Monday, April 20, 2015

I don't like coming up with titles...

so I'll just jump right in and say, Whew! I'm tired. Monday has had its way with me all before noon. And truthfully, I probably shouldn't be blogging right now, but I'm using these words as a bridge to clear my mind so I can get back to doing the things that are making my Monday list ree-dic-you-liss!

My mind gets scattered when my people are scattered. And that's been happening since Friday so we are all fortunate that today I didn't literally wake up in the bits and pieces that I feel like I actually am. Nate, my oldest, has been with his dad since Friday on college visits. Dealing with that mentally and emotionally is a whole 'nother business and blog post. Matthew, second son, had the ACT this weekend while Samuel, youngest, and I had a day trip to Atlanta.

Everyone is exactly where they should be and doing what they should be doing, but I "feel" out of sorts for all the goings on. Years ago when Jim and I made the decision to leave the rat race and bow out of several of the "things" that life tells you to do to be successful, happy, blah, blah, blah... we encountered a tremendous measure of peace for being counter-cultural.

However, there is busy even in counter-cultural. And there are still pressures of things that must be done. This weekend was one of those times and I'm looking for a mountain cave to hole up in and wait till some of "THIS" just passes.

Unfortunately, responsibility to get the "THIS" done so that it will pass falls in large part to me and how I handle the "have to's."

So, today is about taking Monday by its devilish horns and working through the list one tic at a time. Temptation to turn on Netflix is high. Temptation to be impatient is ultra high. Temptation to do everything but what I should be doing is, well, right here.

Obedience apart from feelings happens not only in the crises of life but right here in the mundane what must be done moments of life.

Pep talk to self over. Hoping that your Monday to do's are accomplished as well.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A grief hangover...

is not a real thing. At least I don't think that it is. Nevertheless, it is what I'm going to call the last couple of days.

Typically leading up to a milestone of hurt, the days before The Day are the worst. The anticipation that just possibly your heart will not be able to process the immensity of hurt on The Day can put all sorts of pinch into your margin. The mere idea of sorrow's depth threatens to drown you before there is even the first real sprinkle.

Then when The Actual Day does happen and life's blessed normality continues: the sun comes up, stupid cat vomits, meals must be made, traffic lights still work, laundry has to be rebooted, and so on, you realize that the milestone of hurt was really only within your perspective. No one else is walking around waiting for the tsunami to occur.

And that is pretty much the cycle for the rest of your life and for all of the milestones of hurt. But everything that has been building inside of you and your perspective for however many days preceding has to go somewhere. Usually some benign event lances the boil and allows the tears that are always there to flow.

However, if there is no lancing, no release of the pent up-ness, it is like a grief hangover. Ever so slowly the weight in your heart and head dissipates but life's gravity is greater in the days after. Sensitive to sounds and sunshine and even smells, you wish for a dark room to allow "it" all to go away. But there is no dark room of solitude so you walk and think and talk more slowly. You process thoughts at a modem dial up speed. If you process thoughts at all.

And then it is over. It is gone. And you have almost 365 days before that milestone looms again.

Constantly I explain and hear from people in the midst of grief this process. It is confusing and distracting and distancing for many of us. Our lives are continually intertwined with those who did not know the one we miss, the one we grieve, and not wanting to be the Downer Debby, we do not always do a good job of explaining just why we are, well, lacking in those days.

Those who grieve, who mourn, who weep, all struggle for the words that describe it and even when another's description is sorely lacking, we somehow manage to understand. We meant what they knew. The indescribable has a tactile reality in our lives.

Reading Revelation's promise of God the Father saying that "It is done," in reference to how He will wipe every tear and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, never more do I understand that sweet promise than in the days of grief hangover.

I have reason to keep walking, to keep living the days from now until then, so that I will hear Him say, "It is done."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Turning 21...

personally was one of those not to be forgotten days. And not because I embarked on some drunk fest. I was too much of a goody-goody two shoes in those days.

No, turning 21 was a big day because it began with getting my hair updone so that my bridal portrait session could occur--of which I was incredibly awkward to the point that the photographer finally turned the radio on so that I would "loosen up" and smile. There was no special meal that day because my afternoon was taken up with having two of my wisdom teeth cut out. I ended my 21st birthday with ice packs and pain killers. A truly stellar type of day, huh?

