Saturday, December 22, 2012

On Stepping Back

“The Pilot’s transmission is out, it’s going to cost $5k to repair it.  The Accord is leaking radiator fluid, mechanic says all the hoses need replacing, it’s going to cost $400.  The kids are totally without transportation, but Pastor Ron sent out an email asking for help…”  I announced to my husband Jim after talking to my daughter.    I knew what I was going to do about it; now to just get him buy into what I wanted to do about it.
“What are we going to do about it?”
“We wait,”  he says. 
So, while HE waits, I pray.  I tell God, “Lord, we have four vehicles in our driveway, and two and a half drivers.  It’s really a no-brainer, but he needs to hear it from you.”
The next day, I asked him to call our daughter Jennifer, knowing that when he hears her voice, God will use it to whisper to him, “Let them use the silver car.”
“What’s new?”  I ask.
“Pilot’s getting towed back to their house, Accord is at the mechanics but will be back at their house shortly.  Email’s been sent out asking for help.”
By this time, my patience was starting to run out.  Why should the pastor have to send out email asking people to loan a car to perfect strangers (O.K., so church members aren’t exactly perfect strangers, but they may as well be, compared to immediate family) when we have a perfectly working car sitting unused in the garage? 
So, as gently as I could, I ask, “Why should Ron have to solicit help from church members when we have a perfectly working car sitting unused in the garage?”  He just looks at me, and then wordlessly gets out of the car to get some milk, while I wait in the car stewing.
While I stew, I talk to God.  Conversation goes like this:

Lord, You’re going to have to talk some sense into him.
Try again.
Lord, he’s not listening to you.
Not even close.
What... I’m [emphasis on I’m] not listening to You?
Now, you’re talkin’.
So you’re saying I’m the one with the problem of not listening to You? I’m the one who’s been praying and talking to you from the start?
That’s the problem.  YOU’ve been doing all the talking.

Then it hit me.  I’d been doing all the talking, telling God what to do, what to say, when to say it.  I wanted US – Jim and me – to be the heroes, to be the good guys, the ones to save the day for our kids.  That was our job – or so, I thought, until God gently reminded me that is HIS job. 
Good thing He knows me and knows that eventually, I’d come around, sometimes quick enough to where no one has to get hurt.  So my prayer changed.  I thanked Him for keeping my mouth closed, for keeping me from doing what I wanted to do.  I thanked Him for keeping Jim from doing what Jim wanted to do.  Then I asked Him to help me trust Him – to trust that He is doing something bigger than providing the kids with a means to get around town.
This morning we received word that a couple from the church answered the help call.  They had just bought a brand new car, and had a much older one just sitting in their garage.  They decided to drive the older car and loan the new one to the kids.

The loaned car is a 2012 Ford Focus.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Tummy Hurts

After not seeing her for seven weeks, I finally got to spend some one-on-one time with my granddaughter, Josselyn.  I still cannot get over how much her almost-three-year-old vocabulary has grown.  Yesterday, much of our conversation included three words: "my tummy hurts"

In the car:  
She:  Are we going to Nanna house? 
Me:  Yes we are. 
She:   Mommy and daddy coming later? 
Me:  No, baby, you'll see them tomorrow. 
She:   Oh.   (Silence).  My tummy hurts. 
Me:   I'm sorry your tummy hurts.  Do you need to throw up? 
She:  No.
Me:  Why does your tummy hurt?
She:  Me don't know.

In the living room:
She:  Me want Dayday and Dodo.
Me:  We left them at your house, baby.  You'll see Jayjay and Jojo tomorrow.
She:  Me want them now.  Me want to up-up them now. Me want to tuddow Dayday and Dodo.
Me:  I know baby, tomorrow you can pick them up and cuddle them.  Tonight you can pick up and cuddle Lulu and Lula.
She: Oh.  (picks up Lulu and Lula).  My tummy hurts.
Me:  I'm sorry your tummy hurts.  Do you need to throw up?
She: No.
Me:  Why does your tummy hurt?
She:  Me don't know.

At bedtime:
She:  Me lala Auddie.
Me:  I love Auggie too.
She:  Me want up-up Auddie. Me want tuddow Auddie.
Me:  I want to pick up and cuddle Auggie, too.  But we can't.
She:  Why?
Me:  Because they live too far away.
She:  Why?
Me:  Because Uncle Jimmy's work is in Alaska, so they have to live there, and we have to take an airplane to go see them.
She:  Auntie Dattee and Unca Beeday live faraway too!
Me:  Yes, they do. 
She:  Oh. (silence) My tummy hurts.
Me:  I'm sorry your tummy hurts.  Do you need to throw up? 
She:  No.
Me:  Why does your tummy hurt?
She:  Me don't know.

