Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Every Little Thing...

A little bird fluttered through the small screen door opening this morning.  He flew around and landed on a window sill right next to me, trying to find a way out. I crept over to him saying, "It's ok, it's ok."  Gently, I scooped him up into my hands, and he looked up at me with his small black eyes, heart beating wildly.  I smiled back down at him and slowly walked to the back door.  I began to sing, "Don't worry, about a thing... 'cause every little thing, is gonna be alright."  He softly took my finger in his beak, giving me a little kiss, and then took swift flight into the clear blue sky.

This is not the first time a bird has welcomed himself into our home or even the second.  About a month or so ago, my spirits were really down.  Sitting on an ottoman, I looked at the piano to my right and then the guitar hanging on the wall next to the fireplace.  Tears rolled down my face.

"I've given up so much with my health issues the last few years, Lord.  I don't want to complain... I want to accept what you have for me and be thankful, but this so, so hard.  I know that I'm not a great musician, but I know that you know how much I enjoy music... how much it has always been a part of me.  I'm just hurting, Lord... I'm sad.  To be honest, I just feel like this totally sucks."

Crying a bit, I eventually got up and went about my day.

My hand has been afflicted with a hereditary disease called Dupuytren's Contracture.  Both my father and an uncle on my mom's side have struggled with the same thing, and although it is usually something that older men are diagnosed with, I began developing a couple nodules on my left hand about a year and a half ago while restoring and painting baseboards in my home.  One of the nodules began pulling my finger down to the point that it was essentially perpendicular to the palm of my hand.  It was beginning to very much limit what I was capable of doing with that hand.

About a week and a half after I poured my heart out to the Lord, I had another feathered visitor who managed to find his way into my home (does this happen to other people??).  He adeptly winged from room to room, and on his way out, he literally sat on my guitar, pooped on it, and then made his hasty exit.

I burst out laughing.  Really, Lord??  I couldn't decide if God was showing me that he'd heard my prayers about music and he was letting me know, or if He was joking around about how much it sucked that my hand was being gnarly, and He wanted to let me know.  Maybe a bit of both.  I wouldn't have thought much of it, but He sends me birds all the time, and I'm not even a "bird" person.  When it isn't live birds in my house, it's "3 Little Birds" on a TV show or in a movie or riding in a bus.  Once I was in the doctors office feeling frustrated, and somebody's cell phone rang.  What was the ringtone, you ask?  "3 Little Birds."  Another time Josh's girlfriend started singing it for no apparent reason.  It's simply too often to be random, and I need regular reminders that God is taking me through my trials and it's all going to be alright.

Over the months, I had been checking in with a hand surgeon (one of my many medical staff) to see what my options were for treatment.  There was always the option of surgery with a long, painful recovery, or I could try some new enzyme injections and physical therapy.  Option two came with a 40-50% success rate at best. Instead of letting myself get too discouraged, I began talking to myself, as I often do.

"You know what?  God can absolutely show up in that 40-50%," I reasoned.  "Put it out there on Facebook, ask some people to pray, and let's see if He can swoop in here and claim some GLORY!!"

So I put it out there, and people started praying.  I went down to Santa Barbara feeling a bit tentative, but knowing that I could witness an amazing thing, too.  The 3 injections really hurt.  I almost fainted, and I had to lay back down and put an ice pack on my neck.  Just keeping it real here... (another fun embarrassing moment for the books). In two days, I returned, they numbed my finger up, and my kind and gentle doctor manually broke the cord/nodule in my finger.  I didn't almost faint that time... I handled it like a boss.  In two more days, I began physical therapy twice a week and exercises and icing three times a day.

My finger is getting straighter every single day.  I'm not going to need more rounds of injections (and almost fainting spells).  I'm not going to need surgery.  The bruising and swelling are almost gone, and I have almost a full range of motion again.  This hand is reaching octaves on the piano!!


He was in all of this in an amazing way.  When He has gone to such great lengths to assure my heart that everything is going to be alright, He really means every little thing. The small things and big things, the hurts and concerns, a breaking heart all matter to Him.  Every little thing.  He cries with us, and He wants to help.  He wants to be glorified in us and give us good gifts.

