I remember the details like it was yesterday. They are ingrained in my memory, stamped and etched in a place of perpetual recall. While I do not remember my exact age, I estimate I was either in fifth or sixth grade. It was a weekend visit to my father’s house that first exposed me to the world of pornography.
It was the summer before my son’s freshman year in high school, and he had one request of me: “Mom, can I join the football team?”
I remember the moment so clearly. I was a mom of three small boys ages 4, 3, and 1. It was a beautiful spring day so the boys and I packed up the stroller to walk down to our park. As the older boys ran and jumped and played, I pushed my giggling little guy on the baby swings. Not meaning to eavesdrop, but being too close to avoid hearing, I listened in on a conversation between two moms.
Of late, the news has been dominated with story after story of accused sexual impropriety and misconduct. It seems that with each passing day another politician, celebrity, or public figure falls from grace. While the depravity of man in general does not take me by surprise, a naive populace does. I find myself a bit dumbfounded as I hear of the outrage and shock that people have expressed at some of the recent revelations. Please understand clearly: I do not condone such behavior. It is wrong and reprehensible. But, my question is this: should this trend be surprising?
My boys were so excited as they anticipated the end of the week. Their good friend was coming over to hangout and sleep over. There would be chess matches and football games, talk of sports, and a bit more football. Their hands and fingers would intertwine as they greeted. Their arms would embrace each other as they departed. Friends.
As the events in Charlottesville unfolded that same weekend, I would steal small glimpses of the images on the computer as the boys came in and out of the house. When I knew that they would be occupied for a bit, I turned on the television to see with greater clarity the events that were transpiring. I was saddened beyond words, and I struggled as I attempted to try and understand how some could hold so much hate within their soul.
As the sweaty brood of boys crashed through the front door, I quickly turned the television off. They ran into the kitchen for water and snacks, then proceeded to collapse in the living room. As I listened in as they described their football game at the high school’s new field, I couldn’t help but study the faces of the boys ever so closely. I took note of something that I always knew was there but never really thought about: the stark contrast of their skin.
We are white. Their friend is African-American. I can’t begin to tell you how it pains me to even type those words here, how it literally hurts for me to separate these boys, these friends, into categories for the purpose of this post. Our family views race as an expression of beauty and uniqueness from our Most Awesome Creator. The Lord draws no lines, there is no separation, no difference in value or equality among man in His sight. Man looks at the outward, yet God, looks at the heart. We have chosen to do the same. I know that our attempts have failed at times.
As the weekend came to a close and the boys said their goodbyes, my curiosity was piqued. Do the boys even regard each other’s skin color as a difference? I decided to find out and asked my friend to do the same with her son (age 14). So we set out to question the boys as to what similarities and differences the boys have. As I sat down with each of my sons (ages 17, 15, and 12) in private, I took note of their answers. I waited. Would one of them even bring up race or color? Would their friend?
No one did.
They noted differences in age, in where they lived, in the grade they were in, the sports they liked, the teams they supported, and the foods they enjoyed. They identified similarities in faith, the fact that they were all homeschooled, and in their love of sports and competition. Friends. They are simply friends, and that’s all that matters to them.
Oh, if the world were more childlike.
So, the boys and I sat down and talked about the real purpose behind my questioning. We discussed the events in Virginia. Although it was likely lacking, I did my best to discuss racism. Then one of my boys piped up,”But, mom, that stuff doesn’t happen today.” And yet again, I find myself in that terrible place as a mom where I take away a bit more of their innocence, where I wipe away their “rose-colored-glasses” view of the world. But this is their world, and I will soon be releasing them into it as they make their own way. They must know, they simply must, because if they don’t know the truth, how can they be the difference?
That afternoon the face of racism became a bit more personal to my boys. I forced them to imagine how their friend would feel when encountered with such senseless hatred. In all honesty, they grappled over why some would harbor such hatred based on skin color. It’s just something they can’t understand. As a mom, I am thankful that they can’t relate to that kind of hatred. Yet, they must be sensitive to the fact that it is present and that it does affect people’s lives. They must be willing to stand up against it, to say something without hesitation, lest their silence be taken for acceptance.
