Category Archives: Family

He Never Leaves

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No matter what we do or where we go, He is there.

I’m reminded of the words from a popular song a few years ago:

You can spend your whole life building something from nothing
One storm can come and blow it all away
Build it anyway

God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good.
When I pray it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should,
But I do it anyway…

Do it anyway.

I wrote about the time my family took off without me.  That experience was over eight years ago and since that time I’ve had hundreds of similar stories to tell.  But, in the telling, please understand, I do not feel they should’ve stayed behind.  That would have been detrimental for them.  They needed to move forward.  As Wordsworth said, “Come forth, into the light of things.  Let Nature be your guide.”  That’s been my educational philosophy since training to become a teacher.  And, as a teacher, I could not squelch their opportunities to learn because I was unable to “tag along.”

I thank God their father had (has) the energy to keep up with them.
Yet, at the same time, I would’ve liked to not be left alone. 
(Can anyone say, conundrum?)

I spent quite a bit of time devouring books, watching inane television, and snipping fuzzballs.

Yes.  Snipping fuzzballs.

Somedays it’s too hard to move, but my hands need something to do.  I’m just made that way.  I need to keep busy.  But, when my body won’t cooperate and needs rest to, hopefully, move the next day, I must choose an activity that won’t burn up too much energy.  I started with the afghans and then moved on to some sweaters.  It does allow for a feeling of accomplishment to see a pile of fuzzballs on the nightstand and a sweater that appears almost new, at the end of the day.  😕

It’s not much.
But, it’s something.

I’ve kept myself “busy” to have some sense of accomplishment.
Even something as silly as snipping fuzzballs.

It’s small.
It won’t make much of a difference in anyone’s life.
And it may be eccentrically OCD…
But, I do it anyway.

And…
I sing.
I dream.
I pray.

God is great.
He remains close beside me.
Even when others must move on…

When They Took Off

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Things are fluid in my world.
It seems change occurs daily.
I’ve been in survival mode for a few years now.

Survival Mode — It’s explained as the result of the “fight or flight” response. When we feel threatened our instincts go to one or the other. And if you’ve felt “threatened” for a while, survival mode kicks in. It’s a state of constant stress with your instincts on guard. It’s not a restful place. I liken it to the “deer in the headlights” state of being. Never sure when you’ll be run over.

Since 2002 I’ve responded to most anyone who asks how I’m doing with,
“I’m hanging in the there.”

It seemed the easiest response that would bear truth.

I wasn’t dying. I just wasn’t living to my fullest potential.

Chronic illness, without a specific diagnosis,
was further complicated by a car accident.
My questionable health steadily went further south.

I’m a doer.
I love to create.
I love to work.
I love to clean.
I love being busy.

But my body won’t cooperate.

And as much as I’m a doer, my family is moreso.  We are made up of hyperactive, impulsively stimulated people. In other words, they’re more “doer” than me.  And since I couldn’t keep up, they went on without me.

The first time I noticed the change was after the accident.  We needed a weekend retreat so we drove to a national park close to home to climb the mountains and enjoy the scenery.  I was still bound up from my wounds and didn’t dare risk the climb.  So, I sat at the bottom of the mountain and watched with binoculars as my family ascended.  I had my sketchpad, made myself as comfortable as possible, and waited their return.

It was a nice day.  I enjoyed drawing.  But now, looking back, I see that’s when they took off.  All four of them.  Without me.

I thought that was a good thing, that they kept going…until I woke up one day and realized, I was alone.

I will never leave or forsake you. 
~Jesus

Idolatry

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Whatever you do to make this life work, without God, is idolatry.

We are idolatrous people. We desire to create our own way in life. We work hard to come up with a way that will make life feel better. BUT if it is not God, if we are trying to fill ourselves up without Him, then we have created an idol.

Seem harsh?
Well, it may just be you don’t want to admit it.
Just sayin’…from my own experience… 😕

Idols can take many forms: career, family, marriage, ministry, sports, yard-work, busyness, religion, possessions, travel, money, prestige, power, education…and the list goes on and on…

I have recently discovered idols in my past. First, I tried to be good enough. Positive performance became an idol to me. I desired to feel good about me and wanted God’s “approval.” So, I falsely thought if I did the right things, I would.

But, now I know only God can make me “good” and yet, I won’t be complete until eternity. Trying to make myself look good to you — well, that’s me building an idol — it’s not resting in what He says is true: No one is good but God.

