Friday, August 8, 2014

Today My Heart Breaks

Be warned - this is a mommy post. 

Today my son started middle school.  Ahhh . . . junior high, that lovely time between childhood dependance and high school freedom where everyone is awkward, everyone tries to hide it, and everyone is unsuccessful. 

I cried.  I waited until he was gone, out of the car, in the building, on his way to class.  I watched as he found his friend, hearing the cackles of their laughter as they made their way up the stairs, and I turned my head, and I cried. 

I didn't cry because I was sad.  I didn't cry because I was scared.  I didn't cry because I was worried.

I prayed as we drove away from the school.  I prayed for courage for him and I prayed for peace for me.  Usually, when I pray for peace, it comes instantly.  In fact, I usually just speak the word peace, and peace comes.

But not today.  Today the tears spilled from my eyes, no matter how hard I tried to contain them.  I continued to talk to the Lord, telling him that I knew he was taking care of my son, that he was in control, that he was with us all the time, that he loved us more than we could possibly understand - that he loves my son more than I could.

Yet still the tears came.  I asked the Lord to take them away, and I felt like he said, "Why?  Your tears are fine.  Your tears are a reflection of your heart.  Let them come."

And so I did.  And then peace came. 

My Father used my role as a mother to be my Father today.  I know that seems like a rolling sentence, but it's true.  As I sat in the car, trying to name my emotions, realizing that I wasn't sad or scared or worried, I finally came to see - these emotions, this stuff - it's just being a parent.  It's love.

This love is a product of all you've worked on with your child.  It's equal parts hope and exasperation.  It's laughter and tears - sometimes at the same time.  This love is both healing and cleansing, celebration and joy, discipline and strength.

And as much as I hate the cliche - this love is having your heart beat outside of your body.  It's watching your child go forth, and thinking - there goes my life.   It's your heart breaking, as he takes on new risks, meets new people, tries new things. 

I've heard people say, when dealing with a broken bone - "It's a good break."  I always thought that was a weird thing to say.  I get what they mean - if you have to break a bone, this was a good way to do it.  It'll heal well, be good as new, stronger than ever.  But still - a good break?

Today I get it.  Today my heart broke a little.  But it's a good break.  It'll heal well, be good as new, be stronger than ever. 

And I'll probably still cry.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Questions That Need To Be Asked

Ah . . . questions . . .

Questions fill our days, fill our minds.  Questions can either drive us crazy when they seem unanswerable or they can stretch our reality when the answer challenges our norms. 

I love questions.  I love discussion.  I even love questions that can't be answered - because I love the gift that comes with it.

It's the gift of wonderment.  You know wonderment - that strange emotion that combines puzzling, dizzying, surprising thoughts, swirling and spiraling, pushing boundaries, lifting limits.  The gift of wonderment is the gift of "what if?"  What if . . .

What if I'm wrong and he's right?  What if there are aliens?  What if something bad happens?  What if . . . ?

Questions are both fulfilling and draining.  Questions are about lifting up and breaking down.  Questions create calm and wreak havoc.

Questions are around us everyday, but because they have the potential to disturb our carefully crafted and cautiously guarded peace, we often stuff them down, as if not addressing the questions will kill the questions themselves.

I have found that questions never really go away.  In a moment of quiet, in a moment when our defenses are down, the questions rise up.  As Christians, we will sometimes give Satan completely undue credit - as if questions are a trick of the enemy.  Can they be used against us?  Of course.  Satan will try to use every good thing against us!

But what if we embraced our questions, head on, as a gift from God instead of a scheme of Satan?  What if God wants us to ask questions?  What if He is inviting the questions?

What if we really explored the question - what it means, why we are asking - to get to the bottom of our need?

God - listen to me now - God has REALLY BIG SHOULDERS.  Your questions don't hurt his feelings or ruffle his feathers.  The God who can hold all the waters of the earth in the palm of his hand, who can measure all the galaxies of space with his fingers - this God is not offended by your questions.

So ask them.  Ask him, the Author of Truth, the one whose name is Faithful and True - ask him your questions.  And then look - look for the answers.

Ask why - why did he leave?  Why did she die?  Why am I lonely?
Ask who - who are you God?  Who are you really?  For heaven's sake - who am I?
Ask what - what is the meaning of all this?  What were you thinking?
Ask when - when will I get what I'm asking for?  When will I find what I need?  When will I have peace?
Ask where - where are you?  Where were you when I was hurting?

Ask all the questions.  Wrestle with them.  Be prepared to not like the answers.  Be prepared to know God in a whole new way.

