imagesWarning: Forget about zombies…. we’re under attack of a two headed dragon lie. This dragon is trying to kill what God so desperately wants to create- community. Today we’re gone slay that lie like the warriors of love we are, and want to be. It’s the lie that if we compare our situations, pains and struggles  and joys and they don’t measure equal or greater than- we have no right or responsibility to share them. LIE. let’s take on one ugly head of this dragon at a time.

The first lie like sounds like this: “I feel stupid even sharing with what you’re going through…..” “It’s nothing compared to what you have going on…” And-the even sadder:  “I don’t even want to share this good news with them.. because I know how hard life is for them right now… my news will just make them feel worse.” The second ugly head of the lie looks like this: “That’s nothing. Really? Here’s what I’m going through- you should be thankful that’s all you have on your plate. Suck it up buttercup.” 

That first head is usually pretty noisy and vocal. It’s in your face- comparing pain, heaping on guilt and withholding joy. The second is usually a it more stealthy…. it’s often noticed in a look, an attitude a feeling and ocassionally loudly and proudly roaring to fend off connection.

Here’s the thing; this dragon needs to die. Both heads are damaging to relationships. The first self inflicts flaming guilt at the speaker and shoots smoldering guilt embers to the listener. The speaker feels like they shouldn’t be in pain or struggling with whatever they are struggling with. Or, they don’t want to share their joy as if their joy makes someone else’s pain somehow- worse. They feel GULTY for good news. The listener feels bad that their pain makes someone else feel guilty for sharing their struggles, and feel let out of sharing in someone else’s joy. It also has another insidious side effect- the listener feels like because they are struggling they are being judged as too selfish or  hurting to care for someone else’s pain or joy.  Both are left feeling guilty. Disconnected. Less than.  The second head is equally diabolical and destructive. It lives to compete for the martyr crown. This dragon head snaps and bites to trump everyone else’s pain. It minimizes the struggles of others it in order to be seen as some kind of amazing martyr. It injects a selfish venom in it’s bite.

The result of these dragon attacks are the same- separation.  Guilt, Fear, Judgment (or the feeling of being judged) all lead to destruction of intimacy. Killing (or at least )damaging community.  When people feel they can’t share their pain and  joy  they don’t feel connected. Because they aren’t. They are separated by a two headed dragon of lies.

its time to slay the dragon. It’s time to stop comparing our pain and start sharing it. It’s time to respect the struggles of others and be honest about the struggles of our own.

Here’s what we’re learning about this two headed dragon during our three year battle of cancer and other huge struggles: Shared pain is more bearable. Shared joy is more joyful. Sharing pain breeds compassion and understanding and intimacy, sharing joy breeds hope and joy.  It all creates intimacy and community.

It slays the dragon.

Today- as we continue through the holidays- I want to slay the dragon. I refuse to compare our pain or minimize the pain of others. I refuse to be unavailable to the joy of others. I choose love. I choose sharing- not comparing. I choose intimacy not isolation. I hope you will to.

Like all Dragon slaying- it will require courage and wisdom…. and maybe a bit of armor. Sharing in someone else’s pain can hurt, sharing in another’s joy when you are hurting can be bittersweet. It can sting. But it’s worth it to grow hope….it can be  the tilling of the soil hope needs to grow in.

Let’s do it-  lets slay this beast and built community. I already know I can’t do it on my own. I’m too selfish and human and have a heart that automatically judges and compares. I AM the two headed dragon. (With slightly better hair.) Or- I can be on any given day.  Somedays- both in the same day. (Trips to the cancer center can do that to you. It’s a bipolar mix of survivors and the sick. Trust me.)

“Dear Lord- I love you- it hurts when I see people comparing or withholding their struggles from each other. I can see the damage it does to relationships- and I know your heart is for us to love one another- give us courage and wisdom lord- give us a bit of armor to bear the sting that sometimes comes with the sweet. Lord help us share in joy and in pain- the way you do, help us create community – we are stronger and better together- we need each other as a body needs it’s parts- help us slay this dragon- I love you lord- amen.”

” Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge,my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” From Roman’s 12

 

Imagine a doctor’s office waiting room full of patients. They are not comfortable. They sit, they stand, they shuffle around trying to get comfortable. It’s a Neurosurgeon’s office. We’re talking neck, spine and brain issues, here. Add to that a 2 hour wait because your doctor is the top in his field and takes time with each patient. (Because he’s not a jerk.) Good. Uncomfortably bored yet? Me too.First we play a few rounds of “Musical Waiting Room Chairs” (Fun game. Gather a group of neurologically challenged patients in a small room and have them fight for the 4 most uncomfortable  chairs on earth while accompanied by Muzak versions of 80’s music. Those with wheelchairs and fancy walkers with seats? Watch them. They cheat.) Ok. Knit for a while. Now read. Check your email.

Bored yet? Me too. So, once we’ve worn out the musical chair game- it’s time to work the crowd.Last week- I didn’t work the crowd alone. I had a wing-mom. My mom. Let’s just say, my mom could get a stump to talk, and you’d find the story it told, charming. Trust me. She has people skills. And this was room full of people. Score.  In the middle of the room sat a dapper, elderly gentleman in a wheelchair. (A musical chair cheater but, I digress.)Somehow he managed to make that chair look like a throne. He was regal. From his Scala hat to his blinged out watch- this he had style.  And he liked to talk. Which is good. Because we had time, and we’d already won 2 musical chairs… we weren’t going anywhere.

So we talked. We were enchanted by his accent and his story for being there. (Everyone at the neuro-surgeon has a story. His involved a car accident. And a woman driver and a lot of hand gestures.  It was: Not his fault. Trust me- he wants you to know this.) His crinkled olive skin, bald head and quirky hat were topped off with a wonderful, thick,  but not quite placeable accent. Which I wanted to place. (I was still bored. A little.)

Italian? Maybe. Greek? Not quite. He reminded us of family…. so I asked… “Where are you from? Italy? Greece?” I was pretty sure it was Mediterranean. I got.. but exactly where? I had no clue.

“Oh … between Italy and Greece.” He said- then launched into a soliloquy about Italian food that left me drooling….(Not a side effect of my Spinal fusion… just hungry.)

I brought up the very incomplete “google-map” of the area in my mind…..Which pretty much looks like an instagrammed picture of a soccer ball and a high heeled boot…. I couldn’t think of anything between the two.

“You sound like my Grandpa.” I said hoping he’d tell me….he didn’t.

“Malta?” My mom prompted.

“No, No…” He said- but not offering any clarification and continuing on about his recovery in the rehab center.

I started to feel like I was on a new game show.. One where you guess the speaker’s homeland by his accent and win a discount on your next surgical procedure. Or a trip. That sounds better. Let’s go with the trip. Either way-I was losing.

So was my mom. We kept guessing.

He kept deflecting.

Finally- his wife piped in. “Lebanese. He’s Lebanese.”

“Oh….” My mom and I responded.

“I’m not afraid to tell people.” He announced.

Which told us: he was exactly that.

He then told a story of visiting a casino and standing outside to enjoy a smoke… and being harassed by a police officer. “They don’t like us there.” He said.. slowly shaking his nattily-hatted head.

“They don’t like us there.”

We made sure he knew we like him here, just fine.

We listened. We commiserated. We talked food. We told him the wait for this doctor was worth it. I might have picked up a little contagious- accentus while I sat there.

Then, I went in to see the doctor. He was gone when we left. But, his words have haunted me all week:”They don’t like us there.”

How heartbreaking that such an amazing, charming man who could be my grandpa— or yours- would ever feel like he’d have to “fudge” his country of origin because he’s been rejected for it before…….The truth is we’re all (well- almost all.) immigrants here.

I wish I could have changed how he felt.

I wish I would have given him a big hug. (Between the hat, the wheelchair and the few boundaries I do have.. that would have been awkward.)

I’ve been thinking about him all week. It wasn’t a fluke that we were there at the same time.

I hope he felt accepted. He was.

I hope he felt heard. He was.

Racism ( pretty much all “ism’s” ) hurts.  It makes us hide who we are- to protect ourselves.

It’s time to make the world a safer place.

It’s time to: Smile. Talk. Listen. it’s time to love the different around you.

We can change this.. one appointment at a time.

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. Col 3:11-15

beauty in winter...

In the detritus of loss, are the seeds of hope.

I grabbed my camera, and took a walk, desperate to find beauty.

