Category Archives: Jesus

Disrupted

DisruptedThis morning, a cardinal caught my eye as I stood looking into my backyard.  I had been standing there, sort of numb, vaguely grateful for the sunshine and green of the yard, when the red flash focused my attention. As I watched the cardinal, I noticed a robin, a blue jay, a woodpecker, two squirrels, two more male cardinals, and, finally, a female cardinal — perhaps the reason the three males started fighting over the same 100 square feet of yard. My numb gratitude had been mixed with a much-less-than-grateful lament: “WHY can’t this dog just GO???” I would have missed a lot if my gaze hadn’t been disrupted.

I’ve been thinking about that word, “disrupted,” for a couple weeks now. Not long ago a friend described my decision to adopt BC as agreeing for my life to be disrupted. This is a friend who “gets it,” not one who tosses around platitudes, so I was bemused by her choice of words. I could almost feel my head jerk back from it; I’m pretty sure I shook my head, “no,” as I re-read it. This change to my life, this boy literally brought to my door, isn’t a disruption. He is a gift. It’s true, I sleep a lot less and I struggle a lot more. Most days I find it preposterous that anyone is given a child to raise. Still, my son is like the flash of red this morning. My heart and mind notice new things now. His life holds truth and beauty that I would hate to have missed. His battles, so often poorly chosen, expose my own sin and brokenness. The moments when he lets himself trust and relax show me more about God’s perfect and faithful love — into which we both can trust and relax — than I’ve ever seen. My son does not complete my life. That is a burden no child is meant to bear. He is a gift, a flash of red across what I thought I knew of God and life. I love him. Amen.

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Hope

cross1Today is Easter.  I’m celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, believing that it actually happened and that it changes everything.  I’m also aware that sometimes it feels more like that Saturday, when every human being thought Jesus was dead, and nothing seemed certain.  It’s a strange mix for this glorious day.

Last year, Easter was exuberant and joyful, loud even, as my family rejoiced that a baby we thought had been lost was very much alive.  This year, a child I love is facing loss he hasn’t even imagined yet, and I’m desperately hoping for years of resurrection for his heart and mind.  This morning, I took B.C., my foster son, to be with part of his biological family for Easter.  He’ll have a great time, and we’ll have a great time later at one of my family’s celebrations.  Then we’ll come home and probably deal with what seems like the confusing transition between families for him.  Tomorrow we’ll head back into our normal routine of school and work, bath time and reading stories, and every strategy known to boy for avoiding brushing one’s teeth.

Even as we do our normal daily things, slow movement is happening with B.C.’s “case.”  Given the system, it could all turn out very differently than it appears now, but at least for now it looks like B.C. will end up with a new home with loving, safe, fun, stable family members, several hundred miles from here.  I already love his family members — if we were neighbors, I think we’d be great friends.  And yet…there’s always this “and yet”…I know that for B.C. to grow to be a part of that family, he will have to endure the shock of knowing he’s not going back to his old home.  In addition to that, he won’t be staying in this home, where he has seemed to come to feel safe and secure.  There will have to be these losses.  Death — of what he knows and thinks and experiences every day — will precede resurrection.

The hopeful part of all of this is that I believe, that I know, that death always does precede resurrection.  To wish away the loss for B.C. would be to wish away the coming good of life with two loving parents, and siblings, and dogs, plus an ongoing connection with his extended family, and…maybe…someday…the opportunity for healing reconnection with his biological parents.  The anguished part recoils from seeing someone I love so much suffer so much.  I’ve only been a parent for 6 months tomorrow, but this week I’ve wondered, how did Mary stand there and watch her Son hang there and suffer and die?  How did God the Father watch His Son hang there and suffer and die?  There is a dread of the loss that’s coming that completely takes my breath away.  Most days it feels like Saturday more than Easter Sunday.

And yet…there’s a deeper “and  yet”…what Saturday felt like to Mary, and John, and Peter, and all the rest, what “Saturday” feels like to me and what it will feel like to B.C., perhaps what it feels like to you if this is a somber Easter — all of that is the middle of the story.  There are glimpses of a better end, of a glorious resurrection.  Jesus said He would rise on the third day.  Today, when I took B.C. to his family, one I’d never met hugged me, kissed my cheek, and said, “Thank you for taking care of my nephew.”  He’s the dad of the one who may be B.C.’s second father.  There is a sense of promise to the whole thing, and it takes my breath away just as much as the dread, if I pay attention to the reasons to hope.  I don’t always choose rightly, but today I choose the promise.  Amen.

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Filed under Being Sam, Family, Foster parenting, Jesus, Struggle

The Air I Breathe, Part II

When I ended the first post about my scuba certification experience, I meant what I said about scuba being good therapy for control freaks.  The depth of my vain attempts to control things and people beyond me showed up in my response to the whole process, and in the anxiety stirred in my heart when those attempts failed.  This post, originally planned to follow that first one by just a few days, was to tell the rest of the scuba story and explore those issues of control and anxiety some more.  In the meantime, though, sorrow and grief invaded the life of a friend, and all words seemed petty and inadequate.  Control was shown, again, to be an illusion, indeed.