What do you need to trust God with today?  
He is concerned about your every little thing.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Red and Yellow, Black and White

I love story telling.  I especially love it when the story draws you into another world, so to speak, and one has the opportunity to see what it would be like to walk in someone else's shoes.  This past Valentine's Day, we watched the movie "42" as a family.  I had forgotten what a sweet love story it really is... the beautiful commitment Jackie and Rachel had in the face of extraordinary opposition, in a very racially biased time, is so inspiring.  Really, it is nothing short of heroic.

Jason and I were in the van on the way home from school one day, and we entered into a casual conversation about Jackie and his life.  My sweet son is so thoughtful and intuitive, and I never really know what is brewing in his reflective mind.

"If I had been born back then, would people be racist towards me," he inquired.  "Would people not have let you and Dad get married?"

"Oh, that is so perceptive of you, Jason," I replied.  "That is a really big question."

It broke my heart, that our world is such, that it is a question at all.  To have Jason thinking that he might be judged based on his race or skin color brought tears to my eyes.  While I am not considered a "minority" in America, I did have the experience, as a young adult, where I was judged on being "water" and not "blood."  This person made me feel unwanted, not good enough, and a nuisance.  Shaking labels like these is difficult, because they stick to the heart and soul, and they try to obliterate love and joy.  I continued our conversation, knowing that the hurt from these types of judgments is quite palpable.

We discussed the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.  We talked about how the racial tensions and prejudiced behaviors were primarily between "black and white" at that particular time.  Also, how certain parts of the country played a particularly negative role.  We also talked about the fact that interracial marriages of any kind tend to be more rare, and that even now, there are people who don't believe in the mixing of any races.  Jason realized that he may have never been born if Patrick and I had been raised in another time or place, and that was quite sobering to him.  I recalled that even back when I was growing up, I don't remember very much diversity among my friends.  It was mostly either all Caucasian or all Asian families in my hometown.

Then we talked about how a lot of things have evolved, over time, in our country. There are a lot more diverse families today, whether it be through marriage or adoption, and that is progress.  We know many families in addition to ours who have a beautiful blend of races and ethnicities.  While it absolutely doesn't need to be the case in every family, we are both glad that it is much more common and accepted by far more people than it used to be.  Far more people are "color" blind.

"When your dad and I were dating," I communicated to Jason, "I don't remember any of our friends ever saying anything negative about our different skin colors or backgrounds.  We were just two people who loved each other.  Gramma and Poppy never brought it up either.  They thought your dad was smart and funny and kind, and they welcomed him into our family and embraced who he was, and who we were together.  That was such a blessing and a gift for both your dad and I... to have that acceptance and love was the most important thing we could have received."

"Do you ever feel like someone is being prejudiced against you at school?"  I asked.

"No, not really," Jason responded.  "People just think I'm weird sometimes."

"Haha!  Well, I'm weird, too," I countered.  "Hey, do you remember what I like to check off when I'm filling out a form and it asks for racial origins?"

"Ya, you put HUMAN!!"

Yes.  We are all just humans in need of a good God, aren't we?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

50 Shades of Red

I left the classroom, the heavy blue door with a shiny silver knob slowly closing behind me, a familiar hiss sounding.  The halls were empty and eerily silent in the Jr. High school.  The sun shone through the open double doors at one end, reflecting on the flecked linoleum tiles that covered the floor.  I began to hurry down the hall, anxious to join my girlfriends for lunch. And then he appeared, seemingly out of thin air.  A "Christian" boy I had met at church the summer before.  My eyes quickly scanned the hallway once again, as my startled heart began to pound.  He wanted to talk to me, and before I could plan my escape, he pushed me against a locker, which loudly rattled as my back was pinned against it.  His hands held me, against my will, and although he wasn't very tall, I remember feeling overpowered in my diminutive, adolescent frame.

Obsession.  Or infatuation.  Neither really cares about the human being attached to the receiving end.  I suppose that is why the receiver is called the object.  I was the object of three different adolescent boys' infatuations.  While I never truly believed any of them would actually harm me, it felt unsettling.  I knew that I was being watched.  Information about me was being gathered and written down on lined notebook paper.  There was a photo of me in a hot pink and white striped bathing suit residing in a boy's wallet... a sophomore boy I didn't even know.

