Saturday, May 20, 2017

Lost and Found

I am back.
Returned.

I want to whoop and sigh and dance and weep. I have been through a Valley. With a capital V. It has honestly felt like a journey of Tolkian ilk; certainly not a vacation. Not a respite but a workout of body mind and spirit.

And it has taken years.
Years of screaming in the darkness,
I. Still. Need. You. God.
Dont leave me, here. Alone

A long time ago when the heaviness was just beginning I was walking down a isolated lane. Surrounded by green trembling leaves and arched cathedral trees. When gently but sorrowfully a Voice said,
It is going to get worse before it gets better.

What?
What does that mean? I am daily seeking your Face, Lord, daily asking for intervention and your mercy. I feel the darkness coming. I need assurance and love.
I need you to Fix. This.
I cant take much more. And all you can say is buckle up, buttercup?
I was petrified.
And boy did it get worse.

The attack began on what I could see and touch. I came a hair's breadth away from loosing all my material things; house, car, income. My lifestyle of staying home, volunteering at church, homeschooling my kids, chauffeuring them around was very likely going to crumble to pieces.
I was beyond terrified and I clung to God.

No. That's a lie. I really began to walk away from Him.

Not that anyone would have been able to see it. I still was very active in church. I still prayed with my children and diligently taught them God's Word. I still worshiped and went on retreats. But in my spirit I was mad and hurt.
God did get my family out of a pickle. But it was not a long term fix. I knew that in my core; that there was a malignancy that was hiding away just under the surface. I was able to keep my house and the income did rebound. For a while I was able to stay home with my kids.
Itt slowly began to unravel again.
And my anger and bitterness prospered more than anything else.
It was righteous anger in my mind. I had been wronged and hurt by those I loved and trusted the most. I was justified in my cancerous thoughts and flailing rage.
To those who knew me then, you might be surprised. Maybe you wont be. I thought I hid it very well. I hid it from my self quite successfully. I was the victim, hurt by family friends and God. And I could easily show you with Scripture how I was right and they were wrong.

Then it all really went crazy.
This time the attack wasn't on my finances, my house, my car, my lifestyle. It was an outright personal attack against me, my husband, my children. When I say attack I don't mean like an eagle seizing a trout. I mean like a terrorist flying a plane into my soul.
Suddenly I was alone. Just me and the Lord. My husband was slipping away. My family thinning and weak. And I knew what I had to do this time. I jumped into God like a swimmer leaping from a burning boat into the ocean. I served Him with my whole heart. Bitterness was gone. Anger was gone. I abandoned everything to follow where He would lead. I wanted only God's healing, I would obey whatever He said.
Then it got better.

No. Then it got worse.
My husband was completely gone and life as I knew it was never going to be the same again.
The ocean I had plunged into had become a crashing sea of boiling waves. I was very certainly going to go down and not make it up again. My whole adult life was dedicated to being a Christian, a Wife and a Mother. And now that reality had disappeared in a vapor, my core identity was being blown to pieces. So in this tumultuous sea of turmoil I did what any child of God would do. I began to learn how to turn over on my back and float. I saw what it was like to realize how to give up the struggle. I had spent the last year repairing my heart before the Lord and I was ready to turn it all over to Him. At the absolute critical moment.
Don't be fooled. That choice to float rather than struggle was a minute by minute struggle to keep going. A whole year of repair work. A year of reconstructive surgeries. Graft after graft. Stitch after stitch.

New life began to open up. But anyone who knows anything about recovery knows every single hiccup can put you right back in the ER. My husband, in humility before the Lord, took my hand and we began to see what God had in mind all along. We tried to pick up every piece that the tornado had scattered. But you cant pick up every one and somethings just cant be glued back together. A new thing had to begin.
But I wasn't me.
I had lost myself in the chaos. I had entered this millennium as a mother of a preschooler and a two rapidly growing boys. A SAHM who was more often than not in church. I was now an empty nester who needed to find a job. I had no idea who I was. I tried to find the edge pieces. You know, the beginning pieces to the 5,000 piece puzzle. The flat edges of Truth. The Corners of God, Faith, Trust, Peace.

