Sunday, September 11, 2016

Light

Loss. It can come quietly, in expected waves, or suddenly, in a single blinding moment. It can leave debris scattered across city blocks, charred remains of ash and steel, blood and soul. Some days we've never forgotten. 

"The grief does not go away," one victim whispered. Such loss. So much trauma.  In the days that followed, shock and grief carved caverns which are unquantifiable. The families of the victims do not remember only today. They carry aching chasms, never again feeling quite whole. 

In times like these, the question comes: Where is God when the unspeakable happens? 

Images seared in my mind, I offer up a question in response, "Who would do such a thing?" It was my first coherent thought after the madness. In the days that came, my husband packed his military gear, and I watched footage after work. Hope for survivors waned, and carnage evoked the reality of war come home. The question reeled- "Who would do such a thing?" 

As the years have passed and I reflect on the horror, the shock of those moments, I am certain-the attacks that took the lives of so many men and women, those acts do not bear the fingerprints of One who is only, and always love. No. Those are marks of the enemy, hateful slashes from the one who comes only to steal, kill and destroy. 

Yet in the face of such destruction, the evil in the hearts of the perpetrators could not rob us of our humanity.

How many stories have I read of people who helped others? The heroes who ran into the fray, and the heroes who lent a helping hand to a stranger during evacuation. Many once separated by religion or status or busy-ness joined together in the wake of gaping loss to pray, light candles, and even sing, united in heart and in spirit. No evil can take that away.


Standing among the debris, there was a cross that inspired many. Yet I see more than a cross. I see love- shining through compassion, unity, and hope. There was light that day, amidst the choking ash.  In the touch of a hand, in the hearts who helped, in the many who ministered to the souls digging through debris of heart and steel. 

Because we do not grieve as those without hope, I also see a pure and holy light streaming from "the vast Above", as Jesus gathered up souls and carried them to a place where there is no more pain, no more tears.

There was much light on 9/11. More than our finite minds can grasp. And there is resounding hope, for while the grief does not fade away into nothingness, no act of hate can rob us of connection to Jehovah Rapha, our healer. 

Where was God? God was there, every moment- and still is. Inviting us to a place of greater wellness. Grief may be a life long companion, but our Comforter will be too, if we return the invitation and let Love in. (1 John 4:7-8)
 

~Just Me Mama

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Recovery from Chaos

Chaos exploded across my life last week- unexpected, though I try to be aware that there is more at work in this world than what I can see. In the mornings, in the moments of quiet, I am working to purposely chose to connect to the Voice of Truth, drawing me back from the brink. 

Sometimes I believe I am on my own in this journey, but Truth reminds me that, even when my help-mate is traveling, I am still not alone. 

In the cool of the morning, I get out into the beauty of nature, and find stress relief through exercise, while being soothed by the lush green wilderness bordering our neighborhood park. I needed the endorphins and the spiritual connection badly after being mired in a fiery battle last week.
 
After a time of release and recovery, of refocus and refreshing,  today I am: 
 
Grateful- for cool weather for my morning run/walk, and a new week with a fresh start. 
Prayerful- that the week ahead will bring me to a place of greater wellness. 
Mindful-that if chaos explodes across my life again this week there is Help, because:

When the Eternal is my shepherd I lack nothing I truly need.
The Eternal teaches me to REST and recover and Nourishes me in spirit, soul and body, as I draw near.

The Eternal restores me- over and over,soothing my fears, making me whole- over and over again, as often as I need it!

The Voice shows me the way, leading me to roads "where Truth echos His name."

Even in the shadow of death- life threatening illnesses, family members battling depression and self harm, and attacks from dark places, I will not be afraid, for You are with me, near with your protection and guidance.

When I am under attack, You provide for me, filling me up, protecting me, equipping me as I draw near to Your presence.

Your faithful protection and Loving provision PURSUES me, - always, every where I go - no matter what.

I choose to dwell in the Eternal for all of my days- every crazy moment, in the Chaos, and the calm. 
 
Psalm 23, paraphrased (but heavily influence by The Voice version) 

~Just Me

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

You're Welcome

It took me by surprise, stunned me really. I was sharing my struggles and a dear sweet soul Thanked me for Not Being Perfect.

Sometimes it's hard to find words.  To this moment all I can come up with is: Wow.

I mean really... WOW.

Sometimes I say, "I don't have to be perfect, because Jesus already was." And I believe it, much of the time. Comfort myself with it when I have lost control of my mouth after 8 hours with a Stubborn Teenager Who Does Not Want to Study For Finals and Goes Into the Bathroom to Hide- (for the umpteenth time).

I mean, really. Who can be perfect in the face of such madness?

In this season my primary ministry is my family, and this is where self-criticism strikes deepest. One of my sons struggles with a number of health issues, including depression. The fall of 2014 was particularly traumatic for us as a family as we desperately sought how to help him. Part of my own process was battling guilt. Guilt over how stressed and anxious and cranky and unpleasant I was during a season when my husband was an ocean away in a war zone. Being shot at. Repeatedly.