It is not romantic.  To stalk a girl and learn all about her habits and her life is not truly knowing her. To exert control over her or violent behavior against her is not expressing love toward her.  It is definitely not love.  I suppose you have to really know what love is in order to spot a counterfeit.

But what if the guy happens to be a powerful, billionaire business man?  What if he flies me around in his personal helicopter and sends me expensive gifts?  What if his special room of pain sounds intriguing.  Surely, then, he is just an eccentric.  What if I consent to be involved in his obsession. Certainly, it's just between adults, and it's nobody else's business but our own.

Unfortunately, you have made it my business, "Christian" Grey.  You, a fictitious character, have invaded the movie trailers on my television, articles and events on my Facebook feed, talk show topics, and most unsettling, the conversations at my freshman son's high school campus.  You peddle your wares as a great romance, a passionate love story, and a wonderfully naughty Girls' Night Out. While I thought you would quickly phase out, being the ersatz lover that you are, you have managed to entice and captivate the hearts and minds of women all over the world.  There are tens of thousands of women who have been blinded by your polished exterior and wooed by your mysterious persona. I am nauseated by the hundreds of millions of dollars you have convinced women to gladly surrender to you over the last two weeks.

Mr. Grey, it is time you were legitimately exposed for the scoundrel you truly are.

You are a poser, Mr. Grey.
You are weak and derive your power from preying on an innocent.

You are a coward, Mr. Grey.
You cloak your sexual escapades in secret contracts and shadows of fear.

You are a manipulator, Mr. Grey. 
You wield your tools of humiliation and degradation.

You are an abuser, Mr. Grey.
You have traded strength for control, tenderness for cruelty and pain, and love and affection for bondage and domination.

I won't wear your blindfold, Mr. Grey.  I see what you are doing to women, what you are doing to girls. When I look at you, I see shades of red.  Stop stalking my friends and family.  Stop brainwashing the masses, convincing them that you market love.  You need help, and using a young woman for your violent sexual pleasure does not qualify as therapy.  Guys like you in the real world aren't glamorous, they end up putting women in the hospital... or the morgue.

Authentic love. I am so thankful to have experienced what it really is.  I have been truly blessed to have married the true Christian.  A man who protects me and sacrifices for me.  A man who is strong, yet treats me with tenderness and sensitivity.  A man who leads instead of controls.  A man who has never struck me or tied me up, degraded or humiliated me.  A man who pursued me, won my heart, married me, and has loved me passionately and intimately for the past 21 years.  He is not the perfect Christian, and we have had our share of difficult seasons, but the more he chooses to surrender his life to Christ, the more he cherishes me and the better he loves me.   This is the love I want women to be able to experience.  This is what the women in this world are deserving of, and my heart breaks when I see them settling for something so demeaning.

My encouragement is this... 

Seek tender, sacrificial love, 

Seek gracious, mutually edifying respect, 

Seek a "Christian" who reflects the nature and character of Christ,

And live a passionate life,

Which mirrors the dignity and vulnerability and glory

You were created for and are meant to reveal.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Girl and Her Dog

While he looks like a lab, he's only about a foot tall.

Crisp and sunny, it was a beautiful fall afternoon in October.  We had no plans in particular for the Saturday afternoon... just a few errands up in town and spending some time together as a family. Costco would just be a quick visit for some fruit and a couple essentials.  Across the parking lot, a crowd was gathered.  Little fences had been erected, and a couple dozen small canines were running about in the enclosure in front of PetSmart.

"Oh, let's go look!" I casually said.  

"Ya!!" said the boys with sudden enthusiasm.

I had absolutely no intention of adopting a dog.  I am reasonable, and I research and plan things out.  I do not let dog rescues pull at my heartstrings.  At all!!  This was merely a fun little visit to "the zoo" that afternoon.  We had lost our 20+ year old leopard gecko, Lizzie,  a couple weeks earlier, and while we all missed her quirky, spotted little presence, we had not discussed getting any type of replacement reptile yet, let alone a dog.  For crying out loud,  the burial ceremony and eulogy next to the apricot tree had only been days ago.  No, this was just to maybe think about another pet for sometime in the future.

