Monday, September 13, 2010

May the Force, I Mean Breeze, Be With You

Now, I am no science fiction junkie. Let’s get that straight. But, something descended upon our home today and it was super welcomed and much needed. Perhaps, even requested.
I spent the better part of the weekend sick, after a week of taking care of a sick family. Each member, individually, fell ill to a nasty little virus whose signature was the deepest bone ache, most intense nausea and other gastroentestinal manifestations I have ever experienced outside of pregnancy. We owe Lysol disinfecting wipes a big “Whatever!” for it’s ability to “kill 97% of viruses.” Or, we are just unlucky enough to attract that resistant 3% that laughs at sodium hydroxide. We’ll likely never know for sure. 
So, today, my husband awoke to the usual 6 a.m. houligan-anigans. Let me describe. 
My son, who seems to have a deep seeded lie in his heart regarding his ability to ascertain a breakfast each day, scavenges the kitchen after waking his much younger sister to join him. He knows not to go into the kitchen and climb up into who-knows-where and start rummaging to get whatever he deems an appropriate breakfast to be. Especially NOT before 7 a.m. 
With three kids (ages 5,4,and 3) a parent has to establish the ‘start time’ - like the time of day when the gun goes off and the race begins. For us, that is at 7 a.m. Before that, awake and rummage at your own risk. And he does, despite loving correction, angry correction, positive reinforcement and yes, that ever growing unpopular negative reinforcement (the back hand). I am kidding. It is not the back hand. It is actually the front of my hand on the BACK of his behind. It matters not, because nothing has deterred this behavior and it is completely exasperating. 
SO, Daddy got to administer the love this morning followed by a resignation that the gun was going to have to go off at 6:30 a.m. today instead of our self appointed 7 a.m. Sometimes acceptance is the best thing you can do. And Honey Nut Cheerios tend to help the tears disappear. He even dressed them and brushed their teeth so that when I rolled out of bed around 7:30 all I had to do was pack lunches, disrobe them, shower them and redress them. It was a smooth process believe it or not. I am not kidding. 
Everyone was in the car and he, showered and dressed, and I ,showered and dressed, departed at the same time this morning. Unbelievable. I dropped off the two at school from 9-1 and took my youngest for a “Mommy and Wibby (aka Libby)” day. She requested Panera for her second breakfast and who am I to argue. So we went there, and chatted and spread butter, a lot. I looked through my delightful Sunday paper with all four beautiful coupon inserts and exciting drug store advertisements (more on that later) and we left, without any hint of an argument, for the library.
Ah, the library. She loves it. I love that she loves it. It has little computers, puzzles, puppets and books of course. But what really makes it great is the librarian who does not care that the toddler area is treated by a toddler like a toddler would treat a toddler area. You follow me? I mean, Libby grabs a book from each shelf, randomly, and then asks the librarian to help her transport all of her selections to me. I am thinking “Oh, this is going to be a nightmare to reshelve.” But the librarian says, “Oh, it is okay. She is so cute.” And I believed her because it was not like she was just trying to say something polite. I can see through that, generally speaking.
We return home for a lunch, again without argument or fussing and then off to pick up her sibs for my eldest’s first KinderMusik lesson - which she LOVED. I took the other two during said music lesson to a previously unknown nearby park that was shaded and LOVELY in every single way. We picked up my big girl after a perfect 40 minutes of play and returned home. 
I started dinner. Are you appreciating the smoothness of this day? I mean, even as I type it I am thinking - whose life IS THIS?? I prepare a lasagne which I have all the ingredients on had to prepare. Majestic. I call my husband as I put it in the oven. He will be home in 20 minutes. Are the stars aligned? I don’t even believe in that stuff. 
He rolls in, hungry and delighted with my dinner selection. My kids eat it all and say “yummy mommy, thank you.” Am I on candid camera? Who has possessed my home? 
After dinner I am cleaning up the kitchen while the fam is out back playing some football. Where is Norman Rockwell when you need him? And as I am cleaning the dishes in the sink and placing them in the EMPTY dishwasher (visualize my bowing in all four directions here).... this entry comes to me.
What FORCE has entered our home today and how can I get a package of it and stockpile it to pull out AT LEAST once a month. You girls feelin’ me?
What is missing in the entire saga gloriously described thus far is the conversation my husband started last  night at the dinner table. It too was brought on, in my opinion, by a Force because it was exactly what I had wanted and needed to hear, perhaps not for the first time, not just from him, but ONCE AGAIN.
I have realized that I am fighting my life at times. Wanting to disengage, wanting to escape. Not anything like in the permanent sense, but in the momentary. Wanting to just exit via my mind - turn on the boob tube, plug in the ear phones, head out to Target, surf the net, read any thing and everything and become so frustrated with the ‘interruptions’ that I disappoint myself in what I am becoming in my primary role in life. And despondent about turning this whole habit around. 
The habit is: always rehearsing the difficulties of life, the hardships, the challenges.... you know those physical aches and pains, those relationships or lack thereof, the financial realities we might find ourselves in... I could go on and I usually do. My husband and I both, I hope he won’t mind me saying, have settled into this...or I should say unsettled into it.
We know this is NOT living a life but rather surviving one. And as a wise tweet recently  posted stated “if you are not doing anything with your life it does not matter how long it is.” Word. I mean, we are doing something with our lives and we even have some vision for what we are doing. We’ve made some hard choices, some poor ones and even some really incredibly wise ones. But I frequently lose my vision. And when that happens as often as it does, all I can see are the difficulties. They are my only REALity. They are speaking louder.
So Stephen says last night that we have got to change NOW the climate in our home - and not as an accusation. At least, I did not receive it as such which is a HUGE miracle right then and there. There’s an entire entry that could be inserted here, but I will spare you.
There is so much arguing and correcting and everything else that normally goes on in a home with three kids, and two really stretched parents. We need some refuge. Some peace. And not the kind of peace where we are all polly-anna and stuff like that, but where there are some things that are true and settled. And those true and settled things rule over the lesser realities. 
The true and settled things are that our stressors, in REALITY, are our blessings. Our jobs, our relative HEALTH, our providentially being born in the USA, our having the opportunity to make choices at all (like where and how to spend our money), our having to balance quality time with our THREE children, our stressing to find some time to focus on our marriage... all these things are manifestations of a blessed life.
THAT is what gets lost when perspective dies. It is a painful place to live. It is a difficult place to remain. I think that is a primary reason God commands us to be in relational community. As with everything He implores us to do, it is not for His ego, but for our good. 
What descended upon our house tonight is a picture of what I think it looks like to do what the Bible calls, “walking in the Spirit.” I am not going to get all mystical on ya, but I do take the Bible seriously, as you know, and the Bible is clear that the Father is in heaven, Jesus is currently at His right hand, and what we have today ON THIS EARTH is the Holy Spirit. And I think when He comes and is allowed to speak louder in my heart than those difficulties, there is a REAL change that occurs.
Now, in my house tonight, it just worked out. Perhaps God was working. Maybe He was answering our humble prayer to take our family and do something in and with it that we just cannot seem to sustain. Maybe. But the way the day proceeded reminded me that what our family needs, what I need, is not some stockpile of star alignment, but the life changing force of the Holy Spirit.
I need Him to remind me, ALL THE TIME. I need Him and His perspective to be more real to me than my sensual reality. I need Him to help me control my tongue. I need Him to give me some supernatural ENERGY.  I need Him to give me eyes to see what is really going on around me. I need Him to give me creativity and imagination. Compassion and mercy and productivity. I have to tell you, I KNOW I cannot do, in this life, all that I hope God has made for me to do WITHOUT the Holy Spirit giving me some power to do it - and some wisdom to even know WHAT THAT IS. God is not “in me as me” as a recent movie stated profoundly. No, God is in me, despite me. Thank God. No really, right now, “Thank God” -  as an equally profound movie of the late 70’s proclaimed (if you don’t already know which one I am talking about... it is entitled “Oh, God”.... John Denver and George Burns plays God... not moving making at its most adept).
I said there was a Force that descended upon my home. It felt like it sorta. But lasting and meaningful Power from the Holy Spirit comes like a breeze. It is not heavy and laden with things to do and accusations. Not surprisingly, because of the God I love, His vision and perspective are maintained most fastidiously by remembering how much He totally loves me. He does not motivate by Force, but by Breeze. It IS surprising how effective His love is at motivating me. His love gives me an understanding of why I am, who I am , what I am made to do and hope that He will help me do it
I place my life and my home and all that I care for in His hands. His very able hands. I really want Him to do something undeniable in me... and you too. He is so good, and what He creates in the physical and in the spirit is beyond description. 
But as you come to know Him and consequently trust Him, you'll find that all those very real distractions, grow dim and the Breeze subtly takes you aloft, on your way to becoming what you deeply needed to be. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Power of the Skittle

