Why We don’t Pee in the Dog Pool

I saw a picture the other day of a vacuum cleaner that was still going strong after 40 years. Hundreds of comments were posted, admiring the beauty of this old machine that  with general maintenance and some loving acceptance of the noise it generates has lasted even with daily use. Many comments noted that memories of visits to grandma’s house include that equipment, nostalgia trips that felt cozy and stable during current unsure times. I was left wondering what future generations will recall of visits to grandma, what will be the lasting impression when our society has accepted the concept of disposability. Our mantra:  broken? buy a new one. New model has arrived? Get in line for the first release. I can see that this is where we lost the ability to offer grace, to be humble people,  to seek forgiveness. We have internalized the disposable ideology to include relationships with spouses, children, employers, most importantly with our Creator.

Babies learn object permanence between 4-7 months old. We are designed to spend, shy of a few months, the entirety of our lives understanding that just because we cannot see something, it still exists. We are created to look for what we know is missing, to seek out what was just in front of us, to search for what we know to be true.  To learn object permanence, stability must exist, same items around the house, the table in the same room every day, constancy of environment. When something breaks and we change up, we are teaching our children that broken means bad and new is better and then wonder why they whine at the store for a toy every time. No we did that, with our new phones and better watches and nicer shoes and fancier cars, with a new toaster and blender and vacuum. What could we teach them and remind ourselves if we leaned into the space of brokenness, if we struggled to fix what has stopped working?

I see broken people all around these days, marchers who are filled with hate and friends who post about hurting with depression, parents who are struggling to pay for school supplies and marriages that are on their last breathes. What if we stuck with each other in that broken place, what would that look like? I know I have worked hard to teach Plum personal responsibility, the old “you break it, you buy it” mentality. Just yesterday he went outside with me in the early morning, straight out of bed, no stopping for a potty break. He loves to pee outside among the bushes. I know, another post, different responsibility. Still, he got some wild idea to pretend he was one of the dogs and go about  the yard marking his territory, leaving his scent. Early morning, secluded yard, cover of darkness, all good until he chose to pee in the dog pool. Yes, that is where I drew the line. The dog wading pool where our beasts go to cool off after many romps across the grass catching the ball, chasing each other or just relax during the heat of the day. HE peed in their pool. When I told him he had to empty and refill the pool, he claimed it was an accident, he said it would be too hard to empty it, he looked for any way to slip out of his responsibility for the wrong doing. No matter, even if it had been unintentional which being half an acre away from the indoor plumbing we have graciously supplied for his bodily needs, several feet away from his normal hiding places in the bushes, the guilt was his. He aimed, he peed, he must fix. “But gran, it is too hard!”  Indeed.

As I watched him pull bucket after bucket from the urine infused water, I knew he wouldn’t do that again. He would not only chose more carefully what to destroy but also appreciate that we show respect for the belongings of others, that we fix what we destroy. Much like when he was attempting to throw tantrums early on, I allowed him to do so in his own room with his toys, encouraging him to break his things which would not be replaced but setting the boundary that tantrums and destruction would not be allowed in common areas. Incredulously, he told me he didn’t want to break HIS things! Of course not, and neither did I want to sacrifice mine. Thus, no tantrums. Patience, persistence comes in that very fixing, the moments or hours devoted to nothing else but concentrating on righting a wrong. Grace meets us in those places, when we are repentant, straining muscles of our own ego, dedicating ourselves to the task of restoration of another, to the parts we broke. Rushing the task like buying a new pool or for me to clean it out for him, speeds us on through our encounter with the Holy Spirit, our opportunity to ask for forgiveness and receive it.