 I was more than a hot mess. I was a train wreck. I held fear close, lost my temper way too much, and was my own definition of a bad mom. During the dark days of stumbling through treatment of my son's depression, the enemy of my soul relentlessly accused me: this depression was my fault- because I was a bad mom when he was small. 

The enemy has a knack for taking a small grain and twisting it into a reckless tornado.  Dear Jesus, help me know the truth from a lie. 

I love my kids and one of my deepest longings has been to get this parenting thing right. But I am not perfect. Not by a long shot. While I have grown in patience over the years, and learned Where to release my fears, and WHO is my Source, I still have those days.

Of course I do, because none of us is even remotely close to perfect. We are flawed individuals rubbing up against each others' sandpaper, and trying to do family the best we know how. If we get anything right, it would be that we four have learned The Power of The Apology.  Perhaps this is the greatest contribution we will give to the world.

"I am sorry I lost my temper over__ (something that seemed relatively small to you)__. (Moving closer in relationship and sharing the load: I am stressed and worried about _____________. Can we pray together?


So, you' re welcome,  Dear Sweet Soul. I am not perfect. Thank YOU, for I can take a deep breath and reflect:
God does not expect me to be perfect.  
 
 Grace is enough. 

I can let myself off the hook. 


~Just Me

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Messy But Good

 This time of year there's a lot of anxiety over expectations. Yours, mine, and numerous others. Perfect place settings and greeting cards peer at me through the messy places in my life and I have to remind myself that my journey is different. 

Recently I've been encouraged by a number of hearts who also deal with different life situations. Though our journeys are as diverse and varied as our challenges and joys, we all have places where life is not what we expected. There is a comfort in commonality; we remember we are not alone. That so much of our emotional response to difficult circumstances is strikingly normal- even when our lives are not.

I relate to feeling judged when people (strangers or not) criticize when they can't begin to know the depths of heartaches, needs, or diagnoses. 

I want to get to the place where people's opinions don't matter so much to me. I'd settle for getting to the place where their judgements don't shake me so. Sometimes I have to talk myself down, pray through--striving to remember that no matter how I may disappoint the expectations of others, I am not a disappointment to God. Not ever. No matter what. He does not sit aloft flinging judgements at my broken or imperfect places. He accepts where I do things differently... in fact, he made me this way, and celebrates my individuality.

I wish more people understood that there is One who is always and only a kind and generous judge-much more so than many of his people. No expectations, simply acceptance and unconditional love.

I know my heart, and I know my flaws, and somehow the two mingle together to create not just who I am, but who I'm becoming. God sees the promise, even when I am mired in mess. My life is not a picture perfect painting, a Norman Rockwell scene, or a Thomas Kinkade portrait of light. Real life isn't, really. A life that is real is more like the disarray and chaos of the painter's studio. Blobs and blurs and tools scattered all around. A veritable riot of colors, broken and mending places mingled together.


There is a necessary blending in every journey towards greater wellness. An often painful smudging, a pressing, cutting, churning force that is beyond the capacity of my Food Ninja. Sometimes the whole thing spills over, oozing everywhere, chunky parts scattered around. My youngest likes the chunky parts.  He says,"It's what makes it good." 

I want to get to the place where I see the chunky parts not as a necessary evil to be smashed out (or covered up), but a sweet and messily delicious part of something good. Life is a process, not a final destination. There's hope in knowing completion is not a requirement in this lifetime.  Maybe my life is not a portrait of light, but the miracle is that it can be a conduit for it- especially in the messy, imperfect places. 


~Just Me

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I am Thankful

Today, I am thankful for Red Cups.

They are a symbol that I am blessed and live in a country where we are each free to believe and celebrate in the way that is most meaningful to us each-without fear for our lives.

I am thankful for the many, many service members who sacrifice tremendously to defend these freedoms. I am proud to call you friend, and father, and husband, and cousin, and uncle... and Loved.

I am grateful to those who gave all...‪#‎gonebutnotforgotten‬

I am thankful for the family members of military service members that sacrifice much as well-- especially to those who have supported me both while my husband was deployed and in the years of recovery since then. (Love you all bunches!!)

I am grateful for a God who does not control or manipulate, but rather invites- loving Unconditionally, offering Acceptance of each individual's unique make up. ‪#‎squarepegroundhole‬

I am thankful for God's boundless love that crosses divides rather than creating them.

I am grateful that this tenacious Lover of my Soul saved me, not just when I walked an aisle and said a prayer, but day by day, saving me from myself, from my anxiety and perfectionism and my tendency to over-do.

I am thankful that my God values relationship over religion.

I am thankful that I do not have to be perfect, because Jesus already was.

I am thankful for Mint Chocolate chip hot chocolate (and Spring mix with tomatoes and feta to balance it out), and for the freedom to post this without fear for body or life. ‪#‎freedomisntfree‬ ‪#‎grateful‬ ‪#‎thankfulandblessed‬
I am thankful for a hubby who holds down the fort so I can relax and get a treat after a hectic and overwhelming day.