Another idol: Being a teacher and “godly” mother. I have looked to my children, and those I’ve taught, as an example of my worth. If they did well, then I felt satisfied. I felt full. I took pride in their accomplishments as though they were my own. But, you see, I was taking credit where credit was not due. Somehow, in my twisted thinking, I felt if they were good, then I was good. And God wants me to be good, right? Hmmmm ….

The third idol I have recently identified is my marriage. If I talked about my marriage being the best marriage EVER, and only told happy stories about our time together, then you and I might believe how perfect I could be. And, God wants us to have happy marriages, right?

Recently, I’ve learned that many times we marry the person/idol we want to worship. Maybe we marry the person we hope will fill us. Maybe we see something in the other we would love to have in our lives…? If we put all our trust in our marriages, in our working hard to make them “the best”, or taking from the other to fill ourselves, then our devotion is not on God and His living through us.

So … what have I concluded?  Our careers, our children, our relationships can all become idolatrous if they come before God. And yet, it looks so good from the outside. People may comment on how “perfect” your life appears. BUT.  If I’m trying to get my worth — my value — through those things, then I’m worshiping something other than the God who created me.

My worth is not in my accomplishments.
My worth is in being His creation.

All of me…
For ALL of Him.

(Some thoughts after studying Dan Allender and Jeff VanVonderen…still peeling back those layers…)

Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him and firm in your faith just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form, and you have been filled in Him…
~verses from Colossians 2

Feeling Safe

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Dedicated to my brother on his birthday:

Oh, the comfort —
The inexpressible comfort of feeling
safe with a person,
Having neither to weigh thoughts,
Nor measure words — but pouring them
All right out — just as they are —
Chaff and grain together —
Certain that a faithful hand will
Take and sift them —
Keep what is worth keeping —
and with the breath of kindness
Blow the rest away.

~Dinah Craik

In context from her novel, A Life for a Life:

Thus ended our little talk: yet it left a pleasant impression. True, the subject was strange enough; my sisters might have been shocked at it; and at my freedom in asking and giving opinions. But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person — having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

Somebody must have done a good deal of the winnowing business this afternoon; for in the course of it I gave him as much nonsense as any reasonable man could stand …

Happy Birthday, Brother Burton! 

 I love you.

Fighting Fair

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Phat and I recently attended a marriage conference: The Intimate Mystery.  Dan Allender, author of  The Wounded Heart, was the speaker for the three sessions.  Allender speaks in a conversational style, yet each word carries such depth of meaning.  As closely as I paid attention, I knew I would need the accompanying book to remember all he covered.

Last night I read this:

“A marriage is only as good as a couple’s ability to fight.  A husband and wife who fail to fight are not alive and honest.  Every now and then an older man or woman tells me they have been married for fifty or more years and have never spoken a cross word or had an unpleasant discussion.  I don’t believe a word they’ve said, though I don’t doubt their sincerity.

Somewhere in the marriage a decision was made to be pleasant and avoid conflict at all costs.  It isn’t that unpleasant conversations or cross words didn’t occur, they simply remained subvocal, hidden under the surface.  To claim there was never a failure of love — of omission and commission — is tantamount to saying they’ve never sinned.  Such a lie is blasphemous.

The fact is we will sin against each other, inevitably.  The result of any failure will be hurt and division.  It is crucial for us to grapple with the one sure need of every marriage: forgiveness.  The process of asking and gifting forgiveness has to do with speech — or how we dialogue when we are hurt.  Therefore the command to “weave” or to join together has to do with how we communicate, especially in moments of conflict that will likely require one or both to seek forgiveness.”

These paragraphs brought to mind an earlier time in our marriage.  Phat and I had been married for three years and were at the start of our time in seminary.  We had gone to dinner with another couple, friends we knew in college when we were all single.  After much discussion about being married, we tried to explain that we never fight, feeling rather proud of the fact.  The response: laughter…in our faces…laughter!

Well, needless to say, we were indignant that they wouldn’t believe us.  The comment was made that we obviously were not sharing our true feelings.  Yet, we felt we were being kind and gentle with one another…that was our desire.  But were we being real?

The Smiths (let’s call them) were quick to admit their ability to fight.  It seemed so unspiritual to us, and not at all what God would want in our marriage.  And, we may not have been entirely wrong, considering The Smiths did not last much longer.  However, now I see that we were living at two extremes.  As Allender puts it, The Phats had chosen to live in the DMZ (demiliatarized zone) while The Smiths chose the gory grounds of warfare.

Fighting fair.  Can it be done?

Allender moves on to explain “good” vs. “bad” talk, and what is “redeeming” talk:

Good talk explores reality.
Good talk honors differences.
Good talk pursues intimate truth.

