Friday, November 16, 2012

A Seat at the Table

It's pretty much an unspoken understanding that around the holidays, a few things happen; the sentimental edge of people comes out, there's a desire to give lavishly to the ones we love, we may attend a church service, send Christmas cards and both consciously and unconsciously remember those that are no longer here to celebrate the holidays with us.

For some, the holidays are now just another reminder that someone won't be at the dinner table. For others, it might be the time when new traditions are grafted in to celebrate and remember the life of their loved one.  To some, there will be a bunch of 'firsts'.  Their 'first' birthday without them, the 'first' Thanksgiving without them.  The 'first' snow fall without them.  And perhaps the hardest of them all, the 'first' Christmas without them.  The meaning of Christmas might even temporarily change altogether.  Instead of celebrating the birth of the Savior of the world, it's now just a reminder that there's an empty place in your heart and an extra seat at dinnertime.

As we head into this holiday season, I can only hope we don't make a B-line through them to February just to numb our real emotions and barely 'survive' Christmas.  Would we then be doing our lost loved ones a disservice by stunting our lives and stopping our regular traditions in their absence?  I think yes.  I also think we tend to forget that life never really ends, only life on earth does.  And even though there's now that empty seat in your kitchen at the table, they've only gone to sit at the table with the King.

An empty seat was filled in Heaven even though one remains empty at our table.  I'm not naive to the reality of my grief.  It still sucks.  Really bad.  It still hurts.  Super hard.  I miss her here.  And Christmas will vastly approach, I just hope it won't vastly roar through.  I want to feel Christmas this year.  I want to remember the hope that it brings.  And I'll endeavor to never forget the reason we celebrate Christmas at all; because of His great love for us, He emptied a seat at His table.      

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Suitable Sacrifice?

There are a few non-negotiables I've come to realize; 1.) I'm very human  2.) I'm very needy  3.) I'm severely imperfect  4.) I'm not satisfied with where I am.

Given those few 4 things, I then begin to wonder, " I a suitable sacrifice for You?"
That implies one very key conclusion (and problem, I might add). It implies I'm not good enough for God to use, when, in all actuality, He doesn't even need to use me.  But He chooses to.  Not because someone is twisting His arm until He says "uncle!" and finally gives in.  But because there's a depth to Him like no other human could ever obtain.  Though, we do strive for it.  It's unattainable.  Why?  There are just some things that God can only be and we can never be.  Because then we would be God.  And we don't need little Gods running around. 

That depth to Him that we could never obtain, but only have a glimpse of, is the very bottom of His heart.  I'm convinced God has feelings.  And I'm also convinced those feelings are the deepest for people.  Why?  I think He longs so much for His people to know the truth that can make them free.  Why?  What good Dad wouldn't want that for His kids?  In the inner most depth of His heart is a love that cannot ever be described in words.  I think it could only ever be felt.  I could try to describe it, candy coat it, flower it up, assign fancy, well-thought out words to it that even I would need to google.  But then you get so far from the nucleus of His heart that it becomes watered down. 

At the very deepest depth of His heart, is me. Is you. My neighbors.  Your neighbors.  Your lesbian cousin.  Your homeless, estranged uncle.  Our president.  Us.  At the very deepest depth of His us.  And you can't tell me there is anyone alive or once alive that has a heart that even has a centimeter of similarity. 

So I go back to my 4 non-negotiables. And I ask myself, "Self, is God big enough to handle those things I just won't budge on?"  The Sunday school answer is yes!  Since I'm clearly too old for Sunday school, my answer is..."well, ummm, I'm not really sure..."  Which strips down the very last layer of my defenses to my own messed up heart which has believed this lie for so long; "Is God enough? Because if He's not, then I have to do something."  And when we get right down to it, the only person that could ever answer this question is me. And let's be honest, self, if I have to ask that question to myself and I have even a moments hesitation, I've already decided that I have to be the hero.  I have to save myself from the burning building. 

Now when I ask, "God am I a suitable sacrifice?"  I gotta believe that I wasn't ever His intended sacrifice to begin with!  Jesus was.  And He was the suitable sacrifice.  Without stain, blemish, spot or sin.  He was the chosen, suitable sacrifice from before God commanded light to flood every corner of the earth.  And without that Suitable Sacrifice allowed to have a spot in my life, my ENTIRE life, I'd be the one sitting here taking all the credit for what has always been His.  He's everything.  The Hero.  The Sacrifice.  The Beginning. The Middle. The End. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Handle on God. Wait...What?

Normally, I'm not one to entertain the vain art of nostalgia. But for some reason, I've found myself doing just that. On the eve of my 26th birthday, im reflecting (is that still being nostalgic?) Reflecting on a year I'm really looking forward to forgetting.

It wasn't a complete waste. And when i say that it wasn't a complete waste, i wasn't a waste really at all.  It's just one that i spent most days wishing i had the power to fast forward thru.  There was awkwardness, growing pains, vulnerability, stretching, healing, death, dying, pain that was unburied, desires painfully realized and a God that was ever faithful.

But that doesn't mean i relished in the reasons why He was faithful.  His faithfulness usually resulted in a deeper level of untouched pain. But with His one touch, an ocean of pain erupted and then His healing came.  I have much to be thankful for, and i am.  Because life's been not the most pleasant this past year, I know He's been faithful in digging out the crap.  He didn't have to...but He did. And I'm left scratching my head and dumbfounded, wondering why He loves me??  I wonder why he keeps catching every tear i cry.  I wonder why He relentlessly pursues me even when, on my best days, i barely want Him to.
but why?

Because it's scary.  Sometimes, I'm scared of what He has gift-wrapped for me. And one day, He'll hand the wrapped gifts to me and say, "Have at it!"  And He'll be so excited to watch me open the gifts He has given me.  But for now, i just stare at them, collecting dust because im too afraid to see what's wrapped inside. 

But what ive seemed to allow myself to do every single time that fear begins to paralyze my sense of childlike wonder and excitement, is forget that it started with Him anyway.  This was all HIS IDEA! None of it was ever mine!!! The things my heart longs for and, admittedly, even aches for, i didn't cook those things up. I didn't mold those, or fashion those into existance...HE DID!!!

This was never supposed to be about me. But somehow, I've begun to think i have somewhat of a handle on God...WHAT????? me...handling God.

So my nostalgia basically just circles around the same idea, the same thought.  God has been faithful. And not always was it something that i looked forward to. Why? Because it often yielded some pretty hard issues. Mainly that i controlled everything.  I was limiting His faithfulness. I had an image of what His faithfulness looked like in every situation. And mostly because it revealed, at another level deeper every time, that i wasnt EVER supposed to do this thing on my own. 

And so, here i am, envisioning a small child quickly scanning the last page in a long novel, one that has sequel after sequel.  Getting ready to slam shut the cover and excitedly move on to the next.  wondering what the next one will entail. 

oh...spoiler alert. im the kid reading the book. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More Than I Can Handle...On Purpose

Yesterday I saw someone respond to a fb post about a current struggle a family is walking thru. I only know that this person recently lost their mother to pancreatic cancer. However, judging by the content of the post, it would allude to the idea there may be more added to that recently. 

