Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What she doesn't know.

Tonight was Harriett's last high school band concert.  It's the end of an era of watching her play her french horn. I took a bunch of pictures, since that's what I do, and I wonder if she knows what's happening in my heart.

She doesn't know.

There's so very much she doesn't know, and she really is a very smart girl.

There are things I want her to know.  I want her to know she's loved, and that she has a home with people who love her that she can always come back to.  She knows that.  I want her to remember that wherever she is, she's never alone, because God is so much a part of her that he lives in every cell of her being, rooting her on and encouraging her, if she listens for his voice.  I'm pretty sure she knows that too.  I want her to be able to tell who to trust and who to avoid.  I want her to be confident enough to see the whole wide world, and find the love in it.  

There are also SO MANY THINGS I don't want her to know.  I don't want her to know desperation.   I don't want her to know abandonment.  I don't want her to feel betrayal, or the pain of being deeply, physically hurt by someone who is supposed to love her. I don't want her to know addiction. (Except to well-written novels.) I don't want her to know terror or crippling fear. I don't want her to know, PERSONALLY KNOW, the world that the TV shows all portray that seem so foreign to the way she was raised.  I don't want her to see the badness of the world as the reality of the world. I don't want her to know hatred.  

I know she's going to grow up and know things that I can't even imagine yet.  I pray that she ALWAYS knows love.  I pray that she will always be my dear, sweet, kind-hearted, book-loving, french-horn playing, softball pitching girl. I pray that she knows she is wonderfully and fearfully made in the image and likeness of God.

I hope she teaches the world some of what she knows. She knows love.    

Thursday, March 9, 2017

We say goodbye, she says hello.

It's time for us to say goodbye.

Nobody wants to.  We love him so much, and have so many fond memories.  We've fished together and laughed together.  We've played cards together and shared so many funny stories. He was the uncle who could drive trains.  TRAINS for crying out loud! He took us to his work once, and let me ride and even blow the whistle.  I love that guy! He laughed all the time, and usually had a smile on his face, but behind the smile I always sensed a sadness. Something that he was missing.

I knew what it was, but we didn't really talk about it.

It was her, and as we say goodbye, she says hello.

I keep seeing her in my head. Her strawberry blond hair blowing in the breeze as she runs to greet her daddy.  Kathleen hasn't seen her daddy since 1974.  She was trapped in a body that didn't work right, with a brain that caused her to seize repeatedly.  She left that body behind when bell-bottoms were all the rage. Daddy wasn't even 30 yet, and she's been waiting ever since for THIS day.  He's finally here!

I remember her tiny features. That skinny little girl that was always a baby, now is free to run to her daddy. RUN! She's free of that body and brain that held her captive. She smiles and laughs and looks him clearly right in the eye and says the words he probably always hoped to hear from her: I love you, Daddy!

Can you picture the smile on his face? It's not the same smile he's tried to put on lately.  It's the smile of that young daddy for his baby girl. Watch Clint look at his daughters, and you'll know what I'm talking about.  He reaches out to hold her, and looks at his hands.  They are no longer the hardened, stiff hands that he's been trying to function with lately.  They've been made perfect and whole.  As he runs to her, his breath moves freely in his lungs,and his heart pounds out a strong and steady beat. Finally free.  

What an incredible gift.

Uncle CJ has been blessed with so many wonderful years with Chuck and Dale and Clint.  He's been blessed with the love of parents, wives and friends. (And NIECES and nephews, siblings, co-workers, etc.) We will all miss him so very much, but it's her turn.

Our day will come.  Until then, we'll keep a smile in our hearts for them both.  We'll do what he did.  We'll live THIS day, and look forward to our next day together.  We'll love and laugh, and tell his stories until we meet again.

Friday, January 6, 2017

What's wrong with being "Confident?"

I heard that song on the radio, and asked myself the same question. What IS wrong with being confident? Truly, nothing. If you are properly defining the word "confident".

