Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I wrote earlier about wanting to be more. I truly do long for that fulfillment. I believe that God has given me that longing, but I am not sure how to achieve the more he would have me to be. Simultaneously, I recognize that this innate drive can be perverted in such a way that I end up attempting to glorify myself rather than God.

Conversely, I recognized something today as I visited with a friend. While part of me longs to be more, there is also a part of me that cries to be Enough. Enough for what? Important enough regardless of my achievements, social status, appearance, wit, etc. ad nauseum, that my parents would stop what they were doing, without thought, if I needed them. I long to be valuable enough to merit consideration, at the very least, to those who are supposed to love me. I suspect I am not the only person in this world who feels that way. In fact, I would guess this intrinsic desire is part of humanity.

My story is a little long and complicated in this regard. How did I arrive at this emotional place? I suppose that as I was growing up I was a little girl who didn't necessarily feel good enough. For reasons that only became apparent in my late twenties, my mother left my father when I was two. I met her again when I was 24. We just didn't have contact for decades and I felt in my child's mind, that I must not have been enough of a reason for her to want to stay. Why wouldn't she want me? Additionally, when I was eleven my beloved grandmother died. It was only later, in a fight with my stepmother, that I learned she committed suicide. This affected me deeply and reinforced a sense that I was continually being left by those I loved.

When my Dad remarried, I had a difficult relationship with my stepmother. In her opinion, I was too fat, not ladylike enough, and never quite adequate enough to warrant unconditional acceptance. She constantly admonished me about what 'nice girls' do and don't do and frequently refused to buy me clothes unless I lost weight. Thus began an obsessive, frantic attempt to be slim enough and to be perfect enough. Compared to what? Some unattainable and highly subjective standard. Clearly that ongoing dynamic led to hurt feelings, resentment, bitterness and not a small amount of conflict. She was one of those people who says the most outrageous things in the heat of an argument; statements intended to inflict pain. Things like, "Look at yourself, no wonder you don't have a boyfriend!" when she felt I was too heavy. Or, "I hope you NEVER have a daughter like you!" (Was I so awful?) For whatever reason I was unable to shake those statements off. They became some of the lies that I, without any awareness on my part, began to believe about myself. "I am not good enough. I'll never be good enough." And while by her standards that may have been the case, those were falsehoods.

The constant, oppressive expectation that I need to be perfect and look perfect caused me to internalize the pressure and pile more expectations upon myself. In some ways, I ended up crippling my own heart. Despite my efforts at obsessive self improvement, I couldn't ever make her happy. Furthermore, I was unable to prove to myself that I was inherently, intrinsically worthwhile and I was unable to feel peace and contentment.

On the other hand, and much to my step mother's revulsion, I was without question my father's favorite child. I reveled in that! In his eyes, I could do no wrong, because I was his princess, which is precisely what the inner soul of any young lady wants to be. :) It was a glorious time in my life. From the view atop my pedestal, the world was my oyster. And in my mind, while others had neglected me, I believed I had at least one person who would never fail me. After all, I would always be a daddy's girl; my father's daughter.

However, as years came and went, so did a successive string of wives. With this most recent wife, I experienced what I thought would NEVER come. The father who raised me, had custody of me as a child, and utterly adored me disappeared. To this day, I roll my eyes as he extols the virtues of her children, their spouses, and her grandchildren. It hurts me deeply to know that I can count the number of their visits on one hand. I guess I always hoped I that the mere existence of my two amazing children would be enough to create a longing in my father for a relationship with them even if he no longer desires one with me.

In truth, I've sinned in this situation as much as anyone. I took my eyes off the prize; off of God my father. I've expected people to fill that part of my heart that can be accessed only by God. I look over the fence and feel bitterness when I perceive a slight instead of immediately refocusing on God and thanking Him for provision.

There have been hard times in my life. Moments when I was utterly, truly abandoned. I spend three agonizing weeks in Barnes Hospital with a ruptured appendix and for the most part, I was alone. My father came once for about five minutes and my step mother popped in to St. Louis to see me; but she went shopping instead. As I type these words, they seem Jerry Springer-esque and absolutely unbelievable. But God stayed with me in my hospital room. He never left me, not for one second. His was the invisible hand I held during the many CAT scans and painful medical procedures. His arms were the ones that held me throughout those long lonely nights in that sixth floor hospital room.

I've cried many tears over the years as so many others have. Wasn't I important enough that my folks would WANT to be with me in the hospital? Aren't I "enough" merely by being their daughter that they would walk on water to be with me in case I died?

I know this sounds like a whine fest. And for many years, it was. In fact, I probably excelled and earned top marks in self pity. I bore my grudge with all the ferocity that only an Italian woman is capable of. But as I grow, God continually reminds me that I am ENOUGH...ENOUGH for him. I am ENOUGH to God merely because I am his child.

