Friday, October 2, 2015

This is the spot where it all began.  My boys were barely school-age, and I wrote in between grammar lessons and afternoon adventures collecting frogs and throwing the football.  Nowadays, one shaves his mustache and the other just became a teenager.  Other things have changed too--my blog being one of them.  I still write, but in a new spot.  Will you come join me at my new spot?  I'd love to have you.  Of course all the old posts are still here, so feel free to hang out a while.
And thanks for stopping by.

 Sarah Olver 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Broken Lives and Shortbread Cookies

There are these shortbreads I've been baking for 16 years.  They're not ordinary shortbread cookies. They're whipped.  And by whipped, I mean I put butter, flour and a bit of powdered sugar into my faithful Kitchen-Aid, turn her on high and let her roar for ten straight minutes while I go about my business.  Of all the fussy, truffly, ganachy, decadent treats I make every Christmas, these common cookies are by far my favorite.  In fact, I blame them for at least ten of my extra pounds--I mean really, when the recipe calls for equal parts butter and flour, you know the scale is going to taunt you for the rest of your life.  But the key to these cookies isn't in the ingredients.  That's nothing new.  Anybody can make a shortbread.  The key is in the whipping.  A friend was over the other day, and I force fed her one with a bit of Earl Grey tea (because who in their right mind would have one without that specific tea?).  She said, "These are tricky little cookies.  You put them in your mouth, and then they disappear."  Exactly.  There is so much air in those gloriously golden dollops that they melt instantly on your tongue.  Clouds are made of them.  They grow on trees in heaven.  On the day God rested?  He was eating them.  I know this.  I am certain.
But there is one little problem.
They break.
Every year.
When I attempt to place them in a container, inevitably several of them crack the instant they are lifted from the cookie sheet.
It's because they've been whipped.  Hard.
And sometimes life does that to us.  Whips us.
Leaves us feeling like a batter that's been tossed around the planet mercilessly for too many long, lonely minutes.  And those minutes feel like a lifetime of relentless horror.
I know this because I've been watching it all around me.  Lives of those I love have been caught up in some kind of violent cosmic hurricane and the debris and splinters of their world swirl around us.
Children terminally ill.
Family with cancer.
Wedding vows abandoned.
Suicidal children.
Mothers addicted to drugs.
Depression that doesn't lift with talk or pill.
And these aren't just words; these are the stories of souls.  Precious, hurting souls. Souls I've talked with this very week.
They have names; they live, and they breathe, and they break.
Dear God, they break.
And were I to have a hundred hands, still I could not stitch the shards of their lives back together, still I could not wipe away all the tears, still I could not fix the fractures.
Noah saw this same stuff, was witness to great woe.
God placed him on the ark, told him He would send flooding rain.
And Jesus told us In this world you will have trouble. (John 16:33)
God did send rain.  Though Noah expected it, having never seen it, he didn't know how overwhelming a flooding rain would be. And though we know trouble is promised, we are still stunned by its staggering blows.
Noah sat on that boat, goats bleating, crickets chirping, and a family that no doubt freaked as the waters rose.  Did you ever stop to really think of Noah?
Because I thought I knew everything about the whole ark experience.  The two by two animals, the pretty little brown flannel graph boat that floated like a cruise ship on blue felt waves, and the gorgeous rainbow bookended by cottony clouds.  Mr. Thomas taught me all about it at Faith Baptist Church when I was growing up.
He was a good man.  His stories captivated me as he used strips of felt to create a canvas of biblical times. He taught me well, but the truth is, he left a few details out.  The ones that didn't fit neatly on his 2 by 4 foot flannel graph board and easel.
I've thought about those things lately.  A lot.
If I was Noah's wife, I would have been fine for a little while.  I would have let him build his ark.  I would have even helped him, baked him muffins and brought him coffee.  I would have created feeding charts for the animals and packed an overnight bag 'just in case.'  When the rain came, it would have been a confirmation to me that he wasn't crazy.  I would have made tea and sat by a window to watch that strange phenomenon I'd not yet seen as it poured down in sheets of clear liquid like tears.  But friends, did you ever stop to think of the crowds of people desperately crying out and beating their fists against the cypress wood begging to be let in?
God had already shut the door.  And if y'all want things to get really real, we should just discuss God shutting that door.  Because nobody wants to tackle that topic.  Understanding God isn't easy.  He doesn't fit in a theology book or a Dayspring Card.  He can't be tamed, fully fathomed or simplified into words that completely encompass all of who He is.  He can't.  Anyone who pretends otherwise is dead wrong.  But know this, there is not one single description of God in the Bible that is false.  So when we don't understand or God forbid, we don't agree, we stand on what we know to be true.
For the Lord is good; His love endures forever.  (Psalm 100:5)
So when I think of the reality that Noah could give them no relief, I remember that The Lord is still good in that decision to shut the door even if I don't grasp it.  That right there would have been the end of me.  I'd have climbed out a window, slung out a rope, screamed at Noah to let me help them.  Because who among us can ever sit idly by when another is in trouble?
And this is a rather inconvenient truth.  Our God does allow trouble.
No Sunday School teacher on the planet can make that fit neatly on their flannel graph board.  It's ugly and glaring and uncomfortable.
And still, there is more.  It got way worse.
Did you ever think about the bodies?
Because surely when they looked out the windows of that ark they saw bodies.  Floating and lifeless beings that finally surrendered their fight to survive.  The carcasses of animals and cadavers of their friends and neighbors sloshed about by a deluge so strong that none, not one, single soul survived it.
All broken beyond repair.  I know I'd of wept and wailed, and I am not even going to pretend I would have accepted the decision of a sovereign God.
I'd have yelled.  I'd have pleaded for Him to show Himself.  To explain Himself.  To give me some understanding.  And where is the yelling and hollering and pleading before God for answers in our churches today?  Does that fit neatly on Sunday morning between Bless the Lord  and Oceans in the worship set?  Because what if we all got just a little more honest and spit up just a wee bit of the truth of our souls?  What would church look like then?
