An Unexpected Sabbatical

Standard

“I am as good as dead,
     like a strong man with no strength left.
They have left me among the dead,
     and I lie like a corpse in a grave.
I am forgotten,
     cut off from your care.
You have thrown me into the lowest pit,
     into the darkest depths.” (Psalm 88:4-6, NLT)

I published my last post over a year ago. I didn’t expect to go silent. I fully expected to continue with a series about anger and healing. Instead, life happened and flung us into a rollercoaster that crashed into an abyss.

And I lay there.

For about a year.

In silence.

Alone.

A traumatic death brought our son and 2 large dogs back home. Months of trying to re-home 2 other dogs. Inheriting a cat from a 95-year-old friend who had to move.

Empty nesting, then full-housing. And inadequately helping our son move through grief and put some pieces of life back together.

While the puzzle of our life is starting to take shape, I am only now starting to look around the abyss for a way out.

I don’t know yet how often I’ll be writing; but I know I must write. It’s my ‘safe place.’ My processing place. My refuge. And in sharing, I find hope and community. Connections with people who feel the same, but may not have words.

I have words. It’s one of my gifts.

Then others share their gifts with me, because I gave them words.

While this short post only cracks the door as I begin to search for sunlight and slowly examine how damaged my heart is and do I have the stamina to begin the arduous journey upward, I must begin.

Will you begin again with me? 

Have you experienced levels of trauma you didn’t know existed? Has your life taken a toll on you, and you wondered if you would ever recover? Let’s explore baby steps together!

I welcome comments! Please keep them respectful and constructive.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Mother’s Day: A Snapshot Of Reality

Standard

My dear children, I feel the pains of birth upon me again, and I will continue in labor for you until the Anointed One is formed completely in you. –Galatians 4:19

If St. Paul can know what it’s like to birth and raise children from a spiritual standpoint, I think all of us can celebrate Mother’s Day without shame or regret.

Mother’s Day looks great in a greeting card.  But, real life rarely looks so functional and pretty.  A friend of mine and I privately came up with ‘honest’ Mother’s Day card sentiments.  Things like: “Happy Mother’s Day to my mom who taught me to feel so guilty in life.  My therapist thanks you!”  Or: “Thanks, Mom, for exemplifying a strong woman to me.  A woman of strong character and fashion sense.  It’s not every woman who can pull off a red flowered shower cap in a motel swimming pool.  My therapist thanks you!”

…DISCLAIMER…

NONE OF THE AFOREMENTIONED SENTIMENTS HAVE ANY BASIS IN MY OWN UPBRINGING.  

I LOVE YOU, MAMA!

And now, with my 3 adult (well, semi-adult) children, they give me some fodder for ‘honest’ sentiments.  My just-married daughter has multiple commitments today and my older son has finals that he has to study for, so I’m told we’ll celebrate later in the week.  But, my 19-year-old son will live in infamy for many years to come.  Here’s the conversation:

Son: I have to work on Mother’s Day.

Me: Seriously?!

Son: Yeah.  The restaurant expects a lot of people to come in with their moms to celebrate.

Me: REALLY? Huh! 

Son: (looks at me completely perplexed) Oh, did you want to do something?

*sigh*

Yes, Happy Mother’s Day to all who nurture, sacrifice, love, and give companionship to others.

I hope for those that feel the weight of this day, you will find comfort in this prayer I found online by Amy Young.  Often, churches overlook the many stories of the Bible’s women.  At least today, find yourself a hero in one of these women who understood whatever circumstances you walk in.  May you feel encouraged that God doesn’t overlook your story.

I welcome comments!  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Celebrating Life!

Standard

So since we stand surrounded by all those who have gone before, an enormous cloud of witnesses, let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us. –Hebrews 12:1 (The Voice version)

I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go. –Philippians 3:12 (The Voice version)

This past week, I went to the funeral of one of my mom’s dearest friends.  I used to babysit for him and his wife before they moved out of the Phoenix area.  While my mom kept up with them–through fairly consistent weekly phone calls with his wife–I only heard bits and pieces of news from my mom through the years.  Missions trips, marriages, birth of a baby for the now-grown children; and retirement, travel and spiritual epiphanies for her friends.  Traveling to the funeral, memories from childhood to adolescence flooded my heart.

Funerals gather an interesting assortment of people–people who knew the person from all aspects of his life.  My mom’s friends had started attending a church with Messianic influences several years ago (I don’t know if it’s an official ‘Messianic Jewish’ congregation or not).  They had studied Hebrew and travelled to Israel.  I didn’t know them in this context.  As photos of them and their family scrolled on an overhead, I didn’t recognize the later pictures of their life.  Then, the earlier pictures repeated.  Ah, there was the man I knew.  There were the kids I remembered.  There was his wife whose laugh always sounded so musical.  There was the family I went to the drive-in with during a rainstorm and ate popcorn while watching The Cat From Outer Space.

As people told stories of his influence in their lives, almost all of them (except for his children’s stories) came from people who only knew him in recent years.  They described a man who sounded bigger than life.  A great man.  An encouraging man.  A giving  and selfless man.  His daughter finally spoke and reminded everyone that he was human–with faults and insecurities.

That was the man I knew:  the human one.  Not that he wasn’t a great guy when I knew him; but he hadn’t yet matured into the man these people knew.  He still had edges that needed softening.  His God-given gifts needed some humility and training.  His life in Christ was new and uncultivated.  I recognized a piece of the man his friends described–his best qualities had been well-seasoned with humility over the years.

I thought of another death of a family friend from long ago.  I remember my mom and dad talking about his funeral.  I knew him from a child’s perspective and loved him.  He asked my mom if she would call me ‘Maggie.’  (‘No’ was the answer.  I had to wait until I moved out of the house to take on that nickname.  Another story for another time…)  He was loud, funny and wore bow ties.  At his funeral, his first wife came and said, “You all act like you really liked him.”  She knew him as an unkind alcoholic.  We knew the person he became, and he looked precious little like his former self.