Eighty days later I got married. Thirty days after that we flew to Korea and lived there for about 300 days. But it was April 3, 1994, about 1, 316 days after my 21st birthday that I gave birth to a firstborn son named James.

He was the firstborn son of a firstborn son of a firstborn son. (Only a few days after becoming engaged to Jim, my future mother-in-law informed me that I was only going to have sons, and did I know that?) James weighed 9 lbs and was 21 1/2 inches long. He was born at 1:58 a.m. on Easter Sunday morning, right before daylight savings time. And as far as we knew he was perfect.

James' life though was measured in days that added up to only 926 days, a mere 2 1/2 years. It was not enough time for us to know him as a preschooler or a first grader. We did not receive his first report card or sign him up for sports. We did not get to see him learn fractions (although personally I have to kind of count that as a mercy seeing as how I still struggle with them) or cursive writing. We did not experience middle school with him (again, perhaps another huge mercy!) or watch an eighth grade graduation. We did not fret over the peer pressure of high school, take him to get his permit or driver's license, watch him go on a first date, take a girl to prom, or visit colleges with him. We did not see a high school graduation, a summer job application, the purchase of a first car, or help him pack up for his first year of college. We do not know the joy of having him home for the holidays and hearing all about what college is like.

And today, we will not celebrate 21 years with him.

Grief for a parent in the loss of a child does not end because the life milestones do not end. At every subsequent year, at every birthday, I think about what James might have done or might be doing. As his brothers come behind him and meet those milestones, I am bittersweetly aware that with the milestone, it is my first when it should have been my second or third or fourth.

So what might we have done on his 21st birthday? I have no idea.

What will I do on his 21st birthday today? I will remember how he burst into our world that day, in those early morning hours, to the cheers of the nurse and the congratulations of the doctor. I'll remember his daddy's proud and awed face when he first looked on his firstborn son. I'll remember the call to the grandparents at 3:00 a.m. because we couldn't wait to tell them that he was here, the first grandchild on both sides and everyone was fine. I'll remember the meal they brought us afterwards and how Jim and I devoured every last bite because we were starving! I'll remember the first tug of nursing and the joy of holding him swaddled and close. I'll remember his big brown eyes, his perfect nose, fingers and toes.

I'll remember that even though the Lord knew on that day that James' days were measured, He still gave to us a picture of His glory in the birth of a son. And in the hard, hard, achingly hard days that followed, when we wondered bitterly, aloud, angry and desperate, as to how we would survive, that God perseveringly showed us His glory in the birth, life, and death of His Son. Even on the days when we could not and would not look.

Resurrection and all of its hope, bound up in the glorified, risen body of the Lord Jesus Christ has its roots deep in my heart. It has to because my own days are measured and the days of every one that I love are measured. So knowing that truth means that while my life has been full of the milestones that were and are and even those that were not, I can look with assurance to the milestone that will be--a Risen Christ who will restore all things to be as they should. No more tears, no more death, no more mourning, and no more sorrow.

Turning 21 is a big milestone, I know. And I'll miss celebrating that with James tomorrow. But I will not miss the milestone of seeing him again. For the Lord has given that by His word and His work. There is my celebration. There is my hope. There is my remembrance.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bold truth in firm love...

what the heck do I mean by that?

Well, let's see, here is a quote from an email I received from a mom with a question about her 6th grader. She said that she was asking for my counsel, "because of your extensive experience in raising boys through the middle school years, and your exceptionally high standards, and your complete lack of accepting excuses..."

Not only did that line cause me pause but I also laughed out loud. I readily acknowledge that I have a reputation as a straight shooter of sorts who will cut the bull, land the punch, and say it like it is.

When I turned 40, I announced to some friends that I had decided to take my Mimi's tactic when she turned 80 to say what I thought and no more holding back. To which one of those friends responded, "And how would that be different than now?"

