Friday, April 29, 2011

Tragedy in Columbia

So my boss and friend, Kathy Lentz, brought in an obituary to work this morning. I work at St. Martin's Drop In Preschool. The obituary was for a Blakely Jernigan, 22, of Columbia, SC. He died Wednesday morning. This is the story I have pieced together.

Blakely grew up in a sweet family. He went to St. Martin's for preschool, and his family is still members at Shandon Methodist Church. He was an eagle scout, a youth group kid, a scholarship kid to Clemson. He got involved with the wrong crowd and ended up making a string of bad decisions involving drugs. He dropped out of Clemson and was living in Columbia again. Wednesday morning while it was still dark, a suspicious car in their neighborhood was reported. Shandon neighborhood is a historic place where doctors, lawyers, and professors live. The homes are pricey, yet have lots of charm and character. University students live spread throughout in duplexes. When an officer responded and pulled the car over, Blakely was the driver. He shot the officer point blank and sped off. A swat team found Blakely at an apartment in the neighborhood, and tried to talk him out. They called his father to come to the scene to reason with him. Blakely's father talked with him and everyone thought he was going to surrender. This boy then came out of the building, guns blazing, and fired rounds from an AK 47 at the swat team. They shot back, and Blakely's body lay for hours on the lawn while they made sure all of the explosives he had owned were safely disposed. The local middle school rerouted buses, a neighborhood preschool stayed closed, and businesses nearby opened late.

Here's the thing. This child had parents. A mother sitting at home waiting to hear how this nightmare ended. A father that had to go to talk with his son only to watch him gunned down by police. An officer on duty for only five days before being shot in the line of duty. He lived by the way. His bullet proof vest saved his life. A swat team made up of people that have to live with the scene of their bullet killing another. My mind immediately wanders to the father. Did they have to hold him back? Did he cry out in agony? Did his son see him as he came out of the building? Dear Lord. Why? Why this? How will this be made whole? How will good be brought forth? How? I don't have the answers.

But I did have a talk with my oldest son. My boss - Kathy - said to me as she handed me the obituary, "This was a Key. He was like your son. He was good." And so I told my Key Blakely Jernigan's story. He ducked behind the couch with tear rimmed eyes. But still Michael and I told him til we were sure it sank into his heart, "We love you. Nothing you do can take that away. Nothing. We all make mistakes. There may be consequences for our actions, but our love will not go away. Ever. That daddy tried to tell his son, and his son didn't hear him. So we are telling you now. Before you get older, before you don't hear us. Let this sink into your heart. Our love is for always and always."

We said other things as well, about not allowing others to make decisions for him, about how he can come to us if he feels confused or pressured. We talked about a lot of things. Key is so small, and yet, in three years he will start middle school. Kids he goes to school with now already face decisions about gangs and drugs. Key's eight. And it all just breaks my heart.

And finally in all of this, I still don't get why. I still don't understand it all. I want God to rewind. To make it end differently. But I can't. Understand. The why, that is. But - I can remind myself as I did Key, that there may be consequences, we all make mistakes, but nothing we do can break us from His love. Nothing.

And Dear Lord, I pray for the Jernigans. And the swat team. And the officer. And just plain everybody.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Michael

My Michael is lying down resting. He's really, really tired today. Yesterday we came home from our weekend in TN, and we had a long ride in the car. His body is healing, and it takes energy. It's growing his leg back together, which reminds me of when I was pregnant and having to grow a person and all I wanted to do was sleep. So, while Michael isn't pregnant, he is sleeping and healing.

He'll be on crutches for awhile, then move to a cane, then slowly be able to walk again all on his own. His skin will mend itself.

Isn't this what it's like for us as a body of believers? As a community? We are a body. Sometimes a part of us gets hurt - physically, emotionally, spiritually. But with rest and nurturing, we heal. And slowly, sometimes so slowly we don't notice at first, we mend.

Isn't it beautiful?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 40

This morning, right as I sat down to write for the last time of my 40 day journey, I received a phone call. From my husband. He had fallen off an obstacle course station in the woods near my parents' home and injured his leg to the point that he wasn't sure if he could walk back out. And the kids were with him. He did make it out, and I rushed him to the emergency room, where he fainted in the doorway of the hospital and had to be put on a stretcher. He had a gash in his leg that peeled his shin like you would a piece of fruit, and they had to cut his sock off. The doctor sewed his skin back down, and he is on crutches for awhile. Glory be to God that he will be okay.

I held it together when I needed to. But once I passed Michael over to the nurses and doctors, I almost fainted. So the professionals kindly sent me to the waiting room. During my deep breathing exercises, a young man showed up holding a bloody towel and missing the top part of his finger from a weed whacker accident. He started sobbing about a girl while holding his finger. I had to get up and move away from this man. I didn't want to move. I didn't want to seem rude. But I was already struggling to breath from my own husband's accident and seeing this young man in obvious agony almost sent me right over the edge. One of the nurses saw me move, so she came out to check on me. To make sure my meditative breathing was working. Other people, support people, laughed, which helped the man also laugh through his sobs when he realized I was only moving so that I myself did not pass out. They mercifully took him back immediately to sew his finger together.

My father came to sit with Michael so that I could leave for an hour to get lunch with the kids and so I could have a little fresh air. I made the statement about medicine not being my gift from God, and my children readily agreed. When it comes to trauma I am cool and collected until there is such a time I can lose it, but at some point I will lose it. I will need away. Which brings me to the point of Christ.

