Monday, February 25, 2013

Failure to launch

I can't quite get it off the ground! The desire of my heart is to connect with young girls and encourage them in their value to preserve their sexual and emotional purity until marriage.  Somedays I feel like a soldier suiting up for battle as I attempt to combat the effects of the sexualization on today's youth. 

The date has been set for this year's retreat and I do see God in it, but its not moving forward very quickly! I spent most of the day after last weeks planning meeting feeling like it was too much to navigate.  After three attempts to get our planning team together we were finally able to meet. The previous two attempts had been sidelined by illness and my unexpected flat tire. (I guess all flat tires are unexpected, huh?)

Still feeling motivated, I was excited to see the ladies for last weeks meeting.  Until a few of the preschoolers who came along went up to our bonus room to play. 

Did I mention that we got a puppy for Christmas? Ugh....potty training has not been easy and my three 'I'll do anything to get a puppy!' kiddos have lost interest in him.  No one likes to take him out, and unknown to me, Max has happily begun using the cubbies in our playroom as a litter box. 
I'll admit I don't go into the playroom much - it has a door and I close it. 

Not far into our meeting the visiting preschoolers uncovered Max's 'treasures' - SERIOUSLY!  How was this dog a gift for me?  After making the ladies wait for another 10 minutes so I could clean up, we finally got started.  I was so embarrassed and just knew these ladies thought I was the worst mom and housekeeper ever.

I'd like to tell you that I recovered quickly and had the mental and emotional maturity to rebound and make great progress at that meeting.  No such luck.  I held it together for the meeting and then spent the rest of the day in an emotional ditch.  You know the one, where you wonder why you even thought you could make a difference? The place where you dig in your heels convinced that it's all a waste of time?

Then Saturday came.  I was up early to do the usual shuffle running kids to their practices peppering every sentence I blurted out with a 'hurry up!' or 'we're going to be late!' I raced through the chores then ended up at the church to help with a food distribution truck, clearly not running on an emotionally full tank prepared to pour into others.

God didn't care.  He used me anyway, a crystal clear reminder that He will use me even if I think I'm unworthy. As I jumped in line and helped a lady with an armload of groceries to her car, my heart lifted and I was giddy to be helping her.  She was so grateful and shared openly about her husbands job loss and her hourly job at a local hospital.  She talked about 5 of her neighbors whose homes were in foreclosure and how her family was hanging on to every dime hoping to prevent losing their home as well.  I hugged her and I listened and I felt the greatest benefit.

As the plans for PINC (purity is no compromise) University April 19/20, 2013 unfold, I pledge to get my 'stuff' out of the way.  My insecurities, my fears, my agenda, and my pride.  My 'dog poo' is so minor in the big picture and if I choose to stay stuck in it, no one will benefit.  Feel free to hold me accountable!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Ride

I'm writing this blog today for those of you who think there is no hope for love in your marriage or that real love doesn't even exist anymore.  Marriage is hard and at times it can seem one sided; like a roommate relationship based merely on convenience.  It can be lonely and heartbreaking and may even feel worthless to keep trying, but let me offer you a glimpse behind our closed doors.

Scott and I met when we were in high school.  He was a senior and I was a sophomore.  We were part of a group of mutual friends and we hit it off.  He was my first date and my first kiss, we attended prom together and through a few ups and downs, we made it through a 6 year long-distance college romance and got engaged when I was 20.  We fell deeply in love and I have boxes of letters that catalog our history.  Life was great and after many years living for the weekends when we would be together, we were elated at the prospect of being married and living in the same place.

Eighteen years ago when we pledged our love to one another in front of 150 friends,family members and two pastors, we were drunk on dreams.  I had visions of the two of us cuddling on the couch for hours each evening and candlelit dinners spent gazing into each others eyes.  With only ever having had weekends to spend together in the past, I assumed every married day together would only offer more of that bliss, more uninterrupted time to focus only on each other, more special outings with walks and movies and more time to see the best in each other.  The problem was that we had never had to experience juggling our everyday responsibilities within our relationship.  When I went to see Scott on the weekends he was all I focused on and the same was true when he saw me at college. 

And so the roller coaster ride began, the lows left me splashing through buckets of tears and the highs had me reaching for the sky proclaiming that each time I saw my husband I loved him more than our last encounter.  We would have blow out fights, recover, forgive and settle into married life until the next fight erupted.  But you see temptation takes a while to incubate.  At four years into our marriage things had begun to erode.  The cars on the coaster screeched to a halt and we were forced to evaluate whether or not we should even be married.  We were growing apart and those years we spent professing our undying love for each other when we were dating, seemed only to remind us of all we might have missed by not seeking other relationships during our early twenties.

As we looked around we began searching for a way out.  Things seemed hopeless and we began evaluating options for divorce and frequently threw around the "D word" in the heat of anger.  We interviewed lawyers and talked logistics and began to tell our family.  Then something crazy happened, God stepped in.   We had always had a strong belief in God and even in our early married life we were wise enough (or lucky enough!) to fall into small groups of friends who were a few stages ahead of us in life.  When we began to let our secret plan for "splitting up" out into the light, we were immediately surrounded by friends who encouraged us to fight for our marriage.  

I have not doubt that through some of those dark days there were friends around us who had much more hope for the future of our marriage than we did.  They prayed with us and for us and encouraged us to seek counseling and small group fellowship.  They checked in on us and we informally became accountable to them for updates on our progress.   Staying in our marriage became a very black and white choice.  Even if we did not feel loving or loved, we chose to seek love for each other.  Although the roller coaster had taken us on an exhilarating ride in the beginning, when we wanted to get off we couldn't.  