At breakfast:
She:  (Running into my bedroom) PAAAAPAAAAH!!!
Me:  He's not there.
She:  Where Pappah dough?
Me:  He went to work.
She:  Me want to lick his teek.
Me:  You can lick his cheek the next time you see him.
She:  When I shee him?
Me:  I'm not sure, baby.  Maybe Saturday.
She:  When is Shatday?
Me:  Four more sleeps.
She:  Oh. (silence) My tummy hurts.
Me:   I'm sorry your tummy hurts.  Do you need to throw up? 
She:  No.
Me:  Why does your tummy hurt?
She:  Me don't know.

In the car, on the way to her home:
She:  Nannah stay my house?
Me:  No, baby, I'm only dropping you off.
She:  Nannah play a lidda bit?
Me:  I'll come in for a little bit.
She:  Then?
Me:  Then I have to leave you with your mommy and I have to go to work.
She:  Then you come back my house?
Me:  No, then I go back to MY house.
She:  Me want go back YO house.
Me:  Not today, sweetie.  Another day.
She:  Why?
Me:  Because I need to work, and your mommy and daddy need you so they can hug you and cuddle you.
She:  Nannah stay at my house.
Me:  I can't.
She:  Why?
Me:  Because I belong with Pappah, just like you belong with mommy and daddy.
She:  Oh. (silence) My tummy hurts.
Me:   I'm sorry your tummy hurts.  Do you need to throw up? 
She:  No.
Me:  Why does your tummy hurt?
She:  Me don't know.

And then it hit me.  All these tummy hurts --  I noticed she gets silent just before she announces them...she gets them just before she turns her head to one side or just before she looks away, just before silent tears fall.  There is no crying sound, like when she's hurt, or when she's angry, or when she doesn't get what she wants when she wants it.  Only silent tears that she doesn't really even want me to see.

Gone are the carefree days of nothing but pure joy and laughter, when crying was merely an audible indication of a physical discomfort, and a drink, a cracker, a boo-boo ice, a tic-tac, or a snuggle could make it stop almost immediately.

My almost-but-not-quite-three-year-old granddaughter's tummy hurts when she is sad, really sad, and there is really nothing I can do about it.  She will experience many more of these tummy hurts, and eventually, she will experience her first heartbreak, and there is really nothing I can do about it.

My tummy hurts.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Six Weeks of August

     I met him exactly six weeks ago today, and it was love at first sight.  I spent every day of the last six weeks with him, and I watched him develop a personality that will forever be etched in my mind.
     He likes his sleep and his meals, in that order,  much like his Auntie Jacky.   He gets  cranky, makes frowny faces, and snarls when awakened, much like his dad.  He makes contented grunting noises when one  rubs his back, much like his Auntie Jhen.  He makes faces in his sleep, looking innocent and angelic much like his cousin Jossie.  He kicks suddenly when you touch his ankle, much like his pappah.  He smiles and drools when in deep sleep, much like his mama.  He snores and snorts even when he's awake, much like his Nannah.
     Six weeks ago I didn't know this little one, and now I cannot imagine this world without him.  He is a living, breathing example of the phrase "against all odds".  Born at 37 weeks and 5 days, his entry  -- or rather, exit -- into this world was not without incident.  His dad had just finished texting me that his mama's weekly OB appointment went well, and the plan was to induce labor on July 29, with the hope that he would be born on July 30th.  Within ten minutes of his last text, his dad texted me again, saying they are en route to the hospital to be induced.  Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, my flight for July 30th was changed to July 21st.
     While his mama was well into her labor and as the medical staff had just administered an epidural, the 3'x4' decorative metal grill directly over her hospital bed suddenly and unexplainably snapped off the ceiling.  For some reason, it did not fall directly her, but rather at an angle, the corner of which hitting and bruising her knee.  Little mama didn't feel it for the epidural, but dad and the medical staff were shaken, and a couple of them had to leave the room to gather composure.