I wish that could be the end of the story. I wish that everyone would just replace hate with love. But, there is sin and depravity and brokenness in the heart of man, and ultimately, the only solution is Christ. On this side of heaven, the battle will rage on. Unfortunately, it will always exist and there will likely be witnesses to and victims of more hate-filled behavior. How do we stop it? How do we change the course?
Well, we start at home.
We are honest at home. We discuss the difficult matters. We talk about how each of us can be that much needed difference. We learn about the real story of history. We think outside of our homogeneous neighborhood and town. We expand our personal borders to include those who may be different than us. We share a phone call, an embrace, a meal. We make sure that through our front doors “sameness” is not the only guest. We fill our yards with the beauty that is color. We take a stand, a visible and audible one. We talk about it with those who are affected instead of pretending there is no need for dialogue. We acknowledge when we fall short or when we succumb to hidden prejudices.
Imagine if we all did this?
It was Mother’s Day two years ago. My mom had come to my home for dinner. We exchanged flowers and cards with one another. As I pulled my card from its envelope and read the inside, I paused.
That’s my mother’s name. She had signed her card to me with her name, not mom.
It was that moment…the moment that I realized that my mother no longer knew who I was.
Since that time I have been going through the motions of mourning the loss of my mother. Although she is still with us in body, she has passed away emotionally and cognitively long ago. It has been a long, slow progression. Through the years her forgetfulness and disorientation have eventually given way to panic and fear as everything and everyone around her have transformed into strangers.
Dementia has stolen my mother, has swept her away, has emptied her of everything but breath. Its arms hold her, not in comfort, but in prison. Dementia has snatched her sight and clouded her vision. It replaces the faces of loved ones with the visages of foreigners who are aliens in her land. Like a thief in the night, dementia comes and ransacks, raids, and pillages memories, names, faces. It drains motivation, will, and life leaving only the comfort of a wing chair, a wall, and a world of silence. Dementia has robbed the world of a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor.
Dementia has taken so much from my mother…from us… and left behind so little. All that remains is a shell, a reminder of the life that once was.
As I was working on this post, the Lord laid on my heart a little object lesson of sorts. It was a much needed reminder for me.
I’ve always loved the ocean. There is a calmness in the sound of the waves, a serenity in the water lapping over your feet. The refreshing ocean breeze seems to infuse one with peace. My favorite moments at the beach are spent combing the sand for shells. I’ve always admired the colors and shapes of each one. They are little treasures that the ocean brings forth and the handiwork of the Lord. I’m always sure to bring home shells from each beach excursion we have. My prize find was a shell that I picked up on the Gulf Coast of Florida: a Lightning Whelk. While not large in size (it only fits within the palm of my hand), this shell is completely intact with brilliant colors and stunning patterns. I remember finding the shell tumbling in the tide. I snatched it up and ran to my family like a little child; I was so excited to share my treasure.
As each of us was examining the shell, I explained to my then young boys how that shell had once held life within its curved walls. That shell was a beautiful home for a creature of the sea. But in the cycle of life, the creature either moved out in search of a larger shell, or most likely, was eaten or died. What remained was an outer shell, beautiful and vibrant, yet fragile and lacking life.
That empty shell is much like my mom. Even though the mom that I have known continues to fade away, even though living life has been replaced with mere existence, there is still beauty to be found in the shell that remains. While my mom may no longer recognize my face or know me to be her daughter, I can choose to look past that and opt to remember the life that once was and try to honor the life that still is.
So this Mother’s Day I will choose to not allow dementia to steal the day. I will allow it to remind me that all life is precious, that all life is important, that all life has purpose. I will use it to remind myself that my mom is a child of God and that He loves her dearly. I will hold fast to the knowledge that dementia doesn’t take Him by surprise.
They were there to gather donations to fill the shelves of a local food pantry. The boys, dressed in their troop uniforms, were greeting customers as they entered the grocery store. Each patron received a flyer detailing what items were needed and then were sent on their way with a smile.