The Paschal lamb. All during his time on this Earth, he healed people. He would not have left Michael's side or turned away from the hurting man. He would have moved towards them in their hurt and in their pain. He would have done what I was not capaable of doing today. He was radical in a transforming kind of way. Not mean or judgemental. Radically lovely, loving. And then. For all that, we killed Him. Yet through Christ's death, His Spirit was released to live amongst us, to fill us up with gifts. To be as Kelly often asks, His hands and His feet. Today those medical people did what I could not. And they did it with compassion and love towards not only Michael, but me as well. They embodied Jesus's hands and feet and heart. So, though medicine may not be my gift, it obviously is theirs. On this resurrection weekend, the night before Christ rises, the eve of His Spirit birthed in us, I am filled. And I am grateful. For all of it.

On my first day, I wrote about us being Jesus to each other between the dustings, and today I witnessed Him at work. And it was transforming - radically lovely, loving.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 39

The past two years I have participated in our Stations of the Cross at church. First year, I made a teardrop to sit in the spot of station eight. Second year, I made a bag, Simon of Cyrene's bag, and placed it in the spot for station number five. I didn't come up with these ideas on my own. God told me to make those things, and it was powerful for me to feel such a presence, that Holy Spirit inside me rising up and talking too loudly to ignore. This year, He told me to write, and so I have. And here we are, yesterday starting "real time" in a march, a pounding and plodding with all the while the anticipation rising as the cross is laid on Jesus, as they nail it to Him and Him to it. And Sunday comes, the day He rises and says all is done. I have died for you. And I have risen for you. And I have left Me in your hearts and souls and gut for you. Did you notice? Do you feel me? I was there and I am here. For you. All this acted out now, in "real time".

But why?

This year in all this writing I realized that last year when I made that bag and I asked those people to put their Ebenezers in it and I asked them to write the hard stuff - the blessings and the burdens and verses that carry them through- on rocks to add to my bag, I did not look back. Occasionally I went through and read these rocks, these moments in a community's life, but I have not shared them properly. And so, today, on Good Friday, I share them with you. So as we walk the road to Calvary today, you will know why. Why, in my little corner of this world, Jesus sacrificed Himself. Just for us.

John 15 - I am the true vine....
mom and dad
Psalm 73
John 16:33 - In this world....
Jeremiah 29:11
Psalm 91
Broken family
Psalm 78
Broken sexuality
S of S 2:7
2 Cor. 5:17
A dark night
While I was yet a sinner
Broken chains
To be free is to share free
money burdens
chronic illness
unfailing love
no condemnation in Christ
Bring my soul out of prison
Mark 9:24
Psalm 27
Thy name is redemption
Philippians 4:13
Philippians 4:13
Columbia 2009 - 10
John 1:14
James 1:19-20
John 6:68
I Peter 3:3-4
Genesis 1
Isaiah 61:1-4
Holy Spirit within
the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge
plans to prosper
Ephesians 1:7-8
John 10:10
Matthew 11:28
Daniel 2:20-23
Luke 1:46-55
I will trust
I will draw them with loving kindness
Great is thy faithfulness
Romans 8:4
Thou, O Lord, art my only good...
Ephesians 4:8
Grandpa and Grandma
John 3:16
Psalm 55:23
John 14:27
Isaiah 25:6-8
Go therefore and make disciples
Hebrews 10:14
Psalm 107
Revelation 22
my family
Isaiah 53:1-12
Matthew 17:20
I John 3:1
Psalm 51
John 14:12
Galatians 2:20
Seek first the kingdom of God...
Hebrews 13:5-6
Joshua 1:6
He was crushed for my sin!
Hebrews 13:5
Revelations 21:4
Ephesians 3:16-17
My friend Marie and her illness has brought me close to the one we both love.
Mark 11:9
I Cointhians 1:18
Father, into your hands I commit thy Spirit
Psalm 84
John 1:1
Philippians 1:2
I Samuel 16:7
Romans 8:26
Psalm 105:4
John 10:10
John 6:28
They shall be called oaks of righteousness
I Corinthians 12:4
Psalm 138
John 3:16
Romans 1:5
Psalm 51
For by the grace
Philippians 2:5-11
Hosea 2:16
Romans 8:18
Mr. Isaac
Eph 1:18
James 1:12
financial provision
John 14:1-7
My wife.
Titus 3:9-11
I Corinthians 14:33
John 8:11
I Corinthians 13
Isaiah 53:11
Deuteronomy 32:4
Proverbs 3:5-6
Romans 5:1-11
Hebrews 12:2
Philippians 2:11
Mark 9:23
Philippians 4:19
Ephesians 4:26
Romans 8:38-39
loss of a child
Deuteronomy 31:8
Psalm 37:8
Psalm 73: 26,28
I John 3:19-20
Psalm 23
Romans 7:24
Ephesians 4:32
Luke 23:34

(All of these rocks were collected in about three hours and one bible study - and only if people felt drawn to add something to the bag. Abundant is one blessing...)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 38

**The picture is of several kids that ran wild at St. Thaddeus while their parents were off doing other things. This was their Christmas photo, and my child, Key, is the chubby one looking miserable in his gingerbread outfit, barefoot. We promised him cookies if he would wear the outfit for the picture.**

A long time ago, back when we lived in Aiken, SC, we joined St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church. It was a rocky start, that one. The first time I went, I was on my own and pregnant, and my fingers were so swollen that my rings didn't fit. So, as an "unwed" preggo, I got shunned from the person sitting next to me. I was so angry, I decided we should just be Methodists instead. The fact that Michael was Catholic and really didn't think the Methodists would be a good fit still did not do much to soften my anger. But, eventually, a friend convinced me to give ole St. Thaddeus a second try. And I did.

