He Does

I read a lot of books.  I listen to a lot of preachers.  My head spins.  I am in a season of questioning like never before in my life.  The only one I’m not questioning is Jesus.  His unwavering love, the pursuit of humankind, and His touch in my life are simply – unquestionable.

Love others as you love yourself – who’s my neighbor – forgive – Kingdom come – do not judge – sell it all – cut if off – turn your cheek – say what you mean – invest in people they are the treasure – stop worrying – stay faithful – Be blessed, blessed, blessed (Matthew 5, 6, 7)!  Impossible!  But not with God (Luke 1:37).

There are tears on my pillow for the oppressed.  What does love look like when someone is hurting differently from myself.  How do I love the immigrant, the sex slave, the gay person, the transgender person, the woman who just had an abortion, the person of different ethnicity, the one with conflicting beliefs?  How does Jesus?  Even more challenging – the ones who leave my pillow soaked, face stained, and a pit in my stomach – how do I love them? The politicians with opposing views, the partisan evangelists, the money-grubbers, the radical liberals or conservatives?  How does Jesus?  And, the most challenging – the one whose thoughts and actions I know deeply, how does He love me?

It is as natural to Jesus as a physician who takes care of the sick.  He knows us in our common disease and our communal brokenness.   With all my visceral concerns, confusion, hurt, and frustration, I don’t wholly understand why Jesus loves us, but I am ever so thankful that He does and pray we are up for the challenge as He commissions us to do the same (John 13:34).

 

Happy Birthday Momma

Today is my mom’s 81st birthday.  Last year, we surprised her with a shocking visit from her sister and family who she hadn’t seen in 19 years.  This year there will be no grand hoopla, but a little reflection nonetheless.

Momma and I have been able to spend some time together recently.  This time has made me thoughtful about how blessed my life is with her as my mom.

When I look at her now, I don’t see the strength I once saw.  The strength that she used to rear three children, babysit twelve grandchildren, enjoy nineteen great-grandchildren, and nurture more foster children than I can remember.   The force she used to lift my dad’s spirits when he wallowed in worry, and she had to be the rock has subdued.  I’m certain she is tired, and a little sad.  Our hearts have a way of becoming tattered the more love we give away.

This season is a selfish season for me as even in my 50’s I still long to climb in her lap (okay I, still, actually do that) but I want her to make things all better or at least tell me things will be fine.  But, here’s the thing, Mom has lived a lot of life, and she knows that things don’t always turn out just right.  There is much pain to experience and happiness to value along the way.  She can’t comfort me the way she reassured me as a child because I know now that she doesn’t possess all the answers.  In fact, life has seemingly given her more questions.

She is the family matriarch.  She is the treasure we seek for witty anecdotes and funny sayings.  Mom has a knack for comic relief – thank God, she has passed on this attribute. The ability to make us laugh is her gift even if she is laughing at herself.  She’s the inspiration we need when the only answer is hope, and she reminds us that without it, we are a miserable lot.

She reminds me how fortunate we are to be loved so well.  And, I wish above all on this her 81st birthday, she knows the love, gratitude, and the high esteem to which she is held.  Happy Birthday Momma – I love you more.

Be Still

Being still is not my strength.  I am a “moving” prayer – you know – I love to walk, drive, clean and talk to God.  I assume that’s why we are called to sit or lay quietly somewhere and “be still” as we enter His gates.

This morning I woke up early and I was still a little groggy.  I decided laying in my bed would be a good time to be still and listen to God.   My thoughts went immediately to my daughter, Blake, who is living in a sober living home a few hours away.  Last night her house mom had to take her to the ER because her body was shaking so badly.  I fretted the entire evening as we exchanged texts.  She had been shaking for the past three months from new medication, but evidently, this shaking was uncontrollable.  The doctor was treating her like she was on drugs which Praise God she was not.  Her tests all came out normal, so they assumed she was dehydrated and sent her home.  So, this is my back story to my still time with God.  As I was laying there, a thought came to my mind.  I like to call them “God thoughts” because I can’t imagine that I would think these things on my own.  The thought said, “I’m your God, but you think you are hers.”  Ouch!   So, I’m now wondering was that God or am I just overwrought and overthinking.  I laid there for five or ten more minutes and decided that I needed more sleep.