The post was one that questioned God. Not uncommon in the least after experiencing the death of a loved one. Especially a parent. I've had many days that I question Him. And I think that's a healthy routine. If you never questioned God, I feel as though you might remain drinking the milk instead of digesting the meat of His truth. 

Questioning is not the same as doubting. When you question, you incur or wonder. When you doubt, you make a statement. A definitive decision to say, "God, I don't believe You."  And I've only recently discovered, in my questioning, that He ANSWERS me. I think He likes when we question Him. It's an opportunity for Him to pour out of Himself and into our lives. When we question, we are seeking. When we doubt, we are sinning. 

The response I was troubled by was an all-too common phrase I picked up myself along the way. "God doesn't give you more than you can handle." That used to sit well with me when I gave that one-liner out to people. It made me feel like I had the answer. However, when I was on the receiving end of that statement, I was superbly irritated. I'd think, "are you nuts!?! How can any human possibly handle the death of someone they loved??!? How??"

Heres the answer; they cannot. I can't, with clear conviction, say that God created us to handle...ANYTHING! We would have absolutely no use for Him. 
He would be reduced to a taxi cab, hailed by a desperate businessman in a suit late for a meeting.  Caught in a severe downpour. With only a newspaper covering his head. 

God...beckoned only when we're caught in a torrential downpour. 

If we humans could handle anything, it might be spreading peanut butter and jelly over a piece of bread. 

But certainly, we could not handle coming to terms with the realization that a loved one has died. If it were true that God doesn't give us more than we could handle, Jesus would've crawled off the cross on which He was crucified. Saving Himself from death. Even Jesus, while being fully God, was also fully man. Fully human. Like we are. Jesus relied on His Father for EVERYTHING! 
Jesus even talked to His Father about not dying the shameful death that He did! JESUS did!!!! Why? Because God gave Him more than He could handle. No human, under their own strength, could endure what Jesus did. 
Jesus didn't handle death. God handled it. Jesus, being fully human, had the choice to say, "Father, I choose not to do this." and He had that freedom. Just like we do. But Jesus chose to endure more than He could handle bc He knew Who was going to handle it for Him. His choice, no doubt, didn't come without pain. But He saw the bigger picture. 

Even Jesus needed a hero. It was His Father. Whom is also our Father. 

If we could handle pain, disappointment, depression, death...Jesus's death was in vain. We would be our own God, therefore negating a reason to have Him in the first place.

We need Him because we CANNOT handle everything that comes our way. We just can't! Saying that God doesn't give us more than we can handle dumbs Him down & implies that we are the ones that make it thru every last tragedy with great triumph. 

And that is absolutely untrue. Life isn't easy. It isn't fair. People die and we wonder how we're ever supposed to make it thru. How do we 'handle' that? We don't. Death never gets handled. It remains a milestone on a timeline. A permanent dent in your heart. A memory of a life once lived.  But it's also an opportunity to allow God to heal the void. And after He's handled it, His fingerprints will remain. 

I would confidently say, after much of my own experimenting, that the way God handles things is FAR better than the way I handle things. Oh my goodness! If I actually believed I could handle something without Him, I've completely extinguished one of the greatest characteristics of God; His faithfulness. Even in my unfaithfulness, HE REMAINS FAITHFUL!! Because that's who He is. 

There's no verse in the Bible that says God does nFot give us more than we can handle. It's a verse emphatically misquoted;
1 Corinthians 10:13; No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV)

I found the following description the best way to put into words my own personal thoughts; 

"When Paul writes that God will not tempt us beyond our ability, he means that we are never in a situation where we have no other choice but to sin. In a situation where telling the truth will damage your reputation, for example, it’s much easier to give in to the temptation to protect how people see you and lie, rather than do the right thing, which is tell the truth. That’s why there’s no such thing as a “white lie”—one that you tell to protect the feelings of someone else. We never lie to make someone else feel better, only to avoid discomfort ourselves. It’s just easier to lie and not deal with the consequences of telling the truth."

God continually (and does continue) gave biblical characters more than they could handle. Jeremiah was plotted against and beaten. Even his own family questioned what he was doing. And the apostle Paul...perhaps the greatest example of one that was always given more than he could handle. Why? So that he would become and remain absolutely dependent on God. He boasts about his weaknesses so that the faithfulness of God was ALWAYS exalted above his own ability to handle things on his own. 

Our dependency results in His faithfulness. He wins every time.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Resisting A Rest

see what i did there?

it's been 2 months to the day since my last post.  i spent a greater portion of 3 months sharing heart-heavy details about the news of my dying grandma.  She's since passed. it's been the most grueling past 6 months of my life.  i dare say there is a pain so great as experiencing loss.  and now i've discovered the mate to this pain; it's struggling to come into the rest of God.  how does one 'strive' to 'gain' the rest of God? Striving and gaining are action words. you have to DO something.  You can't TRY and rest.  i think it just happens.  as you continue, please allow me the luxury of sharing my struggle.  as hard-headed as it sounds (and really is). 

I've been walking in a sesason of unrest. I've been battling, struggling, fighting, rebelling, wandering.  When i think of 'rest' what is the first thing i think of?  I first think, why. why can't i rest?  this is why.  I've never really entered into a season of rest. to me, it speaks of laziness. landing in a season of rest scares me because i have no idea of what it would look like.  And if I'm resting...nothing is going to get done! But when i peel back the final layer of my heart, i find why i really cannot rest.  It's because in my heart, i've decided God is not enough.  God can't do it, so I have to.  This is rebellion.  When you're in rebellion, there cannot ever be rest.  it's constant toiling.  and fighting.

Am I tired of fighting? Am I tired of being tired?  I'm way past tired. Exhausted. Weary. Am I tired of fighting? My physical body literally reflects the current state of my spiritual battle.  I cannot sleep, i cannot rest.  I cannot rest in Him becuase I do not trust Him.

I'm nearing the end of the battle though.  Coming to the close of the fight.  I've gone 11 rounds...and i'm certain i've lost every single one of them. And come hell or high water, i'll go the 12th and final round knowing it'll wipe me out, completely wreck me, absolutely overwhelm my defenses. Finally take me out. Indelibly incapacitate me and all my feelble attempts to fight God...and win????

In the end, He'll win my hard-fought surrender.  Because of my stubborness and my 'you know what's' to even have the audacity to set foot in a ring against the Almighty, Ive raised my sleeves, wiped the sweat from my brow, shrugged off my rebellion and backhanded my tears and said, "I'm gonna go one more round, God." And He's faithful even in the fight.  because He fights back with His relentless love for me. Kiling me with His lovingkindness, strong-arming my rebellion with His ever-abundant, constantly flowing grace. 
Which is free...but I think I need to earn it.

My angst, my unrest, my fight and my rebellion are my weapons.  But God's weapon of love and grace and peace will always pin my disgusting efforts to control my own life. I've not surrendered....but God will soon get His glory in my surrender. I can't even surrender without Him! I'm fighting the rest He has for me. I'm arguing His strength isn't as great as mine. I'm placing myself on the cross.  I never would've come back from the dead on the cross of Christ.  Because it's not my cross and I'm not the Savior.

Round 12 will be a battle.  It'll be hard-fought, with 2 wills charging one another and only one winner will emerge.  I'm foolish to even enter the last round, but as the bell is rung to signify the start of an inevitable knockout, God already has the victory.  In the end, i'll collapse into His arms. I'll ask for mercy and His grace to begin to heal the self-inflicted wounds.  And He'll do it. I know He will.  But i'll still fight Him.  Until the end. 

