Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I'm an Old Dog, but I've Got New Tricks!

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

Despite my fears, which induce kicking and screaming while gnashing and gnawing, I am in the process of conquering lots of them. If I can do it, you can too. A fear can be as simple as feeling overwhelmed by technology or as complex as agoraphobia and panic attacks.

When I began this blog, I had a standard joke: I married a geek and birthed two so that I don't have to be one. If my husband so much as changed one icon on my desktop, I couldn't tell you which one. None the less as my computer booted up, I was unhinged to the point of tears because my 6th sense told me he'd gone to meddling again!

The sum total of the many crises we have endured since 1999 resulted in my experiencing minor panic attacks. I had no clue they were slipping up on me and ramping up in intensity until my counselor identified the problem. By the time she did, I was on the verge of developing agoraphobia. I found I could only venture out of the house for basic, unavoidable necessities and then only if I could complete the chore within fifteen minutes start to finish.

This last year has been one of self-discovery. I've combated that agoraphobia thing pretty well as demonstrated by plane trips to New Mexico and DC for writing/blogging coferences. The panic attacks are still minor. I recognize them now as the begin to besiege me. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not a train. Well . . . if it is, do not send me the memo. Ignorance is bliss, and I'll keep it that way for now!

These last two months have been pivotal in my campaign against techno-phobia. I've even amazed my three geeks a time or two! My husband recently gasped, “ are doing HTML!” I think he resisted the urge to run look out the window to see if pigs had started to fly. When Son #1 realized I knew what a hashtag was and how to use it, let's just say you are rich now if you invested in smelling salts a few weeks ago.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I recently began an online Bible study re the Proverbs Woman hoping to address my weakness in life-planning. The truth is, I felt as if I might feel more of a failure by the time the study is over. I was a-skeert to try it. I overcame that fraidy cat and jumped on board. I'll let you know how it works out.

One of the harder things about the impact of living in limbo and crisis for over a decade has been the effect on my ability to plan and implement what I plan. Son #1 and I were discussing my frustration with me this morning. I have been praying about it a lot. In fact, my frustration in that area is one reason I signed on for the online Bible study!

Everywhere I look, there is a project waiting for my attention. It seems I will never catch up from the set back of falling and breaking my leg over two years ago now. I mean, goodness, I was only off my feet for 5 months. How could it take this long to catch up? I think the short answer is: every time we had a life setback, I began slipping farther and farther behind. So, between my fall, Jeff's near death from sepsis, and my mom's eight weeks of death and dying while in an ICU unit, I was done for.

It didn't help that I came from a family in which goals involved only what it took to get from one day to the next. My dad was a bi-vocational pastor. In the 60's that meant you worked for free as a pastor and then worked a 40 hour a week job on top of that for pay. Life didn't leave a lot of time for grand projects, goals, or to-do lists. So, we lived from one day to the next without much thought of the distant future.

The sum total of my life has me feeling as though I spend most of my time wrestling an alligator. If I'm not so engaged, its as if I'm slogging through neck deep wet cement as it sets up while carrying a 50# load of rocks on my back. I am a party animal. What can I say?

Today, I decided to embrace technology in hopes of helping me manage life with more productivity. My blogging friends introduced me to a nifty little thing called Evernote. I ran in fear. Today, I quit running, turned around, and faced my fear.

Courtesy A. Huges
I opened the program, began to explore it, and created 2 'notebooks' using the applications. One is to track my ongoing kitchen renovation. The other is to track a 30 day challenge I am doing to refine and improve my capabilities as a blogger. I am feeling pretty smug here in the wee hours let me tell you.

Here's the thing about fear. It is a harsh task master. If we give an inch, it will take a mile. Myself? I'm tired of being bossed around by that greedy tyrant. How 'bout you? I'm so glad you have come along on this journey with me. I hope, in doing so, you are taking the 1st steps to taking your territory back from the fears that haunt you. If I can learn a few new tricks, you can too. Even if you are an old do like me. I promise.
Courtesy B. Creasy 2010

Love you long and strong, fraidy cat. Don't you stay gone now, you hear? 
Isaiah 41:13 (The Message)
That's right. Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I'm not letting go. I'm telling you, 'Don't panic. I'm right here to help you.'

