Thursday, April 28, 2011

In the Shelter Community is on my mind again and I’m fighting this inertia that has come over me. I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that I am the queen of good intentions that I so rarely act on. It is a character flaw that I’ve had since I can remember. I often think of good ideas and thoughtful ways to either help people or show that I appreciate them but I only act on these things a small percentage of the time. Yet the time I’ve spent thinking about the good deed, small act of appreciation is significant. If you know me, you know that I rarely send birthday cards (or any other correspondence at all) and yet please believe me when I say that I have reminders for your birthdays and I think about you. Thank goodness for Facebook – I now have a chance to actually wish you a happy birthday in a timely fashion (and even then I may still be late). I have a million pieces of stationary and yet they go unused. I think of someone just about every other day that I should thank and yet I don’t follow through. This lack of action seems to characterize my moves in the different relationships I am in. And here I am again – looking outside my front window at the quiet houses on our street…wondering if things will change. There will be more activity – more people out – people reaching out as the days get warmer and longer. But I’m sitting here realizing that I need to be out there to participate. I keep thinking of the Jars of Clay song – Shelter. These words keep sticking with me: God has given us each other And we will never walk alone In the shelter of each other We will live We will live (We will never walk alone) In the shelter of each other We will live We will live (In the shelter) I can’t get this idea of living in the shelter of each other out of my head and yet I don’t really know how to DO it. I keep looking out my window…wondering how to create this community – not just here, but wherever I go. I am frozen in my tracks…my intentions good but not really knowing what to do. I keep praying for inspiration, but maybe I’m making it too hard. Maybe just being that smiling face – the neighbor that always waves, the one who makes it a point to learn more – who loves and accepts at first glance no matter what – maybe that is enough. Maybe that is everything. Yet I’m still inside this house – shaking a bit – with my elaborate ideas, good intentions…wondering when the opportunity will arise. I want to hear my doorbell ringing…I want to chat for the purpose of chatting, I don’t want to have boundaries, I don’t want walls, I don’t want rules. I don’t want to walk alone either.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Complexities of This Moment

There is always the list – the to do list, the grocery list, the menu planning list, the critical list for today, the list of who to call and those lists - they never really get completed. Then there is the dream list, the reading list, the crafting project list, the spiritual development list and those ones are the ones that really are neglected. It seems the lists in my midst get lost in the complexities of this moment.

Waking up late, rushing out the door, making it through the day, picking up kids, making dinner, long bedtimes, exhaustion on the couch for a few minutes and then bed. The complexities of caring for these little people and working full time keep me from the lists. The trivial lists and the eternal lists.

But is this just “how it is” or is there a flaw in my thinking?

The daily operational lists often are the ones I focus on and then get highly frustrated when I ultimately fail at them. The fun lists are the ones that I make and don’t focus on as much and then get infinitely more frustrated when I can’t get to them. In the case of the dream list – it often gets lost permanently. The spiritual development list – I dabble in, but never really commit long term – more just a flitting about here and there.

But I believe that I’ve missed something somewhere – maybe because putting it down on paper seems nearly impossible. Or the reality is, maybe I have never tried.

I’m missing an important list – the eternal treasures list. As I’m rushing through the day focusing on the tasks, am I really investing in the people close to me? Am I really pausing to focus on them, on relationships? I’ve heard it said that life happens on the journey and yet I still think I need to get to some destination – to check off the item on the list.

Today I’m trying to make the list – maybe not on paper, but in my heart:

  • Abby’s dimpled smile when I hand her a “big girl” sized piece of fruit.
  • Zach’s little hands under his head when he sleeps.
  • Kayla’s school girl uniform and ponytail.
  • Jerry’s new glasses and hairstyle – reminding me that we continue to change and grow old together – this promise we made to each other so many years ago.

But these are just the beginning. Am I really listening? God – I know you are there and you are whispering to me the instructions for what I should be focusing on in the complexities of each moment. Help me to stop and see what you see.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

I Don’t Know the Half of It

Please read this post in its entirety. If read out of context you will miss important points and likely judge me severely.

I used to think I had it all figured out – this world, my life, God…but then life happened and I continue to realize that I don’t know the half of it.

When I was young, I was sure that I wanted the princess wedding to the perfect husband and the 2 kids – a boy and a girl – and a career working in an office where I made others happy. I came home to my cute, sparkling clean house and made a healthy meal every night. You can see where this kind of thinking is going… Don’t get me wrong, I have a good life, just not that level of perfection.

I was sure I had this world all figured out – you do good, good things result. You do bad, well, don’t even try it.

God – he was always there and predictable – black and white rules led my life. If you committed suicide, you went to hell. If you were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, you might as well forget about God. If you were sick, God would heal. I was sure I knew it all – this dogmatic view of life. But I’m here to tell you – I got it all wrong – because THEN life happened.

THEN: My godfather’s wife committed suicide. I remember praying for her when she was fighting for her life in the hospital – in a coma. I saw darkness over her – pitch black, relentless. As I prayed (and I knew many others were too), I saw the darkness leave and light shine over her. I felt as though God told me it was OK to stop praying – that everything was going to be fine. She died on my birthday. I believe that the darkness of this life was too much for her – that she was deceived into thinking this was her only way out. But I believe she had faith. I believe that she is at peace and in heaven. I believe this because my mind is too small for this limitless God to truly believe that I even begin to comprehend what He is doing and can do to save us. BOTTOM LINE: God decides who has faith and who is in heaven. He knows our hearts. Who am I to judge otherwise?

