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 Blooming in Broken Places,

by Deborah Malone

Blooming in Broken Places will take women on a journey through the author’s life

illustrated with examples of women from the Bible.

By sharing stores of these women and their imperfect lives,

the author demonstrates how God’s grace extends

far beyond anything readers imagine and

that God can use anyone

wherever they are in their faith journey.

Who will get the most out of this book?

Women age 18 and up

Sample

Chapter One

Keep on Blooming – Even When Overwhelmed

Listen! Can you hear Jochebed calling?

“Miriam, Miriam, where are you?” Jochebed frantically pleads. “I want you to hide in the reeds and make sure Moses is safe. Come and report back to me.”

About this time, a man and a woman from the tribe of Levi got married. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw that he was a special baby and kept him hidden for three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she got a basket made of papyrus and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River. The baby’s sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him. Exodus 2:1-4

Wow! Talk about putting responsibility on a child’s shoulders. I don’t know why Jochebed, Moses’ mother, asked such a great task of young Miriam.

Maybe she thought Miriam, being a child, could hide in the reeds easier than she could, a grown woman. For whatever reason, Miriam was chosen to keep watch on her baby brother.

I can only imagine how scared she must have been, but didn’t want to let her mother down.

***

The night songs of the cicadas and the sweet breeze caressing my skin lulled me to sleep. The memories of visiting my Aunt Maudie’s house are sweet and dear. But all my memories aren’t so sweet.

I looked like any other little girl my age – carefree and without a worry in the world. But at six years old I carried the weight of the world on my shoulders.

Fear and uncertainty had taken up residence inside my head and haunted me regularly. Every morning when it was time to get ready for school my constant companions would rear their ugly heads whispering, she’ll fall while you’re gone or she’ll be in the hospital when you get back. Then what? After all it’s your responsibility to make sure she’s safe.

But what I couldn’t express in words at such a young age came out as screaming, stomping my feet and rolling around on the floor. Because Mother wasn’t physically able to take me to school I’m sure I thought that’d convince her to keep me home. It didn’t. She just called Dad and he’d come home from work and take me. This happened several times until one day our principal, Mr. Lane, met Dad at my first-grade classroom door. “Sir, you go on back to work and I’ll take care of this.”

Now Dad was a big man, but Mr. Lane was bigger and always had a round, fat cigar sticking out of his mouth. It only took one spanking from Mr. Lane to convince me it was in my best interest to get on the school bus. The monsters taunting me about mother’s health would get to stay home – a place I wish I could be to prevent her from dying while I was learning to read. Even though I, of course, couldn’t help her. I wanted to be with her.

Once, my mother’s mother was visiting from Miami and I thought I could get her on my side. Grandma was as big around as she was tall, and she’d been a charge nurse for many years. She didn’t take any guff from others – and she sure wasn’t taking it from me.

The sun was already high in the sky, and it promised to be a great day to stay home and visit with Grandma. After my two brothers boarded the bus, I happily informed her I was staying at home that day. She didn’t like my idea one bit. Right there in front of God and all the other kids on the bus, she pulled up my dress and wore out my little hiney. I got on the bus with tears streaming down my cheeks. I don’t know which was more painful that day, the actual spanking or the humiliation. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved Grandma dearly which probably made it hurt all the worse.

There was a reason I bucked going to school. Mother’s body was riddled with Rheumatoid Arthritis. At the age of twelve she was diagnosed with Still’s Disease, the name given childhood arthritis. Suffice it to say, she didn’t have an easy childhood.

Mother was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio with her two younger brothers. When she got sick, the doctors were baffled and couldn’t come up with a diagnosis. Bedridden, she experienced high fevers, lost all her hair and was racked with pain. It took months for a concrete diagnosis and she remained in bed for two years before the hideous disease went into remission.

Grandma and Granddad divorced when my mother was young. I don’t remember my granddad at all. I’ve seen pictures of him holding my brothers when they were babies. He was as tall and skinny as my grandma was round. He left Grandma with three small children to raise and married his cousin.

