Monday, December 13, 2010

With This Ring...

The evening service at our church was packed, there was standing room only, which is often the case, but last night for me--I couldn't sit in a seat and be still. I couldn't stand in the back and wait, either. I was out on the patio--pacing, my heart pounding with anticipation. My daughter's boyfriend had emailed, text messaged and called family and friends to let us know that after the church service, in front of the sparkling Christmas tree he intended to propose marriage to her.
I have known for over 2 months that this was coming. He met with my husband in October and asked for her hand in marriage. For the last 10 weeks we have kept our excitement for what was coming a secret from our daughter--dodging questions, feigning disinterest in bridal gowns, and changing the subject to discussions of "Harry Potter".
Finally, I was going to be able to now talk freely with my daughter, the only daughter that I will ever get to plan a wedding for. Finally some of the stress that she has been feeling will be lifted, as she moves more freely in the direction that her heart is pulling her. Finally, she will have a ring to go with the promises that this young man has made to her.
The moment was spectacular; as if in a movie, the tall dark handsome prince came through and fulfilled her desire for a romantic proposal. Thanks to Facebook, the world we now live in, every event is a photo opportunity. (I've even considered asking the Costco greeter to take my picture on the way in the enormous warehouse--to mark the moment for future status updates). So, it wasn't considered odd at all that my daughter's friends would insist they stop to pose in front of the Christmas tree to take a photo before "heading into Hollywood for Sushi". (A lie to my daughter, to inspired her to be primped to a higher degree than usual for church).
We, the family and friends who knew what was coming, tried to mull about the tree and appear disinterested in their silly college girl antics. Then, at the prompting of the college girls, Josh stepped forward to take a photo with Emily before "she disappeared into the evening with her girlfriends". Just before posing for the photo, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a box. Then he dropped to one knee.
The future bridesmaids, on key, let out a scream that would rival the teens on Ed Sullivan the night we "met the Beatles". Cameras were pulled out, and there was suddenly an abundance of flashes like lightening against the dark sky. We were the paparazzi of the moment, capturing the public proclamation of this young man's intentions. She eagerly gave him what he wanted with her tearful, "Yes!" and the crowd cheered! The sparkling tree stood behind them, providing a new memory to celebrate each year on the 12th Day of Christmas when my daughter's true love gave to her--a ring.
We moved the "party" to our home, for appetizers, cheesecake and the stories of close calls when the secret was almost spilled. Then, we gathered around the young couple and prayed for their future. The soon-to-be Groom's Father prayed for them to be steadfast in their faith and to continue down that path that they had been raised. The Father-of-the-Bride continued the prayer in the same vein and called on us, their friends and family, to encourage them as the times get difficult.
Then, in a spontaneous decision, we had a "Love Feast" for the couple.
A "Love Feast" is a beautiful way to celebrate someone publicly. First, we had Emily sit on a stool with her back to her friends, and another stool placed behind her. Then we took turns to sit on the stool and tell her what she means to us. After several people had used their words to build her up, we let Josh finish and then we put him in the Love Seat so that he could be encouraged.
The night was filled with tears of joy and excitement--the friends declaring how grateful they were for the friendships, parents looking for words to fill the lifetime of memories invading their hearts, the siblings each taking a turn to begin to petition for future nieces and nephews.
I didn't think that such an evening, so special could exist without conflict and pain of any sort. When I finally found myself in bed, I drifted to sleep with images dancing in my head. Christmas had come.
When I woke this morning, much later than usual, I thought of the beautiful night. I thought of the couple. I thought of the ring.
It is a precious ring, and I don't mean that in a nod to Gollum. It is precious--feminine and dainty. It has a beautiful oval center stone and smaller stones that cascade down the band. It shines with the hope of the future and the hard work of the young man who planned and saved to present it to his love. And, suddenly, I was overwhelmed with a fear that she could lose it. I was nervous for her to wear it to school. I wanted to send her a text message telling her to put a piece of duct tape on the inside of her hand so that she wouldn't lose this new treasure. I felt the anxiety begin to twist in my stomach.
I closed my eyes..."For this reason, I kneel before the Father..." I began my prayer and I poured out my fear to the Lord.
A few minutes later, my daughter sent me a text message to listen to a song by Carrie Underwood, "Mama's Song". I clicked onto You Tube and listened to the sweet song. With tears rolling down my face I listened to the sweet blonde singer, remembering the days when my daughter felt she had "discovered" the singer on American Idol. And then I began remembering the moments that my daughter has experienced great pain and disappointment requiring her to cling to her Savior to get through the night.
I remembered, with every beautiful gift that we receive we live in the place where it can be lost. This is just the beginning of having to watch this couple live in this dangerous world. I will see them receive and I will see them go through loss. There is no way around that. My own parents have had to watch as we, the young couple that they celebrated 2 decades ago, have lost homes, jobs, and even a child. There is no amount of duct tape available to hold onto to the things that God will pull away to draw us near to Him.
We were so blessed last night and I will treasure the memory. God was honored in the midst of the celebration. Families began the process of uniting the two people. And even if the ring is ever lost, what that young man gave to my daughter, will continue to be present. Because, on the 12th Day of Christmas, my daughter's true love didn't merely give her a ring, he gave her his heart. Christmas has come, indeed.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Heavenly Christmas

