An Almost-NONE’s Perspective on Why the NONES Have Left the Church

I wrote a letter to the church recently.

Not my church, but to the church in general.

An interesting topic was presented in my Sunday School class a few weeks ago. I was gripped by it.

We were talking about “NONES”. Those, who when asked their religious affiliation, answer “None”. It doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t ‘religious’ or even Christian. They simply have no ties to a church or any religious affiliation. One third of adults under 30 in our nation today consider themselves “NONES”. The highest percentage the Pew Research Center has ever seen.

This should concern us. I mean, this should really inflict alarm in the heart of today’s church. It should make us ask some hard questions and find some good answers.

It was interesting listening to the discussion surrounding this topic in class. Most of them were over 30 and frankly, just didn’t get it. (No offense) I’m not pretending I ‘get it’, but I do have perspective. Maybe because I came very close to becoming a “NONE” myself.

I almost left. In fact at one point I told God “I QUIT!” Out loud and everything.

I know a lot of people, some I grew up with, family even, who really have quit. Or who have been so burned and burdened that they just can’t muster the strength to go back, even though they might want to.

This is really happening. These aren’t just ‘numbers’, these are people. People who have completely lost hope in the church, who have lost their confidence in Christ. And a lot of it frankly is our fault.

This brings to mind the lyrics from a Casting Crowns’ song, Jesus Friend of Sinners:

Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours

I wrote this to be thought provoking and not taken literally, at least not by me anyway. I haven’t really quit. But maybe I have in a lot of ways…

Dear Church,

I’m curious, why have the “None’s” divorced the church?

It’s because we are tired. We are tired of never measuring up and not being good enough. We cannot possibly attain to the standard you hold over us. So, we quit.

We have a need to be loved. To be known. To be accepted. To be cherished. We have a need to know the truth. To believe in something. Someone. We have a need for that truth to make a difference and to tell us who we are and why we are here. We have a need to be forgiven.

Sadly, Church, you are not meeting those needs. What we find frankly turns us off and turns us away. Instead of being loved, we are told to love God. But WHO is God? Instead of being known, we are told to know God’s Word. But again, WHO is God? Instead of being accepted, we are told to accept His will. But what does that mean? Instead of being cherished, we are told to cherish his law and hold to his commandments. But honestly, it all seems a little pointless. What’s in it for us?

Church, you are confusing us. You tell us Jesus came to heal the sick, but you tell us to stop being sick. You tell us, God came to save the lost but then tell us to get our acts together. We hear,“God loves you and has come to give you joy, to give you peace, to give you rest, to forgive you, to give you life.” But that is not what we see modeled by you. Instead we are told to Do More and Try Harder. You ask us, What’s Wrong with You? And tell us that, We Should Know Better. Well, we really just don’t know any better (and I’ll let you in on a little secret, neither do you, so stop acting like a hypocrite).

You have warped our view of Christ. “Grace” is something our parents used to say at meals, and honestly, I never really saw it work for them. And the “Love of God” is just an expression we tack on to the end of a sentence when we can’t find a parking space.

None of it has any meaning.

But this is what we are longing for. We long for meaning behind the doing. We need a Rescuer, not a rule set-ter. We are aching to be known, really known. We don’t want you to be scared of us. We are dying, literally dying, to be accepted just the way we are, with all our imperfections and screw-ups. And we are afraid to ever say it. But we want to know what it feels like to be cherished, to know we have value and aren’t just taking up valuable space.

This we find outside of your doors, believe it or not. You, Church, are supposed to be a safe place, a hospital I can come to, to bind up my wounds, but I do not find that kind of healing with you. So I go to the outside and I find it there. My soul is screaming for relationship, for connection and community. For that safe place. The outside gives this to me. They don’t strap me with rules and regulations and judgment. No, it’s quite the opposite, really. I am free to be who I want to be. So this is where I turn. To the safety of my girl-friend or my boy-friend or same-sex relationship. To the protection of drugs and alcohol and self-mutilation, numbing my pain and emptiness. To my addictions and dysfunctions, because it works, if not for a while.

We don’t have time or patience for this “Carrot and Stick” kind of faith. Be good and you’ll get a carrot. Be bad and I’ll beat you with a stick. Because, didn’t you hear me when I said, my soul is screaming for relationship?

Religion, Christianity, Church, these do not offer relationship. So, we’re done with you. We don’t want a religion that means nothing. Haven’t you seen the state of the family, our country, our economy, our world? We don’t have time to waste trying to be perfect or time trying to hide our imperfections. Why would we choose that when, like I said, I can find what I need on the outside a lot faster and safer than you can give it to me here?

I don’t want to be rude, but Church, you need to hear this. You got distracted. You fell asleep at the wheel and now you’re paying for it. And now we’re paying for it. You majored on the minor and minored on the major. You were swallowed up in the trap of Look Good and Do Better. But I’m here to tell you, that that’s just not real life. This pain and hurt I feel, is real life. This pressure I feel, is real life. This culture that tells me anything goes is real life. And, this economy that is sucking the very breath out of me, is the real life I’m living in.

And how does your Jesus fit in this real life?

I’m not sure why, but you seem to be afraid of the message of grace. I mean, real grace, what it looks like in real life. This baffles me, because this is what I need the most, this scary, dangerous gospel of grace. It’s the very thing that makes the difference and makes Jesus real and feel right. If you would have told me that Jesus doesn’t necessarily care what I look like or even what I do. If you would have shown me His love and acceptance and forgiveness instead of strapping me with a burdensome way of living. If you would have explained to me, really explained, that He came to take all of my sticks and to ive me all His carrots regardless of my “sinful transgressions”. Well, maybe, just maybe I would have stuck around a little longer.

But right now, I’m Just. Too. Exhausted. So I quit.

 

 

Taking Notice

I pulled my cart up to the register. I hastily unloaded my dollar items onto the moving black belt. I noticed I had too many. I shifted the phone on my shoulder, as I listened to my friend. I checked the time. I picked up the toy Judah had thrown – again – this time placing it in my purse. I hushed his cries, reaching in his diaper bag to hand him a snack. Food makes everything better.

The cashier began scanning my items, placing them in bags. I noticed her then. I noticed her round, protruding front and her swollen fingers. I felt my heart twinge in compassion as I remembered the discomfort of those days. I noticed her face. Her eyebrows close together in concentration, the breathing in and out through her mouth. I noticed the slow motion of her hand as she hovered the items over the scanner, her other hand cradling her stomach. Everything slowed down in that busy moment and I stopped listening to my friend talking in my ear.

“Are you having a contraction?” I asked her.

Startled, she looked up at me. “I don’t know, but I’m having pains.”

“How far along are you?” I continued prying.

