Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sometimes the Journey Stinks!

My Mom, Anne Myers, playing jacks in the midst of her cancer battle.  I miss my Mom!
Nine years ago today, on Mother's Day, my Mother passed away after a valiant battle with cancer. After 9 years, I still have to stop myself from picking up the phone to ask her a question or tell her something. I'm 48 years old and, I'm not ashamed to say it, I miss my Mom!

Today, I'm getting all the details together for Walk a Mile in Their Shoes. Our church has held this event for the past 5 years to raise money for Relay for Life and Celebrate Life. The 1st walk was in memory of my mother. Organized, largely, by Debbie Lloyd. This year, we are walking in Debbie's memory. 

I'm sitting in front of the church watching the world go by. A big group of 1st & 2nd  graders just walked by on a Field Trip. Traffic is flowing (or not) as usual here between lights 7 & 8. Life goes on and the journey continues. Sometimes I just don't like the direction it's going!

I'm getting ready to sort shirts for an event being held in memory of one if my biggest cheerleaders. I'm wearing a "Team Jackie" shirt in honor of another great encourager who is in the midst of her own cancer battle. I just had a conversation with my boss/friend/mentor and had to see the hurt and loss in his eyes as he anticipates having to preach on the first Mother's Day without his precious wife and mother of his children. Moments like this leave me feeling sad & powerless. Sometimes the journey stinks! 

So here I am again. Putting it down in words. The very act of expressing my sadness is cathartic. Everything is not ok. Pain is real and we're surrounded by it. Today, especially today, I am thankful for my faith. While I'm sad or angry about the situations I see, I get comfort from knowing I'm loved and that God is in control. As I kneel at the cross, I'm thankful that God can bring me peace and comfort even at the most painful times. 

My Mom taught me that. 
Debbie taught me that. 
My own cancer battle taught me that. 

Sometimes the journey stinks. But, I guess if it was all easy, we'd be a pretty soft bunch of people.  Thank you God for my pain. Use it to make me stronger. Let my experiences, good and bad, be used to bring glory to You!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Thank God for Nature's Beauty in an Ugly World

*Note: I wrote this several weeks ago and decided it was too wordy.  However, I can't get the imagery out of my mind so I'll post it anyway.

Today I did something I haven't done in years.  Literally.  It's been a very conscious decision on my part to avoid it and I really didn't want to change that today.  But, I did. It was emotionally painful and definitely uncomfortable. Isn't it strange how often those things end up being learning experiences?

What did I dread so much? It will seem minor to most of you but, I can assure you that for my family and me, it wasn't.  I went to my Grandparents' place in Dutch Bottoms.

After my brother's family moved to Denver, Daddy & I worked to keep things in order. But it didn't take long for the scavenging segment of our society to figure out that it was unoccupied. First, they stripped all of the wire they could get to. Then they began to remove anything they might be able to sell, a little bit at a time.  I never went back after finding that someone had ripped up a section of the pine flooring in the living room.  I get angry, frustrated, and very sad when I see how little regard people have for the property and memories of others. My answer has been avoidance and denial.  Probably NOT the solution the average therapist or pastor would recommend!  I look the other way when I go to Morristown and pretend that it's not as sad as it is.

Anyway, today I got a call from a concerned neighbor saying that it looked like someone was at the house and it looked like they had tools with them.  My first inclination, honestly, was to ignore it.  They've done so much damage already that I couldn't imagine it was worth the effort to check on it.  But, I had a few minutes and it was a beautiful day so I went.  They were gone before I got there but I looked around since I was already there.  What I saw, in my opinion, was a testament to the brokenness of humanity.  The idea that you can go into a house that isn't yours and destroy things just for fun blows my mind!  I can honestly understand the theft of things of potential value more than generic vandalism.  As I stood there and seethed, I came to the realization that these actions are the epitome of the culture we live in.  They come from the need to be in control, to be noticed, to be important. I was angry, so I did what I've always done- headed for the woods.

I walked up the hollow to the pond. Amazed by the growth of the privet that has almost hidden the road and blessed by the sight of wildflowers beyond imagination.  The deeper I got into the woods, the calmer I got.  I lay on my stomach amongst the flowers to frame a picture and looked up at the incredibly blue sky.  As I took a deep breath, I revelled in the glory of creation and the knowledge that I am loved by the Creator.

Then it happened.  That blow to my "righteous indignation" that brought me back to my knees in acknowledgement of my humility.  I remembered that I have been that thoughtless person who angers me so much on more than one occasion in my life! When I was about 9, they poured curbs along my street in preparation for paving our street.  In typical 9-year-old fashion, I wanted to make my mark on the project.  I did handprints, then footprints, then.... I ran through the curing concrete for about 30 feet!  The workmen came back in the morning and thought, at first glance, a dog had gotten in the concrete. Then they saw the other handprints and footprints.  Needless to say, my parents had a long talk with me about using the brain God gave me and respecting the property of others.  I'd like to pretend that was a major turning point for me but I visited my own collection of abandoned farmhouses across rural Missouri and I'm sure things were broken for the sake of breaking them on almost every occasion.  I can assure you, I didn't give a passing thought to the emotional pain that could cause family members who came back later!  I WAS that "sorry specimen" of a human that destroyed other people's things!

By the time I made it out of the woods and back to the house, I was thanking God for opening my eyes and softening my heart.  I was praying for those whose insecurities led them to vandalize our homeplace and got into my car reminded of how truly blessed I am to have a family tradition of which to be proud!