The dogs were cute and lively... various mixes of Dachshund, Terrier, Chihuahua, and other small breeds.  Some were being rescued and adopted, going home with their smiling new owners.  And then I saw him.  A small blonde, short-haired pup was up on a bench, curled into a blanket and taking a nap in the midst of all the chaos. His ears flopped forward, and he looked as though he was a yellow lab that got in the way of a shrink ray.  What happened to me next, was that I was instantly and intensely smitten.  

Could you resist this level of cuteness?  No, right?

"No, Linda!"  I scolded myself.  "You are going all on emotion here.  You did not come here today to adopt a dog, you are here for Costco!!  You are forgetting what it is like to have a puppy.  Do not pick that dog up.  Leave him right there on the bench where it is safe."

"Could I hold that one over there on the bench,"  I heard myself asking the pet attendant.  What?  Who said that?  If you hold him you will fall in love.  Stop.  Right now, before it is too late!!!  Stop already... don't do it!!!!!!

The next thing I knew, he was in my arms, snuggling his soft fur under my chin and licking my skin.  He was friendly and a bit tentative at the same time!  Patrick went to look for his stats, while this pup worked his wiles on my vulnerable heart.

"He is part Chihuahua and part Beagle.  Five months old,"  Patrick reported.  

Oh, no!!  I had always wanted a Beagle, for as long as I could remember.  No, I needed to be strong. One does not just get a Beagle and bring it home without any rational thought or discussion.  Take Sophie, for instance.  We thought about her and then prayed for her, and when the time was right, she found a place in our home.

"Should I fill out the paperwork," Patrick asked with his sly little grin.  

Paperwork??  Heavens no, paperwork!!  Was he crazy?  He went to fill out the paperwork anyway.  We never made it to Costco, as there were bowls, leash paraphernalia, a crate and dog bed to buy.  We were completely unprepared, and yet this little Cheagle mutt was suddenly going to join our family. 

The only way I can really describe what happened to me that afternoon was that I was stunned, completely at a loss for reason, and that I decided to receive a very unexpected gift.  A little gift who is also a clever escape artist. a lightning fast race horse, a bumbling clown, a ditsy surfer dude, and a very affectionate pint-sized companion.  The rest of my family refer to him as "mom's dog," and I protest, calling him the family dog, but I know they are right.

Sawyer.  Stilts.  Mr. Stretchy Pants.
It is not likely he will respond to any of these names...
but that is part of his charm.

His name is Sawyer.  It might have been, Scout, Brinkley, Skeeter, or Jack, but he is a lovable little scoundrel, and Sawyer just seemed to fit the best.  Sometimes he goes by "Stilts" and "Mr. Stretchy Pants," too.  He is my adorable, charming gift who completely surprised me one fall day.  I needed a chance encounter and a bit of crazy in my life, and  I'm thankful that my sweet husband gave me the leeway to think with my heart.  Every night Sawyer sits next to the couch and looks up at me with his chocolatey brown eyes.  I whisk him into my lap and he curls up into a little ball and falls asleep.

And I'm just so glad he's mine.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bad Mommy

Jason goofing around before the spots took over.

Jason, my 9-year-old who will always be my baby boy, was acutely ill last week.  In over fourteen years of parenting, I have never seen either of my kiddos so ill.  There was a deep cough that didn't seem very menacing, until it morphed into a 105+ degree fever, extreme fatigue, and a rash that covered his little body from head to toe.  I felt so helpless as I sat in the doctor's office, and he suddenly threw up on the floor.  Oh, this poor child!  What could be wrong with him?

Like many curious mom's might do in the event of their child's illness, I had Google'd "rash" and had come up with a myriad of terrible diseases and sicknesses.  My skin was crawling as I perused photos of red marks and bumps and spots of all kinds.  I got a very sick feeling in my gut when I read about the measles, especially having been made aware of a recent measles outbreak in December, at Disneyland.  I live in California.  I have also heard of children who have died from measles, so this was of concern.  I knew that it was definitely a disease to be avoided.  

"Could he get the measles even though he was vaccinated?" I wondered.

