Thursday, June 30, 2011

Release the Rain


I have been told I have a blue personality.  As much as I don’t want to be (and I have also been told blues don’t want to be blues), I am still a blue. I would much rather be yellow or even a bit of red, but nothing doing—I am blue. And all that goes with it. 

Apparently I possess more than a tinge of melancholy in this soul of mine. I am bent toward carrying too much on my shoulders, convinced I have to fix every problem (or that every problem is my fault) and weighted down by a perfectionist nature.

Instead of viewing the world through rose-colored glasses, my lenses are tinted blue.

And today I feel my personality. Today I feel the smudged edges of blue rubbing and smearing. Most days the little bit of sanguine and yellow (mixing personality tests here) surface and float. The desire to smile and laugh almost always outweighs the want to cry, but rarely the NEED to.

All morning I have been trying to talk myself out of this blue place. But the talk is futile. When clouds get too heavy they must release the rain. 

So, release the rain, LORD.

Remind me of your truth. Remind me that your reality is not rooted or established in my personality, but in your character. 

Amen.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Steven

He is two and a half years old. He sat in my lap facing me—long legs straddling mine. His feet dangled and swung, suspended above the sidewalk.

I was mesmerized.

His name is Steven and it means crowned one. His head is crowned with powder-white hair and it blew like a dandelion in the afternoon wind. His eyes are blue. Pale, cornflower blue framed by long, curved lashes. His face is heart-shaped, truly. Pointed little chin, broad forehead.

I kept trying to get him to grin for me. My fingers became spiders crawling up his legs and across his arms. When I would tickle him his whole body would collapse. His grin is snaggletoothed, a phrase my grandmother would have used, but it fits Steven. He fell and damaged a couple of his front teeth and they had to be pulled. He didn’t lose the very front two, but one front and the one next to it. His grin is lopsided, but the affect is actually quite charming and disarms me. I grinned and then laughed. And it was a real laugh. One that erupted before I even realized it had formed.

His voice is deep. Far deeper than a child his age should be and it startles you. He sounds like he has a jumbo marshmallow in his mouth.

That day I held him in my lap and I didn’t want to let go. I held his cherry slushy and fed him spoonful after spoonful of the sticky, messy concoction. He was content, and so was I.

I enjoyed watching this funny little boy. I have loved him since he was three and a half days old. I held him when he came home from the hospital to be with his foster parents. He was a tiny, malnourished baby. All bones, no fat. His head was far too big for his tiny frail body (he has truly grown into it now). I held him that night for a very long time, curled next to my body, not enough weight to even mention. He looked like a baby bird just hatched from an egg.

As I looked at him I wondered what he would become. This little boy was beginning with such a deficient—not a noticeable, horrific deficient like his older brother, but a negative one just the same (his problems would be revealed later). Perhaps that worked against him—he had no visible marks of abuse, very little of anything to evoke compassionate pity. There was very little about him to endear you.

And yet I love him. Do love him.

He has grown into himself. He is a charming little boy now. Full of personality and wonderful little quirks.

Later that day when the VBS Kick-Off was over and everyone had gone home, there were just a few families left at the church.

The kids who remained were running, trying to expend those last bursts of energy. If they stopped for just a minute they would have collapsed and been asleep from the delightful exhaustion of summer. While running the older children failed to realize Steven was trying to keep up with them; they knocked him down and plowed right over him before they even realized. His chin popped the floor and his cry wailed.

Somehow I managed to be the first one to him and I picked him up and examined him.

Let me see your mouth, Steven. Did you hurt your mouth? I asked.

Immediately he turned to me and opened his mouth wide. His mouth was fine.

He laid his head on my shoulder and snuggled into me. And he stayed there far longer than I had hoped. When he finally raised his head I asked him for a kiss. He turned to me and gave me one without hesitation.

His dad watched the whole interaction.

Oh gosh, he doesn’t ever do that. Rarely. That’s amazing. You really are family.

My heart became too big for my chest.

And the Holy Spirit spoke, just a whisper above the din of the expanding walls of my heart.

I realized I am just like Steven.

Just like him.

I started out this life in Christ as a malnourished baby. There was nothing to commend me. I wasn’t rosy-cheeked and baby-plump. I certainly wasn’t cute. There was nothing in me to endear someone’s affection—nothing. And as I grew my limbs and head didn’t fit my body and I had accidents and lost my front teeth. I was gangly and awkward. Delayed in my maturation. There was nothing in me to evoke compassionate pity.

And yet He loved me.

The Father loves me.

And because of Steven I understand His love a little more.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Only a Drawer

All last week I struggled with attitudes and sins that the Spirit gently unearthed or uncovered in me. Attitudes fed by jealousy and resentment and insecurities.

Ugliness.