I reflected that night on the conversation my parents had about their other friend’s death, and the conversations I had with family and friends at this recent funeral.  I knew the man he was becoming.  His friends from later years knew the man he became.  I got to see some of the hard-work-of-his-soul.  They experienced the fruit of his journey with Christ.  Together, our memories contained a fullness of his total person.  I began to feel so much joy from the knowledge that he continued to mature and didn’t stay static–even though in my mind he remained a young father.  That joy overflowed through my being as I realized we all have the opportunity to change.  No season of our lives, no event in our lives, no person in our lives has to define our identity.  We can grow.  We can change.  We can become our best selves.  In my belief system, we need the presence of God and the Holy Spirit to develop that identity and constantly revise our thinking to become more like Christ.  We need God to remind us what His image looks like and that all of us carry His imprint. I appreciate the reminder to once again celebrate the people we once were, the people we are now, and the people God has yet to reveal in us.

I grieve my mom’s loss of a friend, his wife’s loss of her beloved husband, his children’s loss of their honored father, his community’s loss of his wisdom and generous spirit.  I rejoice that he now stands with the cloud of witnesses, having run his race well.  I pray we can all live our lives in similar fashion–with integrity, humility, wonder, and reverence–leaving a legacy worthy of celebration!

I welcome comments.  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Playful Vacations

Standard

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Once again old men and women will walk Jerusalem’s streets with their canes and will sit together in the city squares.  And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls at play. –Zechariah 8:4-5 (bold for emphasis)

This past week, our family took a vacation with just the 5 of us.  It’s the last one we’ll ever have (and one of the few we’ve taken) before my daughter gets married in April and our family begins to expand.  Since her engagement back in September, I’ve experienced the bittersweet joy of helping to plan her bright future and feeling nostalgic for childhood.  I miss the days of make-believe and playing with dolls, cars, balls, pots and pans.  So much of raising my children involved me getting to play with their toys and entering back into their world of childhood.  As they’ve become young adults and no longer need me as a playmate, I forgot that childlike playing remains important at every age.  Playtime helps relieve stress, combats jaded thoughts, requires silly laughter.  Children don’t carry the responsibility that the adult world forces upon us.

For 5 glorious days, we played.  We walked till our feet could go no more … and then we walked some more.  Riding amusement rides, singing-a-long with princesses and snowmen, laughing ourselves into exhaustion.

For 5 glorious days, I unplugged from technology–leaving my computer at home and only answering calls and texts from my family in the amusement park wondering where I had wandered off to in the crowd.

For 5 glorious days, our friend who works at the amusement park gave us the tour-guide treatment–telling us fun-facts, allowing us to use her discount at the stores, mapping out our day in the park.

For 2 glorious hours, we relaxed on the beach before our flight home. Digging our toes in the sand, listening to the waves as the tide came in, feeling the 80-degree-sun beat on our skin–knowing at the end of the day we’d be back in land-locked Colorado with temperatures in the teens.

So, as I walked toward the ocean confidently in my airplane-ready outfit with my jeans rolled up so I could dip my feet in the cold Pacific, my mind flooded with memories of the 5 glorious days.  Yes, I saw the tide coming in.  Yes, I knew the odds that my clutzy ways just might trip me into the waves.  Yes, I know you shouldn’t try to outrun a wave on shifting sand when you’re not used to the beach.  Yes, I went anyway.  The first large wave just took me off-guard and got my pant legs wet.  Never deterred, I got up and continued walking.  I knew they’d dry before the airport.

Then, the second large wave came with more power, and I tried running uphill …

Without success …

You see where this is going, don’t you?  …

I fell on my butt.  I would have had time to get up and at least just stand there getting my pant legs more wet; but I was laughing so hard at myself–and everyone else was laughing too!–that the wave just washed all over me.  Sand, sea water, denim … there was no way my pants would dry.  Looking through my luggage, I realized the drawback to ‘packing light’:  I only had shorts and t-shirts.  Great for sunny California, not-so-great for snow-packed Colorado.  Well, good thing I almost never get cold.  So, donned with shorts, a t-shirt and my son’s hoodie, we returned home.

Real life.  I heard someone say that we must focus on our mind and the Bible in loving God.  I began to lose my 5 glorious days of playfulness.  Because, once again, all the silenced voices expressed their defeat to me.  The ones who have heard they aren’t smart enough and who struggle with reading the Bible.  The ones who experience the heart of God through empathy, but don’t always have a Bible verse to back up what they feel.  The ones who passionately and sacrificially serve the poor, but haven’t been to Sunday school and don’t know all the stories.  I heard them cry out as the breath was forced from their lungs like a punch in the gut.  Because once again, their view of God was less-than.  Once again, their piece of the spiritual puzzle wasn’t valued.  *sigh*

Perhaps next week I’ll focus on the topic of the Bible’s place in living out the gospel of Christ.

For now, I need to do laundry and maybe rub some sand from my jeans in my hands.  For now, I’ll remember the taste of churros and the thrill of roller coasters.  For now, I’ll envision my 6’5″ body-building 19 year old wearing the oversized, white, padded mouse hands as we frolicked through the park.  For now, I’ll remember the lightness of playing.

For now I am free.

I welcome comments!  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Traditions and Memories

Standard

Jesus speaking:  ‘I want you to know the delight I experience, to find ultimate satisfaction, which is why I am telling you all of this’ –John 15:11 (The Voice).

My youngest son (who is 19) and I have developed a Hallowe’en tradition (okay, it’s been twice) of carving pumpkins and watching Psych reruns.  We laugh and get ourselves all gooey with the pumpkin guts, I leave the guts and seeds out for the squirrels, and then we light candles in the carved pumpkins as we continue watching Psych and grab some dinner from the raided fridge.  Usually, my other two kids will join us for the marathon viewing, all the while making comments and laughing.  I love these times of togetherness and recognize how soon they may end with my daughter getting married in the Spring.

