Monday, December 12, 2016

When You Can't Be Enough

The tree stands 9 feet tall and covered with 15 Christmases worth of ornaments. From the few fragile glass ornaments that have survived four dogs and four kids and countless guests, to the Hallmark ornaments that I have collected for each of my dear ones the day after Christmas. Standing in line because only a sucker will pay full price.

This new to us tree that I bought at a late season garage sale a few weeks ago for $10. Covered with white lights this year. Normally I love the multicolored, but this year my heart yearned for the simple twinkle of white fairy lights.

A mark in the pro column for not having a pre lit tree.

Garlands winding their way up the staircase and over the fireplace and festooning the entry door.

This time of year is dark. And cold. And I, being a Florida girl at heart, shrivel at the dark. And the bickering from no outside playing. My stomach in knots. Needing sunshine. Or Vitamin D. Lots of it.

Wanting so much say the right things but dark sarcasm sneaks out. Out of my dark and out of my yuck.

But there stands the tree. Lending its light to the dark. Compensating for the black outside my windows.

And that is the beauty of Christmas.

Christ coming into the mess of a stable. Into the mess of our lives.

What better thing could there be to celebrate?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

On Earth As It Is In Heaven

Our Father, who art in Heaven,
hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done,
on Earth, as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.

I love the Lord's Prayer. Every line is so rife with meaning. Every word, a holy word straight from the Savior's lips, teaching us how we should pray.

I went to a ladies' retreat a couple of weeks ago. During my time there, we recited this prayer on several occasions. 

The line that sticks out to me during this season of my life is "on earth as it is in heaven." Oh, the power and the promise! The longing it stirs in me!

Those words seem to imply that I can live, here on earth, as if I were in heaven.

What can that possibly mean?

First of all I want you to imagine that you are standing in the Presence of God. The throne room as was described in Revelations. The creatures surround the throne. The elders are present. The Lamb is seated there. You are in God's presence. 

Everything falls away. Your tongue is tied. What could you possibly say? It seems the only thing you can say is "Holy, Holy, Holy," joining in with the saints and angels. 

All those things that you worry about? The way your third grade teacher treated you; death; the scary diagnosis; the rejections; what you will make for dinner; all of the people who have hurt and stolen your shine: 


How can any of those things stand in the presence of God?!

Now, imagine how you feel as those things fall away....

FREEDOM! Peace! Lightness! Comfort!

I believe that if we can truly encounter God here on earth, those things will fall away! We can live that line!

It is a discipline. We have to search for Him, but we are promised that when we search for Him, we will find Him! Anyone can do it! There isn't a top secret ritual, it is a promise for every person who ever was born and who ever will be born: we can find Him. He has manifested Himself in creation and through His word.

And once we find Him? 

His kingdom WILL come and His will WILL be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Tonight I hold that promise dear.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

O Christmas Trauma, O Christmas Trauma

Tis' the season.


Any of you parents out there with squirrelly kids are like:

For whatever reason, this year has been more tricky for us than in times past. We have gone through a lot of changes in the last few months and I know that hasn't helped, but, daggum it, I didn't expect those changes to screw things up as much as they have. Ha.

Daniel has gotten his second referral of the school year. Both were totally deserved.

This morning at the Christmas program at church, his eyes were darting all over the place. I could see them from clear in the back. When the program was over I had him sit on my lap so that I could apply pressure to his chest, which really did help him re-center and have a better day, but after over an hour of sitting there, my arms felt like limp noodles.

Garth and I were sitting in the living room a couple of nights ago after the kids were in bed and we really could chuckle about how far we have come.

Daniel has come SO VERY FAR, but there are just going to be times in his life that he is going to struggle.

We can call it PTSD, or whatever string of letters that you would like, but ultimately we have to live with it and no matter what is causing it, it stinks.

And as much as it stinks for us, it stinks for him more. He has verbalized that his brain is feeling bad right now and he hates it.

It's especially hard now, because it is the time of year where we are around more people and busy with more things (it is a self-feeding cycle). I totally hate making excuses for my ten year old's unpleasant behavior, and I am SO SORRY if he is rude to you. Please understand if I ask you not to give him a superhero toy, I am not trying to be mean or steal his fun. If I ask you not to give him lots of attention when he is acting silly don't think I don't love him or delight in him, because I do. With ever fiber, I do love and delight in him and I want him to have fun, but I KNOW my son enough to know that is not what he needs in the moment.

These days will pass and he will settle back down. It's always a cycle. In the meantime, give us a spot of grace.

Hospitality: Revisited

I love "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Suess.

I am not sure why I exactly love it, but every year it resonates with me. Some years it is because I am a total Grinch and I love the illustrations of his face as his wicked thoughts on how to spoil Christmas go through his mind. I am sure that the image of the long-suffering Max with a stick tied to his head has something to do with it, too, but I think for myself and for most connoisseurs, it comes down to this quote:
“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

So, I bet you are wondering what this has to do with hospitality...

Here it is!

Many times we have this idea that hospitality has to come with packages, boxes or bags! The daunting task of "entertaining" our guests keeps us from inviting them in the first place.

Here is the truth: there are people who want a comfy couch to sit on or snooze on after lunch. There are people who simply want to watch a movie of their choosing, or have access to a stove to make a meal.

Entertainment is something that anyone can buy, but home is a gift.