During my quiet time with the Lord this morning I was overcome with thoughts of what Christmas is like for the souls who are celebrating the season in the presence of the Lord. Now, I know that Heaven is not linear in time and one of the grand mistakes made by man is to humanize God and to try to envision His Kingdom through eyes that haven't even seen all the wonders this of this tiny planet. But, being an imaginative child trapped in the body of a middle aged woman, indulge me this fantasy.
As hauntingly beautiful as Karen Carpenter sounds on my CD player, what must she sound like with a choir of Angels? Her voice while she was on earth was smooth and full, like melted brown sugar. Warm and rich. What becomes of a voice like that when it is finally complete? The songs of the season sung by those who are free from any doubt, from any pride, and from any pain.
The pleasures of Christmas that are enjoyed at each celebration on earth are measured, mixed, baked and sprinkled with sugar--how are the confections prepared in Heaven? I picture my sweet Mother-In-Law, whose battle with Dementia took her from us much too soon mentally and then eventually physically as well. She was a wonderful hostess who loved to open her home and to fill it with people and food. Heaven for her must allow her the opportunity to host a gathering. In her earthly shell she gathered her children and her grandchildren into her arms and smothered them with affection. What is her touch like in Heaven?
And the children of Heaven, what is their Christmas like? My daughter is one of them, with her golden blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes--she eyed Santa warily and declared, "Ho, ho, ho". She held tightly to her Daddy and had no interest in sitting near the jolly old man--let alone on his lap! Now, in Heaven with no distractions of good old St. Nick, what is my eternal toddler's experience on Christmas morn? Does she see us, her family, in our humble little home delighting in the things of this world as we tear into our preciously wrapped treasures? Does she see the stocking hung at the mantle that bears her name? Through her eyes, that know more than I, does she see that her stocking is now the fullest while it is empty?
I miss her every day. I wonder about her life that was never part of God's plan. In my humanness, I wonder what her life would have looked like--would she like to read as much as her brother? Would she like Taylor Swift, like every other 17 year-old girl? Would she sit with her sister and look at Wedding websites and delight in what God is unfolding?
But, before I get too overwhelmed with the "what ifs" and the "if onlys", I remember that God is on his throne and I remember that it was He who decided that Molly belonged in Heaven. So, a Heavenly Christmas is what she has and the events that I think she is missing--she was never supposed to attend.
There are so many souls, loved and longed for who are celebrating Christmas so far away--yet, so near. It's hard not to wonder what they wonder when they watch us. That's all.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Did you hear the one about the White Lady doing Zumba?


Remember the Mexican jumping beans that we used to get so excited about when we were kids? For those of us who were the children of the 1970's, we didn't have XBOX 360 or Wii game systems so our entertainment had to come in the form of foreign vegetables. Well, today I was--for an hour--a Mexican jumping bean.
I went to a Zumba class at my local gym. For those of you who don't what Zumba is, let me describe it in way that you will understand. First, turn your radio to Piolin 101.9, or any Spanish speaking radio station that loves Salina. Next, take your Denise Austin workout DVDs and place them in a blender. Add Tequila.
Add more.
Now, just a little more.
Blend and serve in a festive cup with a salted rim. In a pinch you can also use Jane Fonda's exercise videos, but the drink may be more bitter, so you may want to serve it with some aged cheese.
When I arrived at the class, I inched my way in the 2nd to the last row. I would be in the back, but not the very back--no need to give the weight lifters more to chuckle at. The instructor, a tall beautiful, dark woman came in. She was slim, but with curves. She asked if they were any first time visitors and I quickly raised my hand, hoping that everyone in the room would now refrain from judging me for what they would soon witness.
"Okay, Ladies, make room for them in the front. We want them to be able to see." She announced.
"What?!" Did she really say move to the front?
Reluctantly, I moved to the front row next to a young woman in an adorable grey tennis skirt. Obviously, this doll knows how to Zumba. If I ever wear a skirt to the gym it will be because I have learned the ART of Zumba.
It was hilarious at first to watch myself amidst these sexy Latinas. I was keeping up during the warm up and I began to think that I would survive with my dignity intact. I shuffled and twisted. I slung my back and hips in opposing directions, all while moving my arms like a mystical belly dancer. My breathing got labored and I glanced at the clock in hopes that we were at least half way through the class.
Ahh...no. We were only about 10 minutes into the hour. I kept moving and twisting and shaking things that are not supposed to shake. I pay good money to purchase undergarments so that those things will not shake, and here I am in the front row of the gym moving like I'm having an epileptic seizure!
30 minutes into the class and I was done. I wanted to sneak out the door. Of course, I couldn't and I was now aware of the real reason why she puts the new people in the front row. There was no way to escape with any discretion. I was going to have to continue to shake and twist for another 30 minutes. The music slowed and the ladies moved to the edges to grab a quick drink. I followed their lead and grabbed my water. I couldn't sip it gently, so I gulped it and dribbled a little on my shirt. I was wiping my face with my towel, when I heard the voice of a stranger,
"You're doing really good."
I turned to see a woman about my same age in black stretch pants and a matching t-shirt. She was smiling and looking at me. I didn't say anything, I just gulped more water while nodding at her.
"This is a hard thing to learn, you are doing really good."
"Thanks" was all I could breathe out.
My spirit was revived. I twisted again and I saw myself in the mirror. I decided to smile. I decided to let myself shake and laugh at the silliness of this moment.
I could, after all, see myself in the mirrors and I happen to know for a fact that I was not doing "really good" at all. I was twisting the wrong way and my feet had no bounce. I was slightly confused and breathless at best. She had to be aware of my uncoordinated state, but she was using the only thing she had at that moment to encourage a stranger. Her words.
And the words of encouragement, at just the right time, can send our souls twisting and shaking with a new fervor.
We all do that for one another. Or we don't. We get to decide the life we want to live and the kind of day we want to have. We get to chose if we will find ways to encourage others as we spin and we twist our way through the day that we have been dealt.
We sometimes have to search to find something kind to say to a rude person we encounter, but I believe it is there. If the thing you can say to encourage someone is not obvious, then most likely, the person needs the words to be said to them even more. If you cannot see the compliment that they need to hear, then you need to dig deeper in your soul to uncover it. It is there in you, even if it isn't showing up in them at this time.
As we did these foreign moves, my reflection was not as pleasing to me. Looking at the slim girl in the grey skirt was making me more aware of my awkward and uncoordinated moves. I was feeling tired and unsure and having the kind comment from a stranger was like salve on a wound. It didn't matter that I was spinning to the right while the rest of the ladies spun to the left, I was moving, and now, I was having a blast. I was there, which as we all know, is the biggest battle.