Regardless, it is true that through the years my telling it like it is has varied both in truth (that it is like I am telling it), in maturity (spiritual growth and using godly filtering), and timing (honesty is the best policy but timing is everything).  And on many occasions, both at my fault and at no fault of my own, my speech has been interpreted as being without compassion, sympathy, and even gentleness.

And while I am not a touchy-feely girl, I do desire to evidence compassion, sympathy, and gentleness in my speech to others. I am very much a work in progress in all those things. Still.

So when someone comes to ask what I think about said child raising issues, I do not coddle the truth. I honestly do not think any mom has time or genuine need for less than the true truth. If she is brave enough to ask another mom what she thinks, while she certainly needs affirmation for her mothering, she also needs the truth she is asking to receive.

Affirmation for her mothering is firm love. I tell her what she is doing that accords with God's word, that demonstrates His grace to her, that speaks to her own spiritual growth, and is a blessing to the kingdom.

Affirmation is also bold truth to say and show her where she is coddling personal sin or denying what is really going on with her child. This is affirmation because it is God's grace when He shows us our sin and keeps us by His Spirit to confess, repent, and believe in truth. Over and over again.

It is not affirmation to falsely flatter a mom who is disregarding Biblical instruction regarding her child. For example, a child that is sassing his mom is not "just tired and needs a nap." He is being disrespectful and she is allowing that sin to continue by denying the sass (disrespect) as sin. Excuses are not a gentle restoring of the sinner (Gal. 6:1). When the Israelites were quarreling, grumbling, and complaining against Moses in the wilderness, did the Lord comfort Moses with the words, "They are just tired and need a nap."?

Of course not. The Lord dealt with the sin. And it was grace that He dealt with the sin in such a way as to point them to Christ. (Exo. 17)

Anyway, there are numerous examples of the sins of childhood and at least double that for the ways that moms (all of us) have wrongly excused the sin for an even greater number of reasons. Doing so will eventually lead a mom to the end of herself and when that mom asks me what to do, I tell her the truth.

Boldly. Firmly. Because it is how the Lord tells us the truth about Himself and His works in His word. Boldly. Firmly. There is no Book of Hesitations. No Book of Excuses. No Book of Denial. His Word is good and right and true and just and merciful and penetrating and sharper than a two-edged sword.

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16

P.S. And lest anyone think that Jesus deviated from a bold and firm truth when it came to His words, remember that He was clear to say, "My teaching is not mine, but His who sent me." John 7:16 Numerous times Jesus repeated the statement that His words to His hearers were straight from the One who sent Him.

P.P.S. There is more to say on this I'm sure, but ending it here for now. I'll see what strikes next.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Not the other woman....

but the older woman is what I have become. Funny, hasn't it been said that you're only as old as you think you are? If that's true, I'm still somewhere in my 20's. With the wisdom of my 40's of course. Weird, right?

Anyway, older woman status has been driven home in several ways of late. Most recently has been the requests of younger moms with sons asking for advice in raising sons. I don't yet have an empty nest. My oldest will be 18 in July. My middle just turned 17. And my youngest will be 14 in two weeks. I still know myself to be firmly ensconced in the work of "raising sons."

But I understand their questions, because when my boys were toddlers, preschoolers, elementary, and middle school, I was always looking for a mom just slightly ahead of me to ask how she did thus and so or what to do when the son did this and that. The questions come both from bewilderment over what in the world to do as much as from a need for affirmation that you are not raising the next Manson.

It can be bleak as a mom to know to whom to turn and ask in the noise of parenting articles proliferating in magazines, books, and social media. Fortunately, I was able to find a spiritual mentoring mom who took me firmly by the chin and told me to raise those boys to be "assets in the kingdom and not liabilities!" It became a mantra for me.

Seeing a 4 year old have a tantrum might have an element of cuteness to it (oh he's just tired), but is that what I want to see when he is 14 and bigger than me? A 6 year old that can not control his emotions we chalk up to immaturity (and it is), but if he is not taught how to control his emotions, than what will be the result at 16 years old (dangerous, reckless, lack of self controlled behavior)? Based on her counsel, I began to filter my decisions through the long view questions of, "Am I willing to see 'this' behavior from this son when he is a young man, a young husband, a young dad?" "What is the Biblical principle happening here?"