Be prepared to love God in a whole new way.

God is not afraid of your questions.  He's not afraid of you at all!  The truth is, you are the one who is afraid.  You are afraid you'll make God mad.  That you are risking eternity.  That you are risking everything.  You are afraid that you won't like the answer.  You are afraid that there won't be an answer.

And that, my friends, is the scheme of Satan.  Convincing you to hide your true self from the one who made you.  Convincing you to build a wall between you and God.  Convincing you to settle for less than true, intimate fellowship with our one true love.

You may not have questions.  Great!  You may not know what your questions are, because you have stiffled them for so long.  That's ok.  Go somewhere quiet, be alone, and just let your thoughts flow.

The questions will come.
And that's ok. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Innocence Lost

My husband and I took our man-child to see a movie this week.  We are on vacation, visiting friends, and had some time to kill before our next outing.  A movie, we thought.  Buttery popcorn, fantasy action, and most importantly on a hot summer day - air conditioning!

I usually research movies we see, checking on the appropriateness of the content and language.  I don't want to poison my child's mind, let alone mine!  But in the last few months, I've been very lax about doing it.  And today . . .

The very first word of the movie was a cuss word.  I cringed, looked at Samuel, and he looked up at me with big eyes. 

I should have left right then.  Should have insisted, should have been willing to run the risk of everyone being mad at me.  I should have been willing to be called a prude. Because the language got worse and worse, until it finally culminated, toward the end, in the F-word. 

There's a reason it's referred to as the f bomb.  Because that word exploded in my mind and in my heart, and with dread I once again looked at Samuel, and he looked at me with VERY big eyes.  I covered my face with my hands in shame, fought back tears, and prayed for forgiveness and for protection for my baby's heart. 

But we stayed and finished the movie.

I am so ashamed of that fact.  .

Walking out of the theater, I asked Samuel about the word.  At first he tried to play it cool - he is 11, after all - but when I reminded him that I saw his face . . . Yes, he said.  He heard it.  No, he had never heard it before, although he had heard of it.

I started to cry.  In public.  In the parking lot.  My little man grabbed my hand - right there in front of everyone - and said, it's ok, mom. 

But it's not ok. 

Romans 12 says to hate what is evil and cling to what is good.  The Message version puts it this way:  "Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good."  

I am concerned that I - part of  church, the bride of Christ - am not disgusted by sin.  I am concerned that I am not repelled by sin.  I am concerned that sin is so easy to see in the world that at times I don't even notice it.  

I am concerned that I do not run for dear life. I am so ashamed of that fact.  

Innocence is like a huge slab of marble, waiting to be chipped away, like a sculpture.  No piece that is taken away can be put back on.  Innocence cannot be regenerated.  Once it is gone, it's gone.  You may read this story, and think - sheesh.  Dial it down a bit.  It's one word.  

And I say, it's one word that is now in his mind.  A word that has no redeeming value, a word that is meant to shock, a word whose very character is reprehensible.  

Here's what I think - why would I allow anything into my child's life that we don't do or use or say at home?  We don't say certain words, we don't do certain things - and we don't do those things on purpose.  So why oh why would I ever want to expose an innocent heart and mind to them?  

Sometimes I think that we as Christians think that exposure to sin is unavoidable.  While I don't purposefully teach that - in my home or in my ministry - am I teaching that with my actions?  If I tell my child that sin is a choice but don't take a stand about sin in our lives... What is the real lesson? 

Some sin is unavoidable, if we are going to live and work in this world.  But we certainly don't need to seek it out. We don't need to accept it as normal. And we definitely don't need to let it into our homes, hearts and minds. 

I am ashamed I didn't take a stand that day.  I wish I could show my son that God's way is worth standing up for. All I can do now is be prepared for next time. 

Because I am sure there will be a next time. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Please forgive me for not having written in awhile.  And please forgive me for what I'm writing today.  This is about tennis, but if you know me - tennis is life!

My son once asked me, “Why do you love tennis so much?”


Because . . .

Tennis is art.  Tennis is beauty.  Tennis is life.  It is grace with strength, elegance with power, sophistication with might.  A strange juxtaposition of seeming opposites that, when fused together in this particular game of sport, create perfect poetry in motion.

Tennis asks the grand questions of life:  will you commit?  Will you stay motivated?  Will you respond?  Will you be invincible?  Will you play each point like your future depends on it?  Will you get back up when you fall down?  Will you serve again when you double fault?  Will you win the next point when you lost the last?