But this is what is worst of all.
After the rain stopped its relentless forty days of pounding, there came a deafening silence.
For 11 months heaven held it's tongue.
Our God was silent.
They floated aimless on an ocean of water with no end.  No idea where they were going.  No idea when or if they would hear from God again.  No idea how long their food rations would hold out.  No idea if they would survive.
And if we're being honest, when you've lost that much, would you even want to survive?
They had nothing left.
All I'm saying is we've seen troubles yes, but we're in good company.
God did not speak.  That we know of, Noah heard nothing from God for over a year.
And how does a sometimes silent God work with our pretty paintings of God as a doting Father?  Is this not perhaps the reason people walk away from the faith?
I'm just asking.
Maybe we were sold a Dixie cup of grape Kool-Aid, and after sipping a little while, we discover, there's more.  It's not all grape.  It's not all sweet.  It's not going down easy.  And we feel jilted, deceived, conned.  We feel stupid for falling for it.  We think we're idiots for drinking the Kool-Aid, and we're out.
Because we've tried to live right, you and I.  Haven't we?  Tried to follow the rules, be good little Christians. God said Noah was righteous and scripture says Noah did all that God commanded him.  Indeed he did.
Obedient, God-fearing men and women can do exactly as God instructs and still bear witness to great sorrow.
I'm talking about the kind of sorrow and confusion that follows your child telling you they are gay.
I'm talking about the kind of pain that follows cancer, stage 4.
I'm talking about the knock out punch that happens when you made a bad investment and your family loses their home.
I'm talking about the stuff we don't want to talk about.  I'm saying, let's have this conversation.
In this world you will have trouble.  Jesus said it because He was willing to have this conversation. Not once did he shy away from the truth of who He is or the questions of a people hungry for a Savior.
So Noah and his family are just about in the middle of what seems like nowhere when we read this:
But God remembered Noah.
our God
the God who was silent,
See, that little phrase there is a game changer for me.  It's everything I need.
When He remembered, He sent a wind to dry the land, and He closed the floodgates.
Still though He remembered, He remained silent for over half a year longer.
Why God?
Because I know women whose husbands are dead and children whose mothers are dead, and they've lived through the silence of heaven.
But God remembers.
And this is what we need, is it not?  We need to know that God remembers us.  In Hebrew that phrase means He calls to His memory.
If I'm going to drink from the bitter cup, I want a God who calls me to His memory.  I want a God who doesn't forget I exist.  A God who cares enough to choose to call me to His mind.  Because maybe the Kool-Aid doesn't look right after all, but faith isn't what we see.  It's what we don't see.
Around the seventh month, Noah and his family stopped drifting and landed on solid ground.
Faith is believing solid ground will surface and the boat of our lives will land there because our God will not forget us.
Around the tenth month, Noah and his family could see the tops of the mountains again.  Earth was still there.  It did not give way.
Indeed the earth is established, it cannot be moved.  (Psalm 93: 2)
Then, after 370 days Noah and his family set their feet on soil.
Do you hear me when I say it was a year?  An entire year of their lives they drift and float and wait. Lord knows we drift too, don't we?  And finally, their God speaks.
And when He does?  Do you know that He just picks up the conversation right where He left off?  No Hi, how are you?  It's me, God. Missed you.  How you been?  What did you think of the ark?  How'd the elephants do all cooped up?  
Why?  Because He already knew.  There was no catching up needed; He was always there.
Emmanuel--God with us.
And He is here now in the midst of your story and my story.
Right here.  Right now.  In the middle of the debris.
The Lord is near to all who call out to Him, to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:18)
I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)
There's the whole rainbow bit too.  Everybody loves that part, but for me, it's just Him talking to them like He never left.
And while we're discussing Him.  God isn't afraid of our questions.  He's not phased by our doubts. He's not offended by our disappointment.
In fact, I think when we get real and honest and quit pretending, that's when we start to really see God.
Not the God of fairy tales.
Not the God that's just sugar and no spice.
The God who has His own will and plan.  The God who didn't make us so we could enjoy life, but rather who made us so we could have life.
And by the way, that life we get to have?  It's HIM.  He said, I am the way, the truth, and THE LIFE. (John 10:10)
Romans 8:5,6 says this:  For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped  by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by things of the Spirit.  For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace.
Maybe this is the crux of it all.  To survive the flood, we must live according to the Spirit.  And there's only one way to do that.
By faith.
It always comes to this, doesn't it?
Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who approaches God must believe that He exists and the He rewards those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
That same passage says Noah became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Faith that he exists.
Faith that He rewards those who seek Him.
Faith that if God be for us, who can be against us?  No enemy can stand against the power of His name.
Faith that He will shelter you with his wings, you will find safety under his wings.  His faithfulness is like a shield or a protective wall. (Psalm 91:4)
Faith that our God's love is loyal. (Psalm 92:4)
Faith that though our God is a consuming fire, the Lord is (also) just in all His actions and exhibits love in all He does.  (Psalm 145:7)
Because the outlook of the flesh is death.  And when we're in the midst of a flood, sometimes all we see is the death, but
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Knowing this doesn't remove the angst of life.  It isn't a promise that our spouse will return, that children won't go hungry, that the stroke won't take his speech or that Alzheimers won't steal her memory.  But knowing it changes our outlook to one of life and peace. It reminds us that beneath the raging waters, solid ground remains.
Cookies crumble.
They just do.
And life?  It stings sometimes.
It just does.
But God remembers.
And that is enough.

