Monthly Archives: July 2010

From Here To There; Where is Hope?

As I type, my heart is heavy and my stomach feels as though I’ve been dropped off the edge of a cliff. Shortly after six pm this evening, an airplane on our base crashed. Initially, all we knew was that there was some sort of fire on the installation, because there was a plume of smoke that could be seen for miles around. When an event like this occurs in a military community, we all drop to our knees. A wild panic hits us and we wonder if our worst fear has been realized. Is this the day that we’ve pretended would never happened? Information is more valuable than gold and the curse of the information age is that snippets of information, whether true or not, spread like a brush fire. Frantic phone calls are made by wives; if there is a spare moment, the service member will call home with a short announcement, “I am okay.” No other details are given so that proper identification and notification can be afforded to the families of those fallen.

We all buckle down and wait….very carefully. As the mushroom cloud of a tragedy expands, it can very easily envelope you and collapse your world. I sit knowing that I could be those women and these could be my children. My life is the one that could have been torn in two and I could be the one receiving officials notifying me of my loss. After four agonizing hours that have crawled by at the pace of a glacier, the public is informed that all four on board perished.

From the instant I learned of the accident, my first thought was of a bereaved wife. In my mind, I can see her silhouetted in the door of her home waiting for the calvary (a.k.a. Daddy) to ride in and save her from the hour at which all children morph from innocents into trolls. How will she hold up when she has to do this parenting life alone? What will she do with her broken dreams? Who will comfort her? And what about the beautiful children who are waiting for a Daddy who will never come home again? There are so many heartrending questions and precious few, if any, answers.

As my heart aches for the loved ones and prays for angels to comfort them, I wonder at the fragility of life. How can a soul be here one second and gone the next? Astronomists say that when a star ‘dies’ it collapses in on itself and creates a vacuum that pulls other planets and matter into the void. I think death is like that sometimes…it rips the joy and security out of the lives of those affected by it. Death marks people with an ugly scar as it passes them by.

I also ponder the immediacy of the body and the timelessness of the spirit. Bodies wear out and expire, but the soul lasts forever. It is almost as though a spirit goes through a phase contrast or shift. Somehow, they are transparently embedded in a body and inexplicably, almost invisibly, find release from the body and flow into eternity…from Here (the body) to There.

There are times when meeting death is a welcome event; quiet and lulling in nature, almost like meeting an old friend for coffee. Recently, I watched a friend lose his long fought battle with Leukemia. After ten years of battling, he was spent and I remember telling him that he would be able to pick out his wallpaper for a heavenly mansion soon. When he left his body, it was a remarkably peaceful event as though he finally decided to let go of his own accord. I was there as he left his body and I found comfort in those final moments of peace. Today’s events were totally disparate, cataclysmic. Lives were violently ripped from this world, and that fact seems so inherently wrong, unfair, purposeless.

As I pray and mull over these thoughts, I’m reading the account of Lazarus’ death in the book of John. Thomas (you may know him as the doubter) was so overcome with grief that he said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go that we may die with him.” Even though Thomas was in the presence of Jesus, the man whom he had seen perform miracles and healings, he was ready to give up on life altogether. His mind was completely unable to find hope in those dark moments. The thought of facing the future without his friend was more than he could bear. Job, another one of God’s greatest men in the Bible,lamented that it would have been better if he had not been born. He had lost everything in his life; all of his wealth, his health, and worst of all, he’d lost his children.

I know I’d have these feelings if my husband was torn from me. I’d want to lay down and refuse to live! I am certain I would fight my way forward and continue for my children, but I don’t think I’d be able to see beyond the next sixty seconds. Despair would be like an ice fog and I would be running from it.

In this time, I ask myself “How is my faith in Christ relevant?” It occurs to me that I should meditate on the fact that of all the things God created, He didn’t create death. He meant for us to live and walk with him eternally. His entire purpose in sending Jesus to the cross is to save us from death so that we might find LIFE in Him.

My next question, is “How do I share Christ’s love from where I sit?” The only conclusion I can reach is that we must mourn with those who mourn. We must weep with those who weep. And we must pray for strength to be ‘present’ in these painful, opaque times. Perhaps the hardest task is to trust God’s sovereignty; to know that He IS; His grace is sufficient even when it doesn’t feel like enough.