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Gift of Prayer - Reclaimed

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Do you pray? Are your prayers limited to formulaic “Now I lay me down to sleep,” sorts of offerings? Is prayer intensely personal or only something you do in very desperate, pivotal life moments? Has prayer ever abandoned you?

My boys will tell you that in the worst of homeless times, we devoted any time we were alone to prayer. If the wheels on our car were rolling, I was praying with them. When Son #1 begged me not to pray because life only got worse when I prayed, I prayed on. I could not foresee a day when prayer would abandon me and I prayer.

I once ended grace before a meal with the words, “Okay! See you later!” After which, I began chatting with a friend and eating. Till I saw the stunned look on her face. As we both burst out laughing, I asked, “Did I just say . . . ?”

She replied, “Yes. I thought, 'My! She really is on good terms with him, isn't she?' ” Even today, the memory makes me laugh right out loud.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Given those realities, you might think I have always been able to abandon myself to the discipline of prayer. You'd be dead wrong. In the dark, dark days I did pray. Not for myself or my family but for others. I had no words left when it came to my life. I was spent. I hoped others were praying for me while I prayed for them.

In that time of devotion to others, I would waken in the wee hours and call out names of friends and family. If I knew of situations causing pain, confusion, or despair, I'd lift those up too. When sleep refused to come, I'd flip on the computer and begin to jot notes to those for whom I prayed. I might not know if anyone was praying for me, but at least friends knew when and how I prayed for them.

I often wondered, “Does anyone see me? Is there anyone left who cares? Does God ever call me to someone's mind and spur them to pray for me?” If I wondered those things, others might too. So, I'd jot my notes of reassurance, “You are not forgotten. I see you in your pain.” Sleep would finally come even tho' rest did not.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I began to think of myself as an intercessory prayer warrior. I was not proud nor preening in that role. It was the desperate act of a desperate soul. Into those long days of desperation came a note that silenced me. After it came, the only time I prayed was with my boys and then minus the warrior's heart which formerly typified my prayers.

The day came when I received a reply filled with flip nonchalance. My prayers for this family were appreciated but not necessary at all. Thank you very much. I sat stupefied knowing the gentleman's immediate family had endured public disgrace and enduring crises on an ongoing  basis. His rebuff came as a crippling slap to my soul.

The middle of the night prayers and notes were no more. Instead I sat in silence. I was not God's head cheerleader. I had adjusted to that reality. I had decided that if I couldn't fulfill that role, I could be a prayer warrior. After all, even the Bible encouraged everyone to that role! Now it was plain. I couldn't even be a prayer warrior.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Maybe I gave up too easily? By the day I received the, “Thanks but no thanks,” note re my prayers, it didn't take a lot to silence me. In the years since, I have prayed only when asked. My soul felt hollow. I felt lost.

When I least expected it, I found my prayer 'mojo' again. While I was at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference, I took a non-fiction class. The students included a number of ladies young enough to be my daughters.

Yesterday, as I was reflecting over the week away, I thought of those 'girls'. Before I knew it, I found myself praying those middle-of-the-night kinds of prayers in broad daylight. I call them my “Monday Girls” because I decided to hover over them in prayer on Mondays. I had made the decision before I knew there was a decision to be made.

In one of the bravest acts of courage this fraidy cat has ever exhibited, I went out on a limb. I sent them a note telling them of my prayers. I told them they are my “Monday Girls”. I did not tell them how fearful I was to contact them and make such a bold and uninvited proclamation. I did not tell them I cried after I hit the send button because I was so scared of rejection. Truth be known, I did.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Just as I began to kick myself for falling down the same old rabbit hole believing God had a role for me no matter what life experience tells me, notes began trickling back. Kind and gracious notes thanking me for my gift of prayer and promising prayers for me as well.

It was as if someone spoke up and said, “Welcome home, fraidy cat. Sure are glad you're back.”

Love you long and strong. If you are a fraidy cat, my prayers have hovered over you for a year now. It's a scary place out there. We fraidy cats have to stick together! Come back soon and bring a friend?