Second time around, I went to an Alpha dinner where my friends were table leaders. They had invited me to join them and I had shown up. They had assured me the entire night was free and open to the community. Well, funny thing, I had actually just been to the bank that day to close my account, since my husband and I were merging our funds. All that was left of my bank account by that dinnertime was a useless checkbook, no good for anything. So I arrived at the church, and in the doorway to the dinner was a table with people sitting and collecting - money. Donations. Only I didn't have any money. So, in order not to get turned away, I wrote a check. Yes, a bad one. For that bank account I had just closed earlier in the day.

The next morning, I went to my new bank, took out actual cash, and went up to St. Thaddeus's offices. I spoke with their financial person, and asked that she rip up my good for nothing check and replace it with my cash. I think she might have been a bit flabbergasted. However, I must say, she recovered beautifully, and even told me to keep my money. No harm done. And so began my real relationship with St. Thaddeus. They shunned me, and I had cheated them. Great start, I know.

Funny thing is, God works with what He's got, and what He has is us and them. So, St. Thaddeus became a place of refuge and spiritual growth for my family. Older members, those with children already growing or grown, took us under their wings. Apparently lots of young couples like us flooded their doorway all about the same time, and the church welcomed us with open arms. They nurtured us, loved on us, guided us. In turn, we reciprocated our love for them by jumping in head first and serving in lots and lots of ministries. Especially soup kitchen. People from the community walked in the rain and cold with babies in their arms or holding onto walkers to get to St. Thaddeus's Saturday soup kitchen. It was famous among connoisseurs of free lunch. Especially when Eddie George whipped out his smoker big enough for ten birds at once. Michael loved serving there. Just loved it. So one particular Saturday, we were there, my baby was toddling around playing with some of the other children there, and a little girl came up to me.

And she asked, "Do you work here?"

I had to think, since I was on the Vestry but I didn't get paid, did that count?

Eventually, after pausing, I said, "Yes. I do work here."

Her mother ushered her away from me to get her to go eat, and our day continued, but I'll never forget her question. Do you work here?

Little does that child know what a pivotal moment she delivered in changing the way I thought about myself. About my sweet St. Thaddeus. About THE CHURCH as a whole. About how, if we so allow, God uses us to do His work. He gave us Jesus as an example. And we killed Him. And yet, God planned it that way - an ultimate sacrifice - just so that He could connect for eternity with us. So that we would not have to pay back all our mistakes in life. And in return for this sacrifice - for this example of perfect humanity, for this gift - He asks that we follow His example. We listen to Him. We do what He says.

So, every now and then, I think back to our precious time at St. Thaddeus, and how God brought us to that place, and I remember that little girl's face looking up at me. So innocent and simple and sweet, her voice.

Do you work here?

And in my mind I answer her...

Why, yes, I do. Right next to all the other liars and cheats and shunners and such. Praise the Lord, we've got a great Boss....

(I find it interesting that St. Thaddeus is the saint of lost causes. Not that I am a lost cause or anything. Not that anyone reading this blog is a lost cause...)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 37

Father (eldest male): This story has been told for thousands of years; a story about miraculous change from misery to joy, slavery to freedom, sin to grace. One of the last things Jesus did with his disciples was to celebrate Passover and retell the story to them. It's no coincidence Jesus chose the Passover meal for what we now celebrate as the Lord's Supper. Tonight we will be able to see, hear, and taste the great love God has for us!

And so begins the Seder meal, A Passover Haggadah.

It's a transforming meal we celebrate on Maundy Thursday, the day of our Lord's last supper. Deeply spiritual and sensual in nature. Tying us to generations that came before us, reaching back into the history of our people, all people, as we have grown through Christ. This, above all others, is my favorite meal of the year. My children look forward to it as well, for while it feels a bit somber coming the night before we remember Christ's death, it is joyous as well, for we are reenacting Christ's last meal before His resurrection.

Maundy Thursday has also always been one of my favorite church services. Even as a child, I wanted to go to this particular service in holy week more than any other. The whole experience of the day speaks to me, and so I wait for this day to come.

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday. Tomorrow I will prepare our table. Tomorrow, as a family, we will celebrate the Passover, and I encourage you to try it as well.

(Click here for a copy of the liturgy and instructions for preparing your table. You can find various versions online as well, though please make sure to get the Christian Passover Haggadah instructions.)

In setting the table and celebrating a liturgy over a meal, it is important to remember not to get intimidated by the preparation. We are to remember that we are Christian at the core, and that we are not perfect. Therefore, we do not need to feel pressure to suddenly produce a perfect Haggadah table or meal. It is the ceremony, the ritual, the sharing of experience with our family that is most important.

Recipe for Haroset (a part of the seder plate):
chopped fresh apples



crushed nuts

kosher red wine (Manischewitz)

Generously sprinkle the cinnamon, honey, and nuts over the chopped apples, then add a good splash of the red kosher wine - Mix all of this together. Cook down in a pot until apples get soft, or bake at 350 degrees in a glass pan for approximately 20 minutes or until apples are soft. Chill. The amounts need to be adjusted for how many people will be at your table.