We have broken the backs of our brothers and sisters of color, we have broken boundaries within our marriages, we have allowed children to be hungry and parents to struggle to provide even as they work 40 hours, we have hurt each other. Until we accept responsible and stop shifting blame, looking for wiggle room that eases our conscience and lets us zoom into new relationships without fixing what has been broken within the old ones, we are continuing to miss our own encounters with God. We cannot fast forward to the good parts, we cannot have memories of grandma’s long lasting sweeper if we don’t repair the hose along the way.  Those encounters with grace, those times we have restored what is broken, when we have admitted our own broken selves to another, fessed up to our sins, well, just like anything it gets easier the more you do it. A skill practiced, a habit built. Given my own history, I cannot hide behind false pretenses, say I didn’t do it, it wasn’t me. My sin is out there, yet it makes it even easier to confess more and more when I am wrong, to admit when my own impulses led me to pee in the pool. Further, the gift of grace that I receive so lovingly pushes me to share, I want everyone to feel those sweet moments that come from a cleansed soul, the relief of restoration, coming closer again to God rather than hiding in darkness and shame. Grace is an investment God has made in me, one He urges me to make in others. But first must come confession.

Friends, have you hurt someone? Like a crystal heirloom vase you knocked over as you raced through the day, it cannot be swept under the rug and ignored without cutting someone’s feet. Go get that sweeper, fix the mess, own up to what you have done, make restitution.  It won’t be easy, it may take time away from other fun exciting events, you may have to listen to the vase owner’s hurt and disappointment for longer than you wish. Still, stick with it. Grace will find you right there. The alternative is just more brokenness, more pools filled with pee, more cut feet, more hurting people. Shall we work on restoring, shall we remember to value what we have, can we commit to just a bit less disposing of what really matters? Lets take some tender time with each other and listen as the Holy Spirit guides toward grace. All the best memories reside right in that place.

 

What I Have Learned from the Tooth Fairy

It has been a week since I was forcibly pulled from my routine, slowed from commitments and chores and larger responsibilities to rest my brain from another concussion in only two months, this time after being rear-ended by a bus. I am not healed fully yet, I am still supposed to avoid screens and allow my eyes to look at apparently nothing beyond flowers and butterflies. I hate not being able to read constantly, I hate not being able to write daily. I want my life back, I want my schedule returned, with maybe a few adjustments. Yet the events of the past week have made clear that taking time to see those flowers and smell them as well, to be completely present as my Plum heads into first grade with time to notice all the changes this summer has brought, this time is a gift. Much like the wand that the tooth fairy left him last night, sometimes the best gifts are tiny, filled with magic that I miss. I am often too busy to notice them. More often than not, I need a major shift in my universe to clear my thinking and sharpen my vision.

My Plum has held on to his first loose tooth for many months, avoiding letting go of the inevitable. He was afraid of the pain, freaked out about losing what was clearly part of his body. Even as a new tooth sprouted up behind this wobbly baby tooth, he refused to follow the wise words of all around him, he wouldn’t wiggle it. He chose to eat around it, then began to choose soft foods to ensure he didn’t bump it. Finally nature prevailed and last night his tooth was hanging on by a literal thread. Reaching for a bit of gauze, I asked once more to feel how loose it was. One tiny tug and out it came. His relief filled the room, he rushed to look in the mirror, a spontaneous hug came my way and the decision was made that I am in charge of extracting all future teeth. As he slept the tooth fairy visited, bringing delightful gifts I had purchased over a year ago from an Etsy shop in preparation. Today he is twirling the wand she left behind and reading his note again and again, glorying in his elevation to “big boy.” I realize as I often do, I can learn from him.

I know I hang on to my own “loose teeth,” those things and people and roles in my life that need to be released, even as new growth is trying to emerge. I am fearful, anxious about the pain, I want to keep it all. My own “row of shark teeth that will ensure braces” and corrective measures later, even greater pain and discomfort, yet tightly I grip. I don’t wiggle and bite hard onto life, I avoid risks. I will never find my own little wand under my pillow, no notes congratulating me on moving forward in life if I stay stuck in what is so evidently not meant to be. My Plum believes I am strong and sure enough to always remove his loose teeth, he doesn’t know how scared I really am to remove what has already separated, what is trying to move away, in my life. What if I gave one good tug and accept that freedom, that relief? Like my best boy,  I recoil at the thought and stick to soft foods and easy choices and wallow in the misery of limbo. Not quite attached, not quite gone.