"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. " Proverbs 16:24


Monday, November 1, 2010

Life is better, now that I'm not a car


I have been blessed to be in healthy churches with good teaching for the last 25 years. As a Youth Pastor's wife, I have been to summer camp more times than the average person--and the camps that I have attended have consistently had really good teaching. I have attended Women of Faith 6 times and many other women's events and retreats that have had best selling authors as the speakers.
This has been such a tremendous blessing in my life and I count it all to the credit of Christ and his provision in my life. Looking back at this abundance of solid teaching in my life, I recently realized something remarkable: I am not a car. I am not a SUV, a minivan or a luxury sedan. I am definitely not a hybrid. 
I have recently realized that I've spent a major portion of my life as a believer behaving more like a car than a person.
I have a VW Beetle and about once a week I go to the gas station near my house and I attach the hose and fill my tank with gas. When I am really on top of the situation, I even take the hose out of the tank before I drive away from the pump. My car is full. It will now take me around town with the exact same horsepower the entire time, whether its gage says it has a half a tank or a quarter of a tank. It doesn't care if the last time I put gas in the tank was on Saturday, it will travel just a faithfully on Tuesday.
But, I am not a car. I need fuel everyday. I need 8 glasses of water every day. If I drink 8 glasses today, I still need to drink 8 glasses tomorrow. And the next day, I need 8 more. I don't store my water on Sunday and wait until the following Sunday for more water. If I were to do that, my lips would get chapped, my skin would get pasty and my joints would get achy. I need water to keep me going through my day, and if I get a little dehydrated, I can't make it up tomorrow. Tomorrow has its own 8 glasses to drink.
But, in my spiritual life, I had developed a habit to try and store up the good stuff and keep going on that. Unintentionally, but certainly, not for lack of knowing the right thing to do, I have spent too many days trying to get by on what was put in the tank over the weekend.
It's not that I haven't been in Bible studies, because I have. But, sadly, they would often become a task to complete. "Fold the clothes, empty the dishwasher, do chapter 3..."
At some point in my life, I stopped depending on the bible for the power that I needed.
I am not sure that this is something that I should be testifying to, because it is certainly not something that others should aim for. I wish I could say that I have been more faithful in allowing God to speak to me every single day through his word. I wish I could say that I had never been distracted in my walk to put my faith, ever so slightly, in other things. I wish I had more of the Bible committed to memory because I had spent more time reading it and absorbing it.
I won't beat myself up about that now. What good would that do? Would it change the hours that I spent filled with anxiety? Would it answer the questions that are no longer there?
I am just glad that I now understand my thirst.
In August, my friend, Rachel Collins was speaking at an event. She was talking about digging deeper into God's word and she said, "Don't be too lazy to sit down and read your Bible". I cannot tell you how many times that has been repeated in my head. While doing the some of the crazy things I do when I am home alone, I've heard her voice and stopped what I was doing and went and sat down--to avoid being lazy.
The good news is that now that I am not living like a car, life is better. When I am in the place to hear a great speaker--every point has more meaning and less of a need to carry me for days. Sometimes, I am still hit in the morning with a surge of anxiety that grabs my stomach and feels like it won't let go. But, I open my Bible and begin to read the words of Jesus and literally drink the living water and the grip lessens, the fears subside. I find myself craving this water and I hope that thirst never goes away.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's really none of my business.

Friday night a gigantic spider, with teeth the size of quarters and legs as fat as french-fries crawled into my bed and bit me. I never saw her, but Saturday morning I felt the bump under my eye where she had claimed my face. I don't know why she chose to snack on my face in my sleep, perhaps a spider I murdered recently was her brother. There was a spider in the shower who was not staying on his side of the shower and when his movements made shampooing my hair in peace and closing my eyes AT ALL an improbability I really had little choice but to send the itsy-bitsy-spider down the drain. Maybe the news of his demise got back to his older sister and she came for revenge. I'm told older sisters can behave that way.
Being bit by the bugger would have been bad enough, but did she need to feed near the eye? My right eye has now swollen up and my appearance is like that of a boxer. When the doorbell rang this morning I fully expected to see Rocky Balboa on my doorstep ready to challenge me to a match for the Title. I know that as women we are bombarded by images that press messages of beauty into our minds and it is started as such a young age, it is difficult to separate the truth of who we are from what we look like. They seem so linked that when I wake with an eye that is slightly swollen I cannot look in the mirror without my eyes being drawn to the puffy place on my face. It doesn't belong. I know my face as a part of me and this is not me. But, today, it is me. I can tell people, "This isn't how I look! This is a spider bite!" But, today, this IS how I look. Today this IS me.
Braylee is a very precocious kindergärtner living in the Midwest with her Dad & Mom and her older brother and two younger adopted Haitian siblings. She says something hilarious almost daily and her Mother shares it with the rest of us via Facebook. On one day her mother asked her the question we've all asked our adorable sons or daughters as some point,
"Braylee, why are you so cute?" to which Braylee responded,
"Because God made me this way and it's really none of my business."
I was struck by the depth of this answer. It is our creator who makes our physical being. We know that He chooses to shape us by the genes that are woven together. Children know this, we teach them this in Sunday School. But what struck me was her ability to confront the bigger issue. He isn't looking for our input on the matter. He didn't ask us ahead of time for a consultation on the matter.
Granted, we need to take care of this body. We should stretch its muscles and exercise the heart. We should nurture it with good food, laughter and rest, but to obsess or to worry is not only ineffectual, but it is really none of our business.
The foundation and the structure of the outward is nothing in comparison with the heart. You all know this, it's nothing new to be told that beauty comes from within, but strangely, even knowing this we still long for all that comes with the beauty that the world has told us is valuable. Recently, someone commented to me that she loved how I always did my make-up. She said that she noticed that I always had it done when I was out and about. I had to tell her I wasn't sure that was a good thing. When did I hear the message that my value and my competence was tied to my appearance? When did I claim hold to the belief that I better look good--because that may be all I have to offer?
The things we say to ourselves are so mean. The meanest girl you will ever know may be in your own mirror. I know the meanest girl I've ever known looks at me with my puffy eye and tells me terrible things. She doesn't value what is happening on the inside, and she knows that there are good things going on in there. She is the most critical girl I've ever known--but only to me. And while she's unkind to me, I realize that God made her, so I know she can learn to love me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I am a jealous cat god

