When I was a new believer I read Ezekiel 11:19. ‘I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh’. Little did I know back then all that this verse would mean to me, or how many times God would challenge me beyond what I felt was my breaking point by this Scripture. However, coming to Messiah (Christ) at age forty, I had much to learn, and God put me into and took me out of situations, and relationships, to mold me into this. What you might wonder, is the 'this’ that I have become? Well, I’ll tell you, it certainly isn’t the 'this' that everyone thought I would be. For as far back as my family and I can remember, there was never anyone quite like the 'me' I became in Christ, for the Beloved transformed me!
But let me tell you who I was, so you’ll be able to track with me. Ah, that’s easier said than done, to paraphrase a tune that was popular when I was younger, leaner, and couldn’t learn. Yep! That’s right. The book on my mother’s bedside table was entitled ‘Why Johnny Can’t Read’. I didn’t know that ’cause I couldn’t…read, that is. In fact, I only discovered the name of the book once I could, you know… read. By now, you’re probably wondering how a kid born into the family of an up and coming aerospace engineer who headed the engendering unit that built the Gemini Fuel Cell which got us into space, couldn’t read. My parents and the school wondered about that too, but in the fifties, everyone relied on the doctors who visited the school to give them a heads up if there was a problem with any of us kids. Every time I saw the doc, I got a clean bill of health, eye exam and all, which leads me to believe that the guy needed to have his eyes examined!
Now here comes the hyperbole, which if our parents were speaking would be an ‘extravagant exaggeration’. If you think I’m kidding, look it up! I did, ’cause as much as I knew that it was the word I wanted to use, I wasn’t one hundred percent sure how to spell it, and I wanted to make sure it was the right word. See what taking a short cut through the first four years of elementary school will get you…a major need for dictionaries, spell-checking, and the like!
However, I digress. Now, if you’re like I was, almost the most nearsighted person ever born, with very little peripheral vision, there’s only one thing that can make your learning experience a worse catastrophe than the cards you were dealt. That’s being born with a last name that begins with a letter which will absolutely put you in the chair furthest…or is it farthest away from the blackboard. And as surely as I’m telling this tale, that’s just what happened to yours truly! That’s why I call this ditty, ‘From ‘Why Johnny Can’t Read’ to ‘See Paula Write’.’ Speaking of little ditties, if you’re interested in what I mean, look at the refrain from Roger Miller’s song ‘Little Green Apples’ which goes, ‘God didn’t make little green apples...’ Now that’s poetic license if you ask me, and silly to the core! Yet when I look back on the one summer I had to learn everything all my classmates learned in four years, what’s a little silly between friends?
I’ll tell you what it is; it’s the ability to laugh at our troubles that we hopefully learn to do before we met the Lord. Because when we’re facing bad stuff without Him, we’d better know how to laugh or we’ll cry ourselves a river. Though if the truth was told, and that’s what I’m sharing with you, I just learned to be silly a few years ago. You’re probably wondering why it took me so long. Well, I’ll tell you since you seem interested. First, I had to learn how to learn, and then I had to accept myself with all my fears, foibles, and failures. By the time I did all that, I was nineteen and ready to get married, so I found a great guy who loved me back, and we walked down the aisle, into wedded bliss and baby diapers galore ’cause back in the day, Pampers didn’t exist. Fact is, back then some of us didn’t even have a clothes dryer. Living close to the ocean in the winter meant hanging the didies, as in diapers, all over the house. Between babies, bottles, didies, and ‘The Hubbs’, life went on happily well into my thirties, when I intentionally took myself to college. Now, I must confess that I’d graduated Beauty College, gotten my Cosmetology License, and gone to work so my guy could finish college. And I must have been a pretty good student, ’cause I was offered an open-ended scholarship to return and study to become an instructor. Honestly, with my learning curve would you have signed up for that? Course not, and neither did I!
However, a strange thing happened on my way to maturity. I discovered I would do whatever I could to make certain my kids had a great start. Anything, including the best preschool I could afford. I didn’t want my kids to end up being taken by the scruff of the neck by the teacher, and led to the one remaining chair as I was, while she whispered in a voice loud enough to wake the dead, “I’m sitting you next to the smart girl. If you need any help, ask her.” What a confidence builder that was! And, I must add, it was a great way to begin the school year ’cause everyone knows the really cool kids want to hang out with ‘the class dummy’.