It is amazing what a little bite sized piece of high fructose corn syrup can do for a family dynamic. Simply amazing. Lately I have been employing some positive reinforcement in my child rearing. Turns out you can get a kid to do (or not do)  A LOT with just a bright, shiny, sweet piece of delight called a SKITTLE.

Disciplining my kids has been one of THE hardest things I have ever done, and done, and done, and done. I saw myself before kids as not being willing to take a lick of slack and mellowed a little after the delivery. I decided I wanted to be lovingly firm, establishing authority early on so as to earn a place of influence in those later years. Yeah.

I still believe all that, it is just the practicality of all of it that is so dang frustrating. I mean you can't *"shepherd the butt" in the middle of Target... or can you?
(*this is a little term a friend and I coined after reading a great book entitled "Shepherding a  Child's Heart" by Ted Tripp)

I was a little stressed in the beginning about being ultra consistent with our first child. She was a VERY smart and wonderful 18 month old and although I knew all my childhood developmental stages, this girl knew WHAT she was doing - just not TO WHOM she was doing. Hey little girls out there, listen up: It is not wise to cross a very pregnant female who is in an 1100 square foot house with 12 inches of snow on the ground 9 months out of the year AND whose husband works 120 hours a week while she is unemployed, in debt and developing a waist measurement that is TWICE her age. Not wise. Not one bit. But, live and learn. She lived to learn.

