Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I once was Lost, but now am Found

"What is a week end?"  the (Downton Abbey) Dowager Countess quipped. Ah, the weekend!  What would I do without the much needed time to rest, renew, and have some recreation?

Let's face it, the week is full of rush and hurry, and at my house, that means anxiety. There is the scramble to get to school, the busy-ness of managing medical issues day to day, the struggle of making dinner while helping with homework, the stretch to have (more) homework completed before bed time. We are, after all, gearing up for the STAAR test, so that means more stress and more work, and therefore less rest for our kiddos.

So this weekend, I determined, would be a time to rest and unwind. To set aside Think Through Math and I station, and all the other testing preparation assignments, and just have a day of fun. Saturday morning we moved purposely slow, and then about noon I dug out the swim gear, packed up snacks and towels (and medical supplies) and loaded the car with two very excited boys. We stopped to pick up a friend, and some good old fashioned silliness bounced around as I drove the mini-van to our local Natatorium (indoor swimming pool). The best deal in town, I have to say. Two bucks a head for hours of fun.

While the boys took turns at the diving board, I swam too. For the first time in a couple years I got in and really practiced my rusty backstroke. This wasn't a one eye on the kids kind of move (like I usually do). The lifeguard had eyes trained on the boys, and I felt like I could, for a few moments, really release and let someone else do the watching. So, I leaned back into the water and stretched out, for the first time in ages. It felt good. Really good.  Next I tried a side stroke (peeking at the boys from time to time) and finally, what my childhood swimming teacher called 'The Frog'. (This was rather fun, as I giggled at myself, and how it must look.) It was an altogether refreshing release.

When the kids were ready for a snack, we chatted and simply enjoyed each other's company. No rushing, no struggling with facts and figures. Just time together, laughing, connecting. We were getting 'all wrinkly', so we decided it would be fun to get cleaned up and go to a movie.  I was time conscious, but I did some emotional work in order to set the tone of not being rushed or stressed. I breathed in, and out, and did what needed to be done calmly. Everyone worked together and took turns, and we left five minutes early. The movie was great! I splurged on treats (again something we don't do often) and enjoyed cinematic goodness and great visual effects.

And then.

Though it was time to start winding down, a certain son of mine was not ready to let the fun end. I worked to stay calm and just talk through it with him (and breathe... and stay calm). Thankfully the other two were ensconced in the back seat, enjoying more silliness. I headed to drop off our friend, and discovered my wallet was missing.

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach?t It began to grow and grow, as I thought through where my wallet could be. Your whole life is in that wallet, a voice inside murmured. The dread was no longer confined to the pit of my stomach. I was engulfed in sheer panic.

 The other mom prayed and reassured me (as she always does), giving me a hug before I rushed off, back to the theater, dialing the front desk with shaking fingers. They could not find it. I called my husband, beside myself. "I don't know what to do! Should I go look myself? I should, shouldn't I? I'm at the light by the theater, I should just go in and look." He agreed.

  After a few questions, the boys had became very quiet.They were worried, too. The drama of the lost wallet had silenced the previous fun (and the grumbling, too) and all three of us were reaching, yearning, trying to grasp hope where there seemed to be none.

Then, the agonizing dash into the theatre, the frantic charge up the stairs, the apologetic looking under seats, to see only empty floor. But wait. Way down in the corner, between the wall plate and the panel with the chair screws, was that...? Could it be...? Something small... and flowery... and white?

It was! It really was! I hugged it to me, and the boys and I rejoiced! Praise Jesus! "Thank you Dear Lord!" I said out loud. The gracious family who let me rummage by where they were sitting were all smiles as they wished me a good evening. It would be. It totally would be!
 "I prayed, Mommy," my previously sullen son said. "I asked God to help you find your wallet and to let everything be OK." And God, in his relentless mercy, helped me to find what I had been desperately looking for.

 When I feared 'all was lost', it was not just about the wallet. I knew that the cards and driver's licence could be reacquired- but the money and the little keepsakes I carry with me, these would be lost forever. And there was the sensation that something precious had been taken. Something irreplaceable; my sense of security, of safety. That's what I feared, really. Losing what cannot be replaced. What a relief when I saw that glimpse of white, that glimmer of hope! Oh, the joy of finding something that had been lost!

Gratitude washed over me, and I breathed deeply of God's provision. It struck me that this was a picture of God's joy when a soul separated from him is rescued.

There are those who live their whole lives in the state I was plunged into when I feared my security was gone. Those whose lives are devastated by war, or famine, or natural disasters. And there are many who have a roof over their head, but no hope in their heart. Those who have been wounded by brokenness or abuse or religion, or even, God's own people. Those for whom every breath is marked by despair and oppression. They feel damaged beyond repair, and so very lost. 

For years I was unable to look past my own brokenness and see their plight. But I am waking up to their existence, and asking what I am called to do. One life can seem so little in the face of world wide suffering. Yet I am realizing that if I carry the Light in me to the places he calls me to, God will take care of the rest. 

My calling is, no doubt, different than yours. Yet we share this truth; we are each gifted, each created uniquely so that a beautiful diversity will touch those who need hope like water and bread. My prayer is that we will acquire the urgency I felt this weekend to help hurting people- for how much more is a soul worth than a wallet?

