Friday, July 08, 2016

Love Is Always the Answer

You know what our collective American problem is? We don’t know how to love. And I blame the American Christian for this, of which I am one.

I quit turning on the news a few years ago because I was so tired of the evil and depravity that clogs up air time. We don’t have cable because of all the trash we don’t want to have to filter through our children’s minds (or our own, for that matter). We work hard to teach/show our children how to love and give respect to everyone, no matter their color, creed, or beliefs. And yet, the sin nature still finds a way to creep out and make itself known, branded with a scarlet ’S'. Satan is wily, he’s inventive, and he’s convincing. In fact, he doesn't have to work too hard to convince some people that our black brothers and sisters still have to overcome the sub-human stigma placed on them several hundred years ago; he’s convinced others that white brothers and sisters are still wicked oppressors and deserving of death; still others believe that our Mexican brothers and sisters should go back across the border from whence they came because they’re taking all of our good American jobs. He’s also planted seeds of malcontent with our Muslim brothers and sisters whereby some are convinced every Muslim is a radical, explosive-toting jihadist. And the list goes on….my friends, these are LIES FROM THE PIT OF HELL and ought to stay buried in that contaminated mire of spiritual iniquity for all of eternity.

I banish my children to their respective rooms, alone, when they can’t get along because I get so tired of hearing their squabbling and malcontent with each other. It is to give them time to practice self-awareness and self-control until they are ready to come out, confess their part, and make it right. I also take myself away from them (or my husband) when I am in a nasty cranky mood so I can calm down, return to rationality, and recognize truth, and then do something about it. I think that’s what we each need to do, in our own homes, and in our own families, and with our own hearts, today. We’ve become nothing more than grasping social media pot-stirrers which helps nothing now or in the long run. We need to step back and take a long hard look at ourselves without trying to mask up the nasty because we ARE nasty and we are brutal.

Right now, though, I want to address my Christian brothers and sisters because we’re the ones who are supposed to ‘know better’ ‘act better’ and ‘show a better way’, the way of Jesus Christ whom we claim to serve. We’re the ones who are supposed to understand what love really is, the sacrifices it makes, and the way it works as we mature in our faith. We’re the ones who aren’t supposed to identify by color, creed, or race. We’re the ones who are supposed to identify, solely and completely, with the man Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice He made for us. We are little Christ’s, His followers, His disciples, His people. And we’re supposed to know HIS words and live HIS truth. And yet, we are not because we don’t know how to love, or we have conveniently forgotten. We pull out 1 Corinthians 13 for our wedding ceremonies because it’s beautiful and appropriate and then promptly forget what the chapter says in the light of daily living and our first married argument. We’re all twisted up by our own desires, pursuing those like a starving nation, when we should be hungering for the Word of God. We’ve created false identities, apart from Christ, and those have become our idols. We’ve more than allowed Satan’s foot soldiers to creep in unawares. We haven’t guarded our hearts or our homes and we’ve left our doors wide open for those destructive minions to wreak havoc. And aren’t they enjoying watching us murder each other, sexually enslave innocent children, and slander each other with every breath we take? They’ve popped their popcorn, taken a seat, and are laughing mercilessly as they poke or prod us with their poison-tipped tridents as we trip up on stage. And we are taking every blow with contemptible glee and grow meaner and more malicious with each moment.

If we claim to belong to Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, we need to start living like we believe it to be true. And if we truly believe the words we say, then we need to start letting God change our hearts in the deepest darkest places. We need to get real and honest and amazingly transparent with ourselves and with those we do life with. We need accountability and practical help in changing. We need to start living a life of love because we are COMMANDED to do so. Love protects, it is kind, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, and it is not easily angered. Read 1 Corinthians 13 again and again and again like I did this morning. “If I do not have love, I am nothing.” Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. My words, my actions, my behavior - - -they all mean nothing without love. If we, indeed, are prompted by love, we will reach out to our neighbors, cross those deep chasms our sinful selves have created, and we will then be able to begin to nurture an attitude of abiding love in our selves, our homes, and our communities. It will never happen, though, if we do not crack wide those callous hard casings covering our own hearts. We are the problem. So we need to get a mallet (God’s word) and begin pounding (reading) away. Scripture says that the heart is the wellspring of life and what comes out of our mouths is in direct correlation to what is in our hearts. Friends, brothers, sisters, I beseech you…put love in your hearts so that is what bubbles up and out and over. We are brothers and sisters and must learn to live with each other. Ain’t none of us going anywhere. We are stuck here together. We are Christians and love is what is supposed to be natural, normal, and easy for us. Hate, evil, malice, discontent - - those things take work because they are in direct opposition to who we now are in Christ Jesus. Stop working so hard expending energy in contradiction to your ‘new’ self. You’re fighting for the wrong team.

“Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.” Sometimes truth is hard and ugly. Like slavery. In our country. Past and present. We have to acknowledge these things, recognize they were/are evil and wicked, and find a way to forgive the past, protect the future (which means, each other), and move forward in love. We have to expose the darkness and ask God’s help in freeing ourselves from the chains that have so tightly bound us. Don’t you want to live a victorious life? I do. I want to live free to love, free to share what God has so mercifully done in my own life, and I want each person I come in contact with to become a recipient of that same unimaginable grace-filled act that pairs me with God for eternity. 

Nobody wants what a hate-filled person has.

Christians, you and I are the answer because we have the answer. We simply must annihilate Satan’s lies and his hold on our hearts so that we can be conduits for God’s ultimate love, mercy, and grace. Hope. We have it and we must share it. Lord God Almighty, help me be the Christian I say I am, every single day. Forgive me where I fail. Show me how to live like you, to smash wide those walls that are unhelpful to the work you would have us do. Help us to do my beloved Jeff's favorite verse, Micah 6:8. "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Help me to do those things so that you are glorified in my life, so that others may see you in me, and so that we can finally find some peace, together, in this chaotic world.

Monday, August 18, 2014


After hatin’ on, and hating, homeschooling for the past month and however many days we’ve been doing it, I was ready to throw my hands up in the air and say “Forget it. I don’t care where these children go to school; I just want somebody else to do it and be responsible for their learning because it just can’t be me.” I was a mess and barely making it through the 2-3 hours of school work that needed to be done. I hated it, the children hated it, and we were all miserable. I collapsed in frustrated-end-of-my-rope-ugly tears at the table on a day Jeff was home for a little while, and the children all looked on in stunned silence, for a change.

I confessed to Jeff (later) just how much I hated trying to teach the children and how I just could not reconcile why God called me to do it when it was so hard, so unpleasant, and nobody seemed to be learning anything anyway. Meanwhile, I was sick every other day (bad nausea in addition to normal 10 + visits to Coco), I was so fatigued on my ‘good’ days, Scarlett just wasn’t getting simple addition and subtraction, Lexi was squawking about how bored she was, and Gideon wanted more breaks and rewards for finishing his work than a professional athlete. I also unloaded that, aside from the main financial aspect of not being able to return our children to their Christian school, we both believed that God was allowing us the opportunity to infuse Christ into every subject, but as it was, they were better off with any Jack Daniels off the street because there wasn’t any Jesus coming out of me. I was all pi$$ and vinegar (as I’ve heard some old folks in the family say) and the Holy Spirit was choked out before he even made an entrance into our school day.

Typically, I am not a quitter. I force myself to see things through to a natural conclusion, no matter how painful or how hard. That fatalistic determination has changed somewhat since losing my intestine. Some things just aren’t worth it and I have had to realize I just cannot do everything I think I can; that’s why I am so very careful and particular about what I commit myself to.

There was just no way around homeschooling, though I’ve been trying to weasel out of it since I reluctantly agreed with God about my semester assignment, even though I really wanted it to self-destruct after five seconds and free me to pursue writing, reading, napping, lunching with friends…you know, all those things we moms wish we had time for, but don’t.

How DO you reconcile a task, a really, really, really, beyond-challenging task God has asked you to do that you know from the beginning is going to be the most difficult encounter of your life (and yes, homeschooling is 100X harder than simply dealing with bad health, at least for me)?