Mother and her two brothers were raised by Grandma and my great-grandmother. Grandma worked full-time while raising her three children. Oddly enough, it was my granddad’s mother who helped raise Mother and her siblings.

I remember going to visit relatives in Cincinnati; we’d pile in our old station wagon, strap the luggage rack on top and head up north. Dad would put the seats down and Mother would lie on a mattress in the back. Never mind seat belts in those days. The cars didn’t even have them.

Great-grandmother lived in an apartment building, an oddity to be sure. Growing up in the country I didn’t see many high-rise apartments. With gray hair and a kind face, she always appeared old to me. She was as sweet as molasses and always glad to see us. I love the pictures I have of us kids at her house. Many a time I sat on the stairs to the upstairs apartments and bumped down them one at a time.

I can’t say her daughter, my Great-Aunt Grumpy, inherited her disposition. Of course that’s not her real name, but it sure does describe her right nicely. With a chiseled face and a sharp nose, she reminded me a little of the witch in the “Wizard of Oz.” I had the sense even back then she didn’t like children too much. As far as I know, she never married and always lived with Great-Grandma.

Mother lived in Cincinnati when my parents met. She was twenty-one and Dad was thirty-three. Dad grew up in Opelika, Alabama and had moved to Cincinnati to work at General Electric. Talk about a fish out of water – country boy meets big city girl.

Tall and dark, Dad cut a handsome figure of a man and one to be reckoned with at well over six feet tall. Just his size and demeanor were enough to strike fear into any foe. Dad owned a 1948 Indian motorcycle which him and Mother rode on dates.  It wasn’t unusual for Dad to ride it back and forth between Alabama to Cincinnati. They married shortly after they met and began their family. My two older brothers were born in Cincinnati.

They lived in a two-story house, which they bought from Grandma. They would later sell it to Mother’s brother, and that is where he raised his family until the 1970’s. The house still stands and I like to drive by it when I visit. My brothers, Lee and Lewis, were four and five years older than me. They lived in the house for several years before they moved south.

When the boys weren’t much older than toddlers, they locked Mother out of the house and went up to the second floor, hung out the window and waved cheerfully to her.

When Mother married Dad, she’d been in remission. Having children caused the arthritis to rear its ugly head again. While the boys were young her joints began to deteriorate. In 1953, she and Dad packed up my brothers and transferred to Georgia where Dad worked at the newly opened General Electric Plant. Even though it was a sacrifice on Mother’s part, it was a win-win situation for Dad. He found much needed work closer to home.

It amazes me that Mother left her family, and especially her doctors, to move to a little town in north Georgia. I don’t think I’d have been able to make such a move. Not only did she have my two rambunctious brothers to deal with, but in 1954 her sweet little girl was born. Well, I don’t know how sweet I was, but that’s a perk in being the author of a book. You get to write it like you want.

Having three children had taken a terrible toll on Mother’s health and body. Her hips and knees had frozen in 90-degree angles. When she stood, her legs looked like they were in sitting position. Her toes and fingers, ravished by this terrible disease, were twisted sideways. She was no longer able to stand on her own – she had to use crutches, or a wheelchair. Hospital stays were the norm for Mother and this is when we would either stay by ourselves, while Dad went and checked on her, or we would stay with someone my parents knew. I remember, on more than one occasion, staying with people I didn’t know and wondering if Dad would come back and pick us up. So you can imagine how hard it was for me to leave mother and go off to school, wondering if she’d be at home or back in the hospital when I got off the bus that afternoon.

From the outside, our family seemed normal, and just like everyone else’s in our suburban neighborhood. We lived in a nice wood framed house just outside the city limits. The house sat on a hill with a big field at the bottom where we’d play baseball and other sports with the neighborhood kids. I have memories living there that are as sweet as the succulent red rose bushes that stood sentry between the side of the house and the woods. But life wasn’t always rosy.

