Welcome to my musings...

After a 3 year hiatus from blogging (too busy parenting teens to have time to write about it!), I have decided to revive my blog. I look forward to sharing my perspective on mothering as I am at the tail end of my child-raising journey. Nothing could be more beautiful, more full of joy and pain and anguish, than the divine calling of motherhood. I pray my musings will bless you on your own journey, and that you will feel encouraged and equipped!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Little Lane's Legacy

Parenting is hard.  Really hard.  And so we second guess ourselves, and our kids, and each other.  It’s hard to make all the right decisions, and to be vigilant every moment, and to know what to do, all the time.  The pressure can make us weary, and make us doubt ourselves, and even make us make mistakes.  I know I’m not the perfect parent, and I suspect you’ll admit that you aren’t, either.  So why?  Why on earth are we so hard on each other, and so quick to hurl judgments at each other?  It seems like lately, every time there is a news story about something happening to a child, it is quickly followed by a hateful flurry of social media condemning the parents, even if all the facts of the story are not yet known.

Today, my heart broke a little, as I read the story of the precious 2 year old little boy who lost his life in an alligator attack in Orlando.  This family was on vacation, at the most “magical place on earth”, enjoying a respite from “real life”.  And then “real life” came crashing in like an uninvited guest, destroying their days of magic, and changing their reality forever.  This child was simply wetting his tiny feet a little at the edge of the lake at their resort, with his parents close by.  He wasn’t being neglected, or abused, or mistreated.  He was just having fun.  And in a matter of seconds, his little body was snatched by an alligator, and even with his parents RIGHT THERE, they could not save him.  And joy turned to mourning, and laughter to tears.  The worst thing a parent can ever experience was now their reality.  And when they wake up tomorrow, and the next day, and the next month, and the next year, that reality will still be a wound in their hearts that won’t completely heal this side of heaven.  And that just breaks my heart.

But you know what else breaks my heart?  That these parents, in the midst of their worst nightmare, didn’t find comfort in the kindness of people, but were instead skewered on the sharp judgments of others, who weren’t even there.  Instead of compassion, they were met with hatred.  In perusing some of the comments from readers on various news sites, my stomach turned.  The parents were called all sorts of names that I won’t repeat here, some called for their arrest, and much venom was spewed as this tragedy was discussed.  Thankfully, there were others who spoke with kindness, but the number of people who spoke hatefully was quite significant.  And, unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident.  If you’ve followed the story of the little boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo in Cincinnati last month, you’ve probably seen even worse, even though that story ended with the child being safely rescued (although at the cost of the gorilla’s life).  I think these are simply symptomatic of the kind of world we have built…where judgment prevails over mercy and vitriol trumps compassion. 

So, let’s don’t let little Lane’s legacy be just alligator safety or more rules and regulations, but in his honor, let’s make the world just a little nicer.  Let’s pray for each other, instead of lord it over each other.  Let’s extend the hand of compassion instead of the pointing finger.  Let’s be quick to offer grace instead of fly to judgment.  Let’s think before we speak, and like Thumper from Bambi, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

Sunday, November 22, 2015

When Pollyanna Gets Depressed

During my childhood, there was a popular movie by Disney called “Pollyanna”.  It was based on a 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter and was a wonderful story of a little girl named Pollyanna.  After being orphaned, she goes to live with her stern, spinster aunt, who doesn’t quite know how to cope with Pollyanna’s sunny outlook on life.  When bad things befall Pollyanna, she always manages to see the good in something; for instance, when her aunt sticks her in a cold and barren attic room, she raves about the beautiful view out of the high windows.  When being sent to the kitchen for a dinner of bread and milk with the servant Nancy as punishment, Pollyanna thanks her aunt profusely, for she loves bread and milk and Nancy!  All of my life, I’ve been what most people would term a “Pollyanna”, and this was a favorite movie of mine as a child.  I usually see the good in people and am able to find some joy in most situations.  On those overwhelmingly bad days, I’ve been known to say, “Things always look better in the morning.”  When faced with difficult seasons, I quote my mother, “This, too, shall pass!”  Almost always, after a good night’s sleep (and maybe a little chocolate!), things look better and my hope and joy are restored.