I must remember that our God is big enough and strong enough to handle our doubts and fears. Almighty God cares so much about us that he listens to the whisper of each and every prayer and counts every hair on our heads. We are not forgotten here while he has gathered our loved ones there on the other side of eternity. He has not abandoned us HERE either and promises, “I am with you always, even unto the ends of the earth.” Truly, some days the ends of the earth sound like a welcome place to be, but we must strain to find the hope amidst a situation that feels truly hopeless.

Giving Birth

The apostle Paul often likens the journey of life to a race and in many ways, this is accurate. However, I’d like to compare living the Christian Life to giving birth. Unlike many of my friends, motherhood or the prospect of becoming a mother, scared me. From the very time I learned that I was pregnant with my daughter, I was absolutely terrified. From that instant onward, I was on a one way street. Birth was imminent. One way or the other, that baby was coming out! I struggled with a multitude of self doubts while I cradled her in my womb. What if I can’t handle the pain? What if the epidural doesn’t take? What if she gets stuck and I can’t get her out? I was completely focused on the pain of childbearing and the fear of the unknown. Like most people I know, I don’t savor pain. In fact, I do my very darnedest to avoid it if at all possible. As a friend once said, “Giving birth is like saying, “I’m going to hit your thumb with a hammer, but it will only be a small hammer. The size of the hammer doesn’t really matter. Your thumb is still going to hurt!”

Similarly, giving birth, or the fact that women keep having children, is really amazing. Women all over the world and throughout millennia keep having children, in spite of knowing what causes THAT condition. Now that I’ve had children and crossed over the bridge, I know with great certainty that labor and delivery hurts “like the Dickens,” as my grandfather would say. What makes the pain of birthing manageable is that this is a triumphant, productive pain. Every synapse and muscle fiber in the body is focused and straining to achieve the seemingly impossible task of forcing that giant head through a miniscule opening. It hurts SO BADLY. Each contraction is such an intense event that the rotation of the earth around the sun seems to slow. Every pore on a mother’s body is pouring sweat and the only thought one can think is PUSSSSHHHHHH! The negative thoughts like “OHMYGOSH I CAN’T DO IT” are drowned out by the overwhelming force of each contraction. Then, it happens in an instant. The bones of the pelvis shift ever so slightly and at long last, miraculously allow passage. In a rush, that new little person is pushed out, expelled into the world…BORN. In that moment, I knew the joy that others could only tell me about, but that I could not understand until I lived it myself. I knew why women keep getting pregnant, keep having children. Every mother I know would relive those tortuous hours just to hold that precious baby again.

The Bible tells us that we will endure hardship and persecution and pain. And you will hurt so badly in this world. So badly that you may limp, physically or emotionally, every day throughout the rest of your life in this world. But in a flash, in the blink of an eye, the pain will end and it will all have been worth it. You will be forever changed, and your reward will be so great that you would live life all over again just to experience His presence.

Well Done, A Poem

It comes and goes; it ebbs and flows…This life that is mine.
The tides of comfort and of pain,
the emotions I hide and try to restrain
behind a mask of supposed joy and ease.

Really, I get lost amongst the strategies of how to cope,
First trying one, then another, clawing at each hope.
And maybe I look like I’ve got it all together,
but “all together” has really got me.
I hope so hard that no one else can clearly see
how inept I feel at life.

But I know that I know life has a purpose
for Jesus made such a painful purchase
of this wounded soul.

Though I feel like a Thrift Shop castoff in the back,
reduced for sale on the bargain rack,
He sees something inside of me that makes me worthwhile.
A little glimmer of Him in me that makes Him smile.

Maybe that’s really all I need to know.
Perhaps “HOW COME?” and “WHY?” or “WHY ME? “
are irrelevant in the eternality
of His grand design.

I want Him to give me His bird’s-eye-view.
To have the knowledge that life isn’t as askew
as it feels from day to day.
To feel the solidarity of fighting and coping
amongst the others who are struggling and hoping
that their life has meaning beyond the here and now.

And best of all when it’s said and done,
And we’re finally in the presence of the beloved Son,
we’ll feel his embrace and know that it was all worthwhile.

He’ll look into my eyes like a very proud parent
and with a voice of pride that is so transparent,
I’ll hear the words I’ve always hoped would come,
Well done my child, Well Done!

Never Really Mine

He was never really mine,
this child whose birth angels foretold.
Though I cradled him in my womb for many months,
labored, gritted, bore down until he was expelled,
this child, my achievement, was someone else’s from the start.

