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First blog post

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As I am bumbling through this blog design process, I realize that this is no different than virtually every other area of my life: it’s not exactly how I planned it, I’m realizing half way through that I don’t really know what I’m doing,  I’m feeling out of my depth (but not too embarrassed to admit it), I’m wondering how everyone else does it and seems to make it look so effortless, and I’m thankful that people are kind enough to encourage me along the way. Technology is not always my friend, but WORDS are! And since I am nothing if not verbose, unmarried, and the parent of a male child who cannot possibly receive all the words I have to share, I am very grateful for this venue which allows me to share them with anyone who is interested. God bless you!

God’s Reboot

I have come to the conclusion that lives, like computers, require a reboot every now and again. Or, maybe it’s just me. I do not take to change willingly or particularly gracefully for that matter, so, God usually has to do the hard restart. It is in my nature to live with the status quo unless it becomes absolutely unbearable or I am forced out of it. Few times in my life have I made a conscious decision to seek out a life-altering change, but when I have, they have been the hardest and best things in my life, among them: living abroad, buying a house and adopting a child. Most other changes were not by choice, at least not my choice.

As I’ve watched the devastation of the wild fires, and thought again and again about how it would be to lose absolutely everything; to run for our lives and be left without a single earthly possession, I have been overwhelmingly grateful that I have had the opportunity for a very gentle reboot of my life. I am thankful each day for my tiny house and every single thing in it which provides comfort, convenience and meaningful memories. I am thankful for my vehicle, old and filthy as it is, which I love to drive and suits our family’s needs so well. I am thankful for my animals who comfort and amuse me every day. I am thankful that, although it is not always easy being the mother of my son, it is never boring, and we are together and growing as human beings and continue to make each other better people.

Within the last five months I lost a career and the friendships that went along with that working world that consumed so much of my life. I walked away from a church I had attended for more than 25 years and with it the social structure and fellowship that was an integral part of my existence. And the final, and trivial, yet, almost symbolic loss: my cell phone – and although I bought a new one it was if I had to rebuild my network, family member by family member, and friend by friend. I’m still working on that.

There have been illuminating, inspiring and humbling lessons in the process. Learning to give AND receive graciously while being unemployed and in transition were both equally challenging to me. I would like to share a simple yet powerful illustration: during the summer and into the fall I have been feeding not only my own ravenous, growing, teenage boy, but an extra boy we picked up – a friend of my son’s who needed a home base, a stand-in mom to offer him not only a safe environment but meals whenever he was at loose ends. This eventually extended to other boys who needed rides and, of course, needed to be fed. “Is this the time for me to be feeding other people’s children, when I don’t have a job and I have no idea how we are going to make ends meet?” I asked God. The answer was quiet and clear: “Trust me.” While attending a new church, I submitted a request for prayer for my job search, which lead to someone contacting me to ask if they could add me to their Thanksgiving Food list. I thought it would be a couple of bags of groceries, so I accepted. The day before I started my new job, a man and woman whom I’d never met arrived with a dolly stacked with five boxes loaded full of food! As soon as I closed the door, I laughed… and cried. I felt like God was teasing me in the most loving way. “Didn’t I tell you to trust me? Wasn’t there always enough to feed those boys? See, now, here’s a truckload of food, just in case you were wondering about the next few weeks.”

I don’t know why God chose to allow us to keep our house, while so many others lost theirs. I don’t know why we got to keep our car and our animals and all our things. He has seen fit to give me a new job; a better job. And we have been extended many gracious invitations to be part of a new-to-us fellowship of Believers; I think I can actually say I have faith that this will happen for us, eventually. Yes, changes for our better, but still… changes I would not have chosen for us, and that brought losses we are still mourning. Isn’t that how it is when you reboot? There are always files that you lose in the process; things that weren’t saved properly or were temporary in nature that you can’t retrieve.

But every once in a while something turns up that you thought you’d lost in the reboot.

I still have hope.