I heard a different song that got me thinking about this. The songs couldn't be more different. This other song was written centuries ago. In Latin, it's known as "Adeste Fideles" in English "Oh Come All Ye Faithful." If you know me, you know I'm a total Word Nerd and love learning the roots, origins and etymology of words. So naturally, I was curious about these Latin In our church, as in others as well, we sing it in latin, and one of the words looked familiar: FIDELES.

It comes from the word FIDES which means Faith. This version of the word FAITH (thanks to means  "trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence, belief,"  

So, CON FIDES means "with much FAITH."  

Am I living my life like one of those "Fideles" being invited to "Adeste"?  Am I truly "Full of Faith"?  FULL?  

Con Fides.  "With much faith" is the kind of mindset that allowed Mary to say Yes to whatever God had in mind for her life.  "Fideles" is the mindset that the disciples took with them everywhere they went to proclaim the gospel to all who would listen.  

Con-Fidence is what I wish for everyone this New Year!  In 2017, May you be filled with FAITH that whatever it brings with it, He will love us through it.  Let's have CONFIDENCE that whoever dies this year will experience a peaceful death. Let's have CONFIDENCE that the new people born this year will be a blessing to the world they inherit. 

Let's all go forward, boldly into 2017 with the CONFIDENCE, the fullness of Faith, that our words and actions will reflect that Faith in our hearts, and the Love of the one we have Faith in.    

Oh come, let us adore him.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The God of "Jacob"

"Jacob" screams at the top of his lungs, "JESUS CHRIST!!!"

You can hear him all the way down the hallway, slamming his chair against a wall and crashing anything he can reach onto the floor.  "GOD!!!" Oh my GODDD!!" He screams, unleashing the fury that he just can't contain any longer.  A stream of obscenities leaves his lips next, that you wouldn't think a second grader would know.

He does know them.  He listened to his mother and father scream them at each other well into the night.  Again. They screamed and fought well after the "good kids" of the neighborhood were in bed, tucked in by parents who love them, and love each other.  They pushed and shoved each other into the early hours of the morning, while "Jacob" cowered in his room, trying to sleep, but afraid. Would the police come tonight? Again? Honest to God, he just wanted to sleep!

Now here he is.  No sleep.  No meds.  No shower.  No breakfast.  He made it to school because he got himself  up and around in time to catch the bus, and now he's exhausted.  He came to school with an attitude.  I wonder why.

"Jacob" does the only thing he knows to do.  He screams and swears because he has learned that's what adults do when they're angry and afraid and at the end of their rope.

"Jacob" does something else, too.  Something he doesn't understand, and may not even realize he's doing it.

"Jacob" prays.

He screams the name of a savior he needs desperately, but doesn't know personally.  He screams the name of the Creator who made him and put him here.  He's terrified.  He needs God!  He calls him by name! If you listen, you can hear the urgency in his voice, along with the anger and fear.  He doesn't use the loving tone you will hear in any church, but it is, none the less, the only prayer this kid knows.

He doesn't know what "God" means, but he's screaming out for help!  He's looking for someone that will love him and care for him.  He's so very DESPERATE for a SAVIOR!! He's looking for someone who will stand between him and certain destruction.

Amidst the stream of obscenities, is a plea for help to the God of this "Jacob", and all the "Jacobs" of the world. He is the God of every kid that struggles.  Every kid that fails. He's the God of every family that screams and hits and curses their way through long nights, and the police who come to protect them. He is the God of every messed up, addicted, hyperactive or just plain "naughty" kid, teen and adult there is. He hears those prayers, and he loves them.  

Pray for all the Jacobs of the world. When you see them, don't be so quick to judge. Help them with your prayers.  


Monday, November 7, 2016

You are NOT a Good Candidate

Tomorrow is election day.  If you were running for political office, you may be offended if someone said that to you, but you'd get over it.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

That's not the kind of candidate I'm talking about.