Bad talk hides.
Bad talk blames.
Bad talk distorts.

Redeeming talk, however, acknowledges that God is an intimate player in our moment.

Do you recognize that God is in the midst of all your communication?
Do you fight?
Do you fight fair?

BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN;
do not let the sun go down on your anger,
and do not give the devil an opportunity.
Ephesians 4:26-27

Unless the Lord Builds

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“Castles built upon the sand…
Foolish dreams that seem so grand…
Will surely melt away…for in life’s raging storms…
They cannot stand.”

A phone call can change your life forever.
The economy heads south and your job goes with it.
An illness…or accident…can steal your health away.
A friendship takes a wrong turn and your marriage is threatened.

The weather changes…constantly.

When you least expect it, sin is crouching at the door and its desire is for you.
The enemy, the devil, roams around waiting for someone to devour.
The thief comes only to steal, to kill, and to destroy.

How do we withstand these storms of life that threaten our homes, our very lives? 

Anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash.” 

Is the foundation of your home strong enough to withstand the storms of life?

Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse, because it is built on rock.”

Is your foundation built upon The Rock?

No one is holy like the Lord!
There is no one other than You!
There is no Rock like our God!

1 Samuel 2:2

Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.
Psalm 127:1

 

Death and Resurrection

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Why does God hate divorce?
(Malachi 2:16-17)

I believe this is true because marriage is meant to be a picture of the Trinity. 
Holy everlasting communion: 
A man and a woman in loving relationship with their Creator.

That is what God ordained in the Garden. 
It was the “intent” of the relationship: 
Holy everlasting communion.

BUT…

Genesis 3 occurred. 

And now we must deal with a fallen world, living as fallen people.  I’m fallen.  And so are you.  And in our fallenness we hurt one another.  It’s inevitable because we are sinners.  And as sinners joined together in communion, we will sin against one another.

I believe marriage was intended to show the beauty of perfect communion.  Just as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one, we — man, woman, and God — are to be one. This was the picture in Genesis 2.

But, we’ve never lived in Genesis 2.

This is our fallen reality.
We live on the other side of the curse and with sin, which inhabits us.

And now,…
I’m living on the other side of having sinned horribly against my husband. 
And he has come to realize he has sinned against me. 
We’ve experienced death in our marriage. 

But God.

God is greater than our sin. 
He is able to bring about resurrection. 
He is able to restore.

All marriages do not have this same possibility. Sin destroys. And without both partners in surrender to God, unconfessed sin will do it’s work. Contempt will arise and the marriage will fall to ruin.

But God.

God is about bringing life from death.
Jesus arose from the grave and walked among his friends again.
He restored relationships broken from betrayal.

He can do the same for us.
I’m hopeful.
We’re in need of Resurrection…

Separation Anxiety

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Father’s Day wasn’t so happy around here.

I’m living in an apartment about three miles from the family.  My daughter was in the air returning from a mission trip to inner-city LA.  One son was in jail for the weekend, and the other was waiting around for the air conditioning to get fixed.  And the father?  He ran around taking care of all of his family from many different angles…like the good man he is.

After a day of frustration and 100 degree temps without conditioned air, he had to pick up his wife and drive us both to the airport to get our daughter. 

It wasn’t comfortable. 

We try to make it comfortable, but it’s not.  Yet. 
We’re hoping that will change soon, but right now we seem to be stuck.

It was good to see Mags.  She had a wonderful time on her mission trip and chattered all the way to the restaurant.  We met up with my brother and his family, and her brother, the one in the heat at home, came along.  We had a nice time together at Chili’s, chatting with all the kids (my brother’s four little ones…and a fifth on the way!  😯  ). 

It was a nice couple of hours.
Maybe a reprieve for the weary broken father.
I hope so.

Then…like it never happened…we all piled into our separate cars and went our separate ways…

…to our separate homes.

Although we don’t know when it will be comfortable again, we do remain tied to one another.

Is it vows?
Is it love?
Is it sentiment?

Is it the children?

I’m not sure, but I think it’s God.
Life is a muddled mess right now.
But, I know, God has a way of cleaning up our messes.

If we allow Him.
It has been said, He is a gentleman. And…
He does give us freedom to choose.  But

I’ve learned (again) we don’t get to choose the consequences.

Please pray with us all.
For His will to be done.

Thank you.

And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home
in our hearts as we trust in Him.
May our roots go down deep
into the soil of God’s marvelous love. 
And may we have the power to understand,
as all God’s people should,
how wide, how long, how high, and how deep
His love really is.
 

(from Ephesians 3:17-18)