I fell asleep thinking of all the firsts I have experienced with this child. I bottle broke him, taught him to sleep through the night, potty-trained him. I took him to his first day of preschool (I sat outside the room the entire time, what understanding teachers he had!). So many more, I have lost track, some terrible and some amazing, but still he trusts me when on any precipice, when he is ready to take a big jump, he knows I will catch him if he falls. My love for him is limitless, truly accepting of even his worst days and we have those. What would it feel like to be loved like that? Actually, what would it feel like to trust that love, because I do have it, I merely need to accept it. I have a parent who loves me this deeply, who wishes to help me be free of old ways and long held beliefs that no longer serve me, to be cut loose from bonds that restrict growth and offer the relief of painful grasping onto relationships that no longer fit my life. I have that love, if only I would trust as surely as my Plum trusts me. How does he do it?

Step by step, time and again he has given me opportunities to prove that I will catch him, that I will not fail him. I don’t make promises I cannot keep. I say no when his safety requires, when he needs to rest and when vegetables are a better snack than candy. I stay up late to worry and pray while he sleeps. I don’t tug on loose teeth before they are ready, really really ready to come away. I bring new ideas and experiences into his world, allowing him to choose which he wants to grab as his. I hug him when he wants and needs and scoot further off when he wants some space. I don’t take offense when he vents his anger at me, I know his sweet words of apology will soon follow and that I am his safe place for all his feelings, even the not so pretty ones. Does my God do any less?

I know intellectually this is EXACTLY how my God loves me. All that is missing is my trust. How frustrating it must be, to have proven time and again His faithfulness and still, I resist allowing Him to catch me when I fall. During some rocky months of Plum’s past, when my relationship with him was being undermined, he didn’t trust me. It was awful. It broke my heart. I try not to remember those days, the pain of tiny acts of teaching him again that I am who I am. Yet I stayed true, little by little he let me back in to his own broken heart. God has never wavered, with big promises kept and little whispers of assurance that I can go on when I doubt. He always catches me when I fall which I do often. Rather than wishing for my own magic wand, accepting the love, trusting fully the One who is teaching me to love this child, that seems a better use of my quiet time. Step-by-step, wiggling ever closer, I am truly coming into relationship with God. Just as my patience with Plum knows no limits, fortunately God has given up on me yet.

Preparing for the Banquet

I was never the child who had to be told to clean her room, I prefer neatness and organization, a false sense of control deeply ingrained. I remember at the beginning of each season rearranging my bedroom, pushing my bed against the window, moving my dresser closer to the closet, the new space always feeling much better, wondering why I had waited so long. I loved the change, the fresh outlook even as I used the same pieces, pretending to have a window seat as I piled blankets atop my cedar chest to create a cozy area for reading. The sudden cool air, school supply shopping and apple picking have all brought on the old tickle, the need to move furniture around, to freshen up the rooms and alter our seating arrangements. More rooms to play with, heavier furniture to push, I still search for the right combination, looking for control but noticing evermore the empty areas of my life. We have too many rooms, to many chairs and tables, too many beds. I notice what is missing, what once was, forget past layouts and remember who once laid in.

This bedroom, now the toy room, was my daughter’s. The walls have a stucco finish, always a problem as we rearranged her bedroom and sought to avoid putting her bed anywhere she might inadvertently scratch her arms as she moved through the night. A huge window that looks over the backyard and brings in beautiful light was often  another obstacle. At one point her room was painted with clouds in a blue sky, a warning of her desire to fly away that I didn’t recognize. Later this room became Mama’s when she joined us, multiple times, a full apartment where she ate and hid and studied and grew into her own. Now it contains the playthings of her child, games and trucks and costumes, rocks and stuffed animals and spy gear. The room where identifies grow continues.

Across the hall was my son’s, maybe containing the most transformations. Originally a little boy’s room, then walls covered in quotes to encourage him as he began playing football, later as his substance abuse took over, the door was removed, privacy denied. After one stint in rehab, Stella and I decided to create a more grown up room, a mini apartment. Outfitted with a dorm fridge, a tv and stand for his gaming devices and paraphernalia, we sought to bring him comfort and usher him into responsibility. We gave him isolation instead, a place for his first suicide attempt. Years later, after a full sweep of the room to find hidden pills, we painted and purged and this became the nursery, my Plum’s room. Decorated still with the colorful giraffes and monkeys wearing hats alongside his own posters of Minecraft and Pokemon, this space daily brings healing of old memories as I watch this sweet child drift off to sleep, as I see him clumsily clutch his blankie and wander out in the morning. I pray often that the demons that haunted my son leave my grandson alone in here.