THEN: I became friends with the most loving, positively joyful bisexual woman. She was in a great, supportive relationship with her transgendered partner. We talked about everything under the sun – religion / relationship with God, love, respect, community. We were more different than any other two people could be. I believe that Jesus taught me to love her because he would have too. She was brutally attacked about 4 months ago and died from her injuries a day later. She should have died immediately. I joined others in praying that God would reveal Himself to her and save her. My friend had a vision of her in heaven. I truly believe she is there. BOTTOM LINE: God has not called me to be judgmental, but to love all people. He has a plan for our lives that is best for us. We need to tune into that plan and follow Him.

THEN: I had chronic back pain. One day, family members prayed over me and I was miraculously healed. A few years later, my mom got breast cancer. Family members prayed over her and she was NOT healed. She had radical surgery and months of chemotherapy. I can’t imagine the physical, spiritual and emotional toll she endured. In my mind, she should have been healed immediately. BOTTOM LINE: Healing is decided by God and on His terms. We will never know what separates us from him that causes those parts of our lives to go awry.

THEN: The frailty of life is constantly in my view. I can’t even explain to you the number of people I am close to or are in my extended family that have died in the last few months. I’m reading a book called Crazy Love by Francis Chan. He reminds us in chapter 2 that our life is just vapor – here today and gone in an instant. And I’m reminded ever so clearly that I boldly and dogmatically go forward in this life – STILL – after all of these experiences that should tell me otherwise and STILL have the audacity to believe that I will never die. BOTTOM LINE: I need to love relentlessly, and make each moment count because death is all around me. We will never know when our lives will end.

So I come before all of you now realizing my brokenness – even more than yesterday. I am open to possibility – open to change – open to what God wants to do, but honestly – I’m not always listening. So I’m walking away from this screen and I’m going to be quiet for awhile. Maybe He has something to say, or maybe it is the quiet that will be the conversation today. No matter – because life will still happen and THEN I will learn more of how I can love. BOTTOM LINE: It’s all about love and even then – I still don’t know the half of it.

Monday, April 04, 2011

How Les Miserables Saved Me

The last couple of weeks have been pretty stressful for me (hence my absence here in the blogosphere). I’ve let too many things get to me on a personal level that shouldn’t affect me, normally don’t affect me. The bottom line is that I allowed the burdens of this life to overtake me for this period of time and it negatively affected me in many ways. I broke out in hives, I couldn’t sleep well, I was nauseous. I was angry, snapped at my family, and avoided people.

The days were heavy, dark, tedious, drudgery. The thankfulness was gone and consequently the joy. I was really struggling with a lot of things…more than I cared to admit.

You see, we all say things we don’t mean – we say that people, situation, things “drive us crazy”. I’ve tried very hard for a long time to avoid saying things like that because I believe very strongly in the power of words to affect you, to change you, to break you down. And yet, these last couple of weeks my tongue was going through some type of adolescent rebellion and I did not do a thing to keep it in check. So I believe that I was starting to live under the curses of those words I was speaking.

I believe that is how the enemy works – he starts chipping away at your mind. There is some mental illness in my family and there was a little part of me that kept asking the question, “Am I next?” What an awful lie to believe. The battleground is the mind and I was letting mine be setup for the massacre.

A few days ago we went to see Les Miserables. This is mine and Jerry’s favorite play. I was anxious and tense and was doing my best to snap out of it so I could enjoy myself. About half way through the first act I begged God to forgive me. I told Him I couldn’t handle these things any more – I couldn’t hold onto these burdens and I desperately needed His peace. And as I opened my eyes, His peace washed over me. Instantly the tension was gone. I held Jerry’s hand.

We watched the play – my favorite song – when Fantine dies – “Come to Me” did not make me cry as it normally does. Towards the end of the play – I was taken by surprise – strangely, like I have been nearly every other time I have watched it by the words that I love so dearly – the words that have settled this work of art into my heart forever. The main character, Jean Val Jean is dying and as he joins Fantine and Eponine in heaven singing, he turns and says, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” My tears fell down as I realized that I truly don’t get it. I do not see God because I do not love. My heart is cold and God is absent when I do not love.

All of this pain, this turbulence, this instability that I’ve been fighting – it was because love was absent. This overwhelming thought settled into my brain. I became resolute to find a way to love at all times, all places, all circumstances. I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I know that I must.

So Les Miserables – “the miserable” – the miserable experiences, people, circumstances – they truly are the things that will save me – if only I have love.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Thankful During the Thankless Times

Last weekend was from all appearances a disaster. We attempted a road trip to visit my parents and on the way, little Abby threw up in the car. We thought it best to go home – and I believe it was the right thing to do. I started fighting waves of nausea later that evening and fought hard to keep from throwing up. (I can’t stand to vomit – I will do just about anything to keep it from happening.)

At about 2am, I just sat in the bathroom and prayed…the waves of nausea crashing into me – relentlessly. As I implored God to spare me, my prayer turned to praise. I began thanking him – the unthinkable in that moment – it just overflowed from me. I thanked him that I had not been sick, that we were home, that none of the other kids were sick, that they were sleeping peacefully. And strangely enough, I thanked him for being sick. I don’t remember the rest – I think that extreme fatigue set in at that point and after a period of nothing, I crawled back into bed.

I never did get sick and none of the rest of us did either, thank God. And as I lay in bed the next day – still fighting the after affects, I marveled at how this God could move me to praise him at one of my lowest moments. Surely His ways are above our ways and He always deserves our praise.

How has God moved you to praise him in unthinkable circumstances?