So, given my druthers, I’d have rather run away from ‘The Hubbs’ who was, and still is the love of my life, than send my kids to school unprepared! Well, boy howdy! Guess where the best preschool was? Give up? Well, I’ll confess! It was part of the local J.C., as in Junior College, which we have here in California and funny thing; they had room for my sweetie pie! But, I had to be enrolled in the College to get her in. So, I kid you not, I’m sittin’ here today with a 4.0 grade point average, which in my day was the highest GPA you could have, all because of sweetie pie, who is now thirty plus, and has preschoolers of her own.
All of this, my friend, brings me to writing, or as we authors used to say, penning my prose. Wow! I only had to try three alternate spellings to get spell-check to figure out what I meant! This is a red-letter moment…time to ring the bell! It may sound a bit trite, but I think it’s a hoot that a gal who graduated third in her J.C. class, and went on to teach lots of stuff to some smart people, is still humbled by the first thing that happened, which taught her, “I’m nothing special unless I’m doing something for someone, or answering a higher call.” I’ve been doing that all my life, but in a more focused way since March of 2007, when God called me to write about the progeny of a small, and relatively unknown group of Jews called the Sephardim (Spanish Jews) who were trapped by the Inquisition, and had to become Catholic to survive, but continued to practice their faith at home.
Before I go any further, remember my saying that I only got funny a while ago? Well, I can prove it! Yep! Way back, way before college, both Beauty, and the J.C., people saw me as bookish, and they were right! When you can’t read, and finally can, the light goes on! You know what I mean? It’s like trying to figure out the Scriptures without the Holy Spirit, and then getting every nuance once you receive that Divine gift. Boy oh boy, as a Jew, I sure remember when the light went on and I came to know a lot about Messiah (Jesus)! I still remember a lot about not understanding the Scripture before then. But that’s a topic for another day.
So being obviously bookish, as in there was always one in my hand, or I was telling someone about something I read: and being married to ‘The Hubbs’ who'd gone to college to become a English teacher, and took classes like zoology for the fun of it, it took people about two minutes to size me up, and say, “You should be a librarian.” Funny, I finally spelled that word right after all these years, but don’t get too excited, I spelled right, wrong. However, the system corrected it! Nice computer…what would I do without you?
Now, back to the library, if there was one thing I did under-sort-of-stand, it was the Dewey Decimal System. Do any of you out there in reader-land remember that? Well, they put numbers, the name of the book, and the author’s name, on index cards, but backwards as in ‘all literary people know that library filing systems are backwards’. I kid you not, that’s how it seemed to me! And if memory serves, the numbers were the first thing you saw when you opened the drawer where the cards were filed. Now if you remember my saying, “I don’t do math on the fly;” oh, you don’t remember me saying that until now? My oops! But…let’s continue, what do you think I did? You’re right! I knew I couldn’t begin to figure out that secret, and even if I did, I didn’t know where to look for the book, so I asked the librarian, after all that’s what she was there for.
However, given my age, if you’re in the library, and ask the librarian for help it’s probably not the same one I asked. By the way, if you think asking or looking things up isn’t using the old gray matter to its best, Einstein...as in Albert, said when he was asked how he came up with all his theories, “I never memorize anything that I can look up.” Yessiree bob, as in Bob’s Big Boy, Einstein, and me, we be buds!
But I digress! I had this desire which, if the truth were known, as in I’m telling it to you now, had been fanned for over ten years by a sweet sister in the Lord. I'd gifted her one of my writings as a wedding present and once she read it she kept asking me, “Are you writing?” Ten years of that sort of gets a girl thinking. So having nothing better to do once my workday was over but to wait for ‘The Hubbs’ to get back from work at ten, and there being nothing on the boob-tube to watch, but repeats, inane reality shows, and hour-long promos for everything I never needed, I sat down at the computer for forty days, and wrote two character sketches for two of the three women in my yet to be penned novel. Oops I forgot, first I spoke with the publisher, said a prayer, and asked for prayer.
Figuratively stepping onto the Appalachian Trail to research the site, I soon had everything I needed to begin writing the story. Yet I was stymied ’cause I didn’t know much about my third character, Naomi. Having lunch with some lady friends while at a conference, I asked for help and discovered three of them were Sephardic, go figure! See, God was in this all the time! They gave me some literature, I did a ton and a half of research, and then I started to write.
Now if you remember in Genesis 8: 6-7 the Scripture says, ‘...after forty days Noah opened the window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth’. Well, interestingly enough, I was sending my daily draft to this friend, and after forty days, she emailed me back. “You’ve begun to write a book!” I though she was pullin' my proverbial leg, ’cause all I was doing was writing a character sketch for the book I thought I was going to write. I had it all fleshed out in my thinker. It was going to be about three women hiking the Appalachian Trail, who meet, and how the believing one shares her faith with them as they walk along. I had no, absolutely no plans, to write a book about this Sephardic girl named Naomi! I was writing sketches about her as a means of getting to know her before I began to write the story. This reminds me of that old axiom, ‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans’. Remember that one? If you did, you have a better thinker than I had, ’cause it never occurred to me that my friend was right!