I had to look beyond the gray, overcast skies and mud  to find it.

But, I did.

I found it in unexpected places. I found it in places that [at first glance] looked barren. I looked closer. I found the beauty of life to come.

In….

Seeds.

Pods.

In fuzzy, prickly burrs that hitchhike to better ground. I found it in stubborn lichen and moss that refuses to give up it’s hold on life. I found it in evergreens that defy the season of cold.

In the detritus of winter- I found beauty in the hope of spring.

It’s always there. Even in the darkest times. The worst days. Like moss, and evergreens, like seeds, pods and burrs.. if we look close enough.

Today- I’ll be joining Moms all over the world- as we pray that those suffering in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting can find hope. we’ll pray that they find comfort for their pain. That they feel love, in a time of loss.

In a world that has been feeing dark- cold and lonely- there is beauty in the connection of mothers’ hearts reaching out to pray for each other. There is beauty in community. There is beauty and something holy in shared suffering. I wish I could change what happened… I can’t. But I can do something….I can pray. I can pray for mothers whose children who are troubled. I can pray for mothers struggling with fear as they send little ones off to school. I may not be able to change a mom’s circumstances- but I can make sure she’s not alone.

If you’re feeling afraid, alone, overwhelmed or are longing to do something to support those who suffered such loss -I hope you’ll join with us in prayer.

It’s a step in making the world a more beautiful, peaceful and loving  place.

I stared at the fork in my hand.  I stared at the steaming pan of enchilada’s in the middle of the table.  Through the steam, I saw the smiling, gaunt face of my red-headed, dying friend and his beautiful, gifted with hospitality-wife. I smiled back. I looked to my left and saw my husband, to my right sat my toddler, forks also in hand.

“What if the doctor’s are wrong?  What if we can catch it from a fork?” I hated the thought, even as it formed. It was 1990. Until then, AIDS had been a news story, a health ed subject and a topic of gossip to me. Suddenly, it was very real. It was frightening, deadly and risky.

That day, AIDS stopped being a news story and became part of my story.

Why?  Because it was killing our friend. And it had the potential to kill our friendship.

Fork in hand, I had a choice to make. Would I allow my fear to pile hurt on an already bloodied and dying friend?  (There were some who whispered that people dying from aids “were getting what they deserve. And had brought it upon them selves” We saw how much this had hurt them more than the virus. itself.)

Or, would I trust in God and live the gospel I said I believed?

I swallowed my fear, and I dug into the pan, filling my plate, my husband’s and son’s with enchilada’s,  sauce and cheese.

Around that table, we shared a communion of enchilada’s and diet coke. We laughed. We cried. For a few moments-we lived the gospel.

I remember his bony, scaly red hand as we held hands to pray. I remember the tinge of fear again invading my heart as I reached out to clasp it. I remember the smile and warmth that met my hand in return.

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

It wasn’t because we were fearless or a good people. We aren’t.  We did it because we’d be desperate for touch if we were dying. And because the example we have is Christ . He touched the un-touchables of his day.

I wish I could say that prayer brought healing. It didn’t.

Our friend died.  Because AIDS kills. It still does. Every Single. Day.

Some ask where God is when people suffer.  I think he’s eating enchilada’s and drinking diet coke with them.  I think he holds a rough, scaly, bony hand in prayer.

When we let Him.

Today is World AIDS day.

My question to you is- Will you let him?

Wondering what you can do?  Here are some ways to touch someone:

World Vision Sponsor a child affected by AIDS

Bloodwater– Donate $ to help find a cure and to help treat those who hurt.

In honor of our friend (Alan) we’re sponsoring a child through World Vision.  His name is Daniel- he is a first grader who lives in Tanzania.

“Mom!…. un-intelligible  mumble mumble sniffle…sobs….Mom!” Screamed my youngest- through tears. 

I ran to the door expecting to find blood. I thought I’d find skinned knees or hurt feelings… (It’s THAT time of the summer, when kids have been playing together so much they are in a constant state of emotional flux..) I didn’t expect to find him standing next to my new car.

