Monday, January 26, 2015

The Rite Aid Counter Realization

It was one of those mornings...

When the boy is sick and there's no sleep and the coffee isn't enough and my heart hurts for reasons I cannot speak about, for fear of the tears falling.

I ache and I need for something I don't even have words for. It's a God shaped void that only God can fill. 

But life beckons. And people depend on me. So I take the girl to school and the boy home. I take the temp and give the meds and put a load of laundry in. 

I take him to the doctor. I get the script and head to the pharmacy.

The total is 77 dollars. It's a shocking amount for one bottle of medicine. 

I cry, right there in the pharmacy. Not because I cannot buy the medicine. I can. I'm able to reach my hand into my purse and pay for this medicine that will make my baby well.

 I cried because as I stood there, my heart connected with all of the women who had stood in my place at that counter, frantically adding up sums and counting pennies in their heads. Subtracting food from the weekly budget. Maybe adding up her own missed meals to counteract the expense of medicine to help her baby get better.

Women just like me. Mothers who want their kids to just be well.

I was standing in the same place hundreds of other moms have stood before. Suddenly I was humbled by my own short sightedness. 

Like tide, God rushed in to fill the void in my heart. 

I've experienced loss, yes. We all have to some degree. We've all been changed by the lives we've lived and the people we've lost.

I've been wronged, and I have wronged others. I've hurt and been hurt. 

My feet have walked paths carved out by others, and wandered on my own through placed untread.

I am the sum of my experiences, but I do not have to be defined by them.

When the wounds rise up in my heart and I'm tempted to sing my own sorrowful song I will remember that I am connected to all others in my world. When I am keeping my head down and watching my own feet, I am not looking for ways to serve others. I am blinded by my own worries... So much so that I miss the chance to carry the burden of somebody else. 

Motherhood is the greatest equalizer I have ever known. It is powerful and beautiful. We belong, each of us, to each other. We were created to serve and to give. We were made to love each other, support each other, and love each other's babies.

That small moment standing at the pharmacy counter was God given. I was meant to stand there at that very time, confusing the clerk with my tears. 

I was meant to say to her, this somewhat gruff woman- "I can afford this medicine. But what about people who CAN'T?" 

And she was meant to look at me with her own tears and say- "I see it everyday, honey."

In that moment we were both just humans, both mothers, and both feeling for others just like us. It was beautiful and terrible all at once. 

We are here in each other's spheres for a reason. I believe that. I know you are reading this not because of me, but because of God. Maybe because you are in the midst of your own sad day.(If so, hello. You are loved.)

Or maybe it's because you had your own counter moment.

Tomorrow I'm going to get my eyes off of my sad song and focus them on the horizon. I'm going to look people in the eyes and be kind. I'm going to be the text message that says "I love you" or the person in front of you paying for your coffee, because coffee is important and essential to un-sad a day. I'm going to be the one meeting your eyes and smiling. 

( You will be suspicious but I promise I'm harmless. Kind of. )

Will you join me? In three acts of kindness for three other moms? Maybe you will create your own counter moment for someone else. 

Radical un-sadness. Creating moments of grace for others.

Lets do this. 





Saturday, January 10, 2015

Needed

Blurry and racing and profoundly happy. That's how these past few weeks with my children and husband have been. The power of togetherness is often astounding to me- how in just a few hours we can be so assured of our place in the world and how much we are needed.

I am needed, here, in this world. In this home. In this family.

I'm needed to kiss the boo boos, to find the missing sock, to look at the lego creations and to scrub little heads at the end of the day.

I'm needed to be a balm to wounded emotions and to rock and hold stillness when their world is chaos and too big, too big. 

I'm needed to be mommy, to be the cook, the maid, the laundress. I'm needed. 

Sometimes I resent this. Let's just be real. Sometimes I greet the relentless calls of "Mommy!" With a less than kind "WHAT?!" Sometimes I grumble as I clean the crumbs and wash the pants and oh my gosh for the thousandth time hang up the jackets and make the beds.

Then there is the upturned face to me. The asking for me to walk them to bed- to brush and make braids. To giggle and to tickle and to rub heads while they glide into sleep- to peaceful dreams in a safe house with a mommy and daddy who love them. 

