It is Well, and yet Not

I held a sobbing child in my arms last night for the first time in a very long time.  I held her close and just let the tears go, with salty bitterness and nose running all down my shoulder.   There were no soothing words to comfort, no back patting to help calm.  Hold her.  That’s all I could do.  I held her until she loosed her grip and let go.  I held her hands in mine, and kissed them.  I took her face close to mine and kissed it.  I whispered “I love you” in her ear.

The beautiful, distraught child was mine.  She will be 18 exactly 13  days from now. She stands an inch-and-a-half taller than me, but in her Doc Martens it is near to 3 inches.  And last night she was my little girl who needed her Momma all over again.  I sat next to her as she, as we, her Dad and I too, attended a funeral.

This was an unexpected funeral, and a tragic one at that, as many tend to be. The service was for a 17 year-old high school Junior who died by her own hand.  Vivi was a friend of SugarBug’s from church.  Being close in age they went through many of the same church programs together starting in the nursery as infants. They have known each other their whole lives but didn’t develop a friendship until both were in high school youth group together.  It was there they bonded over similar music tastes, distaste for conventional trendy fashion and a love for Jesus.

I’ve known Vivi and her parents just as long.  I worked in the church nursery as a Supervisor in charge of one of the rooms when she was born.  Her dad was SonnyBoy’s guitar teacher for a short time.  Her mother and I connected through women’s ministry, and various other ways we had volunteered over the years.

Our girls had another connection: depression.

There are few things in this world I truly hate, and by “hate” I mean I wish it never existed anywhere, anytime in this world.   And I HATE depression.  It is a sinister quiet little devil of a thing.  People who suffer with it look like nothing is wrong with them, at least most of the time.  And those fighting it aren’t always immediately aware when it is getting worse.  Outsiders don’t always realize that something has changed with the person caught in its grip. Sometimes the depressed don’t see it right away either — and they are the ones living with it.  It moves slowly, so slowly that it can be weeks or months before it is recognized as having taken hold.

And sometimes it moves at lightning speed.

Maybe that’s what happened with Vivi, that lightning speed onslaught of darkness.  Only she knows, and she isn’t here to tell us.

I can’t blame her — at least I don’t want to blame her — for taking her own life.  The whispers of self-loathing telling me the world would be a better place, that I would be in a better place, that no one would really miss me all that much, to ‘go ahead, do it’ have been all too familiar. LIES!  Those are all lies.

I want to scream at the top of my lungs. Cursing won’t do any good, and it won’t change anything, and it won’t make me feel any better.  It never does.  Blaming her parents is the absolute wrong thing to do.  Vivi’s dad made sure to have Pastor tell the attendees of the service that no one loved his girl as much or as fiercely as her mother did.

I love my girl fiercely, too.  I am afraid that she has heard those terrible whispered lies in the quiet recesses of her mind.  I am afraid.  And I hate being afraid.  I don’t think she is in any real danger of self-harm. But …I know this age and stage in life makes her extremely vulnerable.  I am  certain she struggles to see beyond being 19 or 20 years old. Anything much past that is just.so.old.

I want her to not just grow up, but grow old.  At Vivi’s funeral our Youth Ministry director said she always thought Vivi would grow up to be one of the coolest adults: independent, artistic, poetic, unfettered by the norms that keep adults so ‘adult.’  I could see that.  And sadly we none of us will get a chance to actually see that.

The night before the funeral during the visitation time Vivi’s mom took my girl in her arms, remembered her by name, and held her tight.  They clung to each other — my daughter in grief, the grieving mother in relief that her child was remembered by a friend. She told my girl how much hers had loved her, how she looked forward to seeing her at youth group, how she loved and admired SugarBug for being SugarBug, and doing it so boldly.

So my sweet girl, continue to go boldly into adulthood.  No matter how old you get you will always have my shoulder to cry on. And make Vivi proud by being one of the coolest adults on the planet, and love Jesus the whole while.

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.

    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is Well with My Soul, Horatio G Spafford, 1873

Just a Little Nudge

It’s quite late on evening of our Presidential Election and the polls in Michigan closed more than seven hours ago, and yet I find myself still seated, staring at a computer monitor and enjoying an unexpected conversation with a friend on Facebook.  This night has brought several events I wasn’t expecting.

Michigan had a state constitutional amendment proposal on the ballot concerning loosening state control over embryonic stem cell research. We spent some time discussing just what this amendment would actually mean– for science and for the sought-after-embryos. I’ll save my opinion on that issue for a later date, and I do have a strong opinion on it, by the way.

Our talk drifted into other things as well.  Artistic endeavors, Spiritual gifts, a little of this, a little of that.  It’s been delightful, and stimulating.  My friend has encouraged me to continue writing– he thinks I have a little talent for it! At least that’s the impression I got.  I don’t know how one gauges such things, but I’m a little biased about my own writings.

