Monday, January 31, 2011

That Was Yesterday

This is the 16th Anniversary of the day that Molly didn't wake up. I have been through this day 15 other times and each one is different. Unique with the passing of time and especially with the aging of my other children. In the beginning we would have a "Molly Meal" where we would eat only Molly's favorite foods for dinner. We would spoon Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, homemade mashed potatoes, and Cheerios onto our Wedding china. That was all we would eat. It worked for several years, and then the children grew older and one year they looked at their plates and said, "Where's the chicken?" They had outgrown the "Molly Meal".
When we lived near the cemetery there were years we could go there and visit Molly's grave. The kids would choose a toy from their room to be able to leave something for Molly. It was very sweet to watch them struggle at first with the idea of giving up a Happy Meal toy while they looked around their rooms and then to see the transformation when they arrived at the grave sight. They were eager to place it on the headstone in the perfect spot and to now go home without it. My mind's eye still sees my elder son very clearly, bending down to kiss the headstone of his little sister before we loaded back into the minivan. But, life has gone on without this little 19-month-old Angel, and now there are no more Happy Meal toys in the rooms.
Then there was the awful year that I forgot to get sad. It was a Sunday morning and I was busy getting my children ages 9, 7 and 4 ready for church (being married to a Pastor meant that on Sunday mornings I was a "Single Mom"). I was so frantic in our grooming that I didn't catch the "date". I made my way into the sanctuary, with the church bulletin in hand and settled into the service. Then I looked at the bulletin and there was the date. January 31, 1999. I jumped up and practically ran to the Ladies room, holding in tears of shame. One of my closest friends followed me (Don't you love women?) and was ready to know. To help. To listen. I was so overwhelmed with grief and shame. I felt like the worst mother alive. How could I have forgotten the date? She had only been gone for 4 years and I had lost her date in the shuffle of our lives! My sweet friend looked at me lovingly and told me the truth. She explained that this date was forgotten because I was a GOOD Mom. I was concerning myself with the lives of the living children in my home. This pleased God and would certainly have pleased Molly.
Yesterday I got a text message from my husband telling me that he was struggling and asking me to pray for him. He was thinking about Molly, he said. Fortunately, I was doing well, I was aware of the approaching date and I had been expressing my grief through this outlet of writing--I wasn't afraid of what this anniversary might hold. Yes, I was doing so well actually that I was able to remind him of the encouraging truths about where she is and how much God loves us.

That was yesterday.

Today, I woke and within two minutes wished I hadn't. I stayed in bed too long with the covers pulled up over my head. When I finally couldn't fake sleep any longer, I reached for my phone and sent my husband this text message: "Everything hurts"
I knew that I should really be reaching for my bible to find comfort in the Psalms. I knew that if I would just say those words in the form of a prayer that God would help me get through this day. But, I refused.
Now, please understand, I don't like pain and I do trust God. I promise. It's just that sometimes the pain is so deep that I don't even want to feel the edge of it. It's like handling a razor blade. One wrong move and I could lose a finger. If I allow myself to feel, then I am going to feel everything. And everything hurts.
I continued my morning routine of shower and coffee and stayed away from my Bible with busyness of housework. However, because I am insanely A.D.D., blow drying my hair is akin to being duct taped to a chair and staring at a blank wall, so I decided to "go online" while I used the dryer. (Yes, I really do this--often.) I started with my friend's blog 365 Days of Prayer. Words so sweet, my heart was touched as I longed for her faithfulness. Everything I believe about who God is was affirmed and I felt God whisper to me..."Do you think I can't find you, Jackie? Did you think I wouldn't pursue you on a day like today?" But, I dried my tears and continued to pull back into myself and away from His plan for today.
I went to my email and I opened the first message which was an update from the Women of Faith blogsite I began to read these words from Marilyn Meberg:

"Whether they surface frequently or rarely, we all have strong feelings that impact us, causing tears to spring up unexpectedly, sending grief sweeping over us “out of nowhere,” or pushing us to behave in specific ways. By studying these feelings and by remembering back to the events and issues that sparked them, we gain understanding that helps us cope."
My heart leapt, I may have even gasped, and then...tears. Lots of tears. When I had calmed myself down I grabbed onto the next line:
"The fact is, the human psyche can withstand almost any assault if we can find purpose in our lives in spite of that assault."