~ Love is Risk, and so is a reboot

When Church Hurts

On a Sunday morning, I sat in a church that was new to me, feeling alone, adrift, and aching with tears which were threatening to well up to the surface at any moment. Oh, that would be a great first impression, now, wouldn’t it? My first visit to a church and crying through the service? No. Just, don’t. Even when I don’t know the songs I can usually pick them up by the second verse, but, honestly, my heart wasn’t in it and I just didn’t want to sing. Me, not wanting to sing?! That’s like me not wanting to eat! Something was seriously wrong. I looked at the bulletin, pulled out the message outline, opened my Bible, put on my reading glasses, found the scripture, and prepared myself… for what? A sermon; the millionth I’ve heard in my life, from someone I know nothing about in a room full of strangers. My mind began to wander, and I began a not so reverend conversation with Almighty God. “What am I doing here? What is the point of this if it’s so painful and hard?” His answer, quiet and clear: “To obey is better than sacrifice.” Fine. Whatever.

I stood for the reading of scripture and my hand rested on the back of the pew in front of me; a warm wave of childhood memories washed over me, comforting me with the solid familiarity of the ancient wood worn glossy by thousands of hands over so many years. When I sat down, I almost felt as if my legs would be tiny enough to swing free like they did when I was a little girl in the church where my dad was pastor. I gazed up at the beautiful stained glass windows and the words at the top which read, FEAR NOT. Am I afraid? I asked God. Yes, I suppose I am. Afraid that I will never feel like I belong, find my place, find another ‘home’. FEAR NOT. Alright, I guess that’s going to have to be enough for now. The sermon was good. Not mind altering, life changing good; let’s be honest – so few of them are. But, I talked to God and He talked to me, and more importantly, I heard Him. I faced one of my fears and God kind of spoke to that as well.

For the past 25 years, my solace in Church has been in normalcy, the familiarity of a building, knowing and being known by a group of people, of knowing my place (not necessarily always in a positive way) and understanding the established order of things. But, when the time comes to leave, the question of Church changes from what and where, to who. Who, is the Church? If it is in THAT building and only THOSE people, then it has all but ceased to exist for me. I walked away with only a hand full of friends who continue to fellowship with me. Is that enough? Do five or six or a dozen constitute Church? Turns out, all you really need is two or three gathering together, according to Scripture. But, of course, there are more than that, and entire congregations waiting to be discovered, each with their own unique dynamics… and flaws.

I have always loved church! I loved almost everything about it. I loved the richness of the tradition, the transcendence of the music, the warmth of the fellowship, the challenge of the Bible teaching. And when casual dress and bringing coffee into the sanctuary became a thing (at least in the Pacific Northwest), there was just nowhere I’d rather be on a Sunday morning. It was my second home. I was born in the baptistery, as they say, being the daughter of a baptist pastor, and having attended faithfully all my life, there has never been a time when being a part of a church community wasn’t a part of the fabric of who I am. As a young military wife far from home, newly divorced, or the single mother of an adopted child, I have always defied demographic norms of the mainstream American Evangelical church, but, as much of a challenge as it may have been trying to find my place at times, it was still where I wanted to be. Until I didn’t.

“Do not forsake the assembly as some are in the habit of doing.” Now I know why that verse is in there. Because, right now, it would be so much easier for me not to be part of an organized Church, at all, and just embrace my Church in my two’s and three’s. But, of course, there’s not just me to consider; there’s my son, who is not only my spiritual responsibility as my child, but also as a ‘weaker brother’. Isn’t that how it is in God’s economy? It can never be just about you. And there’s also the CHURCH, the worldwide Body of believers in Jesus Christ that I have seen in action and I’m not ready to give up being a part of that bigger picture. There’s so much we can accomplish together!

In a couple weeks there may be another new church to visit and perhaps this one will have padded chairs and cloth banners hanging on the walls and bring another wave of memories from another era of my life, and another conversation with Almighty God. I’d better be ready to listen. And maybe I’ll sing some new songs.