When I did get up, drank my coffee, and sat in my “morning” chair, I decided to try the “being still” thing again.   As I sat with eyes closed for fifteen minutes or so, I pondered stillness while ideas from the various authors I’ve been reading raced through my mind.  I was reminded to “be still” is not necessarily being still in my seat or my bed.  Praying about my earlier “God thought,” I admitted that I do try to control my children to do the “right” thing.  I give them and their issues to God only to take them back when I feel like things aren’t moving quickly enough.   I am copying this quote from Larry Crabb because it struck me so much that I thought of it during this time.  “Her “trust’’ in God was rooted not in unconditional confidence in His character and sovereign plan but rather in a hope that He’d relieve her suffering in the way she desired. The longer fulfillment was postponed, the more demanding she became as she “waited upon God.” (Crabb, Larry. Inside Out (Kindle Locations 2372-2375). NavPress. Kindle Edition).

My little loves:  Anthony my son, Jessica his wife, Blake my daughter and my beautiful granddaughters Avery and Myles – I want them all to follow Jesus.  But am I demanding it?  Do I hold my breath and stomp my feet to God or most likely smile and say, “I know you’ve got this Lord,” even while attempting to help Him along in the process?  Yes, I know I am guilty.  I have not “been still.”  I repented once again.  “Forgive my unbelief Lord, and remind me every minute that you are King of the World.  I cannot save my children in their marriage by sending them books on respect and love.  I cannot fight Blake’s addiction and protect her from harm by having her live in my bubble.   I can do absolutely nothing without Him who is my Lord and their Lord.  It’s so humbling to know how weak and powerless we are, but it is the truth.  And the truth is freeing.

My spirit rests in the knowledge that God works everything for good.  I need just be still.

 

 

Tetelestai

It’s here again – the reminding pain

pouring down like acid rain,

Burning my cheeks, searing my heart,

but to keep from falling apart –

I reach out for some medication,

Or some temporary elevation,

Until I rest in sweet sedation,

My soul’s imaginary vacation.

And then the numbness warm release,

Feeling nothing, brings me wanted peace.

Memories run like an ongoing reel,

But the drugs have silenced all I feel.

I hear a voice cry, “Who is your Lord?”,

I cover my ears, as it strikes a chord.

Within my soul something takes spark,

Still I hold on to the thread of dark,

that leads me to a hollow fix

an ongoing series on Netflix,

Like tobacco less smoke in a vape,

I look to the imitator for my escape.

The voice again, “let me heal your broken life.,

Please say that you will be my wife.”

He manifests – walks in my pit,

And declares, it’s me he’s come to get.

“I’ve defeated all you cherish,

the dark defenses all will perish.

I have taken on your grief,

What you feel, I feel – that’s your relief.

Lost in constant aberration,

Momentary freedom then frustration.

This is not life -but loss,

Being real is at the cross.

Your body’s taken repeat offenders,

I ask you, let me be a contender –

To answer to your soul’s constant cry,

accept, believe, Tetelestai!”

 

copyright Sherry Larson 2017

Are You Ready To See Your Fixer Upper

Are You Ready To See Your Fixer Upper heart? Let the renovations begin!

Oh yes, I was a little fed up when I saw the articles popping up on Facebook attacking HGTV sweethearts Chip and Joanna Gaines. This is a true example of looking for offense under every rock and finding it.

Apparently, Chip and Joanna attend what appears to be a Bible preaching church, and their pastor just happens to preach that homosexuality is a sin. According to the Holy Bible (every version I’ve read), it is.

Now before you go and categorize me with the Radical Religious Right – there are a few things you need to know. I’m just not! I’m a registered Independent who happens to lean left more than right. Call me a bleeding heart – that’s okay. I love Jesus and I love my neighbor. Oh, and one more thing, I have a daughter who identifies as gay. And no one, except the good Lord and her daddy could love and adore her more!