The new car we spent days looking for and test driving and struggling to pick just the right one.  Yeah, that one. The new car that I’ve always wanted. A (used- but new to me) convertible. Yup. My dream car. (It happens- some girls can have dream cars.) A silver 2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible.  My shiny, happy, sunshine conducive, non-moose-mobile new (ish) car. The car I’ve wanted for 20+ years- while I’ve been driving mini-vans and SUV’s. (Because I’m practical like that- aren’t all moms?)

Since my older two are in college, there really isn’t much need for me to drive a vehicle that seats 4 adults and a child. So it was deemed to finally be: convertible time. Standing in the driveway all I could think was:

Why is he crying by my car?”

Eventually I made out the words: “Bike, scratch (and)  I’m sorry”  Which is when I had an out of body experience.

From above the scene, I saw a “through all the coats of everything” scratch about 18 inches long on the rear quarter panel. I also saw my child, cowering as if he were facing the electric chair- or maybe the guillotine. The look on his face said: “I’m guilty and deserve to die. Forgive me, but do with me what you will.” 

Like all out of body experiences (I don’t know-I’m making this up, just go with me, ok?) time collapsed on itself like telescope, and then extended into an alternate reality…..) Or, it just slowed down around me while I moved ahead in my mind… which, kind of sounds like a psychotic break..but I’m back from, so don’t worry. Either way- in that moment I knew I had a choice: let out my disappointment and frustration with all the tidal force I felt it building up inside me with… and face smooshing my child like an emotional bug, or stop. Calm down, and get a grip.

I wanted to kill him. (Not really- but you know what I mean.) At minimum, I wanted to make sure he KNEW how upset I was.  I wanted to tell him to be more careful. I wanted to remind him to put his bike away and pay attention.

I knew that all of those things would have been the relational equivalent of napalm.  I’ve done it before and had to clean up the mess. (It’s bad.) I’ve also watched it happen hundreds of times:  a mom, in total frustration and desperation pours out  all of it on her child. The child crumbles. Everything he/she fears about itself- (I’m irresponsible, clumsy, stupid, selfish, lazy, inconsiderate, and should know better…) are confirmed by the one who knows them best: mom. and the weight of it crushes a tiny heart.

For once I choose to get a grip. (This could only have been an act of God on my child’s behalf. Trust me- the amount of calmness that overcame me was DIVINE and totally not: me.) I took a deep breath, silently repeated my mommy mantra: “People are more Precious than Products.”  Then: I said the only thing I could:

“I love you, more than any car.” 

Relief blew across his face, like the wind blows through a convertible.

Cars can be repainted. Things can be replaced or fixed or done without… but the heart of a child can’t.

Every mom faces moments like this- sometimes we choose to squash and others we choose to extend grace. I have to say- having done my share of squashing… the day after grace- feels MUCH better.

Today- or tomorrow- or sometime soon,you’ll probably have one of those out of body experiences… and I hope you choose grace, too!

People are more Precious than Products… Yup- even more precious than Silver convertibles you wait 20 years for….trust me on this- I know!

Dear Lord- thank you for that divine intervention. Thank you for extending grace to me- so I can extend it to others. God- I pray that you will protect my child’s heart from the times when I pour out my wrath instead. and I pray for each mom that reads, that she too will choose grace. Moms have  the power to squash like a bug- or build up like a tower..help us to build up our children- so they can withstand the wind of the world… In Jesus name- amen

 Proverbs 18: 20-21 

From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; 
   with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.

 The tongue has the power of life and death, 
   and those who love it will eat its fruit. 

 

hmmm so- anyone know anyone who does nice (cheap) paint work locally?  #fixedwouldbegood

Maybe, it’s a disease or a disorder….either way- I cannot pass a bookstore without going in. I can’t go into a bookstore without buying a book. (or maybe 5…)

So- yesterday, that’s what I did. I went in to the bookstore as I passed it on my way to the salon, at the mall. And, since I had to pass the bookstore yet again, on the way out of the mall.. I went in again.   Miraculously the first time I left with nothing. I was searching for a “Choose Your Own Adventure” Book for Noah.. (Yes, I use my children as an excuse to book-shop- who doesn’t?) and couldn’t find one. When I returned, I did and then…somehow, I accidently ended up in the (woefully stocked) “Religious” book section. (Funny how that happens, isn’t it?)