The spaces can be recreated into whatever we need, whatever we want. The front room has been the playroom, my office has been a bedroom. This home carries memories of children come and gone and come again, bringing friends and new loves and leaving children behind as they continue on their journey. I move the furniture and try not to count the extra chairs. The tables could tell of weekly parties and dinners for Stella’s friends and my nephew’s roommates as they touched base here during college years. The entry way could tell of police visits when our son was taken away, our desperate cries for help. I have been avoiding the front porch this summer, a place my Arrow and I sat long and talked after he came home from prison, my real son with no substances clouding his judgement, a man full of humility and gratitude. The house has too much furniture during this season, not enough bodies. Yet I wonder at what the next season will bring. We have opened our home more times than I can remember to families in need, to teens who are lost, to those who are traveling thorough. Just as surely as I move this table over there and push that couch by the window, I know I have 5 grandchildren who will someday come to play and read all of these books just waiting on the shelves for them. I can control where the lamps go but not the children. The space is ready, it is freshened. This time of preparation is surely leading to big dinners and searches for more blankets, counting pillows and bringing in chairs from the garage.

I know that my Stella remembers hours of silly talks as I lay in bed, when she would wander into my room with dinosaur hand puppets and taunt me over my door until I agreed to delay sleep and listen as she chatted just a bit longer. I know my Arrow remembers the welcome he received as he returned home with nothing, to a full fridge and closet, to a phone and the saved boxes of letters and pictures, all reminders of where he had been and who had supported him through it.  I know that just as I seasonally move all these pieces, God is move us as well, preparing our hearts for the next banquet. I take comfort in flow, in the tugging on my soul to make ready. As I listen to that urge, I know God is telling me to be obedient, stay faithful to this home, to creating hospitality. One day I will entertain my angels again.

Why I am Afraid to Say No

A friend told me the other day that I need to learn to say no. On the face of it, great advice for any of us but I resisted. My gentle reply that I am in a season of “yes” after a long one of “no” was understood. I have fully swung from a time of deep depression and inactivity to such busyness that I search for that free moment on the calendar to just rest,  seeing that it might be days or even weeks out. Yet as a woman who has struggled to be heard most of her life, his admonishment still echoes. When I agree to any request, do I give it full consideration or just jump in, eager to please? What are my motivations, what am I hoping for? Such simple words, yes and no, but carrying power and repercussions and implications.

Matthew 5:37 tells me: Let your yes be yes and your no be no. While the passage is speaking to integrity, not relying on an added oath to reinforce your word, I understand also that it is encouraging me to look at the decisions I make. If I say yes to anything and everything, I have abandoned discernment, no longer hearing the calls to do what GOD is asking but rather what EVERYONE is asking, exactly how we find ourselves on every committee, making cookies for every bake sale, driving all the carpools and then over  extended, snapping at the kids and our spouses, eating too much fast-food and searching for joy. What are we missing when we forget to say no, forget to pause and listen to the inner voice that says maybe not this request? I know the adage of asking the busiest person when you need something done, they are the one who will make it happen. Yet who are is being robbed of the chance to serve as well? I certainly know of the years I hung back in the shadows at our church, waiting for my chance. Longing to be asked, looking for a role in the ministries. The earth shifted, things changed, new ideas and avenues emerged, now I find my gifts are valued and sought. Suddenly, my season of “yes” is upon me.