Until, finally, my rebellion is kissed away with forgiveness and I am left a dependent.  Severely wounded by my own hands of rebellion and distrust.  Silenced by the peace of His presence. Healed by the scars on His hands.  And finally and fully, surrendered into the rest of God.

Fighting doesn't come without a cost. And these are the steps that will ensue when God delivers the final punch;

 (my)  Surrender     requires  Repentance
 (my)  Repentance  brings     Forgiveness
 (His)  Forgiveness  fosters   Healing
 (His)  Healing         restores Trust

...and Trust is Rest.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Most days. Some days

im hoping for one thing at the moment.  that my 'most days' will balance out to be my 'some days' and that my 'some days' will balance out to my 'most days'

I'm hoping that 'most days' I won't be sad. Only some days. But right now, most days, I trudge through.  It starts at about 4 in the morning.  When 'most days' the only reason i make myself get up is because the things i have to do aren't really for me.  my to-do list is made up by my committments.  not necessarily my willingness to check off the tasks on that list.  I make myself get up because someone else is counting on me. 

I'm not sure when i've last counted on myself to do something.  Most days, i can't even count on myself to even have enough care to find something to eat. Everything tastes the same.  It tastes like nothing. 

Some days, i like being around other people. But most days, i'd rather just sit at home. alone. with no noise. no tv. no music. no people.  And in those times, God's nagging at me. Most days, I want to hear Him, but some days, I just don't care.  Some days i think, "my prayers don't scratch the lining of the clouds."  And some days, I think all of Heaven booms within me when i talk to Him about something.  which is prayer. 

Most days, i manufacture a superficial strength to make it through the day.  most days, i'm counting on me anything.  And only some days do i remember that i depend on God for very breath i breathe.

It's scary to depend on someone else when you're not completely sure they'll come through for you.  it's scary to trust someone else with your life when you've only really ever trusted yourself with your life.  it's scary to be dependent when you shake your fists of independancy.  Most days, i'm afraid. And some days, i'm a little less afraid.   (which means every single day, i live with fear.) 

To trust God with my whole heart, which is broken. 
To not lean on my own understanding, which is all i've ever known.

There's one thing I know in this moment.  That i can be sure of.  That i can count on.  We are all the same in at least one sense.  We all have done at least one thing the same. And when our lives are over, we'll have done 2 things the same.  We've all breathed a first breath. And we'll all breathe a last one.  In between those breaths, we choose.  Some days we hold our breath, hoping.  And other days, we let out a sigh of breath when hope is just too much. I wonder how many breaths of air i've taken relying on God.  Not as many as i've taken relying on me. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Reel of Film: The Things I See

The flashbacks remind me of the quiet clicking that sounds while watching a stream of black and white pictures.  Playing across a reel of film. Snapshots of silent home movies and memories.

I'm flashing back. Standing in the kitchen as they loaded up my grama onto a stretcher. Into an ambulance that beckoned.  That summoned her with its rear doors. They closed loudly. The sound of the diesel rig sitting at the end of OUR driveway.  Not someone eles's.  Not on some TV show.  The rear doors closed in like arms of death.  Standing in the kitchen as the driver explained to the nurse. Ignorantly...rudely, cold...the coming, imminent fate of my grama. 

"The family does know...that with stage 4 stomach cancer, the bleeding and throwing up blood...that's only going to get worse, they know that don't they?"

Many 4-letter words flew threw my mind and none of them were L-O-V-E.  I'll censor it: "Yea, jerk face...we KNOW it's going to get worse. It's gotten worse for the last 3 months. We KNOW. Stupid."

It only got worse for 3 days after that. was over.  As shockingly as it came shockingly ended.  It plays over and over.  Differnet parts highlighted.  Different emotions enlightened. 

I'm venturing deep into the pain that i feel.  It's...searing.  My heart hurts.  My tears fill up and spill over my eyes. That are puffy.  And i fashback.

And then the reel ends. And the ligts come on. And im standing in a puddle of raw emotions.  And an altar of grief.  Built pebble upon stone upon cinder block upon boulder. 

Her bedroom.  The breeding grounds of suffering. The door jamb is where dignity was stripped. Bare.  Her clothes...still folded neatly. In my dresser drawers.  Her books.  Still neatly stacked on my bedside table. Her favorite zippy hoody. Draped over my chair.  My soul-wrenching grief...draped over her bedroom. Like a clean white table cloth fits a round table. 

The smell of dead and dying flowers...layering our kitchen. 

Flash. Back. Flash. Back. Flash. Back. End.

For how weak she was...she climbed over the bed rails to reach the stretcher.  Desperate to get out. 

As I sat here with head in hands.  Feeling the impact of great sadness drape over me, I asked God to speak to me like no other person can. Something real. Not reel.   Something that would begin to heal. 
And in a world of a million voices, His is the only one thst really matters.  He answered, in His faithfulness.

"The way you gave...IS the way I give."
and that was that.

Then i recalled this Scripture:  "No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends."
John 15:13 (Amplified version)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Pawn in the Checkmate of Grief

I wrote a post the week after our family learned of my grandma's inoperable cancer. Now, I write a post a week after her journey onward and upward. It's like the calm before and after a storm. I know I'm just heading into the storm of the journey of grief but there are still some emotions that surface. I dip in and out of shock, denial, utter sadness. The last few days, I've experienced all 3 back to back to back for the entire day. When I began this blog, I decided I'd tell the truth. Be honest and vulnerable. And maybe in return, the ones that read would be encouraged. Have a road map to some of the things they themselves walk thru or encounter or struggle with. A lot of what I share is raw and tender. I'll use this opportunity to say, please don't take offense to what I share. It's part of my journey. And you're just reading about it. It's therapeutic for me to write. And you're my lab rats.

I think a lot of people struggle with how to walk out grief. It's so complex. And merely agreeing that death is a part of life isn't the ticket that'll all of a sudden free you from all the emotions that pack a mean punch while experiencing the death of someone that's close to you. It's life changing. I sincerely hope that the truth and rawness of my posts don't get lost in the taboo of death and talking about what you actually experience. I think a lot of times, people struggle with putting to words what they are feeling. And if one could just put into words exactly how you're feeling, then MAYBE someone could really understand what you're going thru. This is impossible. Nobody else is you. Nobody will ever feel like you do. Nobody will ever FULLY understand what you're feeling. Except. There is Jesus. Sometimes He's the only one who really knows how you feel.

This is what I'm able to feel; Sometimes I stare off into nothing. When normally my eyes would dry out and I'd rub them back to health, now I just continue to stare. At nothing. At everything. My eyes stay moistened and fixed on the nothing or the everything. I feel like a walking zombie. I feel the motions of everyday living but barely. Like a robot. Walking thru a tunnel and all I can hear are my own footsteps though busyness surrounds me. I'm just another pawn in the checkmate of grief. People move about me. Talk at me. Say how sorry they are to me.

