Category Archives: Struggling Life

Always On My Mind

IMG_0127Jon’s been to the sedation dentist five times in the past eight months. We still have two to three more appointments to finish all the repair needed and then there’s the question of whether there’ll be more in the future.

There’s always this thing about Jon’s future (and not just his teeth). It wants to hang over me like a dark cloud, more than I care to admit.

I don’t worry about our son, David. I think about him everyday, but never worry about him. But Jon? Oh yes! I worry about him plenty and have for many years. The older he and I get, the more it weighs on me. Maybe this is normal for parents of kids who need care and supervision their entire lives. Is it? Or am I alone here?

I can be having a conversation with you and in the far recesses of my mind I’m thinking about Jon. I can be at the grocery store, in a church service, on a cruise, visiting my grandson; I can be anywhere doing anything and Jon is present in my thoughts. He’s always on my mind.

Other’s tell me, “Well you shouldn’t worry so much. It’s in God’s hands.”
I smile and reply, “Thank you, that’s true. You’re right. Pray for me.”
But honestly, what I sometimes want to shout is, “That’s easy for you to say!”

So how do we trust God in situations that continue day after day, year after year? It’s real. It’s in our face every morning when we rise and every night when we lay down. How do we find peace and contentment in this place? Can I ever reach a place of total surrender here? Can I ever mature enough in God to never feel this anxiety again, even when nothing has changed? Can I get through a day without having to lay it down at  Jesus’ feet again and again? Today. Tomorrow. And the next day. Or the one after that.

I don’t know. I want to. Worry wears me out. It’s exhausting.

Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34) but in context, He was talking about material goods needed for life: food, drink and clothes. He wasn’t talking about my son. Apostle Paul also wrote in Philippians 4:12 that he had “learned the secret of being content in every situation” but also related this to material needs; hunger, abundance and lack. He wasn’t talking about Jon either.

So I look at these:

“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you..” Psalm 55:22.

“Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything.” (Apostle Paul) Philippians 4:6.

“..Cast all your anxiety on Him (Jesus) because He cares for you” 1 Peter 5:6-8.

“Come to Me (Jesus) all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (Jesus) John 14:27.

I read these promises and realize this worry free existence we hope for, may NOT be a ‘I’ve finally arrived’ deal. I wonder if we ever reach the pinnacle of ability to sail through a trouble filled earth life without angst. As believers in an all powerful and involved-in-life God, maybe we do ourselves and others a disservice when we expect to reach a super spiritual level of never worrying about anything, ever again, this side of Heaven.

We read our Bibles and cliché these scriptures into meaninglessness, beating ourselves up for failing and feeling sub-standard for not measuring up.

Could it be these promises aren’t about removing worry from life permanently, but instructions for surrendering it daily? If “faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen,” (Hebrews 11:1) then everyday I need to lay what I hope for at His feet. Everyday while I wait ‘for what I have not yet seen’ I need His strength to battle the enemies of worry, doubt and fear.

Everyday I pray.
Everyday I cast my anxiety on Him.
Everyday I come to Him for peace and rest.
Everyday I run to Him with my problems.
Everyday I choose to trust Him.
Everyday I believe He loves me.
Everyday I lay my questions, concerns, fears and worries before Him.
Everyday I surrender Jon, his future and mine, back to Him.

Today. Tomorrow. And the next day. And the one after that.

The better question to ask is this: “Can trouble or problems or persecution separate us from His love?” Romans 8:35

When I remember I’m loved, it’s easier to let go.
When I remember I’m loved, I worry less.
When I remember I’m loved, I breathe deeper.
When I remember I’m loved, I surrender completely.

“But in all these troubles we have complete victory through God, who has shown His love for us. Yes, I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love..” Romans 8:38.

In my daily surrender, God’s love overtakes my worry. When His love is always on my mind, His love always wins.

“..nothing in the whole created world—will ever be able to separate us from the love God has shown us in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:39.

Nothing. Will ever!

Not Today. Tomorrow. And the next day. Or the one after that. Hallelujah!