“39 weeks tomorrow,” she answered through gritted teeth.

“Is this your first baby?” I noticed her intake of breath.

“Yes. But he’s not supposed to come until next week though, so I think I’ll be ok.”

“Babies don’t always pay attention to due dates, sweetie. You look like you are in labor to me, I think you should sit down.”

The mother came out in me then and I apologized to her for that. But it looked like she needed a mother in that moment. After prodding her with more labor-questions, I told her I thought she needed to at least go see her doctor. She insisted she had to work and that the baby wasn’t coming for a few more days. As she finished up my transaction, I realized I needed some reinforcements.

I decided to take my items to my car and find someone else who might be able to help.

Another employee was walking into the store as I was walking out. I asked her if she knew the girl at the register. She said yes, that they were friends. Relieved, I placed my hand on her arm and told her that I believed her friend was in labor and needed to go to the hospital. At this, her eyes grew rather large.

I said, “We mothers don’t always take the best care of ourselves, and sometimes we need a friend to stand up for us, someone who will take care of us. Will you be that friend? Maybe you could call her boss to see if she could get the afternoon off.”

I ended up leaving the store, feeling certain her friend would help her. I prayed for that very young, first time mother. How scared she must have been.

Frederick Carl Frieseke (American artist, 1874-1939) Young Woman with Sewing Basket

As I drove away I wondered… How often do I take notice of those who are in pain living and breathing around me?

My life is so busy. My world, all consuming. And pain-bearers are not always so obvious.

We don’t often walk through life with our wounds gaping open for everyone to notice. There are not always signs as there were with that heavily laden mother. Sometimes there are smiles when there should be frowns. Sometimes there is outward laughter when there is inward weeping. Sometimes there’s a joke, when underneath there is really paralyzing fear. Sometimes the pain is so deep and the walls so high and their hair so perfect, we are shocked when it all caves in.

But should we be shocked? Should we?

We are all broken. Every. Last. Oneofus.

The cashier, the teller, the doctor, the nurse, the pastor, the librarian, the teacher, the mother, the father, the child, the friend.

Taking notice doesn’t always equal major interruption. It can simple mean choosing compassion instead of frustration. Slowing down instead of pushing through. Kind words instead of a harsh tone. A smile. A touch. A hug that lasts longer than a second.

1 Corinthians 13 tells us, if we have and do and be all these things, but do not have love, we have nothing.

Jesus took notice. He took notice of those who were invisible to most. He saw through the mask, the shield, the disease, the age. He noticed their pain while the crowds pressed in. He stopped, he reached out, he touched their brokenness, he healed. He was busy and got tired. He tried to escape to solitude at times and yet they still came. They still pressed in upon him, touching and pulling and taking. And he gave. So freely. He gave everything.

That was why he came. To give. To take notice. To be interrupted. To stop. To care. To love. To heal. To die.

We have been called to be “Jesus with skin on”. To be his hands. His feet. His arms.

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. ” (Matthew 25:40)

We just have no idea what people are going through. Where they are in life. What they need. What they might be feeling.

The woman in front of you taking forever at the check-out, might still be in a fog of grief due to her miscarriage. The person driving slow in the fast lane might be distracted because of a lost job. The mother lashing out at her kid in Wal-Mart might be drowning in a difficult marriage.

We just will never know. But Jesus knows. And He puts his people in these places at just these times that we might be his hands, his feet, his smile and tender voice.

This is a hard task in this busy world we live in. Our agendas rule and our witness wanes. Our judgments mislead and we blindly follow. Our insecurities take charge and our strong wills yield to them. But if we push through these things and the isolation we prefer, asking for eyes to see, we might just make a difference in someone else’s life.

So next time you pass me and I’m looking lost. Take notice and put your arm around me, cause I’m sure I could use a hug too.

The Sacredness of Mothering

housework print by Granger

I was on the floor. Again. Underneath the highchair. My knees were wet and I was scrubbing. Scrubbing with SOS pad in hand, trying to free the who-knows-how-long-its-been-there-food off of the floor. My nails were chipped, my hair hanging haphazardly and my T-shirt splashed with bleach stains.

When I signed up to be a mother ten plus years ago, this was not the vision I had pictured in my mind. That vision was more… clean.

No one warned me of the messes, (and if you did, I blissfully ignored you) the puke, the mound of dirty diapers, the snot, the poop, the laundry, the missed-aim pee-soaked shower curtain, the dishes, the soured, chunky-milk sippy cups underneath the seat of the car. Ugh! The car!

I didn’t know about the week long process of seasonal clothes change. Or the doctor and dentist and orthodontist appointments. Or that the broom would become an extended part of my body. I didn’t know that shower mold was actually orange and not green. Or how involved playing T-Ball really is and what it takes to get there. I didn’t know about arsenic hour.

I didn’t know that most days I would feel more like a maid than a mom. And that some days I’d forget who I was underneath the constant need to serve.

But scrubbing the floor not so many days ago, God whispered something to me. Just one word.

Sacred.

Regardless of how it felt or what I looked like, I was engaged in sacred work.

housework print by Granger

The definition of sacred is – dedicated to or set apart for the worship of a deity; made or declared holy; worthy of respect.

Our work as mothers is sacred work. It is sacred because of how God uses it to daily sanctify. A gradual process of making us holy.

As this word rolled over me, I noticed my tears mixing in with the soapy water on the floor. God had set me apart for his worship through the setting aside of myself. And after many years of begrudging the task, I somehow felt honored. Honored to be on hands and knees, in servitude.

There is something about serving another that is so good for our souls. This mothering. This caring for little ones. This demanding, often dirty, lonely work is just so good for us. It strips us of ourselves and empties us of pride. It forces us to set aside self and care for the weaker, demanding one. It makes us more like Jesus.

There is less of me when I’m kneeling low in service. There just is. And that is always a good thing.

I was reminded of that argument found in the Gospels. The one the disciples were having quietly among themselves. The one about who they thought was the greatest. Jesus is so patient with our pride. He didn’t point to himself (the obvious greatest) or rebuke them with a loud voice. He showed them by bringing a little child over to them saying, “…For he who is least among you all, he is the greatest.” (Luke 9:48)

There was another story, when a mother came to Jesus. She wanted to secure for her sons important positions in the kingdom of God. Jesus plainly told her, “You don’t know what you are asking.” He knew her focus was on Jesus’ earthly kingdom and reign, not on His eternal one. She was looking for security in earthly position, not in Christ himself. He responded with this, “Whoever wants to become great among you, must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first, must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt. 20)

Servanthood was a common theme among Jesus’ teachings. He knew our hearts and how hard this would be for us. We want position. We want acclaim. We want accolades and recognition for a job well done. We want what we think we deserve. That is not easily found in the area of motherhood.

