Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The #IceBucketChallenge

He had a voice like taffy pulled and stretched, soft and a little sticky and a laugh that could be heard for miles. His smile reached right on up to those blue eyes that twinkled and sent the message that he knew just who he was and where he was going. He had a heart ten gallons deep and overflowing and he loved his family and his Jesus.

He teased my mamma when she was little and then took her for rides in his car and stood in her wedding because that's what brothers do. He could tell a story and sing a song like nobody's business. But the music ended too soon.

His name was Lester. He was burly and teddy bear soft. He was my uncle. He died about thirteen years ago from a disease we know little about. He died from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that robs the body and leaves the mind crystal clear. It is a living nightmare.

I'm sure you've heard of it. There are challenges floating all around social media where you dump a bucket of ice water on your head and donate to alsa.org to help find a cure to this currently incurable disease. The challenge has received a lot of hassle. People who think it's stupid to dump some water on your head and then ask others to do the same. And while it may seem silly, the ice bucket challenge has actually raised a substantial amount of money. Over $88.5 million, for a disease that up until a few days ago, most people had never heard of it.

But like any good thing, there's a debate. See current research is focusing on stem cells. Traditionally stem cells come from a fertilized embryo. This constitutes an ethical dilemma on multiple fronts, for myself included. This issue is why many are respectfully declining the challenge. They don't want to support embryonic stem cell research. I get that. I have my qualms about it also. I don't think it's right. But here's the other side of the coin: because this research has had so many ethical concerns, those conducting research for ALS are conducting the majority of it on grown stem cells from adult skin cells. And my two cents is this: ALS is a disease which has received little recognition, yet people die from it each day. This challenge, this silly act of dumping water on yourself has brought MILLIONS of dollars to research that may one day stop the progression of this disease. Money that assists in finding a cure. Money that allows researchers to travel other paths than embryonic stem cells. Because with additional funds, new options are available. How can we ask researchers to find a new option, if we don't give them any choices?

So tomorrow I'll be answering a challenge set out to me by my friend and cousin. I'll be filling a bucket with ice water. I'll stand on the grass of my backyard with my hubby on the deck, poised and ready to let the water flow. And with wet hair and a heart of memories, I'll fill in my credit card information and donate to the #IceBucketChallenge. And as I hit submit, I'll think of my uncle, his laugh, and that twinkle in his eye, and I'll pray for a cure.

Monday, August 18, 2014

I See You

I see you.

I see you college girl. Books stacked high and a double major hanging around your neck like the apron you sling on for the late night shift that helps pay tuition. I see you bite your nails and the end of that pen as the midnight oil burns and you pray for just one more test to pass and another class to master. I see you prep for that lab and try to ignore that cute boy in the back that's just so darn distracting. I see you pull on that black dress and strap on some heals as you hide behind the false bravado of 22.

I see you.

I see you mamma. With your hair pulled back and your business suit on, the one with banana on the sleeve because that babe needed breakfast before the mad dash to the sitter. I see you in the driver's side seat, buckled and strapped in as you glance in the rear view to catch a picture of your future. Graduation caps and wedding vows reflected in those perfect eyes in the car seat. I see you as you blink back the tears when you hand the babe over to the woman who is not the mamma but will play one for the day so you can help put bread on the table and shoes on the feet. I see you when you sit in that meeting or behind that cash register or serving tray, balancing the budget in your head and play dates and the car pool while trying to remind yourself to be where your feet are. I see you when you scrub off the spaghetti and kick off the heels and try to comfort your heart for another day gone.

I see you.

I see you beautiful girl. The one with the running pants on that are a bit too tight because the last few years have been hard and you've taken second seat to the late night feedings and the chaos of day to day life. I see you hiding behind that pony tale and headband in the back of the room where you try to shake more of what your mamma gave you and less of what the pizza left behind. I see you as you hide behind your towel in the locker room because all around you are the girls who look like they live on water and carrot sticks and sleep on the weight bench.

I see you.

I see you stay at home mamma. With the sweatpants on and the t-shirt that has a hole in it. I see you as you rise at the crack of dawn to sooth the babe back to sleep so your man can have another hour of rest before he goes to work. I see you snuggle on the couch under blankets and jammies and Pooh Bear books when the nose is running and the fever is spiked. I see you wiping up the glue and putting away the scissors only to bring them out again in ten minutes because glitter is an outside sport and it's raining. I see you when he walks in and sees the sticky floor and the piled up dishes and your heart falls as you read his mind and he thinks what does she do all day?

I see you.

I see you college girl. Books stacked high and a double major hanging around your neck like the apron you sling on for the late night shift that helps pay tuition. I see you bite your nails and the end of that pen as the midnight oil burns and you pray for just one more test to pass and another class to master. I see you prep for that lab and try to ignore that cute boy in the back that's just so darn distracting. I see you pull on that black dress and strap on some heals as you hide behind the false bravado of 22.

