Better than rawhides…

I love how God uses all of creation to teach me stuff. Today, He taught me through my pups. Let me introduce you…

This is Sir Maximus

This is Simba Roo (you must roll the r for her to answer)

Max is our brand new pup. He’s full of energy and mischief. He delights in our love, leaps into our arms and smothers us with kisses. He lays on his back for us to rub his belly and whines with abandon when we walk out the door.

In his eyes, we are the greatest thing since chicken flavored rawhides.

Simba Roo loves us too, but it’s with a quiet reserve. Only occasionally does she wag her whole body when we walk in the door. She approaches us tentatively when she asks for our touch… always a little nervous that this whole love thing could go south.

It makes sense. We got Simba Roo at 12-weeks-old from the Humane Society, and they told us that she’d been abused. Someone had kicked her and her hip was dislocated as a result. She was just healing up when we took her home all cuddled up in our arms.

Baby Simba Roo

For years we had to be careful with our Simba Roo. Anytime we touched that back hip, she’d leap away from us and tremble, her big brown eyes filled with fear.

Will you turn on me too?

We get it. She’s scared. And because we love her, we meet her where she is… we don’t scold her for her fear, we reassure her and talk embarrassing baby talk and love on her by the bucketful.

So here’s my thought. If we, as frail and human and goofy pet owners, understand how old wounds can surface and scare our puppy, how much more does God make provision when we are skittish in our responses to him? When we’ve been kicked a time or two by life and doubt his love or tremble at his touch?

I make provision for my pups. God makes provision for me… He makes provision for each one of us who carry wounds that make us fearful.

That reality brings tears to my eyes.

What a gracious God.

She paved the way

Here I sit, in Okinawa, Japan, and the truth is I should hate being here. Years ago my mom was imprisoned by the Japanese. From 6 to 10 years old, she was held captive on the island of Indonesia. She suffered deeply through those horrific years and then into adulthood as she relived the trauma through flashbacks and nightmares.

PTSD. Depression. Pain.

My mom could have gone bitter. I could have easily grown up in a home where the Japanese were demeaned and dishonored. I could have been hardened as my mom fought through difficult days and sleepless nights. So much so that the mere thought of going to Japan would only bring harsh feelings and deep resentment.

But it didn’t happen like that.

As a young mom, my mother fought for her healing. She pursued her God. She sought out counsel. She did the hard work of forgiving… and she didn’t give up when she faced a setback or two.

As a result I am here in Okinawa with great joy in my heart. I’ve had the chance to serve at the military base, but also to go out into the community and visit shops and restaurants. The Japanese are polite, gracious and honoring. I ache for their deep losses in the recent tragedies and this weekend joined others to petition God for their needs. I am drawn to these lovely people and only wish I could do more in this painful season.

I wouldn’t feel any of these things if my mom hadn’t paved the way to the cross – refusing to give in to her past wounds and the potential bitterness that lived there.

I’m so proud of her.

Me and Mom. She’s lovely, isn’t she?

Way to go, Mom. In your darkest moments, you probably didn’t realize the long-range impact of your choice to heal through forgiveness and grace – thanks for holding tight to our God and never, ever giving up.

I love you.

Camouflage Mama and True Beauty (flasback Friday)

October 15, 2006

Camouflage Mama

It happens every afternoon around 4:37 p.m. I don my camouflage pants and head out the door. Sam’s bus arrives at the bottom of the hill at 4:39. She’s in high school now. Cool. Happening. She wears lip-gloss and just a touch of foundation to take off the shine.

She even has an I-pod she received on her birthday after three years of
complaining about the bulkiness of her old-fashioned CD player. “I mean
really, Mom. All the kids make fun of me. It’s so bulky and HUGE!”

Yeah. OK. I couldn’t even LIFT the record player I listened to in the 6th
grade.

So I start walking – slowly. It’s all in the timing. If I get too close and
the kids on the bus see me, all will be lost. I hear the familiar sound.
There it is. I spot the yellow through the leaves, and see a window on the
bus. A set of teenage eyes meets mine. They widen. I’ve been spotted! Drat!
I quickly duck and pretend to pet a caterpillar.