Monday, October 13, 2014

I'll Raise My Hand: A Glimpse into the World of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Rainy season arrived in Georgia, like a guest who knows her way around your home and comes without a call or invitation.  She's started pulling golden-freckled buckeye and sunburned dogwood leaves down, arranging them like a patchwork quilt along the roadside.  We decide to take a walk--my suggestion--with March, the blonde service-dog that belongs to her son.  The driveway's slick--I wasn't expecting that, and I watched her struggle to balance while March eagerly pulls on the leash. 
I'll take him, I offer.  She doesn't hesitate to pass me the leash.  She's a carrier.  Her muscles don't always want to do the things she'd like them to. 
And she's talking--not coming up for air.  Telling me her story.  Their story.  The story that demands to be told because it frames their life.
Once they were two teens in love.  Once they were just a couple who attended church and oversaw the nursery ministry and had four kids.  2 beautiful girls.  2 handsome boys.  Once.
And she knew things weren't right with the 3rd.  Not right away, but soon.  He didn't go to the bathroom like the others.  And she's a mom.  A seasoned mom by the time he came along.  So she knew. 
And no doctor should ever question a mother who just knows. 
No matter how much or how little education she has.
No matter where she's from.
No matter what she looks like.
No matter how she dresses.
If a momma knows, then she knows.
But he did question.  He did ignore.  He did pass off as insignificant that thing she knew was important.
Time snuck by.  They were busy, schooling, and raising, and churching.  And when he played basketball, he didn't run as fast or throw as high. 
But it was the stairs of all places where they finally realized, where they fully saw.  The stairs in our church.
Stairs I've climbed hundreds and hundreds of times.
Stairs my children--my two boys--have skipped up and hopped down.
Stairs with carpet worn from strong, healthy limbs trodding and tromping over them.
He was so slow that the senior ladies were passing him.
That's when they knew.
That's when light bulbs flashed and their souls insisted on having some answers.
There was blood-work.  There were tests.  An orthopedist, a neurologist. There were words sent out into the air like tiny grey helium balloons left to float in their minds until labs came back and doctors were sure.
Reckless phrases were let to fly too.  Hopeful things like, "He'll be fine."  Giant yellow-balloons that they reached for, wanted to cling to.  Because who wouldn't cling to the happy-yellow balloons that promised sunshine and resolution over the silent, slippery grey balloons floating like grenades threatening to engulf life as you know it.
And 8 months after the quest for answers began in earnest, a phone call came from the city with 3 words that would change their lives.
3 words that would turn everything upside down.
Everything inside out.
3 words that would peel the skin from their bodies and leave them naked, raw and bleeding if you really want to know.  And even that doesn't express what those 3 words really did to them.
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
She says it rocked her and ravaged her husband.
She says before her son had been born she'd been prompted to pray more fervently for him than the first two.  Compelled to pray for him, even before conception.  And now she understands why.
We're walking.  March is pulling.  Leaves are floating graceful and quiet to the earth because time refuses to be still.  She continues to tell me the story, recalls the details.
Details of heartbreak.
You don't forget those kinds of details.  They're invisible tattoos over your eyeballs that color everything you see, over eardrums that muffle everything you hear, over lips that filter your phrases, and sometimes suck the very oxygen from your lungs.
And she tells me the date.  I'm ashamed  because even now, a few days later, I can't remember it.  But she does.  She knows them all.  When he was diagnosed.  When he went on prednisone.  When he began to need the cane for walking.  When he got his first chair.  The day they got March, the service dog.  She remembers it all.
She uses words that I don't understand even after going home and looking them up on Google.
Distrophen Gene
Gene mapping for diagnostics.
And while I listen I'm thinking,
She's an expert.
She's an expert in the disease that will slowly and systematically attack her son's muscles.
And the heart?  It's a muscle.
And you don't live without a heart.
And while I was becoming an expert in gardening for the backyard novice, she was becoming an expert in the disease that will demand her son.
And I want to cuss.
Every profane, hateful word I can muster I want to fling at that disease that mars a child's future with a best-by date.
No word is strong enough.
March pulls at the leash; he's strong-willed and determined.  A good match for her son.
Her son who is weak of muscle but Hercules of spirit.
There are twice weekly therapy appointments.  I knew about them for a long time.  She'd mentioned them before.
But on this day she'd come to my house--a rarity for her son--and I saw what was involved in just getting inside the therapy building.
There are two ramps involved.  One that allows him to exit the van and another that allows him to enter my home.  A strip of plywood in between because even in his high-tech chair, the pea-gravel walk-way sucks his wheels down like quick-sand.
And for those few moments when his wheels are swallowed by a few inches of decorative pebbles, I think how his life,
their life, the entire family--all 6 of them--has been sucked into this disease.
Every therapy appointment means dragging out ramps, rain or shine.
Every church visit means the ramps.
His younger brother slings them around like they're rag dolls because he helps.
They all help.
Life doesn't stop.  You just find ways to move along with it.
They move along.
An addition to their home, a bathroom that allows him to get in and out with his chair.  A bedroom to suit his needs.  A ramp that stretches across the front of their home like a banner announcing, Someone with DMD lives here.
They have birthdays--yearly markers that for them, don't so much indicate how old their child has become, but how much time they may have left.
They celebrate holidays knowing with each one that passes, they are closer to their last with him.
They take turns attending church.
She can't get to the gym anymore. She can't leave the house to get there. Even though she's a carrier, and her blood-pressure's high and the doctors want her to go for stress, for health.
As if a gym membership could ever erase the strain of DMD. 
She walks on a tread mill at home. 
She'd walk a million miles if he could just take a few more steps.
By now we're walking up a hill, and she's still talking, but her breathing's heavy with exertion.
Still, she's walking.  I'm walking.  Her son isn't.
She hasn't slept through the night in years.
Literally years.
Because someone has to help him turn over.  Someone has to help him to the bathroom.  Someone has to listen for him.
People give them a gift certificate to a restaurant, and it's nice to go out.  We want you to have a break, people insist. 
But you don't take a break from this.
It sits, like an unwelcome intruder, at the table with them through the meal.
And it screams the entire time.
Because it can, and they're powerless to stop it.
And no one else can fully hear the scream that echoes inside their head.
Not one single other soul on the planet knows the horrific hollering of DMD but the families that live with it.
And there are no fancy headphones, or spiritual phrases, or brilliant blogs that can silence it.
And God forbid you offer a well-meaning platitude or suggest they pray for healing.  As if they haven't?  As if they haven't pleaded and begged the God--who they still hope in and cling to--of the universe to just
They're a mother and a father.  Of course they have. 
And yet, she says to me, We wouldn't have gotten through this if it hadn't of been for the promises of God.
When there are no human words, His Words, His promises still their souls.
I'm humbled because I've said Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him, but she lives the words.
Every moment of every day.
While I'm deciding if my son will play soccer in the fall, they're deciding if they'll take theirs off one drug or keep him on it.  It could lengthen his life.  But it might not.
Life and death choices sit squarely on their shoulders like iron yoke on a pair of oxen.
While my boys haven't been sick in two years, and I can't remember their doctor's name, her son has a team of doctors and a point man.  She says these people become their family, the doctors and therapists.  The therapist who notices when her son can no longer pull the trigger on a Nerf gun, so he purchases her son a battery operated one that weak fingers can manage.
And thank God for health care professionals who get it.  Who care.  Who genuinely want to help.
I feel so dumb.  I tell her so.  I understand so little.  I grapple with understanding how it is passed down, try to grasp how it happened.  
She's so kind, tells me I'm not dumb.  It's complicated, she says.
That's putting it mildly.
It's hell on earth.
It's the realization of the curse that began with Adam, and they are the unlucky recipients.
We reach the top of the hill, and she's panting, but undaunted.
That's not surprising.  She is always climbing now.  Her life is a hill.
Her husband and other children?  They climb right along with her.
He posts real and raw glimpses on facebook, and I sit at home, read them, and pray.
Because what else can I really do?  What else can be said?
They're all painted in various shades of DMD.
The younger brother tells my son that he is his best friend.
His best friend.
It takes the wind out of me because my son has hung out with him three times.
Because who has time for sleepovers and parties when you're going to therapy or home recovering from therapy or you've been running him to and from the bathroom all day because it's one of those days?
And when is the laundry gonna get washed?
Who's going out and buying groceries?
Who's cooking?
Who has energy because who has slept?
Who is helping the other kids with their schooling?
Who is researching new treatments?
Who is maintaining their marriage?
Time's not their friend.
We're still walking and meet a neighbor, out with his dogs.  She chats happily with him about March, the service dog that makes their family laugh.  The neighbor admires March.
But I admire her.
Because she's still standing.
DMD has colored them, but it hasn't defined them. 
She has this laugh that makes her eyes squint and her cheeks turn bubble-gum pink.  And for the life of me, I'm amazed how she can laugh.
And he's a jokester--her husband.  A dry sense of humor that will catch you off guard like a deer in the middle of the road and leave you feeling had in a good way.
He gave my husband a spare set of drill bits a year or so ago. 
Because they still think about other people.  Their lives go on.
One daughter's in college and loving it.
The other daughter is well too.
Wikipedia says this:
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a recessive X-linked form of muscular dystrophy, affecting around 1 in 3,600 boys, which results in muscle degeneration and eventual death.
That 1 in 3600?
That 1?
He has a name.
It is Brandon Smith.
He loves the Georgia Bulldogs, cars, video games, and Zaxby's chicken.  He has a family who love him, who fight for him, and he's pretty darn good at Liar's Dice it turns out.
We finish our walk, and they stay 'til dark that day.  It's the longest outing he's had in a while.
As they drive away, we're all waving--our hands raised up in the air, a luxury I've always taken for granted.
Once, during the game of Liar's dice, I stupidly offer her son my hand for a high five when he successfully bluffs.  He doesn't respond.
DMD holds his hand in his lap.
But I'm raising his hand here.
And I'm raising mine too.
In honor of Brandon,
his mother, Melissa,
his Father, Jim,
his sisters, Kelley and Britney
and his brother, Nathan.
We can all raise our hands for them.  Because isn't that what they did for Moses, and isn't that how these battles are truly fought? 
Here's how.
Give to research
Pray for a cure.
Give to this specific family.  (Click HERE to donate RIGHT away!)
They need a reliable van that accommodates his chair and will get them back and forth to medical appointments.  For it to offer everything they need, it will cost nearly $27,000, and they are around half-way there.  You can simply mail a check to: 
The Brandon Smith Van Fund
c/o United Community Bank
P.O. Box 398
Blairsville Ga 30514
Share this blog post in the hope that others will raise their hands with us.
Pretty please, won't you raise your hand with us?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Mothering Chronicles 11: When Homeschooling Mommas (and all the other mommas too!) Hit a Wall