Inside the little house on the hill storms brewed frequently. Dad had a temper as big as he was. Even though Mother was disabled there were times Dad hit her. I remember Mother taking us kids in the middle of the night to her friend’s house and when she opened the door I blurted, “Daddy hit Mother again,” through tears. The image of us standing in that doorway still haunts me.

Eventually, as we children got older and were able to take on some responsibility, the physical abuse stopped but the turmoil never did. We all carry scars from our childhood, and Dad was no different. He had scars of his own.

It wasn’t easy being the only girl in the neighborhood at the time. One time the boys convinced me they were doing me a grand favor by letting me pitch. Tomboy that I was, I took them up on it, and they kept batting with all their might. I handled their hits fairly well until Darin, one of the Fletcher boys, hit me in the shoulder with a line drive. I couldn’t move my shoulder for over a week and it turned the prettiest shades of blue and green. I wore that bruise like a badge of honor and drug every bit of sympathy I could get out of anyone who’d take a look. I didn’t go to the emergency room. After all it was just a bruise, Dad said. It wasn’t until a few years ago, after a shoulder injury and x-rays, my doctor told me I’d broken my collar bone. I knew exactly when it happened.

Life back then was filled with childhood injuries. Back in the day you didn’t wear shoes in the summer. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I must have stepped into a yellow jacket nest one day. Both feet were stung so bad they swelled until I was unable to walk, ran a fever and threw up – I didn’t go to the emergency room that time either. I really can’t blame Dad, he was probably sick of taking Mother to the hospital, and our childhood injuries were minor in comparison to her pain.

Then there was the time I was a toddler and my brothers put the car in neutral and it rolled down our steep driveway with the door open.

We lived surrounded by woods and I remember another time coming down the hill from the Fletcher’s when Lee, Lewis and I were chased by a black racer snake.

None of my injuries were ever life-threatening like my bother Lewis. It was one of the many times when Mother was in the hospital and we had an actual baby sitter. She had taken us into the woods for a picnic. Lewis decided to see how high he could climb up a pine tree when a branch broke. As he fell downwards the broken part tore into the flesh of his upper arm.

This was happening at just about the same time Dad was bringing Mother home from another stay in the hospital. He got Mother inside, turned around and took Lewis to get his arm sewn up. He had stitches inside his arm from his armpit to his elbow.

Dad obviously missed the country life, because he kept buying farm animals. He owned a few acres of land – not nearly enough for farming. That didn’t deter Dad. He built a chicken coop in our back yard to raise chickens. It was kind of hard playing with a chicken one day and eating it the next.

Callie came several days a week to help with chores around the house when we were younger. There were many days, I remember, when Callie took a chicken and would wring its neck and then we’d have fried chicken for supper. She possessed the most beautiful mahogany skin and she’d listen to me as long as I had something to say.

Then there was the time Dad bought a hog (and I don’t mean a cute little piglet). This hog was downright mean and dangerous. The escape artist kept getting out and wreaking havoc at the neighbor’s house. Dad would have to leave work and come home to catch the errant hog. This happened half-a-dozen times before Dad had enough of the persistent hog’s shenanigans. Boy, that was some of the best bacon and ham I’ve ever eaten. I’m sure Dad thought so too.

Let’s don’t forget the donkey. What was Grandma thinking? How she ended up with a donkey I still don’t know, but she needed to get rid of it. So, what does one do with a donkey in Miami? Why give it to your son-in-law in Georgia of course. Dad drove down in the family car, took the back seat out, and loaded the donkey for a ride back to Georgia. Dad got more mileage out of that story. He’d tell how the donkey laid his head on Dad’s shoulder and the looks this odd picture garnered from passers-by.

It turned out a donkey doesn’t make a good pet for three young children. Who does Dad, in turn, sell the donkey to? The milkman, who else? Saturday rolled around and he came in his milk truck to pick up our friend. We waved as the truck disappeared down the driveway.