So many traditions seem to move on as we grow older.  Last year, my middle child said that Christmas Eve church services didn’t mean anything because it was all showmanship and performance.  He’s right (Don’t tell him.  He doesn’t need any encouragement); but I love the showmanship.  Does it have much (if anything) to do with Christ?  Not really.  But part of the celebration of the season for me are the 3 Cs–children, candles, and carols.  I need those three things for Christmas Eve to feel … well … Christmassy.  I love the twinkling lights and the festive decorations.  I love the cold noses, hot chocolates with peppermint sticks, and fragrant soups simmering on the stove.  Watching the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve, Miracle on 34th Street (1947 version) Thanksgiving evening, and The Bishop’s Wife while wrapping presents create warm feelings in my soul.  When he announced that he would go to Christmas Eve service as long as we admitted that it has nothing to do with Jesus, a piece of my joy died.

I know I should be able to dismiss his thoughts and just embrace what I love about traditions; but on the enneagram personality chart, I’m a 9–which means that I live vicariously through other identities.  It’s hard, not impossible, for me to enjoy events if the ones I love don’t enjoy them.  I have discovered how much I let go of treasured memories because others don’t find value in the traditions.  As an extrovert, I don’t enjoy doing things alone.  I will make myself go places alone; but experiencing events without family or friends to create a memory leaves me a little cold.  If I can’t feed off their joy and share my own with them, the fun never ignites in my heart.

Sunday church services have become reminders of my lost connections with childhood traditions.  By choice, I usually sit alone in a corner of the sanctuary.  Because of my empathetic nature, I tend to get distracted by the people around me and their emotions.  When I sit with Jud, I find it easier to filter other people’s heart burdens; but he has learned that smaller gatherings inspire his spirit and fill his soul.  We have both given each other freedom to experience Christ where we see His life exhibited.  He and I both are learning to express our needs without shame, and humbly accept our limitations.  However, in the freedom comes a sacrifice, and I haven’t learned how to experience joy in church traditions without company … yet.

So these days, I ponder how to fuel my joy without expecting help from others.  I haven’t figured out any answers to those musings yet; but my confidence is expanding that God will help me tap into His joy without sacrificing the relationship connections in traditions that I believe important.  Embracing the journey without knowing the destination doesn’t come naturally to me.  But, I do look forward to experiencing the delight of God along the way!  For now, I will light a candle in my pumpkin and watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown with whomever happens to wander in the room and content myself with enjoying today’s moment.

I welcome comments!  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

What’s Your Line?

Standard

Jesus speaking: “‘Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her'” –Luke 10:41-42 (The Voice).

This week, my almost-21-year-old son (his birthday is in a few days!) told me that his friends say I’m their favorite parent of all time because I did not ‘freak out’ over his getting his eyebrow pierced.  He’s not my first child to say this to me.  I have been the go-to parent for many activities.  My kids have never asked me not to attend one of their events (although I have refused many), and my daughter’s friends have suggested me as a designated driver (when they were too young to drive) for late night TP-ing pranks for the cross-country teams or to team events.  Since I have never been in the ‘cool kids’ group, it amuses me that the next generation thinks of my middle-aged self as a kindred spirit.  What separates me from other adults in their minds?  Am I better?  Oh, that’s just laughable.  Am I wiser?  I can bluff a good game, but I know it’s smoke and mirrors.  Am I prettier or more fashionable?  Yeah, no.  There’s a reason I don’t post my photo on my blog.  I think it’s that I remember what teen and young adult years were like.  I remember that all I really wanted was for someone to believe in me.  Someone to say, ‘You’re not crazy for wanting to follow a dream.’  Someone to tell me that the world won’t come to an end if I make a mistake or do something I would regret later.  Someone who would love me unconditionally and not let me face my consequences alone.  Someone who wouldn’t draw a line in the sand over ‘a million details.’

I wanted freedom with a safety net.

So, when my son told me that many of his friends and their parents think I’m an anomaly–the friends in awe of me, the parents thinking me crazy and too tolerant–I felt the need to offer a glimpse of what I have to offer.  In no way do I believe I have parenting figured out, nor do I believe that I’ve done the raising of my children ‘right.’  This post is not meant to shame, judge or condemn anyone.  Believe me, I have had many Psycho Mom Moments and have freaked out immaturely.  You may have another piece of the puzzle that I haven’t seen.  The point is that we stop criticizing each other and start playing on the same team!  Let’s work together to equip our children so that they will have a foundation to grow stronger and wiser in equipping their next generations.

So, here are some questions to ask yourself before you ‘freak out’:

  1. Is it life-threatening?  A piercing, a tattoo, a funky hair color or cut will not bring down civilization.  If they are 18 or older and don’t need your permission, be careful about withholding your blessing. I tend to *sigh* and roll my eyes.  My kids call me on this all the time–as they smile or chuckle.  Do you really want your line in the sand to be over something like hair? A young adult will process that thought to mean, If my mom freaked over a piercing, what will happen if I ______. We can squelch communication between us by our reactions to the little things.
  2. Is it immoral, or just embarrassing for you?  This one’s tough.  Some denominations have super-strict policies on personal modesty.  I cannot tell you what’s right for your household, only that I have researched and read all the Scriptures by myself and with others and have come to my own conclusions.  I invite you to do the same–setting aside the church party-line and really process what God is saying through those Scriptures.  Often, the choices of our young adults conflict with our own insecurities of what our friends, family and church leaders will think.  As a parent, my child should never carry the weight of my insecurity on their shoulders.
  3. Am I afraid of losing control over their lives?  You already have.  … (I’ll let that sink in for a moment) …  And if you feel that you have to resort to shaming or guilting them into compliance, you may have lost more than control over them–you may have lost them.  Recognize they are adults and will make some choices you would never dream of making.  You don’t get to live their lives anymore!  I would rather have a relationship and an open channel of dialogue with my children, than children who don’t ever want to be around me.  If you would rather prove to your children that your way is best, then realize that you may not have enjoyable family times.  You have to pick your battles–and every choice they make cannot be a battle.

