The day after…

I found it most difficult of all days. Trauma came back in full force. My kids needed to get to activities, so I kept my head down as we crept from place to place. I’d drop them at the door with instructions to come straight out afterward. A hard day. My emotions rode up and down like a roller coaster. I managed to avoid people I know(not good) and fall completely apart on strangers(also not good). 

 

Please understand we sustained our second heavy impact in one week.

Our beloved pastor ambushed our family vacation last week via email with his resignation. This man witnessed our broken but hopeful membership vows and subsequently the vows of our youngest children. He’s married two of our children–will marry the third this summer. He’s baptized our grandchildren and buried our oldest son. The same one we grieved yesterday. 

He frequently preached the church as family. He’s leaving us in pursuit of his own extended family. 

We encouraged him to plan a wise, cooperative, and considerate move toward home. But subsequently he’s hurried away and also planned abundant vacation during the short months left. I guess he won’t take time off after he begins the new post?

 

 We choose our own peaceful balance over his haste, we choose rather to believe:

“Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 

But many who are first will be last, and the last first.””.   ‭‭Mark‬ ‭10:29-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

 

I can’t sugar-coat our yesterday:

We wept together, yet alone, as sheep without a shepherd

Just to explain… 

Our church holds a high view of itself–particularly its officers. We have no communion or preaching without an ordained man present. So, we don’t formally exist aside from our ordained leaders. Yesterday, my family was left grieving in absence. The catholic(universal) church came through for us as they often will. Our physical family drew together. 

Our covenant community rolled over and played dead with distraction. No texts, no email, no facebook. Silence. 

The few remaining took comfort together AS family, but opened now to the temptation to lean into his same idolatry. After all, who were we left alone with in our sorrow? 

We give testimony against this error: Blood is NOT thicker than water… not here. 

It’s an old AWANA verse. Simple. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ”

Seek the church, get family. Seek family, come up empty. We believe. 

And this from James 4 addresses accurately our present tension in discerning what’s good: 

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. 

You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” 

I’m not sure how to weather so great a loss… the loss of right and good things dearly held, but now abandoned. 

I’ll say more, so check back.

Peace. Grace. 

Lisa

 

 

 

The Day Matters

Today. 

My son’s 21st birthday. Imagine if he’d been with us still? It’s hard to know, but let’s take some clues from what he left behind. 

I remember before he died peering into his room helplessly and knowing: ‘this will NEVER be REALLY clean until he leaves home!’ 

By twenty-one, he may have lived in a rental, or even attended college far away. But if he were here, I know his room would still not be truly clean. And whereever his home, his dwelling undoubtedly sports a perma-layer of stuff dating from move-in. If he’d moved away, I finally cleaned his man-cave. 

I did clean it for real three years ago… and it’s the home of his brother’s perma-layer instead. 

Ben’d still be neat, however. Since things must be very orderly, and easy to locate, he’d keep the kind of order he was famous for: bed, surfaces, and anything needed for his ‘mission’. 

He’d still be driving the forest-service-green Jeep, unless he’d earned more money. He may have bought up to a mustang, or pick-up; definitely a Ford of one kind or another. 

Brother lovingly restored the Jeep, and it’s been his faithful ride for a couple years. It’s been supplanted by a red SAAB. Anyone wanna buy the Jeep? See Craigslist. 

At seventeen, one still owns very little. Life lies somewhere between hand-me-downs and glossy catalogs. His wardrobe then consisted of Civil Air Patrol dress BDUs and Blues. Today, he’d sport the real Airforce deal. A friend found a pilot’s kit-bag at resale graciously selling it to Ben for a song. Ben’d be flying something today and wearing the headset proudly, too. The dated manuals in the bag undoubtedly were traded for current editions on his bookshelf. A Ham radio, also given to him, provided several years of practice and instruction, leading to his proficiency on military frequencies. He passed the radio along to the Civil Air Patrol, just a little slower than we did. 

 

 

 

Next, I finger his slick shiny Harley-Davidson book. Living away from home would free him finally to own and ride such a thing. 

Countless school notebooks filled with symbols and subjects beyond me signified an academic career barely started. He’d have graduated this May, undoubtedly with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. 

His beanie babies and deer-mounted hat collection didn’t move much. Ask his brother to show you these. 

At seventeen, one can sift through it all and find only natural youthful poverty, impetuousness, and negligence. I found relics of past boyhood, present struggles, and mostly the promise of so much potential, yet absent of any future. 

If he were here today, and he’d slow down enough, I’d invite him to hop on his Harley. He’d meet us in town for the customary twenty-first outing of celebratory drinks with mom and dad. 

We’d raise our glasses together. 