Mother’s Little Angels

Instead, it is a constant giving of yourself. It begins the moment of conception when your body is no longer your own. You become the dwelling place. A vessel of life and one that must be broken open in order for life to be given to another. There are wounds and scars left behind, your heart bearing the greatest of wounds. Your life becomes a life of sacrifice. Your wants, your desires, your needs, all sacrificed for another.

This is a hard surrender. It’s ok to admit that. Because Jesus is patient with our pride. And so are our children. Their gift of forbearance makes up one hundred fold what they’ve ever demanded from us.

We are to look to them. The least of these. The least who are the greatest.

When that first baby was laid on my chest and I felt the weight of it all, I didn’t know what I had really been given. A very high calling and privilege. One of service.

It was hard falling into that roll. My inner self screamed sometimes and my outer self cried – a lot. I just wanted to sleep or take a shower or eat a meal without nursing a baby. My selfishness cried louder than my baby did at times. It caused anger and resentment and frustration. It has taken years and four babies to chip away the bondage of that selfish pride. And still it clings.

I have to be careful not to be like the mother who came to Jesus seeking only what this earth could give. There is so much more found in Christ alone. But it looks different than what we would initially expect sometimes. It is often the very opposite in fact. We have to look through a different lens. A lens of sacrifice, a lens of daily dying, the lens of hard, sacred work that takes on the purpose of holiness.

I get distracted sometimes by the gift my children are. And I miss the real gift. They are not merely given to me so that I might teach, nurture and protect them. They are given to me so that I might be taught. That my holiness might be nurtured. And my heart protected from selfish pride.

I am thankful Jesus is patient with us and that he didn’t leave me in that place of frustration. I am thankful that he didn’t give up on this ol’ girl, that he didn’t stop hammering away at my hard heart. And that’s he’s still chipping away.  I am thankful for the work accomplished through scrubbing a floor. The inside work of the heart.

It is sacred work.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but make himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8)

A Gift of Perspective

picture from the world-wide-web

 

We were hanging on by a thread.

Relationally. Financially. Emotionally.

The recession had sucker punched us in the jaw and our heads were spinning.

The simplest of tasks became monstrous. Taking care of three children under four, some days, was like climbing Mt. Everest in sandals. My feet were slipping and my oxygen was running low.

We were losing our house. A house we were never supposed to live in, but because real estate was at a stalemate we were forced to move into it. We tried to hold on for three years, but we were drowning in the sea of debt the economy heaved upon us. It was built by my husband. I saw his handiwork all through out it. Even the towel bar upstairs he made special for the kids. I loved that pegged towel bar. But still, it was just a house.

It was the man I was really losing.

The stress had become physical. It choked the breath right out of me and left twinges in my chest. I found myself counting the ceiling tiles in my doctor’s office while he did an EKG. I thought I was experiencing congestive heart failure. His prescription was, “Reduce the stress in your life”. Like most doctor’s hand writing, I couldn’t quite decipher what he meant. “We are going BANKRUPT!” I wanted to scream at him, but bit down hard instead.

I had to start letting go. So the dishes and toys accumulated. The mail piled up. Laundry became an eyesore. And the grass grew tall.

So tall in fact, I stopped parking in the back. The kids would have gotten lost on the way to the house from the car if I had. The weeds took over and choked out the beauty of the landscape. Much like my stress was choking the hope out of me. I imagined the many balls and yard toys hidden in the grass, buried. That felt appropriate somehow. “A graveyard of buried hopes,” to borrow the phrase from Anne. That’s how life felt in that moment. All I could see were the weeds and the other things that had a choke-hold on us.

I tried not to venture out onto the back porch unless I had to. This day I must have had to. Four year old Livie Rose had followed me, bouncing along behind me. I turned to the sound of her gasp.

“Mom!!”

“What is it?”

“Look!!!” she nearly burst.

I followed her pointed finger, but couldn’t quite figure out what she wanted me to see. All I saw were the embarrassing weeds.

“It’s a… It’s… It’s a MAGICAL FOREST!!!” Her lisp was more pronounced the more excited she got and I almost ate her right there on the spot.

I looked back out at our horrendous yard, truly hoping to see what she saw. A twinkle, a sparkle… something! Again, all I saw was a neglected yard that had once been a fun play area. So I looked back at my girl and into her eyes. That was where I saw the sparkle. Her eyes. She smiled brightly, clasped her hands and jumped the tiniest bit. Again, I almost ate her. What I saw as a symbol of hopelessness and loss, she saw as magical. A place of beauty and wonder.

Where you stand makes a difference.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about perspective, specifically in my mothering. How much it changes you in the midst of unchanging circumstances.  I have thought back to this mothering memory many times in recent days and the perspective my girl so graciously gave me that day.

Mothering can be a tough job. Many moms find themselves fighting the depression battle, getting beaten down by failure or captured by the guilt-enemy. We wallow. Feel lonely and unsatisfied. We swing in and out of victory and defeat, sometimes all within the same moment.

It’s normal. And no matter what you have told yourself, you are not alone.

But where our line of vision rests makes a difference in the daily.

Hebrews tells us to, “Fix our eyes on Jesus…” My prayer needs to be more often, “God show me where my eyes are fixed.”

When I’m feeling frustrated, when I’m yelling, when I have the proverbial towel held tight in my hand, about to send it soaring – in those moments my eyes are rarely fixed on Jesus. My ingrown eyeballs begin to throb and ache, sending a message to my soul, it’s time for extraction.

What a gross picture. Sorry for that. But really, if you let your mind go deep, to that place of sin-infection, it is a gross place. It should be seen as such, so that true cleansing can start to happen.

We are selfish beings by nature. Always. Every time. And self fights so hard to win. Most of the time, if I’m honest, it does win.

But these last few weeks, I have noticed a difference. Walking through grief is never a path I would willing choose. I don’t have to explain to you the pain of it. You know. We run from it and avoid it at all costs. But when we find ourselves sitting in the midst of it, we must receive from it what God wants to give. Perspective is a grief-gift. Yes, there are gifts amongst the painful places of grief.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights…”

We must receive it as a gift. And it must not be lost to us.

There are times when God brings us to the low places. It changes the way we see life. Small things become big. The unimportant, crucial. And things that drive us, disappear altogether. Other times God brings us to the high places. Big things becomes small. What was most important no longer matters. And things that never mattered become the most important. Messes become opportunities to serve those we love most. Quarrels show us our SELF and how to die easier next time. In the midnight moments of nursing again when your body screams for sleep, are moments that can forever change the way you pray. When shoes and lunches and papers are lost again, we can be thankful that those are the only things lost.