~ Love is Risk

 

 

 

 

Mom’s Antidote for Depression

I have not been prone to depression and for this, I am very grateful. But, that is not to say that I haven’t had times in my life when I have struggled with what was probably more serious than ‘the blues’. Most of the time it’s been centered around a legitimate reason for deep sadness; a divorce, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one. The first time, however, it was completely undefined and I had no idea how to deal with it. So I called my mom.

It was my first year of college, I was living on campus and it was back in the day before cell phones, when there were two pay phones at the end of the dorm hall. You had to use a couple of the quarters you were saving for laundry, hope someone was at home to answer the phone (no answering machines) and ask them to call you back (it was long distance – too many quarters). Then, you sat in the little booth until the phone rang. What was Mom’s advice after I told her I wasn’t feeling like myself? After the standard, “Get some sleep. Things will look better in the morning.” she spoke these words into my life, and they truly were, and are, words to live by: “Do something nice for someone else.” She went on to say, in the kindest way possible, “You are spending too much time focused on yourself and your own problems. You need to think of a way to do something kind for someone else. It will make you feel better. You’ll see.”

It wasn’t hard to find something I could do, even though I had no money and I was overwhelmed; leaving notes of encouragement in people’s mail cubbies (nobody gets mail during spring quarter!), folding a random person’s clothes in the laundry room, sharing the treats in the care package I got from my grandma, french braiding a friend’s hair. It really did make me feel better. It was the turn around I needed to get me out of the dark place I was in and through to the end of the quarter. In the last few months I’ve found a much deeper meaning to those simple words of advice from my mom; a way of life that focuses on gratitude and kindness when self-pity and depression begin to saturate my thought processes.

For reasons I can’t explain, about four or five months ago I became gradually more aware that there was a rapidly growing population of people in my community who were experiencing homelessness. Of course this has been going on since the beginning of civilization, but I began to SEE it, see THEM as if for the first time. I began to ask questions in earnest. Why is this happening? What is the root cause? What do we do about it? What can I do about it?

Then, I lost my job and suddenly I didn’t feel so far removed from ‘it’, from ‘them’. Although I was far from destitute, I was painfully aware of how precarious my financial situation was. The first time I went grocery shopping during the day, when I should have been at work, a person outside the store asked me if I had spare change and for the first time in my life I answered truthfully. I had always lied, flat-out lied, in front of friends, in front of my son. Lied. “No, I don’t have any change.” But I did. I had change and chose not to give it to them. And this time and from then on, when asked, I gave it. I don’t know if it was out of some sense of kinship, being unemployed myself, but I decided that I would take people at their word. If they said they were hungry, they were. If they said they needed money for gas, they did. If they said they were buying a bus ticket, they would. I got in the habit of putting a dollar’s worth of change in my pocket before I left the house, having my son drop his pocket change in the cup holder in the car, and making sure I had back up in a coin pouch in the bottom of my purse. I didn’t have any delusions that my dollar’s worth of change was going to change anyone’s life, I just didn’t want to lie, dismiss and ignore. I wanted to see, acknowledge and connect. And I did.

I began to hear people, look them in the eye, speak to them and shake their hands. One of the first was a woman outside the grocery store who asked me if I had spare change. “Actually, I do.” When I placed it in her hand I felt her palm was callused, and all the way home I wondered what kind of hard work she had been doing to have such rough hands. Another was a man wandering up and down the grocery check stands with a package of hot dogs. I assumed he was looking for the shortest line and they were all long. I asked him if he wanted to go ahead of me because he only had one item. He hung his head in shame and said, “I’m just trying to figure out what to do. I need ninety seven cents to buy these and all got is thirty seven cents.” He pulled his change out of his pocket to show me. I pulled the change out of my pocket and said, “Well, I can spot you a dollar if you want to get in line ahead of me.” He said, “Really? Well, thank you!” and got in line with his hot dogs. He pulled out his wallet and showed me his ID and said, “I’m 57 years old. You’d think I’d be doing better by now.” We visited while we waited in line and he told me he thought if he went to Alaska he’d have a better chance of finding work. I didn’t ask him how he planned to get there. I bought him a bag of chips, too, and he left with a smile and a handshake. Then, there was Jack, who introduced himself because I was walking my dog, also named Jack. He knew that since my dog was a rescue from Maui that his particular mix of mutt was bred for hunting feral pigs in the Hawaiian islands. He didn’t ask me for money, but we walked together, the three of us, for about a quarter mile and he shook my hand and patted Jack’s head before we parted ways. He was camping in a park near my house. I thought about Jack the Human for many days and was haunted by his words. In referring to the dog, I had said, “Jack is a happy guy.” Jack the Human responded, referring to himself, “He used to be.”