I asked Sam once, “So what if your friends see me? They won’t know I’m
coming to meet you, they’ll just think I’m some lady out walking her dogs.”

“Every day Mom? At the same time? And a woman who looks EXACTLY like me?
Mom.” Slight eye roll. “They’ll know it’s you.”

Right. And that’s . . . horribly, mortifyingly not good, right?

Right.

The bus starts moving away. I see a bobbing brunette head coming up my way. I
wave. She waves. We grin. On this day she loops her arm in mine as she draws
close. She doesn’t even realize she’s doing it. She right away starts in on her day.

I smile a little grin of victory. Undercover. Top secret. Camouflage love.

Mission accomplished.

October 16, 2006

Swan

She was tiny, frail, beautiful. I met Swan at a woman’s conference. Wrinkles lined her lovely face. She dressed stylish with a touch of sassy. Swan spoke in a quiet voice, and her hands trembled slightly as they rested on her lap. She was the picture of gentle beauty.

Then Swan prayed.

With a voice full of passion and strength, she prayed over the conference.
With power she prayed for each woman present. She seemed to grow in stature
with each word spoken to our God.

I have a picture of what Swan will look like in heaven. I’m sure it’s a pale
vision of what will truly be, but even with my limited imagination, my
picture takes my breath away. She is adorned in vibrant colors. She is
brilliant and strong with energy spilling from every pore. Her Lord takes her
dancing and without a single ache or pain, she graces the heavens with her
lovely form. Her eyes are full of light and her smile is warm and
captivating. She is all that she is now – only with a touch of heaven thrown
in.

I want to be like Swan. As my body weakens, I pray my spirit strengthens. As
my heart grows weaker, I pray my love grows stronger. With each passing day,
may I be more like Jesus, until my final breath takes me home to him.

So I think I can dance…

I love dancing.

I enjoy doing the Macarena, the Electric Slide and the Boot Scoot Boogie. Yeah, I know. Those dances are as old as dirt. So it’s been a little while.

But today I discovered Zumba.

Usually when I go to the gym, I take the BodyPump, BodyFix or the TrimEverythingAndQuick class. I never take classes like Zumba. Why? Because I don’t have rhythm. I learned this when I slipped during the Electric Slide and tripped over my boots during the Boot Scoot Boogie. And trust me, I didn’t magically improve with age.

But I love my daughter, and she wanted to try Zumba.

We showed up at the gym in our shorts and T-shirts. Women started walking by with bright-colored pants with lots of zippers and strings and such. They all looked similar and really, really cool. We leaned over to a woman next to us. “What’s up with the pants?”

“Zumba-wear” She said, as she fidgeted with one of her 27 zippers.

Sam and I nodded. “Nice.”

She went on, “You can go to Zumba.com and find all kinds of Zumba stuff. Zumba shirts, Zumba pants, Zumba bracelets and keychains.”

“Do they have Zumba eyewear?” I asked.

She looked at me funny. “No.”

So the music started and we all lined up. Sam and I were in the back row, trying to hide behind the rows of flowing pants in front of us. It happened quick. The woman leading us began to wiggle her hips, clap her hands and move at a high rate of speed in multiple directions at once.

I looked at Sam. She looked at me.

And we started to wiggle.

Now, I’m not the kind of girl who can multi-task. I can’t read with the TV on or eat while I whistle or build a Lego building while I read a crime novel. It just doesn’t work. So when the woman at the front of the room asked me to wiggle, walk and clap all at the same time, I gave it a shot… and about fell over.

Sam laughed.

I consoled myself with the 80-year-old woman beside me. She turned left when we were supposed to go right. Raised her hand when we were supposed to clap and jiggled when we were supposed to wiggle.

I smiled over at her, thinking we’d share a non-rhythmic moment.

Her disapproving glance said it all.  You stink at this, missie.

Whatever.

So I’ll probably do Zumba again. Sam really liked it and I like Sam. So as soon as my jiggler stops aching and my wiggler quits cramping, I’ll be back – with my new Zumba pants and fancy new eyewear.

