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Confessionss of a Fluff Ball

Confessions of a Fluff Ball

I was ten when we had just returned from shoe shopping and I helped search the neighborhood for my little brother who had a penchant for escape. Mom, Dad, and friends called out his name, scouring front and back yards. We had to be careful because the sidewalk was roped off where new concrete had just been laid.  It was me who first saw our escapist trudging behind a garage, and me who went running after him as fast as I could.

“There he is! I FOUND him!” Oh, how proud of me they all would be! But the more I ran, the faster my brother went and the heavier my brand new red shoes felt.

“STOP!” was what my parents were yelling, not “Hooray!” In my dramatic show of heroism, I had immersed my shoes in a winding lane of wet concrete.

“You are a Fluff Ball,” was my mother’s comment as she tossed the red shoes, heavy as bowling balls, into the trash.

I am a Fluff Ball. My mother told me so, over and over again as I flitted and twirled through my youth with my heart on my sleeve and my head in the sand. I am idealistic, whimsical, guileless, and prone to speaking in metaphors, dancing in the kitchen, and having crushes on men who look like Jesus.  I can drive Rule Makers crazy – ice cream for breakfast, dinner invites to strangers, donuts for workmen.

Once I figured out Jesus was more interested in my heart than my practicality, it was easy, a relief actually, to hand Him the mess of me.

Then I discovered He had rules of His own. He wanted me to be holy.

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…” (1Peter 1:14-15)

Peter, the disciple who could have been my distant cousin in the Fluff family, was the deliverer of this non-negotiable mandate. “In all your conduct”, he wrote. How is it possible to rise from the muck of failure to divine virtue? Peter’s story gives me new perspective. Impetuous, passionate, and unreliable, Peter wrote about the process of becoming holy because he, too, had to drop his junk in Jesus’ lap.

Peter, Simon at the time, was desperate for approval. He probably had been the older brother living up to expectations of responsibility to set the example for his siblings. He adored Jesus and tried desperately to prove his worth by chasing Him on water, grabbing soap from His hand to wash His feet, and agreeing with Him through gritted teeth to forgive sinners seventy times seven.

Approval is a deadly and illusive ambition for a Fluff Ball. Driven like Peter, I aspired to gain my parent’s approval. I was the oldest of four, but my brother, a brilliant man (who resembles Jesus, by the way) was my mother’s favorite and is probably to this day, though she is no longer living. Our family was no more dysfunctional than most in the 50’s and 60’s. Without therapy, a gym, or Oprah, my mother fought her demons with alcohol, drugs, and temper tantrums. After long night parties my parents had with neighbors, I washed glasses, scrubbed chip and dip bowls, and threw out limp soggy left-overs. I kept everything in order while dreams danced in my head. Academically mediocre, I strived to excel in good behavior. It would have been easier to be smart!

I could think of Fluff Ball as an endearment, but the title remains a stigma I’ve tried to slough off for too many years. I need a new nametag.

Peter got one, eventually. The ink was drying on the paper when Jesus saw the fisherman throw down his life’s work, a fish net, to hang with the Man who said, “Follow Me”.

I did not check my kids into daycare permanently when I followed Jesus, but I quickly enrolled them in Sunday school, signed up for a beginner’s Bible Study, joined a church, and much to my husband’s chagrin, put our five-pound Bible smack in the middle of the coffee table – open. I might as well have hung a banner on the front of the house, “Jesus lives here!”

“Fluff Ball” was just one of the names my mother and husband mumbled about me then, barely under their breath.

Years later after my father died, my mother finally fought off her terrors. But she still called me a Fluff Ball even though I took care of her when she was sick, had grown children of my own, and could place my husband’s Bible next to mine on the table.

Peter’s compulsiveness turned to shame when he ran to hide from his enemies. In fear of losing his own life, he denied knowing his beloved Friend. What he had not known was that his old life was already gone. Jesus had given him a new role and a new name. Peter was still trying to live up to Simon’s expectations when he realized the travesty of trying to be what he could not be. He finally surrendered to all that he was meant to be.

In his true identity, the one Jesus had given to him, Peter became bold, courageous, and filled with the Holy Spirit.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

What could Jesus do with a Fluff Ball?

Release her from the shackles of approval and crown her with Love.

Bless her with a husband who tells her she is beautiful and guide her with three daughters who call her wise. Shower her with eight rollicking grandchildren who call her fun, hilarious, cool, and a “Present Lady”. Allow a crippling disease to enter her life just enough to keep her humble and aware of the preciousness of mobility. Give her worship music to dance to in the kitchen and turn her extravagant faith into a craft that exclaims to the world with all the imagery and metaphors of a Fluff Ball, He has come to set us free from the past to the joy of His holiness in the present.

Thank You, Jesus!