So I’ve gotten  a little nudge with some wonderful encouragement and an invitation to join  Creative Community, though no formal invitation was ever required.  With that little bit of sweet contentment I’ll be on my way to curl up under my covers, which we both said we needed to do about two hours ago– and save my commentary on politics, ballot proposals or any other potential hot button issue for another day.

At the Foot of the Cross

Verse 1:
At the foot of the cross
Where grace and suffering meet
You have shown me Your love
Through the judgment You received
And You’ve won my heart
And You’ve won my heart
Now I can

Chorus:
Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
At the foot of the cross

Verse 2:
At the foot of the cross
Where I am made complete
You have given me life
Through the death you bore for me
And You’ve won my heart
And You’ve won my heart
Now I can

Artist – Don Moen

Album – Thank You Lord

Those are lyrics to a song we’ve been singing in church over the last few weeks as we’ve been taking a closer look at the Twenty-third Psalm.  I have to confess that until we started this sermon series I hadn’t really been moved by the worship time in our church– as a congregation, a member, a believer, a sinner in need of redemption; sad to say, especially as a “church”– in a long time.  How long? close to two years, I think.

I never fully left this home, though for a time I could barely walk through the front doors, and rarely did actually.   I think for me, the feeling of “family” had gone away, and now the Spirit has brought it back and is ready to raise the roof again.

Actually, I think He’s brought me back.

Feeling Lost

Darling Husband and Sonny Boy are gone this week. They are off to Pittsburgh to work with a neighborhood restoration project and won’t be home til the weekend.  The girls and I were planning a little “stay-cation”, but it’s turning into more “stay” than “-cation”.  I had little ambition to do anything– especially the extra’s on my to-do list that need to get done. Jobs that would have gotten noticed had they been done.  I’ve had an alarm set each morning, but had no energy to get moving.  We three ladies have been quite lazy in fact.  I’m not proud, not bragging, and also not feeling any grand scale remorse.

I, just now, pinpointed the cause.  My heart misses him.  I miss him, and the smell of work he has on him when he gets home after a long day, the touch of his hand on the back of my neck, the searching look in his eyes that goes away after our first hug and kiss.

We weren’t always like this.  There was a time when we neither of us cared much if we ever saw the other again.  Our selfishness and unwillingness to contribute 100% to marriage set us on a course hell-bent for destruction.  We climbed the mountain called Rocky Marriage, and just about threw ourselves over the edge. We were on that precipace for a long time, too long. It’s a mental home video that’s still very painful, but the pictures are fading; some of the sound track lingers on.   Unlike childbirth, the pain hasn’t been erased from my memory completely.

I don’t know if I want it too, either.  Not so I can rehash the memory, but so I never forget where our marriage came from, what we went through.  What I put him through.  It needs to stay so we–no, I–  always remember to work at keeping our marriage alive.

God was good, and He rescued us from ourselves, in spite of ourselves.  He taught us how to forgive, and changed hearts to receive forgiveness.

So this week I’ve been feeling lost without him.  I love that man in ways only the heart knows, in which words can not describe.  Saturday can not come soon enough.

Knees

I woke up this morning thinking I’d had a bad allergy attack overnight, but it turns out to be the start of a summer cold. I’ve been keeping a steady stream of decongestant and allergy pills going through me all day, and still I can’t breathe. I think it’s been working its way here for a couple of days. I’ve been dragging my feet, so to speak, and now I know why.

I’ve had random stressors bombarding me lately. Sonny Boy had the rear-ending episode, the car’s been in the shop for other reasons, we got a kitten and Lady Bear has been eating his poo—covered in cat litter (gross!). The kitten, who’s name is Satchel, has to go to the vet in the morning. I have to see an orthopaedist about my knees, one makes a popping/crunching sound when it bends, which you can feel if you put a hand on the kneecap. I’ve been mentoring a group of people for this season’s Team in Training events, and have been trying to train and fund raise for my own. Sonny Boy got a job, and I’m not sure exactly where he’s working. He got it through Girlfriend’s “Parental (something, something)”. I just prefer to call him her “other” step-dad—her dad is gay. Sugar Bug is going to a camp next week, and I’m chaperoning the trip. We have to make sure all of her diabetes Rx information is all with us. Money is tight; gas costs a fortune and I quit my job in March. Sonny Boy and Girlfriend have an escalating situation with a Young Lady who used to be his “special interest”. (Her parents wouldn’t allow her to “date”, and so they just made moon eyes at each other, and talked on the phone, sent e-mails. He chose to end things—a year ago— because it couldn’t go anywhere anyway. Well, now Girlfriend is in the picture and Young Lady thinks Girlfriend stole her boyfriend. Apparently that is just the tip of the iceberg.) And, did I mention I’m getting a cold? Yeah, I think I did.