Mother supervised and kept up with her active family as much as she could, even as her illness waxed and waned. I believe Mother’s strong faith helped her through her toughest times.

***

When the princess saw the basket among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it for her. When the princess opened it, she saw the baby. The little boy was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This must be one of the Hebrew children,” she said. Exodus 2:5-6

We can only wonder how Miriam felt. Was she scared? If so, despite her fear, she stayed until she saw the Pharaoh’s daughter bathe in the Nile and discover the baby. As she gazed into the basket at the crying child, she exclaimed, “This must be a Hebrew baby.”

The baby’s sister approached the princess. “Should I go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” she asked. Exodus 2:7

Miriam saw her chance and jumped on the opportunity to reunite Moses with his mother. She bravely approached the Princess and asked, “Should I go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“Yes, do!” the Princess replied.

Miriam ran breathlessly to get her mother and bring her back to the Nile. She pulled on her mother’s arm, “Come Mother, come quickly, something wonderful has happened.” The Princess allowed Jochebed to nurse Moses until he was old enough to be weaned. Then she returned him to the Palace, as an Egyptian.

Miriam, Moses and their brother Aaron grew into adulthood. Because of her early experience of being Moses’ protector, I often wonder if Miriam felt responsible for Moses. After all, she was his big sister. From my own experiences, I believe she did.

Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews. After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand. Exodus 2:11-12

Moses was raised in the Palace as an Egyptian, but felt a kinship with the Hebrews. One day while visiting his people, he saw an Egyptian beating a fellow Hebrew. He looked around to make sure no one was watching, killed the Egyptian, and buried him in the sand. Moses thought he’d done a bang-up job until the next day when he returned to the area and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked one of them, “Why are you beating up your friend?”

The fellow was a little more than perturbed that Moses had interrupted their fight. “Who appointed you prince and judge?” Very like our present day saying, “Who made you judge and jury?”

Oops! Moses messed up. The cat was out of the bag and he knew before long word would spread he’d killed an Egyptian.

And sure enough Pharaoh heard what had happened, and he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in the land of Midian. Exodus 2:15

Fearing for his life, he fled to Midian.  While drawing water from one of the local wells, he rescued some women being harassed by a bunch of hooligans. Their father was so grateful he gave Moses his daughter, Zipporah, to marry. Moses married her, even though she was a foreigner.

One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”

When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses, Moses!”

“Here I am!” Moses replied. Exodus 3:1-4

Sometime after Moses married, he met God in the burning bush. I could relate to Moses, who didn’t feel qualified to be God’s spokesperson. God told Moses he was going to lead his people out of bondage. You’d think hearing a booming voice emanating from a burning bush would be enough to scare anyone into submission. But not Moses. He felt he wasn’t good enough to speak to the Pharaoh on behalf of his people. “Why me, Lord? Surely you’ve made a mistake.” What! Moses just told God he made a mistake? Did he have a death wish?

“No, I don’t think so Moses. Don’t worry, I’ll be there with you.” How many times, in the Bible, are we told God will always be with us, but we continue to hold onto our fears? God finally told Moses he’d give him signs to use. First, he’d be able to turn his staff into a snake. Surely this would be enough to convince Moses to high-tail it to the Pharaoh carrying God’s message. But Moses held on to his fear like a security blanket instead of giving it over to God. “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Wow, have you ever felt that way?

Then the Lord became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do. Aaron will be your spokesman to the people. Exodus 4:14-16

Finally, Moses resorts to begging, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” Doesn’t sound much like a leader, does he? But God saw something in Moses he didn’t see in himself. God took someone who wanted no part of his plan and used him! Right where he was – fear and all. You could say he brought Moses into this job kicking and screaming.

God decided he’d give Moses a shot of confidence by sending his brother Aaron to be his mouthpiece. He’d give Moses the words and Aaron would speak them. It took the Pharaoh a little while, but after several plaques he finally got the message and let the Hebrews go.

Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced. And Miriam sang this song: Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has hurled both horse and rider into the red sea.” Exodus 15:20-21

Miriam and Moses reunite while they are on their wilderness journey. God has appointed Miriam a prophetess, which meant she was a messenger of God and spoke in his name. God had blessed her with a holy gift. Miriam was an inspiration to her people, especially the women. She would make music with her tambourine and sing a song of praise, “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”

Miriam had accomplished much in her life. She’d shown how heroic she was watching out for Moses, shown strong leadership to the other women in the wilderness and shown great faith in God. This proves God uses only perfect women, right? Well, no, not exactly.

That’s not the end of Miriam’s story. We find out she’s just like the rest of us – human, with human emotions.

While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?”  Numbers 12:1-2

Miriam and Aaron had never approved of Moses’ wife. The Israelites looked down on marrying a foreigner especially those who worshiped idols. It was a normal reaction for Miriam and Aaron to disapprove of Moses’ choice of a wife. But this most likely led to strife between brother and sister.

Even though she strived to please God, Miriam fell short. She and Aaron had important positions, Miriam was a great leader of the women, but they didn’t possess the authority given to Moses. Remember, Miriam had been Moses’ protector and big sister. Now he was getting all the attention. She envied that attention and the authority Moses held. What did she do about it? She responded like any other human when frustrated – she complained to anyone who’d listen. But God was listening, too.

But the Lord heard them. So immediately the Lord called to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam and said, “Go out to the Tabernacle, all three of you!” So the three of them went to the Tabernacle. Numbers 12:2,4

Oops, not a good idea to complain about God’s most trusted spokesperson. The Lord was not pleased. Kind of reminds me of when my parents used my middle name – “Deborah Jean!”

God appeared in a cloud and confronted Aaron and Miriam. He basically asked who they thought they were to criticize his servant Moses? He was so angry at Miriam that he struck her with a case of leprosy. Immediately, the crowd shunned her.

Moses could have used this as a gotcha’ moment, but he chose the high road. He didn’t take pleasure in her pain or gloat in God’s chastisement. Instead he begged God to heal Miriam. After seven days, God healed Miriam and she was reunited with her people. Though she had been punished, her people still held her in high regard.

So Miriam was kept outside the camp for seven days, and the people waited until she was brought back before they traveled again. Numbers 12:15

Tradition tells us that after her death her funeral was celebrated in the most solemn manner for thirty days. Like her brothers Aaron and Moses, Miriam did not reach the Promised Land but died in the wilderness; however, her cry of exultation, “Sing unto the Lord,” which had signified freedom for the newborn Israel, could not die. (All the Women of the Bible)

Bless Miriam’s pea-picking heart. Even though this great woman of influence loved God and strove to please him, her human side prevailed.

Let’s take one last look at Miriam’s life. Did God wait until she was “perfect” to use her to teach and lead his people? No, he didn’t. He used Miriam right where she was in her life, flaws and all. Can God use us, flaws and all? You betcha’!

I think Miriam and I would have a lot to talk about. I can picture us sitting around, sipping some good ole’ sweet tea, maybe eating a ‘mater biscuit, comparing the responsibilities we had as children.

A thought to bloom by:

Miriam was overwhelmed with responsibilities – greater than she should have been for her age.

A verse to bloom by:

I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

A prayer to bloom by:

Abba, I come to you with praise on my lips thanking you for everything you have given me; even the very air I breathe. Abba, sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the responsibilities I have. Please give me the strength to handle these responsibilities and thank you for never leaving me to handle these tasks alone. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Application Questions:

Have you ever been overwhelmed with responsibilities?

What happened?

About the author

Deborah Malone’s first novel Death in Dahlonega, finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Category Five writing contest! Deborah was nominated for 2012 and 2013 Georgia Author of the Year Award in Novel category. She is a member of the Georgia Writer’s Association, Advance Writers and Speaker’s Association and the American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in Georgia with her husband Travis.

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