And, then I was sure of what I was going to do today. No matter how sad I felt, I was going to proceed with the purposes for today. The best way that I could acknowledge the anniversary this year was to go keep moving forward. Today I was going to go get a passport. Recently, I was accepted on an overseas Missions team that will be traveling to India in October. So, with puffy eyes and pale skin, I made my way to the post office today and filed my Application for a Passport. My picture was awful (everyone hates their passport photo anyway, right?), but for me, it was monumental to do it today.
16 years ago, I had to remind myself to breathe. One breath at a time as I wandered through the unimaginable. I was never alone, people I love crowded around but even in their best attempt they couldn't make the pain go away. Everything hurt. But, that was yesterday.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's Kind of Like Spaghetti

On January 31st, about 2 hours before my daughter died, I was lying in bed with my baby girl, who I assumed had an upset tummy, and during those moments of half sleep and half wakefulness, I dreamed of her funeral. Or, should I call it a nightmare? It was an aerial view of the church we attended. Straight down I could see the people arriving and taking their seats. My mind obviously not fully awake as I questioned the presence of some, "Would he take a day off of work to be there?" I saw myself in the front row, all dressed in black.
The oddity of it still astounds me to this day, the ability to begin to prepare for something that would be crashing into our lives in a matter of moments. Was this the Holy Spirit? Or, perhaps it was the presence of Angels in my bedroom, as they came to surround my sweet daughter, and I, so relaxed in my half-conscious state, could see what they saw? I know that for us time is linear and what has not yet happened cannot be seen, but in the spiritual realm, isn't it all happening at once? It has become a paradox in my life to try to understand what actually happened and what I dreamed and could they be the same when the actual had not yet occurred.
Living with a strong faith in the Lord, I've grown accustomed to a certain amount of paradoxes and I was reminded of them clearly this week while reading, No Man Is an Island, by Thomas Merton:
"We become ourselves by dying to ourselves. We gain only what we give up, and if we give up everything, we gain everything. We cannot find ourselves within ourselves, but only in others, yet at the same time before we can go out to others we must first find ourselves. We must forget ourselves in order to become truly conscious of who we are. The best way to love ourselves is to love others, yet we cannot love others unless we love ourselves since it is written, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself'. But if we love ourselves in the wrong way, we become incapable of loving anybody else. And indeed when we love ourselves wrongly we hate ourselves; if we hate ourselves we cannot help hating others."
It's kind of like spaghetti. While it is in the box it is easy to see where each strand starts and where it comes to an end, but once you take it out and heat it up it becomes nearly impossible to see which strand is which, where one begins and the other ends. And so while we think we are living our lives walking on tightropes made of straight pasta, our spiritual life isn't that way. It's way more complex.
Over the years, the dream has been altered, with the actual event overpowering the nightmare in the details. I still see it from above. It's a flash and then gone, lasting only a second--not even two. It's obviously been an intentional choice to remember this dream, this brush with the supernatural. Or, perhaps, I couldn't forget it if I tried.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wedding Gifts and Eternal Blessings