By the time our son was born and not even 5 months old, we "discovered" we were again expecting. The situation was not developing into one where being consistent and kind was going to come easily. Plus, momma had to go back to work before I did permanent damage to the psyches of those I loved most dearly. Sometimes, you should just shut your mouth and leave the room. So, I went back to work part time in the evening.

I suffered what I like to call post partum, antepartum, intrapartum and post-post partum depression. I use the term ' like' loosely here. It was a dreadful time for me, my husband and my kids. The anxiety, frustration, guilt, fatigue were all consuming. I thought I was never going to be normal again. This did not add anything helpful to my desire to be a great mom, loving disciplinarian and rich communicator. I literally had difficulty even talking. I could not read because the inability to concentrate was so severe.

But that is nothing a little Zoloft could not help!

I am being funny about this but it was very serious. I never wanted to be the type who had to take medication for mood. I mean, I understand it, I prescribed it for crying out loud and I would recommend it.... for someone else. I thought for me it would be a slippery slope of medication, medication side effects, counseling that would make me talk about "my childhood" and I just thought it was all a bunch of hooey.

My imagined self was going to have to come to terms with reality.

So, I decided that the price of crucifying the image, by going to a psychiatrist and beginning medication, was worth gaining the ability to be able to hear God's voice again in my life. I wanted to be able to read my Bible again, pray and have a conversation. It was the THIRD best decision I ever made. First was Jesus, second was my husband.

I don't think God made me have depression, but I wonder if it was a tool of discipline for me? I wonder sometimes. It definitely knocked me down a notch in the pride and self sufficiency department. I think it totally increased my mercy for others going through similar situations. Here is what I know though... I don't think I could have learned what  I did and come away with what I did any other way. Was the season of depression worth it? Not sure. But I do like what I have going on now.

There is some pain involved in parenting. I wonder if God is pained by what I went through.

There is some serious power in parenting as well. I have spanked my kids bottoms in one day more than I ever dreamed  I would in a year before I had kids. I hate doing that. But I also hate the idea that they would grow up thinking that their wisdom and direction is all they have. That obeying their impulses is the only way they have to learn. No thank you. I have the power to grow them into adults who love God and serve Him, or I have the power to literally destroy them. I cannot fathom doing the latter intentionally. It is the unintentional that I fear.

So what I do with that is apologize OFTEN and quickly - both to God and my kids; not as some "pass" to mess up again and again, but because I have a real desire to be a reflection of the One I love. It's called a new heart. I gotta keep it real. I think if I do that, God will cover the rest. Mercy is NOT getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you DO NOT deserve. God is both. I trust Him to pour this out over my family and all my relationships. This is how He interacts with the affairs of men. He makes beauty out of ashes, He gives strength for fear, gladness for mourning, PEACE for despair.