I began to refer to this as my Change Experiment and I looked forward to leaving the house each day with a dollar’s worth of change in my pocket. Sometimes I came up with a reason to get out and about, just so I could look for an opportunity to give away my change. Oddly enough I never ran out of change. I still haven’t.

As days turned into weeks and I still didn’t have a job, I was losing momentum. After years of working myself into exhaustion, I was completely rested up. I had used my initial surge of enthusiasm about free time to get several projects done, but now depression began to set in. It was not an unreasonable response to my circumstances; I was a single parent, the sole provider for my family, unemployed and with a very uncertain future for myself and my child. But, what was the appropriate action? I continued to do what I could humanly do to get a job; the rest was in God’s hands. What did God require of me to be accountable for the rest of my life during this time? I knew the answer, of course. I needed to take my Change Experiment to the next level. And I couldn’t do it alone.

With another heatwave in the immediate forecast, I put out the call on social media: I wanted to invite people to join me in handing out supplies to people living outside – Gatorade, juice, nutritious snacks, treats, personal items and Bibles. Within 24 hours supplies began pouring in and my little living room was filled with bags and boxes and within two days I had a motley crew of people from the odd corners of my life, some brand new friends, some I had known for over 30 years, and my 13 year old son, gathered at my house, ready with loaded backpacks and open minds to head out on foot. That first expedition was the most humbling because the people we found, camping in tents and hanging out in parks, were no more than a few blocks from my house.

The following day, my mom and I went out in the car scouting for where I might return on foot but I ended up bailing out of the car with a backpack and handing out more supplies. We drove around town to the places where I handed out my change and found some folks in the outer corner of the grocery store parking lot and when we got out to talk to them, a man said, “I sure appreciate this! Things is gettin’ so hard.” I thought he meant the heat and I commented on it. He said, “No, the heat don’t bother me. But they keep kicking us out. There’s just no place left for us to go.”

A few days later a former coworker contacted me and asked if she could help. She came over, we loaded backpacks, parked downtown and walked around looking for people who had shopping carts or sleeping bags. That day, nearly everyone we gave supplies to had alcohol, which lead to some thought provoking conversation. A week later, I was scheduled to get together with a friend and instead of the outing we had planned, she asked if we could drive around and distribute supplies. I had barely two full packs left, so we pooled our resources (two single mothers, struggling financially) packed a couple of simple sack lunches and headed out. Again, as with my mom, she parked and waited with the car (it was hot and she had a baby in a car seat) while I bailed out of the car with a backpack and looked for people. My last two packs handed out in the downtown park, we decided to loop around through the ‘hood. At an intersection, we handed a man who was asking for money a sack lunch. He was thrilled and began eating it immediately. With one lunch left, we were heading home, looking for a need, and my friend spotted an infant seat, sitting in front of a dumpster. After making a pact to raise the baby together, she made a U-turn, pulled in, I jumped out of the car and with a pounding heart, discovered… an empty infant seat. (We were relieved, and, both admitted, a little disappointed.) It’s funny what you notice when you are truly looking.

