Sunday, August 17, 2014

Where Is Your Sting?

It was just a quick errand, but those are the ones that have you catching every red light. At one of those long stops, the intersection faced a cemetery. Rows of marbled headstones stood contrast to the black motorcade of town cars and hearse. The familar sight of huddled grief circling the casket, heads bowed, black and gray.

The light turned green and just like that I moved forward while the mourning was continued over life's end. 

And then next light turned red, once again interrupting my errands, my schedule, my thoughts. 

This intersection boasted riot and protest. It paraded poster-board and megaphones. The 3 story building with hideous tan brick and old crank handle operated windows cast a shadow across the rows of cars waiting for the light to turn green.

And the black sharpie handwriting raising the fight for life, contrasted against clean white poster board grabbed from the same pile a third grader will use to create his science presentation. 

The desperate plea of voices and volunteers were to shout awareness this hideous brick building housed a hideous death ground.

While no marble tombstones marked lives ended, while no mourners circled in grief, I was idling in the shadow of a cemetery by it's own horrendous making. 

My heart gripped in agony and no words left in my being at the sight of the unmarked building, concealing the darkness within it. And I mourned. Like the loved ones in gray circling a burial ground one intersection back, my tears and grief fell on this burial ground- a harsh, sterile, forced, death ground. 

I asked God to show me Him, here in this valley of the shadow, please God, are you here?

And I saw it...light, not from sun or filament, but from peace, that passes all understanding. It washed over my grieving soul like a balm and I stared death in the face and new it had lost. 

Where is your sting?

I have overcome death with My own life, said True Love.

I hold the littlest ones too young to know anything other than their Maker.

I heal hearts defiled inside the sterile rooms of that brick building.

I surround the mourners by the grave side.

Where is your sting?

I hold the life that is born into my arms.

I hold saints taken after lives well lived.

I hold those who hold onto Me.

True Love reached down in the light over the brick shadow and cradled to Him the innocent life's end.

Where is your sting?

My light turned green, but I wasn't in a hurry anymore. 

In my rear-view mirror were three car seats filled with life.
Their chatter and giggles contrasted the hideous tan bricked building fading from view and peace overwhelmed my soul.

My thoughts turned now from errands to life. 

To the graveside goodbyes. 

To the innocent taken by "choice". 

Where is your sting?
 
To the child desired and loved yet born to his Father. 

To my own babies I'll never hold on this Earth for God brought to His arms first. 

Where is your sting?

And those taken in sickness or tragedy. 

Those sacrificed in honor and duty. 

Those laid down in the name of Christ.
 
The clash of life and death we grieve and mourn and struggle to make sense with will never leave the shadow on this earth.

But our resurrected King has rendered you defeated.

Where is your sting?


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

So I'm Dating Again...

We've been married almost 10 years but we're going to start dating again.
Like a real date.
Like not in flannel pants on the couch eating leftovers together date.
Like not a too-tired-to-talk-let's-just-go-to-sleep date.
Like not a grocery store trip with 3 boys asking for Oreo's, fruit snacks, a potty, or the moon...the.entire.time...date.
This is the real thing and I'm kinda nervous.
I can count on one hand (only kinda sorta kidding), how many dates we've had in the last five years.
And now I get to spend hours alone with a man I haven't had an uninterrupted conversation with in months.
I'm wondering if I even know how to talk without having someone yell my name every 3.9 seconds.
What in the world will we talk about if we aren't telling boys to stop telling strangers their social security numbers and to not jump off the back of shopping carts.
And what will I wear?
I dress everyday with the mindset of expecting at least 3 different body fluids, receiving some sort of indelible stain, and the ease of chasing children who are faster than a speeding bullet.
But now I get to dress for him...just for him.
I get to ditch practical and go pretty....and maybe that's dressing a little for me too.
And we get to be alone together and remember just to who it was we said, "I do."
Because there is a scary reality out there - That "I do" can subtly fall to "I did."
"I did" mean all those things before meetings, and deadlines, budgets, and bills.
"I did" mean all those vows before babies, and stretch marks, and 5 extra pounds.
"I did" mean those words before you were too tired, too busy, too lonely, too late.
And then one day, the kids are out of the house and you realize you're married to a stranger. Someone one you grew up beside, but not with.
The world is full of too many love stories gone bad...I do...I did...I'm done.
And our story, the one spanning over a decade, 3 children, 9 moves, 3 states, 5 degrees, 12 jobs, loads of laundry, road trips, dead lines, court cases, due dates, car wrecks, empty bank accounts, holes in shoes, spit-up, dirty diapers, late nights, arguments, making up, and making out...is still very much a story of "I do".