Will you persevere, or will you give up?

Tennis reveals your character.  It is one against one.  If you lose, if you double fault, if you hit the ball long, it’s no one else’s fault but your own.  Tennis reveals your drive.  You are offense and defense, in the same game, at the same time, as the same player.  Tennis reveals your preparation.  It is practicing the same stroke, the same swing, again and again and again.  Tennis reveals your work ethic.  Because trophies are won when no one is watching, day after day, practice after practice.  Alone.

Tennis is mental toughness.  Tennis is emotional isolation.  Tennis is staggering seclusion.  Just you and your opponent.  No coaches calling a time out, no substitutions for fatigue.  An epic struggle engaged by two warriors with everything to gain AND everything to lose.  It is a battle between two soldiers that involves the world; multiple countries represented in a single match.  The audience reacts in appreciation, from subdued whispers to triumphant shouts.  The crowd cheers, the crowd jeers.  The nations unite, oooing and ahhing at precise baselines and thunderous serves.

Tennis is overcoming fear – not of your opponent, but your own flaws and failures.  Tennis is overcoming your limits – digging deep when you are tired and hurting.  Tennis is overcoming the pain – the bleeding fingers and the blistered toes and the sore muscles and the pulled hamstrings.
Tennis is action and reaction.  It is proactive and reactive.  It is massive.  It is small.  It is the huge gesture, and the smallest detail.

Tennis is balletic.  Tennis is athletic.  Tennis is magnetic.
Tennis is life.  And that’s why I love it so much.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"It's Happening!"

I had the best dream this morning, just before I woke up.

Best. Dream. Ever.

I dreamed I was in some kind of open-ended pavilion.  I was working on an event, standing at a high table, looking at floor maps and seating arrangements.  I was standing with a friend, Chris Davis, discussing where we were going to put people.  Another friend, Jen Smith, walked up and handed me a couple of voucher slips for payment.  I very much remember that one was for $10, and it was marked, "payment for services rendered."  The other one was a reimbursement for $7 (from the Dollar Tree!).  Jen wanted me to see the vouchers - apparently she was in charge of the budget for the event!  I remember saying, I don't need the payment, but I'll take the reimbursement.  And she said, I'll take care of it and walked away.  Chris and I went back to working on the floor plan for our event.

About that time I looked out the end of the pavilion and glanced up at the sky.  The sky was blue - beautiful, pure blue, like the most perfect summer day.  There were clouds racing across the sky, swirling and changing, but not in a frightening way. 

I started to say, hey, look at those clouds, they look like -

And then suddenly I realized they didn't look like . . . they were!

They were taking the form of turrets on a castle, but in my dream mind I was thinking the word spires.  Chris and Jen and I ran out of the pavilion, and I said:

It's happening!

Pure white clouds were chasing each other into view, but they weren't just clouds.  They were taking the form of a city, in the sky, all around us.  We stood there, transfixed, smiles as wide as miles on our faces.  Suddenly I looked up to my right, and saw people being formed out of the clouds, stepping down into rows and rows and rows.  Some were angels, some were people, and they stood around us - in the air, on invisible risers, it seemed. 

I thought, the Great Cloud of Witnesses!

I looked at one woman in the sky.  She had long hair, pulled up in a bun, and layers of beautiful white robes.  She looked down at me and smiled.  I waved, feeling very foolish for doing so, but she chuckled and waved back.

All the people I saw in the sky were moving while standing still.  I don't know how to describe it adequately.  They were formed of clouds - pure, white, bright clouds.  Just as clouds move and form in the heavens, so were the clouds within the people moving.   They were all smiling, expectant, loving. 

There was a city forming behind them, also made of clouds.  Buildings, houses.  Even trees.  Bright, dazzling, pure white. 

Everything - people, angels, buildings - were waiting for something.  Waiting for something to happen.  Happy, joyful - like children on Christmas morning.  I waited and watched with them, hoping to see what they were seeing, and what they were waiting for.

And then I woke up. 

So I looked up the verse in Hebrews about the great cloud of witnesses, and suddenly I knew what the people were expecting: 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (12:1-2)
I can't wait to see that throne, and my God, and my Jesus, and that city, and those witnesses. 

Best. Dream. Ever.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

I Worshiped God Today

I worshiped God today.

It's Sunday.  The Lord's day.  The day I always go to church.  The day I always worship.  The day I lead.  The day I serve.  The day I sing. 

The problem was . . . I didn't feel it today.  I didn't feel like worshiping, I didn't feel like leading, I didn't feel like serving.  I didn't feel like singing.  I didn't feel anything today. 