May our hearts be opened to the desperation, the imminent needs, may we ask what we can do to effect change. I pray that we will be moved, to go- to run, as I did- to reach out with hands and hearts overflowing with love and grace. That we will clasp these souls to His heart, crying out, Thank you Dear Lord, that you came to seek and save that which was lost. And then we will know what it really means to rejoice, for every life has worth in His eyes, and every soul was meant to be rescued.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.

~Just Me

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

To Walk Where God Calls

When Roger and I married, I dreamed of the two of us growing a family as we worked together to build a life of ministry. I didn't need a white picket fence, but I did hope to have an meaningful life. As a teen, I had surrendered to serve God "in a special way", and I longed to make a difference in this world. I assumed I would be a missionary, but was happy to be a minister's wife instead. I ended up serving as a little of both when Roger became an Army Chaplain.

 I'd imagined preaching the Good News in a country far away, but it seemed I was called to tread the soil of my own country, gradually moving farther and farther away from all I knew. God took me out of my comfort zone and brought me to a place where I could focus on knowing Him, where I could learn about healing, forgiveness, and how to serve in the ways he created me to serve. Through all of this, God prepared me for the lightening bolt that would split my life in two.

PTSD struck my life with a force that rendered me speechless, literally. I was reduced to a 'deer in the headlights' existence and could not talk about what was happening in my home. Even if I had not been in shock, the shame and embarrassment of it all would have held my tongue. Here I was, a chaplain's wife whose husband returned from Iraq angry at God. In fact he seemed to hate God, life itself, and even me.

We moved away from my support system, and with friends and family thousands of miles away, I felt utterly alone. I began warring with God in my heart. What in the heck did he think he was doing? My life course  had seemed plotted: Minister's wife, check, 2 kids, check, big house with a room full of toys for said kids, check. Church ministry. Are you kidding? I had done everything, everything I had been asked to do up to this point. Lead bible studies, write bible lessons, speak to women, organize events, pray, seek him, and sometimes even serve until I had little left for my family. I had moved across the country to a new place with new people to minister to, but my life had been ripped apart with paralyzing voltage as combat came home.

 I felt useless, unusable, irrevocably broken. My dreams seemed obliterated; how could I serve God now? I was adrift in grief, and believed I had nothing left to give. It was in this season that God asked some difficult questions.

Was I willing to look past my wants to pursue His purposes?  Would I let God in fully, into every heartache, every moment? Over the years I had thought a lot about what I'd like to do for God. Yet in this time of loss and suffering, was I willing to focus on what God would like to do in me

 Questions challenged my daily frame of mind, my attitude, even my moods:  Would I let go of my plans to embrace God's design for my life? Not just for the other wounded souls out there, but for me? For my own well being? And would I lean into His strength for the journey?
God made it clear that he wanted me to step out of church service and into a life of loving others. First, he asked me to love the one person who was hardest of all to love. An angry, broken, even, at times, emotionally abusive husband. "Dear Jesus, Help me!" became the heart's cry of my existence, and yet, with the teeniest, tiniest, microscopic amount of faith, God can do great things in a broken soul.

Then God asked me to embrace the grieving process. To trust him, not just with my damaged dreams, but with my life. To allow him access into my wounded places, letting him to heal even the deepest, darkest ruptures. He showed me that it takes courage to cry, and that a soul brave enough can traverse the cycle of grief authentically, pressing into Jesus while working through denial, sadness, and even that place of bargaining with God.

He asked me to have the fortitude to admit to anger; to trust that God is able to handle whatever I can dish out, and be completely transparent with him. He showed me that in truth, he is not judgmental. That Jesus himself knew both grief and anger, and he set the example for our own process towards wellness. In fact, God created us with everything we need to move through each stage of grief, and gave us the capacity to cycle back sometimes, because healthy grieving is not a straight line and everyone travels the path in their own unique way.

Along the way, God has asked me to forgive, so that I would be set free and no longer bound to those who hurt me. This requires a conscious effort, yet in times of chaos, I have found release through forgiving. For me, this happens through prayer; a pouring of out all my emotions and hurts to God, asking him to set the order and bring healing.

I am still in process. Life is stable enough now that I've been able to go back and work through the tangle from the early years when I simply survived the diagnosis. And God is faithful, always calling me to a place of greater wholeness. Always assuring that His plans bring more satisfaction than anything I could ever dream up. My experience is that He always goes so much beyond my wildest imaginings, and His plans are good, for my own wellness.

Now, God asks me to share my story. To call out to the suffering that there is hope, and I am not being trite when I say that His name is Jesus. To speak the truth that when our dreams lay shattered at our feet, God has something else planned. Better, certainly. Sometimes we have to let go of what we want to find what He longs to give. For me, this has meant letting go of church life, and seeking the heart of God for me and for my family. This journey has taken me to places I could not have imagined, and the greatest gift has been an ever deepening closeness with God, whether life is stable or not. He holds me through turmoil and stays with me in tranquility, too. All I have to do is open my heart and let him do his good work in me.

~Just Me