Thursday, September 29, 2011

When There's Nothing to Be Grateful For

Children don't understand this strand of spider's silk we all walk between life and death, the thin veil that separates two co-existing worlds of spirit and flesh, visible and invisible.

Innocence allows them to accept the invisible, the world of spirit, as equally as they accept the world their fleshly senses touch, hear, taste each day. Everything just "is," nothing to be dwelt upon too long lest it take away from the joy of reading, playing Candy Land, or filling another load of laundry with dirt and rocks from the great outdoors.I envy their easy acceptance of the difficult, their ability to just live in the moment, their lack of concern over the "what if's," the unknown.

My mind has been far different from theirs this week, unable to catch their excitement except for a few fleeting moments each day, precious moments stolen from more serious contemplation of weighty matters where I am the daughter trying to help parents navigate through the storm without overstepping my bounds.

It started this past Saturday morning when husband's Maw Maw had another spell, one in a steady stream of short-lived episodes that have baffled every doctor she's met over the past few months. No one really knows what's happening to her body except the obvious--that it's dying, like we all are.

There are no surprises here. Husband, father-in-law, and I have talked of her physical condition, knowing it foreshadowed what was to come. Her time in assisted living would soon come to an end, if not by her death than by her needs exceeding what her care givers could provide.

We three knew the inevitable. Yet, my mother in law has not been ready or emotionally able to make the decision to put her mother in the home with all its negative connotations of abandonment, not even when I brought the packet of information to her and set it gently on the kitchen table. She thanked me, then simply put it away for later.

Saturday, Maw Maw's spell was her worst yet. This time, she hasn't recovered fully, her dementia suddenly worse, causing her memory to crackle on and off like a light bulb before it finally burns out. Sometimes, she doesn't even remember that the woman by her side is her own daughter, that her husband died a decade ago.

And yet, in the sadness, the concern, God has shown Himself gracious, once again. The doctor made the decision that my mother in law could not. Maw Maw could not return to her home. It was time to put her in the nursing home.

This is what Ann Voskamp speaks of in her poetry in prose book, One Thousand Gifts, the learning to give thanks even when it seems there is nothing to be thankful for, to see God's goodness even in the hard, the pain, and transform it into joy, to learn to "give thanks for all things at all times because He is all good."

She reminds me, "all is grace," and in this moment, I see it--grace in the hard decision being made by someone else so my mother in law didn't have to make it. This is grace, His grace.

I know what is to come will not be easy--it's not easy now and hasn't been for quite some time, each visit with Maw Maw leaving me draped in cloaks of heavy sadness. I miss the stories she used to tell repeatedly that now I cannot remember. This once feisty woman now just sits without speaking until spoken to, trapped behind a wall of medication and deteriorating neural connections. I do not know her.

And yet...and yet, I cling to this moment of recognition of what He has done. In my kitchen, I set the phone in its cradle and lift hands high, my head bowed against the chaos of children's laughter in the adjoining room as I whisper a quick thanks to Him.

Photos: BotheredbyBees on flickr.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

To Spin Before the Lord

My mother and I were shopping the clearance racks in J.C. Penney's, our first shopping trip to the mall in over a month, also our first shopping trip without strollers. With this first taste of freedom, the twins swirled around our legs like mini tornadoes as we adults stumbled like Oz's scarecrow's toward our destination, our hands being jerked left and right as children leaped, bounced, and hopped, all in an effort to make sure their feet touched all the brown squares that made up the floor's pattern.

To my dismay, since my last visit, the whole store had been reorganized. Three children, though, were delighted with the slippery new white tiles that shimmered like a runway reflecting bright fluorescent lights overhead.

As we moved to the store's front corner with the dressing room, we reached the more stylish section of clothing, which was lit up even brighter than the other areas. An upbeat tempo caught my ear as the speakers poured forth the bouncy lyrics "She's a brick house...".

In seconds, Emerson and Amelia deemed the white tiles a "dance floor" and began their own version of dancing--more bouncing and twirling than anything else. In a world where image is so important, I had to smile at their innocence and lack of concern over who saw them or what they thought of their lack of dancing skills.

As a Christian who is also a Southern Baptist, I was raised in an environment where dancing was frowned upon. To this day, my denomination still frowns on dancing.