But i really don't give a damn. 'Sorry' implies I was wronged. 'Sorry' means something happened that shouldn't have. You're 'sorry' when you hurt someone's feelings. You're 'sorry' when you step on someone's toe.  Telling me how deeply sorry you are for me isnt supposed to be a great segue into your own grief you experienced 10 years ago. I dont really care. Saying you're sorry means you're owning some kind of guilt. I'd rather be left alone to stare at nothing. At anything. Not some weak apology about a death that isn't anyone's fault. Is it someone's fault?
Numb. Restless. Doubtful. Worried. Mad. Furious. Confused. Afraid. Sad. Anxious. Tired. 

Wait...she's not seriously gone.
Grama...she can't really be dead. 
The cancer. It outlived her. It fought her as she fought it.  People die everyday. Funerals everyday. Tears shed. Hearts break. Anger ensues. And life goes on. And more people die.

Unjustly. Early. Brutally. Tragically. Slowly. Painfully. On time. Out of time.  Do I have a right to my grief? Do I really wanna own something like grief?  Heck no. I don't want people's apologies. It doesnt mean a thing.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Empty Earth, Heavenly Home: one for my grams

A blog post for my gram. I'm sharing now the end of the suffering my gram went thru here on earth. She passed early this morning around 1am. She wasn't alone. My dad kept her company. And when she knew it was only him and her, she went, as my mom and I and handfuls of others raced to see her.

My shock and pain are non-writable. My tears dried up in the wells of great sadness. The weight of death crushes my bones and makes my heart weary. I cling to this promise from Jesus, "to be absent from the body means to be at home with the Lord". A little under a week ago, I wrote what I was feeling as the morning sun shone thru the slat blinds at work. The truth of it brings little comfort in this great loss. But I'll take it.

Empty Earth, Heavenly Home

The sun shines from heaven And now so do you.
Most would agree you left too soon and say, "this wasn't supposed to be your date."
I think maybe, God just couldn't wait. 
The rays fill a room and warm my face. Reminding me that earth is only a temporary space. 
I'm not happy you're gone, but I'm happy you're safe, 
In arms that extend as far east as they do west. 
They're strong enough to embrace you with a dance, or comfort you with rest. 
The earth, now, will feel a little more empty, 
But I'm glad your new home is heavenly.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cancer--0. God--Won

Sometimes, i find myself retreating from my current situation. falling a little further back into my thoughts, tapping into what im actually feeling, thinking, sensing.  And sometimes, (if i'm honest, which i vowed these posts would never shy away from) i get angry. angry that as i play on facebook, update a tweet, snap an Instagram, laugh at a movie on tv, tie up my running shoes, my grandma lies on our couch, frail, asleep, stricken heavily with cancer.  sometimes, i feel guilty when i bite into a crunchy salad, cut into a piece of chicken, dunk a fry into ketchup. because my grandma sits shaking on the couch with the little strength she has trying to hold up a small bowl of melted ice cream.  i feel ashamed when i spend half my morning knit picking at the image staring back at me in the mirror.  when my grandma can't even lift her head high enough to look in the mirror.  when her wardrobe has become her now-baggy pajama bottoms and some t-shirt with an umbrella stitched on the front that i would normally make fun of at the store.  (i still might do that...)

And sometimes...i can't help but be angry. and the harder part of i think as humans, when we get angry, we NEED to blame someone or some thing. "I'm mad because_______."  Because i was wronged some how so i need to blame, point my finger and say, "It's YOUR fault."  As silly as this sounds, i found someone to blame today. And he is related, but i've never met him and neither have you. I've never even seen a picture of him. He's related to you, too. His name's Adam. That stupid man that listened to his wife? He blamed Eve when God asked him.  "My wife made me do it" if you're wondering where that phrase originated from, it came from the Bible.

So i started i walked my grandma down the hall.  Given all the circumstances, it looks like no one's winning this battle.  She put her hands in my hands and i walked backward down our narrow hallway.  i stared at her hands in mine.  Hers; frail, bony, near-transparent, sickly, dependent. In mine: strong, freckled, tan, healthy, dependable.  Her trust was literally all in my hands. She would've fallen face first if her trust wasn't all in.  So i thought as we walked together, "God, it would seem in the natural, You're not winning this fight.  I feel like 'cancer' is laughing at me in the face saying, "look what i've done, and look what God's done."  Then i saw a scoreboard. Like in an ice arena, raised high and lit on every side so all areas of the crowd could see.  Cancer---0  God---Won.  And it didn't make sense to me. But then again, I'll never understand everything about God.  I'm a finite human and He's infinite.  with no measure, no boundaries, no limit, no restrictions.  God has already won.  Since the day we were born, we have been Heaven-bound.  In every second, every inch of our lives, He's been all about us.  He created us, He walks with us then He welcomes us home.  It's 'won and done' with Jesus. 

I'm realizing...I have no one to blame because there's literally no one to blame.  If the devil thinks he's won, he's terribly wrong.  The victory has already been won.  Jesus IS the victory.  Jesus is MY victory.  He's YOUR victory. whether you believe it or know it or not.  you can deny the Truth, but it doesn't mean it's no longer true, or even any LESS true. 

And when I'm taunted with the accusation, "Look what cancer has done, and look what God has done," from the enemy himself, i can know with all my heart what both has done and know that only One has the victory.  Cancer was just a temporary affliction. But Jesus is our everlasting Healer. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

a desert of praise

it would seem to me that a desert of praise is something that, horticulturally speaking, would not be able to exist.  the only praise you'd hear in a desert would come from a depleted, exhausted, dehydrated hiker when one had found water. doesn't it seem like sometimes, when you are looking and wanting something super bad, it seems the furthest away? One wouldn't set off on a voyage through the desert without water. 

A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants.

Doesn't sound very welcoming, or lively.  When i think of a desert, i think of my eyes squinting against an ever-present hot ball of sunshine.  a tumbleweed of dry, arid fog thickening the back of my throat.  sweat droplets sizzling my forehead and evaporating before i can wipe them away with the back of my hand. any hope of finding water dwindling with each step. 

sounds depressing. and unless you were a cactus in your former life, i'd say that description would sound rather depressing.  i finished watching a corny Christian-made movie right before i got up the angst to write this stinkin' thing.  and ya know what, i almost cried.  but it was still corny....
and true.  the movie was called Letters To God.  It was based on a true story about a young boy that is infected with cancer and eventually loses the battle here in the physical world.  But while he was alive, he wrote a letter a day to God, praying that all would come to know the real God.  a pretty lofty goal for a young boy...for anyone, really. the HUGE. but then again, i guess God is too

When the movie neared the ending, it didn't dwell on the fact that he died.  It didn't even show a funeral scene or gobs of tears and tissues.  and i was challenged during that entire movie.  why?  because this little boy had hope.  He never waivered in his faith and belief in God. in fact...he believed FOR others!!!! what kind of strength is that???  what kind of faith is that??? i don't get it. He knew he was going to die.  And his hope didn't lie in the things on the earth he was leaving behind, his hope was cemented in the realization that he was going to be with God. but as i sat up to get off my bed, the phrase that hit me and hit me hard was, "a desert of praise." 

So i stopped at the edge of my bed and sat there thinking..."what in the world does that even mean? it doesn't even make any sense!"  a desert of praise.  and then i began to see. God doesn't make sense the way He does things sometimes.  He says you're strongest when you're weak.  Give and He gives back more. lose your life to gain it. what?!?!!  and a slew of other things.  a desert of praise.  if a desert is a place where hardly any life is able to be lived, but praise is adoration for the one that created that desert, it sounds like a lonely place.  an arid, dry, lonely place full of adoration. 