The doctor had the same idea, and said his rash looked quite measles-like.  Looking into his early vaccination record, she discovered that he hadn't had the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccination.  I felt sheer panic and terror.  Back when my kids were babies there had been a lot of speculation about MMR vaccines possibly having a link to autism.  My husband and I had decided to put them off a bit until my sons' language skills were more developed.  I thought that we had gone back and done the MMR way before kindergarten with Jason, just as we had done with Josh.  But we hadn't.  Somehow it had slipped by the doctor and the nurses... and me.

"My son could die, because I've made this mistake," I speculated, utterly dismayed. 

My stomach began to churn as the the nurse at the pathology lab drew his blood, which in time, would reveal to us whether or not Jason had the measles.  

"Has he been exposed to measles?  Has he been vaccinated?" she asked, her eyebrows raised in anticipation of my reply.

"No," I replied, with tears in my eyes, "I thought that he had been, but somehow it was missed."

She looked at me and shook her head slightly.  I felt so guilty and ashamed, and I wanted to sink into the tile floor and disappear.

Whether or not the nurse was passing any form of judgment, all I could hear in my head was, "You are a bad mommy!  You haven't done what is best for your child!"

As I was helping Jason get back to the car, he suddenly told me that his legs wouldn't work anymore, and before I knew it, he was collapsed in a heap on the sidewalk.  Thankfully, the nurse saw it happen and rushed out with a can of cold apple juice to hold on his neck in order to revive him.  I eventually got Jason settled in the van, and then I lost it.  

I silently prayed, "Oh God, what have I done?  I need your help.  My sweet boy needs your help.  I don't know what to do."  

After two very long days of watching and waiting and trying to keep Jason hydrated and comfortable, we heard the conclusive test results verifying Jason did not have the measles.  After confirming that he also didn't he have strep or a certain strain of flu, we concluded that the illness was some other type of menacing virus. Eventually, his rash cleared up and his temperature dropped, and we were out of the woods, so to speak.

Jason was going to be alright, and yet I still felt the heavy weight of accusation on my heart.  When people asked if Jason was ok, I didn't want to tell them that we suspected that he may have the measles.  I didn't want to hear the question... Wasn't he vaccinated?  I didn't want to hear anyone gasp when I had to say no. And the really ironic thing is, I don't think any of my friends would have judged me at all.  They probably would have encouraged me and comforted me, telling me that I hadn't tried to neglect my son's health on purpose, no matter what their particular stance on vaccinations might be.

I think that when it comes down to it, most moms truly want to do what they think is best for their children.  Granted, there are moms out there who are selfish, controlling, manipulative, neglectful, and/or just plain mean.  There are moms who need their mom card revoked for a while, or forever... but on the whole, we are a sisterhood that just wants to do our best at motherhood.  

Whether the subject is...

vaccinations:  to vaccinate or to not vaccinate, flu shots or no flu shots
school choice: public, private, or homeschooling
sleep training: crying it out or co-sleeping
food: organic, non-organic, gluten-free, processed or whole food, etc.
baby care: nursing or bottle-feeding, disposable or cloth diapers, etc.
or (fill in the blank), 

the list could go on indefinitely,

yet I know that most moms are just trying their very best to weigh their options, to consider their children, and to make the best decisions they can with the resources and information they have.  Most moms don't set out to bring harm to their children, yet it is so easy to listen to that little accusing voice that is trying to convince you that you are incompetent, and that you are somehow going to ruin your child's life forever.  You end up crying and praying on your closet floor, convinced that you should just raise the little white flag in surrender.  

During the midst of this ordeal, I told Jason how sorry I was that I had somehow missed the vaccination.  

"I'm so, so sorry, honey,"  I told him, tears spilling down my face.

"It's ok, you didn't know, Mom."  

Oh, the grace that can pour out from a child in response to a parent's humble apology.  Grace in little arms wrapped around your waist and in little eyes looking up at you with forgiveness and love.

And the grace that pours out from a God who specializes in second, third and fourth chances, and who is overflowing with wisdom which He is liberal in sharing with those who ask.

And, oh, the promise of a new day, to try this mothering thing again in light of a fresh new morning with a little more wisdom under the mommy belt, and a lot more respect for all the women you know who have learned to do this mommy job well.

Update:  Jason will be vaccinated on Monday!  Appointment is all set! :)

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