Because "I do...to I did...to I'm done" is a broken story never allowed anywhere near ours. 
And that...is why we're dating again.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ashamed for 33 Reasons

In church, where I was free to go, where worship music played without cause of action, and people sang to God without fear, I found myself moved to the point of wanting to leap to my feet with arms raised before my Father. The message of the words to music were a cry from my heart I couldn't contain and my feet ached to stand and I...
just
sat
there.
Why?
Because everyone else was. Because I would have been the only one among several hundred people making any movement and would have drawn unwanted attention...so I just. sat. there.
And felt ashamed.
So ashamed.
Because I cared more about what 300 people might think of me than the stirring in my soul.
Because I buried the moment of being in the presence of my Father for the sake of self preservation.
Because I assumed embarrasment....
and ended up
ashamed.
Ashamed for 33 reasons.
For the 33 men, women, mothers, fathers, husbands, and wives who only cared what their Father thought.
For the 33 beautiful hands and feet who served under penalty of death.
For the 33 whose church met underground, who sing in their hearts instead of microphone, who are persecuted into silence.
For the 33 who stood up when their heart stirred knowing it was choosing death.
For the 33 who will be massacred for the love of their Father.
For the 33 condemned to death who know more about being alive than I ever have.
For the 33 who could define the word "appreciation" for the freedom of worship that I forsook as I
just
sat
there.
I read another article with a title of the 33 lives being "dead by morning". But I know in my ashamed-to-stand heart that these 33 will be more alive by morning than our language and human brokenness could ever grasp, obtain, or define. 
For the 33 who would have never taken my place for granted...I'll stand.
For the 33 who taught me what being alive really is...I'll stand.
And for the 33 I eagerly wait to embrace in Heaven...I will stand.
Ashamed.
Forgiven.
But
I'll
sit no
more.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Sacrifice of the Sacred

I feel warm sunbeams on the side of my face as the setting sun casts it's light low.
I see the pirate ship and the wooden blocks left on the living room floor by napping boys as evidence of their play earlier today.
I feel thirsty and am contemplating what I want to drink.
My boys will be awake soon and hungry for a snack and more than likely take far too long deciding what they would like.
And the sacred of the normal goes undetected.
That beneath mustard stained shirts are beating hearts efficiently pumping life to every part of growing bodies.
Inside messy bed heads lie chambers of memory and processing.
Behind the stack of books left on the floor, the dirty shoes by the door, the crumbs from lunch on the table, and the laundry I just washed, lies the very gift of breath overlooked by the mundane.
It's easy to forget, to overlook, to 
As I spoon feed oatmeal to my baby, another mother will end the life in her womb.
And while holding my little boy's hand as we read the train book for the 87th time today, another little boy's hands are tied to a wall in a Russian orphanage.
And as I bathe healthy little bodies splashing water from ceiling to walls, there are rooms standing empty holding their breath to be filled with sounds and sensation of little life.
How we mishandle the sacred.
How we overlook the miracle.
How the day to day desensitizes the supernatural.
The grocery shopping, the vacuuming, the deadlines, the bill due dates, the parties, the to-do-lists, the rain, the game time, the burnt bread, the headaches, the sleepless nights, the arguing, the stained t-shirt, the broken nail, the lost cell phone, the traffic, the tide, or the time...excess and excuses.
All the Mondays and the mayhem do their best to block out life, the foundation...life.
The heartbeat that pounds in you now. The beat in the loud messy being running around your house. The beat in your husband, your mother, your sister.
The heart beat that is stopped by selfishness and fear.
The heart beat that is weakened by malnourishment, and from having never been loved; from having never been held against another beating heart; to feel life surrounding.
The heart beat that never comes on ultrasound screens and leaves anguished empty arms.
Choose life.
Choose the clutter and the chaos.
Choose the toilets that need cleaning and the dishes in the sink.
Choose the hands that need holding, the tears that need wiping.
Choose the fight for abused little hearts that have never known love.
Choose life for the 2 lines on a test held by a girl wondering if there is a choice.
Choose life for the heavy arms waiting to hold it. For their hearts to embrace the life gifted within them.
Choose life for the One who gave it to you.
Choose life; for if we forget the struggle to obtain it...we forget the miracle and tarnish the supernatural with the grime of "self".
And the toys scattered across the floor become hollow echoes of lost joy.
And the warm sunbeams become cold bonds, holding you back from feeling.
And the little boys tied up will die without ever knowing what it is to be alive.
And the women's rights will have left a bottomless cavern of last heart beats.
And the gift will gone.
And sacred sacrificed.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Someone Else's Baby

There is the very rare occasional time when Matt is less than perfect. Through no fault of my own he has arrived at the intersection of miscommunication and frustration. He is singlehandedly in the wrong and I never am. I take a deep breath as I mentally prepare my best argument, take one look in that face and see... someone else's baby.
At one point my grown, strong, man of a husband was a round cheeked, imaginative toddler. He was read to, cuddled, bathed, dressed, tickled, hand held, kissed, and prayed over. He was her baby. And my mother-in-law probably never saw a day that the handsome baby in her arms would be yelled at by a frustrated housewife.
And now looking at my own perfect, round cheeked babies I take a look down the road towards the grown men they will be. And my heart knows the disagreements and unfriendly conversations that can occur between their beloved. And not for a second can I picture a red faced woman shouting and pointing her finger in my little boys' face.
So I stand here before this man and do a double take every time I feel angry. He was her baby, and these boys are mine. How do I want my future daughters-in-law speaking to these precious boys I'm blessed to call my sons? I want to make my mother-in-law as blessed to have shared her son with as I hope to be one day.
So I maybe, kinda, sorta, ok, definitely share the load of the miscommunication, and maybe through every fault of my own I contributed to where we momentarily find ourselves. With that all my little guy's faces come swimming in my mind. And I look into the eyes of the man I love so much and know his mother used to pray for his marriage...and for me. And someone else's baby, became a husband, who became a father, to someone else's future husbands...and how I respond now could be how someone does or doesn't talk to these little men one day, to their own babies one day...
What about you? How are you talking to your husband or wife? Do you keep in mind that the being you are so angry with was once a cherished baby, perfect in the eyes of doting parents. Do you keep in mind your own baby lovingly wrapped in your arms? Do you build a foundation for generations of love and respect? Do you cherish the bond shared with someone else's baby?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Lost It's Sting