Perhaps that is why it has been such a surprise to me, learning the joy of dancing with my children.

As a child, I don't remember dancing with my mother or daddy, and yet these three constantly tug at my shorts, begging, "Dance, mommy! Dance with us!"

I have tried so many times to capture that joy, but their dancing is so full of giggles and perpetual movement that they are but a blur on film.
To them, there is no shame in dancing. At three and five, they have no concept of dirty dancing, bumping, grinding, or any such nonsense--nothing impure. To them, dancing means merely to move against a backdrop of music, whether audible or in their head--to leap, to jump, to twirl, to laugh, to grin until their faces express joy in movement, most of the time while singing between gasps of breath. When I see their joy at singing praise songs to the Lord and dancing for Him, it's then that I agree with the Psalmist--

"Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones.
Let Israel be glad in his Maker; Let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King.
Let them praise His name with dancing; Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre.
For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation" (Ps. 149: 1-4).

Lunch plates still on the table waiting to be cleaned up, I smile, grab two little hands in mine, and swirl around the kitchen floor. I spin before the Lord in thanksgiving, singing amidst the laughter of children before it is gone.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What Meekness Really Means

The back cover's question peaked my interest: "What can you do when life doesn't turn out like you planned?" The cynical side of me chuckled and replied aloud, "Get over it," knowing deep down that those words were much easier said than lived.

Life certainly didn't turn out as I planned.

I didn't plan on giving birth to my first child when I was a mere nineteen days from turning 30. I didn't plan on enduring the shame of infertility, bearing the loss of two unborn children, wearing a very public scarlet letter proclaiming me the wife of a disbarred attorney. I didn't plan on working nights until three or four in the morning to help support our family.

The question struck a chord with my past. Then again, whose life doesn't this question resonate with? I don't know anyone whose life has gone perfectly according to plan.

Presently, one recent college graduate in our family is back at home living with his parents--unable to find any jobs he's qualified for, rejected because he's "over qualified" for other jobs available. Another family member is knocking on 30 yet has been unable to find a Christian mate to share her life with. And yet another suffers painful flareups from a lifelong, incurable disease.

This was not their plan either. So, what does a person do when The Plan doesn't happen? When people mistreat you? When you're simply disappointed with life in general?

Kay Arthur's As Silver Refined: Answers to Life's Disappointments answers these questions and more as she seeks to show how disappointment can lead to discouragement, dejection, despair, and demoralization, what she refers to as the "five Deadly D's."

The secret to victory in disappointments? Never allow the enemy to get his foot in the door and send our minds on that spiraling path downward. Christians must recognize that disappointments are really God's appointments, all part of His holy plan to sanctify each of us, making us all more like Christ.

When one feels disappointed, broken, she must decide whom to believe--to believe God is at work, causing everything to work for her good or to believe God is not in control anymore, is a liar when His Word says everything is sifted through His hands. Secondly, she must choose how to respond to the disappointment, brokenness. Arthur argues that meekness is how one must respond, that meekness involves lowering oneself in humility, "acting rather than reacting" (69).

Although meekness gets a pretty bad rap as mousiness, Arthur shows "to be meek is to be calmly strong. Meekness is supernatural. It's an inwrought grace of the soul." Several chapters are devoted to helping Christians properly understand true meekness as lived out by Jesus, Moses, and others throughout Scripture, how meekness affects not only our relationship with God but our relationship with others as well.

Although this text is not an easy beach-side read, it is not a high-brow read either, and it does not gloss over the brokenness people feel in such disappointments. On the contrary, her writing is littered with numerous true stories of others' living through their own disappointments. She shows the pain--physical and emotion--that permeate the lives of Christians to the point where they are in the pit of despair and just want to die, but she also shows how understanding the concept of "meekness" helps them look up to Christ and live in peace, in victory.

Although this book was first published years before Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, I hear Voskamp echoing "all is grace" throughout Arthur's text. If God is Sovereign, if He reigns over and allows all things, the good and the bad, then the disappointments are grace.

Life is a battle. Its disappointments are constantly refining the Christian's soul for kingdom warfare.