The God Who Sees

tile-floorsI was on my hands and knees scrubbing the tile floor around the toilet for the fourth time in a week. Those of you who live with boys know they sometimes miss. Jon is not a boy. He’s a man. And he still misses, way too often for my liking.

As I applied bleach to the grout again, I sighed and breathed out loud, “I hope I can still get down here and do this when I’m 80,” and felt a sudden hopelessness roll over me.

Then I heard a still small voice in the depths of my soul.

“I see you.”

My Bible reading that morning had brought me to the story of Hagar. Hagar was the slave of Sarai, Abram’s wife, obtained in one of their detour trips to Egypt. Hagar came from a culture that worshiped multiple gods. The Egyptians had a god for everything, so Abraham’s god, on her list of imaginative deities, was probably added only to appease the old folks.

Hagar had no rights. She was a nobody. Her duty in life was to fulfill the wishes of another, and when barren Sarai grew tired of waiting for the son God had promised Abram, she did what was a common practice of their culture. Sarai sent Abram to sleep with her slave to claim a son through Hagar. Hagar was forced to become a surrogate mom.

Genesis 16:1-3 “Sarai, Abram’s wife, had no children, but she had a slave girl from Egypt named Hagar. Sarai said to Abram, “Look, the Lord has not allowed me to have children, so have sexual relations with my slave girl. If she has a child, maybe I can have my own family through her.” Abram did what Sarai said.”

When Hagar became pregnant she realized she now had an advantage over Sarai. Hagar got herself an attitude and who could blame her, really? What’s Sarai going to do to her now that she’s carrying Abram’s child? Someone who’s had no control over her own destiny finally had an edge. Eventually the relationship between the two women became so intolerable, Hagar ran away.

Genesis 6:7-12 finds Hagar beside a spring of water in the desert having a conversation with an angel of God. She was told to go back home and continue to serve Sarai. But God promised Hagar her son, would become a great nation also. He gave her hope.

Not one of Egypt’s gods had ever spoken to her. Not one of them cared enough to show up and reassure a despairing slave girl. But Abram’s God did. And she was amazed.

This God knew who she was. Where she was. And what she needed. This God had eyes to see her and ears to hear her. This God cared!

Then, “the slave girl gave a name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are ‘God who sees me,’” because she said to herself, “Have I really seen God who sees me?” Genesis 6:13

I realized that day on the floor that God sees me. He said as much.  And every time I get on the floor to scrub again, I am reassured He is pleased. What we determine to be small, insignificant, unseen and even annoying, matters greatly to God.

God sees you driving to work again, that counter you wiped, the laundry washed and folded, the dishwasher you load, the toilet scrubbed, another diaper changed, the gas tank you just filled and each time you help lift that person in and out of his wheelchair.

He sees the smile you brought to someone, the hug you gave, the ride you offered, the meal you cooked.

He sees how tired, desperate and broken you are.

It matters to Him. The unseen is important to Him. That thing done when no one watches. The mundane. The exhausting. The unappreciated. The irritating.

He sees it all and He knows.

Because my God is the God Who Sees!

And He’s your God too.

 

 

It’s Not All About You!

reality checkOur story inspires people. At least, that’s what I hear. That’s what some tell me. I find that fascinating because it usually doesn’t feel the least bit inspiring while living it. It often feels frustrating, lonely, difficult, challenging, frightening and exhausting.

But there’s one thing I’ve figured out about my wise, loving and mysterious God. He enjoys showing up in the middle of our mess! He loves to partner with us to make Himself known.

If releasing the Hebrews from bondage was God’s only objective, He could have swooped into Egypt all by Himself and in any number of ways, set the Israelite nation free.

So what was the long, drawn out process all about? The negotiating, petitioning, plagues and frustration. Moses was only doing what God had instructed. Why wasn’t it easier? Scholars estimate the duration of all the plagues, until Israel’s release, was at least two months and possibly up to a year.