Okay, so for those of you who read my last post about Luna Lovegood, my adulterous kitten and her ordinary adventures in my neighborhood, you may be surprised to hear (or perhaps not surprised at all) that the Facebook incident is still in my head. Now, before you judge me, know this: I was actually once diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Granted, if you spend enough time with a Psychiatrist you can eventually get diagnosed with something--so I don't worry too much about it and when I do get a little too obsessed with something I show myself grace. That being said, back to the kitten.
For those of you who are unaware, my neighbor posted a picture of himself with my kitten inside of his house with a quote that read, "My neighbor's kitten who apparently likes me and my sister more than her own family". And for reasons that I cannot explain, that has been making me a little neurotic. The rest of the Silly family I live with are more taken aback with the the young man for taking my kitten INTO his home and taking a picture and putting it on his Facebook. For me, it's the words that are still stinging.
The relationship between my kitten and I, that used to be built on trust is disintegrating. We are becoming more like strangers because of the distance I feel when she returns home. I know that she is no longer "faithful" and I am jealous. When I don't know where she is, I assume she is with "him".
And lets face it, for all intensive purposes, I am her god. I feed her, I pet her, I love her (and while she may assume this means she is God, we know that is blasphemy) and I do it all because I choose to and because I want to have a pure relationship with her. My college age son laughs at me, because when I go to find the little feline anymore--there is a desperation that emerges when I cannot. Calling to her in with the "Luna, Baby, Kitty" is no longer for her ears only, but for the neighbor's ears--as a warning.
Recently, while floating in my pool and watching her chase lizards in the rose bushes, I was struck with a thought about how God wants my attention and about how He is a jealous God. He longs for my faithfulness in all my situations. When I am lonely and I turn to Facebook to fill the void, when I am frustrated and insecure and I allow my tongue to speak in tongues that are CERTAINLY not of angels, when I am chasing after the latest (fill in the blank) to satisfy my craving for more--he is jealous. He doesn't want me to turn to other things to fill the voids, ever. My kitten comes home to eat and for me to play with her and spend time petting her and that is good. But it is not what she is doing when she is in my presence that is causing frustration--it is what she does when she is away from me. God is there for me constantly and He will feed me and nurture me through time in his word. We can meet and worship at any moment and he will listen to me when I pray--but again, it's not my behavior when I am with Him. It is how I am behaving when I place my trust in anything other than Him.
There is very little I can do about my kitten's behavior, so I will continue to take whatever affection she gives to me when she is willing to give it, but in the moments when I begin to feel frazzled from her absence I guess that's a time for me to trust in the One who brought her into our family. He continually reminds me that even when she is unfaithful, He is faithful all the time.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My adulterous kitten is on Facebook


I had just fallen asleep when my phone went off at 11:57 PM. I saw that it was my daughter calling, so I answered the way all Mother’s do at the stroke of midnight,
“What’s wrong?”
The answer, that came in the form of a question, threw me for a loop.
“Mom, where’s Luna?”
Luna Lovegood is our kitten. She came to live with our family in May as a birthday present to my son whose pet cat, Max, had been murdered by a passing car on Christmas Eve. The reason I say he was murdered is because Max was the head of the Cat Mafia on the street where we live and rarely does anyone in the Mafia just die. It was definitely a hit.
Now when the my daughter asked me about the kitten’s whereabouts, I had images of having to go back out into the street and claim the little body of my sweet baby kitty. I was immediately awake and alarmed.
When I fumbled out some sort of response, my daughter said that one of her friends had seen something on Facebook about a kitten that she was sure was our Luna.
**Now, before I lead into the part of the story where I say that I went to the front door and called for Luna, please do not judge me for letting my cats go outside at night. We will just end up debating the issue and in the end, I will still let them out. It’s how I’ve done cats for 43 years.
Opening the door, I called for her in her customary Luna cat call, “Luna Baby Kitty!”
Across the lawn she came with her little bell ringing to announce her arrival. She bounced up into my arms and I brought her inside. I poured her some Kitten Chow and I sent a text message off to my protective daughter to let her know that all was well in the cat world. End of story.
Wrong.
Ten minutes later my daughter sent a picture to my phone. On the screen there was a picture of Luna. On Facebook. With my neighbor?
He is sitting inside his house and holding my sweet little kitten and the caption says, “My neighbors cat who seems to like me and my sister more than her own family”
My heart began to pound in my chest. What did he say about my kitten? How could he possibly infer that my kitten likes him and his sister more than her own family? I became so angry, I had thoughts of going right over and knocking on his door and saying, “No. She loves me. She comes when I call her! She purrs when I hold her! She sleeps on my desk! And don't take my cat into your house! ”
Then, I remember. She is a cat. She is a dumb cat. She is simply an animal who is driven by instinct and will not have to answer before the Lord when she dies. He is a man. He is a young man who seems most of the times that I see him, pretty lonely.
It’s kind of strange to think that the simple act of him posting a picture of himself with my cat could have ramifications in either direction. I can withhold the cat. I could start to keep her inside and never let her go out to chase lizards. I could deny him access to her by giving her very little time outside and watching where she goes when she’s out.
Or, I can let her go. Let her spend time with his family and look for opportunities to talk to them more often. Reach out to their family and find ways to show them love. I can use this moment to remember that God will use just about anything to get my attention and to draw me near to the cross.
Can God use my cat to bring me closer to my neighbor? Yes, I believe He can.
Can I allow my neighbor to say something slightly questionable about me on Facebook? Yes. I believe I can.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Imitating Christ's Humility

Last night when you went to sleep everything was the same as usual. You brushed your teeth and even took the time to floss. You set your alarm and plugged in your cell phone to charge. Your pillow was cool against your face and the breeze coming in the window was a relief to your feet. You eased into a dream that was safe and brilliant.