Some years back, I was in the room while my friend's brother Peter heard these words from his doctor.  The doctor had to tell him, "I'm so sorry, but you are not a good candidate for a liver transplant. Your liver is failing, and there are no other treatments available."

Peter didn't get over it.  He died of liver failure, just as the doctor said.  There were no other options available to him.

I recently heard about a heart sister of mine.  I've never met her, but she sounds like a lovely person.  She was young, married about 10 years and had little kids.  She was told those same words:  "I'm sorry, but you're not a good candidate for this procedure."  It was a procedure that she had hoped would save her life and solve her heart trouble.  She died waiting to discuss what other options might help her.

You can hear these stories, but they don't really prepare you for the reality. You hear of a procedure that sounds like it can cure your ailment.  For me, it was the promise of a procedure called an ablation.  I mean, imagine it!  If this works, no more heart disease!  My only reason for not running will be laziness!  I won't be controlled by a handful of pills and a machine in my chest.  I'll be free!  I can go back to assuming I will live to be eighty!

So I had the test, and waited.

...And waited.

And I silently prayed.  And I hoped that this would be the cure I've been waiting for.  And I allowed myself to actually imagine what life will be like if this works out.  For real.

But instead I heard those words, "you are NOT a good candidate...."  Sorry. (Can you hear my hopes crashing into the ground?) There will not be a simple fix.  There will not be an end in sight.  This heart problem will not go away. I'm stuck with it, and after that experience, it feels even more heavy and more oppressive.  I am not a good candidate.  This will not fix my problem.

That was a few years ago, and I've accepted my situation.  If I have 3-6 bad days a month, I'm still in the A- to B+ range.  Not bad for a formerly dead girl.  However, I'm sometimes still haunted by that day in Peter's hospital room.  My heart still goes out to those who are hearing "I'm sorry, you are not a good candidate for this life-saving procedure." It's not the doctor's fault.  There's only so much they can do.  That doctor was deeply affected by telling Peter that news.  He would have loved to tell him some treatment or surgery that would turn back years of mistreatment and neglect of his health.  Just like so many heart docs would love to know a way to turn back the clock so we could stop smoking and start eating healthy and exercising while we were still healthy enough to do it.  Not all heart disease works that way, but 80% is preventable.  We have to make ourselves good candidates while we can.

Tomorrow is election day.  I'll be praying for ALL the candidates.  I'll also be praying that more of my heart family WILL be good candidates for life-saving procedures and transplants. I'll be praying that we can all be filled with hope,  



Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Demolition Queen!

We had a leaky roof that caused some water damage to the walls and ceiling of our dining room.  Said walls and ceiling must now be removed and replaced.  Mostly by me.  Because I am a BEAST at demolition!

I had NO IDEA I was a Demolition Queen until I felt the first full whack of the sledgehammer and watched the drywall buckle and bust.  The crashing of the broken pieces of my dining room wall hitting the floor was like a fresh batch of whiskey to a bootlegger! 

I. Am. Hooked.

I might just start randomly pulling down walls just for kicks and giggles, but first I think I need to finish the dining room.  

As I donned my super-sexy dust mask/eye protection goggles/protective hat combo, I started to think deep thoughts about this whole experience.  I mean, for me, the whole journey so far has been a metaphor for my life.  I have reached a point where what I had been "getting by" with no longer works  for me, and may in fact, be making me sick.  (I don't think we have any black mold, but it's pretty nasty looking up there.  It can't be healthy.)  

So, it's time for a change.  I started from the inside of the room,packing up the things I thought I needed to display and have "at the ready".  Like my sewing machine that was last used over a year ago, and the wine selection in the china hutch that hasn't been touched in ages.  I removed those things and packed them away for later.  I've also done that with my day job.  I'll get it back out, when this interior work is completed, just like I will go back to school in September, and continue my dream job of teaching little people to love school, reading, friends, broccoli, and an assortment of other things they never knew they liked.  For now, those skills are boxed up.  With my china.  