I don't know how you were parented. God is a great Father. He doesn't let go, He's perfectly consistent, appropriately applies the pain, constantly calls in a small voice, has ALL the answers and gives encouragement  when it is least expected for even the smallest successes. Who needs Skittles.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Christopher Hitchens has cancer of his throat.
If you don’t know who he is you are probably not alone, but he writes for many well known periodicals and the Washington Post. He frequents many news programs as the token, intellectually rigorous atheist. He wrote a book entitled “God is NOT Great: How religion poisons everything.” I have not read the book. But, someone I love dearly has.
I recently watched a debate he participated in at a college in Virginia on September 9, 2008. Why? Well, I was driving to visit my in-laws and happened upon Hitchens’ opponent, Frank Turek. I liked what I was hearing summarized by him and he referred to this debate, so being the curious person I am, I logged on.
I won’t summarize too in depth the two plus hour debate, but in a nutshell...
It was lively. It was so relevant. Both theism and atheism have some really hard questions to answer. Mostly the types of questions we no longer ask because we have convinced ourselves that the answers have already been established (via science, technology, enlightenment), or the question is just irrelevant to our daily lives... What am  “I”, WHY am “I”, What is life? WHY is life?
But has it really been settled?  Is it really irrelevant? Do you think it matters how these questions are answered:
How did the universe arise from NOTHING?
How did precision like order arise from chaos?
How did life (“living things”) come from non-life (rocks)? 
How did morality (a standard by which we know “right” from “wrong”, other than just one’s opinion) arise from materials (like carbon atoms)?
How do reason and logic arise from matter, mind from mud, math from molecules? 
How did human freedom arise from blind repetitive forces (mutation, natural selection and the like), and how did consciousness arise from chemicals?  (Turek, Frank. “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist”) 
Hitchens says he is “here (at the debate) to satirize the idea that we (humanity) are here by Someone else’s permission.” He is such an eloquent and effortless speaker. I enjoyed listening to his voice. But his opening remarks came after Mr. Turek’s remarks and I have to say that Hitchens’ comments mostly centered upon the atrocities of religion. He seems to see no distinction between man-made, institutional doctrines which were responsible for historical (and present day) atrocities and a timeless, immaterial, creatively powerful Being Who perhaps gives a rip about him.  
He states that God does exist, without argument from him, in the sense that He is real to those who believe in Him. But I think he insinuates that those who believe in Him are simple and unaware of recent knowledge and advancements which, he states (without naming any supportive sources) answer every single question about life and existence. 
I found it very intriguing how completely and passionately devoted he is to being free from control and servitude. Interesting.
His speech seeps of the worship of knowledge, and although he is witty, there is an arrogance and condescension that does battle with his likability.  That, seemingly unbeknownst to him, is a biblically primitive reality. I mean, there was, “in the beginning”, a very tempting Tree in a very beautiful Garden that contained some appealing Knowledge. Even if you don’t concede that, just go with me on this one for a moment. 
Christopher Hitchens has determined that he will serve himself, and whatever he decides is right for him, he will do. He requires no guidance or permission and he answers to no one. Seems fair. He may choose some things that are benevolent and charitable, he may choose some things that are not. But he has all he needs wrapped up in his DNA. He is fulfilling, within himself, the role that a theist would say is reserved for God.  I wonder how well he is doing at his job, because he certainly does not have a high approval rating of God's performance thus far in the history of religion.
For the Christian, our God provides an alternative to this "doing the most good with what we know." I have experienced it as very life giving, like that OTHER Tree “in the beginning.”  God provides protection (and that is not the same as a life free of pain and loss), wisdom, truth, perspective, and hope - and not because I need Him to in order for me to make sense out of my existence. He tears down the notion of enslavement (to self) and builds a brand new inner creation. He proves that KNOWING good is not the same as BEING good. As I believe ON Him and trust Him, I am remade more and more into His image. And He alone IS good.
But, believe WHAT and trust WHOM? Believe and trust YOURSELF and the ‘fact’ that YOU are all there is, or believe that you were made, you are seen, you have purpose and that the One who gave that to you, loves you because He said He did. And He demonstrated He did. 
So the choice in life is arguably, will you know ‘god’ by serving your intellect and understanding and expend your energy achieving what you determine life is to be about, or will you know God by allowing Him to give you meaning?  The former is seen by Hitchens as freedom, independence and truth. The latter seems to him to be very juvenile, controlling and irrational - oh, and downright evil in that it takes away from humans their RIGHT to control their own lives free of religious control. 

Hey, I am for that! I am free of religious CONTROL. But he assumes that a humans unfettered choices bring freedom. Really? Look at the choices people make around you. Look at your own choices. How much REAL freedom have those produced for you?

You know what? I have lived that life of control, calling the shots, making the best plans I could contrive. IT sucked. Really, it did. It looked all right from the outside looking in, but it was completely empty and without meaning. Why, if I were really just a collection of atoms, would I care about meaning? I cannot deny that I do. It is a reality. And you do too. Maybe it might be more wise to start having the shots called by Someone who knows a little more than you do. Worked for me.

Giving a free will offering of your life over to God's control is GOOD, not evil - in spite of the millions of examples of people doing evil in the name of God. All that proves is that people can get it wrong.  I still get it wrong in a wide variety of ways everyday when I lose my patience with my kids, exhibit selfishness and self-centeredness. These things are wrong FOR ME, they harm ME (and others). And that is why God cares about them. He knows that there is LIFE in being free from these inclinations. He has the wisdom to do something about it.
Christopher Hitchens is a servant wether he likes it or not. Everyone serves something or someone - be it self or outside of self. That is a fact. But God, as I know Him in Christianity, came to set us FREE from servitude, not enslave us to Himself or anyone else. He came to set us FREE from ourselves, our ambitions, our limited wisdom, our narrow perspective and deadly addictions. Without Him, that is all we have. He gave us an alternative to living that way. Before that gift there was no choice to make. 
God came in Christ to demonstrate His LOVE for us, to demonstrate that to serve Him is a life giving privilege. God LOVES us, He is not waiting to pounce on us or punish us. That is not the God of the Bible, in case He was ever presented to you as such. He has satisfied any justifiable penalty we might deserve for our independence. He loves YOU, and Christopher Hitchens and longs to set him free from the servitude and tyranny of knowledge without wisdom. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I just finished the midnight prevention potty trip and it is 3 am. Got the blessings again. A few hugs and sleepy I love yous. My cup overfloweth, and their bladders did not... I think that is win/win.

I went to the pool today with my dad, my step mom and my kids. It was really a good time. You pretty much have to go to the pool in Birmingham in the summer. Not many other options. If you take your kids to the park on a nice, sunny day, not only do you have to pack drinks and lunch, but you might as well take along some IV fluids for the dehydration that is likely to ensue.