Every year, my daughter has a Christmas party for the high school girls she mentors and several of her close friends.  They come over for a tree-trimming, homemade soup, Christmas movie evening.  Last year, a 15 year old opened a soda bottle and it exploded all over my kitchen counter and floor.  I looked over, laughed and got out towels to mop it all up.  All the girls helped, and the embarrassed girl was able to laugh … eventually.  One girl looked over at me like I was an alien.  She solemnly said, “My mom would not be laughing at this.”  It was soda!  Just a mess.

No one should have to live anxiously about making a mess.  Lighten up with each other! Lighten up with yourselves!

Have you figured out yet that this post isn’t just about parenting, but about how we treat others?  Do you recognize yourself in the parent or child role?  If we freak out over the smaller things in life, will we have credibility with the really intense things that come our way?  I’ve had hard conversations with teens and adults.  People tell me their dark secrets all the time because they say they know I will show them compassion.  I will hold them accountable, but I won’t make them confront anything alone.  If another person is involved, I offer to go with them to have the conversation.  Most of the time, I help them see the situations as a growth curve.  It may be life-altering, but no moment has to become your life identity.

If you must have a line in the sand, let it be over abusive ways, integrity issues, ignorance and prejudice.  Because we should freak out over character flaws that determine our world’s culture.

Certainly, we all need people to watch our backs and keep us from destroying ourselves and others.  I pray that you find your security in God so that you recognize when you or others truly need wise help.  

I welcome comments.  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

My Children, My Heart

Standard

‘His mother continued to store these memories like treasures in her heart’ –Luke 2:51.

Last year, I celebrated all women on Mother’s Day.  This year, I want to celebrate my own life.  Jud and I have successfully raised 3 semi-adult children (well, more successfully than not).  ‘Proud’ doesn’t fully express how I feel about their burgeoning independent lives.  They all have awe-inspiring stories that involve growth-inducing challenges and, most importantly, live out their lives before God and others with compassion, grace and wisdom-in-the-making.

When I entered college, I didn’t expect to get married at the end of 4 years.  I had dreams of writing the ‘Great American Novel’ and taking the publishing industry by storm!  When Jud and I got married 3 weeks after I graduated, I knew a career in publishing was no longer an option; but I believed the novel was still in my sights.  I found, as the years moved on, that writing fiction didn’t enflame my writing passion like it had in high school and college.  So, I put writing aside and focussed on giving my children a stable, nurturing home while we lived the constantly changing military life.  Some would say that I ‘lost’ myself in those years.  I may have said that a time or two.  Looking back, I see a different perspective.

What I ‘sacrificed’ in those years led to relationships with my children that swell my heart and soul.  I’ve often said that as a parent, I’m constantly working myself out of a job.  I’m not the typical stay-at-home-mom who baked cookies, sewed costumes and made crafts.  Goodwill provided excellent costumes for most of the dress-up days elementary school years demanded.  I kept a craft box filled with old cards, glue guns and glue sticks, felt, sparkly glitter, stickers, pipe cleaners and anything else that caught my eye when I was at the store.  When my kids cried boredom, we brought out the box and they created masterpieces.  We watched old movies–especially MGM musicals–and the Doughnut Man videos while the floors dried after mopping.  We had picnics and beach trips.  I remember every new place we moved, the kids would ask, “Mommy, are we going to get ‘lost’ today?”  Which meant we would drive around unfamiliar neighborhoods and figure out how to get home.  Usually those trips involved milkshakes….  And we read stories and books.  I miss reading out loud with them.   Of course we sang, too.  With the singing came impromptu dancing …  Then the laughing would start … Till our stomachs hurt.  I miss those times too.

All the carpooling with cross country teams, track teams, club meetings created space for us to share lives.  It’s hard to have ‘quality’ time without quantity of time.  I’ve enjoyed watching them grow, mature and become more independent.  I continue to remember them as young children and wax nostalgic when I see them all grown-up; but the nostalgia can’t overshadow the joy that my job is changing in their lives.  This Mother’s Day is my last with a child in high school.  In a couple of weeks as he walks the stage to get his diploma, I will have graduated high school four times in my life.  An end of an era.  All of my children will officially be ‘adult.’  Gone are the days of homemade cards, dollar-store or garage-sale treasured presents, and expectantly hope-filled eyes looking for praise.  I’ll never stop being ‘Mom’ to them; but that relationship doesn’t mean what it once did all those years ago when I snuggled them, sang and read to them and spoon-fed them.

So today, I celebrate Em, J and Jon because they made me able to celebrate Mother’s Day.  I celebrate the blood, sweat and tears that went into creating who they are and how they transform in the future.  I may shed a tear or two as their lives persistently move away from mine; however, I know they remain in my heart and I in theirs.  And I know we’ve built relationships that will continue to bring them back home.  They know both their parents love them wholly and are on their side.  They know I will always be their ‘Mama.’

And they like my cooking….

I’d love to hear from you!  You don’t have to be a parent to influence young lives.  How have your views on parenthood changed through the years?  What are some of your joys/sorrows in watching little ones grow up?

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

The Joy of Family Stories

Standard

 ‘He showed us real life, eternal life. We have seen it all, and we can’t keep what we witnessed quiet—we have to share it with you. We are inviting you to experience eternal life through the One who was with the Father and came down to us.  What we saw and heard we pass on to you so that you, too, will be connected with us intimately and become family.  Our family is united by our connection with the Father and His Son Jesus, the Anointed One; and we write all this because retelling this story fulfills our joy’ –1John 1:2-4

A pastor told me recently  in an email exchange that he hopes to see more people who ‘struggle with same-sex attraction’ find a home at our church.

Not gonna lie, I’m praying the opposite.

I’ve seen how the few brave gay people who have opened up about their relationships in our church have been treated.  I’ve seen them denied membership.  I’ve seen them overlooked for leadership.  I’ve seen them weep because they cannot give their testimonies of God’s grace and Jesus’ saving power in their lives … at least not publicly on a Sunday morning.  The Bible study I co-lead is studying Romans.  We got special permission to have one woman who is gay give her testimony to our class.  This woman has been part of the study longer than I’ve been at the church.  I applaud our leadership for allowing her to give her testimony to our study on church grounds and not making us go off-site.