The gifts have already begun to arrive, although not one of them has been wrapped in silver paper with a big white bow. Not one of the gifts has come with a card addressed to the "Bride and Groom". We are about 6 weeks into planning our daughter's wedding and with each week comes another gift, another treasure.
So that you may have an understanding the depth at which I am feeling overwhelmed, let me share with you the gifts we have received to date:
  • A generous donation towards the bridal gown
  • Complementary venue at an estate on a hill overlooking the valley where we live
  • Professionally arranged flowers at wholesale costs & no charge for the labor
  • Day of Wedding Coordinator, complementary
  • Professional bartender, complementary
  • Wedding Cake!
  • All the flatware for the reception
  • Tablecloths!
  • A price reduction from our D.J.
  • And the latest--a couple from our church just graciously offered (and then insisted) on paying for the food for the reception.
I am humbled. And I say this in all sincerity, because the way that this "humbling" feels--is not pleasant. It actually kind of hurts.
Don't get me wrong, I love that so many people want to do what they can to help us give our daughter the kind of wedding that she has been dreaming of, but at the same time, it makes me really want to be on the "giving" side of all this!
I want to be in a place where I can offer something to someone and bless them in a real and tangible way. I want to be able to give to others the way that others have given to us--and I am humbled and saddened because I don't see it coming to fruition in that way. I keep feeling my eyes glaze over in disbelieving tears when I "open" another gift and I long to be able to give that to someone else. I'm finding myself tempted to become angry at me and my husband for the choices that we've made that have not set us in the place to be able to give others these gifts. Receiving is a blessing--but we want to give.
Then I remember that the "wedding gifts" have not actually just been coming over the last 6 weeks. They started coming 25 years ago. Christ took me as His Bride and He began to give me gifts. He gave me the gift of Salvation, and I live knowing that when this body fails me or is broken beyond repair, my sins are forgiven and I will live eternally in a new body. He gave me the gift of His grace and He renews this gift everyday. He sees my selfish ways and chooses to forgive me and love me, despite my failures--every hour. These are the "wedding gifts" he blesses me with as His Bride and I have to remember that accepting these gifts are a part of being in His kingdom.
But, I love Him and adore His ways and I want to give a gift to our Creator that is real and tangible. And, so I search my mind, rip open my heart and beg God to show me:
"What can I give YOU?"
I know He wants me to give my life to Him, but what does that look like? How do I present that to Him? How do I give myself as a Holy sacrifice? How do I use the gifts He has blessed me with to give back to Him?
And, the ironic thing is, I already know that it doesn't matter what gift I find to give Him, he will continually turn it around and use it to be another blessing, another gift in my life from Him.

So, for now, I will not let my pride get in the way when other people, who love us, love our daughter, and love the church decide they want to bless us, because I know that they are so excited to get to give. And I know that while they don't do it for what they will receive, they are blessed.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Boy vs. Porn

I don’t struggle with porn. It’s not a temptation for me in the slightest. But, last night I got to listen to a young man share with a group of his peers about how he has been struggling with watching porn for a few years. He’s a teenage boy and the draw has been altering his life from all it could be. It’s been affecting his walk with the Lord. It’s been affecting his schoolwork in an unproductive way and it’s been lowering his self-esteem. It’s been distancing him from his friends and putting a wall between him and his small group at his church.
Now, for anyone who is asking, “Where are the parents?”
I’m right here.
Last night my son, a handsome 16-year-old with dark eyes and broad shoulders, shared about how he has been struggling with his own “addiction”. It had started as curiosity and it grew to become a controlling force in his nights; the cycle of feeling guilt and remorse and distant from God and from family continued to drive him to the porn to fill that hole. The enemy was building a fortress in my son’s life and using a terrible Giant to keep pushing my son down. The silence and the lies were the chains that were holding my son captive and weighing him down.
When he was asked to share his testimony in front of his youth group, I told him to be honest. I told him that he had to be completely transparent no matter how much he might fear that others would judge him. I believe that when we are transparent with our struggles miraculous things happen. The times that I have been transparent are the times that I have had women come to me in private and say, “Hey, I did that!” or “I feel that way, too!”
And so, my brave son, stood up in front of this large group of people—the teenage girls whose mysterious ways magnetize him, the close friends with whom he sarcastically spars, the young adult men whose approval he longs for and...his parents—and he began to slay this Giant.
He broke the silence which is the beginning of overcoming and breaking any stronghold that the enemy may have on us. As long as what we do, we keep a secret, it will have some form of control over us. And, so today, I am once again in awe of our God who gives out His grace so freely—both to myself and to my son. I know better now how to pray for him. I know better how to encourage him.
While I was reading my bible this morning I came across this verse in 1 Samuel:
“You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.”
And, I imagined my 16-year-old standing in front of this big porn industry with a stone and a slingshot. I could see him hurling the stone at the lights and the lies of an industry that destroys the lives of men and women—young an old. I saw him attack this Giant with a newfound courage because he had the support of amazing Youth Pastors and leaders who live their lives purposefully so that teenagers don't have to be alone as they search for the stones to throw at the Giants. In my mind I could hear the crowd cheer as the Giant fell to the ground and the sound was so similar to applause that I had heard last night when he had finished sharing his journey. I closed my eyes and treasured this moment with pride knowing my son will walk taller today.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stealing Tangerines