Still, the Rainbow Flag doesn’t fly at our house, but we sure hope the love of Jesus flows! We won’t compromise biblical truths or our faith to condone a sin – any sin. Yes, we have a daughter who is gay and guess what else she is – a Bible believing Christian! Now, before you gasp and say no way, let me tell you that it is much easier to judge from the cheap seats then it is from your up close, sometimes not very comfortable recliner. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23. Yes, I know gay Christians, and fornicating Christians, gossiping Christians, addicted Christians, lustful Christians, and coveting Christians. You get my drift. More importantly, I know the grace of a God who is bigger than any sin! “The gospel isn’t about who God is against. It’s about who God is for. Not the enemy – the mission.” Kaltenbach, Caleb. Messy Grace

But to paraphrase Paul, “Should we remain in our sin because we have God’s grace – NO WAY!” If you say you are a Bible believing Christian then you know the great love the Father has for us. You know that the Bible reveals our value and that Jesus thought that you were worth dying for. Your sins, no matter what they are, were hung on that cross. Grace is your opportunity to have a personal relationship with your Savior. It’s not about what you do – it’s about what Jesus has already done! In the words of Job 33:27-28, “I sinned, and perverted what was right, but I did not get what I deserved. He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light.” My prayer is for all people to turn their life to the light. To recognize their purpose and appreciate that they walk in the extreme favor of a loving God.

Now to the left (I feel like I’m doing the cha cha slide). The Ultra Offended Liberal Left appears to uphold the rights of the masses, but often, dismisses the rights of Christians. Now in defense of the left, Christians can come across very UnChrist like. We have this wonderful message and yet our delivery is often tainted with disdain. We need to do better – enough said!

But this is the Land of the Free. Does that ring any bells – maybe a Liberty Bell? So back to Chip and Joanna – they have every right to attend whatever church they desire and hold whatever beliefs they wish. Comparatively, Tom Cruise has every right to attend the Church of Scientology. It called Freedom of Religion, and it’s pretty awesome! And you my fellow Americans have the right to turn the television or boycott the movie, but you do not have the right to dictate that everyone must think and feel the way you do. It is not discrimination to believe that homosexuality is a sin. It is a biblical truth. You have the right not to like it. You have the right not to believe it. But you don’t have the right to rewrite it. And just as a side note, I’ve tried to find loopholes in the Bible for many of my sins. Turns out – there aren’t any.

Chip and Joanna – keep the faith!

Today, is Demo Day.  Right, left or somewhere in between, God has made you a part of his divine design.

 

Kaltenbach, Caleb. Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction (pp. 58-59). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

So there was this Guy…

Actually that was his name, but I called him “Daddy”.

He was a sweet and kind man who studied the scriptures to show himself approved. Evidently, in his youth, he was quite an ornery mess. I didn’t know him then, but I see him in his grandson, my son, and I can imagine. Oh I can imagine.

Sensitivity was always a strength of his. He and my mom spent their lives helping and loving others (especially children). He was a bleeding heart, and he taught me the importance of being aware and empathic, in action, to the human condition.

My greatest respect for him came later in his life when the Holy Spirit spoke to him and he responded with great faith. He had attended church for years, studied his bible and did good deeds. However his church wasn’t one that preached about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, with any present tense in mind, and my dad grew weary of attending as the Spirit nudged him outside of his comfort zone. In daddy’s 70’s, the Lord’s sanctification process was still working within him with a vengeance. “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

I’ll never forget his phone call to me to tell me, as he put it, “I have a little bit of the cancer.” He was calm, almost jovial, and I knew that was strictly for my benefit. You see, despite my daddy’s great love for the Lord, he battled a spirit of fear for most of his life. If one of us were sick, he would labor over our illness, granting every wish of relief he could find. When our mom had her hysterectomy, I was sure she was on death’s door because he offered no reassurance otherwise and repeatedly told us how serious it was. His illnesses were paramount. Everyone in the house knew his distress and my mom remained “the rock” when he was convinced of his demise.

Still, he lived life with a passion. He could power through almost any illness to attend a ballgame or a school board meeting. He was enthusiastic about politics, religion, and the rights of children and the downtrodden. I’ve witnessed him face red and blood pressure high advocating for the rights of others. I’ve felt pride that exists only in those who see someone they love doing what is absolutely right. I held onto his words about rights, freedom, Jesus’ love, and the importance of giving. I watched he and my mom show mercy and forgiveness to those who I thought (at the time) did not deserve it – including myself.

They say that when a patient hears the word “cancer” they hear nothing else after it. Cancer changes things. Like the cells themselves, life goes from normal to abnormal and cancer invades every aspect of your being and your family. Prognosis prepared, prayers said, books read, internet researched, questions asked, ATTACK planned. I thought I had prepared myself for my dad having been diagnosed with cancer. I had not prepared myself for the turnabout in roles we were about to face.