But, why did we have to fight for her to give her testimony?

Everyone who follows Jesus has a testimony of how God has worked in their lives.  Everyone gets to proclaim that work in their own words and from their own perspective.  I’m sure there are several things in my past that I interpret one way as giving glory to God that others may have a problem with in their interpretation of scripture.  I’ve heard some testimonies in my day that made me cringe–not because of the gory details, but because I judged, ‘God never would have told them that.’   Not proud of my arrogant immaturity.  Less proud that perhaps the assessment was correct, but the subsequent gossip with others afterward negated any thought of trying to talk with the person and hearing more explanation of their life–perhaps, in humility, offering a way to clarify what they tried to communicate.  Unless something is total Christian heresy like Jesus isn’t the Son of God, or God isn’t sovereign, or only white straight people are going to heaven–you get the idea:  character assassination of God or elitist theology that only some are allowed to know Him–we don’t get to decide how a person experiences Christ in their lives.

What does that mean if we allow testimonies that go against the traditional grain?  It makes church messy.  It may mean pastors getting emails/phone calls/texts from people who, like me, have a problem with a person’s expression of an experience with God.

But, it may also mean that a church will grow spiritually mature because of the depth, breadth and height of the revelation of God at work in our lives through the multi-faceted stories within the congregation.  So there may be a few stories in there that don’t speak to me.  What if some of those stories are the ones that reveal the joy of life in Christ to someone else.  Some of the stories may challenge my theology.  What if that challenge leads me and others to examine why we interpret Bible passages a certain way.  What if our view of God becomes bigger, and He takes our breath away with His beauty, power and … God-ness?  My heart is racing with excitement at the possibility!

I long to see the reality of a church united by the common thread of Christ at work in our lives.  The reality that we are family … blood family because of Christ’s sacrifice … and in the telling and hearing, the story of God’s power in our brothers’ and sisters’ lives ‘fulfills our joy.’

What takes your breath away about God?  Have you discredited someone’s experience with God because it wasn’t yours?  How can you help make church more of a ‘family’ for yourself and others?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Beloved Gift of God

Standard

My darling youngest son, you turned 18 today.  How can that be?  How can this young man before my eyes be you?  Your name means ‘beloved gift of God.’  And you live up to that name.

I prayed for joy with all of you.  Joy flows out of you and is all around you.  I remember telling you recently that often I would send you to your room after you had disobeyed to wait for your consequences.  You thought it was because I was incredibly angry with you and needed to calm down.  Most of the time, you waited because I couldn’t stop laughing.  You all are the joy of my heart.

I remember Gammy marveling at you when you rolled over the day after we brought you home from the hospital.  I’ve never stopped marveling at you.  You astounded Poppa with your sports ability–especially throwing and catching.  And now you are a top shot putter in the state.  I remember your energy far surpassed mine, so you motivated me to exercise and improve my energy and stamina so that I could keep up with you.  I remember when you were 2 and we all went to one of Dad’s work functions at a home with a lot of land.  You walked away across the field, never looking back, and sat down just before you got to the trees …  with your back to us.  I wondered what you were thinking.  I would wonder that a lot through the years.  We kept our eye on you and Dad finally went and sat down with you before coming back to the group.  I remember lunches at Village Inn–chocolate chip pancakes and club sandwiches–when you were in kindergarten.  I remember dancing at the dentist office to the elevator music, singing and praying before bed and you dancing to the songs Dad would play on the guitar.

Before each of you were born, Dad would poke my stomach to see what you would do.  Em kicked back–no one was going to take up her space!  We knew she would be a fighter, a challenger.  J just rolled over and repositioned himself to accommodate the new normal of his environment.  You didn’t move.  You didn’t kick.  You just blew it off.  Our concern began….

Instead, what we’ve found turned out to be a free-spirit in terms of peer pressure.  You have always been well-liked; but you never seemed to care what others wanted you to be.  Because of that attitude, you are a leader.  Your teachers all have said how kind you are.  Parents of classmates would wax  lyrical about you and smile warmly at me when they found out you were my son.  A couple of teachers commented how inclusively you treated all your classmates.  In gym classes, you wanted everyone to have a turn and would even toss or throw the ball to the girls to give them a chance to shine.  Other classmates said that you would stick up for them and protect them.  You make others feel good about themselves by embracing them in your world.  

I remember praying for each of you and asking God to reveal what part of Him you contain.  With you, I see a pastor’s heart–I don’t know if you will ever be a church pastor; but you have a deep caring and empathy for others.  I remember one Sunday, you were about 8, you came to me with your Bible open and said that you’d been reading about how the Israelites had hurt the heart of God so often.  You continued that it made you think of how many times you had done things that must have hurt the heart of God and it made you sad.  We prayed for God to reveal more of His heart to you and the ability to live out His way of life.  You trotted off and all was well with the world.  I pray now that you will not let others shape your identity.  You are big and strong.  You have a protective nature; but I pray that you will allow yourself to need protecting sometimes.  People look to you as a role model; but I pray that you will embrace God’s humility so that you can use the power others give you in their lives to point them to Him.

When I see you all grown up, and yet behind your beautiful blue eyes I also see the little boy who still lives in you, my whole being swells with pride.  I’ve often said that as a mom, my goal is to work myself out of a job.  I’ve done my job well.  I know you don’t need me like you used to when you were little young.  You are confident and appropriately independent.  My role in your life has changed through the years.  I miss the ‘little boy’ years; but I look forward to where God takes you through life.  My mama’s heart still worries, still panics, still wants control.  But as with these first 18 years, we will grow together and figure out our changing roles with each other.

I know one thing will not change.  I will forever love you and be proud that you are my beloved gift of God.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Birthday Blessing

Standard

My Jason–

20 years ago this week, you popped out into the world, and you haven’t stopped amazing me.