During the ceremony there is a stopping point for the party to feast on dinner. The ceremonial food is not the full dinner, so we usually have chicken or beef. We avoid pork out of respect for Jewish tradition. Chicken chili, a simple soup, a beef brisket, a roast, and the list could go on, are all acceptable.

Father: When Jesus began his last Passover supper, he offered a cup to his disciples and said, "Take this, all of you, and drink it." Let's hold up our first cup and bless the Lord!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 36

Again, with the dinner table conversation....

Kelly: Is everyone famous?

Me: No.

Kelly: But everyone is special.

and then,

Kelly: When I go to bed, God goes to bed. And when I walk around, God walks around. Because we are God's hands and God's feet. I think Benji and me are God's hands because we are the same size.

He makes lots of sense; I mean, my hands are the same size, so God's should be too...

I work at a preschool surrounded by children, and then I come home to children of my own. Lots of time I can remember they are God's gift to us, and us to them, but it is hard to keep that in mind 24 hours a day without ceasing. There are times that the kiddos start to wear on me. Like the twins that are new and don't speak English and scream until their mother comes back because they feel abandoned. This would be a good time to be God's hands - and feet - and arms - and bosom - and smell - and etc. It would really help in a situation like that. Or, for instance, when the other set of twins has taken off their shoes for the ten millionth time or when I find another precious little one eating out of the trash can or when one poops an adult poop in their brand new Thomas the Train underpants. I could really use the power to be God's patience and wisdom and big picture perspective right about then. I could use that sweetness when I call one child's name four times and get an eye roll in response, or when another flat out lies to my face. God's skill and abilities would be especially helpful in that particular scenario. Yep. takes remembering the Spirit inside of me, looking at the world all day through God filtered eyes. Remembering that when I move, He moves. When I sleep or eat or walk or breath, so does the Spirit. Because if I can remember that one thing, how to handle everything else comes naturally.

I probably will never be famous. But to a few I am special. To God, I am His own. And to those I meet, I can be God's hands and feet and voice and heart.

If only I remember.

Lucky for me, I have Kelly to remind me....

I Corinthians 12: 12

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 35

Oh, y'all. My house is a wreck. Laundry on the floor. Dirty dishes in the sink. Crumbs stick to your feet when you walk. Plucked weeds wilted and drying on the front porch. A total mess. We got up this morning, went to school and work, did not bother to make a single bed. Only time my real estate agent has ever been to my house, it has been spotless. For five months I have tried to maintain a vision of showcase quality living. Only two people have bothered to view it in all this time. So, of course, today I closed the door behind me, locked it, went to work, and left my phone in my purse in the closet of the classroom. Didn't think to check it for a few hours. Well, low and behold, my real estate agent had called - on his way over to my house - with a new client that needed to see my home - immediately. I did not get that message until it was too late.

Too late to stop them. Too late to save face. Or run home and throw stuff in drawers. Too late to pick up our underwear and towels and make sure my kids hadn't left poop in the toilet and forgotten to flush. Too late.

My agent laughed. And apologized. He got MY message of me panicking on his voicemail right AFTER he left my home. And yet, the client liked it. Even though they had to kick soccer cleats out of the way of the door to even get in. She's going home to think about it. Nothing may happen, but something might.

A friend of mine told me this is God's way of letting me know that nothing I do is going to sell this house faster than His plans, and He can sell it no matter what I make it look like.

A little grace note to my humbling afternoon.

Gotta love God's sense of humor.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 34

Do you ever have one of those days you really wish could have gone differently? I can name plenty of blessings throughout the day, but still, the day overall is not going on my top five list. Here's why -

1. My friend, Bruce Bahr, passed away this morning. He had leukemia, and had undergone a stem cell transplant. Unfortunately, the stem cells attacked his body instead of rebuilding his body, and he lost his battle with this nasty disease.

2. My son played two soccer games in his final tournament for the year, and his team lost both matches.

I know #2 on my bad list does not compare to #1 on my bad list, but the whole day just frankly did not go the way I would have preferred. But, here's what I'm taking away from the day.

1. My friend's death has opened the door for my children to ask about death and about heaven and about what happens to our bodies when we die. Michael and I have explained that God gives us more than a body - he gives us a soul that is filled with His Spirit, and that is the part of us that goes to heaven. It's a hard conversation to have and a hard concept to explain, but death is not all bad. Don't misunderstand me, I still find death tragic. For any life cut short. For those left behind grieving. But, sometimes for the dying, it can be good. Hard for the living, maybe, but still good for the one reunited with our Father.

2. My son's character today shone through. And I am way more concerned about the state of his character than I am about whether or not he wins his soccer games. The first team just walked all over our boys. Our boys gave up after the other team scored one goal. Just plain gave up. So Coach gave them a talk. It wasn't what they wanted to hear. It wasn't about what a great job they'd done. It was about how they had given up. And the other team hadn't. The next game, again, the other team won. But this time around they tried, and they played the game all the way to the end. It was an even match. In fact, they had played and beaten this team before. But today, what set our team apart was that they were the guys that were not the bullies. And yet, when they were getting tripped and elbowed in the ribs and shoved over and held back by their jerseys and no whistle was blown except when they made a mistake, they still did not back down. They didn't play dirty and they didn't cheat, but they didn't take it either. My 56 pound son outran and pushed back against 90 pound meanies today. And he came away standing. And I will take today's loss in score for their win in character any day of the week.