Just when I had begun to punch the destination in the GPS that would lead me to my new career, my mother fell ill. Just three months after my dad had died my mom went for surgery and never left the hospital.
That is a journey I am still processing a year later.

But today.
Today, I went for a long walk. I saw brilliant May skies and liquid lavender wild flowers. I wanted to speak kindly. I was excited to hear from Jesus and to follow His next adventure. I thought with schoolgirl love of my husband at work. I opened my hand and cast my grown children to God's care. I felt purposeful. And maybe even happy. Certainly peaceful and suddenly, there I was.

I was back. The vulnerable girl of 8
the gawky 18
the unteachable 25
the tender 33
the chaotic angry 48
suddenly all merged into me again.
I am back. Whole. And I'm finally able to live again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Damascus


The sun crushes my vision. I duck my head and squint, Saul like, and grimace at the irony of my prayer, 
Speak Lord. 
My heart snatches back at the prayer. Perhaps too reckless, too bold. But as I keep moving down the city street, obediently, mechanically walking to the hospital I know I need- beyond the word itself- beyond any previous meaning of need that I have ever known- I need to hear from Him.

Inside the giant bully of a building a small frail 72 year old woman helplessly waits. Unable to speak for the trach in her neck, unable to lift depleted limbs, unable to calm a fluttering heart, at the mercy of man, medicine, and my signatures of consent- she waits.

So I need answers.
The Mind of God. All knowing- past yesterday and beyond tomorrow.
Answers to the implications of an unknown future. Answers that die in certainty and do not live in my doubts, my dreams, my daytime business. When only one name fits on the line to sign away misgivings it is a very lonely thing. Even consulting doesn't add another place for a signature on a surgical consent, blood consent, procedure consent... Life and death by my name like the Queen of Hearts.

And the weariness. I know I must exude weariness like a perfume cloud. I am so saturated with it- it must leak out of me, through my porous bones into my thinning skin. I cover it with oils that mean to revive and calm but I know; I reek of tired.

My mind snatches at words, trying to hold the clarity and purpose of
Vasopressor, Dialysis, Tube-feeds, Epinephrine, PEEPS, Atrial Fibrillation,
Med Line, Tidal Volumes, TPN, A Lines, OT, PT, Creatinine, Transfusion,
Palliative Care,
DNR.
I must know them all. And know what to say when the doctor's monologue ends with the inevitable...

“Do you have any questions?”

Questions?
My, oh, my do I have questions.
Questions that would make you back away from the sheer raw pain.
Why is first.
Why?
It is a rare complication. Why her? Why now? Why are you so kind, Doctor, and so compassionate, so smart, so able to save and heal others but not my mother?
Why.

and How.
How do we know this is what “Needs to be done” ? How can she ever get out of this hospital that has held her here these 4 months? How does she who has been silent for 17 weeks speak again? How do I see beyond this bed that has become her ship in stormy seas. How do I remember health? How do I keep on making pictures of recovery and normal everyday life to distract her vision away from the endless tubes and needles?
How.

When will hope return?
Who will she be when we reach the end. A sinner saved by grace- welcomed in peace and freedom from pain. Or will she be broken and forever walled in by machines. Life outside the window forever removed and out of reach. Alive enough to live, sick enough to die.


My feet ache from the walk, the long walk to go from me to my mother. And I selfishly gather the pain and rub my sadness into it. But larger than my inconveniences is her need.
So I walk I to the hospital,
elevator,
floor,
hallway,
and her room.

I walk into her need.
Larger than life- than my life- larger than everything
and pray God speaks.

Damascus words. Of love

and life.  