The ancient Egyptians worshiped over 2000 deities. They had a god associated with every aspect of life; agriculture, fertility, water, rain, animals, death, insects, earth, sky, sun and moon. Even Pharaoh was thought to be a god.

While delivering Israel, Jehovah was also trying to reveal Himself to the nation of Egypt as the One True God. The only way to do so was to prove His power greater over all the gods they imagined. Each plague addressed, at least one and maybe more, of their gods.

In His mercy, God orchestrated this series of events to access the heart of Pharaoh and give him opportunity to change. But Pharaoh continually hardened his heart. The ‘ahh-hah’ moment never came. Pharaoh never accepted the revelation of a real God who cared enough about him to speak loudly and clearly, “I AM THE LORD!” not all these other things you worship.

God will go out of His way to make Himself known. If only one Egyptian came to know the One True God in the middle of Israel’s mess, it was worth the struggle. Apparently some believed, because Exodus 12:37&38 tells us, “That night the people of Israel left Rameses and started for Succoth..a rabble of non-Israelites went with them..”

not about meThis thing you’re going through right now might not be only for or about you. It might be so others see God’s power at work in you while He is simultaneously orchestrating your solution.

Don’t be discouraged because your rescue, problem or promise is taking so long. Be patient. Trust the process. Remember others are watching.

Someone else could be changed because of your faith and trust in a time of trouble. Someone else could see God’s power at work in your struggle and have that ‘ahh-hah’ moment.

“When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord” Exodus 7:5.

Someone else could come to know He Is Lord, because of what He is doing for YOU!

Exodus 9:29 “All right,” Moses replied. “As soon as I leave the city, I will lift my hands and pray to the Lord. Then the thunder and hail will stop, and you will know that the earth belongs to the Lord.”

Exodus 14:4 “I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord!”

Exodus 14:17&18 “My great glory will be displayed through Pharaoh and his troops, his chariots, and his charioteers. When my glory is displayed through them, all Egypt will see my glory and know that I am the Lord!”

Merry Messy Christmas!

img_0047Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Not at our house. Jack Frost rarely nips at our nose (nor do we ever dream of a white Christmas), since we live in Florida. A few Yuletide carols may be sung by a choir at our Christmas service, but since Trinity is a non-traditional, contemporary church, even that’s debatable.

We will have a turkey this year, but no mistletoe and no tiny tots hanging around with their eyes all aglow. Just a Jon who gets up when he feels like it and takes five hours to open ten gifts.

According to this picture perfect Christmas song, our chances for a Merry Christmas are poor indeed. We score about one and a half out of five.

Are you feeling it right now because your Christmas isn’t Hollywood perfect? Cheer up, the first one wasn’t any better:

An unwed, teenage mother.
No baby shower, but plenty of rumors.
A disgraced marriage.
An annoying, inconvenient, tax-registering trip.
A baby born in a barn (with no nurse, diapers or cradle).
Scruffy shepherds as newborn visitors.
A jealous king sending out spies and assassins.
An emergency escape by night to another country.

The truth of Christmas is that God willingly jumped over-His-head-deep into the chaos of earth’s struggles. The First Christmas was so…human. It was scandalous. It was messy. It was so earthly, many passed right on by. And because His arrival seemed nondescript to most, people missed its significance. And still do.img_0048

If it’s not “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” for you and a Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade Christmas depiction is not happening where you are; happiness disregards you, money is tight, relationships stressed, someone deeply loved is gone and greatly missed, or possibly your only Christmas wish this year is for yourself or a sick loved one to heal, there’s no need to collapse in despair. No need to feel alone. No need to be paralyzed with fear.

Real life doesn’t stop for Christmas.

BUT!

Christmas came to invade every detail of our messy human existence and inundate whatever is occurring in our personal universe at the moment.

God came to us as one of us and He understands. He will walk with us through it all if we let Him. Stop, surrender and make room for Him this Season.

And have yourself a Very Merry Messy Christmas now!

“Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell;
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King!”