I've had to rearrange some big pieces of furniture and remove EVERYTHING from the room.  My life is in flux, and making a space, or allowing things to be gone is hard for me.  Some of my kids are graduating, and are in the process of moving on with their adult lives in their own homes.  They will be missed, and when it's time for them to go, it will be hard.  They are mighty big pieces of the "furniture" in my heart and they can't be replaced.  I also won't replace the dining room table that was so prominent in there.  I tried to move it and the legs snapped off.  Thankfully, the kids' legs are all still attached.  

I pulled out the carpet in one big piece. Just pulled up the edges and rolled that bad monkey right out of there.  I don't need no steenking carpet!  It was stained with 18+ years of nail polish and dog pee and orange pop.  I was in no way sad to see this carpet go, but it was super heavy, and I started to doubt my ability to physically complete this project. Then I was able to carry out the underlayment in 2 separate pieces by myself.  Oh yeah, I don't have anything to prove to anyone.  I'm  just remodeling a room.  Slow down......

Two walls of this room are internal.  They are shared with another wall inside the house.  They are close and intimate, and there is nothing between these walls but air and time, and the dust of all the years.  Opening those walls was like releasing so many loving conversations.  It was like setting free the memories of parties and games and laughter and singing.  I could once again hear the silliness and fun that has happened in my home, and the cheerful voices of our wonderful children that Luke and I have been blessed to share it with.  These walls open easily.  The old drywall comes down in large pieces, and because there's nothing to stop them from cracking, they don't take nearly as much work with the sledgehammer. These walls make me feel invincible!!

The other two walls are external. They are packed top to bottom with blown insulation that is made of mulched old newspapers.  How interesting that we would use the news of the day to protect our family from that which would harm it. That room has always been colder than the rest of the house, so I don't believe it was a very good insulation plan.  However, opening up each section of wall and physically removing all of that crap was so very cleansing.  Some of it would come out in big bricks of puffy stuff. Some would start to come out in a brick, until it missed the trash can and exploded all over my leg and into my socks with a million cells of fluffy, dusty, nastiness. It's like going to confession.  "Here, Father, let me just open up this panel of wall and dump out for you all the old crappy fluff I've decided to pack into my life because it seemed like a good idea at the time.  It seemed like something that would protect me or keep me warm, but it really and truly is trash." So I am absolved, but I still have fluff in my socks, and I still need to fill my trash bags with this stuff, and remove it from my metaphoric "room".  I will try asbestos I can to make better choices. (See what I did there... Anyway.)  

So here I am.  My walls are bared.  My insulation is gone.  The floor is swept of the debris of drywall and fluff.  And dust...So much dust!  I really am made of dust, and to dust I will return.  (I am reminded of this every time I re-enter this room, an put my dust mask back on.)  I take a look around the room and realize that I have done all I can do for right now.  The next step is a doozy, and I'm not sure I'm ready.  I'm not sure exactly what to expect.  

After Luke removes the chandelier, we will take down the ceiling. I'll post a picture.  It's gross!  I'm really afraid of what will come falling down on  me when I open that can of worms. Can I swing a sledgehammer over my head while standing on a ladder?  Should I?  What disgusting assortment of nasty ceiling contents is going to come raining down upon me?  Is my tarp big enough?   Just like my life.  Who isn't afraid when you get ready to take a great leap of faith with the One who is Above you?  Things get dicey when you decide to remove some of the things that get between you and your Creator.  I just want to be closer to Him.  And I'd like to be rid of the damage caused by my leaky roof.    

Who knew how much there is to learn by demolishing a dining room?  Maybe God sent that leak just for me!                 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Elevator, going up?