There is a strange reversal when we have perspective. It doesn’t have to come through grief. It can come through asking. And when you find yourself being choked out from the life-threatening weeds of those miserable-mothering-moments, know that you can have it. It can change you and your mothering.

“Fix your eyes on Jesus…”

Just What We Needed

I know I’ve not shared much here over the last several months. But I’m pretty sure you’ll forgive me for that, right?

Writing is an emotional thing for me I’m learning. And I think I’ve been slightly emotionally depleted these past several months. Writing asked more of me than I could give, so that’s why I’ve been quiet. I’m trying to work through it. I’m pushing through. I’m not giving up on this thing I love.

Every now and then I guess we just need a breather.

A rest. A break. An opportunity to renew and refocus. A sweet breath of fresh air.

Like that salty breeze that hits you hard and only comes from the place where your toes sink into the edge of the ocean. Eyes closed, arms outstretched, hair whipping wildly, and you standing there welcoming in that long awaited relief.

Ahhh… It’s great living by the ocean.

untitled1

These last days of December 2013, that’s just what I’ve needed.

The last few years have come to a close, ending with such a heaviness. I’m starting to think that this just might be the new norm. Life is hard. But is it always SO hard?

I have watched dear friends lose dearly loved ones. Three friends lost their sweet baby girls. Another lost her husband. Another her brother. And just a few short weeks ago another friend said goodbye to her 19 month old baby boy. He was Judah’s friend and it is just so close.  There have been so many other heart wrenching stories I have heard of as well. From friends of friends and members of our church. There has been so much loss. Just so much.

We know that heaven is sweet and there is absolutely no other place we wish for those we love the most to be. But this earthly grief and separation stabs deep. And it leaves us without breath as we watch from the outside completely helpless.

Nothing else has ever taken me to this dark place of questioning. I have never been afraid of God, not like this. I have never spent so much time on the floor, completely powerless to stand. I have never, never felt this helpless or out of control. And I have never seen faith in God acted out like I have in these few short weeks.

I’ll never forget when I was 13, my brother was 10 and he was high in a tree, held by a rope swing and the rope snapped. The pressure was too great, the rope too thin, the tree bark too sharp and it just snapped. He fell and landed hard. I watched, helpless as his eyes bulged and he gasped for breath, but the air would not enter his lungs. There was panic in his eyes as he willed his lungs to work those long minutes that felt like hours. There was panic in my screams as I watched him suffer from the impact of the blow. The air was hit hard out of him and there was nothing. anyone. could. do.

I have been that 13 year old girl. Panicked and helpless. Screaming, willing for air to enter.

There is a story that I listen to often. A story I have referred to many times before. A story for children God has used for this weary heart. A story of A Horse and His Boy. The boy was seeing Aslan for the first time and it was all coming together for him. HE had been the lion who had pushed him through the waters to the violent man who raised him. HE had been the lion who had chased them through the desert. HE had been the lion who had slashed his friend wounding and causing her deep pain… How then could he be GOOD?

I have been Chasta, the boy. Asking God, how could you have allowed these things? This deep pain that takes away the ability to breath, which causes such heart ache you almost wish it would stop beating. The ache and the empty and the grief that crashes like waves, threatening to drown. Why, God? How, God? Why like this?

Like the lion Aslan has been described, God too, is good, but He is not safe.

I want to think that He IS safe. That nothing ever bad will happen to his children. That we can walk in ignorant bliss through this life and never be touched by grief. This is what I want.

But like we can ask of most things we want, is it really what we need?

What we need is Jesus. And only Jesus.

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Through this deep grief and loss I have been deeply convicted of where I place my hope and trust. While processing through this I have shared with several friends, that I have not wanted to place all my eggs in one basket so to speak. So I have placed hope-eggs everywhere. In my husband, children, relationships, finances, my house, my church, things… oh yeah, and Jesus too.

Jesus is important, but He has not been my first and only hope. Other things have taken his place, or rather, I have given His place to other things.

This was the prayer of an 8 year old boy about to say goodbye to his baby brother, “Jesus, you are our only hope… please help us to trust your will.”  When I heard this, I was brought hard to my knees. Jesus told us to look to the faith of little children. To follow their example and lead of a blind and simple faith. They accept it. They believe it. They embrace it.

As we grow up, we lose that kind of faith and trust. We push ourselves through this weary life relying on our own strength and trick ourselves into believing we have control. And then get angry with God when he tries to bring us back to a simpler, child-like acceptance of His sovereign hand over our lives. It is not safe, but it is always for our ultimate good.

I have asked over and over, “What is the good?”

I’m beginning to think that our ultimate good is to always see a clearer view of Jesus. It is not through the easy times that our view becomes less foggy. No, it is often through
times of pain, of loss. Of grief so sharp it leaves a heart-wound and that is what sharpens our view of Christ.  We are forced to stop. Forced to question. Forced to decide and take hold of what we believe about God. Only then does our verbal faith become an action faith. When everything seems to be falling apart. When reality turns into our worst nightmare. When nothing makes any sense and half your world is gone. And you still choose to believe that God only gives us good gifts. That He is never changing. That His love endures forever. That He still sees. That He still hears. That He will carry you through.

That is when He becomes your only Hope.

I am thinking of the story of Hagar. Her troubles had forced her to run into the desert. She was afraid for her life and she had come to her end. But God. But God met her there… at her end. When nothing or no one else could rescue. God could. And God did. That is where she saw Him; stripped, completely helpless, at the very end of herself. He is the God who hears. He is the Living God who Sees. (Gen. 16) And He wants us to see Him, clearly, and only Him.

I have been deeply shaken. But I know that I am settling. Settling in after much wrestling, many tears, and loud screams. My eyes burn and my throat aches, my heart throbs and my head hurts. But I feel certain my vision of Jesus is slightly clearer.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.” 1Cor. 13:12

For my friends, there will be many, many days of grief ahead. I ache for them. I want to take away their suffering, but I know that I can’t. I would be robbing them of the great work of God in their lives. And as painful as that work can be, I know that not even our tears are wasted.

Even in the midst of such grief, I know that God is here among us. There is still much hope.

I wasn’t sure how to do Christmas this year. It felt almost wrong to celebrate. But singing the Christmas hymns, I realized that Christmas is the perfect time to see anew the true hope we have been given.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night, O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

As I sang quietly, the tears fell. My hands raised slightly opening in surrender. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…

Our world is so weary. Yet He gives us sweet hope in the midst.

I felt this in a tangible way Christmas night. The best surprises are those you never see coming.

Sitting in the midst of the Christmas chaos, a combined 6 children squirming and squealing, opening presents from aunts and uncles, Baba’s and Dadada’s, I felt a slight shift in the atmosphere. It wasn’t loud or obvious, but I turned my head just the same.