So what happens when Pollyanna gets depressed?  What happens when anxiety takes over the heart and leaves her feeling helpless and discouraged?  In the movie, this happens when Pollyanna is paralyzed after she is hit by a car and loses the use of her legs.  She becomes depressed, and it takes the people she has affected with her sunshiny attitude to remind her that there is always blessing to be found, even in the darkest of circumstances. She is eventually restored to her previous self and returns to finding the light in the darkest places.

The last year or so has been a time of great trial for me.  While walking through a difficult court battle with a young man that our family has adopted, I found myself unable to sleep at night, feeling anxious and panicky during the day, and always waiting for the next bad thing to happen.  While Jesse fought for partial custody of his little girl, his ex-girlfriend put us through unimaginable hell.  We found ourselves constantly looking over our shoulders, wondering what she would pull next.  We had no desire to hurt her; we just wanted to share in the raising of this precious little girl, whom we all love with all our hearts.  Yet every attempt we made at reconciliation was met with hostility and hatred, deceit and lies.  To top that off, my health problems increased.  While I was already dealing with fibromyalgia and a persistent headache (that literally never goes away) caused many years ago by an inept sinus surgeon, suddenly I was plagued with stomach difficulties and insomnia.  To add to my suffering, relentless anxiety and a bit of depression became my constant companions.  Suddenly, Pollyanna could no longer find the light.  Every day became a struggle to just keep moving, let alone be positive.  I thought this would end when the court trial was finally over, but it has persisted for many months.

During this time, my oldest daughter got married.  While we absolutely love our new son-in-law, this has definitely been a difficult change for me (see last week’s post, “Of Wedding Bells and Letting Go”).  Our daughter graduated from college, got married and moved an hour and a half away all within two weeks’ time.  Suddenly, I felt like I was drowning.  

Many prayers have been prayed, asking God to rescue me from the anxiety and chronic pain.  Seemingly, He is silent.  Does this mean that He doesn’t care, or that He doesn’t hear me?  All I can do is cling to what I know to be true…God is always good, and He always hears my cry.  He will be what sustains me, no matter how bad my physical body feels, or how desperately I want to escape this anxiety that never lets up.  Psalm 94:18 says, “When I said ‘My foot is slipping,’ your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”  While I hate what this is doing to me, and the effect it has on my family (who have been thrown off balance by the loss of Pollyanna in the house), I cling to the One who can heal me and who can enable me to be refined by this painful process.  I long for the day that is foretold in Malachi 4:2, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”  I know that Jesus is my ultimate Healer and that He alone has the peace and joy that I miss.  For those of you struggling with the same issues, I encourage you to place your hope in Him.  No matter how good or how bad life here on earth can be, we were made for something better.  Living with pain, or with the inner turmoil caused by anxiety and depression, is not going to last forever.  Someday, He will return for us, and take us home, where we belong.  Our pain will at last be healed and our inner demons will be silenced.  Our joy will be complete and our peace will be beyond all understanding.  I pray that God will choose to heal me before that day, but if not, I know it WILL happen someday, and that is what I cling to on those dark days when I feel I cannot cope another minute.  

And after all, maybe things WILL look better tomorrow…and maybe Pollyanna hasn’t abandoned me completely!  But in the meantime, I know that I am safe in the Father’s arms, and that He will carry me when I can’t take another step.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Of Wedding Bells and Letting Go

Three months ago I watched with a smile on my face and an ache in my heart as my firstborn drove off with her groom in the rumble seat of her grandpa’s 1935 Ford to begin her new life as Mrs. Plaza.  She was the most radiant bride ever in her beautiful Audrey Hepburn-esque wedding gown and her groom absolutely glowed with love for her as she walked down the aisle on her daddy’s arm.  I tried desperately to imprint every moment on my heart as the minutes flew by in a whirlwind of activity.  My beautiful Molly and I managed to steal a moment in the dressing room so I could tell her how precious she is to me and how very proud of her I am.  Our eyes welled up with tears as we embraced, and I felt my heart shatter as I contemplated her never coming back to live with us again.  Who knew that one day could hold so much joy and so much pain simultaneously?