In Psalm 27:10, Kind David said, "Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me." Those are powerful words! He takes us just as we are! I am learning, processing, and realizing that it isn't my job to achieve some subjective standard to earn the approval of those around me. That is tantamount to digging through the dumpster behind McDonald's for food, when God himself has invited me to his house for dinner. He reminds me that I will always be welcome there. And next to me, there is an empty chair at the table that is reserved for you. God truly wants you, just as you are, exactly where you are, to be welcomed into his presence.

This slow and progressive realization is helping me to allow myself to be imperfect. What freedom there is in letting those emotional burdens drop! Certainly I'll be tempted to turn back and try to pick them up. But this is a problem that can be solved by abandoning the lies that I have believed about myself and seeking God to fill that need. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever and he will not fail me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tears...for Josie

Becoming a mother transformed me from being a 'doer' to being a 'pit crew leader.' It is my job to fix things as they break and ensure that my kids can zip back into the fast lane of being children. I wait off to the side, tools of parenthood at the ready, waiting for the next flat tire. In this accessory role, I am realizing a new kind of pain, a more intense experience of pain. It hurts me to see my children struggling in a new school, missing friends, and attempting to catch their balance in our new city.

In the last two years, we've moved twice. In the last month, we crammed everything that would fit into our camper and drove from Anchorage, Alaska to Colorado Springs. While we are used to change, that never makes it easy especially in the middle of a school year. This week, my heart literally broke for my daughter as she flopped onto the end of my bed, rolled onto her stomach, and began leaking tears. "Mom, I miss Alaska!" she sighed. What does the pit crew do in this instance? I found myself grasping at straws, trying to comfort, but feeling every bit as bereft as she is. How do I soothe her heart? How do I fix this?

Then, if we look around us, everyone cries, everyone experiences some degree of pain. Are the tears we cry lost as they evaporate? Do they ever have an impact? Do they matter? I've been mulling this concept, and so I wrote this brief 'poem' for my daughter. We've read it together and I hope in some small way, she feels that her pain does not go unnoticed by her mother or by God.

My heart cries a stream of tears
Each one shimmering as a pearl
You catch them gently, one at a time
Stringing these gems like dewdrops
Along a blade of grass.

When eternity beckons
I'll find not one was lost
Or cried in vain
And that You have kept perfect count!

You will finally show me what you've
Been working on all this while
Each tear a diamond in the crown
Fashioned just for me
Will take my breath away as
they reflect the splendor of
Your Glory

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Access Denied

At the risk of seeming self absorbed, I often use my life experiences to illustrate a point that I want to communicate. I share these for at least two reasons 1) because it is my context, my history and 2) in order to share my soul and vulnerability. Writing is easy for me to do, but difficult for me to share because I do feel as though I am parading about naked for an audience. I often worry about what I've people like it? Does it make sense? Can they relate? Perhaps I feel as though my soul on paper 'outs' me in an irretrievable way and that others won't approve of what is in my heart. Writing is also a matter of obedience for me. I write what it is that I believe God is laying on my heart even though I risk disapproval or dislike from others I care about.

At any rate, I'm currently involved in a messy family relationship which is certainly something that most of us can relate to. I am angered by the lack of righteousness in this situation on the part of people who are purported followers of Christ. When sin is perpetuated, glossed over, and deemed holy it dishonors God. I struggle watching the dynamics of a family that seems to have lost sight of who God is. It truly breaks my heart and I can only imagine what 'the world' is seeing and what their conclusions about Christians are.

When Christians get into what I call 'the Holy Huddle' they turn their backs toward others and deny access to those who are in need of Christ's touch. We withhold all that God has given us. And not just what he has given us, but expressly given us for the purpose of sharing His blessings with others in His name. Although this happens in society and families at large, I am particularly concerned about this in the Christian community, because we are supposed to be holders of the truth.

What do we withhold from others? First and foremost we often deny seekers access to friendship and acceptance. Acceptance of a person denies them the comfort, grace, mercy, friendship that Christ himself offers. I can remember being the new kid in eight grade. Finding a table of people to join for lunch in the cafeteria was terrifying! Would I be rejected? In that same way, Christians often label others as either acceptable of receiving or unacceptable. We, like the Pharisees and Sadducees get all tangled up in what we think God's will is and lose sight of God himself. We hurt people and wound already wounded souls whether intentionally or unintentionally. In in actions or lack of action, we fall into the deep crevice that exists between what is 'right' and what is 'righteous.'

Why is it that we withhold ourselves? Sometimes, it is a false sense of superiority. I once attended a church where the Pastor's wife felt that persons not raised in "Christian" homes began the world as "damaged goods"-those are her exact words! I think the point that Christ makes is that we are all de facto damaged goods. It is inherent in human nature, regardless of how one was raised! I'll never forget having to think about whom I should invite to church knowing that they might feel the sting of her rejection. I once brought a friend struggling with alcoholism and was mortified and ashamed by my own church. He couldn't have been any less welcome and all of my apologies could never change or undo how he was treated.

Sometimes, we refuse to extend God's grace to others because we are keeping a record of past hurts and wrongs. I can say that I am very careful about whom I allow into my emotional space. A long history of toxic relationships prevents me from fully exposing my underbelly. In the past I can attest to the fact that I denied them any understanding or any validation because I was keeping score. I am slowly learning to balance validating their hurts. I must acknowledge that I actively sought to deny them the forgiveness I am required to give all because of my own warped sense of what was 'the right thing to do." Who am I to think that I can mete out God's justice?