     When he finally made his appearance with the help of forceps, the staff was ready to whisk him away to NICU, and this little one was only 4 pounds, 5 ounces.  Because of his size, he was considered a preemie, even though he was term, and machines were in place to ensure he could breath outside the womb.  This little one surprised the staff by his immediate and make-no-mistake-about-it-I -am-not-a-happy-camper wail of protest that could be heard by the entire unit.  The NICU team went back to NICU empty-handed.
     They expected him to have a heart problem, as he had fluid in his heart sac in utero.  Cardiology said he was fine.  They expected him to have little to no muscle tone.  They were wrong.  His arms may have been "floppy" at birth, but he was soon flailing and kicking, and even raising his head off the cribette in search of food.  They expected him to have a name, but they were wrong.  It took his parents the entire pregnancy and six days after his birth to deliberate and come up with the perfect name for this little guy -- August -- inspiring reverence or awe; impressive; honorable.  And they were right.
     And now, six weeks later, he and his parents have established somewhat of a routine.  They're still in the process of learning to distinguish his cries:  the hungry from the hurting, the angry from the annoyed, the "burp me" from the "hug me".  They're still working out the kinks of being new parents, but those will get ironed out in time.  They have the love, support, and prayers of friends and family.
     In two more days,  I can go back home and leave August in the hands of his mom and dad.  Let me rephrase that.  I can go back home and leave August in the CAPABLE and loving hands of his mom and dad.  I am grateful for the six weeks I've had to get to know August.  I look forward to regular communications and updates, thanks to technology.  And I'm excited for the next time I get to spend time with him and witness awe-inspring and impressive changes that make him August.  Not against all odds.  FOR one God.  Through one God.  Because of one God.  And that makes all the difference.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

International Day of the Disappeared 2012

Well, I done did it.  I disappeared from the face of Facebook for 18 hours.  A few people noticed.  Some of those who did -- well, they didn't really care.  After all, it's only Facebook, and there are other ways to get a hold of me.    I appreciate the efforts of some who tried to investigate, who sent me emails, who sent text messages.  But in the end, my friends knew that there had to be a reasonable explanation for my sudden disappearance from my usual stomping grounds.  And since Facebook life went on as usual for my family, people knew I'd be back eventually, and they are right.  I'm back.

Alas, around the world there are thousands who disappear everyday, and their  lives and the lives of their loved ones are turned upside down and shaken to the core, with little to no hope of ever seeing their missing loved ones again.  EVER.  Some are "enforced disappearances" of enemies of powerful people.  Others are emergency disappearances due to natural disasters. Still more are disappearances due to the ever growing demand for human "services".  More often than not, these sudden disappearances become permanent, unexplained, and unresolved.

August 30 was originally declared International Day of Enforced Disappearances to promote awareness of the increasing numbers of people missing as a result of political conflicts around the world.  Today the title has been modified to International Day of the Disappeared, to include those missing after disasters and those abducted for human trafficking purposes. The purpose remains the same:  to promote awareness of and provide support for the plights of those affected by these disappearances.

I'm back.  They're not.  Not nuff said.  Never nuff said.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Don't Let Them Win

Originally written 29 August 2010

Some people, when they hear a story or watch  a scene in a movie, or see a place that takes them back to a traumatic experience in their life, they freak out.  The first time that happened to me, I was 17. 

 I was watching an afternoon talk show with my boyfriend, and the topic was incest.  I didn’t even know what the word meant.  As I watched and listened, I was horrified as the girl on the program described similar things that had happened to me.  I ran outside and my bf followed me and asked what was wrong.  In a rush I told him what happened, how before today I thought everything was just a part of life, but after seeing the show I felt ashamed, dirty, evil, soiled.  I told him I would understand if he wanted to break up with me.  My boyfriend put his arms around me and hugged me for a long time, without saying anything.  Then I noticed he was shaking from crying. 

He then told me that what happened to the little JoAnn was horrible, unforgivable, unfair, and just wrong.  He said there was nothing to be ashamed of – that THOSE men were evil, dirty, and soiled, not the little JoAnn.  He told me it was OK to cry for the little JoAnn, to feel for her and to be angry for her, but he also said I shouldn’t let what happened then control the present and the future.  He said that Little JoAnn had no control over what happened, but THIS JoAnn can take steps to control what SHE will do with what she just learned.  Then he said something I will never forget:  “Don’t let the deeds of stupid, wicked men take away the joy of what happens between a husband and wife.  If you do, they win.  Don’t let them win.”

Then he said this wasn’t over – this 17-year-old high school senior with no psychology background said to me, “You will have days when memories will come pouring out, and you’ll wonder if they really happened.  People might deny things happened to cover their backsides.  Events will happen that will take you back to a bad place.  These things will happen, and I want you to know I will ALWAYS be there for you.  I would NEVER break up with you.”

That night, I prayed that if there were more bad memories to come, that He will give me the strength to endure them and not to go crazy.  God did better than that – He sent people my way who listened and understood, who didn’t judge but only prayed, who didn’t accuse but only hugged.  He still does that to this day.