I remember Dad being so sick that last trimester before you were born.  I thought he might die; but I couldn’t think about that.  I had you to think and take care of inside me.  I remember a friend praying over you and me and just giggling as soon as she touched my belly.  She said, “I don’t know if you realize it or not, but this baby is FULL of God’s JOY!!”  She went on to say that she believed you had the heart of ‘Timothy’ from the Bible.  She didn’t know that we had picked out ‘Timothy’ as your middle name.  I remember the Alabama years and your lispy, nasally twang that is long-forgotten by everyone but me.  I remember the time you rode Jon’s much smaller bike around the BMX track and looked like a professional as you flew into the air … until gravity slammed you into the ground.  Thank God, no bones broke, and we got to watch Fear Factor for the first time as I snuggled you.  I remember soccer, hurdles and relays.  I remember experiments, breakfasts and errands.  I remember conversations, late-night papers and movie nights.  I remember you.

So, this week, as you end your teen years and enter your 20s, I think about how much you’ve grown and matured through the years.  I’m so proud you are my son–my eldest son.  You’ve never lost the joy, the piece of God, that He put in you.  You’ve never lost your sense of adventure and curiosity.  I hope you never do.  You are one of the bravest people I’ve met and one of the most secure in who you are and who God created you to be!  I love it that you’ve cliff-dived, challenged yourself with new hobbies like unicycling and learning to play the saw, travelled to various places in Colorado just for the adventure.  You still make me smile and bring me joy.

My prayer for you (and all in your generation) is that you will continue to find yourself in Christ.  Continue to see the world through His eyes.  Continue to live with His ABUNDANT LIFE in pure abandoned joy.  My prayer is that you and others will see God’s grace, love, hope and faith as you journey toward the prize in Jesus.  I pray for you, my treasured child, that what you have to offer the Body of Christ, people will embrace with gratitude.

So I celebrate you and give you this blessing for your life.  HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!  May it be filled with adventure and joy!!

Love you, Sug–mama

My prayer for all of us is that we encourage and validate this next generation as they go out to change their world!

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Psycho Mom Moment

Standard

My kids say that I have a ‘crazy’ streak.  They don’t see it often.  Mostly it comes out when I’m putting our ‘fake house’ together about a half hour before company comes over.  They call it ‘cleaning mom mode.’  I go around clearing counters and the kitchen table.  Hiding piles of papers that have accumulated over the school year.  Clearing corners of shoes and other non-essentials stripped off after coming in the door.  Returning pillows and throw blankets to a casually-tossed, shabby-chic ambiance in the family room.  I create the ‘fake house’ that I want people to think is where we live.  ‘Cleaning Mom Mode’ is nowhere near ‘Psycho Mom.’

We need to establish a difference between ‘psycho moms’ and ‘psycho mom moments.’  I wouldn’t call myself a ‘psycho mom.’  I tend  to meet challenges in parenting evenly and rationally.  I tend to … at least on the surface.  However, I do have moments when my kids cross a line that infuriates me and I react–not respond.

Before my kids became grown-up (well, I could debate whether they really are grown-up….), I enjoyed the position of playing God.  That magical time ended about the time they could speak and learned ‘NO!’  But the few short years that they had to go where I went, hang out with those I let them befriend and go to bed when I determined they needed sleep were blissful.  Parenting was easy then.  Having a 22 year old, a 19 year old and a 17 year old all living at home complicates parenting boundaries.  *sigh*  I really don’t want to go back to toddlerhood, but the uncomplicated world of children who get excited over bubbles and squirt guns has its perks.

My 17 year old went out with his at-the-time-girlfriend a few weeks ago.  He had just started dating her; and while we had met her, I soon found out just how little we knew about her.  I needed to get hold of him because he didn’t know that our state curfew for teens is 10pm during the week (even during the summer) and not midnight, as I had thought.  His phone went straight to voicemail … for 2 hours.  No answer to the 372 texts I sent.  Realizing that I had no idea where he might be or who this girl really is, I went into ‘crazed mom’ mode and quickly plummeted into ‘psycho mom.’  As panic ambushed my rational soul, I took on desperate measures.  Because I read murder mysteries and watch cop shows, I consider myself a bit of an expert in detective work.  Yep, I’m one of those delusional people.  I think that because I’ve seen open-heart surgery on YouTube, I could actually perform that surgery in a crisis.  I think we should all pray that I never witness someone having a heart attack.  I looked up his girlfriend on Facebook.  She has a common last name, so I looked through about 15 pages of the online White Pages trying to figure out where she lived.  I remembered that he had told me the general area of town she lived, so I didn’t fly blind in my search.  I narrowed it down to three potential houses.  Just after midnight (now the curfew he thought he had, he busted … for the third time … the last time had been the night before … yeah, I wasn’t rational anymore) I enlisted the help of my 22 year old.

The conversation went something like:

“You busy?”

“No, whatcha need?”

“I need you to help me go get your brother.”

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know for sure, but I’ve narrowed it down.”

“Why do you need me?”

“Someone has to drive the car he’s in back home.”

“Why can’t he do that?”

“Because he’ll be coming home with me.”

That last sentence scared her because I spoke it so slowly and deeply.  I don’t think any of my kids had seen my real ‘psycho mom’ moments before that.  I never had witnesses until that night.

Thankfully, the first house on my list happened to be her house.  I knew this fact because my son pulled onto the street right behind me.  He and I had a great lecture  discussion that ended with us hugging it out and assuring him that I loved him and forgave him (there’s more to this story; but it’s already a long one).  Suffice it to say, he won’t make that mistake again.

I wonder sometimes if God ever has ‘psycho parent’ moments with us.  Oh, I know He’s ‘GOD’ and knows all and has self-control and all that; but when I read the Bible, I see evidence that we can make Him a little crazy–especially with Moses in Exodus 22 when it sounds like Moses is talking God off the ledge, or when Jesus in several Gospel accounts saying it would be better to have a millstone around your neck and drowned if we hurt one of His little ones, or Abraham negotiating with God for Sodom and Gomorrah.  I take great comfort in that thought.  He loves us that much that we can make Him almost insanely protective.  He goes to great lengths to find us and help us see healthier, wiser, better options than the choices we make.  He loves us the way I love my kids–only better and more rationally.  He doesn’t parent out of fear–which, if we’re honest, that’s what vaults us into ‘psycho’ mode.  He holds us that high … He values us that much … He fiercely fights for us … Now, if only we could believe it about ourselves and each other.  We need to remind ourselves and each other what each of us is worth!