Tryst



It is light outside my closed eyes
It is light mid the midnight
She sings a siren song
louder still now against the snow
not absorbed by the flat white
but reflected
bounced
and pounced
like a self absorbed cat
heedless of my need for sleep
she calls
my sister moon
my lunar daughter
begs me awake
to admire her
lumosity
her sensuous embrace
her winter kiss

I have never in the day
loved and known such lure
as the blue sylvian
glide that draws
me in this deep night
as the curved silver
lunar girl
my sister moon
My fragile soul was born from her light
my thin heart
a paper copy
crumpled reflection

Some nights she seeks
me on my pillow
her eye cast on my dark head
her smooth hand brushes
my slumbering cheek
and curls inside my flesh

I cannot sleep
we must speak
the silence of the night
she brings me
with no fear
she shows me only now
only breathe
and my interlaced stacked up
mess of life and obligation
untwists in the shadows
of winter twigs on azure pillows of frost and ice
Untwist
Uncurl

My breath craves the
enchanted allure of wet damp air
the healing of breathing
moon drenched
midnight breaths
fill my lungs with trust
to
catch and hold aloft my dreams

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

You Will Always Be His Momma

  • She wrote that her first born was moving out.
  • Oh, how I know that excitement and heartache. I have had two leave home for college and beyond. My baby girl is testing her wings right now. I rushed off these words to my friend and thought maybe some other mommas might find encouragement in them as well.
    Dear Sweet Friend,
    You are right to not feel ready, you are never ready. Because you will always be his momma. He will always be your baby.
    But that now becomes a secret that you hide in your heart. You must remember the strength you had when you were in labor and you felt like you had given everything and it was still too hard but you did it anyway. That momma strength will see you through.
    You will remember that God loves this manchild more than you could ever ever imagine and give him to the Lord...again. The love he shows you and the communication may dwindle to a drip. He may even be a little hateful, but it is just to cut the ties he feels to you. He doesn’t know how to do it any other way.
    You will cry and cry.
    Everything will remind you of the boy years and, heaven forbid, the baby years too. But you will be strong and know this is God's plan for him and all boys who are walking into manhood.
    You will try to find a balance between being truthful in missing him and being morose and letting this rob you of your joy. And you will make that balance work because the other kids are missing him too and watching you and wondering how to live it out.
    Now you get to become his cheer leader and prayer partner.
    Always give hope, always encourage.
    Never say I wish you had talked to me first, because he needs to own and learn from his mistakes. Enjoy his independence with him, even when everything in you wants to lock him in the closet and never let him out.
    It will get better.
    Your life will change and your world  grow larger again. You will find delight in the small freedoms and new (sometimes scary) opportunities that will begin to unfold for you. You will remember the girl you were before you were mom. You will dream old dreams and live new ones that God had planned all along.
     You will make it!
    And you will do it again and again as each one makes their way out to begin their own journey. Children are like a River... they leave and leave and suddenly return like the tide, needing you like never before.
    What lies before you is such joy in having adult children.
    The joy of hearing "Mom, Ive been praying about this job and I think Ive got it!"
    And "Mom, there's this girl..."
    Then, " Mom, could you help me look at rings?"

    And suddenly he is looking down at you, with love and gratitude as you dance at his wedding, and you can’t help but remember holding him in your arms and swinging him to your own lullaby.
    Yes, I will pray for you. God has seen you through so much He is faithful to hold you in this too.
    He is the one who put that momma heart in you, after all.










Friday, April 3, 2015

The Unanswered Cry: Understanding Suffering

He walks like a little old man; a limp in his gait and a hitch of his pants. He smiles with no front teeth and looks through me. His eyes beautiful with pain.

He is only five.

His mother is gone. Words like abandoned and abused swirl around him.

He came to our school with confidence and swagger. He sat down in a group of suspicious, newly met children as if they were not there and listened to story time with curiosity and delight.

He liked us.

Unbelievably, he wanted to return to this unknown place with these unknown teachers and children. He was excited to join us. We were captivated by his precocious comments. He was to be mine for five hours a day, five days a week. Mine to watch over and instruct.
I was to be his teacher; he was to be my student.