My sister and sister-in-law were the most active in his treatment and taking him to doctor appointments and chemotherapy. Living several hours away, I came home for the “big stuff” like hospitalizations and removing him from hospitalizations. My sister calls me the “mean one”. So anytime someone had to be firm – that someone was me. I’d like to think I am outspoken and a little stubborn, like my daddy, and not necessarily mean, but at the end of the day, someone’s gotta wear the hat.

Mom said daddy would walk around the house saying, “it wasn’t supposed to be like this”. I couldn’t have agreed more. During a hospitalization about six months after his diagnosis, we felt sure we would lose him. He was distraught, vomiting, and in tremendous pain. We were able to work out plans to have him moved to another hospital where my niece worked. It was just him and me waiting on the transfer. He was so pitiful all curled up in a fetal position. I realized then the meaning of the phrase “shell of a man”. This was my daddy – weak and without much fight. Tears in his eyes, he begged me for more pain meds (they had just given him some). I desperately wanted to help, yet I was helpless. Please God don’t let it end this way. It didn’t.

Daddy rebounded and the cancer was undetected. For one year we enjoyed a respite from the cancer sentence. And then, we were back. My sister once again faced the task of sitting through the treatment options. Daddy was determined to do as the doctor recommended. I hoped to change his mind.

It was him and me again in a hospital room, but this time he was sitting up and talking. I told him all that I had researched and explained everything that we would do to keep him with us. He looked up at me from his seated position on the bed and said, “I believe everything you tell me”. Nothing could have prepared me for those six words. I excused myself and walked out of the room barely making it to the corridor before the tears fell. “No – daddy – no! I believe everything you tell me. This is not the way it should be. I don’t know what I”m doing here. I’m not strong enough to do this. Lord help me!”

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 My “go to” guy was putting me in the driver’s seat, and I didn’t want to be there. The Lord was with us and held us as my research and good intentions would not keep my sweet daddy here on earth.

A couple of days before his 80th birthday, daddy suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. His birthday came and we celebrated his life hoping that he could hear the songs we played him, the prayers we said for him, and the words of love we spoke to him. Four days later he was gone.

In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis wrote, “The death of a loved one is an amputation.” I have to agree. I can still feel him. I just can’t touch him. This guy – he was special, and I was privileged to call him daddy, and he taught me about life, and letting go of pride, and being vulnerable, and then, he trusted me to pass on the lesson.

Scratching the Surface

 

(written by Blake 2011 – letter to her scars about her transition)

            I remember you – And you – And you.  I remember all of you.  The “healing” you gave me, and the “strength” to survive this world.  I remember when I let you in –  The day I gave up looking under my bed.  I realized the real monster was inside me, filling my head with unspoken thoughts, and broken promises.

                        When I wake, I see you.  I see the pale canvas, with a written scream. The quietest of all, and most misunderstood. “Who have I become?” I ask.

                        My tears fall like razor blades, slowly slicing me in the place all can see.  When my only bracelet is a smile.  How long can I pretend that I’m “just tired”, and how long can I pretend that you weren’t intended?

                        You are my urge, my strange addiction.  You are a beautiful cherry blossom, in the winter snow of my soul.  Without you, I have been forced to endure my pain, and my thoughts.  I want to say I’m over you.  But once again I’d be lying.  No high is like yours, and no low can compare.

                        I can’t tell if it’s you that I’m afraid of, or myself.

I can no longer see the difference between a laugh, and a cry, a smile or a tear.  Thanks to you, everything is a blur.  Everything is numb.  Are you finished yet?  Or do you still insist on lingering into my thoughts?

            To me, you were a cry for help – then a scream for non-existence. Now you are an anchor to drown me.  You keep me from changing, and that’s what I loved about you.

But now, I have realized – people change so you can learn to let them go. I’ve changed; I’m letting you go. You’ve scratched the surface, replacing my pain with your own.  My last cut, is cutting myself free. –

My daughter cut herself.  As strange as it has been to say these words these past few years, it is even stranger to see them in writing.  My daughter CUT herself.  There it is again.  Words that someone else should be writing – a discovery that some other mother should have made – a story that someone else should author.

If I told you that it makes sense or that I understand, I would be lying.   How can anyone comprehend what it takes to make someone want to harm herself – to draw blood – to feel physical pain?