The Myers homeplace in Cade's Cove is recognizable only by the lay of the land and the daffodils in the spring.  It may be easier when that it true of the Farmer place.  Long after the remnants of man-made structures have disappeared, God's beauty continues to manifest itself.  Thanks be to God for the reminder!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Saturday Blues

It's Saturday.  The Sabbath.  The followers of Christ sit stunned, disheartened, broken, and even- in the case of Peter- full of self-loathing.  The man they've invested their lives in lies in a grave.
"How did this happen?"
"Were we foolish to believe in him?"
"But we saw him do amazing things!"
"He healed!"
"He turned away the Pharisees!"
"He raised Lazarus from the grave!"
"Why did God allow this to happen?"
"How could the world win?"
"Surely he was the Messiah!"
"But now he's dead. Our hope is dead!"

As I sit here on this overcast Saturday, I think of the emotions the disciples must have been feeling.  They had to have felt defeated. Robbed of the very hope they'd given their very livelihoods to follow. Perhaps they watched the new day dawn in hopes that the events of Friday were just a nightmare.  Jesus would walk into the room at any minute and tell them again how much they were loved. "Please, God, let it be a nightmare!"

I can relate to this on a small scale because there have been days in my life when I truly felt that things couldn't be happening the way they were.  When my Grandmother died, I yelled at God: "How could You let this happen? For one of the first times in my life, I listened to Your call.  I walked away from the Air Force to help here.  For what?! So I could sit and see the pain in Granddaddy's eyes?"  When I watched my Mother battled the cancer that had metastasized into her brain and spinal column, I was often bitter and cried out regularly, "Why her?  Why a woman who's devoted herself to You and others my whole life?!  How is this fair? It makes no sense!" When I heard my diagnosis of Stage 4 head and neck cancer I was floored. This time I was more worried about Lisa and her fears than my own. Again it was, "Why? How is this fair?"  Finally I've watched more friends than I care to think of battle disease and illness.  Debbie Lloyd's battle with breast cancer was deeply personal to me as I watched how it affected Rich and the kids. When I recently heard of Jackie Depew's recurrence, I was angry to the point of being speechless.

Every day we can look around us and see pain, injustice, selfishness, self-destructive behavior, and illness.  It is easy to think, "The world has won!" or, "There is no hope for humanity."  We find ourselves in that Saturday funk.

But, the story doesn't end there. The tomb doesn't stay sealed. Jesus doesn't stay in the grave. The world most certainly doesn't win! Hope is here and we must grab hold of it. My Granddaddy, with that pain in his eyes, looked at me and said, "We may hurt today, but I believe God will give us the strength to face tomorrow. I KNOW I'll see your Grandmother again!" My Mother looked me in the eye and said, "Remember what Job said, 'the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.' God is in control and we must always be ready to praise His Name." I turned the radio on when Lisa and I sat in the car following my diagnosis, "Praise You in the Storm" by Casting Crowns came on.  Mother's words hit me again and we turned it over to Him. Debbie told me on several occasions that she fell back onto the words of "Great is Thy Faithfulness" as she battled.  She also embraced, "Lord, I Need You" in the FUEL services as a confession. Lamentations 3: 22-23 says, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness."

It's Saturday. The sky is cloudy. The world seems to be winning. But I DO have hope. Tomorrow morning, as the sun rises, I'll be standing in Union Cemetery praising God because I know that death has been defeated! I know that suffering is temporary!  I know that when I am broken and don't know where to turn, God is there to pick up the pieces and hold me together!  Great is Thy faithfulness! 

The Lord is risen! He is Risen, indeed!

Father God, I revel in the majesty of Your grace!  I fall on my face in awe of the love you've shown me and the strength You continue to give me.  I lift up to You this broken world in which we live.  Shower Your grace on those who need to feel Your presence so greatly.  I lift up those who battle illness, those who have lost loved ones, those whose life situations seem completely out of control. Father, let them feel Your presence and let those of us who bear Your name take up the cross and carry the truth of Your love into our communities.  Use us for Your glory! In Jesus Name, Amen!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Infinitely More

Here I go again.  A couple of times a year, I open this blog and type a little. I find myself having random thoughts and spilling them out on Facebook or Twitter but, more often than not, my inability to be succinct makes those outlets less than ideal.

Sometimes things just jump out at me when I'm reading the Bible. I'm always amazed when a passage I know well suddenly says something new to me. 

Yesterday, I was reading through Ephesians 3 and came to the closing verses when the words "within us" leaped out at me. I have actually used this passage to highlight the fact that God's vision for us is often "infinitely more" than we can imagine. I've stressed the fact that His power is able to overcome any obstacle. As I read this passage yesterday, I was blown away to be reminded that the "mighty power" to accomplish things beyond our imaginations is "at work within us."  WE are the tools God will use to accomplish these great things. 

I know that this isn't a new concept. I'm sure I've probably sat in church and heard this exact message shared from a pulpit. However, as I have thought about it for the past 24 hours, I've been convicted that, all too often, I say, "God, I know You're able to do more than I can imagine. Amaze me!  Fix this! Move now!," without any expectation that I have a role in the answer to that prayer. 

As I continue this Lenten journey of self-examination, I pray that I will be more aware of my role in God's plan to accomplish great things- things above and beyond my petitions and dreams! Glory to God! You are able! Use me to accomplish infinitely more!