I homeschool my boys.  Essentially what this means is I'm a lunatic.  Who, might I ask, in their right mind would give up a paying career to teach children at home . . . unpaid?  There are several obvious flaws with this choice.  1.  No pay.  2.  It's hard.  (If I taught in regular school, I might get to teach the same subject to the same grade each year.  In homeschool I have to learn new material every.single.flipping.year.  And that was all well and good, pie-in-the-sky, happy-happy-joy-joy when we did faux-archeological digs and attempted to make hot air balloons.  But Algebra?  Really?  Somebody stab me in the eyeballs with a thousand sewing needles and relieve me of my misery puleeeeze! )  3.  You have to fold laundry WHILE you teach.  4.  I no longer have a justifiable reason to buy cute new clothes every fall because the official homeschool teacher's uniform is track pants, fuzzy socks and a sweater.  5.  Did I mention the part about no pay?  Yeah, okay, moving on then.

I also run.  Years ago, when I first began running, I used to pray that God would send me a butterfly, a deer, a fuzzy caterpillar, ANYTHING to distract me from the jog.  I'd go for about five minutes, then all of a sudden, my legs were cement.  You could not have held a gun to my head and gotten me to jog one step further.  I was lamenting this dilemma to a girl with uber cute running shoes and very tidy-hair who pertly replied, "You're just hitting your first runner's wall.  It's normal.  It happens to everyone . . . even me.  You have to run longer than seven minutes."  She said some kind of scientific-smart-runner stuff about how your mind doesn't tell your heart to adjust its pace until the seven minute mark.  My eyes glazed over.  All I heard was, "You can do this.  Just run longer than seven minutes."  Hope.

The other day, I was running with a friend.  She's been wanting to learn to run (I know, right?  How do you learn to run?  I think it's just like walking except faster.) for like a year.  She's doing way better than she even realizes, but she seems to hit a wall.  So, I thought I'd go with her.  Sure enough, we're jogging along (Did I mention when I jog it sometimes feels like there is someone riding piggy back on my waste?  It's just my bootie bouncing, but I feel you should know it's the size of a small child.) and she says, "I can't do this.  I'm gonna have to stop." 

I'm like, "Oh no.  You're not stopping.  You've got this.  Keep going."
She's all, "No, I can't keep going."
I'm, "Can you feel your pulse in your temples yet?"
She, (heaving) "No."
Me, "Then you're not stopping.  You've got more in you.  Keep going."

Eventually, she stops.
Just a millisecond because I turn her around and point her down hill and tell her, "NO!  You are not stopping until time is up.  You can do this.  Keep going.  Don't quit.  Put one foot in front of the other.  Slow your pace if you have to, but do not quit."

I feel you should also know she was packing heat, so I was very brave in pushing her so hard because at one point when I pointed out a very large bull-frog on the side of the road to her (What?  I thought she would enjoy the distraction!) she said, "At this point, I. DO.NOT.CARE."  I am like ninety-nine percent sure she had her hand on the trigger when she said that, but I could be mistaken.  Maybe.

Anyway, she saw the wall coming.  She kept telling me it was coming, and then boom!  She.Hit.That.Wall.

And I've been homeschooling my sweet princes for six years now.  And boom!  This year, I hit the wall.  We're talking full-on homeschool burnout.  (Way worse than the garlic toast I burn in the broiler oven every single blasted time!) My eldest is headed into 9th/10th grade courses. (Yeah, I know, right?  One of those moms whose kids don't know what grade they're in.  So annoying.)  The younger is headed into 6th.  And I feel like I am headed into the grave.

And you're probably laughing, cause it's kinda funny that I say I feel like I'm headed into the grave, except I'm crying while I type those words because dadgum, friends, sometimes you just hit the wall so hard that you feel like you're gonna bleed to death.  And it isn't just mommas who homeschool because I cannot even listen to my working-out-of-the-home sisters' schedules without having a panic attack.