I learned quickly that he loved the songs, stories, paints, playdo, and learning of preschool. But he did not like change. Do not move his seat. Do not switch the routine. Do not take his favorite car, dress-up uniform, book, or stuffed animal. He does not share. And he does not transition until he is good and ready.

And Oh… the meltdowns.

“This is RE-DIC-A-LIS!” He would scream.
“Miz Cath-room, You’re not the boss of me!”
“I will MAKE you let me”

Sometimes the firestorms would end in him being talked off the ledge by me, in my best calm low teacher voice saying, “Buddy… in our classroom we share with our friends…Sweetie, we must clean up the markers so we can have story time… We don’t talk to teachers like that… 
I am here to keep you safe, buddy…
You are going to be ok.”

Sometimes his screaming was too much for the other children to take and he had to leave our classroom to be comforted and confronted by another teacher. But he always came back repentant, “Miz Cathroom Im sorry I yelled at you"

"I love you Miz Cathroom”

He was always forgiven. Before he even asked.

Yesterday, I caught a glimpse of that broken part he usually kept hidden behind rage and indignation.

It had been a tough day and honestly a difficult week for little man. He was angry. Angry in a deep, deep place in his heart. He clutched at control like a drowning man. He argued with me over everything and became angry with himself at each simple mistake he made.

“Oh, NO! I messed up the ‘S’ again!” he yelled as he struggled to write his name.
“Well, Buddy we can start over…”
“NO, We CAN’T! It’s RUINED!” and sobs of frustration ensued.

After a devastating meltdown as we were leaving the gym, (he was admonished for pushing a friend out of line in anger) we came back to class to eat lunch.

Lunch always took him longer because of his lack of teeth. As he finished up, a child brought out a ball and he was drawn to it like a magnet.

He loves balls and sports with a passion. It almost hurts me to help him put his custom made braces on each ankle. I think it’s the footballs and baseballs and basketballs that decorate the braces that tug at my heart strings most. Almost mocking his love of sports as they try to wrench his twisted legs straight.

So he got up from the table to chase after that ball. Another child jockeyed for a chance to grab it and as they collided, he fell.

He falls often, what with the braces and all, but this time it really hurt.

I went to him quickly. I tried to assess his hurts.
“What happened, buddy? Where does it hurt? Can you show me?”

I looked into his face, wretched with pain. No answer, only screams.

I knew he needed to be held. Just held. As I wrapped him in my arms and drew his head to my shoulder his crying cranked up, louder and louder. I began to simply stroke his head and croon, “It’s going to be ok, buddy. It’s going to be alright.”

That’s when it happened.

His crying turned from temper and tempest. He began to cry from a new place; a place buried way down deep. It changed from a cry caused by a bump on the head into a wail that called forth the pain that had laid itself down within his soul.

 Everything in me stopped as I knew this wasn’t tantrum, this was suffering.

 I heard the whisper of the sweet Spirit of God in my ear,
This is the cry of the infant. This is the cry that always went unanswered”

Tears clouded my sight as I pulled him closer and rocked my body with the ancient mother’s rock. I wanted with my whole everything to heal his wounds with that embrace. I felt so much frustration at the injustice that puts that kind of pain and misery inside such a tiny heart. In the presence of such grief I could only respond with a hug?...A caress?...A kiss on the head? I felt so impotent in the face of such unveiled emotion.

 I said with doubt and conviction,
“It’s going to be alright.”

Slowly his body relaxed and his head fell, heavy on my heart. His sobs slowed and his breathing began to smooth out.

I pulled him from my arms to look into his eyes. Tear soaked, he nodded his head with strength that I could not understand, and stood up and said,

“Im ok now.”

Oh, sweet brave boy I want that for you with all my heart. Be ok.


If I did not understand the grace that grows from suffering; if I did not know in my inmost heart that God’s redemption lives and flourishes within pain, I don’t think I could bear seeing this child’s struggle.

Pain can be redeemed. 
Even pain inflicted on the most undeserving innocent soul.