 
Home For the Holidays – painting by Norman Rockwell, 1950
Christmas Cottage – painting by Thomas Kinkade, 1990                                                                         “Hark The Herald Angels Sing,” Charles Wesley, 1739

Wings

I watched it, from my kitchen window, fluttering against the screen, desperate to get out. The butterfly was trapped. It flew in through the large roof opening of our pool frame, a hole the hurricane left behind when a screen came loose in the wind.gulf-fritillary

The butterfly showed no interest in the array of flowers we’ve planted inside, it wanted out and bumped along the side panels until it needed to rest, finally clinging to the screen instead of flying against it.

I dried my hands, grabbed a Rubbermaid container and lid and went out on the deck. I figured if I could trap it inside the container I could set it free, but it flew off before I could catch it.

I grabbed the pool scoop, the thing that looks like a large butterfly net, and followed the creature, gently swiping at it as it darted and glided above my head.

Opening the screen doors on each end of the enclosure, I attempted to guide it to freedom, but it flew too high or darted away in another direction. Butterfly obviously didn’t understand my good intentions. It couldn’t believe I was concerned for its welfare, though several times it was only inches from the open door.

“You’re so close! Come on Butterfly. Work with me. I know this is scary for you but I’m trying to help you here. Why can’t you understand, I’m just trying to help you be free?”

Eventually the butterfly exhausted itself and rested again, on a side screen, within reach and I gingerly set the Rubbermaid container over it and slid the lid underneath. The frightened creature panicked and crashed violently against the walls of the plastic prison.

I carefully carried it outside, far away from the pool enclosure and lifted the lid. The butterfly burst from captivity and soared away above the trees in a joyous dance of freedom.

In every place where my mind, heart and soul are trapped, every obstacle I so violently and fearfully bump up against, every towering wall I encounter with no escape, God is on a continuous rescue mission to set me free. He is there waiting, as I kick against my prison walls, believing I must find my own way out.

He longs to show me how to soar. He patiently moves me closer to the open door, closer to liberty, while my heart flutters in fear and my soul lifts in pride.

My Merciful Father patiently waits until I retreat in exhaustion and there, submit to the gentle nudge of His heart to my own. “Come on Daughter. Work with me. I know this looks scary and you don’t understand, but I’m trying to help you. I’m just trying to set you free. Trust Me.”

With gentle restriction He apprehends me, changes me, and then sets me free to rise above the challenges of my own thoughts, heart and life.

Wings are not meant to fly against obstacles, but over them. Wings take us places we can’t normally go. Wings are meant for freedom.

Today, I submit to God’s capture. I will Trust Him, because soon, confinement will be over.

Freedom will come at last.

And I will soar.

Isaiah 40:31(NKJ) “but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings..”

Acts 26:14-15 (AMP) “ And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice in the Hebrew dialect saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick [repeatedly] against the goads [offering pointless resistance].’ And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus..”

 Galatians 5:1 (ERV) “We have freedom now, because Christ made us free. So stand strong in that freedom. Don’t go back into slavery again.”

John 8:36 (ESV) “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

 

O Me Of Little Faith

mustard-seedI awoke at 3:42 AM in a heart racing panic and find myself at this place more often than I care to admit. It weighs heavy in the back of my mind, no matter how I try to push it away, the unknown haunts me. What will become of my son when we are no longer here? With the passing of every year, every birthday, his and mine, the question looms larger.

So I guess it’s confession time. It’s time for me to admit, to say it out loud; I don’t trust God in this. My re-occurring fear and worry prove it. I’m convinced no one will take care of him as well as I do, after all I Am Mom and have invested most of my life here. Other than Mike, who else will care enough to do that? I don’t know and the not knowing eats at me, plagues me and some days, consumes me.

Trusting God with a child is a tall order for any parent.  We are so hands on, heart invested, all in, with our kids and it’s easy to default back to a place of worry. But a child, who needs continual, life time supervision and assistance, elevates investment levels to exponential heights. So often I feel like the dad who brought his son to Jesus and cried out, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” Maybe Jesus understands this parental desperation more than we know. He healed the boy in spite of dad’s wavering faith. And that gives me hope.