I looked over at my mom who was holding a partially unwrapped package, her eyes staring. The contents were still concealed but I could tell they held great meaning. I looked from her to the gift bearer and back again, desperately trying to discern what it meant.

Their eyes were wet and Mom whispered, “Really? You are?”

I jumped from my seat. I’m not really sure why, I just reacted to the surge of hope within me, and I jumped.

“Really. I am.”

It was quiet, but it resounded loud within me. A baby. A life. Hope born.

The tears were immediate as I yelled, “YOUR PREGANT!?!?!?!”

2013-12-27 13.04.02

My logic couldn’t believe it, but my heart screamed that it be true. When I saw her nod, my arms flew open, engulfing my brother and his wife. Hunter, a dad. Amy, a mother. A moment I really thought I would never see. I was completely overcome by shock and joy and laughter and tears. I rode the wave of emotion, letting it wash over me. Everyone joined in at this point, each family member coming into realization. A baby. Sweet hope of life reborn.

Looking around at each person there, I knew this was what we needed. I’m not the only who has screamed for answers this year or begged God for mercy or felt the burden of grief weigh heavy. None of us are alone in the weariness of life.

It was then I felt the cool breeze of relief rush into my soul. A lightness entered that had been absent for a long time. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…  I looked around and marveled as each one took turns congratulating, wiping tears, and embracing one another.

It was a moment in time that will be forever frozen in my memory. A testimony to the Living God who Sees. Who is forever faithful. Whose love endures to the very end. He, who is our Only Hope.

With that, I will take courage and welcome a New Year.

“Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened so that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raised the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us…” 2 Cor. 1:9-10

A Time

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time for the things that happen in our lives.

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under the sun.”

This brings me comfort.

Especially when I get in a hurry for something to happen, or disappointed when it doesn’t.

Not much writing as been happening around here lately. There is a very big part of me that is sad because of that.

writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing is one of those things for me that water is to a fish, or oxygen is to lungs, or love is to a lover. Without it, the other just can’t exist.

Ok, well maybe that sounds a little dramatic. I’m not dead or anything for goodness sakes. But maybe just a part of me feels a little, well, dead.

I have always written things down. Lists are one of my favorites. And I’m a great note taker. I had a professor in college even tell me so. And I have always kept a journal. That journal has taken on different forms through the years. First it was a diary with a lock and key, hidden under the mattress. Gosh, how fun it is to go back and read that! After that they were always leather bound, some with lines, others more on the eccentric side without lines. Now, it’s here. In the cyber world of blog land.

And I love it. But I really miss it when I am kept away from it.

This past summer I went to a writer’s conference. I was a little embarrassed to tell people at first. I think I still feel a little embarrassed. It’s just one of those things.

You want to do something, but are afraid. Afraid of failing and of what other’s might think. Fear of rejection and of making a fool of yourself. Just all around fear.

I know God has given me a message, just like He gives each of us one. And He’s given me a unique perspective, because no one else has my thoughts and feelings and perspective. We all have that uniqueness and I just love that. He’s given me a passion for things and an urgency to share that through words.

But I’m still just a little fearful.

Ok, a lot.

And now I’m mad at myself for that. Because it’s keeping me from what I love and have a deep desire to do.

There have been different times in my life when I haven’t been able to write. Like in the throws of pregnancy sickness or the newborn baby fog. During deeply painful times in my marriage when I was angry and bitter. While having three kids 3 and under, when all I could do was scribble down little notes here and there. And different times when it just didn’t happen.

So I’m familiar with that feeling of frustration of wanting to, but not being able to.

I don’t know what it is about driving down the road or taking a shower or when I have suds up to my elbows or cooking dinner or cleaning a toilet that inspires me to write. I can always count on those perfect times for a fresh thought to hit me, only to watch it swirl down the porcelain throne with the flush, never to be retrieved again… Ugh!

But this is different. This fear. This insecurity. This less-than-confidence. It’s threatening to take root and so that’s why I must write it out. Process. Bring out into the light that which is threatening to overtake me in the darkness.

This past summer has been a hard one on some levels. Part of me has been shaken to the core. And I really don’t mean to sound dramatic. There is nothing that’s happened that is life threatening or deeply depressing. We are ok and life is so good. But it is life, after all and sometimes things are hard to process and deal with. But everything is for a reason and God can do so much and I am thankful.

When people you love doubt you. When they blame you for wrong and your intention was only for the good. When you never tried to be perfect, only helpful and humble, but are rejected for it. It does something to your soul.

It has done something to mine.

It has brought me to a new place. And I feel a little naked, exposed. Shy and timid. Who am I? What do I have to offer this great big world? What do others need that only I can give? Is there even such a thing? Is it still ok to be me? And what if it happens again?

So here I am. In this place. And I am asking these questions to which I have no answer. Well, not right now anyway. But I know it will come and I am waiting for that moment. When the quivering stops and I feel firm once again in His grip and nothing else even matters.

And I know it will come.

“There is a time for every event under heaven… A time to tear down, and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance… A time to search and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A TIME TO BE SILENT AND TIME TO SPEAK…”

It will come.

Sometimes

Sometimes I see you and I’m just so glad to see you.

Sometimes I wonder how you’re really doing and what’s really going on.

Sometimes I ask you.

Sometimes I don’t and then I wished that I had.

Sometimes we talk and we really talk.

Sometimes life is too busy or the kids are too loud and we try, but we can’t.

Sometimes we just don’t try hard enough.

Sometimes I’m honest and I tell you what I’m really thinking, what I’m really feeling.

Sometimes you do too.

Sometimes it’s powerful, that kinship we have.

Sometimes it can change our path.

Sometimes distractions get in the way.

Sometimes we are discouraged and don’t know how to keep going.

Sometimes we are stuck and need each other’s help to be freed from our bondage.

Sometimes we just need to cry together or dry the eyes of the other.

Sometimes there’s joy and it over takes us and spills out over all and all over the other.

Sometimes there’s pain and the pain threatens to drown us and we ride the wave together.

Sometimes I’m afraid to say what I think is true, because what if it hurt you or what if it changed you?

Sometimes we walk away from each other never knowing, never seeing, missing the most important.

Sometimes we see and we really see and we meet the need.

And sometimes, just sometimes, we are true friends, sisters who would give up anything to see the smile of the other. To know they are doing ok on this road called life, or to be there to answer the call when they’re not. Sometimes God has us be His hands and His feet.

Sometimes and we will never be the same.

The Weight of Chains (Part 1)

When I start writing on topics like this at first I am really excited. I have all of these words and thoughts and feelings tumbling around in my head that just can’t wait to pour out on a fresh white screen.