I talked to Jud the next morning about what happened while he slept.  A lot goes on at night with older kids while parents sleep.  Which is why I’m grateful that I’m a night-owl and suffer from insomnia.  We discussed the appropriate repercussions (for our son, not me), and Jud helped me see that grounding him from ever driving a car  and dating again went a little too far.  Rationality had returned to me and the moment had passed.

Until my daughter woke up.

She asked Jud if he knew anything about the night before.  Thankfully, Jud could say he knew and she didn’t blindside him with her version of my insanity.  Her final comment tossed over her shoulder to him as she breezed out the door about what she learned from this incident:  NEVER MAKE MOM MAD!!!

Have you had ‘psycho parenting’ moments?  What have you learned about yourself in those times? 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

HAPPY MANHOOD DAY!!

Standard

Since I did a post celebrating all women and how we ‘parent’ regardless of our biological child status, it seems only fair to do the same for men.  I’ve had many men in my life who represent true manhood.  Let me define ‘true manhood.’

My father grew up in Manchester, England, with a father who typified Northern English manhood.  He was stern, distant and unemotional.  He died when my dad was 8.  My dad lived through WWII in England and survived the aftermath before immigrating to the United States.  He could have become a stern, distant man.  Instead, he embodied compassion to me when we visited relatives in Texas one year.  We always stopped in my mom’s childhood town to visit Elizabeth who cleaned and cooked for my mom’s family.  This one year, Elizabeth wanted to buy a used car and asked my dad to check it out for her.  Elizabeth needed a better car to take her ailing mother to doctor’s appointments.  My dad gave his ‘okay’ after looking over the car, then before we left Elizabeth, he gave her the rest of the money she needed to buy it.  When he and my mom discussed it, he said that he didn’t want Elizabeth to wait until she could save up the rest of the money–she had already made a couple of payments to ‘hold’ the car from the woman selling it.  My father embodies ‘true manhood’ with his compassion.

John Mark pastored a church in Alabama.  I’ve mentioned the congregation in a previous post–‘holiness’ people on one side of the aisle, AA people on the other side.  I can’t imagine how John Mark walked that tightrope and led such differing people!  He tempered the ‘holiness’ people with grace and gave the AA people boundaries.  Two pastors remind my heart that God really does make His home with us.  Tom, who married Jud and I, and John Mark.  Having the ability to make both ‘holiness’ and AA people feel accepted and at home while defending truth and grace, John Mark embodied ‘true manhood.’

My sons remind me that youth, also, man-up.  Both J and Jon have hearts that break for injustice.  I’ve watched them both stand up in different ways for people that society disapproves.  My heart swells with pride when I hear their stories and they don’t know how much their efforts mean.  Their hearts make their actions natural and without arrogance.  Their humility and natural way of living embodies ‘true manhood.’

And, of course, Jud.  His respect of all people and cultures, his openness to new thoughts and his desire to always grow in character, knowledge and wisdom makes me want to be a better person.  His ability to speak kindly and steadily has helped my impetuous nature become a little more intentional (no small task on his part!).  I remember one time, a friend asked several of us to offer counsel on a job opportunity he was considering.  All of us had vocal opinions.  Except Jud.  For about an hour, we all dissected the options from every angle.  It reminds me of putting a puzzle together.  We all had our pieces, but didn’t know where to put them–or even what the puzzle picture looked like.  Jud listened.  Especially to our friend.  After the lengthy discussion where nothing showed our friend clarity, we needed to leave.  But, before we left, Jud spoke amazing wisdom to our friend’s character and then proceeded to put all the puzzle pieces from the discussion together.  The rest of us, our mouths gaping, sat in silence and awe until he finished.  His ability to assess situations and speak wisdom into them embodies ‘true manhood.’

So, for all the men out there who have ‘fathered’ others–biological children, step-children, adopted children, teens, adults, and those of us who have yet to outgrow the sophomoric phases–I honor you!  Those of you who are unsung because you live your life quietly, with integrity and compassion, I applaud you.  Those of you who don’t fit into the ‘stereotypical’ mold of what a manly man is and haven’t always felt respected, yet you keep living your life by respecting others, I weep in gratitude.  For all the unsung men and all the sung men who strive to make our world a more just, kind, generous place for the coming generations, today is your day!  May you feel CELEBRATED!!

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

HAPPY WOMANHOOD DAY!!!

Standard

To all women who have influenced lives and helped shape the next generation, HATS OFF TO YOU!!  Today, may be called ‘Mother’s Day,’ but all women should be CELEBRATED (whether they conceived a child physically, through fostering or adopting, or mentored someone and helped the journey through life)!!  If we are friends, family, teachers or leaders in youth organizations, we have all ‘mothered’ children, teens and adults.

Thank you to all the women in my life who have made me the person I am today.  Thank you for your wisdom, your nurturing, your ability to challenge my thinking.  Thank you for your courage, your character and your depth of soul.  Thank you for showing those you influence how to have grace under pressure, how to grieve loss, how to rejoice with others and how to live every season of life with joy.

‘Mother’s Day’ doesn’t begin to encompass my wonderfully varied gender.  So I am changing the name to include all the ones who have mothered people in generations past and present, given a legacy to future generations of what it means to be a woman and have gone unsung and unnoticed by society.

YOU ARE NOTICED!  YOU ARE WORTHY!  YOU ARE LOVED!  ALL Y’ALL HAVE EARNED THE TITLE ‘MOTHER’!!  I CELEBRATE YOU!!

 

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

A Birthday Letter

Standard

My dearest Em–

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! 

Today is Palm Sunday–just as it was 22 years ago.  The whole ‘triumphal entry’ theme resonates with me afresh in Palm Sunday sermons.