It’s not easy being a woman (flashback Friday)

November 21, 2003

Being a woman is hard, and the traps of womanhood snare me with greater and greater frequency. It all started with the whole eyebrow waxing thing. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. How would that look? One eyebrow to two, two eyebrows to one.

Way too confusing.

Then there came the panty hose, heels and even coloring my hair. These were fun things, little adventures into my girly world, but these seemingly innocent pursuits can turn on you. All of a sudden like.

Let me explain: my friend recently introduced me to fake nails. “They’re fun!” She said. “And they look good… and really, Elsa, they only take a minute to put on.”

So I sat on my bed, clipping and filing my fake nails. Strange, really, to hold a nail in your hand as you clip and file it. Then there’s the glue, strong enough to put airplanes back together. I read the instructions carefully. Put a touch on the nail; press the fake one on the real one. Paint. Be happy.

So I did.

The next morning I took a shower and three nails fell off. Apparently, you’re not allowed to shower once you put on fake nails.

I glued them back on.

Later I washed the dishes and another nail fell off.

Great. No dishes either. I glued it back on.

I put on my panty hose and poked ten lovely holes in a dashing formation. Which promptly caused ten galloping runs. Fine. I guess I just wish the panty hose onto my legs or ask the dog to help – as his claws are now shorter than mine.

Later on, I arrive at work and type. It sounds like I’m performing a drum solo on my keyboard. TAP, TAP, TAP. People gather around my cubicle and start swaying to the tune.

I growl at them and determine that I am done with the nails. I try to pull of the remaining fake ones and nearly pull off my real nail along with twelve layers of skin.

So now ten days later, I have seven nails on and three nails off.

Great. I’m a mutant.

I’ll probably die this way.

(Postscript: Nearly ten years later and I remain traumatized. I shudder walking through nail salons.)

Trapped!

I remember when it happened.

I was working at Focus when I read the news article about the young man who went hiking in the Utah canyons—he was an adventurous guy who went off to play and explore. As he climbed over one rock, it slipped beneath the weight of him. Both he and the rock tumbled and when the dust settled, he couldn’t move. His hand was wedged between the heavy rock and the canyon wall. After six days, his only option was to cut off his arm to escape to freedom. I remember reading his story with a mingled sense of horror and awe.

A few weeks ago, we watched a documentary of his painful journey.

On Friday night, we watched the movie.

I went to sleep that night with Aron’s story on my brain. And I woke up rather philosophical. That happens sometimes. Some days I wake up hungry with a need to go potty. Other times I wake up with profound thoughts on the brain.

You never can tell with me.

So I woke up thinking about the rocks in my own journey. As a young woman I was a lot like Aron. I went out to play and explore in life. I journeyed into canyons and clambered over rocks that seemed so cool. And then I tumbled. The very rock I played on became my trap.

I was thinking on that as I got up. I grabbed my cup of coffee and sat in the living room. I had my quiet time. I read about a man who came to Jesus to ask what He needed to do to inherit eternal life. He gave Jesus the list of the commandments he followed. Jesus looked at him and loved him… (I love that. It says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”) And then Jesus asked him to sell all of his possessions and give them to the poor. Jesus knew this guy was held captive by something, and He wanted to set him free.

The man walked away, sad.

He was trapped.

A little later that morning, Brian read through some sports news—as is our Saturday morning custom, he read a few stories out loud to me. One story was about a former football star who became a gambling addict. This broken adult, once a young superstar, had been arrested for scamming people out of millions of dollars. As a young man, he had all the potential in the world, but he’d given in to his addiction. His playful pursuit became a heavy rock that pinned him and drained the life away.

He was trapped.

I’m not always the sharpest needle in the pincushion, but I didn’t want to miss what God might be telling me. What broken piece of my life continues to trap me? The danger with Aron was that the huge rock had cut off all circulation to his hand. His hand was dead and that death was creeping into the rest of his body. Now Aron could have given up and let that happen. Like the rich man in Scripture and the gambling guy in the paper, he could have wrestled for a bit and then given up, “I guess this is just my fate. I can’t break free.”

He could have let death seep into the rest of his body…

But he didn’t. He cut off his own arm to know freedom.