Moral of the story: don't geek yourself out about hosting people, worrying about how to entertain them. Invite them into your home and into your life. Show them where the food is, where the bathrooms are and how to work the showers, and leave the rest to happy chance.

Don't bog yourself down with "process" and "ministry." And for goodness sake, don't be a bean counter.

Be you.
Give yourself.
Be present.
Mess up.

These are the things that form the lasting memories and the precious connections.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Blood Whistles and Poop of Love: Life in an ESL home

(Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad, if you are reading this, don't read the title and think you raised me wrong)

If you have been reading along for awhile, you know that our home is a home that hosts many different languages.

In the day to day stuff, it is no big deal. I mean, we can't play a good game of Balderdash or Scattergories, but life is good, and in my opinion, we communicate pretty well.

But my opinion is not always reality.

Far too often feelings are hurt and decisions are made based on a failure to communicate.

Let's face it, even in the most homogeneous of environments, people can struggle with effective communication.

We all speak a different language based on our history. Garth comes from a Deaf home. English was not his first language, ASL was. His family also had some pretty unique dynamics that have colored the way that he has learned to deal with communication. I bring my upbringing where 'flibilee' is a word and crick is what's over behind the neighbor's house.

People that stay with us not only bring their language; they bring their culture, their faith, their hurts and disappointments, and their prejudices. For better or worse.

Communication can be bumpy and laughable at best and devastating at worst.

One of the laughable moments was last night when Grace was trying to explain to Daniel what the blue things were in his arms.

"Those are veins."

"Dey are not veins. I have blood whistles!"

It took me a second. Haha.

But it makes perfect sense! He is taking a word that he hears and fitting it into the context he understands.

When he first came home he LOVED the song "Proof of Your Love" by Casting Crowns. He would bellow along, making a joyful noise. (He is totally tone deaf, but what he lacks in gifting, he makes up for in volume).

After a few weeks, I started really listening. It wasn't his accent. No. He was singing "Poop of Your Love" instead of "PROOF."

I asked him if he knew what "proof" meant. Of course he didn't. But he knew what poop meant.

Ay yi yi.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Just In Case You Have Ever Been Under The Illusion That We Have It All Together...

Remember that day when the dryer broke and you tried to fix it and got your favorite pair of unmentionables stuck in the dryer, which then broke it even worse? (Not to mention, left the above-mentioned unmentionables in shreds).

And then you were running late to pick up your kid's TUBERCULOSIS medication from the Health Department and you get a call from the school that one of your kids has LICE!

...And you have NO dryer.

...And your kid has consumption!

...And your other kid has lice.

No, Sweet Readers, this is not a Little House on the Prairie re-write; this was my day yesterday.

And all of those things that were going on were punctuated with copious tears.

Today is a new day. A day that I am enjoying the scent of laundry dried outside. A day that ALL the sheets are getting washed.

There is always something to be thankful for. Always.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Itchy Scars

When I was fifteen I was hit by a car. My elbow went through the windshield and I spent the next year and a half being pieced back together.

I have my arm today thanks to a great doctor's humble spirit and knowledge of his limitations.

When it first happened, it shaped my entire world. Everything was demarcated by "before the accident" and "after the accident." I was pulled into a whirlpool of PTSD and a profound sense of loss. At the time, it was a gigantic tragedy.

Through the years, I have dealt with those initial feelings like you would play whack-a-mole. Even today, there are times that I can feel deeply grieved when I think about the accident.

I have been blessed with some wonderful counselors, and some not so wonderful counselors, along the way.

The first guy that I saw, when I was absolutely crippled by panic, told me that I needed to think about the worst case scenario and then picture how I would handle it...and poof! I should feel better because now I know how to handle anything.

Ha. Wrong! What that metastasized into was me frantically running scenarios for every situation: always having an escape route, being hyper-vigilant. It turned into an obsession over the years.

I was blessed with two therapists that were familiar with PTSD and they really finally helped me flush so much of that out.

What I am left with, today, is a weather-telling arm.

My forearm aches when weather systems are coming in. A deep bone ache that no amount of Advil seems to touch or rubbing seems to help. My hand feels weak and I stretch and stretch, trying to release the tension.

That is when the weather changes, so not all the time.

What can happen at any given moment and is not triggered by anything, is the nerve itching.

Ok. This is super weird.

Sometimes my arm itches. But wait, does it? Oh, yes. It does.

Must. Scratch. Itch.

Makes. No. Difference.

I could claw the skin off and the itch would remain. There is literally NO WAY to scratch that itch.

This morning as I was walking the kids to school, God used that itchy scar to show me something.

Here it is:

When we are wounded, we heal. But we have scars.

And those scars? They affect the way things work. I mean, I can feel you touching my arm, but it just doesn't feel right. 

But, HEY! I am not bleeding!

Good as new!?

Sometimes I think so!

Sometimes the scars work just like the skin would have; keeping my blood in and my muscle covered.

It's faded to where you can hardly see it anymore!

And then... it starts itching. And I know that it is healed, but that this is just going to be the way it is all of my life. That, no matter how pale the scar gets, it is still there.

Its very presence testifying to the brokenness that was thrust upon my life.

When I feel frustrated about the ebb and flow that undoubtedly come with parenting a child from hard places, I need to remember my 18-year-old itchy scar.