I start typing and words start flowing. But before I realize what’s happening, my thoughts have gone into 32 different directions. I get lost trying to follow each trail of thought. My eyes start hurting from squinting at the now cluttered screen, so I close them and close the computer, determined to try again tomorrow.

And I do. But now 50 some tomorrow’s have come and gone and I’m still hopping from trail to trail like a little bunny rabbit. I want to get it right. No, perfect. And because that is an impossibility that will never happen, I never finish. My thoughts stay locked up in a muddled mess in a little folder on my computer.

Well, I’ve decided to do some spring cleaning (a couple months late).  I’m kinda tired of having little folders like that cluttering up things. So here we go. It may be a little unfiltered. You may have to step over some briars and thorns as you walk along my trail. But hopefully you will be able to see through to my heart and what I’m really trying to say. And maybe I’ll figure it out too along the way.

This is a topic very close to my heart. It’s personal. I’ve had experience where this is concerned. I’ve learned a lot of things along the way and am still walking this long road.

It’s a hard topic to discuss. People get offended and get their feathers ruffled. There’s a lot at stake here.

What if I am? What if you are?

No one wants to admit that they are legalistic. That’s not really something nice to be identified with.

There is a lot of fear tied up with that word. Fear that we really might be. Fear that someone might think that about me. But mostly fear is what motivates our being legalistic. And how do you overcome that? 

I think it’s important before we ever explore a topic like this, to first truly explore our own hearts. I don’t want anyone to feel the heat of my pointed finger in their face. Because, believe me, the rest of the four are stabbing me hard in the chest.

Our hearts represent our true person and reveals so much about us. But to be honest, I’d rather not explore that dark cave. It’s too scary, sometimes dirty and going there can make me feel isolated, cold and alone. But I must. I must enter that dark heart-cave, I must explore the caverns and crevices. Otherwise, how will I know?  

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

I’d rather not believe that. It doesn’t necessarily conjure up nice feelings to think about the fact that I’m beyond cure. I mean, where are we supposed to go from there? There is no recovering from that.

The next verse says, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind…”

I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse.
 
Proverbs 4:23 tells us that the heart is the wellspring of life and that above all else, we must guard it.
 
One definition describes wellspring as, “A continuous, seemingly inexhaustible source or supply of something.”
 
It’s where it is, people. And I mean everything.
 
Glancing in my concordance at the back of my Bible I’m amazed at how many references to the ‘heart’ there is. It would be impossible to list each one. But here is a little recap of what God says about our hearts…
 
Our hearts can be::
 
hardened, prompted, opened, unified, cut, circumcised, uncircumcised, changed, made pure, examined, stirred, broken, contrite, undivided, divided, upright, joyful, thankful, bitter, jealous, wounded, steadfast, secure, set free, wise, sick, at peace, happy, good medicine, anxious, given, hasty, stolen, awakened, sealed, calloused, carried close, revived, washed, deceitful, a fire, luke warm, focused, confused, lost, new, glad, pure, impure, gentle, humble, laid bare, encouraged, sincere, enlightened, set, refreshed, senseless, faithless, faithful, willing, poured out, searched, far away from God, written on, known by God, troubled, ruled by peace, guarded, set on things above, grateful, sprinkled, cleansed of a guilty conscience…
 
They Can::
 
hate, murder, serve, love, observe, turn away, look for God, hold a grudge, obey, know with all of itself, be glad, meditate, receive, hold God’s law, hold secrets, hold wisdom, cherish sin, fail, extol the Lord, deceive, seek, hide God’s word, cry out, keep commands, ache even in laughter, guide the mouth, stay on the right path, love, pound, rejoice, know God, produce evil thoughts, forgive, doubt, waver, ponder, believe, anguish, grieve, make music, do the will of God, work at it, have thoughts and attitudes, yield, crush another heart, hold eternity in, burn, make room, condemn us…

Our hearts are powerful. And it is more than just an organ that pumps blood and gives life. It is the wellspring that all of our soul-being comes from. Our thoughts, feelings, motives, decisions and so much more that I will never understand.

That is the part that scares me. I will never truly comprehend even my own heart.

Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Knowing the true contents of our hearts is only a God-size job.

We may think we know something about it.  But we must be careful. Because we’re probably fooling ourselves. We are never as good as we think.

Maybe you are like me. And right now I might be tempted to let my heart give up. I am so thankful for Scripture in moments like these. Especially this one.

1John 3:19-20
This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

For all you Bible scholars out there, yes, this passage is definitely dealing with more than just feeling a bit sorry for ourselves. (Bless our hearts) But for all our hearts sake, no matter where we are in our walks with God, I think it’s safe to say, that God is most definitely greater than our hearts… and what they are capable or incapable of.

That sure makes me feel better and is quite a good note to end on for today. I hope to come back to this topic soon. It appears life may be slowing down a little to make that possible with school and baseball ending. But I don’t want to say that too loud!

When we do come back to it, I’d like to look at what legalism is and is not. And to see what it may look like in our personal lives (and by that I mean sharing what it looks like in my own). And I really hope not to get lost along the way of this tricky subject. The roads can twist and turn quite a bit and I wouldn’t want to lose anyone (myself included) to motion sickness!

Come back if you so dare!

 

Goodnight Moon

It’s one of my favorites. That little book. I used to have it memorized, now it’s only parts I remember.

Bedtime has always been my favorite time of day.

It’s still a favorite. But I think my reasons have changed.

Before it was because I was tired. I mean, really exhausted. Mommy was done. I had been going since my feet hit the floor. Giving, giving, giving. There were battles over bowls and cups and the right color. Toy wars had ensued. Sometimes I came out the victor. Sometimes. Discipline had been accomplished. Spankings, timeouts, no t.v., no snack, come inside NOW!

We may have gone to the grocery store, if we absolutely had to. That meant one car seat captive in the back of the buggy, a walking 20 month old beside me and the older 3 year old in the front seat of the buggy. Believe me, this was how it had to be, as funny as it may have looked.

I endured the stares and comments… My you have your hands full! …You must be military, he’s home just long enough to get you pregnant! (really, do people have no couth these days!?) …God bless your SOUL!  I repeated my rehearsed replies, Why yes I do and I’m so thankful! … No, I’m not military, but am so thankful for their service to our country, military wives included … God HAS blessed me, yes. That shut them up, most of the time.

After several melt downs along the way, the kids included, we would arrive home. It was usually nap time by this point. I would quickly deposit the kids in their nap locations, some on my bed with books, others in cribs. Then I would tackle the bags and bags of groceries, which would hopefully last more than a week. This is why I didn’t need to go to the gym.

I would try and take advantage of the quiet to get dinner started, but usually got distracted at some point while putting things away. I’d end up cleaning behind the dryer or something and would later wonder why my back hurt.