There is safety in the need. There is a tethering to this earth and to these tiny people who would be lost without me. It's often hard and grinding, but it IS. The need exists for me, just as I am, to exist. To love and to see them. To ask the hard questions and to ask the small ones. To get the breakfast and to dry the tears. 

I am necessary. I am valued. I am loved.

I lost sight of this precious gift. I lost it under the cottony darkness of circumstance and profound hurt. I lost it under problems of my own making and problems made for me. 

I lost sight of the eternal things in the light of passing troubles. 

I sat weighted under the cloud of pain while my children waited for me to stop looking at my storm and realize that the sunshine was RIGHT HERE. Right here. The sun and light was in the outstretched small hand, in the smell of baby lotion, in the school folders and in the morning coffee with a boy snuggled on my lap. The light was in watching the dawn while packing lunches and kissing them goodnight as the sun went down. 

The light was here, in spite of my overlooking it. I was needed, despite my need to turn away to other fleeting, temporary things.

I know one day the clouds will roll in again. Life is peaks and valleys. It's pain and hurt and love and joy and beauty. Life IS. 

But what comfort in knowing that in spite of my half waking life and keeping my eyes averted from what I should have been seeing, they waited. 

They waited for me to return to myself. To see them again, and to move past my internal struggle. They loved me through my sleepwalk, and they loved me in spite of my distraction. 

They loved me. And they needed me. 

They always will. It's a sweet burden, one I will never take for granted again. 

I am needed. And I am grateful to be. 






Friday, November 14, 2014

Double Edged

I have this friend. She is beautiful and special and a magnificently thoughtful mother. She and I shared too few moments together when she lived here, and she has long since moved to the other side of the country, but we have a bond. 

We both love and adore our savior and our children. And we both have our gray sky days.

Depression. It's a heavy, weighted word. It can sometimes be overlaid with shades of shame. And it is an often misunderstood disease. Even I don't understand it, and I've been treading its waters since puberty. 

For me and my own particular journey, depression is not something that makes me sad. It is something that makes me nothing. It slowly leaks all of the color and joy from my world, and presses me down so hard that I am foggy and sleepy and restless. It pulls me away from family and friends and makes me a quiet and gray person who lives on the edges of life, not IN IT.

The problem with depression is that it is also sneaky, gradual, and relentless. It can tug pieces of you away until you don't fully realize you have unraveled. It starts very small and you gradually give up more and more to it. You may realize these defeats for what they are- a new cycle of the disease- or you may be full in it when somebody else points it out to you. Either way is hard, but the former is best. The more you know your disease, the more armed you are to fight it. 

My friend and I share this battle. Despite both of us being very strong in our faith. Despite us both being good, dedicated mothers. If prayer could cure depression, neither of us would have it. If focusing on our blessings could make it go away, we would never have to fight it off. 

I've struggled with why I have this particular challenge forever. The other morning I woke up to a gray day. I knew I'd have to fight for energy to push through. I was praying about it when I felt God speaking to me. An idea I had never had before.

What if I was struggling with this because it was forearming me to be able to help my children when they battled it? 

In one single moment, this battle I have been fighting for 25 years turned into a blessing. 

Depression is hereditary, coming down to me from both sides. It's almost a given that one of my children will have to go head to head with it at some point. 

And I will be able to help them so much more than if I didn't know what it was like to feel gray in a world full of sunshine. 

I texted my friend, who confirmed for me that her mom tells her the same thing all the time- that she has so many more tools to help her children should they need it. 

Wow. Just...wow. 

I've been changing my perspective about God lately. Trying to work my mind around the fact that HE  sees the whole picture- every single moment of my life, every mistake, every struggle. None of it is a surprise to Him. He sees the masterpiece as He paints it. I only see a postage stamp sized view of it. 

I know I don't ever fight this disease alone- but now I know I may be fighting it for a PURPOSE. 

This realization is just more confirmation of how God carries me. Every single thing, good and bad, in my life can and should be used to propel me forward. Mistakes teach us what not to do, what doesn't work, and the beauty of grace. Blessings teach us gratitude. And struggles teach us to rely on God and dig deep for His help. 

All of it can be used to teach our children about life. Even the things that we have been shamed about- our struggles with depression, our feelings of worth, our deepest hurts. 

I love an amazing God, who helps me to overcome all things. But who also uses the broken things of this world to teach me more about who I am, and what I can do. In turn I can teach my children the same thing. 