Finally, I think that some people do not 'need' or perceive a 'need' for other people in their lives. Maybe they grew up with all the friends they needed and don't care to make themselves available to others. As a military wife, I can say that those moments have been painful to me! Women of faith will literally say, "Oh yeah, we don't like to make friends with military wives, because you all move all of the time." Ouch! Life is lonely enough without the body of Christ ignoring you. Other people are more introverted and don't want to engage anyone. But that is not following the example that Christ gave us.

I ask myself, what is it that God has denied us? The answer is simple; He has denied us absolutely nothing. He offers us love, forgiveness, and even LIFE through his own son Jesus. Amazing! It is profound that the only perfect being who was and is made himself human and vulnerable for us. He allowed himself to be shunned so that we might not be.

Gosh, I need to be doing a better job! We, as Christians, need to be doing a better job! I am convicted that we need to share the truth in love with one another when we see members of the body of Christ denying access to the foot of the cross. There is truly nothing more destructive to ourselves and to others than to deny them the community of Christ and the love that he offers. We aren't perfect or more deserving than anyone else. As my friend Bob Riggles says, "I am just one hungry man telling other hungry people where they can find some food.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I want to know who thought up product names for Apple and Dell. They should be fired! On grounds of principle, I do not plan to buy an I-pad or Streak. How about a cooler name, like Fiat or Invest? It irks me to think that someone got paid for doing a job that poorly. EGADS what have we come to?


Just thinking as I look in the mirror and dress for a date with my husband that time is starting to show itself. I fight it as we all do, but I know it will win. As I glance down at the bathroom scale which is so neglected that it is heavy with dust, I realize that I am more than the number would be if I worked up the courage to step upon it. All of the experiences I've had, people I've met, tears I've cried, emotions I've felt amount to more than the size of jeans I can squeeze into. Maybe if I wore my inside on the outside, I could rock a muumuu! Instead, here I am trying to dress this mutton up as though it were lamb. Bring on the Spanx, booty-control jeans, and Oil of Olay. DRAT!! I'd love to be one of those people who 'forgets' to eat and when I meet someone who says, "Gosh, I missed lunch," I must fight the urge to slap them. Seriously??? I wake up wondering what I can have for breakfast and planning lunch over my first cup of coffee. I wear control top hose as a remedial measure for moments of dietary indiscretion. If bad food choices were skeletons, my life would be a graveyard. Where are the professional mourners??? Bring on that parade! Let's get behind a cause we can really celebrate!

You may ask, "Where is she going with this?" The answer is, I don't have the faintest clue. All I know is that every day of my life, I've woken up wanting more. Yearning to be more than a particular size in clothes or number on a scale, I want to matter! Let my life be something that left an indelible mark somewhere that will not be forgotten. I hate the thought of getting lost in the sea of humanity like a single atom amongst all of the atoms that make up the universe. Somehow, I long for the essence of who I am to be different from anyone else and to be valuable not just in spite of it but BECAUSE of it. I'd be the tattoo of a drum that could be distinguished from any other. Like the cry of a newborn child, my mother could single me out in a nursery full of screaming babies. I'd ink myself on the walls of caves so that thousands of years from now, traces of me would remain.

Doesn't that seem absurd? Why should it matter to me that I counted for something? Maybe my yearning is foolishness, but perhaps it is inherently human too. After all, why build the highest skyscraper in the world or the Egyptian pyramids if not to leave a marker of your existence? Why paint the most beautiful landscape or compose the loveliest song if not to aspire to beauty? Most of all, why bother?

It is here that I come full circle! I bother because it me and probably to each and every one of us if we permitted ourselves really feel. I bother because I believe it matters to God. Otherwise, every breath and each step are taken in vain.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Motherhood is....

Motherhood is
standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon
with no fence, no wall to protect you.
You stand there, unable to see without your glasses.
'Cokebottle glasses' without which you can not see
the Giant E on the eye doctor's chart.

The moment your child is born,
it is as though the glasses you've been
lacking are placed upon your face
and suddenly you now see what you could not.

You could have fallen!
The world is fraught with danger to you and your child.
And all the while, you have been blissfully unaware.
With cognizance comes duty and 'response'-ability.
Red flags fly wildly!

"Don't run with scissors;
You could have gotten hurt!

Who knew the myriad of concerns
we would all face at the onset of
life with children?
The answer is, your own mother of course.
After years of swearing you'd never be like
her, you've finally outdone her.

She chuckles at the irony
finally able to relax knowing that
she brought you to adulthood
without losing you along the way.

While you attempt to avert
disaster at every turn,
she sits quietly enjoying, even savoring
the irony.

Comeuppance has come
in the form of a grandchild
and she laughs knowing
you finally had a child like yourself
to keep you grounded, to keep you humble,
and to help you realize that she
was right!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

From Here To There; Where is Hope?