Courtesy B. Creasy
1 Timothy 2: 1-2 (The  Message)
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. 


Monday, May 28, 2012

Richer Than Harry Potter's 'Mamma' (aka J.K. Rowling)

The prodding started several months ago, took me totally by surprise, and happened over and over again. The Lord tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Study to show yourself approved.” I knew the application was not precise with regard to the scriptural context. But, I also knew what he meant.

He was telling me to slow down, be still, and listen. I've always been in too big a hurry in my life. I want to get on with things and learn as I go. Why slow down to study when on-the-job-training will get you there? I've wasted too much time in my life which is, by anyone's standards, at least half over now. Got to git to crackin', and can't slow down no more!

I was preparing for the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. While considering projects to pitch to an editor or publisher, I reviewed my work for possible contest entries as well. After all, I've been pretty prolific with posting to this blog the last year. Surely, there was something I had worth pitching or entering. Only a slacker wouldn't pitch and/or enter, and I'm no slacker!
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

I'd sit here night after night going back and forth with myself like a tennis ball at Wimbledon. Just as I'd decide on an answer, the voice would echo in my head and heart like a warning beacon telling me to alter my course of action. “Study to show yourself approved.”

What was God trying to tell me, and why would he slow me down in my progress toward fame, fortune, and an internationally known presence in the publishing world? Yes, in my wildest dreams, I am 'all that'. You'd think God would be on board with my plan by now too! Apparently, he is a memo or two short regarding my grand empty nester plan!

Time evaporated, and it was too late to craft a pitch or enter a contest. I fretted and worried over whether I was wasting my sponsor's investment in me. Shouldn't I be more goal-oriented given what my big brother/sponsor has done to foster my writing career? “Study to show yourself approved,” echoed the voice in my soul.

Courtesy A. Hughes
In the end, I bit off more than I could chew. I've done that since I was in junior high school and learning how to sew! I decided to devote my mornings to a fiction practicum and my afternoons to one on non-fiction writing. Good thing I like pie, 'cause I sure ate a lot of one filled with humble-berries! Bless Ramona Richards and Eva Marie Everson for the gift of their time and attention to a fraidy cat like me!

Just as I feared, my classmates were much farther along on their own projects. I felt like I had a big, fat 'L' (for 'loser') tattooed on my forehead before the week was over. Glad I listened when God kept whispering that I needed to apply myself to the pursuit of wisdom. I was even more thankful I had reigned in my inclination to pitch and enter when what I needed to do was be quiet and ponder.

God had a different, far more satisfying, agenda for me this year. Because I was not tied up in knots of anticipation vying for faculty appointments or waiting for the awards ceremony, I felt peaceful and free. I was free to sit and soak up the information I gained in the classes without underlying anxiety to distract me. Beyond that, I was free to focus on the people with whom God so graciously surrounded me.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
How could I have known the sweet, sweet gifts he would supply in the midst of my obedience? Even tonight I am in awe of what he planned. Divine appointments with special people paved my daily path. He had prepared me for those moments by freeing me of an urgent agenda to prove myself a writer worthy of either attention or acclamation.

I am thankful for the faculty that devoted themselves to my enrichment as a budding writer. I am thankful for peers who challenged me to raise my game. Most of all, I am thankful for the relationships fostered that have strengthened and encouraged me in ways I never could have imagined before last week. I am a rich, rich girl indeed. In fact, I can't imagine that Harry Potter's 'mamma' (J. K. Rowling) is any richer than am I tonight!

Courtesy B. Creasy 2010
2 Timothy 2:15 (International Standard Version)
Do your best to present yourself to God as an approved worker who has nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of truth with precision.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Echoes in Heaven

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Had it been a year since I last saw her? Funny how we can live a thousand lifetimes in a year. A smile capped a shy nod of acknowledgment. We both felt the impact of time. How to pick up where we left off? Should we even try?

She was so young. I was the one to whom she'd say, “You and my mom would be good friends.” I wondered if I should do more to connect. No. Leave it alone. After all, in just a few days, we'd retreat to opposite parts of the country. Facebook would again allow a wink and a nod here and there. I could leave her to her younger friends and life. She didn't need me. Facebook friends we'd be.

