Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mama,

The house is so quiet now.  The kids are back into the full swing of school, and that means a little more (well, a lot more) quiet time for me.  I used to love this time so much, cherishing turning off the television and going about my normal routine in quietness.  But here lately, I seem to resent the lack of noise more than I knew I could, hating the void it leaves me.  It was in these moments that I would talk to you, and I am missing that more than ever right now.

Fall is just around the bend.  The leaves on the tree by my driveway are beginning to fall.  I don't know what kind of tree it is.  I just know that it's the first to bloom in the spring and first to drop its small leaves all over the grass in September.  Pretty soon, the colors will begin to break forth in the trees changing the scenery dramatically.  I planted a few mums in pots on Sunday, one of which was a pot I brought from your house.  At first, I thought I would dump all the soil out of it and start fresh, not knowing how long it had been in the pot or what had been planted in it before.  But as I started to do so, I realized that you had put it there, and so I stopped, decided to save the rest, and just added some fresh soil to the top and planted a beautiful lavender colored mum.

I also did a little work in the yard, pulling up a few lantana plants I planted years ago.  I love lantana, but these just weren't in the right spot, and they had become such a nuisance.  I set out just to trim them back, but then I found myself with a shovel in my hands rooting them out all together.  I thought about you the whole time, knowing how much alike we are when it comes to times like this.  I had no idea what I was doing, nor did I really have the physical strength to pull those matured plants out of the ground, but I figured it out and got it done with no assistance from anyone.  Just as you would have done.  I love the way I got that from you, the where with all to figure things out on my own and do things for myself.  Some may call it stubbornness, but I call it independence.

I've been working on a lot of things inside the house.  You would love the changes I have made.  Adding in new bright colors.  Blue has become my favorite color since you died.  I don't know why.  Maybe it's the beautiful indigo colored bird that kept appearing on my back deck the last week of your life.  Maybe it's just the soothing quality of the peaceful color.  Maybe it's that blue is the color of the sky I stare into wondering if you are somewhere just beyond that puffy cloud.  I don't know.  Blue it is, though, in any shade.  It's my favorite.

Seems you pepper my dreams here lately.  To some, that may sound wonderful, but it's exhausting.  My nights have become completely exhausting.  There's nothing much I can do about it, so I just carry on.  That I got from you, too... the ability to carry on.  But sometimes, carrying on becomes exhausting just like the nights of endless dreaming I experience.  And that's when I wish I had someone who could carry me through a bit.  You used to do that, just in a conversation or words of wisdom.  It seemed so simple then, and so ordinary.  But now I realize how immensely unique it was, and that I will never have that again.  Perhaps that is why the grief seems so hard to bear right now, that I am fully realizing that indeed you are gone and I no longer have a mother.  Not having you around makes every single task seem more difficult than it really is simply because I can't talk it over with you.  And that sounds so silly to me even as I write it out like this, but it is true.

I am tired, Mama.  Tired of missing you, of hurting, of quietly mourning you as the rest of the world spins on and on seemingly without a glitch.  Tired of crying alone.  Tired of crying all together.  Tired of this world without your presence.  It's all so different yet becoming so normal at the same time.  And though I would never bring you back to this fallen world, I can't help but wish I had another day with you.  It's so crazy, but I do.

I wonder what you're doing.  Am I already there with you, like some kind of parallel spiritual existence?  Or are you aware of what is going on here?  When I think about it too much, my head begins to spin.  Whatever it is like there, I know you are well and not suffering.  No more chemo or procedures.  No more cancer.  No more tears.  And that is enough for me.  That's what keeps me sane.  Or close to sanity, at least.

I love you, Mama.  And miss you more than I ever dreamed possible.

Love,
Me

Friday, September 6, 2013

Through a different lens...

I have {at least} ten friends on Facebook who have shared this article in the last week.  And I assure you that I agree with this mom's basic statement; I don't wanna see a bunch of girls posing in their bathing suits or towels fresh out of the shower with the hand on the hip and duck lips either.  But....