There is a mystery that Christians don’t talk about. We know we can’t understand everything God knows and gives us. We do know we have unmerited grace that forgives everything. We do know we have joy that supersedes our circumstances. We do know we have wisdom that could never be contained in a classroom or a book. But the mystery that haunts us is the mystery of suffering. 
Why in God’s name do the innocent suffer? Why does injustice seem to prevail?

Paul tries to unravel this idea when he wrote to the Philippians. He saw the way the power of resurrection was inextricably wound around suffering. He saw that resurrection is not only for the end of life but also the beginning and middle.

He writes,  I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” Philippians 3:10

I want.
I strive and long for power, he writes.
Don’t we all?

Especially this power he refers to: the power of resurrection. The power to rise up, to rise up from death and to live eternally with the Lord. Paul implies even more meaning than we can understand in English to the word resurrection. He doesn't simply write resurrection with this meaning: Anastasis from ana = up, again + histemi = to cause to stand. Instead he writes  ξανάστασις  ex-anastasis  or “out-rising- up”. And that little bit changes everything.
The way I see it Paul is reaching for more than the assurance that his body will someday rise up to meet God but that he will know now the rising up… the coming out… of resurrection. The moving out of sin life and the agony it is to continue to live in it. It is a chance to live out for Christ in wholeness and peace from today until I am in a resident of Heaven.

But how can one attain that power?

Through suffering.

I know no one likes to think like that but I didn’t write it first.

Paul did. Jesus did. God did.

The mystery that is suffering can release such power in a life for good or devastation. It can wrench the joy and compassion completely away from a life bowed down by pain or it can hold that drowning soul aloft like a life boat. A life yielded to God’s will, and obedient to suffering will attain resurrection, escape from death into life.

I am not glorifying suffering or saying you should, like The Scarlet Letter’s  Rev.Dimmesdale, create or sustain suffering in order to be closer to God. I am only trying to crack open God’s Word and gain some understanding into that cry of desolation and loss I heard from that sweet child’s mouth.

What I glean from this passage is that Paul himself struggled with this. His vulnerable “somehow” leaves the door open for us to see his very human like desire to be free of pain and his very sacred cry to be more like Christ.

 It is a fathomable and intangible mystery.

It is like this: it's through refining that rough materials are brought to their purest state. It is through desolate wild fires that new life is brought to the wilderness.  The problem is that we run from pain and we rebuke disease and distress and discontent. We aren't willing to lay ourselves down in suffering as Christ did. We distance ourselves from pain and grief. It is uncomfortable to think about babies being abandoned, abused, and calculatingly debased over and over. We like to throw money at words like orphans, genocide, sex slave trade, foster children, and addicts.

Suffering won’t be your sacrament unless it is lived and touched and felt.

But we cant live it. It isn’t Christian to suffer.

We have this unspoken code as Christians: we won’t say that we are judging you if your life is suddenly in chaos… but we wonder if somehow… maybe… you deserve it. We view suffering as ungodly and just. We have compassion on your pain but we tremble a little as we wonder if our sins will find us out too.

I have come to the conclusion that I welcome whatever God may bring to me. After some very great pain in my own life I have come to call for that Out- Resurrection with all my heart. I long for not only His unspeakable joy but also His sufferings. I want to not only see the pain of a street kid but touch her hand and walk beside her as she finds God’s grace. I want to lean in and smell the decay of cancer and hold that soul through the valley of the shadow. 

I want to daily reassure a five year old boy that he is loved and wanted and heard, no matter how much he screams.

Why?
Because I want to suffer?  Because I want pain?

No, I cower away from it just like you do. But I do want know Him and the power of His resurrection. To be more like Him. And I know I can trust Him with my everything.

I long for more Jesus every day.

Really, what more is there?




Monday, May 5, 2014

The Weight of Glory and Pianos

I’ve been thinking about Glory today.