Truth. I'm tired, and it is late. I miss Bruce. I feel disappointment for my son. I should say more eloquent words, but my head isn't here. So please just pray - for Bruce's family and friends and for all those grieving loved ones.

Good night, and I'll see you on Day 35.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 33

It's day 33.

Did you know that an Anglican rosary has 33 beads? The number 33 and the specific beads have lots and lots of meaning. (Click on the highlighted word - it's worth it)

For those of you that think beads are only for Catholics, you are just plain dead wrong. As a person with a small attention deficit issue, beads help me remember what I was even praying about in the first place. It was awhile ago that Peggy Denny from St. Thaddeus Episcopal brought beads to some weekend retreat. All I know is us adults had the opportunity to do a craft just like real camp from when I was in middle school, and most of us jumped at the chance. We sat around talking and stringing beads, and at the end, we each had our very own handmade rosary.

For me, it was love at first sight.

When I pray "the rosary" I use the beads to help me keep track of what all I need to get out of my head and all that I need God to hear. I absolutely cannot listen to God until I have had my say. If I try to listen first, all I do is fidget trying to concentrate on the listening and completely ignore anything God may whisper just for me. So, I use the beads. And I start at the beginning; at the cross. I pour out my soul and my "so sorrys" and "my thank you so muches". I tell God what I think about the state of the world and our country and our little state and my little city and my tiny growing church and my sweet, sweet family and friends and I ask for help in ways that grow Him and alleviate suffering in us in ways I cannot fathom. And I try to remember to say "please and thank you" all throughout. By the time I am done, I am spent. No more do I have the energy for worry or fuss or fear or anxiety. My heart just is no longer with those distractions. And yet, my heart is full and ready. Ready for Him, for His whispers and guidance. And once again, I have fallen in love - all the while holding just some simple beads.

33 of them to be exact.

** The rosaries pictured are my children's. A dear friend, Jessi George, made these for my boys. They practice using them when we are on long road trips, those conversations are treasures for my soul. **

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 32

I'm feelin' happy today. And I've got lots to be thankful for.

So today is a list day.
  1. I went grocery shopping and I got the "good" bread....
  2. And the "good" turkey.
  3. A bird visited my bedroom today by accidentally flying in through a window. I tried to take a picture for you, but the little fellow was too fidgety. After my initial shock of being greeted with a BIRD IN MY ROOM, I had the opportunity to watch him just fly from perch to perch. I helped the fragile creature find his way outside...
  4. I found out a couple Michael and I think are just great are also moving to York/ Rock Hill area....because he's going to be the priest for a church there. Yay!
  5. I got this juicy bit of gossip while talking with my long lost friend Melissa on the telephone. I love catching up with old friends. It feels like when you find something you thought you'd misplaced, and it just adds that little bit of joy to a day.
  6. My oldest has soccer tonight. He L.O.V.E.S. soccer almost as much as....
  7. My youngest L.O.V.E.S. soccer. When little bit found out big bro's season was almost over, he cheered. Then he announced, "Good! Now Key has to come watch ME play MY games!"
  8. Iced coffee...need I say more?
  9. Meeting a new friend - She moved to Columbia and is trying to sell a house in York. We're moving to York/ Rock Hill and trying to sell a house in Columbia. My new friend and I are switching places. We even exchanged house information, though our houses are a bit different from each other. It was mainly just fun talking with someone that recently left the very same social life I will be entering.
  10. My husband is a sweetheart. Really. And even though he's tired, he gets up, makes coffee, and drives a long, long way to work so he can continue to support his family.
For this I am grateful. All of this and so much more...

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

Philippians 4:8

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 31

God is Great, God is good.
Let us thank Him for our food.
By His hands we all are fed.
Give us Lord our daily bread.


(Of course, if you were inside my head this morning, you would have heard the word now in place of the word Lord. Freudian slip.)

My partner at work, Christy, suggested we do an oldie but goodie blessing for tea party this morning. Mix it up a bit. We get tired of saying the same old, same old. When we just chant without enthusiasm, the meaning and praise of the blessing gets, well, watered down. A lot.

The same idea goes for my life, in general. I am a creature of habit. I adore routine. I like being near home. I want safety, a sense of security and control over my life. But sometimes, safety and routine can inhibit fun.

Last night I went to a ladies night at an art studio, and I painted a palmetto tree. I got to hang out with other women in the community, drink my coffee, eat some goodies, and bring home a piece of handmade art. My very own painting. This activity is not in my norm. I broke out of my little box. The only reason I even went was because Christy called me and invited me, and my whole family told me to go. Truth? My norm can tend to get downright stifling, and though I had not realized I was to that point, even my oldest said I would be nicer when I got back.

And guess what happened? I had a fantastic time! I was nicer when I got back. How about that? A little me time, a little stepping outside my box, a little creativity, a little daily bread handed to me on a canvas made me happy. Joyful. How about that?

Added bonus: I have a fun new activity I can share with my kids.

So what if I haven't sold my house? This art studio is in Columbia, in my
here life. God is still taking care of there.

(Plus, how could I deny Christy the pleasure of telling me, "I told you so!")

