Monday, April 30, 2012
Friday, April 20, 2012
Theo plays in the sink and listens to
our treasured "Bump in the Night" cd
by Grandpa (Bump)
Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Across a bridge and around a bend, I came across four children chasing each other. Their shouts and laughter floated toward me like music dancing over the flowing river. A little girl bent down to pick a spring flower. Her brother ran ahead, yelling and rowdy. She put the flower in her hair and smiled at me. She had hair that was so blond it was almost white, and with her rosy cheeks she looked like a cherubim who rode down to earth on one of those rays of sunshine that came out when the clouds parted. Life is beautiful…
Only a few steps later I turned a corner, and the path continued along, leading under another bridge. Hidden partially from view was a bench, and as I approached, I saw three men sitting there. All three of them stared blankly into the water as though hypnotized. The wind carried the potent smell of alcohol to my nose, strong enough to make my eyes water. And I soon saw that all three of them were drinking booze out of brown paper bags. They kept staring, like zombies.
As I passed, the old man on the far side of the bench looked up at me. Our eyes locked. My blood ran cold. His eyes got big, and they were bloodshot and sagging. His skin was yellow. His hair was falling out, and what was left was frazzled, sticking up in all directions. He clutched his brown paper bag closer, hands shaking, and watched me go by before relaxing again. I kept walking. Jesus have mercy…
Maybe your heart does not hurt for the nearly-dead men on the bridge. But my heart tells me that they may have kids somewhere, wives, jobs, lives. My heart tells me that they were once like my little Theo, somewhere they had a mother who had hopes and dreams for them. My heart tells me that they have a story, that they are sick and need the Healer.
So we live in the world where we have to somehow balance the heavenly beauty of creation right alongside the wreckage from the prince of darkness. On this tight rope of life, is it any wonder, really, that many of us have anxiety, depression, and confusion? Is it so shocking that many want to escape reality with drugs and alcohol? Is it so strange that we are exhausted?
This contrast of dark and light is everywhere. It was with me last summer while I held my hand to my stomach, feeling the sweet flutters of my growing baby kick while I stood in the hot sunlight in a cemetery and we buried out 12 year-old nephew. It is with me when my 6-month old’s cries disturb my prayers for the peace of another whose 5 month-old died unexpectedly. It is with me as I sit here, drug and alcohol free for several years, and think of another who is grieving the loss of her brother to the effects of alcoholism today.
Strange as it is, the sun shines down on us and the spring flowers bloom even when we walk through the valleys. I have yet to find peace with the swing of this pendulum. I have no satisfactory answer this question of suffering. Sometimes life is beautiful, and sometimes – wow is it ever ugly. I know it will be this way as long as I am in this life.
I also know that suffering ends here on earth. As a child of light, I get to have hope beyond the darkness. I know that to love God is to love his people – all of them, even the ones who are walking dead, who crush in upon my pretty little world and blanket me in grief for the mess that is mankind. If my hope was not in Jesus Christ, the ground would be pulled out from under me, and I would be swept away by the river of tragedy and torment.
But because of Jesus, there is suffering – but there is Jesus. This is infinitely better than only seeing the SUFFERING. I see it for what it is, but once on the other side, I can also see past it, to a loving God, to the shores of heaven where there is rest and where I won’t have to keep doing these mental and emotional gymnastics. I can also see the moments of light so much clearer in the context of Christ, and it makes them oh-such precious gifts.
Dear Lord, thank you for this life and all of it’s beauty and blessings and moments sublime. Help me in the darker days to view all things in relationship to You, and not in my own understanding.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
In that entire year of my life, almost all I can remember are little snapshots, blurred and dark images of the crazy places alcoholism will take you, incoherent like someone channel surfing. Small moments of clarity would surface. They were always spiritual. I always remembered them.
I have no idea where I was going that night or where I had been. One thing I do remember is simply thinking…Hello God? Why don’t you stop this? Something has to, because I’m obviously not going to stop myself. Where are the cops? Why haven’t they pulled me over yet? Stop me, throw me jail, slap me with fines, give me consequences, make it ugly, give me the padded walls if you have to – just make me stop because I can’t. I’m going to wake up somewhere tomorrow morning, I’m going to be shaking and sick, and I’m just going to keep getting this drunk over and over again….I wished for the flashing lights in my rearview mirror, but they never came.
Not too long after that, however, that prayer did get answered. No I never got thrown in jail, even though I should have. But I did, finally, experience enough pain to beat me into a state of submissiveness. While I liked the idea of God speaking LOUDLY to me, it wasn’t like that. He just let me get sick enough to hear him softly inviting me into his healing presence.
Most of us have one million thoughts of possible what if’s, of how this or that could have turned out differently. My skin sometimes crawls when I think about how many times things could have gone horribly, horribly wrong for me. I could have crashed my car and killed someone else, I could have been robbed and left for dead, I could have ended up in jail, I could have overdosed.
So yes I find gratitude in what didn’t happen to me. I escaped much pain that a lot of people don’t escape. I don’t know why, but I absolutely believe that God has plans for me, and that I am living some of them right now.
More importantly, I believe in the power of prayer. There is no way to know what direction my life would have taken without the love of God as it manifested itself in people who loved me by praying for me.
My grandmas, my parents, my sister and her husband. But as I have grown into a church family of my own, I realize there must have been many, many more. Surely my sister asked some of the women in her small group from her church to pray for me, who in turn carried me in their heart. I suspect my brother-in-law’s parents were part of this prayer chain. I know my parents lost sleep praying for my safety and restoration to sanity.