Over a year ago, I became entangled in a heated debate over swimwear and modesty on Facebook.  Should Christian women wear bikinis or two piece swimwear?  Should they wear a bathing suit at all?  Should men?  The truth is, I have no idea what Jesus thinks about this subject matter.  No clue.  It's not addressed in the Bible {the issue of swimwear} because I doubt it was a heated debate back in the day.  There's talk about the eating of certain meat and circumcision and belief in the resurrection, but I have yet to read anything about proper swim attire by the pool or on the sandy shores.  Or about what's appropriate to post on Facebook and Instagram.  Or about whether the Baptists or Methodists or Catholics have it figured out right.  It's just not in there, folks.  

What I do find are the following things and are what I consider a pretty good compass for all of us to follow:

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.  {John 3:16-17, NLT}

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  {Philippians 4:8, NLT}

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  {John 14:34, NLT}

You see, if Jesus didn't come here to judge us, that means I have no right to do that either.  And if there is one particular sector of the population that deserves to not be judged it's the teenagers and adolescents of this crazy world.  I shudder to think what my life would have looked like, how many more tears I would have shed alone in my bed at night, how many more ways my heart could have been torn to pieces if I had grown up in this modern generation.  We are living our lives surrounded by children who have zero direction and crave all the wrong attention.  It's no different than the way most of us were as teenagers, but it gets the public attention that we didn't have access to before cell phones with cameras and the internet.  Just because the children of this technological generation can operate any device you place in their hand with ease does not make them any less children.

Let me out myself for a minute here.  I peruse through my son's Facebook on a regular basis, and I delete children at will that use profane language or talk about things that aren't appropriate.  During the summer, I opened David's private messages to find one sent to him by a boy I have known (through the school system) since first grade.  It was a picture of an animal with a caption around it, and I assure you it was subject matter that is inappropriate to share whatever your age may be.  I sent him a private message back and let him know that I was de-friending him, that if I see anything that is not appropriate or has foul language, I immediately delete the friend, and that David has no control over these things.  The boy never responded, but his mother did, and she wanted me to explain what the problem was.

To me, the problem was obvious.  It was in clear sight right above the message I was reading.  But for this family, a very troubled one whose history I am aware of because my son and this boy shared two years of class together in elementary school, the picture wasn't a big deal.  And then it hit me that I may have missed the mark with this situation, that I may have given over to fear instead of using it as an opportunity to help teach a child who, for all practical purposes, simply doesn't know any better.

From what I see on Facebook, a lot Christians like to live in a bubble.  They think that if they go to church, pray over every meal, and do the right things most of the time that their lives should be void of external influences.  But guess what?  Life doesn't work that way.  If we leave the confines of our home or open up our social media apps on our phones, other peoples' stuff oozes onto us, onto our kids, and there's simply nothing we can do to avoid it.  What we can do is call on the power of the Holy Spirit to help us address those sticky, oozey messes that permeate our society.  The decline of the American family.  Divorce.  Greed.  Ignorance.  Vanity.  Pride.  They are all around us all of the time.  They are middle class, low income, and upper crust problems alike.  We find them in believers and non-believers.  And all the while, yet another generation of children turn to all the wrong things for attention because of the longing for acceptance that is so basic to our human existence.

My hopes in raising both a son and daughter in today's world is that neither of them turn to how many likes or comments they get on a photo for their self worth.  That they view the people around them from a lens of love and grace, the same way our Heavenly Father views us.  That they know they are in full control of what they think and how they look at another human being.  That people are not objects or characters in a story.  That we are all to be respected and loved.  That we never know what may be going on behind the scenes of a specific photo or comment.  That we are all a work in progress, striving and stretching and growing, and that we move at different paces.  That people, young and old, are looking for the same thing, though it might demonstrate itself in different ways...

We are all just looking for love.  Unfortunately, there are a ton of kids out there who aren't getting it at home.  Not just the poor kids.  Maybe the ones living right next door to your perfectly pleasant middle class home.  They are everywhere, the kids torn apart by divorce, by dad or mom not being present in their life, by a loved one's addiction, by sexual abuse, manipulation, depression, worthlessness.  Shifting our focus as adults and looking at children through a set of grace-filled eyes changes the picture quite a bit.  Don't you think?