But, what if when morning came you felt some one tickle your face? You brushed away the irritant and tried to call back the strange and lovely dreams you had the night before. Again, the tickle, again the hand to brush it away. When the soft movement came across your face the third time you opened your eyes. A small fly wisps away. Nothing is right in the scene before you.

You wake to find yourself lying on a mat on the dirt floor of a hut. When you sit up, you feel that your body is lighter and looking down you realize that you have small skinny arms of a child. You are dark and your skin is scaly and dry. You are dressed in a shirt, but that is all. You run your hands down your chest and your stomach is extended. For all that your mind can grasp, you are a small, frail black child sitting in a hut. But, you are still you. You are able to recognize almost exactly where you must be, because you are still you in all your thoughts and have retained all of your knowledge of the world.

Fear should have been the commanding thought, but because this is so impossible, you cannot fear, you can only question the validity of it all. You rise to your feet and look around. The hut you are in is small, smaller than your bathroom at home. Outside you hear voices and they speak another language. “Maa” you say to yourself. Somehow, you know that their language is called Maa. And then you realize that you are fully aware of all their customs, even though they are nothing like your own. You are aware of their lifestyle in comparison to your own.

You step to the edge of doorway and peek outside, the men are leaving to herd the cattle and you see the woman who you know is your Mother. She turns and you see a baby on her back. You know immediately that this is your brother. And without delay you realize that you love him as though you have always known him. He is too young for a name; he is only 2 moons old and will not have a name until he is stronger. You are struck by the oddity that you know this. You think of your own family at home that you have somehow left behind. You think of your Father and how you long to see him and have him explain all of this to you.

The woman who is your Mother enters the hut and you speak to her, and the words that come out of your mouth are in the language she knows. She laughs at your sly words and then tells you to move along. As you look around the area that is yours, you find cloth that you will drape and wrap to wear—as is your custom. And while you move though this moment the one thing that never fades is your ability to be completely Maasai and be completely American. You are fully Maasai and are aware of their customs and the challenges that will be coming your way and you are fully American and are aware of the luxuries that are not here for you now.

The ways that you have always known are still in your mind and the longing for those ways will not falter when the day is long and hot and when your stomach is aching. You cannot escape the reality that you know what it is like to live in a place of easy fulfillment where there is too much food and too much self-indulgence. But, you know that there was also good that was happening where you were. You miss your Bible. You miss the fellowship of other believers. Awareness comes over you that life with the Maasai would be different if you were unaware of what you had left. Some of the events that are coming for you will be painful beyond anything you have ever had to bear. In this culture, emorata, or teenage circumcision for both males and females is a part of your future and in the place where you have always lived there is nothing more humiliating. If each day you wake, you continue to wake in this hut with these people as this child, then that is your future.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Obviously, this illustration of what one might experience to “wake up” in someone else’s skin is a far cry from what the Creator of the Universe went through in his humanness. God taking the form of man and leaving Heaven to live with us and as us was not a surprise to him in any way. But, what was it like to have all of the thoughts and the knowledge of God and be confined to a human body? What kind of humility did it take to come and live as we live, when He had spent eternity living as God? He had foreknowledge and he had answers and, yet, He lived among us and taught us slowly, so that we might discover the answers on our own. He chose to teach us in parables that we could understand, because the things of Heaven are too far reaching for our minds.

For 33 years He lived in human form while He had the power of the Universe at His beckoning. I cannot imagine taking the form of child and living a lifetime in an African village with the knowledge of what was coming and what I had left behind, and what Jesus did was so far beyond that. I wonder what the thoughts of Jesus must have been when he watched us struggle with things that have no eternal value. I wonder what God thinks when He watches me struggle each day. I am so grateful that His grace is so big and that it covers me.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Molly

In my past I made the choice to have an abortion. In one of my earliest articles on my blogspot titled "Little Butterfly" I shared a little about my story and how as a teenager I had an abortion. The actual date, at least the closest that I can pin-point was April of 1983. I am not going to go into the history of that, as it would be redundant to the other post. It did take many years to overcome the guilt and the grief that was attached to that decision. It was living through an abortion that convinced me that abortion was wrong. Trying to overcome my low self-esteem at times seemed impossible. I viewed myself as unworthy of the simplest blessings and I longed to return to the time and change the decision and the outcome.

I would hear stories of women who couldn't get pregnant after they had had an abortion and even those stories would make me feel guilty. I didn't struggle with an ounce of infertility. I used to make a joke and say that David would sneeze and I would get pregnant. To which David's sweet Grandfather replied one day, "Maybe that's why they keep having babies, maybe they don't know what's causing it!"

Our 3rd pregnancy was the first one that we planned and it came about easily. We breezed along with very little concern. We had baby clothes for a boy or a girl so we weren't overly concerned about bringing home another Sill.

Everything changed in April of 1993 when we got the results from a routine ultrasound that showed that there were significant problems with the baby's brain. Basically, the baby had a disease known as Dandy Walker Malformation and because of that disease she also had hydrocephalus. The doctor advised us to abort the baby. It was a horrible feeling to be lying on the table having the person who is supposed to want to cure your child telling you that she isn't worth the effort. There was no way that I would abort her. And David felt the same way.

