Darkness

When I was a child, my parents would take us to Six Flags over Texas in Arlington. At that time, the park was divided into sections that represented the six flags that had flown over Texas: Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, Confederate and USA. In the Republic of Texas area, one of the rides was the Davy Crockett River Adventure. You would get on a big “boat” and float down the river. On the way, you would see Indians hiding in the trees and shooting at the boat. There were bandits that were trying to stop the boat, too. The first time I was on this ride, I was in kindergarten. While the adults could see that the people attacking the boat were actually mannequins and the shots fired were really fakes, to a five-year old, it was terrifying. At the end of the ride, the boat guide would start yelling “Oh no! We’re going into that cave! We’re doomed!” In front of the boat, a waterfall would part and the cave would open up to allow us to enter. And, then it closed behind us. I don’t remember much about that first ride. Except for the screaming. My Screaming. I panicked and nothing my dad could do would calm me down. I was certain we would never escape from that cave with it’s spooky skeletons. Of course, we did find our way out. I think all the riders on that boat were glad to escape the screaming little girl. It was YEARS before I chose to travel on the Davy Crockett River Adventure again.

The past few weeks of my life have felt like that river ride. Everything has been dark and a bit sad. Small things that would usually be no big deal have set off explosions in me. Memories have come fast a furious, many precious ones and some I’d rather forget. I know that they’re just memories to be visited and then left behind, but I can’t seem to walk away. I’m surrounded and I don’t know how to escape. This weekend, I entered that cave. It has been dark and scary and I know it’s not forever, but I feel the panic rising and the screams trying to escape just the same. I’ve pushed away those that care about me. No matter how many tears I’ve cried, it’s just not enough. The nightmare just continues.

But, I’m beginning to see the light that marks the way out. I know there is escape from the darkness. I see flashes of hope. Breathing is getting easier, the smiles are not as forced. There will be a few more tears before I’m completely out of the cave. I will come out! And I pray that it’s a very long time before I visit this dark place again.

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:5 NLT

Confession

I have a confession: I’m not crazy about life. In fact, I don’t like it much at all. And, I feel guilty admitting this. I have been given so much in this life. I had 18 years in a wonderful marriage to a man who loved me to his last breath. I have two fantastic kids, a great family and friends that knock it out of the park. I have a home and a good job and I get to serve and worship with some wonderful people throughout the week. I should be enjoying it everyday. But, I’m ready to resign!

Behind every ray of sunshine, there seems to be a dark cloud. I get something repaired and something else breaks. I’ve never been very good at criticism (taking it, handing it out is a breeze) and that’s all I hear: I’m too mean. Or, I’m not taking a stand. I’m too involved. Then, I’m not showing enough interest. My body is revolting against me. I need to get more exercise and get the endorphins pumping, but my knee or my back or my hip or my sinus’ keep me inside. Some days the only thing I do well is stand in the middle of the living room and cry. And I’m tired of crying.

So, I remind myself of the blessings I have and hold on to the hope that “this too will pass.” I look forward to better days and until then will paste on a happy face and pretend. Maybe my brain will start to believe. I’ll try to be a little less sensitive and remember that stuff happens.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-14 NIV

Facade

Facade: deceptive appearance: the way something or somebody appears on the surface, especially when that appearance is false or meant to deceive

We live in a world of facades: dropped ceilings, raised floors, faux finishes. We wax it, pluck it, tuck it or lift it. If it’s straight we curl it. If it curls, we straighten it. We color the gray, add highlights for sparkle and low lights for depth. We buy furniture and then distress it so it “looks” old. We brag about our antiques while spending too much money to trying to stay young. Only the most discerning eye can spot the fake. And it all works. For a little while. . . But, it only takes one touch to realize what is fake and what is real. A little light will expose the roots that just can’t be hidden and those too new edges will betray the created antique. Reality can be harsh when uncovering all those things we think we have hidden so well.

We try the same tricks when it comes to our emotions. We build emotional walls in an attempt to keep others away from our unpleasant truths. We don’t want to look silly or weak or needy, so we put on a “stiff upper lip” and push away the very people who want to offer support. We want to be strong for others, but have no idea how to accept that strength when offered in return. To keep from ever feeling the pain of betrayal or loss, we don’t allow anyone to invade that area of our lives that might touch kindness or love. We teach our children that “big boys/girls don’t cry” and then wonder why they are distant. Through our own actions we teach that sex is a good substitute for love, money is the only thing that matters and pursue your own happiness at any cost.

How do we break away from these facades we have created? When do we stop fearing the pain and embarrassment that “might” occur so that we can pursue love and connection with those around us? How much will it take to allow that one touch that breaks thru the barriers? It’s no easy task. Love and betrayal, joy and loss, kindness and pain are part of the world in which we live. Exposing our tender emotions will always be a risk. There is always the chance that you will be rejected. You may not receive the same that you give. Your sacrifice may not be appreciated or even accepted. But, there will be that ONE moment that makes it all worth while. And then you realize that the wall first built for protection has become a prison. You will no longer seek safety but now crave connection. Giving unconditional love, regardless of the cost, becomes your passion. It’s not easy to drop the facade, but it’s worth it. Love is always worth it.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18

Time

I’m sitting outside in this wonderful gulf coast weather watching the neighborhood kids play in the cul-de-sac. Their voices echo down the street as they laugh and run with each other.

