Thursday, July 14, 2016

Midwest Americana Bathed in Light


This is our everyday.
 
Surrounded by the calloused hands of early morning risers, the ones who vacation around mother nature and milk prices, the souls who give away their plenty because that's the way God intended.
 
Miles of corn and beans and wheat and hay stretched out wide waiting for the rains to quench their thirst.

The slow crunch of the much too late in the night truck wheels on gravel as the farmer finally makes it home, his children tucked in hours ago. Another meal missed and still another field to harvest and the margins are slim and the stress is high and the price of corn went down by .33 but there's a plate warming in the oven and cold milk in the fridge.


And sometimes he forgets and pays more attention to the Ag Market than the jelly stained cheeks around his breakfast table but his love runs deeper than any three-piece suit on the commuter train headed toward the city.

This life isn't easy but it is good and it is decent and one of the few places left where a handshake can make an honest deal and every one in town remembers your grandmama's cobbler.

It can be hard and tough and overflowing with loss - crops and livestock and babies and barns. But there's also blessings. Too many too count. Sunrises and births and neighbors coming together. Laughter recalling memories around big kitchen tables where elbows knock against each other because family isn't restricted by DNA. Where sunlight bathes in golden light reminding us of what truly matters in this world.

This is our everyday.
 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Waiting to See

Last week I was at an eye appointment where it was deemed necessary to dilate my eyes. I was assured that within two hours things would be back to normal.

Except they weren't.

My world remained fuzzy and out of focus throughout the majority of the day. My eyes were abnormally sensitive to light, even in the grey drizzle of the rain. I was uncomfortable and out of sorts.

And I was angry.

Angry because I hadn't planned on any of this. I had work waiting on my desk and I needed my eyes to review the plans and write the reports. I hadn't planned on not being able to see the computer screen and I could barely type out a text message complaining about my now aching head.

Nothing looked right or felt right or was right. I was frustrated because I felt so helpless -- I couldn't do anything to speed up the process of getting back to normal.

Then it dawned on me. I could be angry and rant and let my frustration boil over in epic proportions - or I could trust the doctor. He had assured me, hadn't he? That while my vision was going to get worse for a bit, that it would, in time, become clear once again. And all I had to do was wait. I had no guarantee other than the gentle, comforting promise of the one who knows.

So I waited to see. I waited in trust.


When Avery died, I heard it over and over: someday - not now, but one day, the haze will lift and your new normal will emerge. Just give it time. I was told not to fight it, but to roll with it. Cry when I needed to, talk when I needed to, stay still when I needed to, scream when I needed to. But don't force it. Don't try to snap your fingers for an immediate fix. Time was the only thing that would heal this shattered heart.

Our lives are filled with moments when everything suddenly shifts out of focus: a death. A divorce. A diagnosis. Unemployment, a fight with a treasured friend, a call in the middle of the night. A moment when we realize that the place we have stood in comfort for so long is suddenly unrecognizable. We become a stranger to our own lives. Nothing, no matter how hard we squint, looks the way it used to. And that can feel unbelievably scary.


In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.
Psalm 86:7


But we can put our trust in the One who knows. God promises us that He's going to get things back into focus. It might not look exactly the same way as we remember, but it's in focus.

I think about all the times my life has gone out of focus: an abusive relationship, custody dispute, a failed marriage, an unexpected death, a scary diagnosis.... and always, always, has the time come when I could see again. It just took time. And it meant that even though I desperately wanted things to get better this very second and even though I didn't feel anything was happening fast enough and even though I hated every uncomfortable, hurting moment I was experiencing and even though I was scared of what my future might look like, I had to trust that the One who holds my heart was the One who was going to make all things right and would do so in His time. I had to wait in trust. And waiting can be hard. But my heart always emerged more perceptive, more compassionate, more caring than it was before because now it focused on the things that matter.


There is a healing and growth that comes from the times when life is hazy.

There is a strength and courage that grows from the times when life is hazy.

There is a future and hope that emerges during the times when life is hazy.