Buckled in the car, driving 60mph on the parkway, during the middle of a Thursday afternoon, we had church. We didn't plan it, we lived it. "Running to Your Arms" had started playing on the radio, we sang and tears I never saw coming slipped down my cheeks. In the silence of the ending chords Harrison summed up as best anyone could, "that was really good."
The back story is, someone died. A friend of a friend died. A girl I never even met before, died. So why did her death pour an ache in my heart. Through the distant posts I had followed the battle of a young life fighting for more. I saw the beaming girl I never met being chased down by death. And I saw sunken eyes shine from something deeper than anything on this Earth.
And so my prayers for a girl I never met in my life joined the prayers of those who couldn't imagine life without her. And then this morning the young bride fell asleep and awoke in the arms of Jesus and I couldn't shake the tangled emotions of grief, peace, and confusion.
Death is sad; it leaves indescribable heart ache of mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, and children reeling from the sudden chasm in their lives. But I had no immediate connection with the friend of a friend so why was I sitting at a stoplight crying, barely able to make out the words, "You are joy, You are joy, You're the reason that I sing. You are life, You are life, in You death has lost its sting..."
And I realized the pounding in my heart had nothing to do with my ever personally meeting her. The testimony her brief 26 years shouted to His glory, and the excitement knowing this faith giant was a sister I will one day have the pleasure of meeting, stirred a celebration deep in a place of my heart that's balanced between the present and eternity.
God doesn't need a certain number of days for a life to bring Him glory. When we belong to Him we belong to His mysterious ways. And in that unknown lies a fearless strength I saw in the eyes of this dying girl. Life is a gift whether it's weeks, months, years, or decades. Once we look through the trappings of the world into the glory ahead why do we cling so tightly to the temporary?
This life I've been gifted I cherish. These boys my life is poured into as they become men I cherish. My husband I am blessed to share life with I cherish. My God who spoke life into existence is the Great I AM. And the girl I never met is sitting at His feet having run the race set before her. I know now my tears had nothing to do with death, and everything to do with life. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

NOVA

A pastor at one of the churches we visited gave a sermon on the critical aspect of fellowship in the growth of a Christian. He made a funny yet compelling statement when he said, "You want to know what NOVA (Northern Virginia) really stands for? Nobody Visits Anybody."
This took us back a bit, but in the months we've been here we've witnessed first hand the hustle, the activity, the business, and the commutes that leave little time to say "hi" to a stranger.
The stone faced shoppers, the "hurry-up" mommas, the get-out-of-my-way 10 minute lunch break businessmen all look through you as they rush to the next item on their itinerary and earn another check-mark of completion.
I had a hard time believing these robotic strangers really had nothing to say or were busily accomplishing world changing tasks every single second of the day. I knew that if "nobody visits anybody" is going to change, at least in our corner of it, I had to do something different.
Human nature in this century would make it easy to hide behind a social network and forget interacting with the fast paced world around me, but the boys and I launched into "Operation Retail Missionaries" and started speaking with the autopilot high speed souls around us in stores, malls, and parks.
Not surprisingly, the suit and ties, the stressed out mothers, the going non-stop shoppers, and underpaid employes all had something to say. A moment of shock crosses their face when you first engage them and snap them out of autopilot. But in an instant they connect and see I'm serious in my reaching out. And the stories start pouring out as if they haven't had human contact in years.
I've heard tales of starting a new job and of losing jobs, of coming to America to find a better life and of learning to speak English, of saving up for Legos and losing life savings, of having lost sleep with a newborn and of longing for a newborn. I've had people literally walk with me to our cars just to continue the conversation. I've had people ask if we would be back. I've seen my boys start to engage in conversation and bring smiles and laughter to an otherwise stoney faced employee.
And it's not that the people here in NOVA don't want to visit anybody, I believe they forgot they could. The rush and bustle of this place saturates every aspect of life if you let it and the motions of the day carry you from wake to sleep without genuine interaction. I don't expect we are going to transform this populous, but my boys and I are going to continue to shock people with conversation, with genuine concern and attention for what they are saying. And maybe our home will be the one flowing with visitors who know they are welcomed, wanted, and will maybe see a glimpse of Jesus as we take on our NOVA mission field.