As I type, my heart is heavy and my stomach feels as though I've been dropped off the edge of a cliff. Shortly after six pm this evening, an airplane on our base crashed. Initially, all we knew was that there was some sort of fire on the installation, because there was a plume of smoke that could be seen for miles around. When an event like this occurs in a military community, we all drop to our knees. A wild panic hits us and we wonder if our worst fear has been realized. Is this the day that we've pretended would never happened? Information is more valuable than gold and the curse of the information age is that snippets of information, whether true or not, spread like a brush fire. Frantic phone calls are made by wives; if there is a spare moment, the service member will call home with a short announcement, "I am okay." No other details are given so that proper identification and notification can be afforded to the families of those fallen.

We all buckle down and wait....very carefully. As the mushroom cloud of a tragedy expands, it can very easily envelope you and collapse your world. I sit knowing that I could be those women and these could be my children. My life is the one that could have been torn in two and I could be the one receiving officials notifying me of my loss. After four agonizing hours that have crawled by at the pace of a glacier, the public is informed that all four on board perished.

From the instant I learned of the accident, my first thought was of a bereaved wife. In my mind, I can see her silhouetted in the door of her home waiting for the calvary (a.k.a. Daddy) to ride in and save her from the hour at which all children morph from innocents into trolls. How will she hold up when she has to do this parenting life alone? What will she do with her broken dreams? Who will comfort her? And what about the beautiful children who are waiting for a Daddy who will never come home again? There are so many heartrending questions and precious few, if any, answers.

As my heart aches for the loved ones and prays for angels to comfort them, I wonder at the fragility of life. How can a soul be here one second and gone the next? Astronomists say that when a star 'dies' it collapses in on itself and creates a vacuum that pulls other planets and matter into the void. I think death is like that rips the joy and security out of the lives of those affected by it. Death marks people with an ugly scar as it passes them by.

I also ponder the immediacy of the body and the timelessness of the spirit. Bodies wear out and expire, but the soul lasts forever. It is almost as though a spirit goes through a phase contrast or shift. Somehow, they are transparently embedded in a body and inexplicably, almost invisibly, find release from the body and flow into eternity...from Here (the body) to There.

There are times when meeting death is a welcome event; quiet and lulling in nature, almost like meeting an old friend for coffee. Recently, I watched a friend lose his long fought battle with Leukemia. After ten years of battling, he was spent and I remember telling him that he would be able to pick out his wallpaper for a heavenly mansion soon. When he left his body, it was a remarkably peaceful event as though he finally decided to let go of his own accord. I was there as he left his body and I found comfort in those final moments of peace. Today's events were totally disparate, cataclysmic. Lives were violently ripped from this world, and that fact seems so inherently wrong, unfair, purposeless.

As I pray and mull over these thoughts, I'm reading the account of Lazarus' death in the book of John. Thomas (you may know him as the doubter) was so overcome with grief that he said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go that we may die with him." Even though Thomas was in the presence of Jesus, the man whom he had seen perform miracles and healings, he was ready to give up on life altogether. His mind was completely unable to find hope in those dark moments. The thought of facing the future without his friend was more than he could bear. Job, another one of God's greatest men in the Bible,lamented that it would have been better if he had not been born. He had lost everything in his life; all of his wealth, his health, and worst of all, he'd lost his children.

I know I'd have these feelings if my husband was torn from me. I'd want to lay down and refuse to live! I am certain I would fight my way forward and continue for my children, but I don't think I'd be able to see beyond the next sixty seconds. Despair would be like an ice fog and I would be running from it.

In this time, I ask myself "How is my faith in Christ relevant?" It occurs to me that I should meditate on the fact that of all the things God created, He didn't create death. He meant for us to live and walk with him eternally. His entire purpose in sending Jesus to the cross is to save us from death so that we might find LIFE in Him.

My next question, is "How do I share Christ's love from where I sit?" The only conclusion I can reach is that we must mourn with those who mourn. We must weep with those who weep. And we must pray for strength to be 'present' in these painful, opaque times. Perhaps the hardest task is to trust God's sovereignty; to know that He IS; His grace is sufficient even when it doesn't feel like enough.

I must remember that our God is big enough and strong enough to handle our doubts and fears. Almighty God cares so much about us that he listens to the whisper of each and every prayer and counts every hair on our heads. We are not forgotten here while he has gathered our loved ones there on the other side of eternity. He has not abandoned us HERE either and promises, "I am with you always, even unto the ends of the earth." Truly, some days the ends of the earth sound like a welcome place to be, but we must strain to find the hope amidst a situation that feels truly hopeless.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Giving Birth

The apostle Paul often likens the journey of life to a race and in many ways, this is accurate. However, I’d like to compare living the Christian Life to giving birth. Unlike many of my friends, motherhood or the prospect of becoming a mother, scared me. From the very time I learned that I was pregnant with my daughter, I was absolutely terrified. From that instant onward, I was on a one way street. Birth was imminent. One way or the other, that baby was coming out! I struggled with a multitude of self doubts while I cradled her in my womb. What if I can’t handle the pain? What if the epidural doesn’t take? What if she gets stuck and I can’t get her out? I was completely focused on the pain of childbearing and the fear of the unknown. Like most people I know, I don’t savor pain. In fact, I do my very darnedest to avoid it if at all possible. As a friend once said, “Giving birth is like saying, “I’m going to hit your thumb with a hammer, but it will only be a small hammer. The size of the hammer doesn’t really matter. Your thumb is still going to hurt!”