I realized i am in a desert and i have the choice to praise or keep silent.  licking my dried, chapped lips, wringing out my sweat-filled shirt.  But the Bible says...God inhabits the PRAISES of His people.  So even when i'm in the desert, He inhabits a desert of praise.  And He is the living water.  Even when I'm alone, I'm never really alone. He never leaves us nor forsakes us.  When I don't understand why, He gives wisdom to those that ask.  When I'm afraid, I lift my eyes to the hills, my help comes from the Lord.  And when my heart breaks more every day, He is near to the broken-hearted. 

In my desert, i choose to praise.  when i close my eyes, i can see myself shouting praises into the thick nothingness of air. and He's there. and He's kind. and He's gentle. and He's perfect. and He's real. and He's honest. and He's faithful. and He's everything you need in your desert of praise.     

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Warm Chair

It's what I come to work to sit in. It's what I leave work giving the next person who replaces me. Sitting with people suffering. With those that are totally disconnected from the rest of the world. The guy I'm sitting with tonight is probably wondering what only I know the answer to. "How in the world is she staying awake in a dimly lit hospital room? Staring at the floor?" The answer, well there are a few. I actually got to sleep before work, coupled with a 5-hr Energy drink. That's how. But even then, that only gets me thru about half of my shift. After that, it's sheer willpower. But also, my mind is completely activated. As my eyes dart from the speck on the cold hard floor to the next, a new thought surfaces and a conversation ensues. With myself. Yes. I talk to myself. In my head. Maybe I should be the one strapped down to a bed with a steady drip of fluids draining into a vein.

I heard a preacher quote a man who has been walking with God for 45 years. And I am at the cusp of really understanding and knowing what he meant. He said, "I've known God thru the many blessings in my life. But the knowledge Ive learned from God in the blessing stage of my life in no way compares to what I've learned about Him in the breaking stages of my life." In other words, he's learned more about God and His infinite love while walking thru the stages of life that have caused him the deepest of hurts. If you've lived long enough, you've been broken. Likely, not in the same ways that others will. But nonetheless, it's gonna happen.

8 weeks. 2 months. 60 days. PANG! My heart beat with an unusual kind of rhythm. Then a gutteral hurt. Why? "oh yea," I remembered, "2 months since cancer gripped its ugly hands around my grandma's organs and around our family's heart. We get on with life and its obligations, its beckonings and responsibilities. Somehow, we do it. And sometimes, it PANGS! with anger. Frustration. Grief. Exhaustion. My car has become quite the sanctuary. I've spent hours in it driving, yes. But also staining the upholstery with my tears. Grabbing handfuls of tissue from my glove box. Feeling alone, but comforted at the same time by the warmth of my tears. it lets me know that i can still feel, even after weeks of not alowing myself such a luxury.
The man i'm sitting with  has been nursed back to health. I know this because the last time i was with him, he was too weak to even walk to the bathroom. And too out of his mind to realize that, surprisingly, i was not a super hero and therefore, did not have a superhero name. and he told me he'd had it up to here (pointing to the top of his forehead) with me telling him what to do as he plucked at his catheter. ripped off his heart monitor. and picked at his IV line in his chest. Patience is a virtue and i had just enough to get thru that night. Now, he's IV free, can eat and drink whatever he wants, talks coherently  and goes to the bathroom without assistance. He's been nursed back to health. People have cared for him and helped him with tasks that we do with ease every day.  He's getting beter. and as sucky as this next thought is, it's true. It's hard for me to come to work and sit with and care for people that don't want to live...however, defy death in the ICU and make a full recovery. They treat myself and the nurses with disdain dripping from their words and actions.  They're not grateful (at least not on the outside) for the care that's been given them. 

So i sit in my warm chair, thinking about how my family has nursed and cared for my grandma. Tirelessly. The nurses that pump her with fluids 3x a week, 2 hours each time just to keep her hydrated. But she'll not be nursed back to health. She won't be given the care that causes her to live again. because it doesn't exist this side of heaven.  And i know she wants to live. i know because she told my mom that she didn't want to leave her family.  And my heart breaks a little more each day. When reality checks in again just enough to catch me off guard, my tears are real again. I ate a bowl of soup in my car yesterday. In our driveway. I've never done that before. But my car has never been quite the sanctuary that it has been lately. I had my cry and my soup and i trudged through the rest of the day.

The stupidest things make me cry. last weekend, it was a potato chip. My mom bought a bag of chips from a health food store. when my grandma ate one and said, "yea! these are really good." I almost lost it. Why? Because it's normal. Eating a chip is normal. But not to her. Anything that crunches, she usually can't eat. even if it's a vegetable. But she ate a potato chip. and for that one moment, im sure she felt normal.
Yesterday when i went to get her from the doctor's office after her hydration appointment, i saw her gingerly walk up to the desk, pull out 2 one dollar bills and buy 2 candy bars. Maybe because she thought she'd be able to eat them. And i wanted to cry. like i am now. at work. and i didnt understand then why it made me sad. but now, i know.

Watching her buy those candy bars made me think of a little kid buying a candy bar. Small and barely able to see over the counter to hand the clerk the bills. with an innocence so pure, you couldn't help but cry. i've been thru a season of grief before and eve then, i remembered weird things that seem so totally random and im still not sure why i have them locked in a memory vault. I stood at the door, pissed off at the world that my Bible app wouldn't open up on my phone.  Then i looked up and saw her give me a half-hearted smile as she emerged from the back room. The full waiting room seemed distant, like a fog. Like when your ears are plugged underwater and everything sounds muffled. All i saw was her at the counter, innocently plucking $2 from her wallet and almost shamefully stick the 2 candy bars in her purse. And i knew she wouldn't be able to eat them. Just as much as im sure she knew it too. But honestly, i think she did it just to feel normal.
And it's hard to feel normal in an oncology waiting room.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