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 30

My children vie for my attention. All the time. If one of my boys is sitting curled up next to me, or even worse, in my lap, the other must come interrupt. Kelly physically pushes his big brother out of the way and wiggles up between us so he can be closer to me than Key. Constantly one needs attention merely because the other sibling is getting some. I laugh and love on both of them and reassure them that there is enough of my love to go around. I promise them I am here for each child, and that one of them is not more precious than the other. It simply isn't possible. Today the competition was a bit absurd, complete with wrestling and pushing and pouting. My boys can get rough in their play. And it made me think. Underneath these competitions and games is an assumption that my love has limits. If I give it to one, I will not have enough for the other. But my love for them is abundant. Always growing; not reaching boundaries. When I had only one child I could not comprehend having enough love for a second child because my heart ached with love for my first born. And yet the moment I touched that second born, my love compounded exponentially and continues to grow each and every day.

Our God is the same way. In our world of competition and rules and boundaries and winners and losers and limits we cannot comprehend a God of boundless love. And yet He is a God of boundless love, a God of abundance, of joy.

His love is higher that the highest of mountains.
His love goes deeper than the deepest of seas.
His love, it stretches to the farthest horizon,
and His love, it reaches to me.

Stanza One, His Love, by David Ruis

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 29

Yesterday we went to church. We saw friends, we listened to a sermon, we heard announcements, we came home. But there is more.
  • Friends that are currently over at another place of worship stopped by our little church to visit yesterday. It was such a wonderful surprise.
  • The priest gave a sermon about grace. He said lots and lots of tidbits I hadn't really given much thought to before. He explained the reading beautifully and held my attention throughout the sermon and the announcements.
  • He announced that a couple in our church lost their 21 year old son to a tragedy Saturday. He didn't say how, but I don't think how really matters.
When he made that announcement I was sitting next to my oldest son and holding my youngest son in my lap. I couldn't sing from that point on. My voice didn't cooperate. My worst nightmare came true for that couple. And it was announced right after the priest's sermon on grace. Sort of hard to swallow, if you ask me.

So, I did a lot of thinking yesterday about grace and death and life and me and my babies and my husband and my brother that was killed when he was 24 and how my worst nightmare came true for my own parents years ago and how they still get up every day and life goes on and laughter did reenter their world. After the accident. Life did continue.

Life did go on. And yesterday the reading in church that our priest preached on was about that guy Lazarus being raised from the dead. Preacher pointed to all the moments of grace in the story for each of the characters. He pointed to Jesus's compassion and His tears that were really unnecessary given that he already knew He was getting ready to bring Lazarus back to life. Getting ready to raise him from the dead. And that's where our preacher stumbled. He pointed to overwhelming grace all the way through the story, but admitted he was lost after that. See, after Lazarus got raised from the dead, the leaders in the community put Lazarus's name on their execution list. He went on the run, and we don't know the rest. Preacher admitted confusion on why Jesus would raise Lazarus just so he would become a hunted man. But again, he pointed back to all the other evidence of grace. It was quite a good message, honestly. One of my favorites.

So, it made me think. I started wondering and arguing with preacher, though he wasn't nearby. God would not write a story consumed throughout with evidence of grace and then stop right at the end. Where is the grace in the ending? Here's my thought. We are called to trust God. God is a God of good. He gave Lazarus life. So we need to take all that evidence of grace so far and trust God with the rest. We don't know the end of Lazarus's story just as we don't know the end of our story. But through Christ Lazarus lives, and we alike may live through Christ. We walk around with the Spirit inside of us right now. Here. And we know His grace. And so we are called to trust. We are not, however, called to know it all.

Here's another thing. I am terrified of dying. I am getting better at letting go of that fear, but it is still there for me. But for Lazarus; he's already been there. Done that. And through Christ he has received life. Again. So I'm thinking that even though he's a hunted man, Lazarus does not have the same level of fear about losing his life as we assume he had. In fact, I'm guessing that just maybe without the burden of fear, he's seeing things in a whole new light. Through eyes of divine grace. And blessings are probably jumping out at him with this new-found sensitivity. Lazarus is alive in a way so deeply genuine that he is not numb to his daily grind or blind to beauty around him. He sees as only a man without fear and with confidence in his God could. And we are to follow his example. In letting go of fear, we make space for the grace. And trust God with the rest.

And yet, then came those announcements. The couple that lost their son. One of my worst nightmares come reality for them. I cannot even imagine what they must be feeling. I wonder if they see any grace in this tragedy at all. It would probably be awfully hard to spot from their vantage point. So all I can think is to look back. To see the overwhelming evidence of grace in times past. To know that God sheds tears of compassion with those grieving, and that God is good - no matter what the circumstance. And to realize that while we may not know the ending of all this, God would not write our story, their child's story, just to stop here. No. I trust Him. The story does not end here. It just doesn't.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 28

My anxiety levels have been higher than usual lately. So much so that my oldest son keeps asking me if I am okay. He know the signs. The breathing. The faltering before I drive somewhere. The cautious behavior. The tendency to want to stay home. I make every effort not to let anxiety rule my life. For the most part I move through the discomfort rather than let the discomfort stop me.

But a few days ago, I felt like, well, crud. In fact most midmornings this week I have had moments of feeling like if I let myself, I could panic. - I won't let myself. But I could. - About mundane issues. About driving. On an interstate. About eating. At a restaurant. About leaving the house. For something new. On the other side of town. All of these seemingly normal activities cause me heightened levels of awareness on a good day. This week has been a little less than my best. Lucky for me I have already panicked about all of these things and lived to tell the tale. I did not throw up. I did not die. I survived new, exciting activities, like restaurants serving chicken on the other side of town only accessible by interstate roads. At first I survived these fabulous activities because Michael drove. Then I survived on my own. I can drive to my parents' house all the way in Tennessee. I have to prepare, but it has been done - several times - since the anxiety started.