I’ve thought a lot about faith. What is it? How does it work? What should it look like in my life? Honest questions from a girl who grew up in a church culture equating struggle, disaster, illness, and tragedy with a condemning lack of faith; feeling failure and shame whenever my sunshine, lollipops and rainbow life disappeared behind onimous black clouds for a season. Understanding what it means to really trust God has been a huge re-learning process for me.

I’ve seen His unlimited goodness and faithfulness through the years, in both the easy and hard places of my life,  but realize I’m still lacking when it comes to radically abandoned trust. I’ve also lived long enough in my Heavenly Father’s amazing grace to understand we are always in process. Every day and every situation brings new opportunities for my faith to rise to higher levels.

An infant isn’t a full grown adult one week, one month or even a year after he is born. He grows incrementally day after day, over the span of many years. And we don’t condemn him for it. A twenty year old will not have the wisdom and experience of a seventy year old. Full maturity comes with time and age. We know instinctively this is the natural order of things, yet we Christ followers can beat ourselves and others up when we are not spiritual giants overnight.

Wayne Jacobsen (thegodjourney.com) put it like this: “I like the process of God winning us to trust. It’s not that we should trust Him or have to act like we trust Him even where we don’t. God wins us…I think life puts us in different points of extremity..but those opportunities when He says, “OK, we’re going to go deeper here, you’re going to get to learn to trust Me more”…I think all of my days I’m still going to find myself in places going, “OK, my trust doesn’t extend here yet, but God let it.” Maybe that’s the Author and Finisher of our faith, He’s going to grow it into a reality…the faith I live in today was not mine to produce but [grew as] I cooperated with Him.”

When Jesus calls out his followers with, “Oh, you of little faith,” we see it as a negative, a criticism, a scolding, but maybe it was more of a reminder than a rebuke.

After all, He said we only need faith the size of a mustard seed to throw a mountain into the sea (Matthew 17:20). A mustard seed is slightly larger than a grain of sand. That’s tiny!  Could He be telling us we don’t need as much as we think, we just need to exercise what we already have and watch it produce? After all He does the work, the miracle, the impossible. We just do the believing.

There’s a tension, a balance, between planning for the future and worrying over it and our manual for living, the Bible, addresses both. Proverbs 6:6-8 tells us to consider the ant who stores up and plans for the days ahead. Jesus tells us to consider the lilies who don’t fret or toil but are clothed in beauty by the Provider of all things (Luke 2:27-40).

While we plan as much as possible for Jon’s future, we must trust God with the rest. We do our part and believe He will do His, because He always has. Today, I absorb what Apostle Paul stated in Philippians 4:6-7, into my heart, mind and spirit, “Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. Then God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ.”

So Lord, today, I give Jon and his future back to You. Once again, I lay him at your feet and     place him in Your capable hands, knowing You have a good plan already in mind for him. I thank You for it, even in my inability to see or control it. I may need to do this again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, Father, but I offer my mustard seed faith to you, thankful for Your patience while it grows into larger trust I have yet to obtain.

Lord, I believe. Please touch those places in me where I don’t believe, those areas filled with doubt, worry and fear. I give them, along with my son, to You and thank You for never giving up on me but continuously calling me into Your amazing faith, trust and peace.

Today I choose I choose Faith.

Today I choose Trust.

Today I choose You!

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” ~Corrie Ten Boom

Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Proverbs 6:6-8 “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”

Luke 12:27 “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Jon’s Octopus

Basic CMYKJon was fourteen years old when we visited Catalina Island off the coast of California. Our friends, Earl and Pat, had moved to the island from Maine when Earl took the job of maintenance overseer for a large girl scout camp located there.

Summers at the beachfront camp were noisy and chaotic, with hundreds of girls and camp counselors arriving constantly in one to two week shifts. But winters were long, quiet and lonely; a good time to visit, and since we were homeschooling, the boys and I planned a six week stay during the winter of 1994.