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

 

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Bat Woman Saved

Bat Woman Saved

A bat flapping in a tree, that’s what I was before I asked Jesus into my life. Blinded by the enemy of self, immature and myopic, a mother of two under four, my husband deployed for months at a time, I was exhausted, lonely, and disillusioned. Family life on “Father Knows Best” had never given me a hint of life behind the scenes. I’d dreamed of being like Margaret Anderson with fresh lipstick and my apron on when Jim came in smiling for dinner. Instead, I found myself in the midst of wailing babies, messy dogs, and bell-bottoms that were too snug.

I’d wanted a happy family, picnics, strolls in the park, bike rides, flowers under the window, a cocker spaniel, and my husband home at five, preferably smiling. God would provide protection if needed, though it never occurred to me He’d be close enough for a relationship. I’d hoped He could handle my greatest fears – death, storms, and my babysitter cancelling on me.

When my girlfriend invited me to Bible Study at her church, I was reluctant to accept, until she added, “free childcare.” The following Wednesday with blankies, pacifiers, and bottles in tow, my little ones and I were ready to go. This is how Jesus first cracked open the door to my heart and shed a glimmer of light on my bat wings.

I felt like a nocturnal beast in a sunny field of flowers in the Fellowship Hall. All those lovely women with long curly hair, welcoming embraces and quilt-covered bibles gave me the jitters. They didn’t know about my bad habits or how I’d yelled at my kids. The only Bible I owned was a tabletop Readers Digest King James, which was on the closet shelf so it wouldn’t be used as a coloring book.

I continued to attend the Bible Study, however, and not just because the childcare was free. I was being taught about the love of Jesus, and I saw how peaceful it looked on the faces of the women who greeted me every week. Theirs was a “beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” (1Peter 3:4)

Their joy was real even though, like me, many of them were mothers of small children, who managed homes with laundry and pets, and had husbands away on deployments or who worked late into the night. Beside their friendships with each other and the Bibles they carried like purses, the ladies appeared to have something stronger on their side, like a hovering bodyguard. You just wouldn’t want to cop an attitude with any of them. I watched, listened, and learned.

Even the ladies who didn’t know me made me feel welcome. Sometimes they appeared thankful when I arrived, and gave me an extra wide smile and pat on the shoulder. I began to relax during the weekly discussions and listen to the prayers they shared.

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)

I struggled with my identity in God’s creation and could not perceive evidence of grace like theirs in my life, only faults and temper tantrums. Like Zacchaeus the tax collector, I felt hated and despised. How could God ever love me?

When I was brave enough to admit my fear and bold enough to ask for prayer, my new friends beseeched God on my behalf, not about my character flaws, but about my real need. Little did I know at that time, they were acting through the Holy Spirit as Jesus had with the blind man and tax collector in Jericho. I needed salvation.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John3:16)

“Jesus died for my sins.” I heard this over and over again, but could not connect with it. If He’d died for me, what did He want me to do for Him? Stop yelling? Quit smoking? Go to Africa? What if I couldn’t be good enough? Would I be asked politely to stop attending Bible Study?

The faith I had was just not working.

Finally, I knelt by my bed, as I’d seen the kids do on “Little Prairie”, and, like the blind man, I begged for mercy, quietly so I wouldn’t wake the children.

Our Father Who art in heaven”, was all I knew, and I felt I needed to start out formal. “Please will you help me?”

“Jesus, I give everything to You – my children, my husband, my dogs, my thighs, and all my fears. If You’ll have me, I give You my life and You can be Lord of my heart. No surprise to You, but I am a sinner, and I am asking for forgiveness. Amen.” My prayer was rudimentary.

I confess I’d expected something magical to occur – a rainbow in the night sky, a phone call from my husband at sea, the Cat in the Hat to clean my house. Nothing happened. I got up from my knees and climbed into bed where I slept soundly until morning. The days continued to tumble along, my husband sailed in and out of town, the girls were fussy, the dogs messy, my temper flared occasionally, and the Cat never showed up. But there seemed to be an invisible bodyguard at every turn and the peace I felt was unmistakable. Praying became a conversation between Jesus and me as I relinquished my fears. My Bible study developed into daily lessons, the girls and I attended church, and I prayed that one day our family would worship together. I wanted Jesus in our home.

I didn’t realize it then, but Jesus had heard my prayer LOUD AND CLEAR. He’d stopped in His tracks as if Bartimaeus the blind man was crying again for the Son of David; and, turning the universe to get to the Book of Life, He called my name and wrote it down.

Today salvation has come to this house…” (Luke 19:9)

Thanks to the faith, love, and prayers of those who went to the women’s Bible Study for Jesus not childcare, I am no longer a baleful bat. Forty years later, I am loved by the Son of God.  Our home is full of Jesus, gloriously alive in my husband, our children, grandchildren, family and friends!

“And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” (Luke 18:43)