Yet, the advice echoes and I wonder. Who is quietly waiting in the back row, feeling not quite good enough to volunteer, praying to be found worthy of an invitation to serve?  As a new leader my role is not merely to lead but to replace myself and move along, not hoard all the positions like new treasures that reflect my value. My first thought whenever a request comes in, “I am honored to be asked.” Excluded, walking in the desert for too many years as I wondered how God could use me and what purpose I really had, I now feel a glow, the redemption, the joy of worth that comes from external acknowledgment of my very existence. Who is suffering that same lonely wandering while I am too busy to notice, to caught up in meetings and meals and ministries? Who else listens as the pastor preaches week after week that we all have a purpose yet aches as no one sees them? My friend’s words opened my eyes, convicted my heart. It is time to begin recruiting others to join the work I am doing and see what else God has for me, a matter of trust between God and I.

Having wandered and wondered all those years, if I say no do I jeopardize my own visibility, my sense of worth?  What are the risks involved in truly allowing discernment to guide my decisions, to allow time for the whisper of God to lead me rather than  my need to have gifts and talents be recognized by others? More scripture comes to mind, one that often is so convicting I try to ignore it unless things are going beautifully in my world. Paul told us he learned to “be content in all circumstances.” (Phil 4:11) I am excellent at being content when all my chicks are around, when my Plum is playing happily in the back yard, when Chef is cooking on the grill on the back porch, when my identity as mother and nurturer of all is being validated. During this season of estrangement, and I am willfully trusting it is merely a season, am I seeking that validation elsewhere? My contentment coming from activities, a chase that may provide some balm but will never heal the hurt, rather than leaning into my relationship with God, the words of my friend carry truth. The truth is my soul is filled with discontent and  my calendar is full, no time for reflection penciled in.

Saying no might mean I have time to say yes to God, making space for some uncomfortable conversations and deeper prayer time that I have been avoiding. I love when God says YES to me, I don’t want to hear his NO. Skipping out on discernment time, filling my schedule with good works, all with an eye on the calendar as I await the big reveal of my hopes and dreams, I see now I have been bargaining with a God who doesn’t trade. None of my efforts will bring my daughter home, not letters or emails or Amazon packages, or yeses to good works. Listening, rather than merely talking might bring answers I don’t want, a fear that propels me into activity. I charge forward, a bustling, hurtling pursuit that steals blessings from others and separates me from God.

I may have been in a season of yes, but seasons change. As much as I try to block out my friend’s words, I suspect he may have been whispering a bit of holiness to me.  If only I had time to consider them, if only I were that brave. Still, I promise to notice those around who are waiting for an invitation. Whether I trust myself enough to listen to God, I can’t say yes to that yet.

Cleaning Out Soul Space

When I had nothing, my very survival depended on my relationship with Jesus. In prison, surrounded by strangers who neither cared about my brokenness or my sanity, separated from my babies in the most cruel of all punishments, I could only breathe and walk and put food into my body because I trusted God with my life and the lives of those I loved. It became simple, minimalistic, when all my possessions fit into a tiny foot locker and my material wealth consisted of Little Debbie snacks and Ramen noodles. Powerless in every aspect of my life, clothing, visits, schedules, I could only control whether to believe or not. I relied with the full force of my body and soul on Paul’s words to the Philippians,”I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13. Not just those words, though, I read the bible completely over and over, I underlined and made notes, I consumed it. God’s Word saved me, when I could not save me. I promised myself I would not let go of that dependence when freedom came again, when the gates opened. Twenty-five years later, I realize I have broken my promise.

These days and weeks and now years of estrangement from my daughter have become a new prison, gates invisible, guards non-existent but a prison no less. I am locked away from her again, the excruciating pain of old resurrected as I watch the clock and long for a visit. The intervening years of memories accrued are meaningless as she evaluates my worth and determines my sentence, will I ever be granted release? Yet, more than adding a home and furnishing and clothing and trips to schools and a prom and even around the world, I have added material goods and a self-reliance that separate me from my promise, from my utter dependence on He who gives my breath, gives me life, gives me hope and the grace of forgiveness that is so absent with my daughter. How could I have added so much and left what was crucial behind?