I am thankful for times to re-charge and recover from my many responsibilities and I am thankful for all the love and support from my beautiful friends and family members along this special needs lifestyle!!





Sunday, September 13, 2015

God's Not Dead

Today I watched God's Not Dead. A compelling plot. I loved the courage of the college student, the bravery of the young woman who left a domineering and abusive relationship, the unwavering faith of the missionary, whose joy was simply contagious. Most of all, I loved... well, I'll tell you a bit later.

First, I have to confess that the conclusion was a bit neatly wrapped for my pragmatic sensibilities. Not everything was resolved (I know) and I get why there is resolution in the main plot: it's meant to encourage Christians to stand firm in faith, in the face of ridicule, abuse, even sacrifice. Still, I grapple with the realism quotient.

We humans are problems solvers, so we long for resolution. Yet in my life, this is not a daily reality. All is not finally and perfectly resolved. Life is unpredictable, even chaotic.

If I can't have resolution, will I settle for assurance? Assurance that eventually, somehow everything is going to be alright?  I used to pin my hopes on the idea that all will be resolved if I "stay faithful"- until what I'd built my christian existence on evaporated, and my hopes for a nominal, normal christian life were shattered.

The song says, "Whatcha gonna do when the bottom falls out and you're left with nothing but your fear and your doubt to hold you? Who will hold you?" (Francesca Battistelli, Worth it.)

And here's the thing. The loss and the grief and the fear and the doubt are real, and at times, overwhelming. But we are not left alone in them. We are not left gaping, with hope only for an eternity in heaven. When my tidy christian existence was swiftly and summarily incinerated, do you know what was left? The presence of God. The chaff burned away; all those christian maxims and platitudes held no power, and the choice became: fall into the embrace of the One who is Hope, or hold him at arm's length. I had nothing left to cling to but God, himself.  He was enough... and still is. 

 So what did I love most about this movie, God's Not Dead? The question:  

Where do you find your hope?   


I know where I find mine. I do not have all the answers to all of life's problems. I can't prove to anyone that God exists. What I can share is my experience:
When my dreams were in tatters and I was at the end of myself, I cried out "Jesus help me!" and I found  myself cradled.

No judgement, no expectations, only unconditional acceptance and the purest, deepest Love I had ever known.  God is where I find my hope.

~Just Me

Friday, September 11, 2015

Beauty From Ashes

Most Americans remember exactly where we were when we got the news. An attack- right here in the continental U.S. I was teaching in a private school, and the owner pulled me aside. Hushed tones conveyed a frantic message: Today was like no other day. Due to the attacks in New York and D.C., the Dallas Trade center was shutting down for the day, for the safety of it's employees. Businesses all around stopped mid stride. Some students might be picked up early, and some parents might be considerably delayed.

I didn't see the footage until after work; unspeakable scenes exploding across my TV screen. Footage playing over, and over, and over... that which I could not quite process. People running... fireballs and smoke... one collapse, and another...debris mingled with trembling lives... scores of cars abandoned on bridges while their owners fled.

 How could this happen? Who would do such a thing? We were shocked and yet uncommonly united. Differences melted away, and human beings became people, rather than victims. So many stories of heroism and kindness rose from the midst of chaos. 

Two years ago my son's 9-11 homework assignment guided me towards contemplating 'My Positive' regarding 9-11. In 2012, I shared about Remembering...how our bodies store memories, not just in our minds, and the call to care for ourselves emotionally, as well as physically.

Previously,  I had the opportunity to share my process of coming to terms with this tragedy in Stories of Faith and Courage From the Home Front  by Karen Whiting and Jocelyn Green (the October 24th reading).

Each year an anniversary, each a different phase of processing and recovery. Anniversaries can mean celebration, or gaping loss. Today is an anniversary of the call to pray, to process, to connect with God amidst tragedy. 

Isaiah 61:3 tells us that God provides for those who grieve. The author is specifically referring to the destruction of a precious city; a city that, at the time of the writing, still lay in ruins.

Many Americans have seen images of a war zone... can visualize a city in ruins. Yet it was not simply a city that was affected, both then and now. There was much loss, and hearts are still in process, some needing the touch of our Healer to go deeper still.

The good news? Isaiah 61: 2b- 3 Declares that the spirit of the sovereign Lord "provide(s) for those who grieve"  and will "bestow... a crown of beauty instead of ashes". God grants "joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

 No matter what the devastation-- or where-- there is healing. Wellness is a process, and it takes time- but there is always hope. 

For me, the attacks were personal. Not just because my father in law lives in New York, nor because my family's day to day life changed as a result the attacks. Not because I found out I was expecting our youngest son in the wake of 9-11. It's personal because the enemy attacked on our home territory, and it's compelling because so many heroes stood up that day and made a difference.

I like to think that the kindness and unity and love and decency that flowed from heart to heart that day eclipses the evil the enemy intended. And I believe with all my being that God never fails to give beauty for ashes.


~Just Me