The reason I am telling about this moment isn't to exalt myself for not having an abortion. Trust me, there was NOTHING noble about me keeping my baby girl. The reason that I need to tell you about that is because it is such a huge illustration of God's love and trust. Look at the dates of the two incidents. They match. April of 1983 followed 10 years later by April of 1993. God gave me another chance to choose life. He didn't have me travel back in time to make the choice to keep my first baby, but what He did do was allow me to be in a place to choose again. He knew that I would choose love over fear. He trusted me with her life because He had seen my heart and He believed that my repentance was real. She was so important in my understanding God's love for me. He believed in me. After all those years that I had chased after His approval, He smiled on me and showed me very clearly that I had no reason to doubt His love. I didn't have to prove that I was sorry, He knew.

Now, some cynics among you may be thinking, "Well, of course you didn't have an abortion, you're husband was a Youth Pastor!" Well, you are mistaken if you think that the mind is not more clever than that. Deception is a nasty bug that will always find a way into a desperate situation and there is no doubt in my mind that if I had WANTED to have an abortion, I would have found a way. I fully believe that there have been scared Christian women who have gone to a clinic to have an abortion and then later told family members that she had a miscarriage. We are daughters of Eve and we are inclined to sin and cover it up. I was fully aware on the ride home from the hospital that this was an option. Satan always finds a way to lead us off the path if we give way to our fears. And I had fears that were ugly.

I begged God to take my baby because I was so afraid of how she was going to destroy the lives of my daughter and my son. I was fearful that having this baby would mean that I would always have her in my home, that she would grow old with David and I, and we would never have any time together alone. I begged God to allow me to miscarry. For one day. And then I stopped and I named her.

The morning after finding out that I would be giving birth to a baby girl that the doctor's had said, "would never be normal" I stopped at WalMart to pick up a gift for a birthday party. I stood in the line with my two little children and the clerk asked if I wanted to pay $1 to a fundraiser for the Children's Hospital of Orange County. It was the kind of fundraiser where you pay $1 and you get to write your name on the paper shaped like a hot air balloon. Tears filled my eyes as I wrote "Molly Sill". Just like that, she suddenly had a name.

After the party, I went home and told David that I had named our daughter. Her name was Molly.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Truth Be Told

So, about a year ago I started writing this blog. I am super inconsistent, but since my audience is made up of family and friends I am able to get away with that. I write when I feel like sorting something out in my head. It saves me money on therapy and it helps my parents rest easy knowing that I am, for this month, still okay.
For those of you who follow me (and yes, I know, it's hard to understand how to use the Google Follow Button...you have to log in and create a profile and give them way too much information) you know that my writing tends to be sarcastic. I just write as I am. I just write about things that are happening in my life and most of things that are happening in my life are very ordinary and kinda silly at the same time.
The ironic thing is, that while most of you know who my family is, I rarely use their names when I am writing. I think that I do this to preserve some of their privacy. So, even though we all know who "The-Blonde-Who-Sometimes-Resembles-Venus-The-Goddess-of-Love" is...we don't say her name. We keep it to ourselves. We give her that place in cyber-space to be guarded and protected.
Recently, God placed it on my heart that I need to write about someone incredibly important in my life. I realized that I don't ever write about my daughter who died in 1995. I maneuver away from that subject like a balloon animal being chased by a porcupine. Well, I want to give you a warning that I am going to be writing about her. If I seem less funny, if I come across as a little melancholy, please be patient. God has led me to this place and I am convinced that it is good for me to share.
Pray for me. One of my writing friends warned me, "It's gonna hurt". That was a thought that I had considered only slightly, being more concerned with the idea that I won't know how to write without being condescending toward myself. But, after several days of the idea being confirmed and reconfirmed I am ready to the journey to a place I have fought to escape. I am ready to revisit a place that was devastatingly awful and unbelievably beautiful in the same moment. I am sure it will hurt, but when God knit together the events that brought her into my life and then took her out of my life, He also knew that one day I would need to write about Molly.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Virgin Campers


Our family is definitely made up of novice campers and I knew that our inexperience could come as a shock to the Expert Camper we decided to bring along on our trip to Shaver Lake.
For several days before our trip I was nervous about the friend we were bringing on our camping trip. She is an Expert Camper and I was fearful that she would have a seizure when she found herself with us, the Virgin Campers. I was so careful when buying and preparing food, because I didn’t want the Expert Camper to return to civilization and tell anyone the truth about my frailties as a Camper Cook. I spent $300 at the grocery store and I precooked 3 of the meals the day before we left—just to be safe. I bought way too many Marshmallows, 6 different kinds of cookies, three different types of nuts and disposable grills (as a back up plan).

We loaded into the borrowed RV at 6 AM and headed for our dusty, mountain campsite. The RV was loaded with food, sleeping bags, tents, stoves, propane, and rafts. Even though we knew the truth about our greenhorn level of camping skills, we would definitely be able to fool the people in the sites near us and we should be able to trick the Expert Camper into believing she had signed on with the real deal.

We made one stop at a gas station that was also connected to McDonald’s and in the style of my Tennessee heritage, I ran into the McDonald’s with no shoes to get some Sweet Tea. Things were falling into place perfectly. We definitely had the appearance of Experienced Campers and the Expert Camper would have no stories to tell the San Gabriel Valley.

Pulling into our Camp, the Dora Belle, we were in awe of the large redwoods. These large tree stand guard at the Campground Kiosk to ward off the inexperienced city folk who might try to enter the wooded area with their store bought fire-starters and microwave popcorn, (thankfully, I had hidden ours behind the pancake mix and the paper plates). None of us had any idea of the brute strength of the trees and how they would lash out at us in attempt to unveil our fraudulent camping skills. 

Less than 10 minutes after checking into the campsite, the tree made it’s move. Somehow the sneaky tree wedged its way between the back of the RV and the bumper. As the RV pulled away from the tree, the strong foliage-bearing brute held tight to the bumper and pulled with all its bionic tree power.  

Crunch!

When we gathered behind the RV to see the effects, our hearts sank and we knew that we were in over our heads. The jig was up and I feared that the truth of our amateur camping style would soon be the Facebook status update of the Expert Camper.