I sat on the steps in the jail pod after realizing I would have no visits with my children until transferred to the larger prison, a promise from my lawyer, the reality of my situation fully settling on my soul. I wanted to die, I begged to die, I would have died had the means been available. Instead I had to pray that my Creator take me. A desperate prayer to end unspeakable horror, a pain that I knew I could not bear, that would drive me to insanity. Jesus met me there on those steps and lifted me up, brought the “Footsteps” poem to me with a promise to carry me through what was ahead. A year later when my sentence modification was denied, another promise my lawyer had given but couldn’t keep, I gave up again. I laid on the prison bunk and refused to move for meals or activities, risking further punishments. I no longer cared. An angel in the guise of a correctional officer visited and spoke words I no longer remember but pulled me out of my depression and gave me the strength to keep going. I do remember she spoke gently of Jesus and light and a world outside of my current existence. She told me to get up and I did.

When my pain overwhelmed me, Jesus  brought relief. When I couldn’t breathe, wouldn’t breathe, Jesus brought me air. When I had nothing, Jesus was enough. Now, I have more. A husband, a home, pets, cars, fully stocked pantry and I no longer call on Jesus with desperation. Maybe I never did really but I made room for Him. Now I allow a corner, a smidge, a bit but rely too heavily on myself, on my own ability to affect change and the stir the universe to my liking. Having lost it all and found Jesus, must I really find myself there again to discover what is truly at the heart of my existence? Noticing my own prison gates again, I see that only God can bring me through this estrangement, only God can rebuild the bridges I want to erect today. Scripture floods my mind this morning as I find comfort in words of hope and past longing, as I remember that I have survived events I will never share and I will survive this as well.

I grow impatient, I teeter on bitterness, anger erupts. I am too fully me and not enough Jesus. Today I am opening the gates of my soul once again to the One who saved me, time and again, saved me for more than a life of hurt and struggle and time behind bars. Just as we celebrated my release with joy and thanksgiving long ago, one day we will again. Until then, I am cleaning out my soul space, removing extra furnishings of self-dependence and importance. Truly, today I remember He is the air I breathe. Freedom has come.

 

How God handled My Rage

Many of this year’s slogans have become my inner voice, whispering chants that empower me and push me to be braver. I hear reminders to speak up for those who often aren’t heard, to show up for those who often aren’t seen. “Speak truth to power” is one of my favorites, encouraging honesty and integrity in all situations. I discovered yesterday that I had been holding back, though, on my truthfulness to my ultimate Power, in the most important relationship I have. Exhaustion combined with life events disabled my defense system until I no longer hid behind proper attitudes of patience and reverence. I spoke truth to God. What happened next was a discovery of God’s truth to me.

Something was different even as I woke, my emotions were too close to the surface, not how I normally walk through my day. Keeping feelings at bay, I survive, I carry on and no one is the wiser that my heart is in tatters. All looks good. My friend shared that when her house wasn’t as clean as she wanted it to be and company was on the way, she would put a bit of Pinesol in all the toilets and do a quick swipe at the sinks. The smell of the pine created that sense of just freshly cleaned, like the maid was only moments out the door. The problem she said, “It was all fake.” I have been “pouring Pinesol” on my wrists like an expensive perfume, distracting myself and everyone from the dirty truth, I simply ache at the estrangement with my daughter. I miss her with every breath, how can I keep breathing like this? Helpless to effect change, unable to build any bridges or reconnect with her, I am forced to wait on God to do the work that I want to do. I have to trust God to repair what is broken and bring reconciliation, in His time. Dab, dab, more Pinesol, see how strong my faith is? Watch me place my trust in the most Powerful, the Almighty…until this day when I snapped and talked to God before I could get cleaned up and hide behind propriety. Honesty happened.