The echo in my heart prodded again. Do not let this opportunity fade. Call her name. I looked up. Another had stepped in the gap. She didn't need me. It would be a busy week with so many calling her name. I would be lost in the noise. Me. The one old enough to be her mother.

Again the echo. Don't give up so easily. I turned to see her back retreating at a clip. Time was running out. Doors would open and close. Would the chance come again? I called out expecting my voice to fade beneath the din of old and new friends gathering to bond. She stopped and turned.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Another shy smile signaled me on. My pace hastened as did my heart. What to say to this lovely young lady whose life had touched mine so briefly?

We did the dance new old friends do when the cement of friendship has not had time to harden. “Hello? Have a good year? What have you been up to?”

I took a deep breath and began to lower my mask. “You have no idea how pivotal this year has been nor the role you have played.”

The tension in her jaw loosened as perplexity dawned. “ME?”

As the details of my story spilled out, tears began to spill down her cheeks. “You have no idea. I can't believe you would say you felt those things last year. I had no idea. I can't believe you used those exact words to describe how you felt then. That's exactly how I feel now.”

We managed a hasty retreat to a quieter area. Our lives entwined in ways I never imagined. Life had broken me. She entered my life just as I began to climb out of my pit of brokenness. Only a year later, the pit was trying to swallow her. She wept out of pain. I wept out of wonder.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
She is afraid and adrift. Sure that what is coming will bring disaster. I have seen disaster and lived to tell about it. And so it was, that we spent two hours together, the unlikely pair that we are. She the lovely young lady that is everything I'd want a daughter to be. Me the woman old enough to be her mother sure I had nothing to offer that she could not find in a younger friend.

We spoke of love and faith and doubt. We spoke of foundations too poorly laid. I spoke of hope in the face of paralyzing fear and doubt. I clasped her hands and prayed. More than that, I promised to pray without ceasing until her storm has passed.

Today, I inboxed her with a reminder that I am here. I promised I would not leave unless she told me to. “And even then, you may have to chase me away with a bat because I know that 'go away' often means 'don't you DARE leave me in the middle of this mess.' ”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Last year, I had been a desperate heart in desperate need of prayer. A stranger said, “If you need prayer, just stop me and ask. I will pray for you. I will.” Too afraid to trust, I slipped an anonymous note under his water bottle when no one was looking. Later, we connected thru friends and Facebook. His prayers have followed me all year long.

Courtesy B. Creasy 2010
You have to smile a bit as it dawns on you. Heaven is filled with the echoes of our prayers. Now his for me mix and mingle with the echoes of my prayers for my hurting friend. What a beautiful sound that must be. 
Jeremiah 17:14
Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. 


Saturday, May 19, 2012

It Takes One to Reach One

Baptism Day
Never one to miss a kindred spirit, Son #2 is always on the lookout for another metal head. I'll tell you the truth: I was a whole lot more comfortable with Son #1's love of all things classical. I've often asked God to explain what he was thinking when he decided to bring Isaac into my middle-aged life. I'm ready to sit in rocker and learn to knit old lady afghans. Here I am hauling a teenager to local rock concerts and trying to talk him out of navy blue hair. God really does have a sense of humor, doesn't he?

Trouble is, if you go looking for something, you usually find it. That means we end up spotting rocker dudes just about any place we go, including fast food joints. The minute Isaac saw the fella, he started to vibrate with animation. Before I knew it, he had sidled up and engaged the rocker dude in conversation. I sighed and shuddered. How was I gonna keep that kid from influencing my kid without looking like one of 'those' moms?

Didn't take me long to get antsy and start to look for a way to disengage the two fellas. The southern charmer in me did not want to look rude. The mother in me wanted to scream, “UNCLEAN VIPER! Get away from my kid!” as I jerked my son to safety. Forget about Jesus eating with the publicans and sinners. I didn't want the supper crowd to connect my son to the incarnation of Alice Cooper's younger brother. Not then. Not ever. We weren't 'that' kind of people.