It started in 2007 when I got sick. I got really sick. And then I had surgery. And then I continued to get sick. And the doctors did not know why. So they ran tests. Again. And in the time it took them to figure out my health problems (about a year), I developed anxiety. I got nervous I'd get sick. In public. Maybe I'd do something embarrassing, like throw up, but maybe I'd do something scary, like pass out. Both were distinct possibilities. If I passed out, and I had my kids, they would worry, so instead I stayed home. And the anxiety fueled itself.

Nowadays I have been healthy long enough that I can usually function quite well. It's just that stress or tiredness can make me susceptible to old fears.

Flash back to this week. At the lunch table I was breathing and eating. Eating and breathing. (A fabulous meal companion, I know.) My Key is looking at me with knowing eyes, so I remind him of when he doesn't want to do something because it is an unknown - like field trips. I explain that I am fine, but that I am having some of those same feelings about my day. And my oldest son, Key. He says to me. Mom. You know the fear is not true. You know your brain is just messing with you. You know Truth. You know it. Don't believe the fear. Just let it go.


How can you not think Jesus is speaking straight through my children?

I mean it.

2 Timothy 2:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.

P.S. We have been out to museums and hiking and to festivals all week. And that anxiety just made each day and all the blessings that much sweeter. Burdens = Blessings. Really.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 27

I have a confession. Some of you are aware of my secret, but others of you will probably be a bit surprised.

I don't own a microwave.

By choice.

I'll admit, there have been times when items such as microwave popcorn would be yummy, or defrosting meat when I forget to thaw it through conventional methods would help speed dinner along. I could reheat stuff quickly too. I know there are uses for such an invention, but we have survived so long without one, I don't feel any need to get one.

When my children were babies, I felt the desire for a microwave the strongest. I made their baby food, froze it into single servings in ice cube trays, and then simply reheated them when we needed a meal. Of course, I had to reheat them over the stove in a sauce pan. Occasionally I would forget it was cooking and it would burn and then I would have to start over.

But we're past those days. My kids eat real food, and we make real popcorn, and I've found a sink of cold water may not thaw things super fast, but it works in a pinch.

So, we don't own a microwave.

Anyway, lately I have found that the world expects that everyone owns a microwave. I am having a harder time getting the frozen vegetables I use because they have started coming in microwave steamer bags that are smaller portions for more money. Someone put microwave popcorn in a treat bag for my kids, and we simply gave it away. What's so funny is that they did not mind because they did not know what that little package even was. Popcorn to them comes in a jar and you cook it over the stove with oil and salt and honey and soy sauce. Yumm!

So, I guess my point to all this is that we have decided not to go with the flow on the microwave issue. It's really no big deal whether you are a microwave owner or not. It's just that as we were laughing about this small, silly thing, it made me think about the poem by Robert Frost. And that poem is really the big point about my crazy confession.

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 26

Yesterday Ann VosKamp wrote:

"That is why, for Paul, the everlasting fire and destruction of hell is ‘exclusion from the presence of the Lord.” (2 Thessalonians 1:9.)”

Tears started. My reaction surprised me. Maybe it has been an overdue date, those tears. But I sat at my computer, and out loud I spoke. I don't want to be separated. No. I want to be with God. Always. And I want everybody to come with me. Everybody.

Yesterday my blog got flagged for abusive content. Maybe it was a mistake. A virus. Maybe it was someone offended by my writings. Whatever it was, whoever it was, my feelings got hurt. Flagging my blog ruffled my feathers. But this morning, I got up (actually wake up, pray, stand up), and the hurt had gone away. I felt no anger. I'm sad there has been an interruption in my journey. But really, it is also an opportunity. I want grace, and so, to be Jesus to others I must extend grace. And I really want it. I want it so that at the end of it all, when my head lays down for a final time, when I say goodbye to this fleeting moment, this here life on Earth, I get to be with our God. And I want to see Him, feel Him, be enveloped by Him.

And in the meantime I want to open my eyes. I want to taste this life. Smell the soft green Earth. Walk barefoot outside on a warm day. I want to take communion on Sundays and be immersed in the daily communion of life with our Lord. Our Lord. I want it all. But more importantly, I want the awareness of it all. Of all my surroundings. And in each step, again, I really want that grace.

And so, for that to happen, I must also extend it. That grace.
(Even to that mean ole flagger.)

Matthew 5:44

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 25

First, please read this blog.

(If my attempt at linking you to her does not work, I am trying to send you to Gitzen Girl's blog entry for Wednesday, April 6th. Her website is

She's right, you know. As a whole, we don't like to tell people about our problems, our worries, our frustrations. Because we don't want to sound as though we are whiners. Our stuff, well, it's not as bad as the other guy, so...

Or, if we do break down and admit our ugly, we apologize for our breakdown, all the while trying to recollect ourselves and feeling as though we have burdened another unnecessarily.

But aren't we here for each other?

Again, my children teach me.

Kelly has suddenly begun asking me every day, "Are we Jesus's arms and legs and head? And are we God's arms and legs and feet and hands? How?"