When you step onto a roller coaster ride the last thing that happens before the cars lurch forward is the shoulder harness that lowers over your head from up above.  It's a little tight sometimes and it's uncomfortable because no matter how much you push against it, you can't release it until the ride is over and the ride operator activates the release.  When Scott and I wanted out of our marriage, there was a shoulder harness holding us in place.  It was our commitment to each other and to God that we were in this relationship "til death do us part".  When we pushed against it, God held us in place. 

After at least 12 months of solid couples and individual counseling, we were able begin to view each other through new eyes.  We gained a new appreciation for our differences and were given tools we'd never had before to make our marriage all that God designed it to be.  There are still occasional bumps, but we view love differently as a choice and not just a feeling. 

It's emotional to remember how painful those early days were, but I must tell you about the marriage I have now.    When I recall the vows we recited when we were so young, I could never have imagined the deep love and loyalty I have for the man I lay beside every night.  We've stood side by side as we have buried parents, moved across the country and were blessed with three kids.

In sickness and in health...five years ago when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune liver disease that promises a future organ transplant, Scott held me and we cried together.  He covers my legs with cold cloths when the side effects of intense itching is so maddening I want to scream and that is the only thing that provides relief.  He cradles my head in his hands when I have throbbing migraines and am dizzy and throwing up.  He makes me laugh and feel safer than I ever knew I needed to feel and I still feel the tingle I had when I was 15 when he kisses me each evening when he comes home from work.  The love we have is not luck or lust, its built upon God and the choice to stay the course for ourselves and for our children.   

As I turn out the kitchen light and head to bed, I'll take one last glance at the flowers my valentine always brings me on Valentine's Day, stargazer lilies, the flowers we had in our wedding that he knows I love, and I'll thank God for giving me the choice and the chance to stay on the ride.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What is left when the storms of life batter your sails?

sky, sea, umbrella, beach.... beautiful

The call came in the middle of the night as emergency alerts often do.  The news was horrific, 26- year-old single mother of two, precious only daughter to an adoring mother was dead in a car collision.  No opportunity for lifesaving heroic measures, no possible mix up of identities, only a pronouncement of DOA...dead on arrival.   The only opportunity for redemption in those dark hours was the question of organ donation.  Would a shocked and grieving mother and grandmother decide to offer others a chance at life by allowing her daughters' only blood pumping organs to be taken?   In those moments of grief would she see beyond her hysteria and choose life for others who were dying?  As God's hand guided her, she agreed to have any possible organs harvested to offer others a chance to live.

Multiple organs were taken and she gave little thought to the lives that might have been affected as she tried to stay afloat in the weeks ahead when the grief swept over her like tidal waves.  She choked back tears hourly in the initial months and relied on friends and family as she selflessly took on the job of raising her grandchildren.  Her daughter had balanced an intricate schedule of activities and responsibilities as a single working mom of two young children.  Grandma was a weak substitute initially for all that her daughter had been, but with time and prayer, she rose to the challenge and took joy in the blessing her grandchildren were to her.  They offered her a link to her daughter, an extension cord powered by the love passed from one generation to the next.

Some days crawled by, but the years flew past and the pain of loss eroded her parenting insecurities. Slowly she began to view the loss of her daughter through different lenses.  She had a second chance to love her grandchildren with a vision of what God could offer them rather than the worry that she was the singular influence on their destiny.  Her journey was one of faith and dependence on God and she knew that He was writing her families' story.

It was 15 years later on a sunny Saturday morning when God revealed himself in an unexpected way. 
Friends were a constant blessing throughout her journey and since moving to a small village 30 miles outside of her former bustling hometown, she was thrilled to have a circle of girlfriends that she met each week for coffee.  She was smiling and enjoying the warmth of the sun on her cheek as it passed through the picture window of the main street coffee shop.  As the ladies exchanged details of their grandchildren and their accomplishments she felt the familiar pride well up inside as she spilled out details of her beloved grandchildren and their deceased mother.  She mentioned her daughter's long ago accident briefly and answered a few questions her new friends asked surrounding her daughter's organ donation, a subject she hadn't considered for many years.

As conversations often do, health care rose to the top the discussion list and a fellow grandmother mentioned that she would be travelling to an area hospital for cancer treatments later that month.   The coffee barista was wiping off a nearby table and overheard the mention of a hospital she was familiar with.  She mentioned to the ladies at the table that she, too, had been to that hospital 15 years earlier for an organ transplant and traveled back and forth annually for rejection testing.  She went on to give specifics of her story after much prompting and concern was expressed among the ladies at the table.  The barista explained that she had been in her early teens when her pancreas was failing and she was facing multiple health complications.  Her life was in jeopardy and her family was praying for a miracle.

Her miracle came in the middle of the night in the form of a 26-year-old single mother of two who was killed in a car accident.  It was no coincidence.  God orchestrated a coffee shop meeting that morning to give an obedient grandmother of two,  a mother of a forever twenty-something daughter, a glimpse of heaven. 

She went home that afternoon and dug through her old file boxes to find her daughters death records.  She found the papers and called the organ transplant organization who handled her daughters death.  After a few phone calls, the pieces fit perfectly.  God had orchestrated a miracle, not only by saving a young woman's life 15 years prior, but by reaching out to a tired grandma and cradling her in His embrace of reassurance that all of her effort in raising her grandchildren, all of the tears she shed over the loss of her only daughter were worth something to the Maker of the Universe

Dear friends, this is an incredibly true story.  Never doubt for a second that God misses any small choice you make.  He adores you and is just waiting for a chance to reveal Himself to you.