Many gave generously that day. They maneuvered the aisles, their thoughts on those less fortunate, on those who were in need of even the most basic of supplies. One cart after another was filled. Cars were loaded with bright yellow shopping bags. Many made cash donations. It was a good day…a very good day. The kind of day that renews your hope in humanity a bit.
How encouraging it was to see a group of young men working to benefit others, working to meet the tangible needs of those they may never meet face to face, may never speak to, may never know. It was good to see their excitement, good to see their zeal, good to see their hard work. It was also good to see the generosity of the local people. They freely gave. Some gave much, others gave little, but all gave.
That evening, my husband, who was assisting the troop that day, told me about an interesting encounter that he had earlier that day. A middle-aged man had approached him during the course of the food drive. After asking how much longer the boys would be working, the man made this comment:
“I will be back in just a bit. I have some expired food at home that I’ve been looking to get rid of. I’ll bring it back to donate”
My first instinct was to ask my husband if he was kidding. He’s known to be a jokester. But no sly smile crossed his face; no elfish grin emerged. He was serious.
In all honesty, I instantly judged, criticized, and condemned this unknown man. How insensitive and callous he was. How blind he was to the needs of others. He saw nothing wrong with tossing his leftovers, his expired goods, his garbage bound food, to those who had the simplest yet greatest need. Why not just go into the store and pick up a can of vegetables instead? Why not simply walk past the collection sight like many others did that day? Why would he offer less than his best?
One year has come and gone. And as the troop prepares for this weekend’s food drive, I am reminded of that man. With knee jerk reactions and condemnation put aside, I turned my gaze inward. Was I any different than that man? Was I willing to give less than my best to others? I didn’t have to ponder for long.
I remembered the time that I was rummaging through my boys old clothes. I wanted to clear out everything that no longer fit or was in poor condition. I systematically sorted the clothes into two piles. One pile contained clothing that was still in good condition; I had planned to pass these pieces along to a friend. The second pile was filled with everything else: stains, tears, wear, fraying. I must admit that I bagged up that second pile of clothes and dumped them into a collection box. I never gave thought to the young man that would be wearing that stained shirt or the woman who would be modeling those frayed pants, or the child who would be dressed in rags. I gave them my garbage and never thought otherwise.
I was no different than that man.
Imagine if I had simply gone to the store and picked up a new piece of clothing…tags still on. It wouldn’t need to be fancy or expensive. I’m a great bargain shopper. Surely I could have picked up something nice for merely a few dollars. I’m sure we could have forgone a bag of chips that week or a cup of coffee. Imagine the reaction of some one in need, someone who likely never has worn a new piece of clothing. Imagine them, imagine the look on their face and the swell in their heart. I wish I could have retrieved my less than best bag and substituted it with one new item. I can’t look back, but I can look ahead.
Keeping the best for ourselves is nothing short of selfish and completely out of step with how the Lord wants us to live our lives. The Lord who gives abundantly, who showers us with blessing upon blessing, who provides for each and every need, has not created us to live selfish, self-centered lives:
- And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:16
- My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12
- …not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:4
- Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done. Proverbs 19:17
- The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor. Proverbs 22:9
- Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13
- You must present as the LORD’s portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.’ Numbers 18:29
Give of your best and nothing less.
As parents it is natural to contemplate what paths our children will take. We look at their strengths and weaknesses and speculate what the future will hold. We imagine how their lives will unfold. We hope for smooth sailing, straight roads, and few bumps along the way. We pray for health and success, safety and provision, triumphs and victories. Down deep, we hope for ease and often pray for it expecting God to work within our pre-approved framework. Continue reading “Are You Willing to Let the Lord Write Your Child’s Testimony?”
Yesterday I opened the refrigerator door and found this:
I’ll give you a brief moment to locate the problem (although I am confident that you saw it immediately).
- Too many eggs? Yes, but not the problem.
- Refrigerator way too organized…kind of like it was staged? Well, yes. I did indeed tidy up my fridge knowing that I’d be posting a photo. But still, not the problem.
- Way too many vegetables? One can never have too many fresh vegetables!
- Aloe Juice, really? Yes, it’s great for an upset stomach.