Similarly, giving birth, or the fact that women keep having children, is really amazing. Women all over the world and throughout millennia keep having children, in spite of knowing what causes THAT condition. Now that I’ve had children and crossed over the bridge, I know with great certainty that labor and delivery hurts “like the Dickens,” as my grandfather would say. What makes the pain of birthing manageable is that this is a triumphant, productive pain. Every synapse and muscle fiber in the body is focused and straining to achieve the seemingly impossible task of forcing that giant head through a miniscule opening. It hurts SO BADLY. Each contraction is such an intense event that the rotation of the earth around the sun seems to slow. Every pore on a mother’s body is pouring sweat and the only thought one can think is PUSSSSHHHHHH! The negative thoughts like “OHMYGOSH I CAN’T DO IT” are drowned out by the overwhelming force of each contraction. Then, it happens in an instant. The bones of the pelvis shift ever so slightly and at long last, miraculously allow passage. In a rush, that new little person is pushed out, expelled into the world…BORN. In that moment, I knew the joy that others could only tell me about, but that I could not understand until I lived it myself. I knew why women keep getting pregnant, keep having children. Every mother I know would relive those tortuous hours just to hold that precious baby again.

The Bible tells us that we will endure hardship and persecution and pain. And you will hurt so badly in this world. So badly that you may limp, physically or emotionally, every day throughout the rest of your life in this world. But in a flash, in the blink of an eye, the pain will end and it will all have been worth it. You will be forever changed, and your reward will be so great that you would live life all over again just to experience His presence.

Well Done, A Poem

It comes and goes; it ebbs and flows…This life that is mine.
The tides of comfort and of pain,
the emotions I hide and try to restrain
behind a mask of supposed joy and ease.

Really, I get lost amongst the strategies of how to cope,
First trying one, then another, clawing at each hope.
And maybe I look like I’ve got it all together,
but “all together” has really got me.
I hope so hard that no one else can clearly see
how inept I feel at life.

But I know that I know life has a purpose
for Jesus made such a painful purchase
of this wounded soul.

Though I feel like a Thrift Shop castoff in the back,
reduced for sale on the bargain rack,
He sees something inside of me that makes me worthwhile.
A little glimmer of Him in me that makes Him smile.

Maybe that’s really all I need to know.
Perhaps “HOW COME?” and “WHY?” or “WHY ME? “
are irrelevant in the eternality
of His grand design.

I want Him to give me His bird’s-eye-view.
To have the knowledge that life isn’t as askew
as it feels from day to day.
To feel the solidarity of fighting and coping
amongst the others who are struggling and hoping
that their life has meaning beyond the here and now.

And best of all when it’s said and done,
And we’re finally in the presence of the beloved Son,
we’ll feel his embrace and know that it was all worthwhile.

He’ll look into my eyes like a very proud parent
and with a voice of pride that is so transparent,
I’ll hear the words I’ve always hoped would come,
Well done my child, Well Done!

Never Really Mine

He was never really mine,
this child whose birth angels foretold.
Though I cradled him in my womb for many months,
labored, gritted, bore down until he was expelled,
this child, my achievement, was someone else’s from the start.

There was never a burden so wonderful as the weight of him in my arms.
The heaviness of that little body kept all of the loose ends in my soul
from flapping about. My heart was happily tethered to him.
His presence brought me comfort.

His scent was a hint of heaven, like a breeze suggesting
things to come. He smelled of sweet innocence and wood shavings,
bright and clean. I would breathe in all that was good and true and real
as I held his silken head beneath my chin. Joy would ignite in my chest
expanding so that I thought my heart might burst from happiness.

As I watched him grow from a boy into an awkward young man,
I was reminded of who he really was. I tried SO HARD to forget.
After all of those years, I thought that maybe God
would let me keep him, my firstborn.
Many times he would be missing and each time,
after hours of frantic searching, we would find him in the temple.

Although I wanted to warn him away, I knew that I could not.
Though my heart denied it, some small piece of me knew that was his home.
Scholars and priests were astounded and pleased at his understanding.
I saw in them the gleam of greed as they angled to make him
their protégé. If he wasn’t really mine, he certainly wasn’t theirs either!
That realization assuaged some small part of my feelings of loss.
I even had to smile at these men, so unaware that they
were unaware. And I, a poor woman of an obscure tribe
could see what they could not.

My young man grew into a person of no small influence.
He began to wander, speak, heal. I felt him slipping from
my grasp. My heart cried, “Not Yet! I need more time!”
It took scrabbling through crowds of sweaty, dusty
men to catch a glimpse of him. I had to elbow my way
to the front just so I could hear the low, clear timbre
of his voice. His voice was the song of my soul.