I bet you are just as sure as me, like ten million percent sure that every official, politician, and school board person who ever put their little brains together and decided that Algebra was necessary for a kid who is clearly NOT going to be a math teacher could probably be certified as insane.  That or incarcerated for acts of evil.  Or both. 

Can I also tell you that I rank listing last year's grammar and science books on or ebay and then praying they sell for a good price so I can buy more curriculum for next year higher on my list of torturous tasks then plucking nostril hairs out?  I do.   (A little education for those who don't have to sell their curriculum . . . it sits in a giant box waiting patiently for me to list it.  Listing it involves meticulous explanation of what exactly the material is, the edition, the year, and what comes with it.  Then you have to respond to annoying, perky first-year homeschoolers who want to know if there are any scratches on it and does it come from a pet-free home?  Ummm. Hello?  I homeschool boys.  Two clues there:  1.  Boys--Yes, there are scratches. 2.  Homeschool--That's practically synonymous with pets.  Sorry about your luck, little lady.  You're going to find rabbit hair and probably boogers.  I'm just saying.

Now some might question my decision to home educate or try to solve my "wall" by suggesting that I stop, put the kids in school, get a paying job, quit my whining and call it a day.  Okay, thank you for that.  But it's a bit like telling the person who wants to become a runner to quit running and start walking, isn't it?  Here's the rub on that just so we're clear.  I'll totally quit homeschooling as soon as God tells me to.  Promise.  He's the one who got us started on this journey that I swore I would NEVER take, and so I'll keep going until He says otherwise.  And trust me, I check in with Him on that pretty regularly. Usually in those conversations He starts calling me Jonah, I immediately go grab Moby Dick and holler "literature lesson in the living room now!" and then I don't eat fish for a week.  Good talk, God.  Thanks.

But if you want the truth, the honest truth, home educating is just a lot of long, hard work. (Kind of like parenting, right?)  And the weight of the responsibility of seeing these boys through their education is like an elephant riding on my shoulders.  Not even just an elephant.  A pregnant elephant.  With twins.  Dear God, it's heavy.  I can't screw it up.  It's all on me.  I mean, if your kid is in public school at least you can point one or maybe two fingers at the government, the teachers, the school board . . . SOMEBODY . . . if they don't learn everything.  With home education, every finger is pointing at me.  And I'm such a wimp.  I hate people pointing at me. 

And the other thing is this, after you've done it a while, sometimes you just feel like you are over it.  I'd like to read a book that doesn't have to do with Ancient Greece, please and thank you.  And honestly, Shakespeare, I'll take a few of your quotes, but really?  The rest?  I used to love your clever words, but now I'm tired and I want Good Housekeeping recipes and time to try them out.  (Also, I think that was a run-on sentence which makes me want to murder the person who invented grammar. Or maybe just maim them. That would be fine too.)

But this morning, I sat down to read my Bible in Mathew 4.  Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John from their careers as fishermen to be his disciples.  Then he takes them and goes out healing masses of people, tending to their needs.  I'm picturing Him out there patiently touching scaly skin and glassy eyes, caressing crying babies and breathing new life into broken limbs.  And these people?   They come by the dozens because they heard he could heal.  They heard he was healing people no one had ever been able to help before.  They just keep coming and coming. You know he's got to be exhausted after a while.  They all need him.  They're counting on him.  Every finger's pointing at him.  The elephant's on his shoulders, and the Bible says they came in multitudes. 

After a while, Jesus sees the multitudes, and he goes off to a mountain where he sits down with the disciples.  Just the 12 of them. 
And I fall in love with Jesus all over again when I notice that he took them off by themselves away from the crowds.
He's so perfect, isn't he?
He gives them this upside down sermon where he tells them, "Hey, remember the poor in spirit that we've been seeing in all these crowds? Yeah, well, they're gonna inherit the kingdom of heaven.  Remember the mourners?  The ones who were grieving the death of their spouses, their children?  That doesn't annoy me.  They'll be comforted. It's the merciful that will actually receive mercy. See, it's the meek, the ones who are laid out flat like a pancake, that will inherit the earth one day.  . . ."  And man, I feel like my life's been flattened like a pancake.  Rolled out thinner than pie-crust.  So thin, it's sheer and I feel it would shred were I to try to pick it up.

And I wonder if he told them that sermon cause they were fed up?  Done.  Tired of all those people grabbing at his attention, demanding his time.  I wonder if at first they were flipping out excited about the miracles and the thrill of the journey, the thrill of following Christ in this new thing, but if, after a while, they were just a little over it all.  So he righted things for them.  He set them straight.  Reminded them.  Helped them to see the way of things.  His way.

I love that sermon, I do.  But it's the sitting with the disciples that just washes over me.  After all those big miracles and crowds, when I know he had to be exhausted.  He sat down and talked with his disciples . . . those he called.
He just sits with the ones he calls, you know?
You and me.
Because whether he's called us to be a momma, a home educator, a public educator or a doctor, we all hit walls sometimes, don't we?  And it doesn't mean we quit.  Doesn't mean we go back to fishing.  It just means we need to sit a while.
Let him set things straight.

Mary knew that, didn't she?  Martha's sister?  Remember?  She chose the one thing that was "needful" while Martha was encumbered and troubled over many things.  Martha and I are actually twins separated at birth.  Mary is definitely adopted.

Because she must have understood that Jesus is The Way through the wall.

Didn't he say, "Come to me ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest?"
And sometimes we say we believe Him, but our words and our lives don't always line up. 

These aren't new things are they?  There's nothing new under the sun.  Mary and the weary and heavy laden verse . . . we've heard those sermons preached, haven' t we?  It's not that we need a new book, a new preacher, a clever pinterest quote or better curriculum when we're burnt slap out, is it?  We just need to do the simple thing that works.

Sit on a mountainside (or a sofa) with Jesus.
Be with the one who said, "Apart from me, you can do nothing."
Be with the one who said, "The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it." 
Be with the one who said, "Lo, I am with you always . . ."

I don't think walls bother Jesus that much.
He made one come down just by having people march around it.
The Israelites just had to believe He'd do what He said He'd do.