One sack lunch left, which I kept in my car, and I felt that I was done with my project, when I received a card in the mail that brought me to tears. A thank you note from my aunt and uncle who were inspired by my attempts to do something, anything, in my little corner of the world, and in the envelope, fifty dollars; seed money towards my next round. I wasn’t sure where to go from there. I needed some time to regroup, re-evaluate and come up with a plan for the next phase. A week ago, a man was standing at the corner by the grocery store with a cardboard sign with only a smiley face drawn on it. He was on the passenger side, and I was alone in the car, so I was unable to give him change, and he wasn’t asking for it. But, I remembered, I had the last lunch buried somewhere in the back seat. I pulled over, got out, found it and ran across the street. “I have this little lunch if you want it.” He smiled really big and said, “Yes! Thank you so much!” I ran back to my car and looked back at him as I pulled away and he was holding a pudding cup up in my direction, as if to say, “Cheers!”. I remembered the man who received the other lunch, pulling out the banana and peeling and eating it immediately as if he’d been craving one for days. It brought me back to the simplicity of my mom’s advice: Do something nice for someone else. I can’t run a food bank, or a head up a charity organization, or work in a rehabilitation facility, but I can do something, SOME LITTLE THING nice for someone when I’m looking for the opportunity. And when I do, it makes me grateful for what I have and kinder to everyone around me.

Here’s a few things I have learned in talking and interacting with people in various stages of need: When people don’t want or need help, they will tell you – just move on.  If you’re going to offer something, you have to give it freely, regardless of your own biases – if the woman smoking a joint says she really wants a Bible, you give her one, and if the happy drunk sitting in the sweltering sun with a case of Coors says he could really use a Gatorade, you give it to him. Tent dwellers might appreciate some supplies, but might not want to meet face to face – ask permission to approach, leave it at the zipper door, and beat a hasty retreat (the disembodied hand will appear to collect what you leave). Some people just really want to speak to another human being, to tell you their name, to know yours, to shake your hand and to tell you a little about themselves – this has been the best part of this experience!

I still have fifty dollars in my wallet for the next project. I’m waiting to be inspired. It may come with the next harsh season; ponchos and tarps when the constant rains set in, or gloves and socks when the first cold snap comes. My own future, and my child’s, is still very uncertain and our situation, precarious. But, I’m continuing to be challenged to focus on gratitude and kindness. Whatever your circumstance may be, whenever you feel yourself begin to circle into that downward spiral I offer Mom’s simple advice: Do something nice for someone else.

~ Love is Risk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty from Disaster

I made a pilgrimage to Mount Saint Helens with my son, recently. It’s an easy day trip from where we live; I don’t know why we haven’t done it sooner. It was a perfect summer day in late July, a gorgeous drive, wildflowers in bloom, a blazing blue sky and a ring of white, puffy clouds hovering over the rim of the crater like a saintly halo. As we were repeatedly shown the dramatic before and after photos of the mountain pre-eruption and post-eruption side by side, my son asked me an odd question: “Which do you like better?” I shrugged and said, “It’s beautiful both ways.” But he pressed me. “No! Which do you like better?” and he stopped and waited. I searched for a truthful and thoughtful answer and said, “The way it is now. Because it’s the mountain I know and love. I was there in Vancouver when it happened and it was one of the most awesome things I’ve ever experienced in my life. It changed me. So, I like it better the way it is now.”

On the drive down out of the mountains I saw, tucked into the trees on the side of the road in the beautiful forests that line the mountainsides, what I wasn’t able to see on the way up: signs that read “Planted in 1983”, and “Planted in 1986”. I pointed them out to my son, reminding him that that was just three and six years after the devastation of the eruption. “Look at all the growth! Look how gorgeous these trees are!” And all the way down out of the mountains I kept thinking about his question: which do you like better?

It called to mind another time in my life when I felt like I was shaken to the core, blasted away, stripped bare and taken down to the bare essence of who I was apart from any construct of society; no marriage, no career, no status of any kind. Simply me and my willingness to open myself up to God’s call upon my life and my basic ability to connect with the world around me. I remember singing the lyrics of a Switchfoot song while driving in my car: “This is your life. Are you who you want to be?” And shouting the answer to myself: YES! Yes, I was the person I wanted to be! And yes, I am the person I want to be, now, even while showing the obvious damage left behind from the disasters of my life.

How many of us look at our dearly loved ones who show the damage of their own physical and emotional disasters and say, “Yes, I know how painful they were. I see the scars they left behind, but they made you the person you are, and I LOVE that person! And, they brought you to me, and I will not even imagine my life without you.