I’ve read books, talked to psychologists, and had heart to hearts with my baby girl.  Still, there is no personal realization that this act could give someone release.  It’s all there in the textbooks; therefore, I know she wasn’t alone.  And I share this story, because I know, we are not alone.

What do you do?  What do you say?  Well in my case it went something like, “Oh my God what happened to your arms?”  Instinctively I knew in my head immediately what my heart could not process and my stomach lurched with the dread of what we were about to face.  The answer is not something for which you can prepare yourself.  “I cut, but I didn’t want you to know.  I didn’t want you to think it had anything to do with you.”  As I white knuckle the steering wheel, I manage, “For how long?”  “Months,” is the answer.  “Why?” Silence – but silence won’t do.

“Just like Pagliacci did 
I try to keep my surface hid. 
Smiling in the crowd I try, but in a lonely room I cry -
The tears of a clown.”

And so it was for my “funny” girl.   She had spent months feeling sad, but in public she joked, and acted like my silly, goofy girl.  She’d even told me that she was sad.  I watched, and I kept her close.  Still, passing off the sadness to hormones and puberty.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” – how ridiculous!   In 7th grade, Blake was deeply emotionally wounded by a friend. I watched her shut down in many aspects.  I guess I expected her to shake it off, but she shattered like a broken mirror.    We spent the next few months helping her build back her trust.  The summer ended on a positive note.    8th Grade was off to a great start, but after a few weeks a boy from her class resurfaced the previous year’s rumor and texted Blake that she should kill herself -that’s when the cutting began.

“Sometimes what we are looking for – is exactly what we see…”  Larson

I was oblivious to the long sleeves.  I bought her loads of really cool wide bracelets encouraging her new fashion trend.  I concealed her secret never realizing my role as accomplice –  until the unveiling that is.

It was four months later at a Sunday basketball game following a weekend of Disciples Now at our church where Blake had participated.  I was keeping scorebook as usual and was so wrapped up in the game that my thoughts were more on “how much” time Blake would spend on the court and how angry I was going to be with the coach afterwards.   I can’t remember if we won or lost.  I just remember going over to Blake after the game to say, “let’s go.”  It was then I saw the marks.  Slices were from her wrists and up her inner arms.  I felt dizzy – heart sick.  I pulled her aside and asked, “What happened to your arms.”  At first she shrugged it off and told me that our puppy had scratched her, but I knew that was a lie.  I waited to get her into the truck before I demanded the truth.

And then, it was out there – Raw, burning, gut wrenching and out there.  I had no idea what to do with it.  I looked at the clock and realized that my husband would have already taken off on his flight to England.  Oh dear Lord – I needed someone, but who do you talk to about something like this?

Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

She told me she had been cutting with a utility knife.  Oh Dear Lord!!!  Please let me “let go” so I can let God.  This was too big for me to tackle.  As Beth Moore had recently said in one of her lessons, “Lord I do not have a file for this one!”    Where did I begin?

I began with phone calls.  I call the Church Youth Director, the School Counselor, a Psychologist, the Family Doctor.  I needed to know what drives this, what books to read, with whom do I make appointments?  Could she have a blood infection, what is her diagnosis, can this be cured???

I clear her room of all sharp objects, but I insist that she sleep with me.  I will be her watchtower for months.  I’ll be against the door as she shaves her legs.  I’ll inspect her body to make sure she isn’t cutting.  I’ll cry, I’ll beg, “Please don’t cut yourself.”    I’ll do one better, “You are God’s temple.  Please don’t abuse His house.”

(Blake’s favorite quote)

The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?

Alice Kingsley: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.

Blake has always been wonderful, but never easy.   To say she marches to the tune of her own drummer would be an understatement.  I love her wit, her passion and her unwillingness to conform to please the masses.   Still, there is a frustration when you’re the parent of the “messy” girl in the class.  You know the one whose desk you can identify by all the papers sticking out of it.   Parents and teachers alike would be amazed at her verbal and reasoning skills, yet on tests she very often just did okay.  I would know that she knew the material.  It just didn’t make sense.  Once when filing papers the children had written about their favorite things, I noticed that all of the girls in the class had listed their favorite stores as The Limited Too, Claire’s or Justice.  Not my girl – her favorite store was Dick’s Sporting Goods.  That one made me smile.

Yes, our Blake has always been a little different.  She has always been creative, kind and bright, but also, disorganized, inattentive, and uncontrolled.   I had often assumed that she had ADHD, but she lacked the same intensity of the condition that I had seen with other children.  She wasn’t unruly or disruptive.