First thing this morning, I had a "preteen" issue at home.  As soon as I got to church, I had doubts about my top and felt self-conscious.  In Sunday School, I ripped my skirt.  After class, I realized an event I had planned for tomorrow wasn't going to work and I was going to have to cancel.  By the time I got to the platform to sing with the praise team, I was done. 

But even without all that, I didn't feel it.  I didn't have that excitement to go to church like a normally do.  I didn't want to see my friends and family, fellowship with each other while we fellowship with God.  I just didn't want any of it.  

And so I worshiped God today. 

I have this spot that I like to look at when I sing at church.  It's up to my right, where the wall meets the ceiling.  I like to imagine that the roof of the church opens up, the clouds roll back, and it's just me and God, face to face.  I am often able to block out everyone and everything, and just focus on him.  Intimate worship, just God and me. 

But not today.  I couldn't block anything out.  I couldn't compartmentalize.  Emotionally I felt dull.  Mentally I felt tired.  Spiritually I felt drained.  I even felt strange physically.  So what did I do?

I worshiped God today.  Anyway.

I closed my eyes.  I raised my hands.  I focused on him.  But I didn't feel different.  I didn't get emotional and break down in tears.  I didn't have a moment of mental clarity.  I didn't receive some spiritual call.  Absolutely nothing changed.  And nothing has changed still.

Yet I worshiped God today. 

Worshiping only when I feel like it puts the emphasis on me.  And that's backwards.  Worshiping in order to feel better also puts the emphasis on me.  Also backwards.  Whether or not we worship has nothing to do with us.  It's only about him - God.  We worship because he is worthy.  We worship because we need to.  We worship because we are told to.  We worship because we have no other choice. 

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!
Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.   Psalm 148-1-6

I worshiped God today.  I didn't feel like it.  But I worshiped.  Not because he encourages it, but because he commands it.  Not because he needs it, but because I need it.  Not because of who I am, but because of who he is.

I worshiped God today.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

All of Me

I had to have some medical tests today. 

This morning I dropped my son off to school, like normal, and decided to go to my favorite diner and have my favorite breakfast (rye toast, bacon, fried potatoes) and play my current favorite phone game (Bubble Worlds).  I guess I was trying to busy myself.  I wasn't worried, I was trusting God that He would take care of me, whether the test was positive or negative.

The radio was playing at the diner, and though I usually tune stuff out, I heard the song "All of Me" by John Legend came on.  It's a beautiful song, very simple - just one voice and a piano.  I don't listen to the radio much, but I've heard it before, and I really like it.  The chorus goes like this:

'Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I'll give my all to you
You're my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I'm winning
'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, oh
Pretty, right?  Sweet, loving...

Fast forward to an hour later.  I'm laying on an examination table, watching my ultrasound on the computer screen.  Of course, I don't know what I'm looking at, so I was just kind of praying, kind of thinking.  All of a sudden, I became a little scared.  Then I got a little angry with myself for being scared.  A tear trickled down my cheek.

Suddenly, the Lord spoke the words of the song to me:  "All of me loves all of you."  And the fear vanished.


You may think I'm crazy, believing that God would use some man's love song to his wife to comfort me.  I'm totally ok with you thinking that.  I know the moment, and nothing will ever change it for me.

I started to think about God's love for me.  I started to think about him singing over me, like it says in Zephaniah 3:17:   "He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing."  I thought about just what it meant for all of God to love all of me.  God. Me.  The great big, immortal, massive, King of Kings, Creator of the Universe, Lover of my soul, unshakeable, impenetrable, unchangeable - that God loves me.  All of the facets of his character love me.  Everything he is . . . loves me.

Loves all of me.  The good stuff.  The bad stuff.  The strengths.  The weaknesses.  The rights.  The wrongs.  The past.  The future.  The ugly.  The beautiful.  

Just soak in that for a minute, and then say with me . . . wow. 

I wasn't afraid anymore.  No matter the diagnosis, no matter the outcome, God loves me.  God. Loves. Me.  And he loves you!  That is truth, and truth is what sets us free.  What is there to ever be afraid of, when the one who spoke the world into being wants to rejoice over me?  Sing over me?  Take delight in me?  

What does that say about him, and what does it say about me?

My test results came back fine.  No problems.  But problems will come, in all of our lives, and the truth will still be the same.  All of God loves all of me.  That knowledge should change me, make me bold, strong, courageous.  No earthly circumstances can change the eternal truth:

God loves me.