I see you.

But most importantly, so does He.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?
And yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 
Indeed the very hairs on your head are numbered. 
Don't be afraid, you are worth so much more than sparrows.
Luke 12: 6-7

He sees you. 

Photo by Dennis Hekenbraunelle via Flicr 
He sees you, when the running pants are tight and the jiggle is more than you can bear. He sees you when you hide behind that office door and cry for the moments spent away. He sees you when you bomb that test and pray for redemption at finals. When you feel like the world is caving in and you can't take another stressor. He sees you when the candles on the birthday cake keep growing in number and your goals seem farther and farther away. He sees you, when the phone call comes and your heart sinks and you fall to your knees in anguish. 

He holds you. 

He holds you, when all hope seems lost and the winds just keep on raging. He holds you when the diagnosis comes in and the prognosis is grim.  He holds you, when the world seems like it's falling apart from all the hate and anger and you're afraid to let your children out the door. He holds you, when you feel used up and beat up and broken.

 He loves you. 

He loves you when you feel unlovable. He loves you when you feel less than okay. He loves you when you don't love yourself. He loves you. And he offers you grace. 

Grace like the wings of a sparrow. And you are worth far more than a sparrow, so this grace he offers you? It's priceless. And this love he showers you with? It is a golden rain. And these arms he holds you in? They are mighty and strong and gentle as a new father. And these eyes he sees you with? They are perfect and look over your imperfections to see the you that he created you to be. That girl. That mamma. That woman. 

He sees you.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

#GoingThere

I get so frustrated. At night I lay awake in my bed, the hot air pressing down on me and the anger and frustration in my heart that sits like a lump of coal on my chest. I beg for answers. I plead for understanding. And I curse this humanity that has us at each other's throats each day. And today, I'm #GoingThere with Deidra Riggs.

 The wages of sin is death. I've heard this rolling around in the sermons and down the pews since my birth. The callousness and crassness of this earth that just keeps on spinning despite the fact that we are burning it down with our rubber bullets and poisonous tongues and the lack of regard for another living, breathing soul is enough to make my stomach sour and my mind ache at the mere thought of rising to another day.

Photo from Good Morning Girls
My life? It's been charmed compared to so many. Yes I've had troubles and at times my burden seems more than I can bear, but there is so much I don't have. I don't wake each day wondering if a bomb will rain down on my home. I don't enter my streets with trepidation and concern that my child will be taken because we carry the title of Christian. Aside from my few months living under the hot sun of Africa, I have never been a minority. Never worried that the police will gun down my son because they fear the color of his skin.

And why the hell does it happen now? Why in this nation that has so many red marks and a tainted past do we continue to turn from our history and keep doing the same things over again?

A mother should not have to worry about her child for the mere tone of his skin.

A country should not hide away the past so that it can continue to sweep under the rug the disparities of the present.

And what of me? Of my family? Of this church and this body? How revolting is it that I had not even heard of the tragedy in Ferguson until days after when my Facebook feed was lit up with indignation.

But it seems like I keep writing these posts. Bits of my words where I plead for the Savior to show his mighty hand and I beg for the church to stand with me. For our lips to not be silent for the needs of our fellow man. And where are we? Where are you ladies?

Two messages keep coming to me this week: choose joy and God will fight for me, I need only be still (Exodus 14:14). I get the choose joy part. It's been a beautiful and difficult summer all rolled into one ridiculously hot package. Being reminded to choose joy is a good thing. But the second, I've kept rolling around this in my head: what battle do I need fought? Where am I lacking, my strength faltering?

And then it hit me: right here. Right here in this moment, at this table. Right here there is a spiritual battle raging that goes so far beyond skin color and where we live, but chooses these needles of the soul to poke and prod each other with. Right here in the midst of this nation and spreading out to this world we are at war. And when he says he will fight for me, I don't believe that means I need to remain inactive.

This battle is not one fought with the sword of steel, but instead the sword of truth. Our words are knives that can be used to cut down the disparity in this world or to cut the hearts of our neighbor. We have only to choose which side to be on. Yet if we are still, if we allow him to move us, to carry us, to speak through our mouths and hedge up this battle on the front lines of our faith, only then can we see change. Because here is the thing: there is a difference between being still and being idle. Idle is wasted, stillness listens to the voice that guides and allows the spirit to move.

Only if we allow him to fight for us. If we pick up that sword of truth and all the father to wield it through our nimble arms, only then can we cut down the poison of mistrust and racism. Only then can the genocides be put to an end and our mother's hearts will rest at night.