This is the problem:
The guilty party, whose identity is still unknown to me, decided that instead of finishing all of the orange juice, they would kindly leave a mere sip for the next poor soul. This is kind of a big deal in our home. I rarely purchase juice, so to have orange juice in the refrigerator is an event. To have this amount of orange juice left in the container is a crime.
I imagine that some of you are shaking your head in agreement. You’ve experienced the nearly empty milk container, the crumbs left in the bottom of the cereal box, and the ice cream container with 1/4 teaspoon left. How frustrating it can be when we are left feeling unsatisfied!
I believe that the frustration that develops from these incidents has little to do with juice, cereal, or ice cream. The frustration comes from the fact that someone thought that the next person to come along would be satisfied with little. They believed that the left over scraps would be just enough for someone else to get by with. Somehow that person was content with filling their cup to capacity, while leaving the next person’s cup nearly empty. The real root of our frustration is the selfishness of the other party.
Staring at that nearly empty orange juice container got me thinking. How often do I leave little for the ones I love? It’s likely more than I may realize.
In a time of full schedules and over-commitment, where our time is portioned out into neat bundles, we can have the tendency to push our loved ones to the last vacancy on the list. We use the little spare time that we do have and selfishly cling onto it often filling it with mindlessness and nonsense. Are we filling our cup to the brim, but leaving nothing but crumbs for those around us? Our spouse, our children, and yes, most often our Lord, are left with the remnants, the bits and pieces of what we decide to leave them with. Somehow we believe the lie that they will be satisfied with the little we give. Somehow we envision that a relationship can flourish and thrive when we leave those we love most with the smallest bit of us.
This is an area that I have been greatly convicted about in my own life. I can spend far too much time on the computer. Much of my time is spent doing things that I must do: preparing for school, doing lesson plans, planning activities for some of my boys’ groups, and running our produce co-op. I try my best to work on those things early in the morning or late at night. But if I am honest with myself, there are times that I can get distracted from the work at hand.
Distractions can lead us down a road of cute puppy videos, gluten free recipes, silly quizzes, and games. Nothing satisfying. Nothing of significance. All void of meaning. Distractions take us away from what is most important. Distractions rob those around us. Distractions announce our priorities without us uttering a word. Distractions flat out can waste our precious time.
I completely understand that a balance needs to be found in life. Work does indeed need to be completed. Errands do need to be run. And, yes indeed, you do need to find a bit of down time to relax, rest, and recharge.
The problem rests in our habits, in the everyday patterns we form. Is checking your email and browsing online taking priority over prayer and time in the Word? Are tweeting and texting causing you to tell your child, “Just one more minute,” for the fifth time in a row? Is a good book or just one more chapter replacing a goodnight snuggle with your spouse? Occasionally? Or, everyday?
I am rather confident that if each of us really evaluated our day and honestly looked at how we spend our time, we could identify areas where change is warranted. Certainly we could make a list of things that can wait. We could prioritize and make time for the things that truly matter. We can make sure that our loved ones are not feasting on leftovers.
The other day hubby and the boys were playing football. I thought that this would be the opportune time to complete this post, a post that has been sitting in my draft file for nearly six weeks. So I got to work. After typing a mere two sentences, my older son came inside and asked, “We’re walking down to the high school track; want to come.”
I paused before I opened my mouth. There was a huge part of me that simply wanted to get this post done and finished. But then I realized that my sixteen year old son had just requested to hang out with his mother. Really, do I even need to think about this? Not at all. I closed out the post, strapped on my sneakers, and enjoyed the beautiful weather and fresh air my family.
Just this evening, as the boys were finishing up showers and such, I sat down to put the finishing touches on this post. Shortly after I sensed someone behind me. It was my youngest son.
“Wow, you finished up quickly,” I said.
“Yep,” was his simple answer.
“Want to do something before bed? Play checkers? Battleship?”
“How about you finish up what you are doing first,” he said.
I paused. I knew exactly where that would lead.
“Nope. This can wait. You are far more important than this. Grab a game.”
I mention these incidents not to boast but instead to illustrate that we are given many opportunities during the day to make choices. With each decision we make a choice to either fill someone’s cup or to leave it nearly empty.
