Thursday, January 28, 2010
Okay, I know I'm her mother, but I'm usually pretty objective about my kids. (I know you're thinking, Yeah, right! Like a friend of mine's dad used to say, "Every ol' cow thinks her calf's the best . . . " but, really, I AM pretty objective!) And I can honestly say that 98 per cent of the time, this one -- Baby Daughter -- is about as sweet as her picture. (And, yes, I'll admit that the other 2 percent can be ferocious, but that's not what we're focusing on here.) Her sweetness and good-heartedness is why I'd like to knock some of her classmates in the head!
Okay, let me explain.
Baby Daughter works about thirty-eight hours a week (not forty because then her company would have to give her little perks like insurance, but that' a whole 'nother post), and goes to school at night. Cosmetology classes.
What on earth is it about the world of cosmetology that attracts so many immature females who each appear to be vying for the title of "Drama Queen, USA"?
Hold on -- before any of you jump on me for that last statement -- of course I know that there are exceptions. There are exceptions to every rule. But the for the past three semesters that BD has been in the cosmotology program of this school, it's been like watching her go back to junior high or high school, for Pete's sake. The cattiness, the gossip, the inconsideration, the name-calling, the unwillingness to help each other out . . . ugh! I'm telling you, it is ugly!
BD understands that there are these kinds of people everywhere, in all walks of life. (Heck, I teach with some! I go to church with some!) But when you have to deal with the same ones day in and day out, it's gets awfully tiresome. And BD was awfully tired last night when she came home.
One good thing, though. Between the sniffs and the tears, she said, "I tell you what, Mama, it sure makes me appreciate my real friends and my sisters . . . and people who are just nice and kind -- people who are NORMAL."
Ahhh, see, there's the rub.
We raised our kids to think that these things are normal!
Did we set our kids up for a fall? Maybe. Okay, yeah, I guess we did 'cause those traits sure don't seem to be the norm for most of the world. Still, it's a risk I'm glad we chose. Our kids' may get a bruised knee or a skinned elbow here and there, but their hearts are healthy.
Being nice. Exercising kindness. Helping. Showing compassion and care. Being fair-minded. Exercising generosity.
Simple acts. Cardio for the soul.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
My "adopted son" is coming home. The one who calls me "Ma." And I need some prayer.
My "adopted son" isn't really adopted at all. He's a kid who, sitting in a seventh grade language arts class, stole my heart. And he's never given it back.
In 1996, after four years of juggling three kids, a husband, a variety of other activities, and a full-load of college classes, I was finally finishing up my batchelor's degree in literature and preparing for a career in teaching.
My student teaching assignment was at an intermediate school in another Houston suburb, just down the road from my own. And yet, on some days it seemed as if I traveled to a different planet each morning. The second week I was there, two female students -- eighth-graders -- were found on the other side of Houston, shot in the head, execution-style. I hadn't known the girls, but a cousin of one of the girls was in one of my classes. And although I saw him every day, seeing the black, tear-stained face of a wirey fourteen-year-old speaking into a local news camera -- "They didn't deserve this . . . " -- was my family's introduction to Desmond.
Desmond had never known a father. His mother was a crack addict, and his grandmother had brought him home to her house from the hospital to raise. His freshman year of high school, I was once again his English teacher and he and I grew even closer. Granny passed away Desmond's junior year, and I watched as cousins, aunts, and uncles crowded into the church pews around him at her funeral. When the service was over and the church had emptied, Desmond was left to pretty much raise himself in his grandmother's house. An uncle or cousin or two were at the house from time to time, and other relatives were in and out, but no one really seemed to take responsibility for Des. Once, when Desmond became dangerously dehydrated after a football game, I rode in the ambulance with him while St. Michael followed in our truck, and I stayed with Des in the ER while St. Michael sat in the waiting room with his coaches. (I signed for his treatment, praying no one would ask questions.) No mama. No aunts or uncles. No cousins. Desmond came home with us for the remainder of the weekend. Later that same season, it was St. Michael and I who had the privilege of escorting him onto the field for Parent Night.
Don't get the wrong idea, this is not The Blind Side, and we are not the Tuohys. Desmond's always been pretty independent, and we've been there for some things and absent for others. In fact, at one point during his last part of his senior year of high school, he did move across Houston to stay with his mother, and he and I were actually estranged for a while. (Sometimes kids who raise themselves avoid telling the truth; it's a survival mechanism, but one that I don't abide very well, and it led to problems between us.) Still, the ties between us have never been completely severed, and just prior to his being stationed in Korea several years back, the phone calls began to come once again. He called when he could, and we E-mailed.