John 16:33 - These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Jeremiah 33:6 - Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth.

Isaiah chapter 9:

2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, [and] not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, [and] as [men] rejoice when they divide the spoil.

4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

5 For every battle of the warrior [is] with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but [this] shall be with burning [and] fuel of fire.

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Crush




The tears started hard and fast in the carpool lane. A wave of sadness and loss that I didn't expect, had no inkling of, and couldn't hold back. I was holding my rosary, praying for those both in and out of my life. And grief swelled like the ocean in my soul. 

So I cried. Behind my glasses. Big sobs and hard tears that felt....awesome.

I've been living behind a wall. A huge, crushing, brick edifice I built myself. I put it up, stone by stone, out of self protection and fear. 

Sometimes love seems like an invitation to pain. An outstretched hand to a crushing blow. An offering that will surely, one day, be rebuffed and rejected. 

So I built this wall to keep everyone out. With evey instance of pain and rejection stone went higher. 

Until I was insulated, isolated. 

Safe. But alone. 

This is not how God designed me. This is not being true to the nature Christ died to give to me. I am not meant to hide my love, to squash my feelings, or to turn my back.

I've been led here, to this point, by life. But that doesn't make it right. 

I've been crushed. What I thought was true and good and whole has been lost. What I created and nurtured and strove for- relationships of depth and mutual care- have been removed from me. 

I've been pruned, down to the very bottom of myself. 

And lately when I pray I have asked God how much more I have to lose. In return I have lost more. 

I have asked Him when it will end. In turn it hasn't. 

I've asked how many times I can get back up. In turn I have struggled back to my feet more times than I can count.

Pain is not easy. Pain stretches the parts of yourself that have never seen the light. It brings forward all of your deepest fears and worst flaws. It shines light on your beliefs and your hard held bondages. It frays the edges of your faith, and then unravels it.

Until you build and edifice to live behind. Then you are protected. From the world. From others. 

But what I have realized is that this edifice is also between me and God. Between me and the best parts of myself he has given me- my heart for love and service. My desire to always be the first one to help, to give, to serve, and to nurture. 

My heart has been so hardened, so angry, and so numb. I could stay that way forever. I could keep others out and enjoy the solitude of my tower.

But I would be denying myself the very best parts of life in Christ- freedom to love. To love and know when you are hurt or rejected by the world, that God is always and forever the balm and healing for that devastation. 

I can live in the freedom of knowing hurt will come. Pain will surface. I won't be protected from what life has to give- but I will be healed of its injury.

I don't have to be afraid anymore. I don't have to be scared of rejection. I don't have to worry about others opinions. I've lost it all. I've experienced it all.

And I'm still here, with a God who will stand outside of my wall and knock. Who will remind me that this is not who I am, or who I was designed to be.

I've locked my heart up, refused to cry. I've stored up feelings of hatred and disgust and deep betrayal. It has kept me safe from having to feel. 

I don't want to be like the world. I don't want to hold myself away from others out of fear. I don't want to be scared. I want to live. I want to serve. 

So I prayed for the wall to come down. And in turn, I began to feel again.

To soften. To mourn. To hurt and to grieve. 

To cry in carpool. To cry in the shower. To cry at Christmas music and diaper commercials. To begin to say, again:

I love you.

I am here.

I am open. 

I began to soften back into the beauty of this life, to allow the horrible and the perfect and the mundane to effect me again, and not numb myself. 

To say everything, no matter how silly or sentimental I may seem. To be vulnerable. 

Because behind that wall is who I am slowly leaving behind. The person who hid and raged and stopped caring.

Outside there is a chance of being crushed, and being hurt. The world offers no guarantee of safety or of help. 

So it's a really good thing I don't belong to the world. 


Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.


Galatians 5:1
[ Freedom in Christ ] It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

I can't live in fear of hurt. And I can't be in bondage to what others may do or think of me. And I know I cannot love behind a wall.

So the choices are clear: to soften, and allow the love of Christ to be in me and flow through me again. To be vulnerable to pain. To offer my hand and my heart and service without being afraid of the repercussions to my heart. 

To be open to being crushed, by stepping outside of the crushed wall I've been hiding behind. 


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lily


Dear Lily,

I remember hearing when I was pregnant that I would fall into this chasm of love the first time I saw you. I anticipated that, waited for it. And it didn't happen. Of course I loved you- would have died for you within minutes. But this deep and wide feeling of attachment that would undo me? No.