By the time dinner was well under way there was usually someone on my hip and another one clinging to my leg. I had the other watching Cinderella for sanity purposes.

Daddy would come home. We’d try and have a conversation while inhaling our food over the high volume level of little ones and in between the 20 times I had to get up and go back to the kitchen for something. I’m sure someone had spilled something or picked that time to want to try and go potty and don’t forget about the nursing baby who’s internal radar senses the precise moment you sit down to eat.

Bath time was essential after dinner. Mashed potatoes were now in ears and caked over eyebrows and they smelled like whatever chicken dish I had haphazardly thrown together. I couldn’t risk a tiger picking up their scent in the middle of the night. We would all be wet by the time it was over. But they were clean and smelling so good and I would just breathe them in.

Some nights we would rock and sing and read books before bed. Most nights we would. I would pray over their fuzzy heads as I laid them down in their beds, 1, 2, and 3.  I would sigh a huge sigh of relief as I tiptoed out of their rooms, crossing my fingers in hopes of not having to return sometime in the middle of the night.

Walking down the stairs I felt satisfied. Another day done. I had survived it. A smile would creep over my potato crusted face. I would get to that later. For now, it was the kitchen that must be tackled and then the slippery bathroom and the 10,000 toys that seemed to multiply by themselves which were scattered across the floor, just beckoning you to come and step on one. It may be quiet, but the work was not done.

Many hours later I myself would crawl in bed. I may have tried to read, but wouldn’t get very far. The book would have fallen across my chest. I would turn off the light after waking around 2am. I’d make sure the monitor was on. I may have traveled up the stairs just to make sure that tiger hadn’t found them and would again revel in their stillness.

During the rest of the night my mind and body would be renewed by precious sleep. Unlikely uninterrupted, but precious all the same.

I would wake again the next morning to more diapers and tantrums and laundry and spit up and… well you probably get the picture.

I’m not proud to admit the survival-mode mentality I lived with in those first few years of mothering. But I was a different person back then. A different mother. I was in a very different season of life and I’d like to think that I’ve seasoned over time and matured just a bit. Just like with every other thing, I’ve grown better at mothering the more experience I’ve had.

Many have commented on how differently I’m doing things with number four. Again, it’s a different season, I’m a different mommy.

Tucking them in at night is different too. I’m still tired at the end of the day. They are still loud and still fight and we still battle through the grocery store. But my perspective has been tweaked just a bit. I’m not always in such a hurry to end another day.

If you combine all of my kid’s years, then we have celebrated 22 birthdays so far. That’s a lot. And I can’t believe Judah’s first is next month! The more years that flash by, I think the more a Mama realizes just how fast it really goes.

You also realize that no matter what mess or catastrophe may happen in a day, you will survive it. Even if you’ve been up all night with a sick one, you know you will sleep again. You know the crying will stop and the food throwing and the booger wiping (well, maybe) and the constant bickering and running through the house with muddy shoes… one day we will all have clean houses and we will hate it.

There will be an end to this crazy season of ‘mothering’. We will never stop being mothers, but will stop the mothering part. And we will stop tucking them in at night too. They will grow too old for Good Night Moon and I Love You This Much and all my other favorites. Some of mine already have.

That’s what I think of when I tuck them in sometimes. So I don’t mind laying just a bit longer and snuggling a bit closer. And don’t mind giving one more kiss or hug or listening to one more thing that happened in their day or meeting the challenge of tickle me too! They just love that. But I think I love it more.

So as we say good night to our young ones, let’s remember that we will one day say good bye to these precious days. We will heave a sigh of relief I’m sure, but I think we’ll miss it more. This shouldn’t make us sad. Great things and great hope come with every season of life. But maybe it will help to give us a better perspective as we fight off the temptation to rush things and wish it away.

In the great green room there was a telephone
And a red balloon and a picture of–

The cow jumping over the moon

and there were three little bears, sitting on chairs
and two little kittens and a pair of mittens

and a little toy house and a young mouse
and a comb and a brush and bowl full of mush
and a quiet old lady who was whispering “hush”

Goodnight room goodnight moon
goodnight cow jumping over the moon
goodnight light and the red balloon

goodnight bears goodnight chairs
goodnight kittens goodnight mittens
goodnight clocks and goodnight socks
goodnight little house and goodnight mouse
 
goodnight comb and goodnight brush
goodnight nobody goodnight mush
and goodnight to the old lady whispering “hush”

goodnight stars, goodnight air

goodnight noises everywhere

He Built a House

It’s taken me too long to write this post.

I started it almost a year ago and had to stop. I realized I couldn’t just write about the house. I couldn’t write about the house without writing about the man who built the house.

And I realized I couldn’t write about the man who built the house without writing about why he built it.

This is a big story. A sad story. And it’s really not mine to tell. I had to ask permission. But I will still only tell it from my perspective.

The man we are talking about is my Daddy.

The house began with a dream. And this is what I remember of the beginning of that dream. I was a young child so there is a chance that my childhood lens might be a little clouded or rose-tinted, but this is how I remember it.

I remember making the drive out to Seabrook. It seemed like such a long drive. We’d come out just to look around. It was fun.

There was this big white house with double porches. It looked like one of those really neat houses that you see in movies. I dreamed of living in that house. There were two other white houses across the street. They were smaller, but just as pretty. They looked like family.

There were railroad tracks.

And old buildings that once were special to this small town. Had it really been a town?

There was an old post office that people still used. What fun it would be to have your own post office box! And a key to match it and to have to ride your bike to get your mail. I dreamed of having a post office box.

There were other old buildings that I wanted so badly to explore. They looked so intriguing.

And there were pecan trees. So many pecan trees. What I eventually came to understand was that this used to be a pecan orchard and some of those ‘other old buildings’ were the packing sheds.

The neighborhood smelled of onion grass and it made me want to reach my hand down under the earth and pull a small bunch out and take a bite. It smelled so delicious.

There were two matching silos. Had those been used for the pecans too? I wondered.

There was a dock that you could fish off or swim off or go crabbing off of. But you had to live there to do those things…

And we didn’t.

That was the dream.

Mom and Dad would drive out there and imagine all of those things too. I’m sure just as I did, including wanting their very own post office box.

It was always a little sad when we would drive back home. To the house we knew and the busy street we lived on. Not that we didn’t love that house too, but it just wasn’t part of the dream.

I remember going to Park Day with our homeschooling group. We met at a house that was in Seabrook too (ironically this would one day be my family’s house, my one-day-husband’s family). As we turned left to go home, we would all longingly look out the car window to the right and say, “Maybe one day we will be able to turn right to go home…”

It was strange when that day came. I was 13 when we moved out here to this quiet little neighborhood. The roads were still dirt. The houses far apart. There were woods everywhere. Oh how we loved all those things.