When the storm weathers you

Ya know that phrase, "the weight of the world"? I've often wondered how much weight that actually is. Certainly too much for any human to bear. Which is why we're not supposed to. Jesus bore that weight on the cross. When He willingly pursued the cross His entire life, he bore the weight of the world. And he did it for the joy set before him. He knew the weight of the world, the weight of our sin...and yet he, with joy, endured the cross. Endured. With joy. I'm not sure I've endured anything with joy. There's nights I endure staring at the ceiling with a splitting migraine headache. I've endured a 9 mile run. A painful knee injury. Kidney stones. None of those things Ive endured joyfully. I barely qualify for enduring. Just making it might be more accurate. Jesus didn't weather our storm either. He endured our storm. He didn't weather death. He defeated it. Well lately, the storm has weathered me. And my family. There are days when I feel like I'm near breaking point. When if I dared to walk another step in the swirling winds and blowing rain, i would crumble. When the debris of life smacks me in the face. And yea, even when the stupid vending machine eats my friggen dollar. On my break, I learned even the vending machine could best me. I only wanted some pretzels. For the dinner I skipped.For all the sleep I've missed. For all the things on my mind. A stupid bag of $.85 pretzels made me cry. On my break. But only a little. Choking back tears is the worst kind of choking. I swallowed hard and buried my face in my hands. The weight of the world forcing my face deeper into my hands. Even when I'm alone, I'm never really alone. But it doesn't mean I don't sometimes feel that way. Sitting in a corner chair by a window. Staring daggers thru that reflective glass vending machine. I spent most of my break in the bathroom. Cuz it's quiet. And no one would bug me. But that vending machine bugged me. I walked out of the bathroom, wiping my eyes and sniffling. I punched the down button on the elevator. And put on my game face. The one that's not real. The one that doesnt have heavy, tired eyes. Flushed cheeks. Tear stains. Weathered. The storm weathers me. But Jesus endured the cross. The ringing of the house phone is enought to pull me into a panic. I hold my breath while it rings. I wait to see if my dad starts walking towards the baseme t steps to tell me bad news. And when he doesnt, I breathe again. Lay my head back down and say to myself, "not today." I won't have to endure that pain today, I think to myself. So my mind wanders and I found myself thinking, silently praying, "Jesus, when the phone does ring and she is gone, please don't let it be when I'm alone. At work. Alone. Please don't let it be on a day when I'm alone." The storm is weathering me. But Jesus endured the cross. And Jesus defeated death. And Jesus lives in me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Running rapid

my thoughts run. My legs try to run. My emotions run. My patience. Rapid. Like the swift moving part of a river. The white foam of the over-churned exhausted water rises to the surface. White water rapids. Bubbling. Gaining strength and losing control at the same time. Like the man I'm sitting with at work tonight rapidly throws out fragments of sentences that make no sense. So I fragment my thoughts on a blog post. He's barking like a dog. Whistling. Talking about women. Tapping. Staring. Talking to no one. I've been pretty controlled. I've done pretty well keeping myself tightly contained. Sealed air tight. But I'm human. I can't keep it up for long. Today I snapped. At a cd. That wouldn't do what I wanted it to. It's supposed to play songs. It's supposed to do what it's made to do. But it wouldn't. And I snapped. Driving home from my grandmas. I wanted to listen to a song on my cd. And the stupid thing wouldn't play. After trying it at least half a dozen times. I pulled it from the cd player and chucked it at my floor. Like a frisbee. I'm not perfect. Surprise! And maybe I swore at the car that passed a slow-moving car in front of it. Yea. I did. I had to slam on my brakes bc the car that was passing the slow car was coming right at me. Extremely fast. I even messed up instant mashed potatoes!!!! I couldn't even get that right! Or boil a friggen bag of egg noodles! They were crunchy! What the hell is wrong with me!???! But I sure can stir the fizz out of a shot of Diet Vernors! My grandma is full after a tablespoon of instant mashed potatoes. A spoonful of apple sauce. And a shot of flat fizzed out diet Vernors. I'm not mad at God. Im not angry or bitter at Him. He didn't make my grandma get cancer. He didn't choose her name over someone else bc He likes her less. A year ago I might've believed that. So I'm glad it didn't happen then. My emotions are always showing up at the worst times. It's usually when I'm in public. Or driving somehwere. They are one more thing that I'm slowly losing control of. I suck at containing them lately. Since my emotions have feelings too, I'd say they are pretty pissed at me for not letting them feel. They should be pretty forgiving though after the way I let them run rapid today.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It comes in waves

This might not make much sense without having read the post before this one. But nevertheless, still just as true. It's been one week since my family and I received the devestating news about my grandma. I realize the word 'devestating' packs a mean punch, but it's true. My grandma was going to have a surgery that would get rid of her stomach cancer and after, would go on living a normal life. Except for changing her diet. That all changed when the cancer monster was found in her spleen and pancreas. Inoperable cancer. In a moment. It went from, 'you'll recover fine" to, "you only have 3 months left with your grandma (mom, sister, great grandma) needless to say, it's not what any of us had expected. We weren't prepared.

And now we will spend the next few months preparing. My grandma doesn't know about the time limit. And we know that is best. Less for her to worry about and more reason for her to really live the life she has left. The important thing is that we have time left. Like I expressed honestly in the previous post, that doesnt make it less hard to deal with. It doesn't mean the tears shed and stored up, waiting to be shed will be any less dense. They will fall heavily. Like the snow that packs inside a cloud, waiting to fall to the ground in puff white flakes, or wet, heavy, packing flakes. So the tears pile up behind heavy, tired eyes.

It comes in waves. The emotion. The realization. Like a memory once faded, foggy at first but then comes flooding back in every vivid detail. Yesterday was a good day for me. And when I say good, I only mean that I didn't cry. That's how I measure my days. Good if I dont cry Bad if I do. As I write that, it is true, that's how I feel. But I know that just because you allow yourself the privilege to feel, even if you feel awful, doesnt necessarily mean its a bad day. I'd say it'd be a successful day.

It comes in waves. The reality. The last week's events. I wasnt at the hospital. There was no need for all of us to be there for a surgery that would allow for a full recovery. I've heard my mom tell the story from her view. And sometimes I recall that. Other days I thank God I wasnt with my mom in the "bad news delivery room". But when it comes in waves, they crash heavily against the shore of my breaking heart. Ignorantly. Without reproach. Without warning. No siren of alarm to prepare. Just rudely crashing loud. Devestating. I recall little moments of my newborn grief.

Sitting at our bar in our kitchen listening to my mom share with my dad. She told him a story I will always remember. After the blow of the news, the doctor came in and was talking to those in the room. He asked, "How many grand kids does she have?" my mom answered 14...and 3 great grand kids. He replied, "She has been very blessed." I felt the subtle warning of warmth behind my eyes and the tears rolled down my cheeks. And perhaps the greatest amount of pain I felt was standing in our kitchen. Huddled over a store bought salad. My fork scraped mindlessly over croutons and dried lettuce. The words swirled around in my head. Then they thumped loudly in my ears. Then it came in a wave. I started to cry. Hard. Thick crocodile tears plummeted into my salad. And I wailed. My dad came over to rescue my salad from the flood and said, knowingly, "what's the matter?" Those words. The ones that came in waves, thundered from my mouth as I realized the hard truth of them. As if spitting them out in and through my tears would bring some sort of relief. "I don't want grandma to die, Dad!" Tsunami. Waves of wailing and tears spilled out onto my dad's grey t-shirt.

When your heart comes pouring forth with that kind of force, something happens. You actually feel clarity. You understand why you're sad. And the truth can't even help itself but to come flowing out. It came two-fold. First, my own pain in realizing my grandmas fate and secondly, realizing just how sad it makes me to see others walk thru pain and sadness. The next thing I said only served to make me cry harder. Unashamed. I said, "I don't want mom to be sad! She's gonna be so sad!" And when truth comes, so does healing. The tears were a start of healing. I know because my dad started to cry. A man of few words and fewer emotions and zero tears. He tried to hide it. But he sucks at it.

It comes in waves. And some days are harder than others. I know today is a wave day. I know because I write when I feel.

