Let us be transparent

My paternal grandmother died of an aggressive form of colon cancer when I was just 10 years old.

It was the early 1970s, well before the advent of modern chemotherapy, radiation, and experimental treatments.  Surgery was, at best, the only viable option.

I don’t remember specifics, but I do remember that she kept her symptoms from her grown children for months before her diagnosis.  You see, she didn’t want to worry or inconvenience anyone.

Her surgery was deemed “successful.”  Her oncologist assured our family that he’d gotten it all.  “She’ll die from something else like old age, but not this cancer.”

(insert famous last words here)

Within a couple of months, the cancer was back, with a vengeance.  Short of a miracle, her frail body would succumb to this awful disease.

Someone in the family, one of her children, decided that we would not discuss her terminal situation in her presence.

So we didn’t.

We didn’t get the opportunity to tell her goodbye.

Instead, we washed our faces clean of the tears, plastered on fake smiles, and talked optimistically about life.  Her future.  Her getting better.

At the time, I didn’t understand why we were lying to her.

She knew how sick she was.  She was no dummy.

She was a strong Christian, a Pentecostal lady who spent Sundays shouting and praising her Lord, even while standing in the kitchen, preparing lunch for a dozen people.

She knew.

And now, 40 years after the fact, I look back and realize what a mistake that was.

We didn’t tell her what she meant to us.  We didn’t get to say goodbye properly.  We danced around the elephant in the room, day after day, night after night.

It was a long, arduous, painful process, her death.  She knew how much she was loved.  I just wish I could’ve told her one more time.

Here in the 21st century, folks still generally deal with death like an awkward teenager’s first attempt at driving a car.

We don’t know what the heck we’re doing.

Let’s don’t talk about it and maybe it will go away.

It’s like sitting in the driver’s seat of a car for the first time.  You see the steering wheel, the gear shift, and the pedals in the floorboard.  You know the goal (driving said car), but putting all of the working parts together takes time and practice.

That’s your soul journey in a nutshell.  Your soul sits in the driver’s seat of your life.  You see all the gadgets and pedals and gears, but putting it all together?  Takes a lifetime to get it right.

And the best way to live your journey is to be transparent.

My grandmother should have been told, “You are going to die from this awful, terrible disease. We’re going to spend whatever time you have left telling you how much you are loved.  How much you mean to us.  We want you to tell us stories, give us some pearls of wisdom to get us through the difficult days ahead.  Let your faith be our guide.”

She died in 1973.  I miss her every day.  She was one of the biggest Christian influences in my life.

Honesty.  Transparency.  Facing the tough diagnoses.  Choosing to live well in spite of the bad.

It’s what quenches souls.

It’s what connects you to others.

It’s what sustains you while in this imperfect dance called life.

That, my friends, is where God is glorified.

While my soul’s sitting in the driver’s seat of this temporal life, I’m going to tell it like it is for anyone that cares to listen.  I’m teaching my sons the same.

Transparency sometimes comes after hitting rock bottom.  It’s a freeing moment when there are no more secrets.

Transparency allows those who practice it the ability to live without regrets or hidden agendas.

If nothing else it certainly makes for an interesting dress rehearsal 🙂

“Happily ever after??”

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The reality is you have no idea where your life will take you tomorrow. You are like a mist that appears one moment and then vanishes another.

James 4:14 (VOICE)

“And they lived happily ever after… The End.”

How many times have you seen the above words, either at the close of a fairy tale or the end of a movie?

How many times have you, as a parent, read a story to your children that concluded in this manner?

Attention, people of Earth:  There is no such thing as “happily ever after” this side of Heaven.

It’s a crock, a pie-in-the-sky term which plays to our romantic side and wistful daydreaming.

No one, no matter how lovely the life or the relationship or the family, lives happily ever after.  “Happily ever after” gives a false sense of security, a technicolor existence that can never live up to those three words.

“Ever afters” eventually come to an end.

And endings are not pretty, at least the ones I’ve experienced in my life.

Endings are messy.  The majority are not wanted by at least one of the parties involved.

Endings may evoke sadness, helplessness, hopelessness, and anger.  They may cause great pain.  Lives are forever changed by endings.

Death is the ending feared most by the human race.  But let’s face it by taking the bull by the horns.   We’re going to die some day.  As James so eloquently puts it, we’re like a mist, a vapor–here today, gone tomorrow.

Endings are inevitable.  We cannot get around them.

Embrace that reality.  Incorporate it into your daily living.

The sooner that simple fact sinks in to our sometimes-thick skulls, the sooner we can go about the business of living “happily every day.”

Whether you like it or not, at some point in your life (or at many points in your life), an ending you’re not prepared for will occur.

Your “happily ever after” stops.

The best way to deal with the reality of endings is to live fully in the moment.

Every minute of every day, every day of every month, year after year after year–don’t take your happy for granted.

Choose it.  Live it.  Experience it.  Love it.

Instead of happily ever after, live happily every day.

Then when “the end” comes, you can face it with no regrets.