I love the South.

It was great to see my dad in the pool with my kids. He was throwing them all over the place in the best way for about three hours. They were showing him all their tricks and talents. I think it is cool to watch my dad with my kids. It sorta gives me a little glimpse into what it was like when I was the little one being thrown around in the pool.

You need little reminders of that stuff because memory is so flawed. It is good to see the fun, laughter, hugs and such... because when you get older moments like those don't seem to have as often an occasion. And besides, it would be weird for my dad to throw me in the pool now. He's already gonna be super sore tomorrow, or today I guess. Perhaps as I write this he is aching in his bed at the Embassy Suites.

I have crossed a significant line in my adult life and I will share it with you. I have become old enough now to talk about my aches and pains in my body. I mean, in normal conversation with non family members. Not strangers yet, not acquaintances yet, but close friends and family. This is a rude awakening. This is something I generally think of older people doing. Talking about the weather and their back pain. But, here I am talking about my aching back, my nagging hip and my toe for crying out loud. And I already said something about weather a few lines back. Ugh. What the heck! I noticed it when my friend and her husband came to visit. A decent amount of the conversation centered on our physical discomforts. This is a bittersweet reality.

Bitter in that I am seriously surprised by my aching body. I still see myself as a kid in some ways. Yeh, I have thousands of dollars of debt, been married for 10 years, have three kids, finished medical school and residency, but still, inside, I don't FEEL that differently than I did before. I think differently, make better decisions I hope, and have a more informed worldview, but I generally feel the same inside.

That tends to explain the SHOCK I feel at my body aging. (Don't get me wrong, I know that 36 is not "old" and all that, but it is not 18, and if that is the frame of reference one has, then one is going to be sorta continually appalled at the way the outside is not matching the inside.) I think the frame of reference is almost always half of your true age. I have not scientifically tested this, but I think it would work out that way.

I think I am not alone in this experience. I wonder if that "feeling" is sorta tied to your spirit's existence as opposed to your mind and body. My mind certainly knows I am older. I mean, I CAN count. And we have already established that my body is fully aware of what is up.

The facts are inescapable. My body is wasting away and there is a 100% chance that one day I am going to die. But something completely opposite is going on in my mind and spirit. A little reminiscent of that "I wish I knew then what I know now" kinda thing I suppose, where when the physical ability was there the wisdom was not. Now, the know how is there and the perspective is there, but the dang BODY just ain't cooperating. Of course, sometimes, I beat my body and make it cooperate, and pay later. Some things are just worth that pain. I guess my dad just thought that throwing my son up in the air and into the pool about 100 times was one of those necessary beatings. I am glad I got to see it.

When my kids ask me about death, I have come up with this little definition... "Well, death is when your body stops working and you are just left with your spirit." I am not sure if this is the best way to answer that question or not. It is what I am confident happens, but I really don't know. You only die once and my time has not happened yet. So far as I know, only one Person has ever commented upon this reality with some experience. Lots of others have made statements with, what I consider, much less experience than He.

Am I really talking about death at entry number 5 on this blog? Seriously? I am not sure we know each other well enough for our relationship to stand this - or at least, your subscribing to these musings. But, it is 4 a.m. and I am typing on my computer so who knows what might come up.

You might need some chocolate, this could get depressing.

I jest. I have had some serious fears of dying in my 36 years. And rightfully so. I have made some really dangerous choices in the past, and I have made some really great ones that resulted in things that I would be devastated to lose. There was a time I was overcome with fear regarding this topic. Notice I am talking in the past tense. There's hope.

What happened for me was something I like to call "mental flooding." In behavioral medicine the technique of "flooding" is sometimes used to help people conquer fears that are disrupting their lives. It can seem kinda harsh to immerse someone in his worst fear in order to overcome it. But I think that is sorta what I did.

I was afraid of the physical pain of dying, or of being in an accident and one of my kids dying because I could not rescue all of them, or my husband dying and my living out the rest of my time on this planet specifically without HIM. These are some basic fears I think are relatable, but there were other weird ones that I am just NOT going to describe, so don't ask.

This went on for years. Granted I was pregnant most of the time which could not have helped in the rationality department, but it is sorta hard to argue with the basic fact that one day "my body will die and I will be only spirit." There is that whole idea of nihilism, where one believes that after the body dies there is just no existence, nothing except the chemistry and physiology ever made one "real".  By the way, that chemistry and physiology is pretty majestic, rational, intricate and organized in and of itself.  Qualities that one generally does not ascribe to  uncreated, spontaneous, ultimately meaningless "processes. " Maybe you would not describe them that way, but if you really looked into them, I bet you would.

Well, there's not much evidence to support nihilism to my knowledge PLUS is does not really match my experience. I mean, are we really only ever experiencing chemical reactions? Is what I witnessed at the pool today simply chemistry and physiology? I know the movement of the muscles and the ATP expended in the use of said muscles is happening, but wasn't there also more happening in a different realm? I am sure I REALLY experienced something more than just electrical charges and physiologic cascades of reactions. I just don't buy what nihilism is sellin'. I KNOW what makes me "ME" is more than the sum of my measurable particles.