Yesterday, during my pastor’s sermon, he smacked me upside my head with the answer. I may have been thinking that I was displaying some of the fruit of the spirit, mentally claiming that I was full of the Holy Spirit because of other areas of service, but the truth is, if you’re not displaying all the fruit (it’s not a pick me basket of fruit options, it’s a collective basket of fruit – a super glued glob, if you will). Either I’m displaying the fullness of the Holy Spirit in my life by demonstrating ALL the fruit or I’m exposing nothing but the rotten objectionable remains by choosing piecemeal what I am going to express. If I exhibit love, joy, and peace, but neglect patience, kindness, and goodness…well, I am not full of the Holy Spirit and Christ cannot work through me to my children. I’ve smeared myself with putrefying fruit, pranced around with rancid eau de cologne, and now I want my tainted self to love something that’s HARD and to give/get pleasure out of it? There’s no way. I’ve set myself up for complete failure.

What is Christ’s goal for our lives if we belong to him? It’s to bring him honor and glory, right? And he is going to use anything/everything to bring us to that point of where we are wholly and completely surrendered to him, even if it takes a lifetime of trials to get our attention. When I get complacent and comfortable with my spirituality, I know he’s gonna rock me off that dock into a storm surged sea with nothing the naked eye can discern for rescue…and yet, if I only reach behind me, I’ll feel the strongest stoutest surest safety line bound around my waist, and he, the author and perfector of my salvation, is standing upon dry land, white robes billowing in the wind, eyes fixed upon me, his hands holding the rope, and his feet as immovable as stone while he simply waits for me to acknowledge his presence and his help. WHAT AM I WAITING FOR?

My lazy carnal self wants someone else to do the hard work for me, but where would that leave me? A person’s spiritual life cannot be lived by another, and so, if someone else picked up my slack, I’d be stuck in exactly the same place I was before (stinky and piece-mealing my portion of the Holy Spirit) without having grown at all. Challenges and trials stretch us beyond what’s comfortable to attain a new measure of Christ in our lives all while moving toward the fullness of Christ’s righteousness.

And so what am I trying to say here? I am not content with where I’ve been for the last month. I’ve freely admitted that I’ve been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad teacher, and a rather unlikable mom, too. I needed to be emptied of myself, re-filled and re-focused, and realize, with a call to arms, that Christ called ME to homeschool MY children because there were things in MY life that I had not surrendered to him. Despite my infirmity, my disability, and all the things I use to excuse myself from overworking, those are simply a crock of bull in the life of the believer. They are real, they are hard, and they can be overwhelming, but they don’t excuse me from living my Christian life to bring God the greatest glory for the sacrifice he made for me, and it begins in my home, in the smallest details, in the hardest calling, and in being both a mother and a teacher (and, of course, wife).

God has seen fit to refine me, to be making me more like him; I should be thanking him instead of cursing the mission he has entrusted me with as of right now: my children’s education. I finally accept the commission, a little late, but with the full understanding that he challenges and stretches me for my good, which is ultimately, his glory.

And I am happy to report that I’ve had 3 ‘good’ days in a row, I’ve been working hard all weekend with Scarlett on her math facts using ridiculous things she knows to make verbal math problems…and when we sat down this morning, that little girl FLEW through her page of addition. I cried happy happy happy tears and when she told me not to cry, I said, while tapping her head, “Scarlett, tell me what I tell you.” And she responded, “I have a good brain.” Yes, my dear heart, you do. And so do I. I just needed a little knock on it to remind me that my heart and mind need to be in concert.

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

Friday, March 29, 2013

King of Glory

And so the King of Glory came down as man.
One moment hailed in triumph,
the next denigrated for His claim.
Nothing but truth ever left His lips
and yet He was cruelly mocked,
flogged mercilessly with a lead tipped whip,
and a crown of spiked thorns driven ruthlessly into his scalp.
After his body was beaten, torn, bleeding, and raw
He was forced to drag his own heavy instrument of death
to His place of death so fittingly called the Place of the Skull.

He was treated as coldly as if He were evil incarnate;
indeed, it was an accusation flung against Him - Beezlebub.
To the man who dedicated His entire earthly ministry to promoting life,
healing the sick and diseased, feeding the hungry,
and opening the door for eternal life for any who wished to enter simply by accepting Him…
what unjust brutality.

Rejected then.

Rejected still.

Why is it so hard to believe that one man,
God Himself in human form,
would deign to come to earth on a mission of mercy for your soul?
He came to rescue His creation from an eternity in Hell,
a place of everlasting torment.