God's glory specifically. The Bible talks about the glory of God and how awesome it is. But it also speaks of our role in it. We are called to glorify Him. To bring Him glory.
We cry out,
“Not to us, Lord, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.” Psalm 115: 1

The Hebrew word for glory is Kabod and it implies weight or heaviness. 
Psalm 24:8 says
“Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord strong and mighty,
    the Lord mighty in battle.”

It is hinting at His strength and power. But do we really see the connection?
A very intangible idea, Glory, defined by something we experience everyday, weight.

How can we understand it?

I was thinking about pianos.


I have had three pianos in my home over the past few years and I can tell you that they are the definition of HEAVY. Moving a piano must first be done with respect to the size and value of the instrument. Every move must be thought through in advance. You must plan carefully what you will do in conjunction with the many others you have wisely recruited to help you move this behemoth.
 If you don’t you will pay the price.

And the chiropractor.

Then the time comes when everyone moves in concert with the agreed upon plan. They work together and the giant is relocated. The music can begin.

So, I think God's glory or the weight of His person,
His reputation,
His essence,
is also a thing to be treated with respect. 

We, as His people, must consider His greatness before we move on His behalf.

Stop and think it through. Seek His plan. Is our move in ministry His will or our impatience to get things done? Our struggle to move His hand?

We must weigh our actions and attempt to foresee the implications. If God has called us, He has a specific plan. Steps are laid out in His time and Wisdom. We must seek the strategy He has already thought through.

And we must remember to work in tandem with others in the body in order to make the most progress with the least difficulty. It may seem easier to just go and do it ourself but that is almost never His plan. He calls us “members of the Body” for a specific reason; we need each other to work His will, to His glory.

Because isn’t that what we are striving for? To bring Him glory?
To make His name great?
Big?
Large?
Heavy?
Important?
Awesome?
Mighty?


Come let us glorify His name together. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just One More Story

He walks with a heavy step now. Feet clad in thick boots.
He hurries in from work,
from college
from Academy.
He was riding the motorcycle or driving the giant truck.
He has been out… late.
With friends.
With “the” girl.
He is a man now.
I look at him, his deep voice telling me stories of people I have never met: his friends, coworkers. His excitement as he talks about plans for his future job, wife, family.

And sometimes I think. Who are you?
I am living with a strange man whom I hardly know.

Where is my little boy?
Where is my baby boy?

The first time I heard “it’s a boy” was just a few minutes ago wasn’t it? The sweet tiny creature who looked at me for the first time like he was looking into my soul; like we had known each other for forever. We cuddled together like sleeping puppies. Inseparable. I knew every breath, every sound. In a crowded room his eyes looked for mine every time. I got the slippery bath time hugs. I shared each new taste each new touch with him.

And it was my hand he let go of when he walked away from me with those first few steps.

I held his dimpled fingers across the street, his first lost tooth, his gum in church, his dripping swim trunks. I oooh’ed and ah’ed over his castles and diving board jumps. I held on when he tried to ride on two wobbly wheels and he never knew when I let go and watched him coast away.

He built Legos, car tracks, rubber bugs, tents, and clubhouses. He made volcanoes and alien masks. He laughed until I thought the walls would burst with the joy of being a boy. Brothers were sent down stairs in laundry baskets and shot at with bb’s, spit wads, Nerf darts, and dirty socks. I insisted, “If you get scared or need anything call me I will come” as he drove away for his first night away from home.

If I could, I would like one thing:
I want one day back.
I want the last day he was still my little boy.

The last time he came to me with tears and a skinned knee.  The last day that I tucked him in at night and listened to him pray. The last time I held his sleepy head on my shoulder and rubbed his little back. The last time he cuddled on my lap for one more story. The last time he tore down the hall to open Christmas gifts.


Oh I want that day back.
Because I would treasure every minute. I would hold him a little longer. I would read another story or two. I would give him an extra cookie and a glass of chocolate milk. I would think about how swiftly the days pass and I would linger at the edge of sunset watching him reach higher and higher as he jumps and plays; knowing this tender sweet, immeasurable gift of a little boy is only mine for a short while.


And I would treasure it all the more.