My "flooding" went a little like this... "So, Melissa. What would happen if all this DID happen? I mean, God has not promised you that tragedy and calamity will not come your way. You should not trust Him for something He has not promised. There could be real let down in that." I kept going. I began to understand that at the root of all of this fear, was a fear that I might be wrong about God and calamity would prove it. Can I be that honest?

But God proved to me, that He is big enough and real enough for my honesty. He answered the question I did not even know to ask. That is just so what He does!

I shared with my husband my fear that if serious hardship came my way I might fall away from God. And if that can happen, is this whole God thing even real? You know what he said? of course you don't so I will tell you. He said, "Melissa, when you first became a Christian, and God was a REALITY for you, it was God who had been pursing you. It was not just you 'figuring out' stuff. He was actually pursuing you. And if you stray, He may have to fetch you again." I am sorta paraphrasing because it has been several years and I have slept since then. But, I am NOT sleeping now. It is 4 a.m.

Pursuing me, fetching me, shoot, even having me on His mind. I like the idea of that, but I cannot base my life on something I like to think is true because it makes me feel better - I have to know it is more than that. There were parts of what my husband described I knew to be true by experience. But, I was still afraid. Still waking up in the middle of the night running disaster scenarios of how to escape tragedy. Still trying to find ways to make myself feel like my worst fear had already happened and how was I going to answer my theological questions so I could still love God and trust in Jesus.

And, literally, one day, a familiar and favorite Old Testament story and scripture put a seal over a fear that has not been able to haunt me since.

Moses was trying to lead some really irritating people who were hard headed toward a destination that God had said would be a great place for them. But, the folks kept doing the wrong thing again and again. So, God said something like "OK, you guys can still go to that destination, but I am not going to be going with you." Moses totally flipped out.

It was like getting to go to that pinnacle, but not having the one thing you love the most, and it feeling empty and meaningless. I remembered that feeling. AND I also remembered when that feeling left my life. Who it was Who chased it away. And I remembered Who I loved the most.

Moses flipped out at not having God's presence with him where he was going. Apparently, Moses had become a little wooed and accustomed to living in an experiential REALITY with God, and living, now, without that was like... dying.

And I realized I had grown accustomed to it as well. The thing that saved me, was a promise. God HAS PROMISED that His Presence will go with me... no matter what. No matter if my child dies. No matter if my husband does not out live me. No matter if I get sick or injured. God's Presence will be REAL TO ME past, present and future. And THAT is something HE controls. Not me. I used to think it was something I conjured up (hence the fear when I thought I might lose my will to conjure should calamity strike), but no. Knowing that He is real and active in my life, is something He does. He is responsible. And He is not One to fall asleep on the job, or lie.

Since I knew that losing Him (by losing my faith due to tragedy) was the real root of my fear, having it made REAL to me that He is committed to me, would fetch me from anywhere anytime, and has promised me an experience of His presence for my entire physical life, I don't fear death anymore - mine or anyone else's who knows Him.

And THAT is how life is also, SWEET.  My body may age, my mind may slip, my memories may fade. But what I have experienced is real and has eternal significance. And Who I have experienced will be with me until my body quits and He and I see face to face.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Membership Has It's Privileges

So, it's out. You know. I have not been able to keep up with my high aspirations of posting DAILY Monday-Friday. I cannot pretend to be one of those types who has it all together. Did you really ever think that about me? I did, once. Now, I am over it.

I've been in a mood lately. A bad one for everyone involved. Just descended upon me about 5 days ago out of NOWHERE. Don't you love those? Just irritated by things that are just a part of LIFE man, and if I am that frustrated by it, I gotta lot of growing up to do. Come to think of it, growing UP would be great - it would solve that "I am short for my weight" issue!

In the Robert household we have practiced hospitality lately. I had one of my very best friends for 2 days and it was not long enough. She, her husband and three kids drove through our town and took a rest at our casa. They got some Shrimp Scampi with Linguine, and I got some reminder of how much I love my friend, not that I really forgot. We even got a grown up night with dinner and movie. It was an unmet need long over due.

Do you have friends who just became your friends in about a split second? I mean they told you their stuff and visa versa and you just got to be closer and closer? I have had an unnatural amount of these types of friendships in my life. It's sorta become my expectation now, and when it is not happening with some frequency, I get disturbed. I like the real deal relationship, much like I mentioned I like the Truth, and having something casual and meaningless when it comes to the real stuff of life just seems like a let down and a real waste of time. Knowing someone and being known is a privilege.

Of course that puts one at some serious risk. You gotta kinda know how to pick 'em. And, at times, my picker has been broke, and then my heart followed shortly afterward. What do you do when you have a broken picker (translation = you are not a quick and accurate judge of character, or, you ARE, and are just so needy of intimacy you disclose anyway to heck with the fallout)? I think you really only have to make one good PICK, and the rest works out. I'll explain, I know your dying to know.