I’ve been so thirsty that I thought I’d never be satisfied,
but Hell, it is where thirst will never be slaked – the unquenchable quench.
It is where you will be separated from all you hold dear.
It is not a moment of misery; it is complete and utter desolation without end.
It is a place where you will want to die just to escape,
but you cannot, for you are already dead.
Hell is punishment for sin.
Agony, despair, sorrow, grief, wretchedness,
and deprivation will be your constant companions.

One man came to earth to die on the cross for the sin that sends you there
so you can be free to live in eternity with Christ in His new heaven and new earth.
And yet, you willingly choose your physical pleasures and your temporal lusts
over His sacrifice - denying His very existence.
Your soul cries out for rescue, but you tamp it down and
obscure it with all manner of unworthy activities.
You flaunt your sin, wearing it as a badge of courage,
when, in reality, you stink of filth and moral decay
unworthy to even look upon the One who died in your stead.

And yet, the King of Glory came for love of you and me.
The tomb is empty. He defeated death.
We no longer have to enslave ourselves to sin.
He paid the final price and you are now free to choose.
Might I suggest that the bleak picture of eternal death with the one who wants to keep you shackled to festering agony is far less appealing than everlasting life with the One who gave His life just for you?

My Lord Jesus Christ, you were my guilt offering.
My sins, black and murky as the thickest tar,
were heaped upon you
suffocating you with their despicable acts.
You atoned for my sins.
You were led like a lamb to slaughter.
Your grave was assigned with degenerate men.
Not a word in your defense did you utter.
You could have spoken the pain away.
You could have stopped your bleeding.
You could have blinked death to the wicked.
You could have breathed life back into your own body.
You could have snapped yourself to heaven.
You could have skipped your own crucifixion.

You did none of those things.

Instead, you chose God’s way,
taking on the burden of creation’s tainted writhing stupid depravity.
Almighty, Most Holy God, you are.
And when you return, charging forth and mounted upon your white horse
to make all things new, behold, every knee will bow and every tongue confess
that you are Lord, to the glory of God the Father!


Monday, October 15, 2012

The Little Niggle

So what’s a little niggle? It’s a little wiggle in your conscience that, though not constant and may not be evident for years, emerges from time to time to remind you or convict you about something. In a Christian, it’s called the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

When I was 8 years old, I went through a Survival Kit class my dad taught at the church he pastored. At the end of it, I accepted Christ as my Savior and was then baptized, along with my beloved older brother, Alex. Of course I loved Jesus. Of course I wanted to make him my Savior, and of course I wanted to be baptized. I’d never not known my young life without Christ’s loving presence and the desire to serve him wholeheartedly. But quite frankly, I don’t really recall saying ‘yes’ out of the overflow of my heart – I just know I said the right things because my dad baptized me.

It wasn’t until a year later, when I was nine, though, that I made the decision, on my own, to follow Christ and cried out for him to “save” me. Our children’s choir had been dressed up, rather dramatically, like abused children (something I now recognize as not-recommended) to present a rather moving/disturbing song, of which I can’t remember the name. It was pretty traumatic, but it got my young mind thinking, for that night I lay in bed crying and thinking about evil and people who would purposefully mistreat children. I remember thinking they’d go to hell and forever be separated from God’s love. So, right then and there, in the quiet of my room, I called out to Jesus telling God I didn’t want to be separated from him and I didn’t want to wind up in hell.

You may call that fire insurance, but in my young mind, I certainly comprehended the final effect of sin and consequence of a life without Christ, and I knew my decision was very real and motive pure. My heart immediately felt at peace.

When anyone would ask me about my salvation, that’s the night my mind would immediately go back to. But, then I’d remember, like a good little Baptist preacher’s daughter, that according to Scripture, baptism should follow true salvation, and so I’d backtrack to the previous year and start my story there, never thinking anything was out of sync.

It never really bothered me until I began hearing sermons about being baptized out of order, and suddenly it became a little niggle that would wiggle to the forefront of my mind. It came to a head about 5 years ago when Jeff and I were going through the application process to become IMB missionaries. He and I discussed it. I called my parents. I wrote my story, but any semi-intelligent person can convince themselves of anything they really don’t want to do, and I didn’t want to have to walk down an aisle again and be baptized because at my age that was just too embarrassing. My pride was strong and so I convinced myself I had indeed, been saved the first time, and what happened when I was 9 was merely assurance of my previous decision. That safely wrapped up, I filed it away, believing I could lay it to rest.