His hair was the length Son #2 aspired to. His clothes screamed rock star wanna be. His tattoos were enough to make me recoil in horror. The girl with him looked harmless enough. I looked closer and watched the interaction between the three of them. Why, oh why, did he have to want to hang out with Alice Cooper's younger brother?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
And then, I remembered the morning God reduced me to tears as I poured my heart out to him. Oh. Yea. That tattooed rocker dude was never gonna give me the time of day. Nor I him. But, he'd talk to Son #2 all day long. They spoke the same language. Did I trust God to keep his promise or not? Hmmmm...the last few years, that's been a problem as we all know.

Not soon enough for me, Son #2 returned. We ate our supper while I chewed my tongue off to keep from launching another Spanish Inquisition. I managed to stave off the Q&A session until we got into the privacy of the car. Isaac knew the fella's name and the name of his band. He knew the couple came every Thursday night. What a coincidence. UGH. So do we most of the time. Great.

One meeting has become a few. I have watched the dance of friendship ensue. I admit, I am mesmerized because I see things I didn't see when all I could think of was shrinking away and pulling Son #2 away even faster. I see two lonely, disaffected young people hungry for the attention of anyone that will treat them as if they are anything other than unclean.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
One recent Thursday night, my bold son told me about their interactions. After examining Aaron's lyrics, my son gently approached the subject of faith. “I hope you are not offended, but I have concluded from your lyrics that you are an atheist. Maybe I'm' wrong, but it seems that is what your lyrics suggest.”

Aaron, a dead wringer for Alice Cooper, replied, “I would say that right now I'm undecided. I'm searching.”

Then, my brave, brave Aspie explained his take on why the Bible is true and said, “I hope you make a decision soon, and I hope you decide that God is real.”

The little child shall lead them. And, if you give them half a chance, a teenager will too. We've begun to pray for Son #2, Aaron, and the girlfriend. This week, an old lady you know did the unimaginable. You know, 'that' mom. When Son #2 was otherwise occupied, I took a deep, hard gulp to get my pride down where it belonged. I approached the young couple feeling some sense of trepidation.

Hello. I just wanted to thank you for so patiently engaging my son. He looks forward to seeing you every Thursday. In fact, sometimes we go elsewhere just so I know you guys are getting a break from him. If ever it's inconvenient, please feel free to tell him so.”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The young couple brightened and began to speak simultaneously assuring me that my rocker-dude-wanna-be was no trouble at all. “In fact,” the young lady said, “It's kinda nice. There aren't many people around here like us. He's really very sweet. He's no bother at all. We like seeing him.”

I could feel all the eyes in the place on me, the old lady, engaging these kids who were so out of place. In that moment, I heard it. The loneliness, the isolation, the fraidy cat that said they didn't belong much of anywhere. My heart broke as I bid them enjoy their meal and slipped away.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I eased the van out into traffic. “Son, let's pray for Aaron and his girlfriend. Let's pray for God to soften their heart to his voice. I hope you will live your life in such a way that they will want to know more about your faith. I'm proud of you for allowing God to use you to encourage folks like Aaron toward faith. People like Aaron need people like you...not people like me. But, I hope that I will become less like someone who judges them and more like someone they are glad to see.

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010
Thursday night is coming. Now, there are two of us looking forward to seeing Alice Cooper's 'younger brother'. One of them is 'that' mother. But, she is hoping to be the mother they know looks forward to seeing them even tho' they are different. May God bless and honor my son's desire to reach out to them. Pray for him? It's a fraidy cat world out there, ya know. He might just make a difference one day.

John 4: 14
but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Imperfect Child with a Perfect Purpose

He was still shorter than me when he wore spy shades to church while sporting his tattoo art. The designs were his own, courtesy of tattoo markers. Yes, I am 'that' mom. I bought them. At that juncture in his young life, he had considered a variety of careers: monk, world champion hang glider, poker champ, chemist, hypnotist and comic book producer to name a few. I figured this too would pass.

This Sunday, he was caught between potential careers of tattoo artist and detective. The glasses had little mirrors that allowed him to watch the folks behind us. My good friends sat there watching him watch them. After the service, Shane chuckled, “That boy is always going to march to his own drum, isn't he?” Then, they compared tatts.