Sure enough - although it was well into the night by the time it happened, it did happen. I don't know exactly when it did, only that around 7:00 that night I looked up and realized hey! I can see again! It had taken much longer than I expected, much longer than I had wanted, but my vision was where it needed to be and my surroundings became clear once again.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Come as You Are

The other night I was in a bar with a group of my high school classmates celebrating 25 years since we graduated. We gave hugs and caught up and talked about things we remembered from years ago and after a while, an old friend crossed over the room to me and asked me a question: "You go to Lakeland, don't you?" 

Lakeland (or, Lakeland Community Church, as it's more formally known) is where I physically go to worship Christ each and every Sunday. 

I grew up on Sunday School and bedtime prayers and I knew there was a God in heaven that just had to have been awfully disappointed in me because I never did seem to get things just right. I was way too sensitive and argued back way too much. But I knew that if people got really sick or really scared you could pray.

What I didn't know was this God I had heard so much about was actually one of my greatest fans - I just couldn't wrap my head around it. There were so many better people in the world than me - people who let puppies lick their faces and who generously donated homemade baked goods to every sale; people who eagerly awoke in the early morning light and sipped coffee while reading their Bible before heading off to volunteer at the local old folks home. I wasn't any of that - I'm still not, and probably never will be -- but I learned that God loves me anyway.

This friend and I talked in a bar about God and church. She's seen my Facebook posts and started going to the early service. (Which means I'll never see her because I'm a late service gal.) And when one of our other friends asked what it was about this particular church, she thought about it for a minute before explaining, "I don't know.... I like the music and I feel good when I leave."

I thought about how I started going to Lakeland... numb, confused, grieving... full of a sorrow so thick and heavy I didn't think I'd ever work my way out. I would come in and sit not even knowing why I was there exactly, just that I needed to be somewhere and hoping I wouldn't feel worse when I left. 

It was the music that got me. Maybe more correctly a voice. I had heard people sing church songs before but I had never heard someone worship Jesus while letting a bunch of people watch as they did it. There was a pureness I had never experienced before. 

The sermons I heard were ones that tugged at my soul: fear, restoration, prayer, attracting heaven. Words that explained, helped make sense and calmed me.

And more than that I saw an example being lived out in front of me about what a relationship with Christ looks like. And that included the fact that not a single person in that entire church judged me. Not a single one. 

I went to a church and sat in a chair and when I left, I felt full, hopeful, renewed, refreshed and unspeakably loved by Christ.

I want everyone in my life to experience a love without judgement. A love that has no strings and no conditions. Just love being showered on them simply because they are loved.  

I want the people in my community to be less worried about whether or not church is for them and more interested in finding out who this Jesus guy is. 

I want the people who sit in my church to not give a rip about what others are wearing but instead take the time to smile, say hello and make someone feel welcome and encourage them to come back.

Lakeland Church is responding to a need in Walworth County in an exciting way. At 9:15 am on Sundays you're invited to meet Jesus at the old Belfry Theatre (just down the road from Lakeland's big church building.) 

The Belfry is a super cool, historic site that's warm and inviting. And there's a worship band and coffee and people who overflow in their faith. Their love and compassion is contagious.

And you don't have to wear fancy shoes or know where every book in the Bible is found. And you don't need to quote scripture or sing old hymns from memory. All you need to do is come and sit.... just like I did. Because, trust me, God will do the rest. 













 



For more information: follow Lakeland - Belfry on Facebook.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Childless Mother on Mother's Day

This is my third Mother's Day without my daughter Avery. She died suddenly in a car accident about 6-8 minutes after my oldest daughter, Jadrian (who was 17 years old and driving) pulled out of the parking lot after Avery's gymnastic practice let out. She was on her way to church youth group.

This is my third Mother's Day with a huge gaping hole in my heart. And my third Mother's Day being utterly disappointed, forgotten and let down. I could go on and on but really, what would it change? Let it be known that when my time finally arrives to have a sit down with Jesus, I'm going to ask him to explain why he had me experience the single most difficult emotional thing a mama could ever go through with someone who expresses zero emotion whatsoever.