Since April, one friend’s cancer recurred and another’s brain tumor was diagnosed.  One friend lost her step-mother; another, her son.  A treasured friend moved across the country.  Another friend’s mother suffered a massive heart attack.  A client lost a spouse.  A former client died.  And, a baby I love seemed set to be born many weeks too soon.  What is there to do, and how is one to be, in the face of this broken world, with all its pain and loss?  Perhaps just breathe in, breathe out, and do the next thing, trusting the One who supplies the air and everything else the ones I love and I need.

The second try at the pool part of my scuba training went much better than the first.  Many people had empathized with my anxiety from the first try, and some who were already divers gave me very helpful suggestions for both getting to the bottom of the pool and passing the underwater, hold-your-breath swim test.  In the end, I passed and moved on to the open water dive section of certification.  Two things stick out from that second day in the pool.

The first occurred, oddly enough, in the shallow end, where I’d had no trouble before.  One of the skills we practiced as a group was taking off our buoyancy compensators (BC’s) and then putting them back on, while continuing to breathe through our regulators.  As soon as I took off my BC, I began to tip over, as though I was lying down on my side on the bottom of the pool.  With no conscious thought, I began to thrash around wildly, trying to keep upright and get back to putting on my BC.  When conscious thought did kick in, it was, “I bet I look like a dying roach from above!”  That was funny, but I was too scared to laugh in my regulator, so I just continued to flail around and struggle until I strapped the BC on and settled back down on my knees on the bottom of the poo.  As I watched the others practice the skill, I realized that the best  thing would have been to fall on over to my side, and then calmly push myself off the bottom and go about finishing the skill.  All that flailing was a waste of energy, and just got in the way of what I was there to do, besides making me look like I’d encountered a big can of Raid.

One thing I’d dreaded about the return to the pool was the underwater swim test.  We had to swim 50 feet underwater without coming up for air.  I’d failed the last time, too spent from all the panic and struggle, and out of shape into the bargain.   This time I had two plans.  I had realized that part of the lesson of the failure was in being reminded of my dependence on God for everything.  So, I planned to sing these lyrics in my head as I swam:

This is the air I breathe.
This is the air I breathe.
Your Holy Presence,
Living in me.     (from Breathe, by Marie Barnett)

My second strategy was to think of Travis and Jessica, my brother and sister-in-law, who were my chief scuba encouragers and the ones so excited for me to dive with whale sharks when I visited them.  So, with each stroke toward 50 feet, I could think each of their names and distract myself from my lack of oxygen.

As it turned out, I sang the song in my head and pushed off into the 50 feet, only to find myself floating to the surface less than halfway through.  I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” dove back down, and kicked hard to the wall — all strategies out the window.  That’s probably where most of my strategies belong.

I felt exhilarated and relieved to have passed the pool section.  Thinking back on that day, I continue to see that I often struggle against the wrong things, and that all my planning and strategizing is most often beside the point.  Learning to relax, trust the One is is in control, and just do the next thing doesn’t come any more naturally to me than breathing underwater.  Jesus calls me to those things, though, in calling me to Himself.  He really is the air I breathe.  Amen.

To be continued…

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Rest

I failed.

God loves me.

I’m free.

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Three Easter Wonders

God, Author of the greatest surprise ever in the resurrection of Jesus, has surprised, delighted, humbled, and reassured me in this Holy Week.  It’s been a week of wonders, big and small.  Here are three…

I spent some time this week with a person who is celebrating her first Easter as a follower of Christ.  Do you remember what that was like, when you realized for the first time that it’s really true, that Jesus really died for you, and really came out of that tomb on Easter?  I needed to be reminded this week.  All through Lent, I’ve turned over a blog post in my mind called, “Cynicism and Contempt:  Lenten Twins.”  A nice, cheery post, don’t you think?  Throughout Lent I’ve seen my tendency toward those two pits.  I’ve also grieved and been angry, perhaps like the disciples were on Friday night and Saturday of that first Easter weekend.  Seeing the joy and wonder on this new believer’s face was like watching Mary’s face when she realized Jesus was alive.  The new believer even said something like, “I don’t ever want to take this for granted, to not be excited about it like I am now.”  Yes, Lord, me neither.  Thank You for the wonder of a first Easter.

This next one will seem kind of weird, but you’ll just have to trust me that it’s true.  For several days over the past week, I believed that someone I love had died.  My heart was crushed.  I wept, I yelled at God in frustration and despair, and I walked around with an aching heart.  Then, on Tuesday, I found out that the one I love is ALIVE!  I fell to my knees and wept again, tears of gratitude and remorse and joy.  It took a few minutes for my stunned heart and mind to realize, “Hey, this is EASTER!”  What seemed like despair transformed in a moment to exquisite, even exuberant joy.  It was all I could do not to run out to the lawn by my office and shout, “YES!  (My loved one) is ALIVE!”  Easter, indeed.

Finally, this morning I was looking online to find a sunrise service to attend.  I was startled to see one being offered by a funeral home.  Then I found another offered in a cemetery.  Once again, it took a few moments, but then I thought, “Well, of course!”  I’m still turning that over in my heart.  The first Easter was in a graveyard/garden, so why not celebrate it there in 2012?  Death giving way to life, the power and love of a great and good God, sunrise dispelling darkness – the wonder of it all is just stunning.  Oh, yes…it’s Easter…it’s all really true.  Hallelujah – He is risen, indeed!  Amen.

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