I don't know why Kelly has started with these questions, but he has. God is speaking to me. I do know that. I haven't yet figured out what He's trying to tell me, but in the meantime, I say we can all start practicing being hands and feet and eyes and ears of God. We can pray for each other. And in the Spirit of practice, I'll tell you my prayer requests, and then you can comment and tell me yours. And we can pray for each other.

Simply. Pray. For. Each. Other.

I Corinthians 12:12

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.

My requests:

  • peace and guidance - I struggle daily to put the future in God's hands.
  • I want rid of anxiety. I suffer from bouts of anxiety from time to time. It has turned out to be a blessing in some ways, but it still feels overwhelming at times.
  • safety for Michael as he drives every day to work
  • a new home in Rock Hill
  • stability for my children - It's been a never ending transition for them.
  • patience - I keep talking to God about how I am tired of this lesson, but He continues to force it. I don't need any more opportunity for practice; I need help with the opportunity I have!
  • knowing what to say each day as we finish our Lenten journey

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 24

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Afro-American spiritual; Charles Winfred Douglas (1867 - 1944)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 23

Tonight I went to a monthly dinner, Ultreya. Again, I came home uplifted. Educated. Filled. Those people take me in and welcome me into a family. It's a diverse family, and that's a big reason I like it. They also love on my kiddos, which as a momma bear, just warms my heart. I pray I find a similar family with an open spot up in Rock Hill; otherwise I'll be driving quite a ways for dinner on the first Monday of every month.

Anyway, there are several people that say smart things every time I talk with them, but one statement stood out for me to share. She's a Daughter of the King. Far as I can tell, they are sort of like nuns that might be married with families and possibly have other full time jobs. Of course, I don't know what all it takes to be a nun or a Daughter, so I may have the wrong perception. However, their commitment involves prayer, evangelism, and service. One of the women I was talking with said her hardest part is the prayer part. That surprised me. These are women I look up to and aim to be one day. I never considered that one them would have an area in which they struggled. Of course they would, but I had them all in a category as more gifted at the Christian stuff than the regulars. You know. Regulars like you. Or me. Turns out, those women struggle in keeping their faith all balanced and whole too.

Well, the one I talked to gave me a tip. When you wake up - pray. Before you get out of bed. Every day. Wake up. Pray. Stand up. Go drink coffee. She said she didn't have a chair or a time and that fitting in the prayers had been a challenge to her. So she does this one rule, in addition to lots of other stuff.

Wake up. Pray. Stand up.

And so, again, Ultreya.

Tomorrow - wake up. Pray. Stand up.

Then go drink coffee with Michael....

"Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God's gift of himself."

Mother Teresa

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 22

We had a discussion at the dinner table tonight. These are always fun. We asked the boys how they felt we were doing with our Lenten journey. You know, the no shopping and no anger part.

Their opinion was that we were doing pretty great with not shopping. We even went to the library today to check out movies instead of shopping for them with on demand.

The best part of the discussion was about the no anger section of our Lenten journey. Key announced that three of the family members were having a hard time with this one. Kelly agreed that three of the family members were having a hard time with this one. There are four of us. Neither of them thought they had a problem. Which means everybody had failed except whoever happened to be speaking. Key did not see that he had ever been angry in that last 20+ days. Kelly demanded that he had been perfectly happy for almost the past month. All of this was declared while whining about the food I had cooked. Both thought while I hadn't been angry, I had whined too much. And they completely agreed Michael had just walked around frustrated.

What's so funny is that none of us felt we were doing all that badly. We could all point to times when others had lost it, but not any times when we ourselves had lost it. Interesting.

What's that about the log in one eye while seeing the toothpick in someone else's eye?

Anyway, the point is, I have been totally fine.

It's the rest of them that have struggled;)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Lenten Journal Day 21

I attend a bible study group that has been meeting for going on three years now. I can't leave because there are some pretty smart women that throw out tidbits I need to hear. One particular woman enjoys asking seemingly easy questions. Unfortunately, her questions tend to follow you around for several weeks after they are first spoken. They pinch and nibble and refuse to go away. One particularly ornery one is:

When do we stop defining ourselves by our past sin?

Sounds easy enough. I mean, Jesus died for our sin, so if we define ourselves as saved by Christ, then we are clean. Supposedly.

Except, what about those events in our lives that make us cringe at the memory? Stupid stunts we pulled, mean words we spoke, that still haunt us? How about shameful acts that we committed or shameful acts that were committed towards us? How about the hurt from others and the guilt of hurting others? What about those images? The ones that still wake us up and make us relive history in the dead of night or during an extra long carpool? If we are clean and redefined, then how come those memories somehow keep regular visiting hours?

Another smart friend in that there bible study made another comment on another night, that also keeps picking at me.

Who do you need to forgive?

Her answer covers it all.


When do we stop defining ourselves by our past sin?

When we offer ourselves forgiveness.

The other day one of those uncomfortable memories surfaced in my mind, and I decided to sit with it for a minute. To let it hang out for awhile. No cringing. No retreating to the girl I was. Back when. Just sit with a memory in this here present. And then. Then I decided to say to myself, "It's okay. You've learned lots since then. You were good then too, you know. God loved you way before that memory. He loves you in this moment. Right. Now. So let it go... You are forgiven."

That discomfort. It went away.

When do you stop defining yourself by past sin?

When you say to yourself, "You're forgiven. Not excused. Forgiven."

Try it. It feels so, so good.

Hebrews 4:15-16

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.