The Expert Camper kept her calm and didn’t give a hint to her mind, so there was nothing to do but proceed to camp and try to win her affections and loyalty with Smores. 

We began to set up camp, to level the RV, build the tents and arrange the chairs around the campfire ring with the standard amount of first day fighting. When the bickering rose to its highest level of awkward stress, I jumped in and sent the Expert Camper with the "Girl-Who-Keeps-Talking-About-Weddings" to go find the lake. (Now, mind you, the Lake was not missing. I don’t want you to think that there was an Amber Alert out on the Body of Water—I was actually using their search for the lake as a distraction from the stressful situation.)

Now at the same time that all this drama was unfolding, two of the Virgin Campers disguised themselves as Warriors. They had actually brought along swords to battle the trees and each other. Not surprisingly, the younger Warrior managed to break the older Warrior’s sword before they had even finished unzipping their tented dwelling.

Once again, as tempers began to rise, I had to make a move to divert the anger that would surely alert the neighboring campers to our intrusion onto their peaceful encampment. I sent the two Warriors to find the Expert Camper and the "Girl-Who-Keeps-Talking-About-Weddings". This could take them hours.

Later, after we had done all the damage we could do to the RV and the campsite, the RV Driver and myself headed down to the find the lake. Maybe it was missing, after all no one had returned to tell us they had found it. It was a short downhill hike to the water and when we stepped to the edge of the protective redwoods and saw the vast green water and the looming boulders, we were again filled with awe. Knowing we would have 4 more days in this beauty not only gave us a peace, but also gave us the strength to try to move our thoughts from the damaged RV and the reality that our inexperience as campers would most likely surface time and again.
We watched as the Warriors jumped from the huge boulder into the welcoming water and sent a prayer of thankfulness for the adventure that was ahead. In a few moments, the RV Driver and myself would leave the lake and walk into the town to find Wireless Internet service for one of the Warriors and the Expert Camper to register for college. We would later find that the uphill walk into town would lead the RV Driver to place of unwavering pain in his previously damaged knee. We would have to empty our brown and gray water on two occasions, we would open our marshmallows to find them melted, run short on lunch meat and sunscreen, and open the RV for sleeping to all but one of the campers. In the end, the Expert Camper will have seen all our frailties and our shortcomings, and we will rely on her grace for our reputations. In short, it will be just another family vacation.

Linking with A Southern Daydreamer for OUTDOOR WEDNESDAY.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My plain T-shirt


I remember owning a T-shirt in elementary school that was plain. It didn't say anything on it. It was just a peach colored T-shirt to be worn with shorts on a warm California afternoon. The shirt didn't have a picture of anything on it either. No animals or rainbows, just a light orange shirt with short sleeves. I kinda despised that T-shirt for it's lack of character. I was living in the 70's when there were hip shirts that said "I'm with Stupid" or "Hang Ten" or a picture of a couple walking on the beach at sunset and yet, my shirt was plain.
I still remember trying to improve the status of my T-shirt one morning before I headed out the door to face my 4th-grade classmates. By using light blue ribbon and sewing pins to make a design I would have a shirt that said something about who I was. Now, to make a design with a couple inches of ribbon and a few sewing pins takes a great deal of talent, and unfortunately, at age 10, I lacked that as well. The best design I could come up with was a "tic-tac-toe". I laid the 4 pieces of ribbon on the front of my T-shirt and then I pinned the edges with the little pins. I had no O's and no X's, I only had the graph.
I actually managed to walk to school and get to my desk without any damage to the "tic-tac-toe", but at some point in the morning--before I even made it out the door to recess the pins were jabbing into me. I kept trying to make the pins work and no matter how much I maneuvered them, they would either scratch my arms or jab into my torso. The whole thing was only complicated by the fact that we were also working on our multiplication tables and I still needed to use my fingers to do those. It was quite distracting and to this day I have to stop and think about the answer to 7 times 8. Finally, my dear teacher, Mr. Knight, asked me if I would like to keep my pins and my ribbon on his desk until the end of the day.
Once again, I was plain.

Now, here is the thing. I don't like to be plain. There isn't a woman I know who would consider it a compliment to be called "plain". I want to be clever. I want to be smart. I want to be funny, intelligent, stunning. I want to be amazing. But, being plain is not something I yearn for.

Now that I have lived through the 70's, the 80's AND the 90's, I recognize that fashions come and go. I have had a T-shirts with the images of all 3 of the original Charlie's Angels, I have cut up T-shirts in "Flashdance" style and I have had T-shirts that I bedazzled and splattered with puffy paint. Through the years I learned that "less is more" and that most likely, my peach colored T-shirt was more than adequate for a 10-year-old girl (and probably in better taste than a shirt that said "Go Climb a Rock"). But, the feeling of not being good enough is the driving factor behind the moment I lived in. The feeling of inadequacy is what carved the memory into my silly little brain.

Even at 10-years-old I wanted to be more than I was. What I was didn't feel like it was enough. I wanted to be more, to do more, to say more. I wanted to have a voice and use that voice. I wanted to make a statement, and as a child I wanted to make it so badly, I didn't care what it was. I wanted to say something, even if it was someone else's statement.

And I wonder, as I sit here, in my plain white T-shirt, am I still doing the same thing? Am I so eager to matter that I am willing to have someone else's voice? Do I want to exist beyond myself so badly that I will grab an earthly wisdom and make it my own? I want to say that I have outgrown the need for the approval of man. But, when I look at my own thoughts over the last several months I see a person who can still be led down a path that is wide. I see a person who can be influenced by who she makes the most important person in her life. I can fall victim to the wisdom that the world offers and I can begin to believe things that are contrary to the wisdom that comes from the Father of Heavenly lights.

It is so important to me that I stay in the place where I recognize the wisdom that is from this world and the truth that is from above. It matters to me that I can see the difference and that the choices I make everyday reflect that difference. I want to voice the things that I learn from the time I am spending in the presence of the Lord. I want the truth to flow through me. I want to say things that align with the truth of Scripture, even if those things are not popular enough to be put on a T-shirt.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A lion and a stripper walk into an attic...

