Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sweet Dreams

We were standing in my kitchen. The exact kitchen that I cook in each day. There was a pot on the stove and food on the counter and we were busy preparing a meal. I had a flashback of my second grade school picture and when I looked at the counter there it was. And next to it was a picture of her. We looked alike. I had pig tails and light brown hair in the picture and I had her eyes. She commented how I looked just like her as she smiled slightly and then went back to stirring the pot. I stepped to the other side of her and just breathed her in. This moment of sweet silence between mother and daughter filled me with joy. What a gift to just be near her. I breathed her in and while my mind raced with specific questions all I could speak was, "I have so many questions."

She turned her head and looked straight into my eyes and she smiled. I reached out my hand and I lightly touched her arm. Was there ever a moment that was sweeter? Was there ever a moment that reached deeper into my soul. I was swept up in it and yet it was like pouring honey out of a jar- slow, sweet and quiet. I loved her. All I ever wanted was in that moment; time with my mother that consisted of cooking and smiling and a gentle touch. I was restored and there was no wound in my heart.

I awoke from that dream slowly. I drifted awake and the realness of it, the sweetness of it lingered with me as I lay in bed, processing that it was indeed a dream. It's funny to me that a dream so tender, so meaningful, so light but rich can, for the rest of the day, lay heavy on my heart. But that is exactly what it did.

In that dream was the first time I had ever cooked with my mother. It was the first time in a dream where my mom appeared that I was not yelling. It was the first dream with her, since I was ten years old, that I felt peace and simplicity and joy. And that is what made it so incredibly hard to wake up to the reality of my loss. It is as if life goes on in this fairly straight, nice line. And as more time passes I am used to my routine, my life and my past. I like my life. I am incredibly blessed in so many ways and the Lord has been good to me. But then, a simple dream makes it's mark on a Thursday morning, and I am thrown off balance. The wound I've carried for 19 years feels a little more tender than I am used to and suddenly, I feel a little lonely.

I don't know what I am to take from this experience. I am still processing it. This is what I know- at 29 years old, 19 years after my mother died I still miss her. I still have days when I long to see her and talk to her. And I have moments when I am in awe of the Lord for delivering me from the life that I could have lived had she lived. I drive to the West side of Buffalo every day. I see what the girls wear, how they talk and the strollers that most of them push. How easily that could have been me. Somehow, there was freedom in her death to allow me to live a "normal" life and to grow up in an area where everyone wasn't having babies at 15. There was good that resulted from my horrendous loss (good meaning beneficial, not enjoyable). Oh, but the sweetness to stand beside her all grown up and to cook a meal with her. There are still things that I have to grieve. I thought I had grieved most of them when I first went to counseling. I made a list of all the loss that resulted from the loss of my mother (not having a mom to take me prom dress shopping, go out for coffee with, go Christmas shopping with, teach me how to put on make up, buy the right bra size, coordinate an outfit, know when a guy liked me, encourage me, discipline me, watch chick flicks with, etc). But being a little older there are new things I am realizing I am missing out on.

Perhaps I will need to make a new list and maybe part of what the Lord is trying to teach me is that this is never over. That to think I am just over it is silly and prideful. I will always need to rely on Him for strength and healing and that in the midst of my sadness and loss I can still turn to Him and find His goodness. "But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord for he has been good to me." Psalm 13:5-6

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Heaviness of the Battle

I almost died last night. Ok, I'm being dramatic. I didn't almost die. Allow me to rephrase. Last night I had an experience that made my heart race (see, it just doesn't sound as good as the first sentence). It was a beautiful summer night. Warm and humid. The kind of night where the clouds are whisped across the sky, light and clear. The kind of night where the air is heavy on your chest and you long for a warm summer rain. I love summer nights. So, I took Cole (the furry, four-legged love of my life) for a walk. We went a longer route than I normally take him in the morning and we went down a street that I normally don't take him down.

I should say that earlier in the day, at church, the sermon was very heavy. There was a lot of truth that lay heavy on my heart and I was loving the chance to just walk with Cole and process. I was caught up in my head (and loving every minute of it!). Well, we walked by an old brown house with three young adults on the porch. A young man in a wheel chair, a young girl and another young man. They looked as if they were in their twenties and they were joking around. The one guy lifted the girls chair and acted as if he was going to tip her over. They were yelling and joking and swearing. And for a moment I was out of my head and observing them. But just for a moment and then I went right back to my thoughts.

Now, this old brown house, with the three people on the porch was a corner lot and had a fenced in yard. On our normal route I know pretty much where every dog lives and the type of dog it is. And I normally know something about the owner. For example, two houses down from us lives Cleo, a German Shepard. Cleo's owner is a louder middle aged woman that yells at Cleo to stop barking when we walk by. She likes to yell, "Cleeeeooooo, stop barking. Stop jumping on the siding. I am NOT buying new siding because of you." Cleo likes to bark, run and jump with her two paws hitting the side of the house. At the end of another street lives a yellow lab that gets very excited when we walk by and likes to bark and spin in circles. The owner often takes the lab for a car ride in the morning. And my favorite dog lives kiddie corner across from us. He is a little black pug named... Bo-Bo. Bo-Bo has gotten out of his yard several times and each times just wants to come over and say hi. I will scoop him up and return him. Bo-Bo's owners are for the most part friendly and apologize for his escape.

