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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cheap Date Part 2 (Disclaimer)

In musing about yesterday's blog post, I realized I may have come off sounding whiny and blaming others' attitudes for my choices. With Paul, I say, "God forbid!" (Romans 6:2). On the contrary, I and I alone (with subtle nudging from Satan) take responsibility for my own actions. The good news is, "His mercies are new every morning" (Lamentations 3:23), so I don't have to live in sackcloth and ashes when I fail. Rather, I can choose to apply the forgiveness He bestowed so many years ago to my wretched state.

Keith Green's version of  Easter Song says it best. 

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Cheap Date

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cheap Date

I sold myself cheap the other night. No, it's not what you're thinking. I am not and never have been promiscuous, with my body at least. My mind, though, is quite another story.

As long as I can remember, I have had a hard time with media. I find I have to be careful about what I allow into my mind in the way of visual and auditory stimuli. TV and films that are too realistic can upset me, especially ones that trigger deep emotions. I get sort of swept up in the lives of the characters, and find it hard to shake off the vibe. When the lights come on in the theater and everyone rises to leave, I'm still stuck in the plot - whether it be romance or action, pain or joy. My mood can be affected for a day or two, almost like a hangover.

Consequently, I found myself troubled after viewing a film about a sex addict recently. I knew just from the title and cast that it wouldn't be a good choice for me, especially late at night, which would throw off my schedule in the morning. Still, I allowed myself to indulge, and paid the price the following day. Although realistic in its portrayal of a man caught helplessly in sin, and ultimately dying as a result of his obsession, Hollywood (not surprisingly) missed a prime opportunity to drive home the point that there are no winners in self-absorption. Rather, it tried to sell the audience on the idea that his liaisons enriched the lives of his lovers, instead of leaving broken hearts and misery in the wake of his selfish pursuit of satisfaction.

None of that, though, is really the point. I knew the movie would bring me down, possibly emotionally, certainly spiritually. Christians enjoy liberty in disputable matters like alcohol consumption and the arts, so I am not here to tell others how to exercise their freedom in Christ. That being said, I know what I can and can't handle. I've had fellow believers characterize me as legalistic about my viewing habits, when in actuality, I'm following the dictates of my conscience. First Corinthians 8:9-13 and 10:23-33 make clear that we are to respect others' spiritual limitations, even if they don't make sense to us. I would prefer to be thought of as a "weaker sister" than for others to coax me in a direction that is wrong for me.


As today is Good Friday, when Christ took on Himself all the sins of humanity, doesn't it behoove us to encourage each other to heed the Holy Spirit's counsel regarding sin within our individual hearts, rather than assume it's the same for everyone?

Check out Steven Curtis Chapman's Dying to Live 

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Cheap Date Part 2 (Disclaimer)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Between, AKA, They Never Said "I Told You So"

"Let no one despise your youth..." 1 Timothy 4:12

I know a young woman who is actively putting her life back together after years of anger and addiction tried to snuff it out. As the parent to two young men, and an educator who works with youth, I often have the unenviable privilege of watching the younger generation learn from its mistakes. In the all-too-frequent moments when I find myself clutching a catcher's mitt, ready to meet the pitches these youngsters lob my way, I smile while recalling how my own parents approached the challenge of sending new, green players out onto the field of life.


Though long gone from this earth, David and Barbara Parrish live vibrantly in my heart and mind. How gratefully I remember those two dear souls welcoming home their prodigal offspring after hours of cautioning and arguing failed to produce the U-turns they implored me to consider. I'm especially indebted to them for the homecoming they extended to their bedraggled daughter, who appeared on their doorstep with annihilated self-esteem, two preschool children, and no visible means of support. They spoon-fed me, literally and emotionally, nurturing my body with nutrients and my soul with encouragement. They shored up my foundation and, in so doing, that of my boys. Their love and support knew no bounds; their peaceful, retired lifestyle morphed overnight into a diaper-changing, bed-wetting, order-disrupting, wonderful sort of pandemonium, which they embraced unhesitatingly. Remarkably, they rarely complained, and even made adaptations as I got stronger and asked them to step back so I could resume more parenting responsibilities.

Never, ever, did either one say, "I told you so."