Long view parenting means that we don't parent for the moment but we parent for the lifetime of that child who will eventually be required to take a place in society as either an asset or a liability.

It was valuable advice and this woman is still one that I can go to for those questions that plague the moms of older sons--jobs, girls, cars, college, life choices, etc. I imagine that even when that empty nest comes, she will be a beacon of counsel for how to interact with my adult sons.

So now the younger moms are coming to me with similar questions and I have to quickly blink my eyes to realize how rapidly the years have passed and although I still feel very much in the thick of it, I have the Biblical responsibility to do as my spiritual mentoring mom did for me--to speak the bold truth in firm love.

Speaking bold truth in firm love--yep, that's what I'll blog about next time. Put on your steel toed shoes.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mondays are a favorite day...

for me in my weeks right now. For many I know that Monday is not good. It signals a return to labor, to stress, to tension, to tasks undone demanding to be done.

But I'm a part-time girl at the "job outside the house" and Monday is my day to both recover from the weekend and to prepare for the week. There is time for a leisurely walk with the dog, for sitting on the porch to drink coffee and read my Bible, to meal plan and grocery shop, to read and study and write for upcoming teaching, and to stay in pajamas or at least comfy clothes until a 3:00 shower.

(I think one of the greatest things is an afternoon shower because it speaks to all sorts of non-hurried, relaxed indulgence.)

So Mondays are a current favorite day for me. However, this Monday has been a somber one as I've thought about the death of Kara Tippetts. I've thought and prayed for her family and friends who are enduring an incredible grief juxtaposed against incredible peace for their joy in all she has gained in being Home.

I've attended two funerals in the past year, both for men that I only knew incidentally, but I know their families and at both funerals, my tears just flowed. Because I know the hurt of grief intimately and I know the collision of faith and belief at the point of great loss. It is a clashing sensation of trust and bewilderment. Grieving with hope is a gift, but death should affect us greatly even as Christians because it speaks to how utterly broken this life is.

My Monday favorite has been a gray, drizzly, and sobering day as I contemplated a family waking up to once again realize the absence of a beloved wife and mom. All my same activities were accomplished, but with the heavy heart of one who longs with those I only know through a blog for the restoration of all things in Jesus Christ to be realized on earth as it is in heaven.

We do not and cannot know the days appointed for us. We have, as Kara did, the daily decision of choosing intentional joy, authentic grace, and unwavering trust. Even tomorrow as I go to work, I will have before me the same choices that she did even though I do not knowingly face a similar outcome.

I don't know how to end a post like this. It's neither light-hearted nor utterly depressing, just achingly real as every life marches to an ending. May the ending be glory filled because we chose well in choosing Jesus every day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spring cleaning....

and all its requisite labors has been happening around these parts the last several days. While it is a relief to get rid of the clutter and see the original surfaces of things like floors, desks, cabinets, and the like, it is as much as an emotional labor as it is a physical one.

I'm one of those that has memories attached to things that others would quickly label as "junk." That shirt I was wearing the last time I held James. That book that was given to me after my first year as a Bible teacher. That brochure that I used to plan our family trip to Williamsburg.

Agh. I wish that I could easily toss those things. And sometimes I am able to break the bond, remember the moment, smile (or shed a tear) and "let it go!" But other times that thing, whatever it may be, just goes into the deal with it later pile.

This year's spring cleaning may have been invested with a tad bit more emotion, I will confess. Nate, my oldest son, went on his first college visit the same weekend that I was at the homeschool convention with my youngest son planning his high school courses while my middle son was at home playing a big regional soccer game. Between Thursday and Saturday my heart was in three very different places.

Spring cleaning was on the tails of trying to mentally group and re-group how very different one year from now will be in our lives. We are at the beginning of an ending of sorts. Spring cleaning in a year will involve packing one up for a move out of the house and not just a re-organization of his room.

As one friend would write, cue "Sunrise, Sunset."

So--clutter was removed. Memories were remembered. Some things just moved from one pile to another. And tears were shed that I blamed on the dust that is stirred up from all that cleaning.