I don't know why they decided to take the elevator, but they did.  Probably for the same reason people climb mountains and write songs. The Spirit moved them in that direction and they went with it.  
I don't know why it jammed after moving upwards only a few feet.  Perhaps the elevator was faulty. Perhaps they were too "active" in the elevator car.  Perhaps it just happened out of dumb luck.  Perhaps God had some lessons to teach us, and used this elevator for that purpose.  
Let me start by saying that I am fully aware of how much my Harriett hates small enclosed spaces.  I know how she gets panicky when the walls appear to close in on her, and I can only imagine the horror in her soul when she realized that the elevator was no longer moving, and that she may, in fact, be trapped in that metal box with her sister and her best friends, for an indefinite period of time.  They started screaming immediately after the elevator stopped, and their friend and hero, Kathy, was on the other side of the door, immediately calling for back-up. 
Lesson #1: When you discover you're stuck, call for help!  
By the time I got there, it was almost a festive atmosphere. The girls were singing to pass the time and to control the anxiety.  Staff members, priests, and an assortment of supportive team members worked to keep the girls happy, requesting songs and joking with them to keep them calm while the fire department and building and grounds crew did their best to remedy the elevator situation.  

 Lesson #2: When you're trapped in a metal box (real or metaphoric) you get to choose your reaction.  You can panic and cry, or you can rally your troops and sing some 4 part harmony.  

When the second fire and rescue vehicle arrived, things got a little more scary.  Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, the fire department would have to use some rescue machinery known as the "Jaws of Life" to open the elevator door.  They made everyone leave the area.  I protested, "Those are MY kids!"  "I'm sorry Ma'am, but you have to go, too."  He was as sympathetic as he could be, given the circumstances.  When I saw the equipment he was about to use on the door that held my precious daughters (and their cousin and friend, who I also count as my beloved daughters) I freaked out a little.    

Lesson #3: When people you love are trapped in a metal box (real or metaphoric) DON'T 

I went upstairs,as directed, but I didn't go outside with the rest of the team.  I couldn't leave my kids! I stood at the elevator door, a floor above them and banged on the door so they could hear me.  I hope they could hear me.  I banged and yelled, "I'm right HERE!  Mom's right HERE! You'll be right out in a minute!  It's gonna get loud, but I'm right HERE!"  I heard them scream for me.  I heard them cry.  I listened to them cry, and I'd never felt so helpless.  I couldn't see what was happening, but I could hear metal grinding and the roar of the machines that must be deafening inside that metal box. I was having a "Mary Moment."  Is this how she felt while her son was being crucified?   

Lesson #4: What God taught me: 

As I banged on the door it occurred to me that I am not the first to feel this way.  Girls, every bit of my heart wants to be in that box with you.  I want to protect you, and calm you and wrap my arms around you, but you're trapped in a big metal box.  I would gladly trade places with you and be locked in that box FOR you, but all I can do right now is to stand above and tell you I'm here, and hope you keep listening for my voice, and that it brings you comfort. For a tiny moment, I felt connected to all of my ancestors who await my arrival in Heaven.  They call to me that they are right there, and they are hoping that I find comfort in their presence: in God's Holy Presence, which they are a part of.   This was certainly how Jesus felt, which inspired Him to be born of a woman so he could get on all of our elevators with us.  This is how the Creator felt in all of the Old Testament stories where the choices of his people landed them in their own forms of captivity again and again. 

This is the story of a parent loving her children, and wanting them to be free so they could be together. 

It's my story of an elevator.

It's the story of everyone who has ever been held captive by addiction, or poor choices, or PTSD, or just the circumstances of life. 

It's God's story of love. 

Lesson 5: Sometimes you have to use power tools to break free from your captivity.  

So this is what the door looked like after the girls were freed from the elevator.  It won't be functional again without a significant amount of help. Some metal boxes need to be broken to allow for a proper and timely escape. Their entire interment was a little over 2 hours.  We enjoyed the biggest hug of their young lives at the top of that stairwell! There was SO MUCH REJOICING that they were free.

Thank you, Lord, for the lessons.  Thank you CHWC Staff and Mike McDuffie. Thank you, camp coordinators, and the Groton Fire and Rescue, and Public Safety officers!  Thank you FC and KDubs.