You know my story, for it’s probably much like yours. I was active in my high school youth group, went to a Christian college, graduated from seminary, got married, had 3 children 3 years in a row, lost my baby and intestine, while never once doubting my salvation or my faith in Christ. Jesus was Lord of my life, I still grew spiritually, was convicted of sin, changed things in my life, practiced what I preached to my children, taught Sunday school, defended the Christian faith…and the list goes on.

But, as little niggles go….it would pop up from time to time, refusing to be filed away for long.

Let me be clear about something. Baptism doesn’t save; there’s nothing magical or mystical about getting wet. Immersion is merely a symbol of what’s occurred within your heart, a first step of obedience after inviting Christ to be your Savior. It’s a public testimony, telling the world that you’re not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that you believe it, and that you’re confessing before everyone that you’ll live it. Jesus himself was baptized, setting the example for us. Not being baptized won’t keep you out of heaven. We look to the thief on the cross beside Jesus for that example.

And so we come to yesterday. Our church is hosting a revival and we have a fiery preacher, a heady mixture of old-timey Gospel hour on crack (no offense intended) and modern humor. I love it. With only Lexi in the service with us, since we’d allowed Gideon and Scarlett to stay out for children’s church, it was no hardship to listen attentively. And lo and behold, what was the message on but…Baptism.

The little niggle was wiggling furiously by the time the evangelist finished with point #2 on submission. My mind was whirling and the battle was waging. I wanted to be obedient, I truly did, but this was hard. While the congregation began singing the final hymn, I stayed seated, pulling Jeff down with me. I asked him if he remembered my questions about the order of my salvation/baptism from a few years ago. He did. And so I began talking, stumbling over my words, telling him how I desired to be obedient but I wasn’t sure if Satan was causing me to doubt the order or if it was the Holy Spirit convicting me. I wanted this thing finished once and for all….pride be____…well, you know.

Jeff pulled out some prophetical wisdom (which he does from time to time) and said, “You know, Satan wants us to doubt things like our salvation and that's not what you're doubting. He doesn’t cause us to doubt or be tempted toward obedience. Rather, he tempts us toward disobedience.”

That was just what I needed to hear. Jeff then told me he’d be beside me no matter what decision I made. I told him I didn’t want to be emotionally manipulated, rushed or pushed to a decision, and I certainly didn’t want to be just another notch in an evangelist’s baptismal belt of record. That declared, we stood up to sing. Then began the final skirmish in my mind between the Holy Spirit and my flesh. I packed imaginary concrete around my feet and didn’t move. I didn’t want to be embarrassed and walk down the aisle for I’d been a Christian for 24 years, my husband was on staff here for goodness sake, my parents were members and had watched me grow in Christ for all these years, I knew so many of the people packing the pews….and I then cowardly decided I didn’t have to walk the aisle right then. I could do it that night. And even if I was going to go down this morning, I was only going to talk to Pastor Mike and he was busy with other people, and I didn’t want to hurt my dad’s feelings because he was the one who baptized me the first time…and the excuses pinged back and forth back and forth.

But, the longer I stood there, the more evident became that niggle. It became a full on battering ram, an all out assault on my pride. Who was I trying to serve? Myself? My parents? My pride? Was my pride more important than my obedience? Was I making an idol of myself? Yes. I had confessed the desire to be obedient and God was asking me to do this one small step again and was I going to do it or deny it yet again and never be free from wondering?

On the very last stanza I’d had enough, for I grabbed Jeff’s hand, picked up Lexi, and said “okay, I’m ready.”

What I thought would make me cry, cringe, or become a walk of shame was none of those things. I was propelled forward by the Holy Spirit, confidently taking each step closer to Pastor Mike, with my dearest husband holding my hand and my smallest daughter on my hip.

Pastor Mike welcomed me, lauded my obedience, and prayed with us, and I felt nothing but relief.

And so, last night, Pastor Mike allowed Jeff to baptize me. I was his first. It was such a meaningful time for both of us. Jeff said “It is my honor and privilege to baptize not only my sister in Christ, but my dear wife, the most wonderful woman in the world.” It was so sweet it brought tears to my eyes.