So, I'm sitting before my own little wall. 
Sitting here with the one who gave me my marching orders six years ago.
Sitting with the one who promised that he "will do it."
And I'm like, "Hey, God.  I'm so out of breath.'
And he's all, "Keep going.  I'm with you always."
And I'm heaving, "I think I feel my pulse in my temples and my head may explode."
He's, "My promises are true.  Do you believe me?"
And I'm breathing a little easier, "Yes, but will you help my unbelief, God."
And those walls?
I think they're cracking, tumbling down a little.  Maybe?
Because He's good.  And He loves to sit with us a while.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Mothering Chronicles 10: NOT a Good Momma

I smelled it from the homeschool room where I was trying desperately to meet a writing deadline--scorched sauce.  But how could that be?  I had put the fancy heat-diffuser thingy-ma-jig under the heavy bottomed, iron pot.  I had turned the heat down below low.  And I NEEDED that sauce to be perfect.  It was for someone else's dinner.
Telling myself not to micromanage myself, (who has time for that when you have two kids and a husband, right?) I kept working.  Plunk, plunk, plunk.  My fingers flew on the plastic keys at a frantic pace.  I was making great progress, and with that sauce simmering, I hoped to finish the project just in time to make the ziti, go to the bank, race to soccer, fold the laundry, and contact the t-shirt company for camp. Perfect.
But the smell. 
Why was I continually getting these heavy wafts of tomato and flame?
Finally, I couldn't stand it any longer.  Scolding my nose for it's poor sense of smell, I headed into the kitchen to investigate.
It turns out my nose was right all along.
The flame, I discovered as I hung my head upside down, was no longer on low.  It was on high.
The highest high.
The high past the word HIGH on the knob.
The high where the flames lick the side of the pot and you want to immediately commit a crime because you know it isn't good. 
To confirm, I opened the lid.  About two inches (I'm not even kidding) of tomato, meat, onion and basil were cemented to the bottom of the pan with the top six inches spastically spitting and bubbling almost ready to succumb to the pot of scorch.
Entirely ruined.
Outside, giggles erupted.
Two boys tossing a ball.
Now just follow my logic here.  I've got ruined sauce.  Clearly, it wasn't me who did it.
That could only mean one.blasted.thing.
One of them turned the heat on high. Since I don't think our house is haunted, it had to have been one of them.
Had to.
And this was my response:
I slammed the lid down.
I turned the flame off.
I opened the door.
Which one of you turned the pasta sauce on high?
The words were short, sharp blades.  Each one meant to stab.
And they knew.  Immediately they knew.
The guilty party, with shoulders tightened and voice timid said, "I did.  I accidentally turned it off when I was making cocoa and figured it would be best to turn it on high."
I didn't reply.  Not with words.
But I slammed the door.  Harder than I have ever slammed a door in front of any human being in my entire life.
The house shook.
I think the neighbors may have heard it.
I think Africa heard it.
And I saw his shoulders slump.
Because that's the kind of mother I can be.  The kind that gets so tightly wound up in a schedule that's stuffed like a Christmas stocking about to burst open that she cares more about some stupid marinara sauce than she does the precious soul of a prince her Lord entrusted her with for a short season.
And there are more things.
More times.
More moments.
Mad.  Raging moments of reckless rants.
And they so rarely ever mean a smidgen of harm, these precious boys of mine. Truly, they are angels encased in human form with hearts that desperately desire to please.
And of course I'm ashamed.
Because no one else on the face of this planet would explode like a land-mine in the face of one of their children, would they?
Not the good moms, anyway, right?
But maybe there are a brave few who would just stand beside me for just two or three brief moments and raise their hands in solidarity?  Maybe one or two of you out there have fallen so far short of the glory of God when it comes to this daunting task of mothering that you truly believe no one else could ever be as bad as you?
Because I have.
And there are other failures too.
I can't for the life of me get it together to pay my children the allowance I owe them for the past like FIVE years. (What type-A-organized-freak-thought of allowance anyway?  Shouldn't my kids pay me for living in my house?  I've finally told them, they'll get it in the form of one lump sum when they are ready to purchase their first car.)  I'm pretty much convinced if they go bankrupt it will be because I failed to demonstrate responsible finances to them.
Good moms have jars labeled, "Saving, Offering, Spending."
Also, my 14 and 11 year olds put their own laundry away. 
By themselves. 
Once every season I go through their drawers in a tirade and demand to know why everything isn't perfectly folded and organized the way I showed them three months ago. 
Good moms put their kids' laundry away in perfect piles until they graduate and go to college.  Right?
I know they do because when I was growing up, I knew two perfect moms, and that's what they did.
They also did all . . . ALL . . . the housework.
One of them was so organized that when her daughter got up first thing in the morning, she was standing at the door with a vacuum. (I know, right?  Who blasted vacuums at 6 AM?)
She also cleaned her daughter's bathroom everyday.  And don't forget about the laundry.  (That's where I learned closets could be neat.  I hadn't known about color-coordinating.  I just thought if stuff was on hangers and not on the floor you patted yourself on the shoulder and called it a day.
Good moms use Tide and fold laundry.
Also my kids eat Ramen noodles.
Processed.  Evil.  Unbalanced.  And I don't even do the cooking of those curly cardboard noodles.  THEY DO!  By themselves.
Good moms cook biscuits for breakfast and make their kids wholesome, balanced lunches everyday.  They also give them weird snacks like whole wheat crackers with smiley faces made out of raisins and cucumbers.
And good wives pack their husband's lunches for them, but that's another blog.  I'll deal with my failure as a wife on another day.
And did I also tell you that I hate playing with blocks and Lego?
What?  I do.  I hate it.  There is nothing fun about stacking little splintery slivers of spruce 2 x 2 squares into houses, farms and towers only to topple them over two seconds later.  Please, kill me.
And Lego?  Primary colored pieces of plastic meant to torture my very soul to the core of its being.  They don't match my house!  And my kids have bins and bins of this stuff.  They love it.  It's like a foreign language I never, ever in my worst nightmare wanted to learn to speak.  Then I had boys.
What, God?  Is that like a practical joke?
But don't good moms adore every little, annoying game their kids want to play?
While I'm at it, I'm just gonna go ahead and let you in on this little tidbit too.
My eldest son was truly a perfect human being until he went through puberty.
What in the world?
Puberty totally punked me.
That voice?
He sounds like an opera singer with a perpetual frog in the throat.  That or a seal with laryngitis. 
Good moms definitely don't tell their pubescent sons to . . . please not talk.
Also, in case you wondered, I rarely wake up ahead of my children. 
I know.  I know.  Dirt on my casket, right here and now, folks. 
I am a demon-mom.
My eldest is an early-bird kinda kid.  (Another practical joke from God.  Thanks for that.)  Since the moment we took him home from the hospital in my 1987 grey Chevy cavalier, he has been the cherub that rises with the sun ready to chirp and chat long before my poor, heavy lids have lifted to greet the day. 
Nowadays, my alarm goes.  I turn it off.  I wait.
When I hear the flapping of his feet (that somehow recently outgrew my own) on the oak floors, I quickly hop up, yank on my sweater, and act like I've been awake for hours.
Because don't the good moms get up early and pray for their children's spouses or some spiritual thing like that?