I’ve tried in vain for weeks to write about that day and to capture all the emotions in my heart.  Every time I sat down and faced the blank screen, my heart froze up and I couldn’t find a way to process all the feelings.  It’s been a journey of grief and acceptance, sorrow and joy.  As I’ve watched my precious daughter adjust to married life, seen her radiant face as she looks at her new husband with love, the grief of letting her go has mellowed into deep joy that she is so happy and doing so well in her new life.  I’ve had to daily remind myself that this is what we raised her for…to be released into the world to make a difference for God’s kingdom.  God didn’t gift us with these precious children to be selfish with them, but to train them up as warriors to be released into the world.  Holding on to them instead of releasing them is like stringing a bow and arrow, and then refusing to release the arrow.  How futile, how ineffective would that be?  Life is not about holding tightly to what God has given us, but about blessing others with our bounty.  

When I mistakenly set out five plates on the dinner table and my heart constricts, I remember…Molly is now blessing others at her own table.  She is a marvelous cook, blessing her husband and those they reach out to and invite into their new home.

When I walk past her (almost) empty room and the tears threaten to flow, I remember…Molly is now in a different city, and God will be using her to impact the people she meets in her apartment complex, her new church, and her new job.

When I get a text from her telling me her new adventures as a postpartum nurse and a pain of missing her comes over me, I remember…all those days of encouraging her not to give up, all those prayers for her have led to her being a fantastic nurse, one who can care for their bodies and their hungry souls.

When I find her little sister crying in her room because she misses Molly so intensely, and my own tears pour, I remember…we have raised a beautiful young lady who is a great example to her sister and to others, and she is caring enough to keep in close contact with Lexi by phone.  All those days of reminding them, “Your sister will be your best friend for life, when all the others have faded away.  Treat each other with love and respect.”  And now they do.  Watching Lexi serve as Molly’s beloved maid of honor was a beautiful thing to see…those sisters who often fought over nothing, now consider each other their very best friend.

And while the tears sometimes still flow (but not every day like they did at first), there is a healing quality in them.  In the silence of Molly’s room, I hear a whisper, “Well done, good and faithful servant”, and my heart finds peace.  In raising a godly young woman, who walks in the ways of the Lord, her daddy and I have accomplished a piece of the mission handed to us by our Heavenly Father.  We have released a mighty arrow, honed and made ready by her Creator.  Where she goes and what she accomplishes for the Kingdom will give us even greater joy as we watch and continue our job as prayer warriors behind the scenes.  And while my heart still grieves for the precious times behind us now, it is tempered with peace and joy as we celebrate with Molly and our wonderful new son-in-law, whom we love beyond measure.  Go forth, baby girl, and conquer.  Your daddy and I love you and miss you, but bless you in your journey and can’t wait to see where God leads you and Sam.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Answer Has Come

Picture with me, for a moment, what life was like for the Jewish people 2000 years ago.  They were living under Roman rule.  While technically, they were “free”, in reality, the Romans had great control over many aspects of their life.  The Romans pronounced that all people had religious freedom, political freedom, and freedom of thought, yet they maintained strict control.   The Jewish self-government reported to the authority of the local Roman government, which reported to Rome. They were heavily taxed by the Roman government and there was a great disparity between the rich and poor.  The Jews had great contempt and hatred for the Romans…they were definitely unwilling subjects of the Roman rule.  The Jews believed in ONE God, while the surrounding culture believed in many gods.  The Romans taught that all religions could live compatibly with one another in peace.  (Hmmm, I wonder if they used the words tolerance and diversity?)  The Jews were anxiously awaiting their promised Messiah, whom they believed would come and save them both spiritually and politically.  They thought that the Saviour that God had promised would come and relieve them of the foreign oppression they had suffered under for centuries.  I’m sure they pictured some great political leader who would come and right all the wrongs they had suffered and topple the Roman Empire.   It had also been 400 years since God had sent them a prophet to remind them of His love for them.  It was a time of darkness for them…a time of clinging to the hope they had that God would break His silence and send them relief from their sufferings.  