God may very well give you more than you can handle—that’s why you need Him.

Any temptation you face will be nothing new. But God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can handle. But He always provides a way of escape so that you will be able to endure and keep moving forward.  1 Corinthians 10:13 (VOICE)

If I see one more quote or social media meme with the flowery, lovely phrase,

God won’t give you more than you can handle,”

I. Will. Scream.

No where (let me repeat that–NO WHERE!) in the Bible are these words found.  This sugary coated phrase must have originally come from a poor interpretation of the passage above.

Give. Me. A. Break.

Life is messy.

We, as mortals, as humans of free choice, created in God’s glorious image, made sure of that.   Way back in the beginning, in Eden, we had it made.

Everything man and woman could want or desire was at our fingertips.

God was such a good friend that He came and walked in the garden with Adam and Eve.

Imagine that.  God, visiting.  God calling out to us, by name.

But were we satisfied?  Nope.

You know the story.

Temptation.

A chance to know everything God knows turned out to be the beginning of the end of perfection, at least this time around on the planet.

So, instead of living in a perfect place, surrounded with everything we could possibly want or need?  We struggle.

We live in a broken world.

Broken people, broken promises, broken homes, broken hearts.

Life is not fair.

To reduce God to a Deity that willingly and purposely piles on–excuse the word–crap to see how much we can bear?  Blasphemy in my humble opinion.

Life is about choices.  A multitude of them, put in our paths every. single. stinking. day.

The God I serve didn’t take away my loving husband on purpose.

He didn’t intentionally take away a dad from two little boys who desperately needed him.

He’s not up in heaven, checking my status updates, seeing just how much more can be heaped on my plate before I hit maximum capacity.

Because, believe me, dear friends, that plate has tipped over many days, and I’ve thrown up my hands in frustration at my circumstances.

The Bible says He will not allow you to be TEMPTED beyond what you can handle.  That’s an important distinction.

What He does give is the strength, perseverance, and grace to handle what you have.

Until He comes again, in the glorious form of His Son, life will be full of tough stuff.

Brokenness will be the norm, not the exception.

But the brokenness and the strife found in day-to-day living can forge a beauty and a strength which has no limit.

For it’s in the brokenness where we find what we are truly made of.

It’s in the trials we catch a glimmer of the original perfection in the creation God intended us to be.

And until He sends His Son to restore this ugly, sticky, sinful mess of ours into what His original blueprint designated, we will more than likely have more than we can handle.

Saying and believing anything else is just flowery, feel good “Christianity.”

I’m now crawling off of my soapbox and heading out for my morning run.

Together, God and I will handle whatever the world throws at me today, because I cling to the promise that He will help me to not only endure, but also Keep. Moving. Forward.

I’m counting on it.

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Second (or third, or fifty-third) wind…

August.

My family survived July; we’re getting our second (or third, or fifty-third) wind, as the summer wanes. And as much as I wanted July to be over—specifically July 30 and 31—I want August to Just. Slow. Down.

Time, as the old Steve Miller Band song pontificates, keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’ into the future.

As I turn the calendar pages to August, the first day of school glares back at me. I don’t want this summer to end.

I long for just a few more days of laziness, of staying up late and sleeping in.

A chance to snuggle on sleepy-eyed, messy-haired boys, before they awaken enough to realize they’re being loved on.

I want a few more evenings of no school-related obligations, where I can sit on the couch between two laughing, increasingly-long legged children as we watch borderline-inappropriate-boy-humor programming.

I want to freeze these moments in time.

keep two school pictures of the boys on prominent display in our front room–they were always on Mark’s desk at work.  Taken during the last school year he was with us (2010-2011), our boys 3rd and 2nd graders.  

This is how they looked when their daddy was alive.  

This is a moment forever frozen in time.

A time where we all had the world on a string, where laughter and fun echoed throughout our household most every day.  AJ and Ben really didn’t have a care in the world.  Loving parents, a nice home, everything they needed, along with a few things they wanted–they couldn’t ask for more.

As I look at these photos, it seems like a lifetime ago.  

Two little boys, one tow-headed blonde, the other, dark eyes dancing above a snaggle-toothed smile, had no idea how life would change that summer.

And although I want to take away the pain, I cannot.

It’s a pain they will never “get over.”  A longing they will always have.  A void no one or no thing will ever fill.

My job?  To stand in the gap and fill that void as much as I humanly can.   I trust God to fill in the rest.

On days like this, the responsibility overwhelms me.  I have so much to teach them, so much to tell them.

And so little time.

They tell me on a regular basis that I am enough.

I know, deep down, I am only enough with God’s help.

Summer’s waning.  

And I’m not ready to give them back to Barwise Leadership Academy.

Two weeks and counting.

What will you do with your children today?

Whatever it is, make sure it counts.  

For starters here, at least, I’m heading in for some sleepy-eyed snuggle time, then we’re heading to church.  God likes it when we visit His place.

The True God who inhabits sacred space is a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows.

Psalm 68:5 (VOICE)

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2010