And speaking of praying for kids' spouses, I guess I'll have to apologize to my daughter-in-laws someday because I remember to do that like two times a year.
And when my boys went through their obsession with Star Wars phase, I almost died. They knew everything about Star Wars.  I mean everything.  We're talking they read some kind of Star Wars Encyclopedia that was longer than any text book we've ever studied.  Do you know to this day I don't think I've stayed awake through one single one of those boring, life-stealing, brain-cell sucking movies? 
Are you totally kidding me, God?  Hello?  Ann of Green Gables?  Gilmore Girls? Anything but Star Wars.  REALLY?  Ugh.  (Practical joke number 3)
Clearly, the verdict is in, and I am just not a good momma.
And if you are wondering if I might be completely screwing my kids up . . .wonder no more.
I can answer that question for you.
Most definitely, I am.
Some days I honestly think it will be a miracle if these boys survive me.
And if we're confessing, which apparently I am, I'll just go ahead and lay all the cards on the table for you.
I also broke my niece's wrist.
Playing a game where I catapult her across the room with my legs--that's how I did it.
Clearly I should have had the good sense to see her bones couldn't handle the likes of my thundering thighs as they threw her through the air across the basement family room.  Clearly I should have considered a landing pad. Any self-respecting, responsible adult would have thought about that.
I didn't.
Horrible judgment.  All mothering and Auntie privileges should be revoked.  That poor sweet girl was so brave, and in that moment, I felt the full weight of my failure like a five million pound iron sign dangling from my neck that read:
And goodness gracious it's a heavy weight to wear.  And surely I'm not the only one who has ever felt like they couldn't breath under it's suffocating accusations.  And it may seem like I'm only a little serious when it comes to Star Wars and Legos, but can I just be really, brutally honest? 
There is rarely a day that goes by where I don't question my ability to parent.
But here's the truth about that kind of question:
Doubting our ability as parents is doubting the wisdom of the very God who granted them to us in the first place.
Was it not God himself who said, this:
Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me . . . saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.
(Isaiah 46:9,10)
My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My GOOD pleasure.
He gave us these sweet children.  It is a part of his GOOD pleasure.  It is a part of His purpose that we--floundering, failing, fumbling me and you--be their parents. 
And don't we just need that balm for our weary souls?
And did He not also say,
For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Eph. 2:10)
Somehow, this sixty-seven inch, Star Wars loathing girl is God's handiwork created to do good works (And isn't mothering one of our greatest good works?) which God prepared in advance. 
The one who hates getting up early.
The one who hates Legos. (Does anyone normal really like them?)
He picked my soul, designed me, knit me together in my mother's being, formed me, fashioned my personality and then sent me to earth KNOWING I'd get to be the mother of two young men one day.
And the last time I checked, this God that breathes and mountains sprout up like Jack's beanstalk, does not make mistakes.
He doesn't, because the scripture says, "The Lord is righteous in all His ways and holy in all His works.  (Psalm 145:17)
I went ahead and double-checked with Webster (Well, in the interest of full-disclosure, I actually checked with because I can't even get my act together to buy a current dictionary and mine may or may not be dated like 1935.  Whatever.) and righteous?  It still means morally right or justifiable. 
Translation? God's choice of me as these boys' momma is justified.
Am I really going to doubt a righteous God's decision?  Really?  I mean sometimes we screw up royally and slam doors and forget to wash our kids' soccer uniforms and maybe we yell sometimes or forget the school fundraiser, but here's the rub:  God chose us.
God chose us, and we can spend our life trying to convince Him it was the greatest mistake of His reign as God of the universe, or we can pull up our britches and get a grip because our kids don't need good mommas, they need the right mommas.  And that, my friends, means you, and it means me. 
Because while we're running around doubting God, our kids are growing up, and we're missing it.
And I'm pretty sure God said doubters were like waves of the sea, blown and tossed about.  And if that's the case, maybe all of our families are a little sea-sick. But it's not in you and me that sea-sickness comes to our family, it's in the doubting of us as God's choice.
Maybe, just maybe, I'm not the only mother who has ever felt so entirely inadequate, so completely and utterly a failure that it would have been better if anyone else on the entire planet raised her kids.  Maybe some of you need a little reminder that we can in fact do this. 
Sometimes I look up at God, hot, slick tears sliding down my face, and I say, "Lord, I am so messing this all up.  Why did you give these poor boys me as their mom?"
His words flow, and His truth restores my soul.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature . . . For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;  and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Peter 1: 3-8)
There's no book that can teach us how to be a mother better than The Book because it contains the truths of who He is.  It is through our knowledge of Him--this God that chose to call us to be moms--that we are given everything we need for a godly life.  Given everything. Every single thing we will ever need as a mother.
Isn't that my greatest hope as a mom?  That I would be a godly mother?
I actually get to participate in His divine nature because of His precious promises.  And if you and I get to participate in that divine nature, than surely, there is hope we can make the right choices as mothers, right?
I'm not crazy.  It's all there in scripture.
Don't misunderstand me. I know Jesus promised where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.  But I don't take that for granted.  I don't assume that means I give myself a pass, a get-out-of-jail-free card.  I assume that means His grace will sustain me as I make every effort to add to my faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control perseverance . . . By every effort, I assume God's Word literally means EVERY. EFFORT.  Every book I can get my hands on.  Every scripture passage I can learn on the subject of mothering.  Every bit of godly, wise advice I can glean.  Every ounce of energy and strength I have poured into this great privilege of mothering.  Because these children deserve that.
I assume that means His grace will give me the strength to open the door I slammed, walk outside and take that young man's hand and tell him, it's just spaghetti sauce.  Tell him I'm sorry I slammed the door.  Tell him he's much more important to me that a good marinara sauce.  Tell him its okay that he turned the heat up, and I am a dumb yutz sometimes.  Ask him to forgive me.  Ask him if he wants to throw the football because I may not like playing with blocks, but I love throwing the football. (And so does he.)
Because that's what we do.  We fail sometimes, and we seek forgiveness. 
Someday they'll fail.  They need to know how to humble themselves and ask for forgiveness too because God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 
Then we forgive ourselves for failing because why would we withhold forgiveness from ourselves when our Father isn't withholding it?
And we move on.
We make every effort to add to our faith in a sovereign, RIGHTeous God, goodness and self-control, and perseverance. 
Because we may not be good mommas, but we are the RIGHT mommas.
And if God, who is always right, chose us, isn't that enough?
That sign around our neck?  We've been lied to, friends.  It doesn't say:  Not Good Enough.
It reads:
Handcrafted by the King.
You are wonderful mothers.  You are.