So be still, my friends. Be still my neighbors. Be still and strong and courageous and this battle, this war, will be won.

Jumping in with Jennifer Dukes Lee to #TellHisStory. 


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Jesus Come

Children are dying. From thirst, hunger and the brutality of the human hand. Women are being ravaged and sold to slavery and sex trafficking after their men are slaughtered in front of them. I cannot fathom this.

A world away in Iraq there is a battle raging unlike one that has been seen in generations. The painting has been on the wall. Red marks and hate painted to designate the home of a believer. Ironic that once blood over the doorway caused the angel of death to passover, and now it calls a different death. A brutality against the world and all humanity.

My stomach rolls and lerches at the headlines and the history.  Did the Nazis spike the heads of children as a warning? Or is this a new horror to add to the list of ways that man will harm man for the deadly reason that he can?

A world away is not so far now in this time of technology and broken spirits. How long I wonder before the hatered spreads and our own soil is wet with the blood of believers? Hate begets hate and violence begets wounds and violence and the brokenness that cannot mend. And I cry out and beg for mercy. For the hand of the father to look down and protect his children. And I sob for the mothers in a land of murdered children and slaughtered husbands and I pray: Jesus come.

Jesus come and wipe this slate clean. Jesus come and break these bonds of terror and evil. Jesus come and show the world that your love is the only thing that can sew up these broken pieces in this tattered tapestry of humanity. Jesus come and bring peace to those who have been so faithful and paid for it dearly.

Jesus, please come.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Where My Girls At?

I've written this post in my head a thousand times the last four days. Then mentally hit the delete button until it was gone.

But it still lingers.

I've prayed over it and waited for an answer from God. And I mentally backspaced again.

But I think it's time. I need to write this piece. Maybe it's not all consuming to anyone but me. Maybe it's not an issue, again, to anyone but me. But none the less.....

We have moved. Moving means church shopping. My daughter scoffed when I said this, that we were church shopping but that is exactly what it feels like. Climbing out of the car and stepping into that spiritual dressing room. Turning and twisting, examining the message in my heart against the mirror of the pastor and congregation.

Does it fit? Turn a little more to the left....

Is it the right size? Turn a little to the right....

Does it meet my needs and my family's needs by reaching from the book and not from man's heart? Bend over and make sure all the bases are covered.....

So we have looked. We've been to two so far. The first was masked by chasing the baby in alternate shifts between the hubs and I. But it was alright, I thought. Worth another shot. But Bot Bot disagreed. She hated the youth group. Sometimes a thirteen year old cannot bloom where planted. That comes later.

So we tried another church. Initially all was well. But then there were some comments that just rubbed me wrong. We were delving into the topic of worship, and more specifically WHAT you worship. The pastor gave an example of a woman that he had seen at a yard sale who was exstatic over her recent bargain. Yep, I can relate. Then he said this: She was worshiping what she purchased. She was more excited over that good deal than she had ever been over Jesus. 

Say what? I was taken aback. Does he know this woman's heart? Has he spent every moment with her, walking in her shoes? Woah. That's one hell of a statement. Quite literally.

But I told myself to chill out. Let it slide.

After the service I did a little once -over of the foyer. They had  a nice little book section that I, being the book junky extraordinaire, of course made my way too. Books on finances and leading a Christian life. Bible studies. Self-help. And one common connection: every single author was a man. Not one female. No Liz Curtiss Higgs or Francine Rivers there. No Beth Moore or Joyce Meyers lining those shelves. Rhinestone Jesus? Huh uh. My girl Deidra? Nope. There was not a single Good Girl, Bad Girl  or Lost Girl of the Bible to be found. Not. A. One.

So I jumped on the website on my way home. Paul Tripp. Notes from the pastor. And the first female blogger post: Being a Suitable Wife. Then  for mothers: teaching your kids the truth. Not that teaching kids the truth is bad, we need too. But, where were the posts on being a suitable husband? Yeah, nope. That one didn't exist. How about encouraging women to be who God created them to be, outside of motherhood? What about showing women how to be leaders not only in the kitchen or play room, but in the church?

Couldn't find them. Do they exist for this congregation? I hope so. But I feel like I'm channeling a little Beyonce here: Where my girls at??

Ladies, where are we? Where is our voice in the church? Is it that we're just not being heard? Or is it that our voice isn't there?

Man, I hope that's not it. Because here's the thing-ladies, we talk differently than men. We listen differently than men. And most importantly: we need to hear each other's voices.

Gone are the days when women were to be as children: seen and not heard. Because girls, God gave us a voice. He gave us drive and determination. And he gave us a ministry all together different then our male counterparts.