It's easy to be flattened by life's disappointments. Yet to live in peace, in victory, to trust that God is Sovereign and only acts towards us in loving kindness--that kind of living is not for cowards. It is not for the mousy. But it is for the meek.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Running Backwards

This is not Wonderland. The door frame didn't shrink suddenly once the white rabbit shut it in my face, nor did I grow too gargantuan heights after eating some confection labelled "Eat Me."

Silly me. Of course that's not what happened. Four hours of sleep only makes it seem like Lewis Carroll's words have turned real. And yet, with no changes in my house's layout or my physical size, I still started out the day by running smack into the door frame, the same one I've passed through daily without incident for over a year now. As I said--silly me, now black-and-blue me.

Grading student papers into the wee hours of this morning left me dozing much too late. My feet first touched the sheepskin rug beside the bed after many of you were on your third cup of coffee, hard at work in rectangular spaces. On any other day with three children still tired and recuperating from last week's illness, this tardiness wouldn't have been a bad thing.

But today was "get with the program" day when I would start actually rallying the troops and carting them to all destinations posted on the family calendar. No more marking CANCELLED atop each entry even though the "we're tired" excuse was more truth than fiction.

With the clock ticking, I began what I hate--rushing. It's always met with opposition. Had I told the children they were going to the zoo or the aquarium, all three would have been dressed, shod, full of milk and cheerios, and miraculously self-latched in car seats...all before I brushed my teeth.

Alas, I told them the truth--we were going to the nursing home where our church ministers once a month. While I and they both love visiting with many of the patients there, it's still not an event they consider worthy of rushing to see...even with mommy shouting to hurry because the music minister will start singing without her horrible-piano-playing accompaniment!

In the midst of dressing those who can truly dress themselves, pushing children shoeless out the door, and serving breakfast in the backseat of a van, I really had to wash my hair--it was pretty bad. Of course, only when my head was upside down, hand full of a healthy dollop of mousse ready to scrunch into damp curls, did the phone start ringing.

Head still upside down, fingers flying through hair to finish the job, I tried to run for it, through the door separating our bathroom and bedroom and downstairs to the kitchen where I knew I had left the phone.

Obviously, I didn't make it. Shoulder ricocheted, propelling me backwards, not forwards, and leaving an instant blue imprint of wooden board on my skin.

For the rest of today, each time something brushed up against that shoulder, I have felt foolish. Honestly. Who thinks she can run with her head facing the floor!?

I came up with a sobering answer.

Me. I do.

I try this running head-down bit all the time, refusing to lift my eyes to my Father and see His direction for my day, see the path He has laid out, the obstacles He can guide me around if I'll take His hand and look up, not down.

Especially when I'm in a rush, when I feel I don't have enough time to get done what I must, it's no wonder I keep running smack into the same ordinary problems and issues I have repeatedly asked the Lord to help me overcome.

This morning, we made it. We ministered to others, showing them Jesus' love. But I had failed to show that same love to my own children.

Thankfully, the Spirit spoke to me before we even arrived. At a red light, I turned and spoke to them. "Mommy's sorry for yelling this morning. I love you very much and shouldn't have yelled at you. Can you forgive me?"

From the backseat came three mumbled words of grace and a shy smile. "I forgive you."

This mother is far from perfect...and her children know it. But hopefully in the midst of my screw-ups, I'm teaching them the beauty of admitting when you're wrong, of speaking healing words of true repentance, and of both extending and receiving grace.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

When We Don't Really Understand

It was almost midnight when husband walked in the bedroom to deliver news he knew I wasn't going to like. After almost fifteen years with him, it's obvious when he's avoiding confrontation, either real or perceived. In truth, it's sometimes amusing, watching him dance around twenty minutes or longer as this man of few words transforms into a chatterbox, sharing what is usually held in for me to draw out, all in an attempt to force the unspoken past his lips.

With a sick boy's moans coming through the monitors and one of two extra washer loads whirring on the floor below, my forehead frowned, mouth clenched at husband's announcement. He had to go back to work, a written piece due by seven the following morning. Better to drive in now while still awake than risk it after a night's lost sleep. I shook my head in agreement.

Nights with just me and the children are difficult--too hard to sleep with half a bed cold and empty. Then, there's the fear of being a woman alone. When husband is gone, I try not to think about it, focus on my school work, my Bible study, and whatever I can find to pass the time until I fall asleep.