That came on night four when you came home. Your daddy was asleep and I was getting ready to nurse you. I looked down at you and this wave crashed over me- not a small thing. A tsunami of gratitude and love and KNOWING that I had never felt for another human being on this earth. I looked at you and thought- "This. This is it. What I have never known. What I have needed to my bones but never could speak." And it was you, in your tiny little body.

You became as important to my living as air. You have become my compass and my guide to what is important and right in this life.

You have made me a better person, just by living. 


We've had a ripple through our family this past year. A whirlpool of shifting tides. I know you have felt it and I know I've done the best I could to explain it to you. You will remember this time- hushed conversations and finding mommy crying at times. You will remember that your feet didn't feel so solid on the ground for a while- that you could feel the tremor of the earth as our lives moved and stilled. 

You may never know the details- but you will know this: our family can weather anything. The four of us are together, always. No matter what comes, it is us. Us and our God and our faith.

You have taught me so much in these times. You have a powerful sense of justice and fairness that most adults do not posses. You are entirely driven by your own sense of right and wrong and you always err on the side of compassion. I've watched your navigate tough waters- waters you should never have to, with an ear to your own conscience. You are wise enough to love even past being hurt.

I look at you and want so much to be like you.  


If I could give you one thing to take through the rest of your life it would be peace. Peace deep enough to carry your feet and your heart through the dark places every life travels. Peace that comes from knowing your identity is grounded in faith and family and that you can make mistakes and be forgiven.

Peace of heart, mind, and soul. 

I want you to know I would do anything for you. My love for you is a million times more than that moment in the dark 7 years ago. It is enough to protect you from anything and not count the cost to myself. It is enough to give you all of me for as long or as much you need.

I'm so lucky to be able to go through this life with you, to watch you grow. To see what kind of woman you will be-will you climb the pyramids of Egypt or will you rock babies all day? Who will you find to love? Will you marry or will you go on adventures alone? 

The one thing I know for sure is that I will be here, with you, for it all. 





I love you, sweet girl. To the moon and back. Forever. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Called

Most of us know the story of Jesus asking his disciples "Who do you say that I am?"

We've read it and heard it in Sunday school and in church. Just like I did this past Sunday. The story was told, and as always, it struck a chord with me. It resonates because the answer is true for me- he is my savior. 

But then, working just along the edges of my prayers was this question- "Who do I say YOU are?"

It's a much harder question to answer. It's a question of worthiness and of giving yourself permission to be loved. 

It's about stepping out into the faith that if you love Christ, you are loved in return. And not only loved, forgiven. And not only forgiven, but a new creation. And not only a new creation but righteous.

No pressure. 

Ahem.

This is what I grapple with the most. I want to feel SMALL. I want to feel unworthy. I want to feel lost in the shuffle. I don't want to be important or to be beloved.

Because then I have to wrestle with feelings of being worthy. And those are feelings even pandora would run away from.

I've spent a lot of time trying to be good. Trying to be love able. Trying to serve and give. I've cultivated a mindset of jumping in when others don't because I've been there. I've been the homeless kid asking for money. I've been the kid at school with no lunch. I've been the woman at the grocery store with not enough cash. A thousand different scenarios. 

We've all been there right? When we look around and there's not a friendly face to be found? When circumstances rise up to us and circle like jackals. And we feel alone in the fight, backed up against a wall. 

When we think we've established a life where we need never feel lonely again. But we still end up there, where it's only us with our thoughts and deeds. When we end up misunderstood and judged and left behind. 

That's where all the scripture about crying out in the wilderness, about saving grace and redeeming love should be relevant.

But sometimes you are still alone with just words. Words of life and of truth, yes. But God never promised to remove loneliness and pain. Just that in the midst of it, he would be there.

And so when he asks me "Who do I say that you are?" The answer is loaded with emotion and fear. 

I am His. I am all of the things He has said. 

But to FEEL that...to really be in it, to walk in it -even when everything around you is telling you that you are alone? Well that's another story.


Habakkuk 3:16-19 

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. 



Wow. That's a lot of faith right there. And that's what it comes down to then right? That if we believe God is who he says he is, we have to believe that we are also his creation, made in his image, and beloved by Him.