Oh how the people loved him! Fickle, Fickle fools!
He was no threat to you! He desired no wealth, no fame,
no acclaim. Your robes may be white, but there
is blood on your hands!

As I stand here beneath him at the foot
of this barbaric cross, I can see
that he is very nearly gone. My
entire life’s purpose has been caring for
him and here I am helpless.
As his mother, I can offer no comfort, ease no pain.
The flies surrounding him have greater power than I.
At least they can touch his beautiful face, the
cheeks that I’ve kissed many thousands
of times. I would give my very life to
kiss him one last time, but I can’t reach even
the soles of his feet.

As he breathes his last breath, It takes
every bit of my reserve to draw one more.
It would be far easier to stop breathing
with him.

This is not how I thought it would end!
My soul is torn; my heart is crushed!
Where is God in all this? Why send an angel to
herald his birth and then let my son, HIS son
be murdered at the hands of greedy cowards?
How can my greatest gift become
my greatest source of grief?

My heart, the heart of a mother, will
forever expect him to stride through the door.
I will see him in my dreams and long
never to wake. I will strive
to remember every angle of his face.
I will search my memory straining to recall
the sound of his voice.

In the market, familiar sights, scents, and sounds
will lull me into forgetting, just for a moment.
And I will have to remind myself to breathe
As the pain pierces my heart and
I remember his absence all over again.
He isn’t here anymore.

Others will whisper, there is Jesus’
mother. Maybe they will believe that
he was a traitor, but I will know the truth.
I will hold my head high.
My precious little boy was God’s own son.
By a miracle I conceived, by a miracle
I was chosen to carry the Christ.

Though I may grieve all the days of my life,
I will find beauty in the sorrow.
My son was never really mine alone.
But I will see him again on the other side
of eternity, and he will be the king in Heaven
that I thought he would be here on earth.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Important People

I'm in a tizzy, prepping, cleaning, baking, and most importantly of all Stressing. We are having a work affiliated party at our house. I'd planned a casual, and by casual I mean my house doesn't have to be spotless, grill and chill. My 'planning' consisted of buying some items at the store, throwing my arms in the air, and saying it will all get done enough to have the party. Foolish me...My husband got an email last night indicating that some important people are planning to come. So I've been having a freak fit which only makes it harder for me to approach my tasks in an orderly fashion. Then I got a phone call from my husband. It was the sort of call that sends you to your knees in prayer. (God must be working on my testimony and patience.) In those few precious moments, I realized that I am having a conniption over important people coming over, but the most important one is here...Jesus. He's the one I need to be worried about pleasing and serving. I need to get over myself and focus on him. The frenzy of energy I've been expending is all well and good, but I need to refocus and treat Him as my honored, most important guest in my home each and every day.

Maybe I'll just drive through for KFC and let the guests fend for themselves. They can battle it down to the last spork and tub o' mashed potatoes. ; )

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Religion or Faith

I have loved that which you've hated,
Split hairs, drawn lines and debated
The sinlessness of my wrong.

Though I've preached of you with my mouth,
Still my heart has headed South,
In pursuit of human desire.

Oh foolish woman that am I,
living this way, just getting by,
Counting on your grace and mercy
to cover my lack of true devotion.

This is religion through and through,
A set of standards adhered to,
In the absence of true love for my Savior.

How did I arrive at this point so jaded,
I am no different than those who have hated
You, your life, and the wounds that you bore.

Let him who knows the truth be set free,
May it sink bone deep and apply to me,
That I may experience the peace you offer

And as I grow in Spirit and in Truth,
I pray that I won't keep myself apart and aloof
from those who have need of your power in their lives.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Miracle From Here to Eternity

I had the most amazing experience today. Have you ever wondered what your purpose is and if you are doing what it is that God has called you to do? I often ponder that question and hope that I am following His voice. Less than a year ago, my husband and I were restationed in Alaska. At that time, I knew that we were coming here to support our friend Virginia and her terminally ill husband Bill. He'd been battling leukemia for ten years and had outlived the initial 2-3 month prognosis doctors had given him. I was so grateful for the opportunity to give back to them.

We've been stationed here before ten years earlier. During that time, I'd met and been supported by Bill & Virginia. During the difficult dark times, they were God's hands and feet in my life. Before Brad deployed, Bill told my husband "We will take care of her" and they quite simply did. They let me crash at their house with my one year old during deployments. They were my second string during those lonely, single mother moments when it all seemed to be too much and the sun never rose during the winter. When I went into pre-term labor at twenty weeks, Virginia fought her phobia of hospitals and stayed by my bed until Brad returned home. She was the one with whom my daughter stayed the night Jonathan was born. Bill and Virginia have been woven into the tapestry of my life.

