wasn't going to sit behind some desk learning more useless stuff and wasting time. I was going to make money. I was going to make cool friends. I was going to make something of myself by getting out there and doing things... 

Like going to work everyday. Partying every night. How long before that gets old? Not long. So along comes this guy. He's nice, responsible, likes to have fun. Nice Guy and I hit it off, and before you know it we're heading down the aisle. But it's not long before I am bored again, the party life comes calling and my marriage ends in a scandal and a hail of lies. I vow I am never going back there again...

I've always thought I was trying to punish myself, but now I'm not so sure. I moved in with this guy. Definitely Wrong Guy, but there I was. More drinking, more drugs. But no lies this time -- Wrong Guy would have killed me. Literally. So I toe the line. Until one night I barely escape with my life. No dignity, but I have what's left of my life. It's not much, because somewhere along the line I've lost all my friends as well. And I've really not made a whole lot of myself but a mess. I am never going back to a life like that again...

The dust had barely settled before I found myself heading to the movies with Knight in Shining Armor. We had so much in common. Maybe too much. There were issues. His and Hers. We were so busy comparing how our tragedies had "unfolded," we never considered fixing the people who'd been forging them -- I'm not certain we realized we had a choice. But I was trying to find in him what I'd been looking for in all my other failures: self-worth. A second walk down the aisle; a second expensive lesson eleven years later. I would never do that again...

And this time I really wouldn't. I was following Jesus -- I mean genuinely following Him; not just going to church, trying to shoehorn my way into heaven. I trusted Jesus as my husband, and God as my Heavenly Father. I began reading His Word and believing what it said. I began talking to Him honestly and often. And He began to show me I would never find self-worth in a man, or the things I did for a man. That's where Leah comes in. (That would be Genesis Leah, not 1980's Leah.)

If you take a minute to read the passage, you will see the story of a woman who'd been sold to Jacob by her father. Jacob didn't even want her -- he thought he was purchasing her beautiful sister, Rachel. Leah wanted so desperately to be loved by a man. To be cherished and adored by her husband, her father, someone who would validate her worth. And the baby wars began. With each labor, Leah strained in hope her husband would finally esteem her. But as it happens when we search for our worth outside of the cross, things got ugly; Leah got ugly -- even "purchasing" her husband for the price of some food. As a little girl, did Leah ever dream she'd end up like this? Probably not. I know I didn't.

The quest to be someone, to be loved by others, to have someone else call us beautiful or valuable or beloved, can lead people to do things they would have never done otherwise. And in some cases, it can make matters much worse: promiscuity, financial burdens, self-mutilation, substance abuse, failed relationships, suicidal thoughts. As I reread Leah's story, I looked back to the person I was decades ago, the person I remained for decades after. I view that young woman with a certain amount of disgust and an enormous amount of sympathy. I was merely looking for the things we all seek: love and worth, And, while my goals were worthwhile, the problem stemmed from the search I was on. Like looking for treasure in a landfill, we sometimes expect others to tell us how much we are worth. And, by God's grace, they sometimes do. But if I'd had the chance to speak to Leah; if I'd had the chance to sit 80's Judi down for a little talking-to; when I do have the chance to talk to young women, I tell them to look in the pages of God's Word, sit in silence before a loving Heavenly Father, and discover your worth as the daughter of a King.