Despite our circumstances and our sadness. Despite the world that tells us we are unimportant or others who disregard us.


The world and people can and may reject us. The word of man can be betrayed and vows revoked. Nothing in this life is certain.


Nothing but the love of God. Despite how unworthy we may feel or how small we are. How much we want to hide or how much we wrestle with the worthiness of our lives. 



Psalm 34:17-18 

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.



Who does he say that I am? His. Even as work toward being worthy, he calls me by name. 

And despite my feelings of unworthiness, I answer and I follow. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Bitterness

I have been laid bare, stripped away of all that was me.

Before what has happened and after what has been wrought are the remains of who I was and the life I was stepping glibly through.

I shouldered my burden of childhood and carried it high and proud on my back. I used its weight to propel me forward, and it's weight reminded me in many ways and in every conversation that I would never go back there.

I was who I chose to be. I was a woman immersed in a life I created. I was loved and I loved in returned. I served and I loved to serve.

And between the then me and the now me lies a shriveling of self, a backstep into who I never wanted to repossess. The hard edged, hard worded person I had left long ago.

The battle with circumstance has poisoned the sweetness of faith I worked so hard to wrap around my heart.

Have you ever been thirsty? So thirsty you would drink anything, anything, to remove the desperate calling of your body for replenishment? And have you ever taken that first sip and realized the water was bitter? Tainted?

But you drink anyway. Because you thirst. 

And this water makes you sick. But still, you are thirsty, so you still drink. And soon the sickness and the bitterness become like nothing. You no longer taste or realize how sick you have become. 

That's how the world, and life, and hurt, can turn your once cared for garden of a soul into a stumbling block of stony field.

It's not an overnight process, but a moment by moment slip and allowance of outside forces to become more important than the truth you know. 

And here is the Truth:

God is bigger than life. That He is and always will be working for your good. That our troubles here, in this plane, create in us a deeper need for Him and a calling home to where we are destined. 

Every tear is counted and every moment we spend in pain or in fear can create a carved path for our feet to tread to the cross.

Or it can lower us into a state of perpetual wrath, of giving over to thoughts of only wrongs and betrayals. It can lower our vision into only seeing the turned back of friends instead of the open arms of our Savior. 

Bitterness is sadness and anger given root and wings. It is savage in its spread and unretreating in its repetitive thought patterns. 

It has hooks and claws. But it is also a slow moving monster, and it has had me without me knowing.

In the tossing storm of the past few months my eyeline has shifted. It has moved from heaven to the horizon. It has turned from caring about God's idea of who I am to who everyone else thinks I am.

I am a bitter Christian with a loving God. One who is faithful even when I am not. One who loves me and wants to give safe haven when the world is storm tossed. 


Hebrews 12:14-15 

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. 




Defiled. It's such an intimidating word, but important. Because defiled is what your mind becomes when you allow your circumstances and your situation to outshine the knowledge that God is sovereign. That He is awake to all things, even when you are asleep. That when you rage and cry and scream and wail He is still in control. 


I lost my way in this. I allowed my life to become bigger than my God. I let my troubles become much much bigger than what I know to be true.


I don't like to give evil a lot of credit. I tend to try to ignore the fact that there is a force other than the One I love and live for in this world. But I can see, step by step, how insidious and easy it is to get a foothold in my thoughts. And once it is there how moment by moment it creeps and finds other thoughts to feed on.

1 Peter 5:8 

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.



In praying to God to change my circumstances and repair the broken things, I never prayed to guard my thoughts. 

Bitterness works it's way in the dark. It twists the actions of others through a lens of fear and hurt, so that everything becomes personal. It makes the innocuous hurtful and casts doubt upon every action others take. 

It twists the victor into a victim, and the hopeful into a wretch.

And I'm weary of being hopeless.

I have an amazing, vibrant, loving God. He has given me more than the world could ever take away from me. 

I'm stepping into a new life, one that is much barer of those I thought would be here for the journey. It's much quieter, and filled with confusion and hurt. 

But it is also filled with the symphony of my husbands voice, my children's calling and singing and laughing. It is filled with God's grace and His open arms and his word that speaks of home and life.

It is filled with all that can edge the bitterness away, push the stony ground beneath the cover of life that can regrow even in the barren places. 

It is filled with Him. 

Colossians 3:12-14 

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.