The truth? I am angry at waiting a moment longer. My heart is so broken I can’t imagine how it still pushes blood through my body. I don’t understand what He wants from me, what I am supposed to do. Why isn’t He doing something about this, I have been faithful, right? I sat at the dining room table where she never sits anymore and raged with the ferocity of a dragon at God. First I raged at Chef who was opening cereal bags too loudly, building up my anger, practicing the release that would bring tears for the entirety of the day. I gave God my truest pain, my deepest doubts, my open wounds, and asked for something NOW. What did I receive? No lightening bolts, no texts from my daughter, my table remained devoid of her presence. Still, I cried all day. The tears would not stop. Water rolled down my face as memories long tucked away ran through my mind. After hours of crying at home, at church where I laid it out while asking for prayers, then again back at home, finally God showed me that a different bridge to my daughter was being reconstructed, showed me that He hasn’t forgotten me and is always working on my behalf. I wish I could say I saw this for the gift it was but my initial reaction was jealousy and more anger. Too fully into my humanity, I missed the God moment. Blessedly, today the tears have gone and I can see how He showed up in the most show- offy way, words that would only make sense to me but create connections undeniable to my daughter. I can only wonder at how often I am begging for SOME SIGN and miss it completely, reminiscent of the Bruce Almighty scene, where evidence of God’s presence is all around me yet my stubbornness and frustration refuse to see it.

My soul got a deep cleaning, no need for fake dabs and drips and dots of pine-scented cleaner to pretend I am fine. Refreshed with the salty waters of my own pain, I can face a new day knowing God met me in my anger and didn’t blink, didn’t shrink, didn’t abandon me. The God who wants my truth and doesn’t strike me dead for questioning His plan or ability to get things done remains with me today.  I sit with certainty at the same dining room table and can say I spoke truth to power, and power spoke the same to me. “I am with you child, my dirty messy aching child.” A promise given, a promise heard.  Truth spoken to the powerless. God accepted my rage and handed me back love and peace and grace, a new day with a fresh start. The pine cleaner will stay in the cabinet today, the truth is, I am messy and hurting and God knows it. Together we are working on truly cleaning me up.

Let the Clock Tick

The endless days of summer seem less so when divided up by vacations and ministries and separated into three month blocks and two are already behind us. School starts in just one more month, the rush for pencils and a new backpack, clothes that aren’t stained from mud fights and drips from ice cream cones, shoes to fit feet that grew while exposed to grass and sand and fresh air, it all speeds the clock on the last month until suddenly the noise and chaos are over and quiet has come again. I know from too many years what to expect, this last month is precious. The urgency with I will lay out paints on the porch, build fires in the back, take trips to the zoo and water fountains on campus, sure it is for him but also because I need to wring every last bit out of summer with this child before he becomes a first grader, taking more steps away from the baby I know.

Time is a cruel reminder of how little control I have as I mark my calendar, look at anniversaries and wonder about progress. I joked with a friend about how little patience I have, something I surely should have gained now at my age. Rather, I am throwing my hands up, this is now a registered character flaw I cannot fix, must manage and accept. I want everything now. I need resolution, dessert, to lose my extra weight, hotter coffee, a haircut, a nap, all now. Right as the need arises, my mind contorts in confusion when events don’t happen at my speed. Thus slowing down summer, keeping this child safely just a boy and not sending him ever out into a dangerous world of choices filled with drugs and sex and violence, I want it all to stop, an unusual speed setting for me. A contradiction, borne of too much knowledge, too much loss, heartache that steals sleep and brings unexpected tears, I just want us to play more. Then a friend posted about adopting her daughter and I was reminded again of who God is and who I am.

Without sharing too much, she talked about her desire for a child and waiting, waiting, all the while her daughter was being born far away and she would meet her years later. I know this family and the absolute joy in the mothering, the delight she takes in her children. She has talked freely about her agony during her times of infertility. Yet God had a bigger plan all along, her family brings smiles and laughter to our circle and inspires many others to consider the same road. What can I learn from her celebration yesterday? Is God any less aware of the desires of my heart? Isn’t it quite possible that what I am asking for is so small compared to what He is bringing to us?

Faithful waiting, living fully while the clock keeps ticking, continuing to do the next right thing, this is God’s ask of me. Trusting that one day I will write about joyous reconciliations, about bigger loves and wilder outcomes, that is believing that God is in control of the calendar, the world, my heart. So we will make our muddy messes on the front porch, have s’mores in the back, we will paint rocks and maybe some trees with abandon. School will start soon enough, the boy will continue to grow. God protects him more than I ever will be able to, He just wants me to love him today. My job is really quite easy when put that way. Let the clock tick, we have playing to do.

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