However, I didn't know this yard. I didn't know these three young adults and I certainly didn't know the large, furry black dog that out of nowhere was running along the fence barking at Cole and me with his fur standing up. In fact, I was so in my head that I didn't even see the dog run over to the fence. I heard, "You better watch out" and then I looked and there was this giant, fierce dog. I pulled Cole away from the fence telling him to, "Come on... come on, come on, Cole." We were crossing the street when out of the corner of my eye I saw something. I turned my head a little and saw the one young man run to the fence and LEAP over it. In that moment I couldn't understand why he was running towards me and why he hopped a fence in a way that I've only seen done in the movies. But when he stopped in the middle of the road, crouched down, arms extended, I saw it. I saw why. The fierce black dog had gotten out of the back of the fence and was running at Cole and me. His fur was still standing straight up and his fangs were exposed.

I was frozen. Fight or flight? I chose frozen still, heart racing. And any thoughts I had been lost in before were gone. My mind was blank. The dog dodged the young man and ran to his left. The young man ran toward the dog and about three feet from me did a sliding tackle and literally tackled the dog to the ground. He stood up holding the dog under his front legs. Let me reiterate that. This guy TACKLED the dog. He tackled the dog and held him back. What did I do? I just started to walk away.

I felt in those moments after fear, relief, adrenaline, and a protectiveness that comes from loving another being, in this case, my two year old black lab. So, you see, I didn't almost die, but it was quite the experience. And this is what the Lord spoke to my heart, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." 1Peter 5:8

A near dog attack warranted a lesson on spiritual warfare. Crazy? I don't know. But as I prayed on the walk home this is what I took from that experience. On my walk, I was not alert. I was in my own little world, consumed by my thoughts. And even though I was processing truth from a sermon I was still in my own little world. And out of nowhere comes this "roaring lion". But was it really out of nowhere? No. The dog saw us before I saw him. The dog ran at us before I even saw it. And the dog knew the hole in the fence and saw clearly the path to get to us. I saw none of that. I was not on my guard. Do you know what happens to people who aren't on their guard? They get attacked. But, thankfully, that young man was on his guard. He saw the events unfolding, he was alert and he was well aware of the action he needed to take. That is what living life on guard and alert looks like. Me? I am the example of what not to do.

Do you know the beauty of those events and that truth from God last night? Today, today was a day that was filled with spiritual warfare. As I stepped into work today until the time I left I was faced with the heaviness of the battle going on around me. I am tired. I feel a little weary. I caught glimpses of the battle going on around our shop. I caught a glimpse of the battle going on for this one young man's soul. And in the midst of that heaviness God graciously gave me the opportunity to share the gospel. To speak truth in the midst of darkness and hopelessness and to drive home laying it all before Him.

The battle does not belong to me. But to think I have no part in it is wrong. The battle belongs to the Lord. We are to live self-controlled and alert because we have a very real enemy. But in the midst of the battle we are to stand firm in the faith, knowing full well that God is victorious and the battle belongs to him. I love the verse in Exodus when the Egyptians are pursuing the Israelites. The Israelites cry out to God and say that it would have been better for them to stay in Egypt (captivity) than to be here being pursued by the Egyptian army. Moses says to them, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." Moses speaks these words and then the Lord speaks to Moses and says, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on...." Then God delivers the Israelites. I believe in the midst of the battle I need my heart to be still, and to know who the deliverance and the victory belongs to. But also, there is action in war. The Lord told Moses to have the Israelites "move on," and I think that in battle I am to fight with a still heart. How does that work? I'm still wrestling through this, but I think, that maybe, I am to have a "still heart" while every other part of me is fighting as hard as it can. Perhaps it looks like a peace filled heart in the midst of war. It's knowing in the midst of a very real battle that whatever happens, ultimately, the victory belongs to God. He is bigger than the battle. He is bigger than the enemy and he's bigger than my fight or flight response.

I don't know how I did today in the battle. I do know this- the heaviness of the battle did not create a hopelessness in me. The darkness that was present did stop me from seeing the light. And standing firm in the faith today meant speaking words of hope and life to someone that was hurting. To someone whose soul is hopeless. Words like, "why even go on living?" are not from God. They are from the one that seeks to steal, kill and destroy. And my prayer today is that the Holy Spirit would sow seeds and allow hope and truth to penetrate even the deepest parts of this hopeless soul. May the truth and simplicity of the gospel take root in this soul. Join me in fighting this battle and standing firm in the faith. Pray that the truth, light and love of Jesus would be incredibly real to the young adults on the West Side of Buffalo. We need only be still. Lift up our prayers. Seek God and know that He is bigger and the battle is his. To Him be the glory.