And it's time to step forward. We are more than shoppers who found a good deal. We are more than suitable wives and submissive mothers. We are made to be more than that-and it's time we were. It's time to move beyond women in women's ministry. Because we are more than that. Do we not minister also to our husbands? To our sons? To our nephews and the kids in our neighborhood? Do we not lead by example in our jobs?

So I ask again, where my girls at? Step forward ladies, it's time to let his light shine right through you. Let his voice be heard as it has been laid on your heart. It's time for revolution. This nation needs it. This world needs it. And it starts with us.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Begin

Tonight is the end of an era. Four years ago Lisa Jo Baker wanted to write for fun, and what came of that was a group of women who love, support and cheer each other on as we write with abandon. Five minutes. Once a week. No do-overs. No take backs. It's beautiful.

This is the last week that Lisa Jo is hosting her #fmfparty baby, and soon the baton will be passed. I am privileged to write here, in this space with these women. We would love it if you would come write too!

Prompt: Begin.

Go.

Take that breath. Even when it's terrifying.

Feel the air pull in through your teeth and whisper back out as you exhale away the jitters and the fears. Blow the hair off your forehead and set your jaw. Determined. 

Pour it out. Don't stay silent. Let the words ring off your heart and spill out on the page. Don't hold back. 

Feel your heart beat in anticipation, each breath growing steadier as your life drums on harder with each beat. Let it loose. 

Let the world know. Let the gift you've been given shine through and cascade out of this box we look through. 

Don't hesitate. 

Don't stall and procrastinate. Tomorrow is another day, not a better day. 

There are only so many minutes. So many seconds that are allotted to this single act of breathing in and out and there are so few chances that we take to make the most of it. 

Go. 

Don't think about it, just begin.

Stop. 


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Stuff

I wanted to go alone.

Just a half hour. Thirty minutes. By. My. Self. The hubbs has been working like crazy at this new job and I've been working like crazy at trying to keep us all alive during the daylight hours. It's too hot to run, the pavement is sticky with the summer heat and I'm currently suffering from TFTB (Too Fat To Breath-thanks Chels for the acronym) and by 8 o'clock I just needed a few child-less minutes so I thought I'd go for a walk.

But those big brown eyes looked up at me and said "Please mommy, can I go too?" and my heart heaved a sigh and said yes.

The child is slow as molasses. Honestly. I do not know how feet that move so fast during the day can quite possibly walk so slow when she sets out with me. And my nerves were (are?) shot, and it was all I could do to bite my tongue and not beg her to speed up.

But this child, Lil' Girl-she sees things. The giant dandelions for making wishes. The weeds that are taller than her but magically new. The rabbit that skipped across the road with it's chocolate brown hair and on lucky feet. We walked up the hill on that old dirt road and she looked at me with glee in her eyes and said "There's just so much new stuff, mom!"

And I got caught up in her joy. Looking for the new in the old that seems warn out and ragged to me. I pointed out the bee hives on the hill and we found a new path that winds behind our hill. I felt a tickle on my shoulder and looked down to find, no not a beautiful butterfly. Not a figment of perfection to top of this splendid moment. Not at all. I looked down to find a perfectly white hair, fallen from my head.

 Seriously?? Seriously.

*sigh*

Sometimes the newness wears off. Sometimes we grow old and our hair turns color and our knees ache when they shouldn't and we see through eyes that are jaded and tired and just want the baby to take a nap and the boy to stop throwing a fit. We get caught up in the day to day melancholy of motherhood and parenting and work and forget who we are deep down inside: we're that girl who used to love to build forts in the backyard and climb trees.

We're the student with the pen in our hands and the dream in our heart to let the words hit the page and light a fire and make a difference.

We're the girl in nursing school who dreams of going back to Africa to make a difference. Save lives. Bring a healing touch.

But we find ourselves begging for that moment of silence in our hum-drum nothing special life and we wonder what went wrong? Why don't we see like this child does any more? When did the dreams get stuck in the spilled honey on the counter and where in the world did all these white (not grey, mind you) hairs come from?

And we need to stop. To slow down. To take it all in. Because if we just keep plodding along like we are, to get where we're going even when there's no destination, we miss the newness. We miss the giant wishes just waiting to be blown away and the sunset that is showing off in the background.

We miss the neighbor passing by that waves just because this is Montana and it's what we do here.



We miss this life. This world. This beauty that is all around us when we stop seeing with the eyes of a child.

This world moves so fast. Those sunsets don't last and the wishes get blown away in the wind. Soon it's not a white hair surprising us on our shoulder, but a brown hair instead and before we know it our knees will cry from the incline of that hill behind the house.

So stop. Take a breath and let this world slow down, one small spin. Take in the terrain as if you were looking with seven year old eyes. Because she's right: There's just so much new stuff out there.