This night, there was plenty to keep me occupied until the wee hours of the morning. About thirty minutes after he left, I flicked on the stairwell lights and quickly tiptoed down to start the second load of laundry, my nightgown swirling as I moved quickly into the semi-dark beneath.

I never made it to the washroom. As soon as I turned the corner, all the security alarms went off...and they're anything but subtle. Had I been returning a glass to the kitchen, I would still be picking up the pieces.

My first thought was, "Oh no! It's going to wake up the children!" then "Oh no! Somebody is trying to break in and Doug isn't here!" Instinctively, I ran to silence the shrieking siren, my gut reaction of the first thought trumping the five millisecond pause caused by the latter idea that this could be a bad idea if it weren't a false alarm.

House now eerily silent and two cats looking up quizzically at my feet, I stood visibly shaking, fumbling with the phone in my hand, trying once, twice, but there was no dial tone. The line was dead. "Oh no! They've cut the wires to the house, too!!!"

I was frantic, mind racing as I listened for sounds of an intruder, walked towards the knife block, not knowing what to do now. Why wasn't the alarm company calling me to check in!?

Probably no more than a minute passed before I realized the phone was busy because the system was calling the alarm company. By this time, even though my hands both felt as if they were defrosting from being plunged into sub zero temperatures for a prolonged period, I had figured out what had happened.

Tired husband had accidentally pushed "Away" instead of "Stay" when he left, activating the motion detectors as well as the perimeter alarms. The only intruder was me. Finally, the phone rang.

"Is everything okay, ma'am?" the operator asked. I explained the mistake, and said in still-shaky voice, "He scared me to death! I'm gonna kill my husband."

Poor husband was deeply apologetic, and after a few minutes of hearing his voice, relaying the events (even down to exactly what I'd told the operator), my hands started to feel less like victims of acupuncture. With children somehow still sleeping on the floor above and no real damage done, what had been terrifying a few minutes before was now a little amusing.

As I started to hang up, I said, "Don't worry. I can't kill you now. They now have a recording of me saying I'm going to do just that. I'd surely get caught."

He laughed at the joke, one we've tossed back and forth since we were newlyweds when I told him "till death do us part" was literal--there would be no divorce, ever. I laughed along with him, the healing power of shared laughter closing the book on a tense situation that will surely be a much-used punchline for years to come.

Over the past two days since this scare, I've thought about the concept of fear, only to conclude that fear, true fear, is more a dictionary term than a reality for me and most Americans. We're tucked away beneath sturdy roofs; feel secure enough to walk across wide open spaces during the daylight, sometimes even after dark; have liberty to speak God's name without fear we'll suddenly disappear into the night.

Despite America's problems, God still protects our country from so much evil, so much fear that is rampant in other countries splashed across the news. And it's not just fear that He keeps at arm's length. It's persecution. Censorship. Religious persecution. Rampant illness. Poverty. Most of us don't really know what these concepts really mean.

U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that U.S. poverty rates are at highs this country hasn't seen since the 1950s. That's 42.6 million people, 2.6 million more than last year.

God still has His hand of protection on our country, even, I believe, on our entire world. But could He be removing His hand a little more each day to prepare for the end?

Could He be slowly moving away from us as He did in Jerusalem before He passed judgment? Going from the inner court to the threshhold to the outer courts, resting above the temple's east gate, and finally waiting on the Mount of Olives outside the city?

One commentator stated, "According to rabbinic tradition, the glory of God tarried on the Mount of Olives for three and a half years awaiting some sign of repentance and when there was none, ultimately departed"* Imagine God waiting three and a half years, hoping His people would notice His absence, grieve for His presence, and repent...yet they did not.

What if the same thing is happening once again, only with God withdrawing His hand of protection on this world versus withdrawing His presence from the temple. If He is, would we even notice?

Or would we be like the children of Israel who never even noticed when God's divine presence manifested in glowing cloud went out from among them?

"Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and a cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the LORD rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple....The glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it" (Ezekiel 10:3-4, 11:23).

*Lamar Eugene Cooper, Sr., Ezekiel, The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 145.