Does this sound at all familiar?  It’s been less than a month since our country held its national election.  I know as my family sat that night and watched the results come in, our spirits sank.  We watched as our nation voted for people and policies that are diametrically opposed to our beliefs as Christians.  What began as a party atmosphere at our house ended with us on our knees, begging God to change our country and bring us back to Him.  We grieved as it became obvious how far our country has fallen from its God-fearing foundation.  As we processed our emotions that night, God made something very clear to me.  My hope is not, and never will be, in a political leader.  It is not in laws, or government, or any man.  Like the Jews, we may be unwilling subjects of a government that protects the right to kill our unborn babies, but not those babies’ right to live.   We may groan under the heavy taxation enforced on us by that same government.  We may hold our belief in the One God as sacred, while our culture tries to teach us that all religions are equal and that there are many ways to spiritual fulfillment.   We may imagine, and even pray for, a great political leader to rise up and rescue us from this downhill slide into a country that will eventually lose God’s hand of blessing.  Just like the Jews of 2000 years ago, we may feel a sense of despair and hopelessness.

BUT, we have one advantage over the Jewish people of long ago.  We know that the answer to our problems has already come.  We know that the Messiah is not going to be a Republican or a Democrat or a member of the Tea Party, but the very Son of God himself.  We know that 2000 years ago, on a night much like this one, God heard the cries of the Jews who begged Him for salvation, and He answered.  Not with a warrior, nor a political champion, but with a Child.  He answered with the cry of a tiny baby, born to a poor family, to a mother and father willing to be obedient to all that God had asked of them.   He gave them the greatest gift of all time…the gift of His very own son, sent to bring hope and peace and joy into a world full of turmoil and anguish.   Let’s read the most beautiful story in all of history…

Luke 2:1-20  In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth, peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

I know that this time of year, it has become almost impossible to be still and really contemplate what is truly important at Christmas.  We bustle around, decorating and shopping and baking and attending our children’s many Christmas recitals and plays and concerts.  We worry and fret about finding the perfect gifts for our extended families, and getting the Christmas cards out on time, and we have so many expectations of what the perfect Christmas will look like, that we completely forget to sit and be still and gaze at the baby in the Manger who came to give up His very life to bring us hope and reconciliation and forgiveness.  Many times we get through the Christmas season and are left feeling empty and disappointed, as though the entire season passed us by without our having a moment to enjoy it.  

Christmas is NOT about all the activities and parties and things that distract us, but about one simple thing:  a tiny baby, come to earth to give us the greatest gift of all, HOPE for a future in heaven with our Lord.  This year, I hope that you will not just celebrate Christmas, but that you will find a way to celebrate Advent…the coming of our Lord.  This advent is not just something that happened in the past, when Jesus was born.  In celebrating Advent, we celebrate Christ’s coming to earth as a baby, His continuous presence as He reigns in our hearts and walks with us through our struggles, and His future second coming, when He will take us to Heaven to live with him forever.   This is the true story of Christmas, and it is one that gives us a real reason to celebrate this year!  If we can keep this truth foremost in our thoughts, then we can find Him in all that we do this next month.  We can do more than just celebrate one special day…we can anticipate eternity.  We can see him in the symbols of Christmas:  His everlasting love symbolized by the evergreen trees, a reminder that He is the light of the world when we see the pretty Christmas lights, the forgiveness of our sins thru his blood, shed on the cross, in the color red that is everywhere this time of year, and a reminder of  His perfect gift to us every time we give or receive a present.  No matter what you face this Christmas season, whether it is serious illness or missing a loved one or a broken relationship that desperately needs mending, or just plain busyness and distraction, please remember that absolutely nothing can separate you from the greatest love ever offered to man.  Romans 8:37-39 says, “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.’   Did you catch that?  “Nothing in all creation”…no matter what circumstances you are facing this year or how heavy your heart may feel, absolutely nothing can separate you from God’s love for you, expressed in the gift of His son.

This Christmas, when you see these three words, remember that Jesus came to bring us JOY (by setting us free from our sins), HOPE (of an eternity in heaven with Him), and PEACE (because we can never be separated from His love, no matter our circumstances).  Let’s eagerly anticipate His return while we celebrate this very special season.  Romans 15:13 says,  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”   Now, that’s not a typical Christmas verse, but doesn’t it express what we should be experiencing this time of year?  I encourage you to purpose right now, before the season really begins, to set aside just a few minutes a day to sit quietly and think about a Saviour who came to earth as a baby to bring you salvation, and who will return some day to take you home.

I’d like to close with a link to my very favorite Christmas hymn, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”.  It expresses such a longing for Jesus to come and never fails to bring me to tears.  May our hearts be filled with such a longing this Christmas, and may we experience His hope, peace, and joy in a new and amazing way this Christmas.