Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Don't Pray For Me

"Life is messy and people are messier." -Pastor George Ray

A few years ago I was driving a U-Haul with my one of my greatest, most special friends from Key West, FL back to the Motherland AKA Boston, MA.  As I was winding the box truck around bendy turns on a sub-highway in Pennsylvania I was overhearing her talk to her distraught daughter who was away at college and trying to get to the bottom of a mysterious rash without the aid of her present mother.  I was focused on the traffic and the scenery, my mind wandering in and out of day dreams when I heard her say, "At least you have your Christian friends to be there with you and help you with this."

She continued talk and my mind instantly processed that information into practical terms that I could describe to someone else.  What does it mean to be a "Christian friend?"  What is the difference?  Should there be one? What would it look like if the last question were true?  Thoughts started to spin.  I reflected on my friendship with my co-pilot on my current pilgrimage home.  I mentally filed evidence of a good Christian friendship versus a regular one or worse, a bad Christian friendship.  Oh, but maybe you don't want to know lest you be convicted but here it is anyway. 

The primary difference is active involvement.  For the women that I serve and mentor on a daily basis, it takes more than a just a phone call. It takes more than a canned response to things. It takes more than just, "I'll pray for you."  It is easy to say, isn't it?  When I say that I will pray for someone I mostly do but occasionally I forget and when I remember I burn with shame for letting it slip. I want to honor the request, of course.  Prayer is powerful, I don't wish to underestimate it at all. Still, how many times have we offered prayer when something tangible was needed?  Have we ever had the power to help with a need in some way and instead offered to pray for someone else to come through?  No, in order for a friendship to resemble that of Christ there needs to be skin in the game.  How involved did Jesus get with his friends and associates. Pretty personal if you ask me! 

Remember the woman caught in adultery.  Did He stand idly by the scene of a mob with rocks ready to hurl at this ashamed woman who'd been cast to the ground before them and say, "Hey, I'll pray for you?"  He got involved.  He stood at her side and defended her, because He should, because He could. He stood next to her even in the face of danger. That is love. 

It takes more than a warm sentiment to make a change to, to take a stand.  The work I do with women who are facing their unintended pregnancies and chosing adoption for their children is hard. It takes time, resources, tears, phone calls, late nights, sleepless nights, lots of prayer and a willingness to be there no matter what.  For a lot of them, I have been the only one in the whole world that they have ever been able to trust.  I want to honor that at all costs. 

Interested in this kind of work? Want to support what we do?  I do apppreciate your prayers. But if you are making a decision to just pray and withhold resources you know could help us, please don't pray for me.  Get involved. For where your heart is there your treasure will be also.

Monday, February 11, 2013

It's Just A Song

I sit here on day four of the great "Snow In of 2013" here in Boston, listening to the music on my iPhone and being grateful that my bored 6 year old is in bed and we can look forward to getting back to the normalcy of life for a busy single mom and a six year-old who loves Kindergarten as much as candy.

As I stared off into the abyss in front of me a song started playing into my ears.  It was the song I played during my husband's funeral service.  It was quite unorthodox to play in the sanctuary of a stuffy, moderately legalistic Baptist church but I didn't care at the time and I still don't.  It was given to me on a CD of music meant to lift me up in such a dark time, from my husband's faithful accountability partner and friend, J.  I remember listening intently to the songs that he brought me, stretching for any message, subliminal or otherwise that would help me understand my husband more. I grasped for any tiny straw that would help me make sense where to me there could be none.  He was gone and nothing I thought, said or did would change it.  The finality of God's sovereign will had been rubber stamped on my life.  No matter how I wished I could erase it, the indelible mark was there for all to see. 

The song was so powerful to me.  It was a plea, no a commitment to praise God when all seemed hopeless.  I tried, I really tried but in all honesty, I didn't want to.  I wanted Him to give back to me what He had, in my eyes, stolen and I knew that He wouldn't although I recognized that He could. 

Months went by of me trying to make sense of my life and find a balance. It was like trying to learn how to tightrope walk with Rollerblades on. The more I fought for control the more the rope swayed.  It was one day that I just decided to fall off, convinced that the learning wasn't worth it.  That was when I discovered that I was carrying Alex.

During my carrying I had to once again be faced with a God who not only stole my husband but sought to seemingly exact His revenge on my disobedience for having dared to look Him in the face and tell Him to "kiss off". I was dutifully fulfilling my obligations and being allowed to be held accountable for my actions, amidst my temporary insanity.  I can't remember a time when I was so amazingly down-trodden.  I was like a trampled rose on the sidewalk on a hot Summer day.  Left to wilt through the heat of a Key West Summer and my sadness I went to vacuum my car one day when the song came on the radio.  The words pierced my heart.  Before I realized what was happening I was on my knees next to my car with the driver's side door open wailing aloud with the car wash vacuum hose in hand. 

