Supermarket Flowers ūüíź

Sometimes, I sort things out with my pen. And although the world feels strangely silent right now, I want to talk about the song, and how it rang out from the hush.

(I tremble as I type.)

This summer, I spent extra time with my step-mom, Carol. We go way back.

In fact, we go back 38 years or more, because that’s how long ago Carol and my dad got married and brought a rag-tag bunch of us together and started fighting for them to become a family. They fought hard, and no-one fought harder than she did.

One sunny day in July, Carol and I were having lunch at our favorite spot, and she became quite dizzy. The kind employees there knew us well, and they surrounded her, getting her water, asking how they could help.

(They were angels.)

Some of them sat with her, and some of them stood, and I steadied myself on the back of her chair and did what I sometimes do: I just talked to lighten the mood and pass the time. I was giving her time to sip and to recover, and I could see the worry on the faces around me.

I told stories, and they were funny stories of experiences with Carol. We laughed and she laughed and she slowly recovered, and we went on our way. But in the next week, I thought about those stories, and I had a new revelation.

(All of my stories are about her.)

When I say that, I mean no disrespect to my biological mother, who died in 1985, but fell ill in 1961. In many ways, she was unable to mother from my beginning, but of course, I loved her.

I’ve known for years that Carol was God’s gift to this mostly-motherless child, but this revelation was different.

(I struggle to explain in the stillness, but almost all of my stories are about her.)

Carol and I didn’t exactly start out well, because I was a confused mess, and that’s being generous, but long ago we melted into each other’s arms and we forgave and we accepted each other for what we were: mother and daughter. And I changed and became an almost totally new person. And she changed too, I think.

(This is just a tiny slice of the bigger story, which is, as always, a God one.)

This summer, I got to do ordinary things for my step-mom, which was an honor. But it was hard, and I didn’t want to do it, because of the pain.

(It hurt brutally to see her unwell.)

But years ago, I accepted that the hard is what makes it great, and although I hate pain, that line from a Tom Hanks movie helped me get up off the shower floor after my sister’s suicide and go on living. And my pastor recently reminded me that sometimes it’s supposed to be hard, and I needed to hear it.

Carol died last week. In fact, we just buried her a few, short days ago. And during her final demise, this Ed Sheeran song rose out the the dust like petals rising into the fall breeze and swirling away.

I loved the song, and I hated it, and its haunting melody floated above the room filled with flowers at her funeral. I played it on repeat in my driveway one night…the night I came home from the vigil at the end, went inside and hit play on T Swift’s new stuff and drug down the cooking liqueur to see how much it would take, and I don’t drink.

(It didn’t take much.)

But that night, the sweet, thick liquid that I usually make holiday chocolate mousse with, and that I had to ice and water down to swallow, served as medicine, and I danced with attitude and cried and tried to block the song out.

But the song wouldn’t be silenced, and I made my way upstairs, the last one to bed, and now, it is something I play on occasion to smile and to remember and to be thankful. And yes, of course, to cry.

(The song has meaning for me on so many levels.) 

That’s a tidbit our family’s story, and there’s so much more, about how God was sweet through it all, and harsh when I needed a Job-style dressing down, and so many things, but how in the end, He was what he Is.

(He was faithful.)

I’ll stop now and let you listen to the song.

Goodbye, my sweet Carol. You were an angel in the shape of my mom. You forgave me when I didn’t deserve it and you loved me like I was your own.¬†

And I’ll miss you.

 

 

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Walking Though the Fire ūüĒ•

God is rocking me to the core of my existence, which (strangely) is a process I welcome. I’m just trying not to miss any memos.

I’ve learned that fire can be good, because the heat brings to the surface things that need to be dealt with. If I’ll take those things to God, and be honest about them, He skims them off and I’m that much closer to love, joy, and peace. If I don’t, even when the heat dies down, those things just settle back down in the muck. They don’t go away, and when things heat up the next time, there they are again, leering at me and at others. 