However, doing as she suggested, I went back three days, read what I’d written, and discovered that Isaiah 55:8 seemed to be written just for me ’cause it says, ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord’. So here I was, fully commissioned to a calling I felt ill prepared to fulfill, as in call the other gal…please! Nevertheless, being a Messianic Jew, which means rather stiff-necked, but interested, I began to write and, the oddest thing happened, Naomi started telling me her story.
Now, I imagine you’re thinking, Bring in the net! This one’s ready for the loony bin! But I was, and am as sane as you are. Know why I know? ’Cause having graduated with honors, I went back to school, yes sir! J.C., you had me at hello! This time I studied to become of all things, a Chemical Dependency – Lifestyle Disorder Counselor. Which is just a fancy-smanchy way of saying, I found another way to read interesting stuff, meet some really smart people, and help out those that needed a caring person to listen to them, and hold them accountable, kind of like we do when we’re discipling, and teaching others about God’s Word, and our Messianic (Christian) walk.
So, when Naomi began to talk, I listened. After all, that’s what a counselor does, listen, which if you ask my friends they’ll tell you is something I have trouble doing. Yet if you’re anointed and appointed, whether it's to listen to someone strung out on drugs, or to the blessing of hearing what I, to this day, believe was a God-breathed revelation of what I was to write, it's amazing how quiet you become. Why? I’ll tell you why, ’cause when you’re called, I believe God has already fashioned you to answer the calling.
I have become more aware of this calling while trusting the outcome of my work to Messiah, ’cause when I did that I actually heard Naomi ask her mamá PaTisha if she could tell me all. From the moment PaTisha consented to this one, I have been both blessed and challenged to write what I was told and check the historical facts afterward. I did that and in every instance found that what I wrote was historically accurate.
This is really where the rubber meets the road, where we are either walking with Messiah or just joining Him for a season. I decided when I heard God call me to write after asking Him to give me something to do for His Kingdom that this would be my life. It was then that the one issue that I had never been able to resolve became a major source of frustration. I believed it was so unusual it had never become part of the Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR). I did not know at that time that dyslexia was being diagnosed, or that a friend of mine had it, nor had I ever heard that many of the greatest composers, artists, and authors were themselves dyslectic. Dyslexia can be your worst nightmare or your best friend. It, like everything else in your life, will affect you positively or negatively. You get to choose, and if you find you don’t like your choice, you can change your opinion, which by the way will change everything!
In fact, if we look at good old Moe…Moses to you, we know this for a fact. You don’t believe me? Well, let’s take a look. First, when the dude finally owns his roots, he tries to stop a fight and ends up having to hotfoot it out of Egypt in a hurry…which, if we know and trust in God, we won’t do! Now Moses’ second choice was God’s way! Here we see God calling, and appointing Moses. When God sends him back to Egypt, good old Moe is equipped, and accomplishes God’s purpose.
That’s the way it is with me, and you!
"Me?" you ask?Of course you! I wrote this so you’ll know that whenever God calls you, whatever He asks you to do, when you receive His commission wholeheartedly, and move forward trusting Him, He’ll meet you at the burning bush, or anywhere else you need Him. And one day, I believe, you’ll be telling others how God took you, and used you in a way you were never prepared to be used. You’ll be singing His praises, and it won’t matter if anyone asks why you enjoy being a servant of the Servant King, the one who will return to reign in glory. For all the reward people like you and me will ever need is serving Him, as He called us to, even if it means doing the one thing we know we can’t do. After all, we know that everything here will fade away, so why not answer God’s call, and store up in glory what matters for eternity! Ezekiel was right after all, when God puts a ‘New Spirit’ in you, what else can you do but respond joyfully to His!
From the Author
If you would like more scripturally based information dealing with recovery issues, look for the release of ‘How Did We Become Angry?’ in mid 2014, which is this author’s first volume of her LAMB Ministries 7x7 Biblical Recovery Books for Women Suffering from Trauma & Abuse.
Paula Rose Michelson is the wife of Lutheran Pastor, and Chosen People Ministries field Missionary, Ron Michelson. This Messianic author of faith books founded LAMB Ministries, which helps women recover from trauma and abuse through the effective use of Scripture and prayer. She asked God to give her a unique work, and while praying about the lost tribes of Israel, she believed the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) called her to write about the hidden Jews. She wrote the Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing and The Naomi Chronicles Books because of her heart response to that commission.