So today I get to stand joyfully as a walking, talking, proclaiming reminder that prayer is not in vain! Though it sometimes seems that all around us people are dropping like flies from every kind of rebellion against God, I am here to tell you that people DO change. The Spirit of God still draws his children to himself, and the blood of Jesus still transforms lives. I ran, but God pursued. I am one of millions of Prodigal Children. And other people with a heart for Christ prayed for mercy on my behalf, praying me across my stormy seas and onto the shore of safety.
Is there someone in your life who is far from God, and is your heart aching for them? I have a growing list. But there have also come the sweet times of crossing some names off of that list!
God does not always answer prayer in the way we expect, but if we are praying for his people to repent and turn to him, then surely we believe that God wants this too!
“I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
Do not lose hope. We only have to look as far as our Bible to know that sinners worse than the ones we know have come to know the goodness of the Lord.
Dear Lord, thank you for stirring hearts to pray for my miserable self when I needed it the most. Help us when we are discouraged to always remember that you purchased our salvation on the Cross, and that your touch on the lives of sinners can transform the worst of us.
Monday, April 9, 2012
(I still don't know where his shoes are?)
After what was almost a 6-month strike, Remington James decided this weekend that is willing, wants, MUST have bottles. We spent these months stuffing him full of fruit and cereal wheneverI've said it from the start - this kid is lucky he's so cute.
In other news, Theo loves to pick my tulips. I'd like to forbid it so I can enjoy my garden, but it's just so darn cute when he brings them to me and says "fworr" (flower).
Life is good.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
I ate a meal I barely tasted and sipped on a cheap cup of coffee while she told me about her life. She just made the turn, she goes to church a lot now, she is really seeking after God. Like many I know, she is one lone survivor in a cosmic battle which has whipped through generations upon generations, wreckage passed along the line, worsened and complicated with each new layer.
I know that she has just crawled out of the wilderness like a soldier out of the jungle. My wilderness looked different than hers, but I still remember that feeling. In her world people are still screaming just behind her, mines are blowing up, chaos is everywhere, God save her from going back. She has found more than a temporary place to catch her breath – she has found her home at the mercy seat of Jesus, at the foot of the Cross.
So people talk to me. And I close my eyes, and I see their all of their junk, and I see all of my junk sitting next to their junk, and I see the mountains of everyone’s junk in the whole world.
And I see the Son of God nailed to the cross. I see the blood and the beating. I see us all, every one of us, spitting in the face of the goodness of God because He is not what we expected, mocking because we were too much in darkness to recognize His light.
So I see I am the same as my friend who is just escaping the wilderness, and we are both the same criminal, the same Gomer, the same woman at the well, the same poor and hopeless sheep in this wilderness of wolves which have nearly torn us to pieces. I see us resting under the same Cross, drinking in the same Gospel, and sharing the same Hope, for this life and the next. Oh to be part of the family of God!
I also see the criminal hanging on another cross next to Jesus. I am the other criminal hanging on the cross next to Jesus, and I deserve to be there. I see Jesus look at me and tell me that I will be with him in paradise. (See Luke 23:42-43). How can He be so gracious?
Isn’t it something to believe that God looked down on the most warped and twisted remnants of human nature and said something like those are my children, I love them and I want them back? And so Jesus came to make a way back. It’s the same message for Holy Week, for Easter, for Sundays and for every day, the message we need to hear over and over again, that Jesus came as a ransom for all.
“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:13-13)
And He is STILL working. Not just on characters we read about in the Bible or in some unknown place out there where great spiritual things are happening, but right here, today, with people who are right in front of us. Can you see it? God give us the eyes!
Dear Lord, I praise you for your kindness which far surpasses my understanding. I don’t get it. May we all stand in awe of your great gift to us. I pray that you open our eyes and make us more aware of your incredible working presence among us.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
He is curious.
He is asserting his independence.
He wants to do everything on his own.
He has moved from the crib to the big-boy bed.
He is all boy, and prefers sticks, stems, and rocks to toys.
He thinks he is the boss. Of everything.
The best place for him to be is outside, in wide open spaces where he can wander freely.
His will is strong. He has an impeccable ability to anticipate approaching conflict. If he even gets a hint, if something in the air even remotely suggests that I might possibly be about to tell him what to do, he is already fighting before the words come out of my mouth.
I am really trying to only pick the battles I feel are necessary. We are already in perpetual conflict, there is no want to add to it. Sometimes, though, there are those moments where I know, I just know that I know, that I MUST win a battle. Dig the heels in. Here was a good one:
Theo, go to the table to eat dinner!
Dinner time, go to the table!
Theodore, come to the table right now!
NO NO NO NO!
Okay Theo, you can sit in the chair until you decide to come to the table for dinner.
So he sat in the chair.
Ready to come to the table?
Your ham and cheese is waiting for you!
Tears. Screeching. More tears.
Nonchalantly sliding off the chair.
Coming to the table?
NO NO NO!
Tears and back into the chair.
This went on for OVER AN HOUR until finally, spirit broken, eyes red and tear-filled, he climbed out of the chair, looked at me, took my hand, and made his way to the table for dinner. I won. And I look forward to many more wins.
I try to be sympathetic. It's hard to be a two year-old.
It's also hard to be a tough mom.
I love our tug-of-war relationship.