He submerged me, and I felt the warm water seep all the way up to the top of my head (yes, I had my picc line safely covered up and I’d prayed it would stay put and not get wet, just as I’d prayed that my newly dyed hair wouldn’t bleed all over the baptismal waters). As he brought me back up, the warmth had seeped into my soul, bringing what I had sought at last…quiet in my soul.

Peace in my heart.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Baby Medina grave, 7/24/12
I Will Come to You

Tonight I finally braved my broken heart
and gathered up my nerve.
I went to see you, keeping my mind impassive and my emotions carefully filed away.
Stoically, I marched across the newly plowed passage
leading straight from the gate to your shady spot of rest.

Your brother and sisters scampered across the field,
dodging scattered donkey pies as if we were out for an evening adventure walk.
I wanted them to meet you,
to make a long overdue introduction.
My words failed and my mind retreated deep within the confines of frozen despair
while their incessant chatter became nothing more than a hollow and indistinct buzz. 

Your grave looked the same;
the stones perfectly puzzled together,
slightly dipped in the middle, sagging like a well used mattress.
The cross, though, had taken a beating.
Our unforgiving Texas weather had worn the wood
and tattered the letters which had once proudly proclaimed herein lay “Baby Medina.”

A shabby remnant of a harsh two years;
already the neglect ate away at my conscience
and the phrase “what kind of mother….”
harped at my well worn rag of guilt.
Forlorn and lonely, ignored and abandoned;
your voice cried out to me from your dusty home.

“Why did you leave me here all alone?
Why did you forget me?”
The echo of your voice penetrated my haze.
The mental conversation, once begun,
spilled over the meticulously erected dam of feeling.
My mind struggled for coherent thought.
“I couldn’t, child. I just couldn’t bring myself to see you here where you don’t belong,
to be reminded that I live and you do not.”

I sunk to the thirsty ground, ignoring husband and living children,
their very presence hindering this personal time of intense, throbbing anguish.
The lump in my throat threatened to choke the very breath from me,
and the tears, once begun, flowed a silent and steady stream of internal affliction.

I cried for what I lost.
“You, my dear unknown child whose gender, name, eye color, and temperament
are all precious parts of you I will never know.
I will never tuck you in at night or sing our favorite lullabys.
I will never hug or hold you while you cry.
I will never hear you speak your first word or call me “mama.”
I will never see you reach for me or hear “I love you.”  
I will never smell your sweet baby’s breath nor taste your fat little belly as I blow bubbly kisses up to your chin,
but even above all that, the thing that rents my heart the most is that
I will never even see you smile.”

“That is why I could not come. That pain I could not endure.
Forgive me, love, for selfishly, my grief alone I bear,
all wrapped inside, quite mummified, lest any part break loose
and then this control so precisely wrought a diaspora it becomes.”

"But, forgotten?
Nay. May it never be.
You are in my heart for always
my baby, my child, my love.
There will never be another you
so perfectly unknown.
I love you like I love my Lord
as deep and wide and long
from where the mountains' tallest peaks
reach for the twinkling stars.

Your littlest sister then took my hand and hugged me oh so tight.
“Mommy, why do you cry? Do you miss your baby?”
Her words, along with a red ant bite, jerked me from my musings
and I could only nod in misery.
Again, she took my hand as we trudged along that path
and her assurances rang false though dear,
for in her childish comforting she promised
“we will get your baby back.”

It made me smile, though, through my tears,
and my thoughts turned heavenward.
King David grieved and then got up,
yet I am not that strong.
I’ve grieved, I grieve, and then I suppose I’ll grieve some even more
though certainly I know though you will not return to me,
 one day I surely will come to you.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Free to Grieve

As I was sitting at my desk, typing out birthday regards on Facebook and preparing to balance the checkbook, I glanced down at the date and time. I realized that tomorrow marks the two-year ‘anniversary’ of my life-altering losses. My thoughts immediately flew to the grave just down the road, and the sharp pang straight through my heart blew up in my eyes, blinding me. I ache just as much today as I did two years ago when I discovered the loss of my baby.