And all week long I have attempted to swallow them down, but they push up against the back of my throat and choke me.

I needed to speak them out loud.

Sometimes transparency annoys me. There are times when I simply want to wear an opaque mask, but I cannot. And there are three people who hear my confessions. Three people I allow to see the sordid ugliness of my heart. Three people who have proven that they love me even when they are exposed to the toxic sludge in my heart.

Two women. One I have known and loved for twenty-four years. One I have known and loved for nine.

The other is my husband.

My beautiful husband-man.

He received the fall-out and the spill-over of the sludge in my heart this week. The Spirit was dealing with me.

And so I reluctantly, but openly shared the ugliness in my heart with him. And that is just what it is. You can’t call it anything else.

I am not sure what I expected. I didn’t know what he would say when I exposed the nastiness that had been hiding. I told this dear man that I felt like the basement of our house—full of things that needed to be thrown away or put on the curb. I explained that I felt like my whole house was just filthy.

When I finished my rant he sat and looked at me for a long time. Just looked. His silence was awkward for me and I wanted to fill it, but refrained.

I will never forget—ever—what he spoke to me.

Tamera, your house is fine. Quit being so hard on yourself. Your rooms are clean. You are just dealing with a drawer. That’s it. This is just a drawer. A drawer with some stuff in it. You have opened the drawer and you have seen some things you don’t like. Clean out the drawer, but remember it is only a drawer. You may find a closet later that needs some attention, but it will only be a closet. And this is only a drawer.

I just looked at him. At that moment something in my spirit broke free. A restrictive band snapped.

Only a drawer.

There was no judgment in his voice. He didn’t dismiss what I was saying. He didn’t exaggerate it. He called it what it was.

Then he wrapped his arms around me.

He knows me. Understands me. Loves me. Anyway.

I look at my husband and one way he turns I see him; he turns a different way and I get a glimpse of Jesus. For a fleeting moment their faces merge.


It’s not that my husband is Jesus, he just resembles him.

And this is the quality I appreciate most about my husband.

It’s only a drawer, Tamera.





John 13:5-10; James 5:16

Look At Me

I wonder if it thundered on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus stood up and told the waves to be still. And when he spoke did the thunder die away gradually, roll away like small marbles across the floor or did it simply cease mid-boom?

A storm moved in during the morning. The air was cool, the lightning cracked and the thunder smacked the heavy gray sky. I wanted to go outside and stand on the wet deck and breathe deeply, but I was reluctant to leave my cocooned dusky sanctuary.

I was afraid if I moved from that calm place the peace would dissipate—like when a butterfly alights on your arm and you remain still because movement will cause it to fly. Like when someone is rubbing your back and you don’t want them to stop, so you remain utterly still because your movement might break the rhythm and they will stop.

I listened to the sounds of preparations for church. I waited for my turn, but I was restless. Shimmering just along the edges of me was something I couldn’t name.

Storms are hushed and sacred places for me.

In the storms stillness pushes past all the inner barriers and descends to the deepest parts of me. Anticipation grows. Eagerness swells. Clarity emerges.

Be still and know that I am God the psalmist urges.

We went to church. Sometimes stillness is hard to achieve and maintain—even at church. Somewhere between the sanctuary of my room and the church sanctuary I lost my sense of stillness. I sat in my chair and my mind kept rolling hard events and words and actions over and over. They were replayed as if they were on a continuous loop. The escalation began. You know exactly what I am describing. Every poor thought led to another and led to another. Avalanching. Snowballing. My emotions built like the milky froth in a latte.

Just when I thought they would overtake me something broke through the storm.

A version of Amazing Grace filtered through the speakers.

And the Spirit of Jesus broke through the froth.

Look at me.

I shook my head.

No, look at me. These emotions and attitudes will overtake you, if you don’t look at me. Take your eyes off them and look at me.

Apparently I still wasn’t looking.

Communion was served. Thunder rumbled. Lightning flashed. And the juice-wine glistened, red and transparent, in its trumpet shaped cup—calling to me.

This wretch sat still.

In that moment that is just exactly what I was—a wretch. A wretch because I wasn’t accepting the amazing grace being offered. A wretch because I wasn’t acknowledging that the Father was willing to absorb all the ugliness that he had recently uncovered in me. A wallowing wretch.

Look. At. Me.

Finally I did. I started thanking him for everything good in my life. And instead of worrying and fretting I began to ask for his help. I asked for wisdom. For provision. For reconciliation. For patience. For love.

And the froth dissipated.

Evaporated.

I crunched the bread between my teeth. Ground it to powder and swallowed. Then I poured the juice-wine into my mouth, held, then swallowed. And the bread and the wine coursed through me. His broken body—ground by me. His blood—spilled by me.

Amazing grace—poured for me. Measured out lavishly. 