I found myself googling the words ADHD in teenage girls.  I know that it was God nudging me with His discerning spirit, because I’m just not that smart on my own.  And there it was – a plethora of information.  It was Blake in black and white (if that were possible), and one of the first things on the list was DEPRESSION!!!   Thank you Jesus – we had a real place to start.

Psalm 143:1 
O LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.

One, two, three…the gun went off and the testing began.  The results:  ADHD inattentive type, Severe Depression and Anxiety Disorder.   Wow – it was a lot to digest! Praise God for these answers, and now there were more questions!

Blake had already started taking mild anti-depressants but it was evident that the dosage wasn’t strong enough.  Once the depression was under control, we could focus on the ADHD.  Her heart tests determined that she should be able to take the recommended ADHD medication for adolescents, but the actual result was a major fail.   Blake’s reaction, to the drugs, was body shakes and heart palpitations.  She nearly collapsed after three days and we chose to stop treatment and look for other options.

“Teenage pain cannot be pacified with a gluten free muffin” Larson

The treatment journey was a path of enlightenment.  Loads of books, Naturopathic medicine and major prayer was the chosen course.  Blake began a gluten/casein free diet, which had proven effective for children with ADHD and Autism.   She remained steadfast in her faith in God and she would be the first to tell you that “Everything happens for a reason.”   She did not; however, remain steadfast on her new diet.  Food became a constant fight, and meals the war zone.  It became evident that Blake’s emotional voids were much more than a substitute for “bread and milk” could fill.

“The defects of the mind are like the wounds of the body. Whatever care we take to heal them the scars ever remain, and there is always danger of their reopening.”
François de la Rochefoucauld

And reopen they did…

Time and time again we faced (and continue to face) challenges.  Through it all, God has remained faithful and has given us His sufficient grace.

I often hear people say that God wants us to be happy.  I say, “I’m not sure how concerned He is with “happy”, but I’m sure that He’s concerned with saved.”  There is so much more to this life than having it all.  No one wanted the straight A’s, athletic accolades and homecoming queen crown more for their daughter than I wanted it for mine.   But more than that, I wanted her to KNOW God.  I wanted her life to be a testimony of his work in motion.  I didn’t need a perfect daughter and she didn’t need a perfect mom – we just needed a perfect Savior.

I’ve changed; I’m letting you go. You’ve scratched the surface, replacing my pain with your own.  My last cut, is cutting myself free. – Blake

Jesus’ scars remained after resurrection.  The only man given thing in heaven are his scars, and so, I respect the scars.  At one time, I just wanted them to be gone – to pretend that they never existed.  I wanted to ignore the pain that caused them and bury the burdens of a troubled soul that dwelled so closely to my own.  But I’ve learned to value those lines – those tiny markings that only scratched the surface of a much deeper cry.

 

Capture

I looked forward to giggles,
and ice cream kisses,
crayon letters and
sidewalk art.

I saved your fingerprints,
and your phone messages.

I photographed your smiles, tears, and silly faces.
I played like a true playmate.
And while you slept,
 I journaled these magic moments in my heart.

And I worried,
but not about the everyday stuff
of making beds, washing dishes, or paying bills.
I worried that there would never be enough
time with you.

I feared that all my love and energy
could not stop time from passing too quickly
to capture enough of you.

I was right.

 
I wrote this poem for my granddaughter, Avery, when she was almost four years old. It was a season in our lives when I was moving to another state and she was moving on to another babysitter. I felt like someone had ripped a hole into my chest – an Avery shaped hole. I could not imagine someone else experiencing her day to day – the precious hugs, the infectious smile, the silly songs.

As I was reading the poem this week, I thought about the many parents and grandparents who are sending their children off to school. Some hitting milestones like our Avery, who is starting middle school, and our Myles, who begins Kindergarten. Others will join the ranks in high school or move away to college, while some are somewhere in the middle of their schooling careers. There will be tears of sadness and shouts for joy, and in some households a little of both.