From the day he arrived, Jon decided Earl (or Pa, as the boys and every other ‘grandchild’, related or not, called him) was going to take him fishing in the ocean.

“And I’m going to catch an octopus,” he declared to all of us.

“It’s really hard to catch an octopus Jon,” Pa told him, “they live way, way down, too deep in the water to get on your hook.”

But every day Jon kept insisting and reminding us, as soon as Pa took him fishing, he was going to catch an octopus.

We were there several weeks before Earl finally had a free day for fishing. They packed a lunch and eagerly climbed into the boat along with Jon’s younger brother, David, and a neighbor, Ken, the caretaker of the yacht club located a few miles down the beach.

Jon told Pa and Ken as they left the shore, “I’m going to catch an octopus now.” Ken replied with the same explanation Pa had given.

Everyone was trying to lessen the disappointment that was coming, in spite of Jon’s insistence.

They left in the morning and in late afternoon I heard Jon running up the beach to the house shouting, “Mom, Mom, I caught an octopus! Mom! I caught an octopus!”

I went outside to meet him. He was grinning from ear to ear. Jon has always had a huge and slightly quirky imagination so I figured he was fantasizing in his head again, pretending he had caught one because it’s what he’d wanted so much.

Earl met me halfway to the dock with a giant smile on his face. “Well, you’re never going to believe it, I still can’t, but Jon caught an octopus today.”

“You’re kidding.” I was stunned and delighted all at the same time. “I thought you said it was impossible?”

“I’ve been fishing in the ocean for years and never have I or anyone I know, caught an octopus. “ Earl looked as amazed as I felt.

Turns out they were a few miles off shore when Jon felt a tug on his line. He reeled it in and to everyone’s (but his) surprise there was a baby octopus clinging to the string.

Jon got his octopus!

That was twenty one years ago.

And I’ve never forgotten it.

When I read, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7), or “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4), I’m reminded of a God who cares enough about a fourteen year old special needs kid to send a baby octopus from the depths of the ocean to his fishing line.

In the hard times, circumstances and struggles of life, when you feel as if God isn’t listening and He doesn’t care about you or the details of your situation…

..remember Jon and his octopus.

God knows.

He sees.

He understands.

He cares.

Keep believing for the impossible.

Keep trusting.

You never know what could be surfacing from the depths of despair, just for you.

The Blame Game – My Special Education, Lesson #12

Jon Me IHOP 11-2015It’s no one’s fault,” the doctor in my hospital room said, the morning after our son was born. “These things just happen sometimes.”

Our newborn baby had Down syndrome and as the doctor began to explain the possible long term outcomes for him and our family, my heart raced in panic. My mind filled with a cloud of fear.

“NO! This can’t be happening! Not to my baby! Not to me! Not to us!”

Isn’t that how it goes when we’re faced with circumstances beyond our control? When our carefully thought out plans are suddenly ambushed?

We’re cruising through life, a few bumps and glitches here and there, but nothing we can’t handle. Then suddenly..Wham!!

We find, not just the proverbial rug pulled out from under us, but the floor too. The ground has just opened up and swallowed us whole!

And when we’re done free-falling, we have to find a reason. The ‘Why’ must be answered. It has to be SomeOne’s or SomeThing’s fault.

A friend sent me a card once that read, “Life is all about how you handle Plan B.”

Plan A is what you want. Plan B is what you get and I wasn’t dealing well at all, with what I got.

I fell into absolute despair trying to figure out what I did to cause my child’s disability. For months it filled every waking moment and many sleepless nights. Those pesky, “I should have” and “I shouldn’t have” scenarios, plagued my thoughts constantly.

There was plenty of help in the guilt department from well meaning folks. Everything from, “You should of eaten more potatoes while you were pregnant,” (no kidding) to “You must have bad sin hiding someplace in your life for God to punish you like this.”

Apparently there was a rash of babies born with Down syndrome at the time. In an attempt to find a common denominator (or something to blame) the Department of Health and Human Services for the State of New York called when Jon was about a month old to ask if they could survey me.