Kusel, Germany, 1991.  Desert Storm had left the military hospitals gutted in preparation for wounded, so I, along with everyone else in our Lamaze class, prepared to deliver in a German hospital.  My OB/GYN hailed from Greece, but studied in the US.  The OB who actually delivered you came from France.  Your half-Japanese dad dutifully and sensitively held my hand.  Diversity in action, it felt apropos for our ‘melting pot’ family.  I’ve heard it said (from mostly men) that women forget the pain of childbirth when the doctor or nurse puts their beautiful baby, all snuggled and clean in a blanket, into their arms.  *sigh*  How magical childbirth is in their world….  Reality check:  Those people lie…. However, with the pain comes great joy.

I hope I never forget the beautiful European years of raising you to toddlerhood.  Going to the park down the street, strolling to the Greek restaurant past the cows, gasping with awe as the shepherd helped birth his sheep in the springtime.  The fields of saffron flowers blooming gave me such joy.  Oh, I wouldn’t call it idyllic (I’m not that naive).  I also remember dad almost dying when I was 9 months pregnant with Jason, and our little church community completely falling apart and relationships destroyed.  But I remember the pace of life.  I remember quietness and peace.  I remember church bells echoing through the villages.  I remember old people oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over you in your stroller and giving you candy while we shopped, traveled and ate in the German cities and towns.  And I remember letting you eat the candy that I would throw away if a stranger in America gave it to you.  I remember feeding the ducks in the village next to ours–and you stuffing the bread in your mouth while throwing some to the ducks.  A different culture.  A different life.

I loved the beginning of our family and the treasury of those memories.  I’ve loved raising you to adulthood, and although there have been many bumpy years as we grew and learned together, pride fills my heart as I see you pursuing your passions and learning to fly.  I still see that little girl in Germany who brought such joy and wonder to life.  I see her when your excitement and effervescence lights up the faces of the girls you mentor.  I see her when life is hard and tears fill your eyes at injustices.  I see her when you hope for a better tomorrow.  I see her when you curl up in a blanket and watch a Disney movie.  I see her when you courageously face the critics, once again, and fight for righteousness.  I see her when you see chocolate milk in the refrigerator and all is right with the world.  I see her when Jesus shines through you and gives grace to a soul who believes itself undeserving.  I see her when you worship God–with music and the sacrifice of your life.

You are my beloved child, in whom I am well-pleased.

Love you–‘madgey’

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Memorials

Standard

In about a month, I will go cat-sit for my parents while they travel to Texas for my aunt’s memorial service.  Aunt Vivienne grew up in northern England.  Being 11 years older, she treated my dad more like a doll or plaything.  My dad remembers as a small child his sister and her friend sticking pins in him–they wanted to be nurses and practiced giving shots on my dad.  Ah, youth….

My dad remembers charmingly fun times in his town outside of Manchester.  He has always declared that there is no finer place to be than England at Christmastime.  After living in Germany for 3 years, I have to admit that European Christmases  transported me back to childhood.  But, those idyllic times intersperse with surreal ugly times.  My grandfather died when my dad was about 8.  He had been gassed in the trenches during WWI and doctors believe that’s where his stomach cancer originated.  The men of the town spoke to my dad in reverence about my grandfather.  Whatever my grandfather did during WWI to evoke that respect will never come to light.  Then WWII came and Manchester received the second most bombings next to London.

My dad remembers ‘double-daylight-savings’.  The factory workers needed light when they got off work to tend their gardens–without that produce, they would have starved.  He remembers bombs exploding and air raid sirens.  He remembers being thrown from his bed when a bomb exploded about 2 blocks from his house–he has tinnitus in his ears from that event.  He remembers after the trauma of war, being sent away to boarding school because my grandma didn’t have enough food for him and figured if there was food in England, the government would see to it that the children got it.  He remembers and the memory haunts his sleep with nightmares that he doesn’t share.

Aunt Vivienne married an American soldier whom she met at a USO dance, and she moved to Texas with my Uncle Harry.  Devastated in England, my dad and grandma eventually emigrated to America and joined Aunt Vivienne and Uncle Harry in Texas.  My dad was 17.  He’s never been back to England.  But his gratitude for my aunt and uncle, my uncle’s family who gave him a job and took him in as their own family and all the people who made his transition to America joy-filled and community-loving remains constantly in his heart and life toward others–part of my heritage.

So with the passing of my 91 year old aunt, I reflect on legacy and lifespans.  She saw so much history in her life.  She kept so many thoughts on those events sealed in her heart.

All of us do.  We have life events that many may know; but how we process through those things, very few experience with us.  Part of my dad’s grief is that Aunt Vivienne’s death closes a chapter of my dad’s childhood.  The last person who experienced (or was allowed to experience through memory and sharing) that part of his life is gone, and she took with her the piece of my dad’s memory that she shared with him.  He lost his sister and his last connection to his childhood in England.

The three years that Jesus spent with his disciples must have felt so full of life.  Good times, bad times, mundane times as they walked all over and lived life together.  And not just any life–Kingdom Life.  God’s life coming down.  The glorious entry into Jerusalem.  Shared story.  WOW!  And then he was gone.  Yes, he resurrected, but then he ascended.  As they waited for the Holy Spirit to come to them, I wonder if they grieved Jesus not being with them physically?  They remembered.  They had each other.  They remembered together–and perhaps the remembering sustained them. Then, the Holy Spirit came, they finally got Jesus’ message and the world changed forever.  Now that’s a legacy!!  But what if they had kept all that memory sealed up in their hearts or only shared amongst themselves?  What if they hadn’t understood that sharing the remembrances would propel faith in others and light a fire of expectation that the kingdom of God really could be here and now?

I take my friends for granted…often.  I don’t always fully appreciate sharing life with each other.  I overlook opportunities to reveal my heart.  I don’t want to remember times past when that sharing took place.  I want to learn by failure and success how to open up more of myself–thus starting the blog.  I don’t want to memorialize around a grave.  I want today to celebrate life, love, relationship and shared stories of God at work in our lives!

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page