This season caused a reminiscence and reflection time for me. I couldn’t help but sit and think about the truth statement, “every thing can change in an instant”. Like the moment this summer when Avery told me that she was done playing with baby dolls. But hadn’t she just ask for one last Christmas? “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man (6th grader), I put away childish things,” 1 Corinthians 13: 11. And when Anthony, our then junior in college, announced that he had met the girl he was going to marry – “but I found the one whom my soul loves,” Song of Solomon 3:4. I vowed, then and there, to love her too because this is my baby boy and I would honor his wishes. Or, the day Blake walked off the softball field and said that she was finished. We knew it had been a good run and that life is much more than a field and a bat and a ball. Still, a long standing dream came to an end much sooner for Blake than for us I’m afraid. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand,” Proverbs 19:21. And finally last Wednesday, with the Facebook post of little Miss Myles in her Kindergarten snapback, it hit me like a brick. My grand babies are both in school! Not my kids – but my grandkids!

Cliches come flooding in: “don’t blink,” “time flies,” “you’re gonna miss this,” “once you’ve lost it you’ll never get it back”. And the words of James 4:14 resonate with my soul, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” A vapor – poof.

And, I feel compelled to say that you just won’t capture enough, but please capture all that you can…

I saw Jesus Today…

Today I saw Jesus. It was most unexpected and humbled me to the core.

Early afternoon started with a somewhat traumatic stop at the tattoo/piercing parlor in Asheville, NC (another story – another time). My daughter Blake, her girlfriend, Cam and I did a little shopping and stopped for lunch. It was pleasant enough and I was practicing my best truth and grace balance.

We started the walk back to the truck. Blake and Cam were slightly in front of me. A few feet away I saw a man, seemingly homeless and tattered looking. He lit up as he saw my daughter approaching him. She said his name and embraced him warmly. He said, “I love you, “ and she loved him back. He said he had missed seeing her and wanted to know where she’d been. He assured her that he was doing great and he was pretty convincing with his big yellow grin. She made introductions – first, Cam and then mom. And, I saw it coming. He was moving in and my body tightened. Oh my word – here it comes – he’s going to hug me. And he said, “And, I love you too.” And I said it back, but I wasn’t convinced. Was he? I saw love pouring out of my daughter to this man. I stood sizing him up – observing the marks up and down his arms and legs, the shabby, mismatched clothing, his unbrushed teeth, and a goofy hat that made him look animated and adorable. His kind blue eyes sparkled as Blake spoke with him (and Jesus knew what the Pharisees were thinking). In that moment, I was jealous of Blake’s ability (“love is an ability” – credit Dan In Real Life) and effortlessness to engage, and I was ashamed of my fear. She opened her wallet and dropped a couple of dollars into his torn, white paper bag that held his belongings. He pulled out a tiny Victoria Secrets bag and shared a story about a “once upon a time” girlfriend. We couldn’t help but smile. Cam offered up her “to go” lunch and he gladly accepted. He looked at me and said, “Well Momma, I love her.” And then – get ready – he was coming in again. He loved me too, and I relaxed (a little) still envying my daughter’s ability to give that full on hug. We said goodbye and Blake shared her relief that he was still alive. I walked and tried to reconcile what I had just witnessed, but a street away, we met another.

This time, Cam breathed a sign of relief as we approached an elderly man, sitting in a wheelchair on the sidewalk. He was legless and wore a veteran’s cape – I guessed Vietnam. Cam told him that she was concerned that he hadn’t been at his usual spot at the “wall” lately, and he explained the amputation of his second leg to diabetes – a different kind of war. He told us that he spoke with the Lord and the Lord wasn’t ready to take him home yet. So he vowed to return to the spot he’d held for the past 12 years sitting at the “Before I Die” wall – where people chalked their hopes and dreams. This was his ministry. He spoke of Job and of his own family lineage. He smiled, shook his head and said, “I’m tired”. I stood in awe. I could feel myself smiling and I heard myself say “amen” as he relayed to us that the Lord had told him he didn’t need legs to get into heaven and that God had a brand new pair waiting for him there. “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you”, Job 42:5. He looked at Cam, requested a hug, and she bent down to embrace him.

And I departed again with a, “God Bless you”, but it was clear that the partaker of the blessings today was me. Because today, I saw Jesus, and it was not in a pastor, a priest, a Sunday school teacher, or even in a church greeter. I saw Jesus in two young ladies whose walk I do not understand. And the Lord reminded me once again that I have no dictation in His design. Neither despite me, nor because of me has His kingdom come, but His love for me has engaged my participation. I saw Jesus not because I was looking, but because He chose to be seen.