Jesus told the waves to be still and the seasoned fisherman on the boat understood that he was God. He stilled the outer chaos of the storm and they recognized deity disguised in the cloak of flesh. Slack-jawed and wide-eyed, they dropped to their knees onto the salty, sodden planks of the boat.

He repeated with me what he did with his disciples. He called for the storm to be still. He hushed the froth and the foam. And in the midst of my storm I stood slack-jawed and in awe of God’s amazing grace.

When was the last time we stood in the midst of a storm slack-jawed and in awe of what God was doing?

When is the last time you heard him say, “Look. At. Me.” And you obeyed?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Happy Birthday to the Last!


She is sixteen today. 

Her golden birthday.  The baby. The youngest of four daughters.  

This week I realized according to house and family rules she can now date. (What were we thinking when we set the age so low?)  According to state law she may now legally drive a vehicle. She will be a junior—an upper classman. And she just started her first paying job this summer. 

Where did time go?  When did my chubby-cheeked, sweet little girl grow up?

Momma is having a hard time. My heart aches—rips in little tears every time she reaches a family milestone. I realize with a startling profoundness that she is the last. 

Appropriately her name means a father’s delight.  Undoubtedly she is that, but she is also my comfort. There’s something remarkably strong and consistent about her. Something immovable. 

She has always and forever been the quiet one. Often this characteristic has been labeled as shyness or bashfulness—certainly not.  Actually she is reserved and incredibly observant (quietness allows you to be in places and hear and see what you might not otherwise). This youngest daughter seems ageless; her age is hard to pinpoint because she conducts herself with such maturity and levity—far beyond her biological years.  I am sure this is partly due to having three older sisters, but I believe it is also just simply who she is. 

Sometimes I just simply watch her.  I want to drink her into my memory, because memories sometimes fade. I observe her interactions with others and am amazed and often even flabbergasted at her bold candidness.  I see the gears of her mind turn—rarely do they turn with haste, instead they rotate at a calculated pace.
I love to listen and see her laugh.  Her laugh is contagious. It’s loud, but wonderfully so. Her laughter comes from a deep place.  It is a bubbly laugh, but not a rapid succession of small bubbles, but rather giant, full ones.  Her laughter radiates from her eyes and just simply erupts from her mouth. All I want to do when I hear her (regardless of where we are) is turn and find her so I can laugh too.

This last daughter despises injustice; legitimate unfairness is an issue with her. And much to her credit, she doesn’t always side with the underdog—because the underdog may not be right.

Her discernment is new-razor sharp. She seems to assess people and situations with emotion reined. Then she often remains unattached until the discernment has been processed. We have learned to pay attention to her conclusions.  The times her advice went unheeded, regret usually followed. 

Once resolved she cannot be moved.  Her feet remain planted until she decides differently.  She sets her eyes on a goal and moves toward it with an almost alarming tenacity. 

She passed her written permit test this morning. We almost shouted. My heart swelled as I watched her smile for the camera and almost cried as she gazed at her newly minted permit.  

One more milestone—accomplished. One more last to check off the list. 

Today I (and many others) celebrate her. We rejoice because it is her day. 

She is a wonderful way to end. She is the perfect last line in this chapter of life. This daughter blesses me; she eases my heart with her soothing spirit.  

She, along with her three sisters, makes me proud to be a momma. 

Happy Birthday, my daughter.  Happy birthday, precious, sweet girl!




Sunday, June 12, 2011

An Endless Parade

I have been asking for big miracles.


I have been waiting for God to speak into my being so loud that even those around me would at least hear thunder.


I have been looking for evidence that not only I recognize, but that others recognize.


I have been waiting for loaves and fish to multiply and my endless glasses of Signs (another post, another time) water to become wine.


I have been hoping for fruit like the day of Pentecost—when three thousand came to believe.


I have been attempting to live happily ever after—as the framed print on my wall proclaims.


But you see, what would be better is if I asked to see the little miracles.


I started asking Him to open my eyes and make me aware of the extraordinary that goes undetected, unnoticed and unacknowledged.


I have heard his voice, but instead of thunder it is like the roll of the ocean—the gentle and consistent lapping of the water on the shore. Over and over his words wash over me. No one else needs to hear them; they are my words from him, my instructions, my exhortations, my directions. I have attempted to dismiss them as figments of my over-active imagination. As nothing more than my wishful thinking. But I cannot dismiss these words. My frail and fragile thinking could not produce what I have been hearing. I would never think to speak such as that. I am learning I don’t need thunder, and I am accepting that I don’t need anyone else to hear and confirm or approve.


I have watched Him take a meager offering, a limited staple, a ridiculous amount and multiply it exponentially. Recently. In the past two weeks. Not just in one area of my life, but in several. He provided in one place I never expected. Such a minor detail in my life, but He knows the details—details as insignificant and minor as tomatoes.