Perhaps my son’s question wasn’t so odd, for him. He has often asked me a series of “Do you ever wish…?” questions about my life. Do you ever wish you were married? Do you ever wish you would have finished college? Do you ever wish I was… different? Which leads to a deep, if brief, spiritual discussion: “Then, I wouldn’t be me, you wouldn’t be you, and we wouldn’t be a family. And, you know this, but I’ll keep telling you: apart from Jesus’ finished work on the cross, you are the best thing that has ever happened to me!”

You, like me, may have had some considerable disasters in your life. Failed relationships, career setbacks, chronic illnesses or sudden, tragic losses.  Some may be your own decisions, some were completely out of your control, and you came away from the destruction looking, feeling and acting NOTHING like you did before. Allow me to ask you: Which YOU do you like better? I have asked and answered that question at several times in my life. I didn’t enjoy the process, but those disasters have made me who I am, and I wouldn’t go back to the person I was before. Do I want to stay this way? Heck no! There’s always room for more growth, more healing, and good company along the way.

~Love is Risk, and there is growth in the blast zone!

 

 

Growth Happens

Parents, have you had those feelings of foreboding, when your child spent the previous month eating everything in your house, and mooching food everywhere you went, as if you hadn’t fed them in a week? Then spent the current month, sleeping twelve hours at a stretch, napping at inopportune and embarrassing (for you) times and they were so hard to get out of bed in the morning you thought you were going to have to hire a marching band to parade through their room each morning at 6:30? You know what’s coming don’t you? When they come out of their room with their arms full of clothes, pretty much ALL of their clothes. What’s this? Hey! Come back here! What’s going on? “They don’t fit.” What do you mean they don’t fit? All of them?! “What part of, ‘they don’t fit’ don’t you understand! Yes, all of them. Oh, and, I’m gonna need new clothes.” Or, when a person of adult stature, looking oddly like your child, is standing just out of your field of vision and you turn your head in horror only to discover: IT IS YOUR CHILD!!!  AGGHH!

Growth happens. And it’s a good thing! It means we are nurturing our children and their bodies are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. The problem is, the visible, measurable, physical growth doesn’t always come with the emotional growth and maturity attached to it. That size 12 shoe on a 12 year old isn’t necessarily accompanied by a new level of reasoning or self-awareness. It’s just big feet and expensive shoes.

But then, sometimes, that other kind of growth happens. It’s so much more subtle. You might miss it if you’re not paying attention. I have been trying really hard to pay attention.

This recent growth spurt started the day he walked past me on the way to the bathroom and said oh-so-casually, “I’m going to take a shower.” Just like that. No reminding, nagging or ultimatums. Just, I’m going to take a shower – and he did. Then, he asked me to remind him to brush his teeth, and a few weeks later (while brushing his teeth) told me I suck at reminding him to brush his teeth. Then, he began walking out of his room with dirty dishes, and bringing them to the kitchen! Then, there was the time when he did a load of laundry before he ran out of clean clothes because there was a certain shirt he wanted to wear the next day. And, you’re going to want to read this: last night, he said these words at the age of 13, “Mom, grab the trash from the kitchen and hand it to me and I’ll get the can out to the street.” (I had completely forgotten it was trash night!) Yesterday, we opened a bank account for him because he’s been working and earning money… but not spending it.

Most importantly is that he is able to own up to his mistakes, sincerely apologize and move forward quickly in a positive way. Maybe you should read that last sentence again. I did. It’s truly inspirational. Not because I wrote it, but because it’s an area we all probably need growth in, am I right? I do. Or, how about this one: to have a solidly formed opinion about a current trend or event that is completely opposite to what all of his closest friends and peers are thinking and saying. Was I capable of that at age 13? I doubt it. Are most adults capable of that in our culture right now? I doubt it.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re still slogging through the yuck of adolescence one day, sometimes one hour, at a time. Sometimes I feel like we haven’t made any progress at all. Last night we had a good yell over bed time. Yep. That’s been going on since he was three. A decade of bedtime battles. Still doing it. I’m pretty sure I’ll be calling him at 11:30 when he’s 30 and telling him to go to bed. (Wait, my mother still does that to me….) But along with the pencil marks on my bedroom door frame, we are inching forward, sometimes leaping forward. I can see it if I pay attention. Growth happens.