The tattoo stage had long passed when the season of bullying sucked his soul dry. I guess, however, it's no wonder he found the beat of heavy metal appealing. Our older son only listened to Classical music until he was in high school. They say no two kids are alike! We are the picture dictionary example of that truth.

When I began the series, “The Gentle Art of Kamikaze Parenting”, I felt as if I was treading on ice so thin my feet were under water as I was writing. What did I know about parenting to tell you about it? If you knew 'the truth', you'd scoff at me. I don't have all the answers, but I have learned something in this mean season.

You can rule by an iron fist when they are little. The older they get and the more tense life is for them, the softer that guiding instrument must become. Did I want my son listening to some of what he listened to? No. Could I stop him? Theoretically, yes. He's under 18. Practically, in this day of instantaneous media connectivity, no. You don't realize that when they are 3 and 8 and 10. You think you will always be able to keep your fences intact.

By the time they are 14, you realize it is time for you to put your trust in an Almighty Creator God and the job you've done as a parent. There aren't enough software management programs like Net Nanny or Covenant Eyes to keep a computer savvy kid away from what's out there. We set our limits, explained the consequences, then began to pick our battles as parents.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Long hair? Ok. As long as you are obedient, speak respectfully, and keep your language clean. Short of those 3 parameters, you go to the barber shop. We made good on that promise. So, when I said we set our boundaries and then picked our battles, I meant it.

Heavy metal music? Sigh. Even tho' it made our hair curl, we chose to use it, and are still using it, as a teaching tool. We examine lyrics and talk about how angry, lonely, and hopeless some of them sound. We talk about how Christ is the answer to the questions contained in the indecipherable (to us) lyrics.

We look for Christian bands whose music is tailored to reach out to disaffected youth and compare the hopefulness and truth in those lyrics. We take him to local concerts to meet local youth who comprise those bands. It was and is a full tilt campaign designed to prevent Satan from finishing the job the bullies had started.

Front Row Center- Winter Jam 2012
Our 'unsocialized', homeschooled, socially 'impaired' Aspie kid can walk up to any band member anywhere and begin to expound on the intricacies of the music they have in common. He never meets a stranger, and unlike the bullies on the block, they never call him strange. In fact, his pics with some famous bands have now earned him some fairly respectable 'street creds' with the kids who used to bully him the most.

As I was praying with Isaac one morning, an incredible thing unfolded. It was as if I felt the Holy Spirit surround me. As my words sought the Lord that morning, my heart cried out in fear of the music and the anger and the history.

Into all that soul-chaos, it was as if God said, “I've got this. I've got this kid. He's mine. Satan cannot undo what I have begun. I have a good work for him to do. This thing you fear so much, this music, will be the very thing that enables him to do what I have ordained for him to accomplish. He will be my voice to angry, disaffected kids that will need someone like him, vs someone like you, on their side. He will 'get them'. He will speak my language for them. I've got this. He's mine.”
Fencing - 2012

I wept uncontrollably. Me? Mine? The imperfect mother of the imperfect child? How could this be. A calm I cannot explain filled my soul.

So it was that I became another version of 'that' mom. You know, the one that did not want my kid to talk to 'that' kid because he might sully my kid. We were at a local fast food joint. My heavy metal kid, always on the lookout for a kindred spirit, looked up to see what could have been Alice Cooper's younger twin walk in the door. Son #2 literally vibrated with excitement. Me, not so much.

Boy, oh boy. We are getting to the good part now. Son #2 is about to take me to the woodshed as he reaches out in love to someone I'd rather have run from. I can't wait to tell you how I watched God's promise begin to bear fruit in my son's life. I can't wait to tell you about Son #2 and the Rocker Dude.

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010

Matthew 25:45 (The Message)
"He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.'

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Imperfect Parent, Imperfect Child

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The smile melted and slid off my face as the words slapped me and then hung in the air taunting me. I looked around wishing there was a place to hide. I wondered how many around me heard the cautionary words another mother directed at her son as mine walked up. “Remember, if he uses foul language, you call him on it.”