Each time Bill was hospitalized with infection and sepsis, he fought with all he had. Bill, in many ways, was a stubborn old coot. He refused to give up and his will power was amazing. He was absolutely indomitable. Last week, Bill became septic again. He'd gone through a period where even weekly transfusions of blood were ineffective and he was continually needing infusions of platelets. This particular time, the doctors didn't seem to think he would get to go home again. Indeed, at one point Bill even verbalized that he knew he was dying. That was the first admission he had ever made in all these many years. His condition worsened and ultimately, the doctors withdrew the multitude of medicines used to control his Congestive Heart Failure and other conditions. They even ceased the antibiotic which was not proving effective. The doctors provided palliative care using morphine and atavan to do their best to keep him comfortable.

I'd been panicked that I might not be there when he died and in so doing fail my dear friend Virginia. I certainly wouldn't want to be alone when my husband was dying. Her friend Gene spent four days at the hospital with her, sleeping in those miserable 'recliners' and acting as her gatekeeper. I was able to stay Friday night and Sunday night, but still needed to race home and take the kids. Last night, I was unable to go and I only had two hours this afternoon to check in on Virginia.

I arrived at the hospital to find that the morning had been terrible. Virginia was in the hall trying to pull herself together. Seeing Bill struggle so hard to draw a breath was causing her intense grief. Gene was with Bill making sure that he would not be alone in his last moments, once again protecting his friend.

For some reason, I felt compelled to enter Bill's room. For once, I knew exactly what God wanted me to do and that allowed me to overcome any fears I had. In that moment, I felt God telling me to pray, and so I did. Out loud. I prayed that Jesus would send his angels to bring Bill home. Then, I felt prompted to sing, so I sang the Lord's prayer (rather badly) in the quiet of the room. Bill opened his eyes! At that moment, I spoke to him telling him, "Bill we are here. It is okay to let go. We will take care of Virginia just as you took care of us while Brad was in the Gulf. It is time to go home. I stroked his hair and Gene and I talked to him. Bill closed his eyes again. Then, I sang Amazing Grace and continued caressing his head as I sang. At the end of the song, Bill drew two more breaths and then left his body.

All of this time, I had been worried about being there for Virginia, but clearly God also had me there, in that moment, for Bill. I felt God's presence so very clearly in that room. He was there and I believe that I saw a miracle today! I think I've had a limited view of what a miracle a miracle is only limited to when God 'comes through' by healing someone. Today I saw a different kind of miracle. The love and grace that God would have to come and carry someone home.

Oddly, rather than feeling freaked out, I have felt complete peace and assurance all day. I know that this strength is provided by God. I am so grateful in so many ways. I've learned a lot about God today. Our God is the God who notices when a sparrow drops to the ground. He is the God who cares when a dying man is struggling to breathe, and he is the God who set Bill free from his earthly confines today.

Bill didn't die today. He left for home. God is good, even in the moments of deep grief. He is good even to those who are left behind.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Medicine for the soul

My husband said something today that was quite profound. We just finished listening to a sermon on Job at church. If you recall, Job had three friends who came to 'comfort' him and ended up failing miserably. We then had a discussion on chronic pain, illness, and how to be a friend who truly comforts during difficult times. On our way home, we were talking and he said, "We have all kinds of medicine for physical pain but the only medicine for spiritual pain is the blood of Jesus and the amazing thing is that he didn't hold any of it back. Every drop of blood he had poured from his body while he was on the cross.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

For My Sister

Dearest Sister,
I think of you and miss who I once knew you to be. I miss days of laughing until our sides ached. Your life is like the waning moon, dimmer than it used to be. Still beautiful, still enchanting, but reflecting less light. You've given up hope, but I haven't. I miss you-we all do. Life 'before' probably seems like a wisp of dream faintly recalled. Maybe by now, it is easier to return to drugs and alcohol which promise escape but slowly strangle you instead. Sobriety brings shame and you've yet to forgive yourself. You hide your nakedness...why? We are all naked before God. Not one of us is perfect or deserving of forgiveness and grace.

I see you punish yourself and I watch you let others, who can't be trusted, abuse you. I so understand the fear of being alone and abandoned. But you've been fighting on your own terms and losing. Why is accepting God's mercy so much harder?

Somewhere deep in my soul, I wait for the call that you aren't here anymore. The beautiful memories of the happiest baby in the world will only exist in my mind. I grieve losing you and it feels like you are already most of the way gone.

What would you do if I died tomorrow? Who would you tell and why would I have mattered? I feel that if for no other reason, you owe it to me to fight your way free. If you leave, my echo in this wide world will vanish too. In your presence, I know that the early part of my life was real-not imagined-and not only that, but I've survived it. If you are gone, who will share my laughter? Who with remember going to Granny's farm, bumping over cattle grates and onto gravel with me?

I've never known why, but I've always felt you don't like yourself. Are you fundamentally less valuable than the next person? If you were the last girl on earth, Jesus would still brave the cross just for you. He loves you in a way that you can't understand. Of all the people in your life, Jesus is the one who doesn't want anything from you. He wants things FOR you. He wants to give you His love, peace, joy, freedom...all of those things you can't give yourself.

I too am waiting for you. I am standing on this side of life watching you fade and it breaks my heart! You still have life to live; don't give up! We haven't; we are all pulling for you; we are all praying for you, but not one of us can take away your free will.