“Do you live near power lines? How long have you lived there?”
“Have you ever taken drugs? Did you take drugs while pregnant?”
“How often do you drink alcohol? Never? Occasionally? Once a week? Everyday?”
“What kind of make up do you wear? What brand of laundry detergent do you use?”

After an hour long barrage of questions, I hung up the phone more convinced than ever I was the cause of my son’s diagnosis.

When I finally gave up blaming myself I turned my angst on God. He could have prevented this but didn’t. It was His fault and I was mad. What kind of God did I believe in anyway? An overwhelmingly devastating question for me, since we were fresh out of Bible college and my husband was just beginning a lifetime of pastoral ministry.

Though it seemed artificial to be so angry at God when my husband was a pastor, and I, the pastor’s wife, anger was all that made sense at the time. It was the easiest life raft to cling to.

We see it in the daily news continuously. A crisis occurs, a shooting, tornado, flood, fire, mudslide, plane crash, death, violence or destruction. The talking heads start in, opinion-ating, analyzing, philosophizing and finally conclude with, “Something must be done to make sure this never happens again.”

Either people want to believe they have this much power, this much control, or placing blame is just a coping mechanism for the unanswerable and unexplained.

Sometimes there is someone to blame but more often not. Sometimes stuff just happens because we live on a fallen, broken and sin cursed planet.

Finding possible solutions is useful but the blame game often goes around in a monotonous circle until we are divided and estranged, from each other and from our only source of hope. God.

It seems God is blamed for most everything that goes wrong, by people who barely acknowledge His existence the rest of the time or bother to thank Him for any of the good and right in life.

In his book, Reframe. From the God We’ve Made to the God With Us, Brian Hardin said it this way: “We don’t usually start with God, but if we can’t find an answer we often end up there. God has become the cosmic trash heap for all humankind’s unexplainable suffering. He’s apparently got His hands in everything from tornadoes to human trafficking. From cancer to the reason the car wouldn’t start this morning. And this is the God we’re supposed to be in a relationship with?”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: I can’t control everything that happens to me, to those I care about or to the world at large. And I don’t have to figure everything out, don’t have to know all the answers.

I only have to admit and own what I’m responsible for and trust my Heavenly Daddy has a greater plan and purpose than I can see.

He will bring justice in His time. He will make everything right in His way and acceptance of this truth, deep in my heart and soul, not just my head, brings peace in a frenzied world.

And for all my initial distress, despair, crying, sighing, shouting and blaming, my son turned out to be a blessing, a unique treasure God values and loves. Someone who is always teaching me the art of selflessness, drawing me closer to the heart of my Father.

I eventually laid it down, the miserable scrutinizing, finger pointing and fretting over who or what was at fault. It was exhausting and served no purpose. Blaming drained life from me and returned nothing.

The blame game was over and I lost.

But I’m no longer a sore looser, just a grateful one.

 
Job 40:1-5 The Lord said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” Then Job answered the Lord: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more.”

Romans 9:20 “Who do you think you are to talk back to God like that? Can an object that was made say to its maker, “Why did you make me like this?”

John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

My Gnat Confession

scary-gnatCleaning Jon’s room makes me mad! I’m confessing, putting it out here for all to read.

Every time I clean his room I battle a huge bad attitude. One way to deal with my anger has been to give it a name, “The Landfill”, and to play worship music on my iPad as loudly as possible while cleaning.

The past few days we’ve been seeing little gnat things flying around the house and couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. I do a quick check in Jon’s room every other day or so, making sure nothing’s growing or moving that shouldn’t be and about once a week, do a more thorough clean and sheet change.

Yesterday, I decided it was “Landfill” cleaning day. Mike was home so he helped me with the vacuuming and I was sorting through Jon’s usual piles of stuff on the floor and in crates making sure everything was kosher, when I found it buried under a pile of stuffed animals, a personal size Rubbermaid cooler that he had taken from a cabinet in the laundry room.