I eased into the group wondering if I should stay or go. In that instant, my entire day changed. Happy chatter filled the air as the other mothers exchanged greetings and pleasantries. No one seemed to notice my heart laying in pieces in the dirt around me.

Yes, it was my son she was speaking of. Yes, I was a failure as a mother because my son had what she considered a potty mouth. “Why,” I wondered, “did she have to invoke caution in such a public way? Could she not have taken her son aside privately? Was it necessary to announce, in such a passive aggressive way, that I was a failure, and my son one of 'those kids' you'd rather your child not rub up against? Will her child always be so perfect,” I wondered further. “If he slips beyond her iron grip, how will she cope? Will she look back and remember today and how she made me feel?”

It was the most hideous of times. Son #2 had been bullied and tormented till he was beside himself. Tsunamis of anger threatened to wash him away for good. My happy-go-lucky son had disappeared. His last days of childhood destroyed by the tempest that engulfed him. We had been horrified at the changes and helpless to erase the damage done. One day he was safe and life was happy. The next, he'd come inside trembling with anger and spewing vile about his tormentors. He never knew if the day would be safe or scary. After a while, he quit taking chances. He just stopped going out to play.

The day came when he told us about his new vocabulary. “I talk to them the way they talk to me. It is the only way I can make them leave me alone.” If only my 'friend' could have been with me that day. Perhaps she would have seen my son, my foul-mouthed son, in a different light. Perhaps instead of publicly chastising us among our homeschool friends, she would have put her arm around me and told him how glad they were to see him. How glad they were that we had sought refuge among friends where we would be safe and accepted. No matter how we struggled.

We feared we would never get him back. He gravitated to heavy metal music – the kind that would cause many Christian, homeschooling moms to shriek and run if they saw us coming. He wanted navy blue hair down to his waist. He was only 14. We hunkered down and wondered how much worse it could get. We cried out to God, “If you don't help us, no one can.”

With fear and trepidation, we sent him off to camp the 1st time. Terrified of the potential outcome of sending our angry, head-banging, metal-head to a Christian camp, we spoke at length with camp staff and church staff. They agreed to keep in touch during the week. The fraidy cat in me was adrift in a sea of panic. He couldn't take much more rejection. What if there was more rejection?

He came home with clearer eyes and some of his former energy. He had been the “Tigger” in our household until it was bullied out of him. The return of his 'bounce' gave us hope. Maybe we had turned the tide? We still had much work to do to tame the lion of anger that possessed his soul during the months and months of bullying.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
We joined a church gym to give him an outlet for his energy. The senior citizens that populated the place looked at his long hair, surly scowl, and middle-of-the-school-day presence. Their looks said he didn't have to open his foul mouth for them to know him. He was one of 'those kids'. It was the park all over again. We were judged wanting, my desperate son and I.

The miracle began to happen in bits and pieces. He'd run to hold the door for a couple as they arrived or departed the gym. From under the hair that hid his scowl, he'd allow a pleasant, “Hello.” They'd take a second look and harsh countenances began to soften.

Before long, the grandpa's were asking to play pool with him when his workout was finished. The desk staff would break into a smile when they saw him coming. They knew him by name. Some would reach out and pat him as he walked by. He wasn't one of 'those kids' afterall. Every gesture was a band-aid to my crushed heart. I watched him begin to flourish as he became everyone's grandson.

Oh, fraidy cat, this story is not all told. Do you know this kid? Have you been that parent? You don't have to explain a thing. All fraidy cats are welcome here, especially if you've been rejected on the playground of perfect parenthood.

This son of mine has taught me something I want to share with you. His story isn't over. He's still a work in progress; aren't we all? You'll be amazed at the rest of the story. I can't wait to share it! When I do, I pray you'll see hope where you may now only sense dread. Love you long and strong. See you tomorrow?

2: Corinthians 2: 7(Amplified Bible)
So [instead of further rebuke, now] you should rather turn and [graciously] forgive and comfort and encourage [him], to keep him from being overwhelmed by excessive sorrow and despair.
 Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010

Galatians 6:1 (NIV)
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Yardwork of the Soul With God

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Another holiday has come and for so many, the day will not be a picture perfect Hallmark card. The reasons are as numerous as the number of eyes drifting  across this page. When life has been grueling and there's no relief in sight, God can get lost in the details.