The Mothering Chronicles

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Her-Part 2

Scroll down to read Her-Part 1 first.

"Can I help you?" The guy doing lock-up asks it, and  I guess it's a fair question.  She did just sort of barge right in.  Whatever she hoped she might find inside that building had left a good twenty minutes earlier.  We are the stragglers busy discussing our plans for the day--the movies, a hike. 
She grips the cottony-white envelope, holds it up.  "I just wondered if somebody could help me . . ." she hesitates, but only for a second.  Her voice, though.  It's laced with some kind of anguish that comes from below your gut where things are raw and red and real.  " . . . my power bill.  They're gonna shut it off in the morning.  We won't have heat."
We've been under some kind of arctic system, haven't had a night above freezing in at least a week, maybe two. Pipes  everywhere are popping open like overfilled balloons, bursting when they thaw in the daytime.  People complaining about buying more propane.  Me threatening to buy a wood stove to save money.  But I have money in the bank.  More than enough to pay the power bill. 
There are feet shuffling and eyes darting, eyes averting, no one really knowing what to do.  And the man locking up scurries off to find a number. 
The number of the guy that handles these things.
We have a guy for this stuff.
A couple actually.
I know their name, and I know their number is in my husband's phone.  I'm wanting to take my four-inch, high heal and kick him in the shin.  Instead I kick him with my eyes.  "Honey, you've got his number in your phone, don't you?"
I want him to pull out his wallet, not his phone.
She's just standing there, now.
We're all just standing.
So, I start the interrogation.  I always talk when I'm nervous.  If I can just get her story, find out what's going on.  If I can glimpse the baby's face under the thick, blanket.  It keeps slipping off. The woman keeps fumbling with it, trying to hold things together.  She's shielding her little one from the cold.
That's why she's there.  At a church.
At our church after the service is over and the people parted in paths to Kentucky Fried Chicken and Fatz CafĂ©. 
She's trying to shield her children from the cold to come.
I remember one time a man showed up at my house.  He couldn't look me in the eye, so I knew something was wrong.  He kept calling me ma'mm saying he was sorry to have to stop by like this.  The kids were home, hunkered around the hem of my jeans.  He said I needed to pay by the close of business or they'd turn the power off.  It was bitter cold that day too.  I still remember this feeling of nausea that came up from my feet and flipped and flopped in my stomach until I wanted to sit down.
I rang the people at the head office immediately.
They had made a mistake.
But I never forgot that feeling. 
So I asked questions, but I really just wanted to hold her in my arms.  Take her home.  Make her tea.
"Are you from around here?'
"A trailer park nearby."
"Do you have a job?"  I'm such an idiot.  She just had a baby.
"Not since the baby."
"Do you have a husband?  Someone helping you?"
"Yes, but he is out of work right now too."  Her brown hair hung in a low pony tail down her back, pulled away from her face.  Her face is the kind of tight that a face is when it is a dam holding everything back and if one single, solitary muscle is moved, all the pain of a thousand years will come flooding out. 
And I just cannot stand it.  I am moving.  I'm beside her, and my arm is reaching around her shoulders. Her hurt, her humiliation, her need? They flow in tears. Just a few, quiet, dignified tears.
I don't know what else I say.  Other people talk too.  Someone offers a prayer.
And prayers are good. 
The prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
So that is a good thing.
But gosh, I'm a doer.
And when that woman in the Bible thought if she just touched the hem of Jesus' garment she would be healed?  Wasn't that the same as this woman thinking if she could just get to the door of our church, she'd find help?
And maybe we are the hem of His garment, we the body, His power coursing through us.
We had swallowed Styrofoam wafers embossed with crosses on them and sipped grape juice just that morning.  To remember.  Remember that His body was broken for us. 
This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.
To remember He was broken.
The body that was broken for others.
And now we are His body.  We the people.  So shouldn't we break too?  For others?  For her?
So, we break open wallets.
We say goodbye and wish well. 
Give the couple's number.
Give the place where she can get clothes.  The place where she can get food.
Give what we have on us at the time.
But it isn't enough.
And of all the questions I could have asked, I don't know her name.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Her-Part 1

A sunny Sunday and we're all chirping and chattering.  I'm savoring a stolen 2 or 3 minutes with my beloved girlfriend with the perfect, lemony locks who I rarely get more than 2 unfinished sentences with, like. ever.  And the precious few I get?  I don't want to share them cause she reads my heart and ignores the craziness of my mind, and I love her.  So I won't lie, I didn't notice the other woman.  Our kids were running around all pink-cheeked and sweater-clad in the wispy, happy wind.  Our husbands were probably resolving the Super Bowl-in-an-open-arena-and-the-weather's-calling-for-snow dilemma.  And she made it all the way across an empty parking lot, a toddler in tow, and an infant car seat hanging heavy from her arm--all the way across.  Right up to the double doors.  Not just to the double doors, but pushed her way through the doors as the last deacon was leaving the building. 
Light's out folks.
Show's over.
We're closed.
Except she pushed through the door, so we couldn't be closed.
And who was she?
Not one of us. I knew that much just by the jeans. 
And where'd she come from?
Then I see the car--an older sedan--across the lot.
I see the envelope in her one free hand.  I've seen them before.  Every month actually.
And the guy locking up is as befuddled as we are.  I mean you can't just march into an empty church uninvited.  It's not like the Hallmark movies where people wander into church buildings, and some priest is roaming around dusting candlesticks and refilling holy water.
We may be interdenominational, but we're practically Baptist.
We lock our doors, for goodness sake.
She was late.  But she didn't care.  She just pushed her way through.

And I remember this:
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed."

That woman, the one with the blood issue--the taboo one, she was late too.  She came up to Jesus at the back of the crowd.  If she could just get the tips of her fingers to the fraying fringe of his frock, then she knew she'd be healed. It wasn't the frock that held the hope, though.  It was His power that moved through the frock to the fingers. And He did heal her.  He said her faith healed her.

Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.

And didn't this mother of two have faith?  Faith that in a church she could find hope.  Find help.
Because you've got to be pretty rock-bottom, pretty much out of luck, out of hope, out of options to show up with your power bill in one hand and your babies in the other, when surely you know the services are over, and ask for help.

Desperate, maybe.
Determined, yes.
In the right place?
Dear, God, I hope so.