Playing manhunt with friends became a favorite. Climbing trees and picking pecans off the ground to eat was another. Staying outside til after dark and taking long walks down to the dock that we could finally call our own, well it was a dream come true for my family.

We eventually moved into another house just down the road from the first one. I loved that house. I used to babysit for a family that lived in that house and now we did. It was strange at first. But it would eventually become our own.

I left that house to go to college. I remember the night before sitting on our porch swing. A favorite place. I cried. I had just said good-bye to my then boyfriend, who would become my husband. I didn’t want to say goodbye to anyone else. Not to my parents or brother or sister. Or to my house where I felt so safe and at home.

I came back often to visit. I just couldn’t stay away for long. I was sooo homesick.

I got married in that house. Well, in a church, but you know.

After that my parents decided to build a house in the neighborhood.

That decision didn’t come easy.

I wasn’t living at home anymore. I had my own house somewhere else. But that place was still so special to me. The thought that they wouldn’t live there forever was a strange one for me. That I wouldn’t be able to come sit on the porch swing made me sad. But things were happening out of their control and they knew they had to do something.

They put that sweet little white house up for sale.

I knew it was just a house. But it had been my house. I grow attached to things easily, so it was hard to let go the day they closed on it. It was so hard for many other reasons too.

My parent’s world was starting to crumble. At first it was just small pieces. But then the pieces started to get bigger and bigger. We would later learn how big.

I remember watching my Daddy build this house. It seemed to take a really long time. So much was happening in his life and I remember thinking, building this house is what’s saving him.

And I still believe that it did.

We don’t really talk about that time much. It’s almost like we aren’t allowed. My parents have never said that. But it still feels that way. There were so many people involved. People we still know. People we were so close to.

That’s just it. We were so close to so many and then we weren’t.

How do you recover from that? I mean fully? How do you talk about it? How do you share honestly without causing further pain to others?

I don’t want to do that. Not anymore at least. Maybe that’s why I’ve waited so long to write about it. I’m not bitter anymore.. I’ve extended grace and forgiveness even when it wasn’t reciprocated. I’ve moved passed the consuming anger, even if I still get angry.

Even though I would never want to cause further pain to those involved, I think it’s important to acknowledge the hurt. I think it’s ok to say, wait a minute, I’ve been left wounded.

Watching my parents go through that was excruciating. And still is at times. Knowing there was nothing I could do to take away their pain. Nothing I could do to help them regain their life as they new it before. And learning how much had truly been lost… the relationships, their identity and occupation, the good standing in their community and church, their reputation.  If it had just been money. If it had just been a house. If it had just been a job. If it had just been a friend or two.

But oh, it was so much more.

It was devastating and baffling and confusing. Almost like being side-swiped by a car. It just came out of nowhere and left our heads and lives spinning. The damage left us totaled, but mostly mom and dad.

But the hardest thing was to remember there used to be light in his eyes and there isn’t anymore.

I know things are going to happen. I know that no church is immune to problems. I know that people are imperfect, that they make mistakes. It is foolish to expect anything else.

It’s one thing to make mistakes. It’s another to pass over someone lying in a proverbial ditch with a gaping heart-wound. That’s just not ok. That’s what it felt like.

But I guess in a way it is ok. Because nothing happens out of God’s control. Nothing goes unnoticed by Him. Nothing happens in a person’s life unless He deems it right and good and for our ultimate holiness and His ultimate glory. That’s why we can forgive and move on and look to the future with hope.

If nothing else, (and there is so much more) I’ve learned that people are fragile. More fragile than we think. Sometimes we can’t recover and wont until we reach heaven. Sometimes people smile when they really wish they would just die already. Sometimes their hurt runs so deep that several generations are effected by it.

People can’t be looked at through a lens of black and white. We are so much more complex than that. And so our problems. I wish it wasn’t so. I wish you could use a Bible verse like a bandaid. Or what worked for you. I wish we could expect people to give the right answer when they are hurting. But that’s impossible when they still haven’t found it yet.

You can’t expect people to stand up and walk without a limp when they have been so badly crippled.

I’ve also learned that it’s ok to talk about it as hard as it is. To share the pain. Not to inflict more pain, but in hopes of find healing for yourself and for others.

In giving us our stories, God never meant for us to keep silent about them. He meant for us to share them with speech seasoned with grace, as it were with salt. Sometimes salt burns. But sometimes that’s needed for healing to take place.

So when I walk into this house that I now call home, it’s sometimes weird to think that this is where my parents used to live and now I live here. I never lived here with them.

But I love that I live here now and that they live just behind us. At first I thought it would be hard to be so close. But after a year, it has only been good. So good.

So good to see my Daddy’s house being used. Being filled with lots of grandchildren and noise and messes. That the table he built twenty plus years ago is still being dined upon by many who love him. Who know the man he is and used to be. And who only wish for his happiness and healing.

But even though it makes me so happy to be living here. I sometimes get sad too.

I get sad when I look at the concrete floor in the living room. I remember seeing it right after it was poured. I remember seeing my dad looking so beaten down. So discouraged and confused and hurt.

I remember the long hours he would be here. To escape. To survive.

I remember worrying so much. That he would fall or get hurt when he was by himself. That no one would know to come help him.  And no one really did know to come and help.

I remember watching Mom up so high on the scaffolding white washing the walls that turned out so beautiful.

I remember the question in her eyes. What’s happened? Why?

I remember the isolation we all felt. And still feel at times. Knowing that people were innocently wondering and talking and not knowing how to treat us.

There is so much good represented in this house. There is so much pain too. Because it represents a time in the life of my family that is hard to remember. Hard to look back upon and see the good.

But we are choosing to see the good. And we are thankful for the blessings God has bestowed on our family. Not everything was lost. And so much was truly gained. Understanding God’s grace over my life has been one of my greatest joys. I don’t know if I would have otherwise.

I hope a year after living here wasn’t too soon to share this story. I hope you understand my heart in this. I hope you see my family differently. I hope you see our fragility. But more importantly, I hope you see the strength of my Heavenly Father. And that His grace is all sufficient in our lives, no matter what course it may take. That you can be left standing!

Thanks, Daddy for the privilege of living under a roof that you built. It brings me so much pride to brag on you and your beautiful workmanship. You are one of the most gifted and talented men I know. I love that we are neighbors and that we share a yard. I love that your grandchildren run on floors that you laid. And that I cook in a kitchen you made. I love that you aren’t perfect, that you make mistakes and that I can love you anyway. And I love that you love me the same. You and mom have come so far. God has given you a story. A story that is meant to be shared, so that His glory isn’t wasted.
I love you, Daddy.