If…

This evening we’ll do the same in his memory. Because the day still matters… 

 

Hope

 

It’s called a Hope Chest. I have one of these, received as a gift from my parents when I finished college.

 

 

I first filled it to supply an imagined future of hopes and dreams.  Within a few years, I unpacked those things into the every day life of marriage, and parenthood. At the same time I stowed away a few soft childhood mementos kept safe for my children. My very real, not imaginary at all, children smacked it hard a few times way back then.

 

When we made a cross-country move, the ‘careful’ movers left marks as well. Older children leave to set up house, so I send on their special things to their new places. All too soon, I realized it’s final use.

 

 

 

 

 

I carefully set into the newly opened spaces the photos, papers, and precious relics of my son’s life.

Emptier Still

It’s been more than three years, and I’ve said little of it since that day.

Maybe I’ve felt like Ezekiel, to whom God says:

“Son of man, behold I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down. Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban, and put your shoes on your feet; do not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men.” The story continues this way…

‘So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at the evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded.’

No time nor place for grief, it seems.

 Ezekiel performs this bit of ‘theater’ to illustrate the people and their inability to mourn for their sins. Inability to mourn grows first from hardness toward sin. And a critical spirit toward suffering can only be the fruit of prideful exemption from it.

My silence arises from the church’s persistent failure to share medical trials. I lost my oldest son when we were completely tangled in another child’s annual marathon cycle: working to contain a disease at home, failing to treat it on our own, heading far away for a long hospital stay, and then returning underneath another burdensome protocol. For four years, this cycle never held my son in remisssion.

Many months after my son died I labored through the last long hospital stay. No time for grief. No one standing in the gap for a bereaved mother. After all, they’ve left me to this solo mission for years. I’ve scraped along with no allowance for anything else. 

 

 

The church finds no time. Not. Even. Now. 

 

To a man, leaders fancy themselves as too mission-critical to get messy. They tether little people to their own trials and hand off some of the leadership’s too. Our expense. Their gain. Even our confessed sin and brokennness gets held aloft as ‘exhibit A’. With no natural spirit-driven cascade of repentance, they co-opt our softheartedness as their own. 

In my case, Jesus stepped into this gap, completely outside this ‘church’ which so loudly claims him. And this all seems a happy ending for now. But I’m disillusioned with ‘covenental’ thinking. In nearly twenty years, its been used only to take and take some more. I’ve not known Christ’s presence because of them… but rather IN SPITE of them. 

 

I write because I still mourn…. and find no space for my grief. 

 

 

Giving up cheese…

Some days we lose big. Other days, it’s small.

After my Whole30 last January my skin cleared up beautifully. So all year, I clung to my yogurt for breakfast, cream in my tea, and cheese on everything and especially with the wine. Red Wine and cheese were my top priorities to add back after Whole30 ended.

More than chocolate. More than coffee.

After ten more months of denial, reality forced an agreement. My complexion bubbled up as an itchy mess for most of 2016. A week ago, I eliminated dairy: Cheese, sour cream, and yogurt and the heavy whipping cream in my coffee and tea. I already avoid gluten due to celiac disease. Ouch.

Regrettably it worked.

Let’s have a moment of silence here to honor the pain-level inflicted by this self-denial.

And please join me in substitution mode. Bring on the guacamole, the nut-butters, and the sliced meats. I need a snack now!

Human nature leans toward an interesting irony. Someone dies, life changes, and we lose really BIG. Without fail, heroism rises up strong and there’s GRACE sufficient for a major loss. Take away the little things… the small pleasures. We feel such things more keenly.

Just look at the book of Jonah. A story of life and death for many, and the one. But it ends with the plant. The worm.

Anyway… life’s insisting on major adjustments. I’ll talk back later when I’ve figured it out.img_2523

What’s a small discomfort today? Does self-denial prick at you right now? Talk back in the comments if you like.

 

 

 

On saying goodbye…

I watch them as they finish packing up. Tomorrow they load the truck and drive away. My daughter will finish up her semester teaching, but she’ll spend weekends away between now and then. Gradually and all too quickly… she’s gone.

Every parent lets go of a child at one point or another. For some, this unfolds in stages: Leaving to attend school, securing a first job or apartment, meeting and marrying a life-partner, then sometimes moving far away. For others, it happens all too suddenly.

To hold onto them interrupts the natural progression of human life and history.nottinhambackporch1

Staring at the empty spaces inside the house reminds me of so many bittersweet days.

As I step onto an all-too-modest porch with its cracked concrete and quaint little yard, I re-count a wealth of afternoons spent eating, laughing and sharing with those I love most.

In the glint of the afternoon, I sift quietly through the dust… and count myself blessed.