Friday, March 16, 2012

weathering the storm...or walking straight into it

honesty is always a good place to start. so i'll start there...and stay there throughout this entire post. 
it is written with the heaviest of hearts, puddles of tears and a song that i can't even open my mouth to sing.  it's been awhile since ive written.  but i always want to share whats real and what is honest and what is true.  and this is the truth....

my grandma is dying.  over the past month, she has been in and out of hospitals (yes more than one), losing blood, throwing up food, even water, too weak to even make herself food. and my family waited.  and waited. and then we knew. all in one half hour period, it went from operable procedure to, we need a miracle.  the cancer that started in the wall of her stomach rapidly spread to her pancreas and spleen.  the phone call i received will forever be a lasting memory.  painful and surreal. i was alone, face on the floor, fists balled and eyes tightly closed around a mass of warm tears.  and a song. a song that has been stuck in my head for a very long time.  a song that when i heard it after the devestating phone call, i swirled quickly into complete devestation and hope all at the same time. 

the hardest part is hearing from a distance.  i havent been able to be at the hospital. it went from, "this procedure is totally do able, and your grandma will still be a pain in your ass after she's recovered" to,
"we're so sorry. we can't operate."  my grandma was thrilled to know that, in the beginning, she was going to be alright.  then hopes were dashed when she realized she still had her stomach.  it was going to be removed because that's where the cancer was.  and i was thrilled too. to know that she was going to be alright.

and as hard as it is to allow my shaking hands to write this, i still know she will be alright.  at the end of the 3 months the doctors have given her to live on this earth, she will be alright.  and i know she will be well again. 

this doesn't mean that my tears are any less and that my heart is lighter.  the pain is real. the storm is real.  this is a storm that cannot be weathered.  it has to be walked through.  head on.  the news itself is heartwrenching.  but the harder news is that at first, she was going to be alright.  then an hour later, she wasn't. 

when she realized, she closed her eyes and said, "well, how much time do i have left?"
my aunt quickly responded, "well, Barb, there's really only One person who truly knows that, right?"
my grandma agreed. 

the news slowly sinks in, each passing hour.  and as i try to go about my normal day stuff, ths song.  it keeps playing over and over again.  i wanted to share it with you.  im not sure why. maybe because i write when im broken.  it's called Everlasting God. I've attached the music. please listen.


One thing i know that i have found  
through all the troubles that surround,
You are the Rock that never fails. You never fail

One thing i know that i believe
Through every blessing i recieve
You are the only one that stays
You always stay

You never change. You're still the same
You are the everlasting God.
You will remain after the day is gone
and the things of earth have passed
Everlasting God.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

I almost missed it

That sounds like a pretty loaded title for a post. one that MIGHT have even made you wonder long enough what it was about that you just HAD to click on it and read it. sucker!
just kidding...thank you for reading.

(i just thought this was funny)
what did i almost miss? Why, my blogger anniversary date!!! and since honesty is a good policy, i must be honest and say...i did in fact miss it. i'm 2 days late.  my first blog post was January 20th, 2011.   also it's been nearly 2 weeks since i've posted. i figured maybe it was time to post. 

in honor of my 1 year blogger anniversary, i went back and read my first official post...ya know, the one after you announce to the world you're actually bold enough to publish your thoughts outside the realm of a facebook status, or a #.  (Twitter)  ;)  yea. that one.  it spoke of yearning.  and as i reflected, because that's what i do, i reflect on things. and so as i reflected i thought, "i must be so much further than when i first wrote that post."  and while that remains true, i still find myself snug within the confines of yearning. by the time i reached the paragraph that desicribed my state of yearning, i realized that as i read the way in which i described it, i'm still there.  kind of.

when i wrote that post, i wasn't going to church.  i had just started a new job.  i was helping out a hockey team.  i was busy.  i concluded that my yearning back then really was for God...but not in the way i yearn now for Him.  Today.  Today i have a church. i have new friends. the same job viewed in a different light.  no hockey team.  incredible leaders over me...and for me <---(thats most important). i have a greater depth of understanding, knowledge, love, grace and forgiveness of the Father.  He really is for me. 

And though yes, i still yearn, my yearning isn't necessarily the same as it was a year ago.  i still yearn for the things of God. but most importantly, i yearn for Him.  not just the 'things' that come with it.  (those are an added bonus!)  And although, yes, i could still describe the depth of my yearning, sometimes Jesus is the only One who really knows how you feel.  whether i write a million words, or just a few. 

So. In honor of this marvelous occassion, i'll share again my yearning.  with a greater understanding, a new depth. and even when i grow old and wither away, i will have never even grasped the cusp of the newness of God.  He is infinite.

"The kind of yearning that sometimes only a song sung to a quiet strum of a guitar can describe what you feel so deep inside. The innocence of each chord picked, like the breath of a newborn baby as it enters the world for the first and only time, it echoes the yearning that stretches out across your heart.
And though at times, the yearning is even painful, having that sense of yearning completely satisfied is something that i don't ever want to experience while on this earth. Save it for eternity. I need Him. So desperately. So desperate in thoughts fumble around searching for the words to come splashing out over my lips that would cause Him to understand the validity of my plea. Rest, you fluttering, floating, feeble faith,
He already knows. "

Thursday, January 12, 2012

When you don't fear...

When you believe Him instead of fear. When you fear something, you are ultimately giving your heart to that thing. You worship what you fear. Living in fear really isn't living at all. It's dying. Slowly closing off the emotions in your heart. Sucking out the oxygen from your lungs. Darkening every doorstep. Pulling down a dark curtain of distrust over the face of Grace. Truth. Freedom. Jesus. And He already tore the veil. The curtain has been rent. But we errect our own divider again. In the face of Grace. Truth. Freedom. Jesus. As if to put up a hand and say, "No no God. I've got this one." We become God in our own lives. We decide what's best for us in the midst of swirling chaos. Fear. Our choice is based on the fear we feel. Based on the zero trust we have in Him. We I have...decided many things based on my fear of the unknown. I've become God in my own life. I've held up that hand to His face and said, "No no God. I've got this one." Did I really? Did I ever really? No. Im not saying fear doesn't exist. It truly does. It's real. And it's paralyzing. It shuts down reality. It clouds your mind. It confuses your thoughts. It freezes you in time. It adds a thick layer that isn't really you. As it piles up on your heart, it strips away the real you. You can't feel. You can't think. You can't react. You can't move. You can't know Him. Fully. Perfect love casts out fear. And God is perfect love. Therefore He is the only One that can cast out your fear. If you let Him. When you don't fear...when you believe that He has already defeated fear and death, when you believe that, then you are free.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

When you fear

Ive never realized until very recently what fear does to a person. There are some pretty fearful memories I have as a kid. And most of them are of the physical nature. But now I know how damaging fear is to the emotional piece of a person.

 As I recall it, I was absolutely frozen with fear as I stared into those little beady eyes. Those beady eyes that seemed to stare a hole right thru me. I stood frozen in fear. It really was like a grip that I couldn't get out of. And yea, I thought about running. But it was like the circuit from my brain to my feet had shorted out and my feet stayed planted. Just like those eyes stayed planted on me. Like it just knew I was tapping into the greatest amount of fear ever felt by a human. I could hear my cousins playing in a sandbox only about 20 feet away. I screamed as loud as I've ever screamed before. But no one answered me. I knew they heard me. How could they not? I screamed again as I stared at those dreaded eyes, staring back at me. Gripped with fear. Paralyzed. Frozen. Alone. Surely I would die. Standing in my cousin's yard, only a few feet from them. I'm not even sure why I wandered to where I was in the first place. We were all playing together and I decided to leave. I don't know what I was doing. Maybe retrieving a baseball or some other toy. But whatever it was, I found something else. I found my greatest fear. The fear that only existed in the scariest of nightmares. The fear that I was certain would never find me. It had only ever found me in my dreams. And now, a snake lay before me. Right before my eyes.