The last few weeks have been emotionally trying. I’ve become distraught over the littlest thing, crying about the smallest painful thought or hearing a touching song, anger and sharpness seem to hover on my shoulder like those cartoon pictures of a red-horned, red-tailed devil, and helplessness appears as my staff-toting guide. I rather feel like I’ve been playing at Scarlett O’Hara for the past two years when she famously said: “I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.” I’ve been so busy just trying to survive and adjust to my physical intestine-less limitations that I’ve pushed back any grieving I had begun over my child, determined to deal with it later. One would think that two years would be plenty of time, but it hasn’t been. Not for me.

I haven’t been writing or working through my thoughts. I haven’t even been thinking. I’ve lost myself in a world of fiction, determined to escape reality for one more 3-hour stretch of time.

I look up and suddenly, without warning, tomorrow is here, and I’m drowning in it.

I am wracked by guilt, for you see, I confess I have only been to visit my child’s grave once in these two years, and that was several weeks after I came home from the hospital the first time. It was excruciating in every sense of the word, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to return. Cowardly and wretched am I, for it makes me feel like a crappy mother; this is one agony I cannot willingly bring myself to physically walk through. Mentally walking through it is trial enough. What kind of mother neglects her child? What kind of mother is so flagrantly self-focused? What kind of mother have I become?

I know my child is not in that grave. I know my child is in heaven with my Lord and Savior. I know I will see my baby again and there will be much rejoicing. These things I know intellectually, but they still tear up my heart and reduce me to one big fat throbbing blubber ball. I am flooded with all sorts of confusing feelings and I am so unsettled. My emotions are like 50 kids in a bounce house, chaotically hopping and bopping all over the place until I’m half driven to distraction.

Every time I make a physical improvement…remember, my improvement can be counted in mere millimeters….I am torn between gratefulness and guilt. Moving down from 6 bags of TPN to 5 bags a week was an incredible triumph. Managing to maintain my weight at 128 pounds or so is nothing short of miraculous. However, guilt has become my constant companion. I am making strides (well, that’s being quite a bit too generous), and yet there’s a child, my child, who was supposed to be making strides, too. My missing child should be somewhere around 18 months old, walking, falling down, repeating words, climbing….and all those other glorious little independent abilities toddlers do. To come right down to it, I feel guilty making any improvement whatsoever when my child isn’t here to be moving through the mile markers of life with me.

And I am angry at my helplessness. I do not blame God. I do not blame anyone. I am simply angry, frustrated, and feeling like I’m in a tiny little acrobatic box about to explode because I’m not flexible enough to fold and fit myself in with any amount of ease.

I just need to know how to go on with a measure of peace. I know I can’t barge through grief aggressively and be done with it as I’d like, but I certainly don’t want to be in this place of emotional instability for any length of time. I want to face my sorrow; I want to heal, and I want to be free from the guilt over that which I cannot control. I just don’t know how. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Easter Hat Challenge

When I was a little girl, I always wore Easter hats; it was part of our family routine. The boys got new suits, and I received a new dress and hat. The hats were always the same, white and floppy with a white ribbon around them, but I loved that tradition. In fact, I’d attempt to curl my hair Shirley Temple-style and now I wonder what my mother was thinking allowing me to use her ancient hot rollers on my hair and coating the resulting curls (nowhere near corkscrew, mind you) with two thick layers of hairspray. They might not have corkscrewed, but no accidental breeze would move one crunchy hair out of place. Maybe mom thought my hat would hide the mess; I don’t know. For whatever reason she allowed me, and as a result, I have very happy memories of Easter.

Now that I’m a mother of two little girls and one handful of boy, I do realize that Easter is not about the new clothes, the hunting of eggs, the eating of ham or other such traditions, though traditions aren’t a bad thing when put in the right place and kept there. Easter is about celebrating our Lord and Savior’s victory over death! So, if we want to celebrate the day by wearing new duds or eating ham, well, so be it, as long as the focus is about Him.

(Just for the record, I’m not about to launch into a tirade about the Easter Bunny because, frankly, he isn’t worth the investment of even this honorable mention, much less a whole blog.)

That being said, I still like to wear hats, though admittedly, I can’t remember the last time I wore one on Easter. Jeff teases me and so do others, but I don’t let their friendly mockery keep me from wearing the few hats that I do own because I think hats are just plain fun.