As the years passed, so did their health, and both in their turn were confined to bed. They wondered sorrowfully about their purpose, now that so many of their activities of daily living had to be done by others. I hope they believed my reassurances - just as heartfelt as the ones they offered me when I came home shattered and debilitated - that there was precious meaning in simple things they could still do, like squeeze a grandchild's hand. I reminded them that, while pushing the kids on swings was no longer an option, that was no substitute for storytelling by Granddad to toddlers camped out on his bedroom rug. That 10-year-old Tommy would never forget Grandma's rapt attention to his faltering reading of fourth grade material, so his beloved grandma could still enjoy books even though her eyes were failing. Not to mention the priceless gift they gave our family by allowing all of us to give back to them in their weakness, demonstrating grace and unfailing love as they drew their last breaths in the room that held so many happy memories.

Now, in reflecting back on my parents' graceful sacrifices in the wake of their children's missteps, it seems fitting for me to beseech heaven for the same lack of self-righteousness. This came into clear focus while I enjoyed lunch recently with the recovering young woman mentioned earlier in this post. I noted with interest the seating at our table. She sat sandwiched between three mid-life women and three boisterous teens. She didn't seem to feel entirely comfortable with either group; indeed, much like me when I returned home 15 years ago, she's in a stage of transition between dependence and self-sufficiency. She, too, needs space to grow and encouragement to thrive. She needs room to make even more mistakes as she ventures forth on her journey into well-being.

Most of all, she doesn't need to hear, "I told you so."


                           
                                   David and Barbara Parrish, who never said 
                                   "I told you so" to any of their offspring 
                     (I am in the center, graduating from Villanova University in 1989)  

Check out Steven Curtis Chapman's Fingerprints of God

Check out Newsboys' Miracle Child

Friday, March 1, 2013

Baby's Breath, Maturing Marvels

"All your children shall be taught by the Lord,

and great shall be the peace of your children." Isaiah 54:13

The jails are full of people whose mothers wish they could trade places with me.

It's hard to remember that, though, when my kids disappoint my (probably inflated) expectations. When our conversations begin to resemble the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. When some of their life choices and spiritual goals are 180 degrees removed from my own (at least at this stage of our respective developments).

Yet, when I step back and ponder the positions in which some of my friends find themselves, my own life stands out in stark contrast. Several moms I know have to visit their kids behind bars. Others have spent thousands on drug and alcohol rehab programs, often with minimal success. Some have lost children to suicide or illness.

In recent weeks, I've had the sad privilege of standing alongside a couple whose short-lived pregnancy just ended through no fault of their own. A "missed miscarriage," the doctors called it. This experience has brought back a flood of memories for me, as I relive the day 20 plus years ago when I said goodbye to my unborn baby (a girl, I decided; we called her Abby), whose little heart was too frail to survive, and wouldn't beat for the fetoscope. I limped grief-stricken down the same path my friends are traveling now, enduring the IVs and invasive procedures, the sympathetic looks and ill-conceived comments. How well I remember waiting, longing for the calendar to turn from February to March, to just be rid of that awful month in which God had reclaimed my child.

My sister was expecting her second at the time, which seemed doubly cruel, as I had no toddler at home to cuddle during my loss. A loving family member, suspecting my bitterness at the seeming inequity, wrote me at the time, "Nature is sometimes not very fair."

That summed up my feelings during that barren period. Still, if I had delivered my Abby in July of 1991, my beautiful Aaron couldn't have arrived in March of '92. Though I didn't know it then, the Almighty had a lovely, loving gift in store for me, made more treasured by the tears that readied my eyes to behold it.

As I told my grieving friend, I've had to really delve back into my memory to recall the waves of hopeless despair that held me captive that cold, gray winter before the sun resurfaced at last. My todays are too often full of wrangling and negotiating with the young men my sons have become, and I lose sight of the passion with which I begged heaven for a child's breath on my shoulder. It's been good for me, actually, to revisit that bleak time, as I've found my fuse exceptionally short lately with the two blessings God has asked me to shepherd. I get tangled up in their shortcomings (of course, I don't have any myself), and lose sight of their wonderful qualities. The confidences they share with me. The laughing together at old sitcoms. The porch light a thoughtful teenager thinks to turn on. The trash neatly stacked (unprompted by Mother) at the curb by a young adult who surely has better things to do. The remorse they show when they let me down, and the forgiveness they unfailingly offer when their mom's feet of clay crumble time and again.

So, as I render prayers for heartbroken parents and parents-to-be, I also seek patience and gratitude while staying the course with my two miracles. I bank on the promise (quoted above) that God gave Isaiah to share with floundering parents like me, who are doing their best while entrusting their wing-spreading birds to an almighty safety net. Though works in progress (like their mother), Aaron and Ethan are my joy and my crown, and I would do well to view them with great pride.

For more like this, check out:                                              

Morsels for Meditation...: My Ethan