I plead guilty. I lost him. Tho' I knew he never lost me, I lost him. Have you ever felt that way? The details of life swept me away until I was awash in a sea of despair. I understand what Job meant when he said, “When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.” (Job 23:9 NIV) I know how he felt when he said, “But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him... When he passes me, I cannot see him; when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.” (Job 23:8 and 9:11 NIV)

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Over the last several months, I have begun to pray for spiritual eyes to see God when, in my human frailty, I might miss him. The boys and I pray for the opportunity to encourage others, but we also pray for the ability to see encouragement when it is right in front of our preoccupied eyes. I wanna tell you it makes me feel good to pray that prayer because my prayer gets answered in the next few minutes. See me shaking my head?

Wanna know what's happened since I started praying that prayer? So many things here at fraidy cat central have broken it's a wonder I get anything done. If I'm not busy being preoccupied with those disruptions, all I have to do is walk outside to be reminded life is chaos.

The early onset summer heat and rain have made what should be my idyllic looking backyard look like a South American rainforest. I had it  all under control till my leg broke. Since then, not so much. If I could wave a magic wand, I'd create a yard man to come fix what I'll never be able to catch up with before an anaconda takes residence out there.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Today was a perfect day for meandering around my backyard rainforest. Instead of meandering, I mowed. Uphill both ways. If you saw my yard, you'd know I'm speaking the truth. In the midst of my mowing, when I wasn't praying to live thru the experience, I talked to God about how out of control life feels. I was scared to death my runaway yard is a picture of my chaotic, weed-choked heart: fraught with good intentions but undisciplined and out of control.

I found myself praying for help out there. Not lots of help. Only little bits of help here and there because I know our penny pinching lifestyle won't bear much in the way of overhauling this yard and starting over. Given that reality, I asked for a way to find encouragement to keep working towards what seems like the impossible.

I came in and found the testosterone unit in charge making order out of chaos here at fraidy cat central. He was doing that for me because I was doing the yard work for him. It's an uneasy arrangement because he wishes his health would allow us to switch places. Since it won't, I feel like I get the better end of the deal: free exercise while he fixes stuff for me. One small appliance was fixed just in time for our Mother's Day meal prep. He had the fridge on the mend just in time as well.

Courtesy R. Harper
I sat to rest a minute which, as you know, included looking at Facebook for a minute or 30. Up popped a picture from a friend who was selling some yard sale items online: 50ft of lawn edging for a $teal. I had just been wondering how much edging would co$t and how long till I could afford it. I had to shake my head and chuckle right out loud.

So many times, we look for God in the big things and fail to find him in the mundane things of life – like lawn edging. I saw the picture of lawn edging and saw more than yard work in my future. I saw a God who sees my chaotic, out of control soul and, tho' I've lost him, he knows right where I am.

He sent me a postcard. It said, “I see your out of control yard, and I see your out of control soul. Just as I've provided the lawn edging to encourage you about your yard, I have my eye on your soul. I'm working in you just like you are working in this yard that troubles you so. Tho' you look for me and cannot find me, I am here. You are mine. My plan for you will not be overgrown and choked out by the weeds of despair. I am the Master Gardener who specializes in lawn edging of the soul.”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Oh, fraidy cat, is your soul like mine: overgrown, choked by weeds, too far gone to attempt a rescue anymore? May I introduce you to my Master Gardener? If you have lost him, or maybe never even looked for him before, he knows right where you are. All you have to do is look around at his creation to know he is a Creator God who pays attention to the small details of life. He is the Master Gardener with the perfect plan for our out of control souls, yours and mine.

Love you long and strong, fraidy cat. Come back and walk with me again sometime? Till then, know this: my prayer is that you and I will both know the Master Gardener is at work in the chaos of our souls.

Courtesy B. Creasy
Psalm 138:8 (NIV)
The LORD will fulfill [his purpose] for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever--do not   abandon the works of your hands.