Image: Heart in a Cloud. The Freedom Traveler.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

When Battles Begin at Nightfall

After one dose of Tylenol slowly drained in tears, oldest son snuggles beneath the plush purple blanket, soft and soothing despite the random pattern of holes worn clean through. I lay beside him and draw his head close beneath my chin. Every few seconds, his eyes flutter open, glance my way. He says nothing, but I know he's making sure I haven't left yet.

At almost five, Wyatt doesn't let me love him like this often, me stroking his forehead, watching the rise and fall cadence of his chest until his breathing slows and sleep consumes. Even then, I lay there, not really wanting to leave this place where I feel most like a mother.

But--always the but--there is extra laundry now to be disinfected, school papers to give feedback on, and a younger son staring in interest at me from across the room, only his blue eyes shining out from beneath high-tucked blanket as he waits for this mommy to turn out the lamp so he can sleep as well.

Wyatt lay sleeping on sofa all afternoon, unusual stillness for this one so full of life, boundless energy. His stomach hurt and the thermometer showed a low fever, so I let him sleep while I played with twins on the upper floor. When he woke, he kept asking, "Is daddy home? When is daddy coming home?" and "My brain hurts."

When mommy wasn't good enough, I figured I was in for it. Even so, I still haven't figured out why illnesses break through a body's defenses to spike at the dividing line between night and day. Here I was again, 9:00 at night and a sudden resurgence of fever, blasting through the ranks to 104, enough to make Wyatt nauseous and my night endless.

I already know there won't be much sleep tonight, too many hours before me of unpaid heart labor. My only prayer is that this is a simply 24 hour bug, that no one else gets infected.

As I write this, the washer whirs in the silence of nighttime, its rhythm mesmerizing, enticing me to prop elbows on its glass lid and lean face inwards to watch its magic dance reminiscent of The Nutcracker's "Waltz of the Flowers."

This is not what I wanted to write this evening. Before, my thoughts were consumed by a book I've been reading, its concept of meekness. But now? The not knowing consumes my thoughts, sharpens my maternal radar to be alert for all symptoms. It's the not knowing what the illness is, how long it will last, what toll it will take on my loved ones, whether I should seek a doctor's care or let it run its course--so many unknowns to bring before the One who knows all.

It seems nightfall is the time for many of the battles I face. It's the time when life stops spinning long enough for worry to set in, anxiety to overwhelm, and fear to find the mental soil open to take root.

While days are too filled and busy with children to even consider not trusting God in those moments, after dark is sometimes when I must fight the hardest, take sword of truth to phantoms of insecurity and prayers to counter the enemy's lies.

All I can do is pray. It sounds silly--all I can do is pray. To make it through this illness and the next and the next, I must not just say it but believe it to be enough.

In the end, it's how I fight the battle as much as winning it that matters.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Human Lite Brite

My usually silent cell phone started playing its xylophone anthem before the children and I were back at the van, its chords bringing me back to reality of life outside this moment.

After over an hour of prayer walking through another neighborhood in our area, oldest son and I were caked in sweat . Even on such a radiantly cool, crisp hint-of-autumn day, the unusually vibrant blue palette overhead meant no clouds to hide still-hot sun.

Those walking and praying with me didn't seem to break a sweat, so maybe it was just me. Then again, I guess my workout was intensified by praying words continuously aloud while pushing a makeshift double stroller full of 70 pounds worth of twins. Bumpy asphalt buckled at the end of each driveway = resistance training.

This is only my third week of obedience to God's incessant nudging for me to get outside my comfort zone, do my part in sharing the gospel with my Judea, and show my children in practice that Jesus died for everyone, not just his family.

What I can't believe, even though I should have expected it? Although I've spent much time praying in mornings before the routine of the day starts, this is different. Starting each day out focused on the Great Commission, walking in the midst of His Creation, and voicing aloud no prayers for myself but only for others who I never have nor may ever meet? It's a day-changer.

Three times over as many weeks, the simple submission to get up, get out, and speak prayers over total strangers has transformed not only the moment but the entire day, something morning prayers in the comfort of my prayer closet don't always accomplish.

This sense of His presence lingering, His Spirit giving me peace throughout the day is something I haven't been able to replicate many times when I say the same exact prayers solely for others while sitting safe within my walls.