 

~ Love Is Risk

 

 

Learning How to Rest

I have recently had a lot of free time. I mean ‘recently’ as in, within the last month, all of a sudden, unexpectedly. I lost my job. It was earth-shattering. It was devastating. It was terrifying. It was… a blessing? I am trying to view it as such; and learning how to REST.

I have worked full time nearly my entire adult life, and been single for most of that time. And since I adopted my son as the only parent, I am the only provider for our family. So, certainly, for the past decade, changing my tax filing status from ‘single’ to ‘head of household’ has certainly kicked my already responsible nature into hyper-drive. Toss a mortgage and a few animals to feed into that mix and let’s just say I take WORK very seriously. Which may be why I’ve stayed in jobs that made me miserable at times, why I’ve worked for less pay than I could have made elsewhere, put up with a lot of pettiness, and even taken abuse from employers and co-workers. A job is a job is a job. And what I really wanted to do was to focus on my child and raise him the best I could, come home to my tiny house and be content with our modest lifestyle, and make a difference in my community and in the world, as God provided opportunities.

Don’t get me wrong; I have always found satisfaction in my toil! Learning, growing, challenges, PEOPLE, always people, both co-workers and the public that gave me the confirmation that I could be used by God in any and every vocation as long as I was willing. My life, my home, my time, my money was shared freely. And then….

Then came a time when grief, world-weariness and finally, sheer exhaustion began to set in. I lost my father, saw my mother transitioned out of our family home, went through four job changes in one year, was dealing with my son’s challenges on my own, and I hadn’t had a real vacation in, well, I can’t count how many years. I was living on five or six hours of sleep a night, eating way too much fast food, and some days never saw daylight. I was doing it! I was SO doing it! I was doing what I had to do to be a responsible adult, a dependable employee, and the best parent I could be, but, for the first time in my life I began to ask myself, “How long can I keep this up? Is this life I’m living sustainable? How long before something gives and I start falling apart?”

Funny how God often answers those difficult, rhetorical questions in an unexpected way, isn’t it? Thunder clap! After the first panic stricken week of phone calls, doctors appointments (before medical insurance runs out), filing for benefits, re-working the budget, applying for twenty jobs and feeling like my whole life had been destroyed in one heartless blow, I realized, suddenly, I’ve got all the time in the world to rest. But, it’s not that easy.

I have to LEARN to rest. I have to re-train my body that it’s OK to go back to sleep after five hours and sleep two more hours. I need to make myself read something other than click-bait, something with paper pages, and even for an hour at a time! I need to have conversations with God in which I’m not the only one talking. That requires listening, and listening requires silence. (That’s a hard one.) I have to not only read, but meditate on God’s Word. Sometimes that requires a nap. Naps are good. Very good. Especially when the kitten wants to nap with me. I have found, in order to rest, I have to make a daily effort to forgive those who have wronged me. Sometimes more than once a day. Not only is that a burden I don’t want to carry around with me, God commands me to forgive – and He’s really, really serious about it. I need to rest in being home alone and not be ashamed that I am ‘that’ pet owner who has too many conversations with her animals and takes her dog on two walks a day; once because a friend came over and a second time because he ‘asked me so sweetly’.

I have learned that sometimes resting is working hard and getting dirty doing projects in my yard. Sometimes it’s making lists of things I’ve needed to do for years and now, finally, having the time to do them. That can be very restful. (And some days, choosing NOT to do them and go for a walk with a friend, instead.) Sometimes rest is having loved ones sitting around my table with me after having a whole afternoon to prepare a meal. (Oh, yeah! I forgot. I like to cook!) Rest is sitting on my back porch and watching the sun go down and listening to the day go to to sleep and the night come awake.