One thing I’m seeing in this period of fire is that a communication problem in our family culture has filtered down to our children and caused damage. I can’t, as a Christ-follower, let this spiritual disaster continue.

Of course, I can’t go back either, so there’s no need for despair. But I can address things from this point on, as far as I’m concerned, and as best as I can.

It’s hard. It hurts. And I hate pain.

But today, I say bring it. I want to get better in a way that helps the people around me and brings glory to the Lover of my soul, Jesus Christ. Without Him, I’d quite literally be dead. 

So for starters, I’m clinging for life to God, the Three-In-One, who is my only hope for any of it. (Picture a child holding on to Daddy’s leg.) And I’m stumbling along, often failing, but listening and learning and applying. I’ll try to remember to stop by here from time to time and share my lessons. ūüėĄ

One thing I know, dear fellow sojourners, is that in Christ, no matter what, we can do this thing called life. I just have to remember, doggedly, even when weaving through the smoke, that it starts with walking with Him, every day, just for the pleasure of it. And on that, I can’t ever give up.

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On repeat today, to help with my lessons: Say by John Mayer. I’ve always liked John Mayer’s music, even though I don’t usually listen to him much. But this song is one I keep coming back to, from time to time. His voice is gravelly butter, with a satisfying hint of drawl in his delivery. He’s an excellent guitarist and a good lyricist and songwriter. The teenager-for-a-few-more-weeks especially likes his newest stuff. 

“Even if your hands are shaking…and your faith is broken. Even as the eyes are closin’…do it with a heart wide open. 

Say what you need to say…”

 

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So Much…

Since an internal change 17 years ago, my call is to focus on my end of things in human conflict. This is incredibly difficult, but it’s my only hope and responsibility. ¬†In this process, I am forced to face real truth. And sometimes truth about yourself hurts.

But if I don’t face real truth, the problem just gets worse. Eventually, it creates hatred, un-forgiveness and bitterness. These things can cause sickness, either of my body or of my mind, or both. And the worst part is that if I remain in this state, I also cause pain and damage to those around me. So for everyone’s benefit, and for God’s glory, I can’t let a spiritual disaster of this nature continue.

Today, as always, I realize I have so much to work on that it’s overwhelming. But submitting to the work yields results like love, joy, and peace. Why would I resist good things like these? Because I don’t like pain, and the work is hard. I don’t want to look in the mirror.

It’s painful to even type these words, but I type them to stretch myself and hold myself accountable.

Today, I’m thankful for this process, so I’d better stop typing and get busy.¬†I have a lot of work to do.

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When You Grump At the Courtesy Caller

Well, I did it again. I went off for a week and had a whooping-good time, and got behind on my home budget system. Some of my bills went past due, and the fees started hitting and piling up.

Sigh.

Today, a bright-faced (she sounded bright-faced) courtesy caller from Charter Internet called to thank me for my recent payment, and to inform me that my new balance was $77.14 and would be due on the 28th.

Wait, what? My monthly bill is $64.99, and the balance sounded too high, but I was going from memory, so she started pulling up my account records, and I logged in, also. We sorted it out, but not before I told her how it sucked that they sock it to poor, innocent people who go out of town for a week and live life in the hamster wheel upon returning, and are just minding their own business.

Right.

I was courteous in tone, mind you, but in my heart, I was absolutely furious. And at that bright-faced¬†caller, who is someone’s daughter or sister or wife or friend and who is just trying to make a living at a calling center.

Double sigh.

I quickly asked God’s forgiveness in my heart, based on Jesus’s sacrifice, and apologized to her, and she kind of stammered that she was just being, you know…courteous in calling. And she really was. She offered to call me near the 28th to remind me that my payment was due.

I told her thank you, that I had a system, but that I just got off kilter because of a trip out of town, coupled with crazy life. I told her all of this was certainly not her fault.

And to think that the only eternal thing I have dealt with this morning so far was that caller…

She wished me a good day, and I thanked her and wished her the same, and hopefully, we will both have one.