As I paced the aisle, staring at the shelves trying to make more books (to choose from) appear, a voice caught my attention: “Just let me know if you need me to move.”  I looked up, to see long straight, blonde hair framing a smiling face. “Oh, I’m just wandering- no need to move.” I replied. “You’re in a good aisle to wander.” She said. I agreed.

She picked up a book and asked me if I’d read it, and what I’d thought.  I had, and well- let’s just say it’s not among my favorites. I was torn how to respond.. and then just went with the truth: “Well- I kind of feel like all of his books are the same.. read one and you’ve pretty much read them all.” I immediately regretted what I’d said. What if she loved that author and I offended her?

I held my breath and waited for her to respond… ready with an apology if necessary…. (I tend to speak my mind- and so, I need to have apologies ready- at all times…) “Oh- I read another book by his wife and was wondering if this one was like a pre-quel or something. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.” I let out my breath. Whew. one less offense to worry about. “No, I think they cover a lot of this in that book- it might be redundant.” “Good- I really want this other book I heard about, but I can’t remember the name…”

We talked for a few minutes, trying to figure out the title. We searched the shelves… nothing. I pulled out my iphone and googled the info she had about the book… Princess something or other…(FYI: there are a LOT of Princess something or other books on the market- just sayin.) we found the title, but, it wasn’t at that store. Her smile faded. “I went to a conference this weekend and I really want this book- they quoted it and it really touched me….”   “I’d go across the street, to Family Christian.. I know they have it over there…”

Her head drooped just a bit. “I have a gift card for this store.”

Oh, that I get. Shopping on a gift card and wishing that the thing you REALLY want would magically appear… and fit your giftcard budget. Been there. Done that.

Which is when I decided to take a risk and (maybe) look crazy at the bookstore. (It wouldn’t be the first time…)

“Ok, so this may sound weird… but, I’d really like to bless you (yes, I actually said: “bless you.” I mean, who says that? Well..apparently- me.) with that book… is it ok if I give you some cash so you can go to Family Christian and pick it up?” I held my breath. I waited to see if I’d offended her… Had I assumed too much?  I mean this chick could have been loaded and was just trying to dump that giftcard before it expired…. what had I done?

Tears started to well up in her eyes. She blinked them away. “Really? You’d do that? You don’t have. to…..” I didn’t wait- that was all I needed.. I slipped a $20 out of my purse and into her hand. We hugged. (I wondered what the heck the college kid looking at manga at the end of the aisle was thinking..) She took it graciously and with a big smile. Then she looked at a book on the shelf… then at me… Have you read this one? I still have that gift card….” “I did and I loved it—- get that one too!”  I smiled.

She left.

I tried not to cry.

I’ve gotta say….It feels amazing when you take a little risk to look silly.. and end up in the middle of a divine appointment… used by God- to yes… “bless” another’s heart.

Tomorrow- (or maybe even today) I challenge you to open your eyes to the people around you….is there a little risk you could take? Take it!  It’s more than worth it….. you’ll be glad you did.

Dear Lord- Thank you for using my weird book-store addiction to help meet the heart need of another woman. I pray that the words she finds in those pages will grow and change her and fill her with the knowledge of your love…. I pray that you’d continue to grow me and stretch me to take risks and reach out in love… even  when I may look crazy… Oh.. and Lord– I also ask you to help me not use weird-irrelevant- semi- archaic words like “bless” in public…. it’s.. just weird. I love you Lord- amen.

I’m a mommy-bigot.   I hate it, but, it’s true.

oh my it's real

For the most part my bigotry is centered on mommy’s choices, preferences and lifestyles. I am prejudiced.  A bigot of Mommy-sorts. (I pre-judge others.)

It’s like I have a Google indexing program running in my brain.  For the most part my Google-fu is amazing… but it’s way off, when it comes to moms.

It works like this: I see a mom, sum her up in a searchable word (SAHM, Working, Home Schooler, Tatted.. etc) and my brain pops up a list of  “top results” (prejudices/assumptions/related searches) And “related” searches….

Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes, not so much.  They look a little like this:

Goth-mom- Top Results: Possibly a Mompire, prefers black fingernail polish, reads Edgar Allen Poe to children at bedtime.

Related searches: Bat baby mobiles, faux fang pacifiers. Current reading: Potty Training after Dark…. (more…)