It sounds like I’m complaining. Does it sound like I’m complaining? I’m not trying to, just stating facts of my life right now. What I should be doing is getting on my knees in prayer, searching God’s timeless and ageless wisdom to get me through. Except if I lay in bed, I’ll fall asleep, and I can’t literally sit on my knees, because they’ll go numb.

I don’t want sympathy. I’ll take donations for my fundraising efforts, and I’ll take your prayers.

On the Street #3

A bumper sticker which read:

Ignore the Conventions

Obey the Commandments

And another:

The Ten Commandments are not multiple choice

Who was it that said the Commandments weren’t “suggestions”? I mean, besides God..I think it was a recently retired TV journalist-turned writer Tom Brokaw.  (Correct me if I’m wrong, please)

With the recent wranglings over having the name “God” written anywhere, and the placement of the Ten Commandments in courtrooms and courthouses across the country, it would seem opinion of said documents is not all negative.  There are some who still believe they have a place in our country.  Personally, I’m glad they aren’t just going to roll over and go away.  If people with faith stop living what they believe, we soon won’t believe in much of anything.

Using the US $1.00 Presidential coins with the motto ‘In God we Trust’ moved to the coins edge rather than its obverse or reverse side as my example, in some arena’s it was presumed to have been done so the words would eventually wear off and not be seen at all; in effect wiping out God completely. I don’t know if that is entirely true, but they have definitely done away with convention on that one.

COMMANDMENT: a divine command, an authoritative direction or instruction to do something

CONVENTION: General agreement on or acceptance of certain practices or attitudes

One Loaded Little Word

(Original draft 09 April, 2007)

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, and millions of Christians, quasi-believers and the guilt ridden filed into churches world-wide to celebrate a Risen Savior, or to at least purge themselves of another years’ worth of sin.

Sin is a funny word: three letters, not phonetically challenging in the least and filled with so much. In our age of relativity, and accepted lack of absolutes, sin is a dirty word, and I don’t mean what it does to ones soul. It’s dirty like swearing used to be. I can say almost any word/phrase I choose (in public or private) and it won’t get the same reaction as saying “That’s a sin”. I can condemn anyone by stating: go to hell. Depending on the volume I use few would give me a second look if I said that anywhere. But, why is it I am condemned by stating the obvious: you sinned? I know it’s a rhetorical question. But for the sake of people who believe relativity is a valid way of spiritual living and that there are no absolutes, I’ll argue their case.

When I condemn, by saying ‘go to hell’, I’m telling them “You are wrong; I am right. You are weak; I am strong.” But because I am here, next to you, on this corporal plain called life on earth, it doesn’t matter to you, because you can easily return the *favor* later, and condemn me to hell, and we are still equal; well all things being relative that is. You and I aren’t mass murders, after all, just maybe recovering shoplifters, or at worst fudge a little on our tax returns. We aren’t Hitler, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein or Genghis Khan. We’re both pretty good, most of the time, right?

So I say to you later: you sinned. I am, in effect, saying “You are wrong; you are weak; you are worthy to be condemned.” But now, I am not the Judge, just the messenger, stating a flaw — your flaw. Nowhere in that do I say I am stronger or right, but that’s what gets read into my message because we hate to be wrong and weak. Now I have brought into the mix a notion that life is not *relative* and that there are absolutes, and of course that is a very disagreeable notion because now there is no *favor* to return (but you will try, by pointing out all of my flaws, in such a delicate and gracious way, won’t you? hhmm) You must answer to a Judge, who is also Jury. Saying SIN means that God is involved, and it’s easier to just not think about Him, as He is old, ancient, out-dated and irrelevant.

Is there really much difference between the two? The end result of both phrases will get you to the same place, won’t it? I can tell someone to go to hell, or tell them they are going to go to hell. The wages of sin is death, you are going to go to hell. What if I had the power in my words to actually send you to this place that is name-dropped so flippantly? Suppose I said, “Go – to – Hell” and in the next instant you were actually there?

“Wait!,” you object loudly, “Hell isn’t even real, is it? I mean, it’s just a phrase, right? There can’t really be lakes filled with burning sulfur fires, and Satan and demons, and stuff, right? ‘Cuz that would, be like, so… unfair.”

Yup, unfair, indeed, because I am the one sending you there- because we are both nearly equally good people. But God never said He was FAIR, only JUST. Justice isn’t about fairness, it is this: “merited reward or punishment; that which is due to one’s conduct or motives”. (Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, 1913**) Justice is doing what is right, even if the the end result is unpopular, or makes you unpopular. God’s justice has made Him very unpopular, throughout all of history.

The wages of sin is death. That’s not my law, I didn’t write it. I’m just the messenger, remember?

~~~ ~~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~

**Why so old a definition? the same reason if you looked up gay, it’s doesn’t mean just happy, delightful anymore. Contemporary dictionaries have equated fairness to justice today, but they are not the same thing. Definitions are swayed by popular culture, and a word becomes redefined to suit popular demands, which can be a disservice to it’s true intent.