After rehydrating, I took the children to my mother's, her phone call saying she wanted to look in the attic for old clothes. Mid-morning found me wiping thick layers of dust from cardboard box lids and trying to decipher mother's coded labels on boxes stacked neatly around the attic's perimeter.

Then, I found it--one of my all-time favorite toys, the lite brite. There is no telling how many hours I spent sitting on my bedroom floor, making designs with simple white light and plastic pegs. Lying on eggplant purple carpet, I would decipher the color code of tiny white letters, push peg after peg through thin black construction paper, then turn off all the lights to enjoy the show.
With the light off, the design was nothing spectacular, almost ugly. But when I plugged the lite brite into the wall, illuminating clear plastic from behind black curtain? Magic.This afternoon, my oldest, Wyatt, learned the joy of the lite brite, he and I working together to create a picture of tropical fish while envious twins jockeyed for position at our feet.

Once finished, he asked to "swap" the pegs. After inserting blue peg into previously-white slot, he exclaimed, "Look! That one changed to blue!" I tried explaining that the light is white, unchanging, that the pegs hold the color, but I'm still not sure he understood.

When looking at the image, though, thinking of the unchanging nature of the white light behind the darkness, I started to understand. The change in me after prayer walking is caused by connecting a usually general prayer to someone specific as well as the repetition of the prayer.

Each spoken prayer is like a colored peg, piercing the darkness and sending forth His rainbow of light into the world. In my prayer closet, praying for the lost "in general" just doesn't have the same impact as seeing a house and connecting it to actual's a prayer I utter and move forward.

Yet, when prayer walking, I continue to pray the same prayer repeatedly, specifically aimed. With each prayer for a specific household, I add colored peg after colored peg, the simple repetition piercing not just the world with prayer but also piercing my inner spirit so that more of His light shines through me and on me.

An hour or so later, there's enough prayers piercing heaven and my heart to where beauty has emerged, shining outward, lit from within. In a way, I feel like a human lite brite!

I wonder if the inwardly lit radiance has shown more on these past few Thursdays? If others have seen a difference? Or is it just me? No matter, God's economy proves consistent--submitting to His will and trying to be the blessing to others ends in my being the one most blessed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Finding Joy in the Midst of the Storm

Just a few days ago, Tropical Storm Lee clumsily knit together right outside our front door, winds grasping to learn the circular steps required to increase its intensity and propel itself northward, dancing through the water-wrung swamps along Louisiana's coast that begged winds to slow their path and rain down mercy into land's near-empty vessel.

The storm did just that, slowing to a crawl. Here in our little patch of earth where fields that generated 20,000 square bales last year might see 15,000 (if we're lucky), where saplings have struggled to their last breath before their staked flags were lowered--in drought, the thought of hurricane rain is electrifying, exciting, even anticipated.

Yet, as I checked Facebook statuses, glanced at the Weather Channel, and even gathered for worship on Sunday, the consensus was clear--what horrible weather! When will the rain stop?

Some areas were hit by tornadoes, flash floods, and storm surge coming up over the levees. But most of those complaining? They were sitting in well-insulated houses, safe from the waters streaming over streets and into lawns, a storm doing little more than to force them indoors into short-lived power outages. Me, traditionally the malcontent--I just couldn't understand. Surely I wasn't the only one who had been praying for rain..and this was rain!?

Our farm measured 12 1/2 inches over three days, sheets of liquid hypnotizing in their cobra-like sway both day and night over greening fields. Aside from the torrential rains that the ground has mostly opened her mouth to guzzle, attempting to quench her thirst, we had little damage--an already rotten tree downed in Sunday morning winds; a long, woody rose stalk separated from its source of life; rows of corn needing to be picked early for drying; and a tilted cedar needing to be staked until ground firms back up.

Even with two extra loads of laundry from soaking children splashing in the rain and puddles, husband and I found this to be the most relaxing weekend this year that we've spent as a family.In the midst of the storm's coolness, we ate together hearty soup and cornbread. Twins picked up wind-fallen acorns and already-turned leaves. And husband played at flying a kite in 30 mph gusts.
Once the rains were past, we opened windows to let in the first touches of fall's promise. And with that fresh crispness jogging our memories of autumns past, oldest son begged for hot cocoa.