I suppose for the rich man and the gambler, it would have felt like they were cutting off a piece of themselves to break free. I’ve felt that. I’ve had different rocks in my life, habits I didn’t think I could change: Smoking, a longing for romance, food… The list goes on. Habits that felt so much a part of me that it felt like I was cutting off my own arm to let them go.

For Aron, cutting free from that rock was excruciatingly painful.

But it was possible.

And ah, the freedom! The freedom of walking the other way, climbing to safety and leaving that rock back in the dust. And then  after he did the hard work of walking away, the helicopter swept in and rescued Aron. He was tended to and cared for – his wounds healed. Yes, he wears the scars, but he is free.

Free!

Talk about joy. Talk about dimpled abandon!

In one scene, when Aron was still trapped, he had a vision of a little boy he knew was the son he would one day have. That vision strengthened him to tear free from all that bound him.

What vision has God planted in your heart? In my heart? That we would go through the painful process of breaking free from the things we’ve come to accept as unchangeable?

Oh friends, I want to take this to heart. Will you join me? Lets not get trapped by anything but the love of God.  Lets not get lost in riches, addictions, poor self image or any other familiar habit that has weighed us down for years, slowly sucking the life from our spiritual bodies.

Will you join me today in asking God what our rock might be? And asking him for strength to tear free and run for his care and mercy?

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23,24).

 

Cute boys, worthy goals and lasting life tokens (Flashback Friday)

Well, after tallying all the results, organizing them, sifting them and analyzing the polls from this week, I’ve come to a huge decision:

I’m going to post whenever the stuff comes pouring out of my brain.

Actually, you really helped me come up with a plan. I’ll share once or twice a week and then every Friday will be Flashback Friday. As some of you know, I used to be a blogger by e-mail, sending out stories and snippets from my journey. On Fridays, I’ll share from those archives.

I appreciate you!

Here we go—from the summer of 2003:

August 15, 2003

The other morning Sami started middle school, 6th grade. Before she left I grabbed her hands. I asked if I could pray for her and she nodded. I prayed for her bus ride, her teachers, her friends and her schoolwork. At the end of my prayer, I looked up at her with tears in my eyes, so full was my heart.

“Mom,” she said, highly offended,  “you forgot to pray about the cute boys!”

“Oh,” I quickly bowed my head. “And dear Lord, please keep all the cute boys as far away from Sami as possible.”

“Mooooommmmmmm……”

August 23rd, 2003

I spent some time with one of my favorite people the other day, Emma Joy. She’s only 3 years old. She’s very smart and we have some of the best conversations. We were talking about her fourth birthday. “I’ll be able to swim all by myself… and jump.”

Yes, jump.

She jumped right then and there and solemnly informed me that she couldn’t jump very high as a 3 year old. “But when I’m 4, I’m going to jump much higher.”

I thought that was a worthy goal. And so, by the time I’m 35, I’m going to be able to jump. Not high, but much higher than a 34-year-old.

(Post note: I’m 42 and I still can’t jump. Although to be honest, I haven’t really tried lately. Hold on; let me check real quick… (pause, stand up, jump, hear an odd noise in my knee, sit down…) Uh, nope. Still can’t jump. Maybe when I’m 43.)

Reeses, Sam and me

September 2, 2003

Sami and I were driving back from Missouri late last night. Sami was feeling especially affectionate. The dog was settled between us and Sami reached over and pulled me towards her. (Yes, I was driving, but I kept my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road.  Yes, I am very safety conscious. Totally.) In between us our dog, Reeses, was pleasantly smashed.

“Mom,” she said, “I know what I want for my birthday. I want God to give you, me and Reeses Lasting Life Tokens. That way, we will all die at the same time and never have to be without each other.”

It kind of choked me up. Lasting Life tokens.

I thought some more. I guess He does do that. I guess He did do that. His Son.

“Oh Sami, we may not die at the same moment, but we do have tokens. Free passes. The entry into life together for always. We didn’t even have to pay anything for it. We just said yes.”

One Lasting Life Token please.

Oh thank you, Jesus…