What do you have to lose that you haven't already lost? We all want you to win. I know that you can. Even more importantly, God says that you can.
I love you!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Free to Leave; Free to Live

I am sitting on my couch in Alaska, the house is insulated by 2 feet of freshly fallen snow, and the winter darkness warps the sense of cozy that I usually feel. Truthfully, I am feeling bereft and simultaneously angry. About eight months ago, Brad and I learned we'd be moving again. It was an expected move and we were thankful to move here. Shortly after we learned of our assignment, I received an unexpected call from my 18 year old niece. I heard my mother-in-law (whom I love dearly) urging her to "ask her!" It seems that my niece was experiencing difficulties at home and she and my mother-in-law hatched a plan...she wanted to move to Alaska with us.

At first, Brad and I were shocked. Truthfully, we had many concerns about her lifestyle there. We worried that allowing her to join our family would somehow bring other 'influences' into the lives of our young and impressionable children. At the same time, we could not deny that God has brought us to a point that we were able to be a family to someone who needed it. After much discussion, prayer, and deliberation, we agreed that she could come with us provided that she follow our family rules. Basically, our rules amount to no fornication, intoxication, or inhalation with the caveat of church on Sunday. Not to sound prudish, but these seemed easy and obvious.

I was thrilled to have a companion to move with me. For this particular move, I'd planned to take the children and arrive in time for the school year to start; Brad had to attend a three month course in Florida to requalify in the jet. As soon as we arrived, my kids and Sarah enrolled in school. I immediately began teaching as an Adjunct Professor at UAA and life percolated along at an amazing pace. As an Air Force family, perhaps I assumed we would all move know, in a forward direction, as in toward the future.

The kids and I jumped in with all four feet. But from day one, she refused to transplant. It seems she'd met a guy three weeks before she moved from home. Based on the side of their conversations I heard he was, at best, churlish and unmotivated. At worst, he was a high school drop out, sometime/part time Subway employee, and financially unsupportive father who lived with his grandmother. As women often do, she made him what she wanted him to be in her mind. In an appalling break from reality, she 'fell in love.' Any energy she had was spent looking back and wishing to be home. Sadly, she blew off her freshman year in college and never made any friends. Her days were spent on my couch with the tv on and her cell phone at the ready. All of the wonderful opportunities she had to begin anew were squandered.

Fast forward to a week ago. Her grandmother, who has been ill with cancer for many years, was hospitalized. I went to work one day and returned home to find that she'd sold her car, disenrolled from university, and was planning to move back home. Her stated reason was so that she could be with her grandmother. The breadcrumbs that I gathered hearing half of her telephone conversations indicated she was going back to move in with the boyfriend and live the life she wanted. I tamped down my emotions and laid all the pros and cons out in logical form. Together, Brad and I implored her to stay the three additional months until the year was out. Truly our goal was to help her through her freshman year. I longed for her to start something and finish it; not for me but for her. From the beginning, I admonished her to 'have a plan and not to quit.' Once one begins quitting, being a quitter becomes a pattern, the fall back impulse of a failing lifestyle.

I quite literally cried myself silly for two days. I remember her as a baby; she was such a fun little girl! At that time, her dad had been seriously injured in a car wreck. Her mother was occupied with seeing him through a traumatic brain injury. As a result, she was raised by her grandparents and doted on by aunts and uncles, myself included. She was such a joy to all of us. When I would take a break from classes, I'd pick her up and take her with me. The entire family cherished her; we all became invested in helping to bring her to adulthood.

My heart yearns for her to want a life! A life where the next party isn't the biggest high and where friends aren't queued up to take what little she has. Most of all, I pray that she will see the value God places on her and not sell herself-least of all so cheaply!

A small sliver of me now understands what God must feel when we choose the ugly over the beautiful; when we choose what we want and our 'plan' over His plan for us. After all, we have no idea what tomorrow will bring and absolutely no control over the future. We can only choose how we respond and I suspect that our response reveals the essence of our character.

I'm MAD! She doesn't realize what her decisions have cost us, nor does she care. At the same time, gosh I see myself reflected in her actions. I know that I too am guilty of the same offense. Each day, God hopes that I will stop and see all that He has given me. I know He wants me to see how much it costs him and to be thankful for those many blessings. In my own stubborn way, I offer up a fleeting prayer and forge ahead with what I've decided to do.

The sadness I feel is multifaceted, but I know that it is largely the result of seeing the promise of her life flicker and dim just a little. I feel helpless, because no one can make these choices for her. It's a bit like watching a car wreck in slow motion. The beauty in this place is that God never gives up. It contradicts His very nature to force us to love and serve Him. But He is always willing to take us back. As I pray for Sarah, I know that He will be waiting. It is my earnest prayer that she will see differently when truth shines on the life she has chosen; it will look cheap and tawdry like Las Vegas in full sunlight. And then, I pray she will choose him.

This situation is also an admonishment to me. I need to be living in such a way that it almost makes God's sacrifice worthwhile. I need to be running the race that is set before me.