Today was a very rough day. I won’t go into detail because I might get worked up again, but suffice it to say it started with my fourth and final Kindle breaking down and Amazon happily replacing it if I chose to pay for it since I’m out of the warranty period. Nope. I’m now done with Kindle. A bunch of other things happened, like being attacked by a scrappy little dog, Gideon falling off play equipment and knocking an egg-sized knot upon the back of his head, and me misjudging a “children x-ing” sign and banging my forehead right into it. I was quite cranky after all that and not napping didn’t help. So, after I put the children to bed (where they went willingly because they, too, hadn’t napped) I set out my TPN and got online.

When I’m tired and my mind doesn’t focus, I tend to browse through pictures because friends, even your Facebook posts can’t keep me awake. Somehow, I began looking at pictures of Duchess Kate. That girl can dress. It probably helps that she’s allotted a small army and fortune to outfit her, but still, it got me thinking.

As I was scanning through the pictures, loving the hats and admiring the poise, sophistication, and the all around refinement of the Duchess and the other ladies in the pictures, one thing stood out. These women have class. And I’m not talking about a royal title or heaps of money. I’m talking about quiet dignity and confidence. These women know how to look like and act like ladies.

And then I wind up on MSN and see the Wonderwall of Entertainment, our American-built aristocracy, and I am filled with a deep and resounding shame that I am associated, by nationality, with these people, especially the women. I almost don’t even have to write it because you already know what I’m going to say. Our Hollywood nobility is really ignoble, for our women wear evening gowns with vee’s cut from the neck to nearly the crotch, expose all but their fanny cheeks when getting out of cars, and tape pasties to one loose breast while covering the other with see-through material…and we applaud their boldness and creativity and call that high fashion. I’ve seen 12-year-olds wearing more make-up than I even own, and I love me some Mary Kay. Our girls are growing up believing the only way to garner attention is through flaunting their bodies at every possible opportunity.

Please. I want more for my daughters than that. I’m not saying that our British cousins have got it all together, for women anywhere can be catty, vindictive, and snide, and their insides just as depraved and corrupt as a multitude of my southern sisters, but I want my daughters to not only learn to act like ladies, but I want them to know that modesty is sassy. Modesty is creative. Modesty is bold, and most of all, modesty is downright sexy. (Well, they don’t need to know about sexy until they get married, but you get my point) Duchess Kate has captured the essence of modesty as sexy, in a purely physical sense. I know nothing about her spiritual deportment.

Now, I’m not advocating long skirts and panty hose (in fact, I detest panty hose) at all times. I live in Texas. If it’s summer and over 100 degrees for a record breaking 100 days or more outside, I want to be in shorts and a tank top and *gasp* I never wear hose to church during the summer. (Don’t tell my mother) However, I no longer wear bikinis to the pool and we sure as heck don’t let our little girls wear them. Those are my convictions; they may not be yours, but remember, we do have something in common, and that is the knowledge that our female bodies are treasures, not for the masses to ogle and lust over, but for that one special man that God brings into our lives, and that is what we want to teach our daughters, that they are special because they are godly, compassionate, intelligent, witty, charming, lady-like, athletic, and modesty is simply part of that. Their bodies are the icing on the wedding cake and sex is the utter gratification of waiting to indulge in that icing!

Here’s what I AM advocating…an Easter challenge, of sorts, a return to thinking about modesty before this spring and summer hit in full swing. If you’re committed to retiring those skintight red leather jumpsuits and neck-breaking stilettos I know you have in your closet (that’s a joke), then think about returning to an old Easter tradition this year. Wear an Easter hat and if anyone asks you why, tell them you’re simply bringing back a positively feminine convention and showing your daughters, or other young girls, that it’s fun to be a lady. You still have about 4 weeks to find one. Mine might come from TJ Maxx, Target, Wal-Mart, or the thrift store - - girls, don’t be too good for those places! Who is with me?

Bring back an old tradition in a new and classy way. If you decide to join me in this challenge, I want you to send me a picture of you in your Easter hat. or post it on Facebook and tag me in it!

Let’s bring back a fun tradition and make a statement all at the same time. But, remember, don’t let it distract you from the REAL reason we’re celebrating the day!