I don't like treadmills, I am much to A.D.D. for them. I had one for a while and there were times that I would begin my workout and an hour and a half later find myself in the garage, knee deep in old High School yearbooks, with no memory of how I had arrived there. I have also tried the "walking the track", but it lacked the fulfillment of reaching the destination. I mean, I passed the finish line 3 times before I actually got to call it the finish line. But, walking is a way for me to spend time with God and come back rejuvenated. Headphones and a mix of worship and pop music and I'm good for an hour or more of finding my way through the streets and the trails of the foothills.
So, I leave my home and head out into the treacherous unknown fully aware that I don't get to be done until I return home.
On my way up the first hill near my home I have spotted a small, but wealthy, tangerine tree. The fruit have the same appearance as the "cuties" that I've purchased at the grocer. Now, I know that the 8th Commandment given by Moses is "Thou shalt not steal". I got it. But, I have never claimed to be a saint. And when it comes to challenging the authority of God or making wise food choices I would certainly not be one to point a finger at Eve. Besides, there are a couple of branches that hang over the fence and if I stand on the rock and lean toward the gate, I can reach the branch and pull a few away. Just a few. They are sweeter than the ones that I buy from the grocer, perhaps it's because they have no pesticides, perhaps it's because I am out in the sun and moving and refreshment is needed, perhaps it is because they give me a feeling of power. Like a drug dealer in an impoverished city, I've gotten away with a crime of great proportions.
Around the corner, through the park and up another hill leads me to a place to walk that is an escape from the concrete suburb that is my reality. A path leads down a trail that moves behind the homes. Backyards are visible on either side and there are slopes that lead down to a stream in the middle making for a simple, natural elegance.
Today as I made my way down the path, listening to songs that influence me to move faster, I saw something running. At first I thought it was a dog, and then I could see that he was skinny and steadfast. I could see that he was intent in his movement. He was a coyote, traveling somewhere in a hurry. He was on the other side of the stream, and I felt no danger--he seemed completely unconcerned with me. He kept coming and then he passed and he never looked at the strange woman in her silly workout clothes, eating a stolen tangerine.
I stopped and turned to watch him run. And then my eye was drawn to the sun reflecting on the stream and I couldn't help but reach into my pocket and turn off the music. This moment was so beautiful that it deserved to be viewed in its natural state. In the silence--I could hear the stream, I could hear the birds talking to one another and I could hear the sounds that I still can't identify. Looking at the reflection of the sun beating down on the water like a diamond ring too big and too bright for the small hand of the stream, I felt small and, yet, loved as I remembered that God takes care of all of His creatures. I thought of the verse I had been trying to memorize earlier...
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind"
And in that stillness, I could feel the transformation that I eagerly seek. I could feel the peace that often evades me.
And that is when I knew that it was okay for me to steal the tangerines. I didn't steal something that someone else was going to enjoy. Most likely they would have become overripe and fell to the ground, only to be removed later as trash. Those two little tangerines never belonged to anyone until I ate them. That is when they found their owner.
There are things happening all around us and we will either snatch them up to treasure or they will go to waste. Nothing stays as it is. Everything, aside from the Word of God, is constantly changing. The only constant we have is Him, everything else is up for grabs.
From the time my children were born, they didn't realize it, but they were taking steps to live a life separate from me. Like coyotes on a trail, they are now ready to burst from the doors of my home and take on the world. And, I am so blessed to be in a place where I have so many people who recognize and remind me that this is a good change, a necessary trail. For them, it is a crucial path that they must run on, and stumble on, and get up and run on again. But, it is also a quintessential journey for me. I have to walk the path without them. For one, I could never keep up with the speed at which these coyotes will travel--I'm older now, and I stop to look at the sun in the stream. But also, I need to walk and trust that God is enough. He wants me to come to him believing that He alone is enough. Even if all the coyotes sprint so far down the trail that I can no longer see them--He is enough. Even if other than raising and releasing these coyotes, I never do another amazing thing--He is enough. And even if, God forbid, I end up on this trail alone--He is enough.
So, for the time being, I will continue to gather these tangerine moments--I will do my best to not let any fall to the ground and waste away unnoticed. And I will do it all knowing full well that soon the branch will be out of my reach and there will not be a rock that will boost me high enough to reach the fruit.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