That being said, I'm here to help all those other men in the world who claim to have no idea what to do on Mother's Day for the Childless Mother in their life. Maybe you messed this Mother's Day up. Maybe the last three or more. But you can decide to want to do better.

(1.) Do SOMETHING. Doing nothing hurts. It just does. Continuing to avoid the pain of the day like it doesn't exist makes the hurting worse. By a lot.

(2.) Plant a flower, bush or tree that blooms in her child's favorite color. It's beautiful to watch something continue to grow and bloom over time. It's kind sucky to have to throw dead flowers away after a too short blooming life in a vase. We're kind of tired of death, you know?

(3.) Have a her favorite photograph of her child printed on canvas. Or enlarged and framed really nicely.

(4.) Jewelry with all the kids names or initials - even the ones who passed - yes, please.

(5.) Find a picture of her child and have an artist rendering done of it. Pencil sketch, charcoal, oil paint - it doesn't matter really. It's knowing that someone spent their time and talent looking into the face of her angel. With each brush stroke her child was seen.

(6.) Find a picture that her child drew or colored and have that framed nicely.

(7.) Take the remaining kids for a professional photo and be sure to include a picture of her child who had passed. All her children made her a mama. Not just the ones still living on earth.

(8.) Do something special at her child's grave. Clean it up. Spruce it up. Leave a little mother-child figure or some flowers or a wind chime.

(9.) Give her a gift certificate for a massage. Grieving mamas tend to be a tad tight from trying to hold it all together for the remaining people in their lives.

(10.) Acknowledge. Say something. Write it in a card. Hold her hand and look in her eyes while saying it. Tell her that you know it's a hard day to walk through - but that you're there.

Mother's Day can be a hard day but doing something special to acknowledge her angel can also bring immense joy.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

I Still Need Holding Up

I still need holding up.

Not like it was in the beginning. Not all the time anymore. But I still need it.

I still know that there are times I cannot do this grieving thing alone and yet, as time goes by and lives continue and the busy gets busier, I find the circle of people standing beside me, ready to hold me up gets smaller and smaller.

And it should. That's how it needs to happen. Trust me, this isn't on them at all.

See, when tragedy first strikes it's actually those furthest out from the strike zone that are the strongest to hold things together. The closer the relationships get to the one who passed away, the weaker they are.

In my case, my daughter died. I couldn't expect my other daughter to hold me up - her sister had just died. I couldn't expect my parents to hold me up - their granddaughter just died. I couldn't expect my sister or brothers to hold me up - their niece just died. I couldn't expect my cousins to hold me up - their relation just died. Her friends were grieving, her teachers were grieving, her coaches were grieving, her teammates were grieving.

We were all a mess.

So it was this outer ring of protection -- co-workers, neighbors, people in the church, community members, old classmates from school, even strangers on the internet -- they were the strength that held it together so they could hold us when we couldn't stand.

But now that the example of how to hold strong during a storm has been given - now that the lesson has been taught, it is time for them move on.

One by one we each got stronger. That, too, has a certain cadence to it. The furthest ones out recover first. The closer the relationship to the deceased, the harder it is to heal.

It was as if every one was suddenly stricken down, paralyzed in one fell swoop... but some of us managed to sit up in a wheelchair, and some got crutches before others... and soon some dropped their crutch and steadied their walk back into the world way before the others... we were - are - all in various stages of literally picking ourselves up and walking back among the normalcy of this life. (Whatever that means.)

There are times though, when I still feel like I'm laying on a piece of cold concrete all by myself, in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, during a thunderstorm. And I can't get my legs to work. And I can't get my voice to speak (because I wouldn't know what the words should be that would make anyone understand). And all I see is everyone around me skipping happily off into the distance - making phone calls and responding to texts, laughing at tv shows or getting a haircut that has to happen today and can't possibly wait until Monday, when the deep sorrow of a Mother's Day without has passed.

Yes, I still need holding up. Or else I just need to be okay laying here for a bit until I have enough energy to do it on my own.