I opened it to see what was inside and a fleet of gnats flew up in my face. After they lifted off, I noticed the bottom of the cooler was alive and moving with hundreds of little gnat larva. They were living off some sort of food science experiment growing in there.

Horrified, I screamed, slammed the top shut, grabbed it, ran to the front door and heaved the cooler as hard as I could into the yard. I slammed the front door closed and jumped around in the foyer for a few minutes, totally grossed out, itching, shaking and hollering, trying to get hallucinatory gnats off of me.

Once that subsided, incredible anger took its place. I stomped into the kitchen and yelled at Jon for two minutes straight while he stared at me like I’d just lost my mind then I went back in his room, still freaking out, and tried to tell Mike I’d found the source of our gnat invasion.

“I can’t hear anything you’re saying. You’ve got the music so loud it sounds like a Pentecostal church service in here. Turn it down so I can hear you.” Mike hollered over the music.

I yelled back, “Listening to that music is the only way I get through cleaning this room so you best be glad it’s playing. I’m so mad right now if that music shuts off I’m gonna’ smack someone, and hard!”

We scrubbed the daylights out of Jon’s room for the next hour. I reluctantly searched every nook, cranny, box, crate, bag and pile in there and in his bathroom. I threw every thread of bedding and fabric I could find in the washing machine and got Jon in the shower. He even let me wash his hair, possible penance for what he’d just put me through, though I’ll never know for sure.

A few hours later, after I was sure everything was clean and back in order, I finally calmed down.

Last night I prayed. Though yesterday’s clean was more than unusual, I asked God to show me why I become so angry every time I clean Jon’s room.  God knows my heart better than I, and I want to understand what is triggering this anger inside of me.

The answer came in my prayer as I poured my heart out before my Heavenly Daddy.

“He’s thirty five, I shouldn’t have to still clean his room and it’s not fair that I do. We should be empty nesters now and only cleaning kid messes after grandchildren visit.”

As much as I love my son, cleaning his room is evidence that this didn’t turn out as I’d hoped and hope disappointed triggers many reactions and emotions. We often don’t recognize their source.

Like we didn’t know where the gnats were coming from, I didn’t know where my anger was coming from until I searched, until I asked.

Now that I know, God and I can start working on it together; one more area where grace can replace reaction, where a servant heart can replace selfishness.

Recognizing my shortcoming is the first step. Asking God to help me change is the second. He loves me too much to leave me as I am, yet He is gentle enough to expose and change my selfish heart one layer at a time, even if it takes a plague of gnats to motivate me.

Confession is good so I pray I’ll soon have a heart of joy and a song of praise at all times, even in “The Landfill”.

But. Please. Lord. (Shivverrrr) minus all creepy, crawly, cringy, critter things!

Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry and sin not, don’t let the sun go down on your wrath or give place to the devil.”

James 5:16 “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.”

The Unapplauded Hero

super-hero-cape-flying-SupermomI met a Hero the other day.

She is twenty five years old.

She’s put aside her own hopes and dreams to care for a chronically ill family member.

She’s had to quit her job because the care needs are so time consuming.

At an age when she should be having fun, dating, building a future, career or a family of her own, she cares full time for someone in need.

She cries when no one is watching.

She wonders what the future holds.

She worries what will happen to her loved one.

She worries what will happen to herself if something happens to her loved one.

She feels guilt for wanting more.

She doubts God at times.

Her faith wavers even as she continues believing.

She is a full time caregiver. Someone desperately needs her. She is there.

She is learning at a young age the hardship and beauty of a laid down life.

If you are a single young man you might want to consider a woman like her.

She won’t have much time to date, but she certainly knows about loyalty, selflessness and love; all the qualities that make a great spouse.

She’s the unapplauded in the background. One who performs the mundane today, tomorrow and the next day.

But mundane is greatness when executed so selflessly.

Those who are faithful in little things will be rewarded with much (Matthew 25:23, Luke 16:10).

She will be honored for her faithfulness.

Man may overlook.

But God sees.

He sees it all.

He sees her.

She is brave.

She is strong.

She is incredible.

And He calls her Beautiful.