My fear stared me in the face. And I stared at it. Impending doom. My greatest fear had come upon me. It was a garter snake. And I knew that even if it did bite me, it wasn't poisonous. And I wouldn't die. But even the truth of that couldn't penetrate past my heart that was tormented by that fear of being bitten by a snake. All those animal planet shows my dad insisted on watching. Snakes swallowing whole animals. Snakes sinking their venomous fangs into the ankle of an unsuspecting hiker. Snakes were my greatest fear. I didn't get bitten. I didn't get swallowed up. But I do think I ran like hell...and so did that snake. Well...slithered. I remember making a b-line to the house. Or maybe the sandbox. I only remember the fear.

When I got to where my cousins were playing, I remember asking them if they heard me screaming. And for some reason, I remember them saying they had. I was so confused why no one came to my rescue. It was then that I decided that I was the one who had to rescue myself whenever I was facing impending doom. Paralyzing fear. I would be the best person to rescue myself from fear.

My other big fear as a kid was being taken or hurt by a stranger. I never went anywhere alone. Sometimes i ran to the bus stop because I was afraid someone was behind me. No one ever was. And I may have looked silly with my heavy back pack heaving back and forth on my back as I pumped my arms and legs harder and harder with each stride. But I didn't care. I ran anyway.

One specific day after playing a successful game of street hockey in front of my house with all the neighborhood boys, I was gripped with fear again. One of the boys convinced me that that day would be the last day I lived. How did he do that? With a story that wasn't true. But I believed him. He was my friend. Why would he lie to me? As we sat on my porch, probably drinking some sort of juice box, a car drove by extremely slow. There were at least 2 men iniside. The driver rolled down his window and he slowed the car to a complete stop. I thought he knew the boy I was sitting with. He didn't. Or maybe he did. I'll never know. The man reached out his window and pointed up at my house. And looked at me. Then he pulled his arm back into the car and rolled up the window and drove off. I looked at my friend and asked if he knew those men. He said no. And then proceeded to tell me a story of impending doom. And I was paralyzed with fear once more. My 'friend' told me that the same thing happened to someone else. Some strange man stopped on front of a house and pointed at it then drove off. I asked what happened. He told me that that same night, when everyone had gone to bed in the house that the men stopped in front of, they broke into the house and hurt the people inside. I was young. Gullible. Stupid. And a girl. I believed him.

For the rest of the that day, I prayed that nighttime would never come. When my dad got home, I told him what was going to happen. He didn't believe me. No matter how much I tried to make him believe me, he wouldn't. That hot summer night, I didn't sleep. My room was in the back of the house. I couldn't see from my window where those men would enter the house. The only place where I would be able to see was in a closet that had a tiny window facing the street. But I wasn't allowed in there. My mom hid Christmas presents in there. And the door creaked. And the floor did too. I would wake everyone up if I tried to sneak in there. So I sat in my bed. Door closed. Blankets up over my head. And I listened. And I baked under my blankets. Sweat built up around my forehead in little beads as I awaited my impending doom. I tried not to breathe as deeply because the men would see the blankets moving up and down. Every little noise. Every crack of the house settling. My heart beat out of my chest. My thoughts raced. They sounded like the feet of horses beating the ground on a race track. Images from crime shows and the most heinous criminals from shows like America's Most Wanted filled my little active mind. I told my dad how much I hated that show. How much it scared me. But he loved it. So he always won. And I always went to bed on Saturday nights, fearing I'd be taken from my bed. Hurt by scary, bearded men.

I didn't get bitten by that snake. And those 2 scary looking men didn't steal me and hurt me like my friend said. But I believed the worst in both situations. It was me versus my greatest fear. I was the rescuer.

I came upon a blog post tonight that talked about the torment of fear. All of a sudden, as I nodded my head fervently in agreement, I became keenly aware of my fear. The annoying ticking of the second hand on the clock was the only thing I could hear. And after 90 minutes of sitting in this hospital room with a sleeping patient, I became aware of the annoying ticking sound for the first time. It made me anxious. I don't know why. I sat frozen in my fear. As I recalled the snake stare down. The night I spent awake. Fearing for my life. It became so real to me again. The fear enveloped me. Like a tsunami wave crashing over an unsuspecting shore. Swallowing a big gulp of sand and sun-bathing starfish.

The blog post mentioned the top 3 relational fears; being wrong, failure and rejection. Oh man. That makes me tremble more than that dumb snake. I've experienced those 3 relational fears. They suck. No warm fuzzies. Those 3 fears errect a great big wall of protection around your heart. Impenetrable. Thick solid bricks. Hiding the warmth of sunlight. Blocking truth. Defending against anything that might try to break through or scale its tough exterior. Crossing its cement arms in the face of love and freedom.

But Jesus. He can bust thru at any moment. But He won't. He's patient. He'll wait until you're ready. And maybe he'd bust thru. But maybe he'll remove the fear one brick at a time. Until finally the last brick of fear is no longer. And then there is only Him. Truth. Love. And Grace.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

a real generation

so i'm kind of stealing this...well, piggy backing an already existing idea.  tonight, as i remembered that 'hey, it's New Year's's 2012!" while working alongside some amazing youth leaders, setting up for our unveiling of a new name for a new year, i became...a bit, well, nostalgic. ONLY KIND OF!!! haha!

something God has been totally bringing me back to, as well as other staff on the youth team and even amongst our entire church, is the bare essentials of...Him.  He's the only real thing in this world.  He's the only real and true thing there ever will be.  our stupendous youth pastor referenced Inception. you've seen it...where they live in a dream in a dream of a dream...while they're dreaming in their sleep...yea that one.
well...they each have a thing called a totem.  it's something that is 'real' that allows each dreamer to know whether or not they are in a dream or in real life.  only they know the weight and the feel of it in their hands.  it's the only real thing that connects them to reality. 

as she wound down her message, she had each in attendance close their eyes and imagine ourselves real. before Jesus.  whatever 'real' looked like to us.  i closed my eyes, but got distracted. there was a girl sitting in front of me...sobbing.  As sarah continued to speak, she asked us to see ourselves looking Jesus in the face. square in the eyes.  to finally see Him.  really.  then she said..."He is your totem, guys."

bam.  it felt like the big bad werewolf had blown the 3 little pigs brick house on top of me.  it. hit. me. so. hard.  but then i got distracted again.  by that same girl. now using the back of her sweatshirt sleeve to wipe the tears off her cheeks.  I think Jesus was real to her. and if 1 person experienced the totem of this world, Jesus, well then, i can lay my head (which feels like a thousand pounds) on my pillow tonight and be happy that one life was impacted by the work i've partnered in with God and some of the most amazing people i have ever had the privilege to serve Him with. 

this generation is looking for real.  it's tired of searching and being let down. again. and again. and again. and still more times.  but Jesus will always be real. and He will never let us down. 

Happy New Year, generation real.  i love you