Most of all, rest has been learning new ways to love my son with acts of service; BECAUSE I CAN! What a joy! Cook your favorite food three days in a row? If you say so! Drive you across town to buy that video game you’ve wanted forever? Let’s go, now! Your friends want to come over for a fire in the fire pit? I’ve got marshmallows! You want me to watch that movie with you? I’ve got time right now. You’re tired and cranky and you want me to toss food into your room and shut the door? OK, I can do that. BUT I’M RIGHT OUT HERE IF YOU NEED ME!!!

There’s still about a hundred times a day that I am overcome with worry; how am I going to support my family? How am I going to pay the bills? Am I EVER going to get a job?! And my tendency is to feverishly take all that responsibility on myself. If I just apply for more jobs. If I just cut back our budget even more. If I just…. learn how to rest. God made it happen. He must think I need it. I better enjoy it while I can.

Oh, and, as it turns out, plenty of sleep, lots of fresh air and sunshine, a little exercise, Mom’s home cooked meals, and absolutely no fast food – does a body good! We have never been so healthy! Go figure.

~ Love is Risk, and life is hard work. Learn to rest while you can.

Celebrating Less than Perfect

Spring is the season of celebrating children in the United States. Graduations, sports trophies, scholarships, achievement awards, recitals, concerts. Schedules are packed with events; our kids, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, our friends’ kids, if we’re blessed enough to have friends like that. Social media is plastered with photos and proclamations of all those outstanding accomplishments; parents sharing their love and pride for their children, as well they should. Excellent grades, excellent performances,  excellent achievements – they are all worth celebrating and sharing. As your family member or friend, I am celebrating with you. And learning to celebrate… less than perfect.

I’d like to post a tribute to all of the children who didn’t quite achieve excellence this year, at least in any quantifiable, measurable, social media-worthy way. In fact, maybe they labored, struggled, barely made it, or even failed. Maybe for each step forward it felt like they took a step back. Or, they had to work twice as hard just to reach milestones that their peers have passed by months ago.  Maybe you struggled together toward goals that turned out to be unreachable, or maybe you felt like your child fought you every step of the way as you used every resource you had to try to help them. Or, maybe they are simply normal, non-attention seeking, happy to fly under the radar kind of personalities living in the shadow of larger than life siblings or friends. Do you love them just as much as those over-achievers? Of course you do! In fact, I’ll bet you have a special soft-spot in your heart and a fierce protective instinct when it comes to them, because you know they struggle, you know they don’t receive all the affirmations and accolades that those other kids do. Their hard-won accomplishments go largely unnoticed; no F’s on this term’s report card! or, you made it through the school year without getting suspended! or, you made a friend, a real friend! or, you are managing yourself and your stuff more responsibly every day! or, you are a kind and decent person and the world needs more of those!

Every parent has a fantasy about their child becoming someone amazing, someone incredible, someone larger than life. It is our greatest desire that our children would surpass us, in every way possible, isn’t it? Because we love them and we want… more for them. But often we are faced with the reality of a child with limitations and challenges – whether they are mental, physical, emotional or psychological, they are facing the world as damaged and flawed human beings no matter how hard we have tried to give them every help, encouragement and advantage that we can. Here’s a news flash for you: SO ARE WE! We, too, are all damaged and flawed, and doing the best we can. Some of us make it look better than others, but we all have our issues. It’s how we cope with our issues, how we deal with our challenges and how we reach out to others who are damaged and flawed that makes a difference in our world.

The end of this school year for us did not come with any awards; not for academics or sports or achievement of any measurable kind. But we made it. Together. And we’re still talking to each other. And, on the rare occasion, at 13 years of age, when we have a serious conversation about politics or social injustice or a life-altering event I am astonished with his depth of thought, his maturity and his kind-heartedness! There is no grade, no certificate, no trophy. Just me, knowing that he really is that beautiful person I have always believed him to be.

Feel free to join me in celebrating less than perfect! Plaster the social media venue of your choice with photos and narratives of those precious, unique and wonderful people who teach us every day: how to survive, how to persevere, how to overcome, and how to make the world a better place.

 

~Love is Risk, and they are worth it!