There was never a burden so wonderful as the weight of him in my arms.
The heaviness of that little body kept all of the loose ends in my soul
from flapping about. My heart was happily tethered to him.
His presence brought me comfort.

His scent was a hint of heaven, like a breeze suggesting
things to come. He smelled of sweet innocence and wood shavings,
bright and clean. I would breathe in all that was good and true and real
as I held his silken head beneath my chin. Joy would ignite in my chest
expanding so that I thought my heart might burst from happiness.

As I watched him grow from a boy into an awkward young man,
I was reminded of who he really was. I tried SO HARD to forget.
After all of those years, I thought that maybe God
would let me keep him, my firstborn.
Many times he would be missing and each time,
after hours of frantic searching, we would find him in the temple.

Although I wanted to warn him away, I knew that I could not.
Though my heart denied it, some small piece of me knew that was his home.
Scholars and priests were astounded and pleased at his understanding.
I saw in them the gleam of greed as they angled to make him
their protégé. If he wasn’t really mine, he certainly wasn’t theirs either!
That realization assuaged some small part of my feelings of loss.
I even had to smile at these men, so unaware that they
were unaware. And I, a poor woman of an obscure tribe
could see what they could not.

My young man grew into a person of no small influence.
He began to wander, speak, heal. I felt him slipping from
my grasp. My heart cried, “Not Yet! I need more time!”
It took scrabbling through crowds of sweaty, dusty
men to catch a glimpse of him. I had to elbow my way
to the front just so I could hear the low, clear timbre
of his voice. His voice was the song of my soul.

Oh how the people loved him! Fickle, Fickle fools!
He was no threat to you! He desired no wealth, no fame,
no acclaim. Your robes may be white, but there
is blood on your hands!

As I stand here beneath him at the foot
of this barbaric cross, I can see
that he is very nearly gone. My
entire life’s purpose has been caring for
him and here I am helpless.
As his mother, I can offer no comfort, ease no pain.
The flies surrounding him have greater power than I.
At least they can touch his beautiful face, the
cheeks that I’ve kissed many thousands
of times. I would give my very life to
kiss him one last time, but I can’t reach even
the soles of his feet.

As he breathes his last breath, It takes
every bit of my reserve to draw one more.
It would be far easier to stop breathing
with him.

This is not how I thought it would end!
My soul is torn; my heart is crushed!
Where is God in all this? Why send an angel to
herald his birth and then let my son, HIS son
be murdered at the hands of greedy cowards?
How can my greatest gift become
my greatest source of grief?

My heart, the heart of a mother, will
forever expect him to stride through the door.
I will see him in my dreams and long
never to wake. I will strive
to remember every angle of his face.
I will search my memory straining to recall
the sound of his voice.

In the market, familiar sights, scents, and sounds
will lull me into forgetting, just for a moment.
And I will have to remind myself to breathe
As the pain pierces my heart and
I remember his absence all over again.
He isn’t here anymore.

Others will whisper, there is Jesus’
mother. Maybe they will believe that
he was a traitor, but I will know the truth.
I will hold my head high.
My precious little boy was God’s own son.
By a miracle I conceived, by a miracle
I was chosen to carry the Christ.

Though I may grieve all the days of my life,
I will find beauty in the sorrow.
My son was never really mine alone.
But I will see him again on the other side
of eternity, and he will be the king in Heaven
that I thought he would be here on earth.

Important People

I’m in a tizzy, prepping, cleaning, baking, and most importantly of all Stressing. We are having a work affiliated party at our house. I’d planned a casual, and by casual I mean my house doesn’t have to be spotless, grill and chill. My ‘planning’ consisted of buying some items at the store, throwing my arms in the air, and saying it will all get done enough to have the party. Foolish me…My husband got an email last night indicating that some important people are planning to come. So I’ve been having a freak fit which only makes it harder for me to approach my tasks in an orderly fashion. Then I got a phone call from my husband. It was the sort of call that sends you to your knees in prayer. (God must be working on my testimony and patience.) In those few precious moments, I realized that I am having a conniption over important people coming over, but the most important one is here…Jesus. He’s the one I need to be worried about pleasing and serving. I need to get over myself and focus on him. The frenzy of energy I’ve been expending is all well and good, but I need to refocus and treat Him as my honored, most important guest in my home each and every day.

Maybe I’ll just drive through for KFC and let the guests fend for themselves. They can battle it down to the last spork and tub o’ mashed potatoes. ; )