Here is the point: Yes, I have a system, but obviously, it needs improvement. And the only one who can do that¬†is me. I’d better get started.

So why did I get angry in my heart at that cheerful caller, who was just doing her job? It doesn’t matter how courteous I sounded on the outside. I got mad at her because I was born with a sin problem on the inside. It’s my default button, every day. And before Jesus came to this earth to offer Himself as the solution to that problem, there was no answer.

Thankfully, now there is, and I know and follow Him. So the answer to my ugly problem is always just a prayer away.

Thank You, Jesus, for being my Answer.

18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

Matthew 15: 18-19, ESV

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A Mother’s Day Story

This is s story about me and my mom.

It’s really only a tiny slice off the story, and it’s deeply personal. But I share it to steward it, to offer hope to other broken wrecks out there, and because the pain of the story is gone. Not the sadness, mind you, but the deep, gouging pain.

Here is what I did on the evening before Mother’s Day this year, in that glorious golden hour.

And that’s my story for today.

(I almost walked away without photos, but now, I’m thankful that¬†I didn’t.)

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Song lyrics here.

Dear Mom,

So many Mother’s Days come and go…and I get busy and don’t come by. But I always think of you.¬†Life dealt you some cruel blows, Mom. I don’t blame you for anything. Sometimes sad things just happen in this broken world.

But Mom…I found Jesus…or He found me. And He filled up all my holes. And Mom, He healed me. I am whole. And much of it happened on walks right here, but much of it is still happening, and it’s just so beautiful. I’m hidden…and safe in His love.

No-one will ever replace you, Mom, even though your situation rendered you pretty much unable to mother, but Carol has really been God’s gift to me in so many strange and wonderful ways.

I just wanted you to know that I’m okay, and that I am taken care of…and that I am here on Mothers’ Day to honor you. To honor your memory.

I know that you are gone, Mom, and that you will not get this card, or these flowers, but somehow it feels right to be here writing it and leaving a rose on your tombstone. And somehow, I’m trusting God to get the message to you.

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Lessons From the Pit

Some things can only be learned from a low place, at least for me.

It’s hard to share, because:

  • pride
  • snippets come that I connect later
  • I understand¬†before I can articulate

But this time, there was one, full-circle thing: silence.

That day-in-the-pit, I couldn’t bear any sound.¬†All I could do, even at the park for exercise, was to walk, and nothing more.

I did not open the game I play. I did not listen to music. And what I experienced was revealing.

To my surprise, a world opened up in true, living color, bathed in sound and life. And I’d been missing it. I didn’t even notice it was gone.

You see, I’d had my head down, in the mesmerizing (but make-believe) world of Pokemon Go for so long, I didn’t even notice that I’d sort-of left the real world. I’m struggling to explain this, but even as I passed people at the park on my exercise days, my senses were surrounded with full-spectrum sound, of praise music, yes. But my earphones are so good, that they blocked out even the responses of fellow humans after I’d said, “Good morning.” They silenced¬†the sound of birds and water flowing and cars passing and conversation and¬†life.

This lesson should have been obvious to me, but to my shock, it was not.

And if my mission field is really between my own two feet at any given moment, as Jill Briscoe said at IF Gathering¬†this year–if it’s really in the orbit of my everyday life, then I’m missing a lot. In fact, I might be missing everything.

I don’t even know when this happened.¬†And as I famously lament my lack of time and my struggle to complete assignments that I believe are God-given, I wonder how it happened.

I don’t know…

But the lesson was that it did.

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The Thing in a Nutshell ūüĆį

I don’t have to worry about a troublesome situation in my life because of¬†who God is.

But I worry about it because of who I am.

So today, I’m going back over some of the reasons why I don’t have to worry. Thank You, Holy Spirit.

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A Song of God’s Majesty and Love

A Praise of David.

145 

1 I will extol You, my God, O King;
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
And His greatness is unsearchable.

Psalm 145: 1-3, NKJV

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