I try to remind myself that anything worthwhile requires time…dedicated time, not distracted time. There are no shortcuts here. We cannot expect to have meaningful relationships with our children if they do not have our undivided attention. We cannot have a strong bond with our spouse if we continue to feed them our leftovers. We cannot expect a closeness and oneness with our Lord if the world takes priority over the Word. That is reality.
So the next time you are left with a drop of coffee in the pot, or an 1/8 of a brownie, or the last blueberry in the container (seriously, how mean can you be?), let it serve as a reminder to take a different road and to leave our loved ones filled to the brim.
If the result of this week’s election has left you angry, scared, and concerned for the future of our country, I want you to know that I understand how you feel. I have experienced those same feelings. I know what it is to have a flood of anger rush over you. You scratch your head, “What were these people thinking?” I know what it is to feel a deep concern for the direction our nation is headed. I know how it feels to experience fear over what kind of nation our children will grow up in, what kind of nation they will raise their own family in, what kind of a nation you will grow gray-haired and old in. I know what it is to be gravely concerned about the security of this nation. I know what it is like to look at the television with tears in your eyes as the election results come in. I know what it is to grieve for a land that you love and call home.
I know how you feel, because I felt the same rush of emotion eight years ago, then again four years ago. I was not part of the exuberant mass of people applauding President Obama’s election. I remember feeling a momentary sense of pride that our nation had broken the racial barrier, yet I was deeply saddened. I was saddened because I did not align myself with his platform. Our vision for this country was not the same. The policies that he wished to implement were not in line with mine. I felt so strongly that his leadership would take our country to places I was not willing to go. That night I was sad; I had a heavy heart.
I was not alone on that evening. There were tens of millions of Americans who had the same concerns as me. Millions of Americans who cast a different vote from the populace. Many of those people were instantaneously labeled as racist. How could they be anything else, right? People who had never met me, talked with me, seen my life in action, assumed that I had an anti-something agenda. They were unable to understand why I would vote otherwise.
My opposition to President Obama had nothing to do with the messenger but everything to do with the message. And you know what, that is fine. In nearly every single election, tens of millions of American citizens disagree with the President-Elect.
Our nation is not populated by programmable robots. We are individuals from different backgrounds; our life stories are different. Our struggles and passions are not identical. That is America. You and I have the right to be different. My beliefs do not have to be your beliefs. Your passions do not have to be mine. Anything less than that is frankly unamerican.
Eight years ago I had a choice. I could become angry and bitter, or I could accept that President Obama was my president. I chose the later. President Obama was and is my president. While I have disagreed with the majority (not all) of his actions, I have had to respect the fact that the majority of my fellow Americans wanted to give him a chance. I had to accept the fact that they were unhappy with the path the previous administration had taken them down, and they wanted change. That is the beauty that is America. If you are not happy with the status quo you can cast your vote for change. We are a privileged people who have this power and ability.
So this week the people spoke. They sent a message that they were not happy with the path that our country is on. They want change. They used their power to send a message. The majority of Americans spoke, and change will come. And you know what, that is fine. While I did not vote for Hillary Clinton, because again, I did not agree with her message, I have my concerns with Donald Trump as well. Let it be known that the candidate of my choice never made it past the primaries.
So as I watch protests and the burning of my American flag by American citizens, I am grieved. I am grieved for some who cannot accept loss. I am grieved for some who cannot function in the face of disappointment. I am grieved for those who label their opposition as racists, bigots, and homophobes. I am grieved for some who fail to understand the very fabric of these United States of America. I am grieved to see my nation evolving into an intolerant land where those who have opinions and beliefs that are different are deemed a hateful threat and won’t be tolerated. I am grieved that we need safe spaces and days off from school to cope with loss. I am grieved for some who call for changing the Constitution because they didn’t get their way. I am grieved that America has lost sight of what America is and what it means to be American.
It is my prayer, that just as I had to do eight years ago, people will realize that their fellow Americans…good, hard-working, concerned, Americans, wanted change. Please don’t label them as evil. Please do not see them as the enemy. Please remember that this is what America is all about. Should the next four years not be to your liking, you have the power to petition for change through your vote.