Has it really been almost twenty years since we moved into this neighborhood and my own kids ran and played on this same street? It seems like yesterday that they were learning to ride bikes and losing teeth in skate board collisions. Those were the days when I listened to their arguments and discussions and tried not to intervene unless it was necessary. The days of standing behind the curtains watching so maybe they wouldn’t notice I was watching. The days when I learned that one can have children and still not be a parent.

The days when our house was where everyone would come for mediation or first aid or just to hang out are long gone. Those kids have all grown up and moved on to their adult lives. And I’m left to wonder “Where did the time go?” And “Did I do enough for those kids? Was I a good parent?” I hope so.

All that’s left is for me to enjoy the laughter and the voices as an observer, reliving the memories as a bystander

One More

Birthdays were always big celebrations in my family. We had parties, favorite meals & gifts. Your birthday was YOUR day. I looked forward to it every year. Each year was an accomplishment. Nine, thirteen, sixteen, eighteen, twenty-one, all milestones to be celebrated.

As I moved into my thirties, birthday celebrations were reserved for my kids. It was their turn to celebrate and a chance to spoil them a little bit. I made a tactical error in 1987 and got married 9 days before my birthday. So that special birthday dinner was more about our anniversary. Adult birthdays faded into the background and sometimes weren’t even remembered.

Now I’m on the downhill side of 50. My kids are old enough to plan birthday dinners. And I look forward to having everyone at the table again. But birthdays aren’t really an accomplishment any more. It’s just another point in time to reflect.

So, what has happened this year? I changed jobs, moving from the drilling world to construction. We lost my dad in April. My son bought a new car with his own $$. My daughter finished college classes and is student teaching this semester. I took over the facilitation of a ladies Bible study. I continue leading worship in the early service, working with AWANA & teaching a junior high girls Bible fellowship class.

As I look back over the year, I can’t help but wonder if I continue to make a difference on this earth. If I disappeared tomorrow, would it matter? Would there be a void? For my family and especially my kids, I think there would be. But honestly, everything else would rock along pretty seamlessly. And thats as it should be. If I’m doing things right, nothing depends on me. I’m just the conduit to get there.

I hope I’m making a difference. That’s my goal. So, here’s to another year of struggles, hurts, joys and triumphs. Let’s touch some lives.

Graduation

My youngest child got the information on her college graduation today. It’s time to order the cap and gown, the tassel, the cord & the announcements. We’ve already scheduled her photo session to capture her senior picture. By Christmas Day, I will have completed a journey that began 24 years ago: my children are adults and no longer need a mom looking after them. How do I successfully push the youngest chick out of the nest when that chick feels responsible for taking care of me? What changes do I have to make to convince her to trust her own wings and live her own life? And then what?

My husband and I had talked about this time in our lives and what we would do with the next phase. Terry had dreams of riding motorcycles across the country, just the two of us. He talked of living in a smaller town and moving at a slower pace. I wasn’t particularly interested in the motorcycle part, but that’s not really relevant any longer. I moved to Houston right after I graduated from college and never intended to stay more than a few years. Is it time to move on? Since my kids are quite content to remain here, am I the one that needs to fly the coop? Do I really have any reason to stay?

I’ve always believed that God has called me to serve others. Supporting Terry in his ministry fit my own calling like a glove. I’ve filled various positions of service since his death, but I’m still searching for a true fit. Recently, a couple I’ve known from my single days sold everything and moved to Kenya to serve in the mission field. Am I brave enough to give up everything for a new life? I don’t know. It’s easy to just rock along with the status quo. But easy isn’t always best.

I think that I just long to go home. And home is not in this world. So, until that time when I’m called to my eternal home, I’ll keep searching for where I can best serve. It may be right here where I am. Or, it may be time to go back to north Texas. I will continue to put out feelers and look for options. I’m not done yet.

Sadness

I’m tired of Sadness. It creeps in and colors everything. Often, Sadness comes with If Only and What If. And together they are brutal. They wait for the first sign of weakness and then leave cleverly placed bruises that cannot be seen but cause great pain.

I’m ready for Sadness to be banished from my life. But, I don’t see it happening. For to banish Sadness, I would have to forget. How do I forget love? How do I forget the best part of me? How do I ignore those years? I’m already forgetting his voice, his laugh, his embrace. How much more can I lose?

I’ll make my peace with Sadness. What If and If Only are not welcome. But Sadness can visit late at night when his cousin Loneliness comes calling. They can bring memories to share and stay for a bit. But they must go back into hiding during the day light hours.

Because, I’m tired of Sadness.