We prayed for his safety during his tour of Iraq, and when he finally returned to the states and was stationed in Missouri, we talked about his PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) diagnosis and the accompanying nervousness and depression. Though he had planned to make a career of the Army, he did not re-enlist when his last four years was up. I don't know all of the details, but I know he was having problems. Picked the wrong women. Married and divorced. Started finding himself in the wrong places at the wrong times. Got stabbed by an out-of-control acquaintance one night. Recovered. Spent thirty days in jail for something else I'm not quite clear on. Lost his job. Got his heart broken by the latest girlfriend . . . tough times for a young man who, seemingly, just a couple of years ago was so excited about finally finding his niche in the military.
(Gosh, I realize this has gotten long, but I thought I needed to lay some groundwork for you before I ask for your prayers.)
Late this Saturday evening, Desmond will get on a greyhound bus in Columbia, Missouri, and begin the long trip home to Texas. He'll stay with us while he gets his head together and prepares to re-enlist in the Army and get his life back on-track. He didn't ask for the room and board. I offered. And while St. Michael gave us the okay -- me and Baby Daughter (who loves Des like a brother) -- he's not really thrilled about this. He's not feeling the motherly vibes that I do. (Heck, on this one, to be honest, he's not even feeling the fatherly vibes.) Working side-by-side in ministry to those who feel disenfranchised, who spend their lives in the "system", who take advantage of and often abuse the very people who are reaching out to help them has taught us some hard lessons in the past.
It is possible to be too trusting.
It is possible to give too much.
It is possible to do everything "right," only to have it all turn out wrong.
It is possible to get hurt -- he and I both know that -- so I understand that St. Michael is simply taking on what he feels is his God-given assignment as protector. And, truth be told, I need that 'cause I tend to lead too often with my heart while totally ignoring my brain. (Sometimes that works out okay, but it can also be dangerously foolish.) So, sistas, my prayer is that I will walk so closely with the Spirit during this time that I will exercise His wisdom in every decision, experience His guidance in every action, and, at the same time, cover all things in His love, holding tightly to what needs to be held onto, and letting go when I need to do that, too.
Please join in praying this with me.
Grateful grins and blessings,
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Seen inside this week’s Bible study material:
"Pray that learners will desire to set aside disagreements with other believers so that they can continue participating in God’s mission."
Ugh! Been there. Done that. Threw away the T-shirt.
A couple of years back, I found myself smack-dab-in-the-middle of one of the most gut-wrenching misunderstandings/disagreements/irritations (I could go on!) I’ve ever been in the midst of -- in church, no less. Walking away from the situation wasn’t an option. I was the pastor! (I couldn’t exactly change churches, y’know?) In addition, this person was vital to our mission, and no way did I want her to walk away either. So . . . we worked it out. Easy to type out. Easy to read. Not so easy to actually do.
There were tears. (I don’t know that I have ever cried so much in “one sitting” my entire life, and, people, I’ve been through some deep valleys where lots of snot was slung!) And almost as many words. Heated words. Accusing words. Bitter, swallowed words, deeply felt but better left unsaid at moments. Finally there were pleading words, begging Papa-God to heal our hearts, and humble words, asking for forgiveness and understanding. It was one of the rockiest, most difficult paths I’ve ever walked, and I’m sure my co-laborer felt the same. But we both came through it more resolved than ever to work together toward the building of the Kingdom. And you know what else? Miraculously -- it was definitely a God-thing -- we came out with a deeper, stronger, more committed love for one another (and appreciation) than we would’ve ever had otherwise.
Do I ever want to go through that again? Not in this lifetime! But ya know what? I would if that’s what it took to be part of the team that builds something lasting. (Heck, even if that’s what it took just to love my brothers and sisters better.)
The mission. Bigger than me. Bigger that us. And, yet, we are part of it. Awesome. Definitely worth walking a few rough roads.
Until next time . . .
Grins and blessings!
Friday, January 22, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Well, it occurred to me a while back that I wasn’t the baby in anybody’s group anymore. But, still, I was in no hurry to put on my big-girl panties and actually be all mature about everything all the time. And I was good with that. After all, there are a lot of perks to being the baby. (Just ask my youngest!)
Then disaster struck.
I found out last summer that I was going to lose someone close to me. No, he wasn’t going to die – although, to be honest, it felt at times like I was – he was simply embracing a new God-given opportunity that required relocating. A move that was good for him, good for his family, good for the Kingdom of God, for Heaven’s sake! But, it meant that he would no longer be my pastor. No longer be my mentor. No longer be my brother, my friend. No. Stop. That part’s not true. But that’s how it felt. And I grieved. And grieved. And grieved.