Presently, a low sits just north of the Yucatan Peninsula, another of as yet unformed storm waiting on marching orders from on High. With each storm that forms and takes aim at our country, Katrina is still ever present at the front of most Louisianians' minds, especially in the wake of last week's Irene up the coast.

We know how bad it can be, how terrifying the high winds, the uprooted trees, how discouraging the lines of roofs covered in blue tarps even a year later, how frustrating the slow plod back to normalcy in the aftermath when even daily bread is missing from emergency-lighted store shelves and lines at gas pumps take us back to the hard times of the '70s.

For this storm we have just endured and for the possible one to come--we must make the decision now to choose joy. It's not an easy choice, not hardly, but is the only one that can bring peace in whatever comes.

Whether He allows a storm to condense and move or disperse, all is mercy, all is worthy of thankfulness.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Choosing to Soar: How to Escape the Bonds of Fear

She dances through open sky to seek breakfast in my yard, single row of water-hose nurtured roses miraculously blooming even in deep drought, an oasis in a two hundred acre desert of horse hay devoid of sweet smelling nectar and the velvety curl of flower petals.

Where she has come from, I do not know. Her wings are perfect, not a scale out of place, edges not yet frayed from wind, water, or near escapes. Perhaps she is newly hatched, taking her inaugural flight, parched from a week or more in sun-baked chrysalis.

Woody grass clippings stick to my feet as I pursue her, the withered, inwardly turned blades' dewy coolness refreshing against bare skin. Even when I stand motionless, trying to only catch her in pixels, she takes drunken, wobbly steps around me, the only dance she has ever known, one hard wired in her small insect brain to help evade being snatched midair by hawks ever-gliding overhead on invisible perches of wind or by our dreamsicle cat Jonah's pounce.

I struggle to tear myself away from simply watching her move, move on with what I'm supposed to be accomplishing. This moment is so fleeting, will most likely be our only crossing of paths since the peak of her beauty before me only comes when her journey is nearly complete. In the wild, it's likely she has a week to ten days.

It's been a month or more of 100+ degree afternoons that have imprisoned the children and me indoors except for brave early-morning forays into the already sweltering sauna and even briefer late evening romps down the porch until pelted by hoards of bloodthirsty mosquitoes.

This morning's butterfly is the first in quite sometime that I have felt God near me in the ordinary everydayness. This past winter and spring's commune with God throughout the routine activities of living close to His creation was lost, a perfectly solid connection suddenly gone dead. In the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and home schooling my three preschoolers, He has been ever so silent.

I told husband just the other day that God was speaking volumes to me about my soul, transforming knowledge into action through ministry opportunities I needed to be involved in to fulfill His word, dictation at lightening speed as I studied His word. Late nights spent devouring the manna were full of excitement, exhilaration, and revelation with Him willing to unlock treasure after treasure..but that was it.

In the daylight and into the night, I've sought answers to questions, all of which are still pending. Instead, the answers He's given are to questions I have not asked.

In the midst of this difficult season, last week presented me with the results of a few blood tests, all of which were fine but that showed me in the upper end of normal in two areas where I know genetics is already at play. At only thirty-four years old, I'm already looking at what could kill me. Even with my doing cardio five times a week and carefully monitoring everything that enters my mouth, that black and white computer printout speaks of potential health issues barely held in check during this supposed peak in my life.

I'm the one always onto husband for the impurities (Dr. Pepper) he funnels into his organs, his lack of daily heart-pumping activity, and here I am the one seeing my days numbered on paper. Although I know the one who numbers my days, it's sobering, not feeling invincible even before my forties.

But even in this, God has reminded me of a quote He lay before me when I first started teaching: "The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough." (Rabindranth Tagore).

Although He may not give me the answers I seek, although genetics and statistics seem stacked against me, I'm not going home until my journey, my purpose in this life is complete. Yes, I have been fighting against fear that His purpose for me will be fulfilled all too soon, not for my sake but for those whom I love and want to spend a lifetime loving.

And so I keep praying, intentionally choosing each moment to rest in Him and His peace, knowing that if I don't, I will never enjoy the flower since I will be earthbound, doomed to never fly with open wings, dance in open sky.