Fresh, garden tomatoes rival dark chocolate in my life and often in the summer the tomato will win. My husband and I weren’t sure if we were going to be able to find quality tomato plants this year. For the last two years someone very dear has spoiled me with heirloom tomato plants grown from seed. I wasn’t sure that they would have any this year. I was sad.

A few weeks ago my husband came in the house and told me that there were quite a few tomato plants growing in our two garden patches. Let me be very quick to say we hadn’t set any seedlings out this year. We realized that these plants were growing from seed left in the ground through the winter. Our plants produced tomatoes well into October last year, and the last few tomatoes were left on top of the soil or turned under with the vines.


They lay dormant all through the long, dark and cold winter. And then they began to grow. We had over twenty-five plants. Then the dear someone brought me four heirloom varieties. Tomatoes are planted in three places now. More than likely we will have a hundred-fold crop. Exponential growth. And I will share because I have experienced Him taking an everyday, common substance and transforming it into something incredibly rich and abundant.


I have come to understand his Pentecost. In his kingdom it is not the numbers that carry the weight, but the quality of the fruit. My brother, (from the posts White Cadillac and God’s Beyond) came with his fiancĂ©e to church with us. I stood beside him during worship. We hadn’t been in church together since he was a tiny boy. Beside me stood this man—all 6’2” of him. A man grown. In church with me. In worship of Him. And the miracle of this washed over me and my eyes and heart spilled the overflow.


Later in the day we sat on the couch together and discussed the fact that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s clothes were not tainted with even the scent of smoke. This was one of my pentecosts. I could feel the flaming heat as the Holy Spirit hovered.

And I have diagramed the sentence on my wall—and realized that it is just a fragment. Not even a full sentence, but a phrase written in the past tense. My life is not yet after. Just as my Father does not want me to dwell and abide in the past, neither does he want me to live only in the after. Now is what counts. Right now. How we live right now affects our ever afters.

If I dwell on the mistakes, failures, regrets and successes of the past or if I constantly contemplate the what ifs of the future then I squander the now I have been given. I want to learn to live contentedly and beautifully right where I am. I don’t want my life to be just a fragment or just phrase.

I want to live a full, complete sentence.

Our minister often says that he isn’t preaching fairy tales. I’m not living one either.

I am asking to see the little miracles. And he is revealing them one by one in an endless parade.



.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Please Pray

This morning I received a text. Pray, Mom. Sickness and disease is attacking the relief workers here.


My second daughter is near the outskirts of Joplin.


A week ago she heard that a group was going to work in Joplin and the surrounding areas to help in the relief aid. She signed up to volunteer for this weekend without much hesitation. She is an ER technician, and Joplin will look much like an ER room after a code.


She will see the ravages of the twister first hand—not just view it through the lens of someone else and posted online. Those photos, no matter how good, are flat. There’s no sound. Nothing to hear. Sound carries the weeping and the pain. She will hear and see.


And I know her. She will push up her sleeves and be in the middle. Right in the center of whatever they are doing. She will consider no job too small, no job beneath her. She will hug the elderly; she will rock the young. She will look into people’s faces and her empathy will take over. She will cry and shake her head and then begin the next project. Her problem solving lets-get-our-hands-dirty attitude will take over. And I wish I were a part of her team working right beside her.


She will come home depleted physically, but renewed in her mission. She will be able to explain some of what she saw, but most of it will remain inside wrapped around who she is. Even her precious fiancĂ© will not completely understand (and I am praying he gets closer to understanding this time more than ever before). She doesn’t just feel for others—their pain and sorrow becomes intertwined with her own. She enters into the sorrow and it moves her to action.


In August my oldest daughter will walk the ravaged, wrecked and forgotten streets of Haiti.

She will be assaulted with the carnage of poverty and the chaos of concrete. She will cradle dark-skinned jewels in the circle of her strong arms. And she will want to bring at least one of them home with her. There will be one child (at least) who will quietly sidle up to the walls of her heart. And my daughter will mourn because she will be prohibited from carrying him home.


This daughter will see details others will not see. Her eyes will rove, seek and find the ones who are the most lonely, the most hungry, the most angry, the most afraid and the most needy.


I wish I could go with her. I wish I could trail along behind and beside her. I really wish I could be present when she squats down and looks a little Haitian boy in the eye. I wish I could be near when she has her first glimpse of the tent cities. But I will see them through her lens of vision. She will return with stories and images, and with her gift of words she will help me and anyone who reads her posts to see what she saw.


I tell these stories because they speak of the power and provision of our incredible God. He uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.


And if you are reading this post please pray for these two young women. And when you do you become a part of their story.


Please pray.