It’s okay to grieve. Even big girls get to grieve. But this grief was big. GI-NOR-MOUS, in fact. At times, all-encompassing. It became a deep, dark chasm that I didn’t know how to work my way safely around. Fortunately, as well as brotha-friends, Papa gives us sistah-friends. As I shared my grief with a close sister who has the wonderful gift of discernment, she gently pointed out that it was possible that, without my even realizing it, I was grieving the loss of who I viewed myself to be in connection to my brother.
Whoa. Like big-time, major stop-the-presses WHOA.
She was right.
My brother validated me. He validated me in ways that few people in my life have. He knew my unpolished, ragged, rough, still-under-construction edges, and yet he chose to see me and treat me as the completed woman Papa-God designed me to be. His quiet, matter-of-fact faith in my spiritual gifts and talents not only enabled me to believe in myself but led others to trust in my leadership and abilities. When Papa asked me to take on totally-out-of-my-comfort-zone responsibilities and never-before-faced challenges in the midst of new ministry opportunities, it was this brother’s voice that Papa used again and again to affirm my calling, to steady my steps, and to shed light on the path and provide encouragement for the journey. How could I go forward without that voice? How could I continue to walk my race. much less run it, if he wasn't there to coach me, to cheer me on?
By growing up. Yup. By growing up.
It’s time to walk for a while without needing someone hold my hand. Without being afraid of stumbling, of maybe even falling flat on my face. It’s time to realize that I don’t always have to have someone there, ready to catch me, but that, instead, I am perfectly capable of regaining my footing or dusting myself off if I do go down, getting back up on my feet, and then moving on. A little bloodied maybe, but still moving onward. (This might also mean that I need to learn where the Band-Aids are kept instead of always wanting someone to run and get one for me.)
Does growing up mean, then, that I don’t need anybody else? To quote another brother, Paul, “May it never be!” It just means that I don’t need to be dependent on one specific person to be my “primary caregiver.” I need to be open to letting others invest in my life, and I need to invest more of myself into the lives of others, as well. It’s time for me to be the affirmer, the encourager, the sister who takes someone else by the hand and says, “Let me walk with you for a while, so you don’t have to go it on your own.” (After all, big girls feel free enough from self-consciousness to focus on meeting the needs of others without always having to ask, “Am I doing it right? Am I good enough to do this? Did I do an okay job?”)
As for my friend, he will always be my brother. No matter where he is. And I will always be his sister. After all, we have the same Father. And if we are willing, it is He who raises His children, growing us up into the likeness of His image.
Grins and blessings,
Monday, January 11, 2010
(And right now you're asking, "As a teacher, how could you have missed that?" only if you don't know me very well.")
Immediately pens and pencils went to jotting my name down on prayer lists.
Thanks, guys! We all -- my kids and I -- survived. In fact, we did something pretty cool that I haven't done classes before that will hopefully set the tone for a new semester. We each decided on a theme for 2010. Well, actually I had already decided on my theme, but it was a new concept for my babies, and it had them wrestling with ideas, pencils, and paper for the better part of a half-hour. (When I first heard about having a "theme" for the year, it took me a lot longer than that to figure it out.) Let me explain.
Robin Rane , over at All Things Heart and Home , wrote that her friend Beth had, some years ago, introduced her to the idea of choosing a theme for each year -- some word or phrase that would focus, shape, and stretch her throughout that year. (You REEEEALLY need to run over to Robin’s blog to read her thoughts on this when you get a chance. Read her “Looking Back, Looking Forward Again” post and the one that follows it. Awesome stuff! Robin is so real, so transparent – and funny at the same time – I think you’ll be inspired.)
As I explained it to my sixth-graders, a theme is better than a list of do’s and don’t’s because it’s much broader that what we could fit onto a checklist. A good, well-thought-out theme has the potential to blanket every part of our lives – our thoughts, actions, words. And, as I also explained to my kiddos, even if there are days that we forget about our themes and make not-so-good choices, at the end of this year, we’ll still be in much better shape as people than if we had no theme at all.
My own theme? “Grow Up.”
Yup, you heard me right. My theme is “Grow Up.”
I could make it sound much more spiritual or “pretty” it up by writing something like, “Magnificent Maturity” or “Growing in Grace” or “Righteous Ripening” (okay, maybe not that one), but Papa didn’t tell me to fluff and style it or to turn it into a Bible study. He just whispered the thing I need to do, and I wrote it down: Grow Up.
“Growing up” will mean different things to different people. Tomorrow I’ll try to explain what it means for me.
Meanwhile, even though we’re well into the second week of 2010, I don’t think it’s too late to decide on a theme for this new year if it sounds like something that might work for you. Go ahead. Have a chat with Papa about it, and see what He says. Then say it out loud . . . write it down . . . walk it out . . .
And if you get a chance, let me know what it is. I love to hear where your focus for the coming days will be.
Grinnin' and growin'!