I've been (and at times remain in the struggle) bound up in my "issues." I totally despise that word. It is too vague. Let me go further. I have been in need of some attention, naive then heartbroken, angry as a consequence, seemingly rejected, reflexively self destructive and sad, repeatedly, for years, then, finally hopeless. Sounds fun, huh? Like a person you really want to be friends with right? I thought so.

Outwardly, I think it must have looked like I did have it all together. Hence, my earlier comment above saying that I used to think I did have it all together. I believed my own lie. Very dangerous. I was smart by effort, a hard worker, OK attractive, had friends, a promising career, perhaps all that I thought I needed to be happy. But what is more hopeless than reaching the pinnacle and being shockingly disappointed with no where to go?

I was found by a Friend. Who, when I was at my weakest moment, found me appealing.

And I believed Him, not because I was naive, but because I accepted the fact that I had no idea what life was about. Making the DECISION FIRST to enter into this relationship was paramount. After much effort (which I would not have made if I had not FIRST committed to pursuit) I realized that He was REAL, not a story made up by men to make themselves feel better. I researched it, thoroughly, but more importantly, I felt it.

And although I can totally relate to the seeming irrelevance of god this day in age, this age ain't got nothing on Him for those who know Him." Particles and progress" is how I once heard it described. Meaning, you are made of particles and everything is moving towards progress, in a nutshell. Try building a LIFE on that one. Let me know, if you live long enough, how it turns out.

I don't mean to be harsh, but I gotta say, this pervasive, unquestioned, subtle 'fact' that science and achievement is all there REALLY IS (if you are intelligent and not deluded into thinking you need a 'crutch') is not only false, but deadly. And the way I see it, it is MEAN not to expose it. Right? I mean, if you have something AWESOME and it is free to everyone, are you not the scum of the earth if you don't share it? What is implicit in that is that one is SHARING out of LOVE.

And I love people. I totally do. I think it is because I have been loved by Someone who knows me and did and continues to do extraordinary things to prove it. For instance, relieving my pain with His perspective, covering my many failures with His overarching plan for my life, riding me piecemeal of my habitual, powerless coping mechanisms by changing my HEART, and taking away selfishness by reminding me I don't need to take care of myself because He is real and ACTUALLY cares for me. No DNA molecule, lofty theory, human relationship or achievement is gonna do that for you. It is a privilege of friendship alone.

So all I had to do was give veto power over to Him concerning my thoughts on my past, my fears of my future and the haunting futility of my present. That's all. Took about five minutes. I'm kidding.

Early friendships were so clique-ish were'nt they? To be in was totally random, or else required some serious effort and know how. But, as I said before, sometimes entering a really good friendship just happens naturally... or supernaturally.

And when you are with that Friend, you can just sigh and be... be known, be healed, be restored, be invigorated, be reminded, be renewed. Be accepted... no, that's too impersonal. Be embraced. Yeah, that is what He does. You are in, as is, with all the benefits of a best friend.

I needed that.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Breakin the Rules

I am not going to be writing on the weekends. But here I am - breaking all my rules, straight away.

I went upstairs at nearly midnight to do the prevention potty trip with all three kids. Helps cut down on the laundry which, when it piles up, is only slightly more irritating than the prevention potty trip. My husband does it 99% of the time so I should not complain, but why let that stop me?

I have discovered that he may be keeping a highly valued secret from me and it goes a little something like this:

I take Libby, my just-turned-three year old first. She barely wakes up as I do all the fundamental things required to place her bare bot-a-min (that is translated "bottom" for those outside our native tongue) on the toilet seat. (I cannot believe I am blogging about this, but there is a treasure.... keep reading.) She produces the product of all my toil, I redress her (still she is asleep) and put her in her crib after giving her a mommy kiss on the lips. I am leaving the room when she whispers, "Mommy. (little pause) I love you." I tell her, "I love you too baby." And close the door.

I move to my eldest daughter's room where I find her loving brother curled up at the foot of her bed. THIS is against "the rules." We never let them sleep together and before you judge me... I am a size 7 1/2... can YOU fit in those shoes? It is already, generally, quite an ordeal to get them to go to sleep in their own beds, ALONE - I just cannot think about the talking, giggling, and general shenanigans that would go on into an obscene hour of the night/morning if we allowed such commraderie. But, I let it slide.

I take her, then him, to the throne, return them to their posts and each barely knew what hit him/her. Four and half hours at the pool with no nap will do that to a kid (make a mental note... you may need that morsel of wisdom one day). I turn and look at my offspring and I can hardly believe in the deepest part of my heart that they are mine and how genuinely AWESOME they are - even in light of their completely irritating arguing, negotiating, deceptiveness, and disobedience I witness multiple times everyday. I cannot help but love them completely. I never want to be without them.

Then I understand how God can love ME in the shape I am in.