Oh, by the way, that 17-year-old boyfriend was true to his word.  I’m still married to him.  I win.

Friday, August 17, 2012

How Do You Deal With It?

How do you deal with your mate of 60+ years who doesn't remember you or any part of the last 60 years, and wants nothing to do with you? 

Or the dad, who worked 18-hour days so he could provide a life for you that's better than the life he lived, and then one day doesn't remember his son's name?   

Or the grandpa who never forgot the day, date, and hour you were born, never failed to give an 'attaboy' and would drive four hours in the I-15 just to be at your soccer game finals, and then one night doesn't know you ever existed? 

Or the father-in-law who stood beside you and watched you negotiate the price of a Honda Civic sedan and then pats you on the back and says "I couldn'ta done a better deal.  My son was smart to give up golf." and calls you his favorite (albeit the ONLY) daughter-in-law, and then one day turns to you with a puzzled look and asks, "Are you the maid?" 

How do you deal with all that?  First you pray that he made his peace with God before all this. 

Then you remember the good times,  you talk about the old times, good and bad, and you tell your kids and grand kids and great grand kids about what a great and loving man Grandpa Red Hammer was. 

Then you start letting go, so that when the time comes, you can say goodbye to the body with the hope that his soul is resting in peace. 

We love you, Dad.  Even though you don't know us anymore, may you always know that you are loved all the rest of your days.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Learn to Let Go

Mood:  Meloncholy
Music:  "Learn to Let Go" by Mark Schultz

I'm holding this picture

You drew when you were four
It was one we proudly hung 
On our refrigerator door 
I found it in the attic 
In your old dresser drawer 
By a pillow that we made you 
And a blanket that you had 
When we learned to chase the monsters 
From underneath your bed 
And I remember
How I learned how to hold you when you cried 
I learned how to let you be strong 
Learned how to calm you in the dark 
Learned how to listen with my heart 
I learned how to watch you grow 
But how will I learn to let go
And when I walk in your bedroom 
The memories that I keep 
Are bedtime stories 
And rocking you to sleep 
And as I held you 
You'd drift off to dream 
And I know it might sound crazy 
Now that you are grown 
But yesterday still feels 
Like the day we brought you home 
And I remember

June 24, 2006

     Last night,  at 7 PM we took my 19-year-old daughter to LAX to catch the 11:20 flight to Brisbane, where she will take another flight to Townsville.  She flew alone.  Why would seemingly reasonable parents send their daughter ALONE to the other side of the world for an entire year?
     This morning we left the house at 3 to get my 16-year-old son to the airport to catch the 7:10 flight to Miami, then to Jamaica. When he got to the airport,  he started helping out his group by checking in cases of Bibles.  He and another took a cartload of cases to be screened, and they were supposed to come back with the group, but the guards wouldn't let them and had them go on up to the gates.  My husband and I never got to hug him goodbye and pray with him.  We didn't even get to wave goodbye.
     Both Jax and Jimmy are on mission trips -- Jax to serve on staff for a year with YWAM and Jimmy to share the love of Jesus to the people of Jamaica through drama, drums, and personal testimony.  They are doing what we have raised them to do -- to be obedient and do whatever God asks them to do.  So why does it feel like I have a hole in my heart?
     Why does it feel like I just got kicked in the stomach whenever I pass by their empty rooms?  Why do I cry when I hear "How Great Is Our God" or anything by Joy Williams?  Then Mark Schultz's "Learn to Let Go" gets played on the radio and now I am just a blubbering idiot.
     I don't have to learn to let go -- I already know how to do that.  The problem is I DON'T WANT TO! But I know that's what I have to do -- to let go and allow God to work in their lives and in mine as we rely on Him for comfort and for peace. 
     I think of how the Father must have felt on the very first Christmas Eve, the last day Jesus was in Heaven before He left for His mission trip, one that would lead Him to His crucifixion.  The Father knew it, and He still let Him go. So I will do the same. 
UPDATE 2012:  
     Jax ended up serving in Australia for 5+ years.  She also ended up married to an Aussie (a drummer!), whom she met at Discipleship Training School back in 2005.  We LOVE him and his family!  She lives in Australia now.  
     Jimmy went on to serve on the worship team and student ministries at Whittier Area Community Church, where he met Jennifer, whom he married in 2009.  Jimmy is in the Air Force, and is stationed here in Alaska.  Jennifer safely delivered my grandson two weeks ago.  That's why I'm here.  I will once again have to let go on September 3.  It will be difficult, but it will be worth it.