disengaged: not even a clever title

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I read the bestseller "What to Expect When You are Expecting" until I knew each of the "nine month" descriptions word for word. The dogeared copy was my only link to the truth that things that I couldn't watch from the outside were actually changing on the inside. Each monthly trip to the OB-GYN was a highlight and a benchmark. But still the long wait for her arrival felt distant, like a walk down a creepy long hallway in a dream.

Well, she arrived. I survived. And, now, a couple decades later, she's leaving. And, I'm good with that. I've been ready for a while for her to strengthen her wings with the resistance of the wind. I'm eager to see how she will fly. So, that being said, what is going on inside of me?

My daughter was engaged about a month ago and since that event came about, something has been growing inside of me. I cannot seem to figure out what it is. It's painful beyond much I've endured in a long time and it's draining me of most of my creativity. I'm having a hard time expressing myself in writing, I can't seem to even do a simple Facebook Status Update. Even as I write this, I am holding back tears. I'm having a hard time expressing myself in speech. Yes, you read that correctly. Jackie Jean the talking machine is without words.

Even as I write this, I can't take you anywhere. It's like "writers block" but it's everywhere. I long for someone to tell me what it is. I wish so badly that someone would reassure me--that it will pass. I'm tired from not sleeping well. I'm lonely from not being able to connect to anyone beyond a few moments at a time. I have become isolated and I can't get out. And I'm scared. I'm scared because I have a history with depression.

Yes, the D-word. Sometime after my daughter Molly died, I was diagnosed with depression. Which, quite frankly, has always seemed a little redundant. I mean, holy crap, I woke up and Molly didn't--of course I was depressed. I've always wondered how much medical schooling that particular Psychiatrist really needed for THAT diagnosis.

I'm scared that it will come back. I don't want to walk that long creepy hallway. The way out of that hallway led me down into rooms that were in many ways worse. I want to be where I was before this came up. The weird thing is, my curiosity to understand why I am here may be what is holding me here. Perhaps if I give up trying to understand why I am here, I will be able to get out. Do you think?

Well, there is not a book called "What to Expect When Your Not Sure What Your Expecting", but there is another book that is calling out to me. It may be the only link to the truth that what is going on inside is not going to completely change me. It's a best seller in multiple countries and I'm hoping that if I keep looking at the descriptions and if I continue to learn each page word by word, it's power will sustain me.

Until then, prayers appreciated.