So, last night my husband left me for a Vegas stripper. It was awful and even though it happened only in my nightmare, when I woke the pain was still there and it was nearly unbearable.

I don’t know why I dreamed that my husband was madly in love with another woman. I wouldn’t ever believe that he isn’t capable of being drawn away from me, but it is not something I obsess about—I rarely think about it at all. Unfortunately, our minds are the place that the enemy likes to send his lions. They lurk in our minds looking for ways to attack and draw us away from the peace that the Father wants us to experience.

I hate that battlefield. It’s not a fair place to fight at all. There is so much stuff in my mind to trip over. There are boxes and boxes of junk, there is old gym equipment—that was never used enough, there are photo albums (unfinished, of course), there is a mirror that changes whenever you look in it, there are report cards and tests, books—still unfinished, and two huge Victorian Victrola phonographs (one plays things that I’ve said and the other plays things that were said to me). Needless to say, while trying to fend off lions, it is easy to fumble over ones feet and land in the middle of unused dental floss or expired vitamins.

The good news is, I knew he was coming. I knew he was lurking. I could feel him trying to find an in and a way to bring me down. I made some declarations recently toward some areas that I wanted to grow. I spoke up and made a commitment to a way that I wanted to serve the Lord. The enemy heard me and made it his goal to discourage me. He knows that the things I am working for will honor my marriage and bring glory to the Lord. He doesn’t want me to grow closer to my husband. He doesn’t want me to help married women grow closer to theirs either. So, he sent a lion to mess with my mind and make me feel insecure around a sexy Vegas stripper.

I have to admit, that it worked for a minute. I was so irritated with my husband that I didn’t allow him the opportunity to bring me coffee in bed. I rolled away instead, and told him,

“I’m mad at you. You hurt me.”

It’s not the first dream, so he knows the drill. I’m sure he rolled his eyes when he responded, “No, I didn’t. Whatever happened, it wasn’t me. I wasn’t there.”

And as I lay there feeling a great deal of frustration towards him, I was acutely aware that the pain would be so much worse, had it not been a dream. And this pain made me more eager to do the things that God is telling me to do.

Awake and moving I am no longer irritated with my husband’s nightmare philandering or the sexy Vegas stripper. Instead, I am excited that the things I have set my mind on and the things I have made goals to accomplish would irritate the one who hates what is good. I am pleased to know that I am fighting so well, while awake, that the time he feels he can attack is when I am sleeping and my defenses are down! He doesn’t care if it isn’t a fair fight, because there is no justice in him. But, I know what the Holy Spirit is leading me to do and lions, dusty mind attics or even sexy strippers, will not deter me!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Even the best of friends cannot attend each other's funeral


Funerals are beautiful and happy or beautiful and sad. Yesterday, I got to go to the funeral for my Paternal Grandmother. She was born in 1920 and had raised 5 children. Those children led to 65 Grandchildren, Great-Grandchildren, and Great-Great Grandchildren. This alone made for a funeral that was beautiful and happy. And, as a believer, I know that she is now experiencing completeness and a fulfillment that she had ever known in this life.

As we were getting ready to go to the funeral I started to think about being born and the time when I added myself to her numbers. I was closer to the beginning of what would later be her legacy. I considered the moment of birth for the infant, the mother and the Grandmother. How different the experience is for each one—but my thoughts were more directly the infant and the Grandmother. I thought about my Grandmother’s possible reaction to my birth. I know that she wasn’t present—I was Grandchild number 9, 10 or maybe even 11 (some of us cousins are so close in age, I don’t remember who was here first). There had been babies born before me who had come out not breathing and some with special needs. I wasn’t an important birth—but even so, I am sure that I was newsworthy to her. Her only son now had a daughter. I was pink and sweet and I had fulfilled my only purpose up to this point. I was a girl. My brothers were boys born a year and a half apart and I followed as quickly as I could. In a time before Ultrasounds, my arrival was an unveiling of sorts. Had I been a boy, the entire dynamic of my family—as I now know it—would have been be altered. It was important that I didn’t fail in this first feat set before me.

It occurred to me that as Grandchildren and as Grandmothers we have certain unspoken appointments that we must keep. In a perfect world they happen in the correct order and with decades between them. I am 45 years old and my Grandmother was to be 90 this month. So, when I was born she was just about the same age that I am today. It was her role to acknowledge my birth and to celebrate the beginning of my life. At her funeral it was my role to acknowledge her death and celebrate her life in its entirety. She’s there when I am born and I am there when she dies. That’s the beauty of life.

And then there are the events that we don’t plan on attending. When a Grandmother attends a birth and then attends the funeral for that same person—the rules are broken and it is more difficult to find the beauty. I have heard it said, more times than I can count, “No parent should ever have to bury a child”. Having passed through that shadow of death and felt the sting, I agree with a hearty amen to that and I have decided that I want to have a new rule in my life. If I am there when you are born, then I don’t want to go to your funeral. But, to the fortune of things I cannot fully understand, I don’t make the rules.

Recently, I told my sister-in-law that I would be at her funeral—she could count on it. The only reason I wouldn’t be there would be because she had come to mine. There are several people in my life that I have that unspoken agreement with. Raging waters from a bursting dam won’t be able to keep me away from the funeral of some of the people in my life. Like a salmon returning to his place of birth—I will need to be there in the end to celebrate the time I had with certain people in my life. It won’t be for them, it will be for me.

For most of the next 3 or 4 decades, I hope to avoid funerals as a whole and attend many baby showers and births. That’s the plan, anyway. But, I have to say, that I don’t hate funerals as a whole. I love life too much to hate funerals. There is no other time that we are more aware of our humanity. Funerals are beautiful and happy or beautiful and sad. At least we know that they will always be beautiful, for every life, no matter how long it is lived is abounding with the potential for beauty!