I had to acknowledge finally that God had not done anything to me at all.  Life has trials, sorrow, grief, and loss.  No one ever promised us that we'd get through our existence without it. In fact, quite to the contrary. The book of James in the bible assures us that we will have trials and of many kinds.  It is what we do with the trial that makes all the difference.  No, I chose my path and now I had to walk it all the way out.  It just didn't look like I thought it would.  In those moments of brokenness I turned back to see what could be left of my torn relationship with God.  I haven't been sorry for anything ever since. 

Just this month, in almost 4 years, is the first time that I have been able to listen to this song for what it is and see proof of hope in the lyrics. Where I used to be reduced to tears, I find clarity and assurance.  It doesn't haunt me any more.  It steadies me.  I hope you enjoy it.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday -Audio of my message

Hi All!

As some of you know, I was asked by Fifth Street Baptist Church to deliver the message of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday this year.  Here is the link to the sermon.  I hope you enjoy it.


My Best in Him,

Friday, January 4, 2013

How to Corrode Everything in Your Life

I've spent the afternoon reading an amazing book.  It's one of those books that you want to immediately put down, look around you for anyone who gazes your way and shout, "Hey! You really ought to read this."  Not every book is for everybody but I am sure that everyone suffers the effects of loss to varying degrees.  The chances are, you thought of your most painful one as soon as you were through reading the last sentence.  Don't worry, I'll tell you its title. Be patient.

If you are wondering why I seem to write a lot about loss it's because how one deals with it be it the loss of a spouse, a career or a child through death or otherwise is the linchpin for everything else going forward.  I have also lost much in a short time span so loss is a daily part of my life.  No matter what kind of day I have, no matter what new things come my way, there will always be a quiet moment that brings them to mind.  I don't however, dwell on them.  Ever. 

There are times for mourning, grieving, asking "why me?" and thinking life is too hard or or not fair.  I have had them all and more than 100 times.  Believe me, I've shed tears and felt excruciating emotional pain.  Don't get confused, my current disposition has nothing to do with lack of severity in dealing with anything I've been through.  But there is a big difference between me and some others who burn with sadness and despair even years after their life has changed.  The polarity is not a coincidence.  The opposite of me is a decision or rather an assumption.  That thing is "if only".

"If only" tries to sprout no matter who you are.  In those quiet moments I talked about earlier are the conversations I have in my head that leave me asking, "I wonder what Greg would think about this?" or other things like, "I wish he could deal with this." The trailing, silent phrase that always gets stated in parentheses in mind is "if only..."  There are moments where I wonder if I really could have been mentally capable of being a single parent of two.  My wondering would paint me as a happy mom "just doing her best" and imperfectly, yet happily making the best of life with two smiling, giggling little girls.  Lie.  Taking any time to sit with those fantasies in my mind of a perfect world in which everyone behaves without flaw, everything matches up in just the right way and no one seems to bear any ill effects of a life with a single mom who works full-time with two children, neither of who have a father in their lives is a ridiculous delusion that needs to be stuck in a food processor until it is emulsified into the blundering mess it would have been.  Yes, I am better now. I am capable but the damage I would have done to two little lives besides my own could have been scarring.  No better efforts I could have made in the future would have erased those marks on the psyches of my children.  I am grateful that neither one of them knew that trauma.

I can't take any time at all to go about thinking that something would have been better another way. No matter how much I wish that certain someone(s) could be in my life and that I would be "happier" or more complete is a dangerous notion that will eat away at my soul until reality becomes trivial and my fantasy becomes the only thing worth pursuing. The harsh truth is this. I don't really know at all if person "X" back in my life would have any effect at all on my level of life satisfaction, never mind bliss. There is always an allure for the things we don't have. There is a place in our brain that kicks in when we aren't happy with life in general that boots up our database of things lost that wants to tell us that they are why we are not happy. Wrong.  Even if it were so, they aren't here.  Do I then throw up a flag in defeat and live a life of desperate waiting in vain? What about the people in my life now? What about them?  Do they deserve to be left with half a person who can neither be truly grateful that they are what I have because I am always silently wishing for someone else nor present because my mind is living in constant fantasy of what my life should be like?  What a tragedy. 

No, 'tis better to admit what is.  The situations cannot be changed no matter what.  To not accept reality and move on robs me of any true sense of well-being and burns away at those bridges to other people in my life.  I could think of nothing worse than to hear from my daughter after years of suffering with a mother who longed for the ones that she lost that she never felt truly loved or wholly appreciated for all that she is because she wasn't "Alex".  How could I stomach to hear from a frustrated future mate that he could never live up to Greg.  If I want to release myself and let others love and enjoy me then I have to be unafraid to let go of "if only" because it will never be. 

There is such freedom in letting go and being okay to say I can be me again.  I look forward to the future with an eagerness for what can rise from my ashes.  In fact, I have already experienced much healing and triumph. That which does not kill you will make your stronger, of this I am sure but "if only" corrodes the soul.