I only went through childbirth, with either a spinal or epidural, to have these three treasures... He endured unimaginable limitations, scorn, injustice, unparalleled pain, BY CHOICE to have relationship with me - even before I thought ANY of His actions would be required for such a reality to occur. Showing undeserved favor towards my kids is getting easier each day because of what I know.

I bet He loves it as much as I did when He hears me whisper to Him, "I love you" in the wee hours of the night.

My husband has been holding out on me if he gets this kind of blessing every night. I may take over more prevention potty trips...during the WEEK. I don't want to be breaking any more rules.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Come On, Join in the Fun

I took my kids to the pool today - finally. The kiddie pools had been polluted in some way a week or so ago and it took them FOREVER to get the pool chemicals right. All those wasted UV rays makes my heart sick. But, today we were back in action.

My oldest daughter looked at me from the pool and said, "Come on Mom, join in the fun!" I was sitting in my chair waiting for my sunscreen to soak in. That is what I always say when I am wanting to lay in my chair and just soak up some rays like the old days. But, I was persuaded and got in that cold, newly chemically treated pool. It was fun.

I do miss me some fun, but less these days than before. I used to find myself getting so caught up in having everything a certain way, that I was missing out on relationship - and sanity. Jesus said to a couple of gals once (one who was busy and resentful and the other who was sitting around enthralled in relationship) that ONLY ONE THING WAS NEEDED and the one who chose relationship was right. Oh, to be able to discern what that ONE right thing is in any given moment. But, I think the answer is almost always...relationship. I had to sacrifice a lot to live this one out. Well, it seemed like a lot in the beginning, but now it seems like nothing at all.

My house is MUCH less orderly and clean than my previous self would have stood for. My car is a freaking nightmare. I don't get a shower as often as I think is probably socially acceptable. I don't wear makeup much - that requires looking into a mirror and there is NO TIME for crap like that around my house.

Did I mention I have three kids? Three blessings. Three precious little tools who God is using to scrape out, bit by bit, those plaques of selfishness and pride that have been adhered to my heart since I was made. From the outside it looks like I am giving up physique (that may be true), career, money, "self".... but really I AM GAINING.

It's true. I am becoming what none of those things could accomplish in me. And I know that because I know who I was before I received the reward of kids and running a home full time. Academics and medicine (I am a doctor by trade and by debt) really kept me running at a pace that did not allow for much introspection. Maybe I subconsciously chose it for that reason. It also served to distinguish me from being "just another one of those" and to provide a setting for nearly constant verbal praise. I can see now that residing in that world, for me, was not going to rid me anytime soon of my addiction to stature and approval.

Don't I make motherhood sound appealing?

Well, it has been for me but in no way that I would have thought. Becoming patient, it seems, requires a patience testing reality. And, I got that. Check. Getting over myself requires, it turns out, a job of relentless, seemingly menial tasks that get little to no recognition from "the world" (not my family or husband, they praise me often).

I love the truth, you should know that about me from the start. I like to hear it. I like to learn it and incorporate it into my life. I like that it can be known. I like that it is not relative. I like that it does not change. I totally love the Truth.

And in the situation of being a mother, I find the truth is this: becoming the person God has in mind for me to be will happen in relationship, probably challenging and time consuming relationship. Probably in relationship settings that make me want to run for the hills. Probably in relationships with people who cannot be fooled into thinking I am smart, witty, perfect or any other thing I might like to project.

So to submit to this process I had to stop doing what I always did so I could become something more than what I was. I had to join in the fun of life, in all it's different forms, and put off the stuff of life that did not really meaningfully contribute to that metamorphosis. I had to stop doing and start being. Being engaged, being present, being less about what I have to say and want to do and more about what I can hear and enable.

I can sit out in the sun and get a nice tan alone, or I can jump in and join the fun and look all kinds of awesome on the inside.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Your First Glimpse

So this is obviously my first post, but not my first blog. Not to say I am a seasoned blog(her) or anything, but I started one and it was lame - so I erased it all and took a break for about 3 years, had a couple (more) kids and then today decided, I think I might have something to say.

So far this will be, I think, just my thoughts on any number of subjects. I have lots of thoughts and most of them just stay in my head making the rounds and are never fully developed and "outed". So, now I am out.

Stand back.

I just celebrated my 10th anniversary with my husband. He rocks. Literally. He bought me some diamond studs. I think they were named after him. I was crazy surprised to be receiving them, over a fancy shmancy dinner with my kids in the very able care of Ms. Jerry Kay (our sitter, or life saver, whichever you prefer). We have been aggressively re-working our attitudes about money and how we over spend it. So, I was not expecting AT ALL to be gettin' that kind of a gift. I got him a bendable tripod and silver money clip. He won. I did pour out my heart to him in beautiful prose, but I still think he won. But, who am I kidding? I am the one who REALLY WON.

He is the man I was too stupid to dream of. I am super glad I married him without thinking too much about it. Seriously, the best decision I made and the least amount of deliberation. Go figure. That is not generally how my mind works at all.

Welcome to it's world.....