My broken snow globe holidays

In a matter of days they will arrive. You know, the cards with families full of mirthful expressions, the letters telling of orgasmic feats, exotic vacations, university degrees and oh-so-amazingly talented children.

Then there others that would like to send a card but can’t. They just buried a loved one and are clawing their way through grief, one torturous moment at a time. There’s the once happy family that was splintered when their rebellious child left everyone in the lurch with their choices. Then, there is the jobless family who could not fathom the frivolity of a holiday card, as they look at their dwindled bank account in worry.

Oh, it’s not like each of these can’t somehow muster a few “things I’m thankful for” to rattle off when asked. Rather, the crushing weight of current circumstances has shattered the idyllic holiday snow globe scene: shards of hopeful expectations or family traditions, broken, unable to be recaptured.

It’s that time of year, where all the things we might know about friends and family (but can blissfully ignore every other month), are lovingly and without malice, foisted right in our faces. These messages arrive in glitzy envelopes, picture cards that are downright movie set quality and letters listing feats of epic proportions. They come to us innocently. But the emotions they evoke are quite the opposite of the beauty they display.

Don’t tell me I’m just envious because that is not it. Don’t tell me to “rejoice with those who rejoice” or don’t rebuke me with some trite saying like “hey, you’re not dead yet.”

This isn’t self-pity or envy. This isn’t a sad miserable soul trying to garner attention and a tiny violin serenade. This is me admitting my globe broke and it hurts like a mother.

Let me hold the base of my broken snow globe and weep. Allow me to look longingly at the scene that will never be again. Help me by gently picking up the slivers of glass alongside me. Don’t offer to go buy another one. That would never make me feel better anyways. Just let the hollowness be. *

*Maybe you know a person like this. What can be done?

Invite me for a coffee. Wrap me in a warm hug. Drop a non-glitzy card in the mail just to say, “I’m thinking of you.” Be mindful of your message when you send out that card or letter. Most of all, don’t forget that not all of us will have a happy holidays this year (even if we might really like to). It may be your broken globe year one day.

broken-globe

Getty Images

Forget to Remember

Sometimes it is so good to remember. Generally speaking, we like to forget all the bad stuff (and certainly it is a coping mechanism that proves to be effective). But the good things, well, they are easy to recall, then we get all mushy on the inside- as we should. Some really bad things seem to self-destruct, leaving something like a temporarily numb frontal lobe behind.

September is our month to remember as a nation- not in a good, celebratory way like the fourth of July, but in a somber, reflective way. In fact, we adopted the slogan: “We will not forget”. Last week, as 9/11 came and went, I pondered why. Why is it we will never forget those terrorist attacks, fourteen years ago? Why must we remember? Why all this reflection and reviewing the images of that day?

I think that pain, that gut-wrenching, heart-gripping memory, makes us stronger, resolute, united. It makes us feel the ire of injustice all over again. It makes us defensive and protective so that it may never happen again.

In a micro-cosmic way, it’s the very thing we need to do from time to time in our own lives.

Don’t forget to remember the feeling of emptiness when we lost something or someone we cared about, the self-doubt we experienced as teenagers, the feeling of separation or loneliness from a divorce or broken friendship, the fear of the unknown when we lost a job, the worry over a wayward child, the anger of being hurt by words and actions of others.

Why?

It makes us real to people who may be going through something similar. It makes us profoundly grateful for having crossed over to the other side of the challenge. But most of all, it makes us resolute, stronger, a tiny bit more invincible. It allows us to see that though the divine plan has unexplainable injustice, it also has inconceivable joy. We can wear the victor’s crown for having overcome.

We are changed. Forever. We are better when we remember.

in so many words

We like to hear ourselves talk and rant, really. I am no exception. Social media is proof of that. And sometimes religious zealots are the worst.

I love words. I’m pretty much a word nerd- I love to learn new ones and find etymologies fascinating. Words are my paintbrush, my chorus, my therapy– allowing me to maneuver through the labyrinth of my inner workings. At the end of the day though, if that’s all they are, I’ve just flapped my jaws for nothing. I’ve jumped on the bandwagon of the narcissistic, selfie generation, except I’m saying, “Look at me! Love my words!” Instead of perfected pixels, I boast perfected paragraphs.

I’ve realized lately, I’m not special and frankly my words might just be more noise added to the already deafening roar forced upon us from every side of every argument and issue.

So I had to ask myself then, why I write.

I concluded this: perhaps I AM different. My aim is to be the quiet voice, the evocative voice that someone, somewhere can nod in resonation with. I’m not the person standing on a soapbox with a megaphone. I’m not the loud mouth handing out religious paraphernalia. I am not even registered with a particular political party (Cue the shocked gasp!) But I DO have something to say. I DO believe in many things passionately that I won’t back down from, but unlike so many- I am always willing to listen as much as I speak.

I believe there are words better left unspoken. I believe God’s words are true. I believe combative words fall on deaf ears most of the time. I believe bold words are necessary and good. I believe words can bring healing or abuse- and I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of both.

I want my words to count for something. I want to say something ponder able. I want people who disagree to say it. I want people who find my words meaningful to tell the world.

This blog stands for truth but it also stands for acceptance and love and a willingness to change my ideas and say, “I don’t have it all together but I am sure of this: I journey towards my heavenly home. Won’t you journey with me? We can help each other and just maybe my words can be the balm to soothe your wounds or the prod to get you back on the right path.”

I Don’t Want No Stinking Band Aid ®

I’ll never forget the Sunday. Passing through the church lobby, a book on a small table caught my eye. The title: “Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology”. I turned away disgusted. (In all fairness, I haven’t read the book. It might be helpful or truthful.) I was ready to go see a therapist myself after months of dealing with the reality that someone I loved was a substance abuser. It was an exorable grief, coursing through my veins on a daily basis.

This opened a can of stinking rotten worms in my head. Reminded me of a time when I too, thought I could give a hurting someone a bible verse band aid and make it “all better”.

A flood of incidences came to me, like the time I mentioned yoga as one of my fave forms of exercise in a bible study and getting “lovingly rebuked” that this was a no-no. (She said), “Do you know what Namaste’ means? You have to be careful because this is tied to eastern mysticism.” Made me want to downward dog right there!

Or the time that I mentioned a personal problem that one of my kids was having, suggesting that I might take them to see a psychiatrist. You should have seen the narrowed eyes on this sister! “You need to be wary of those worldly philosophies,” she admonished in a lowered tone. Translation: treat this as a spiritual problem and go seek some counseling at church.

Don’t get me started on the stuff people have told me about my struggle with depression. Let’s just say that posting 25 3×5 cards with Bible verses all over my house was not doing the trick.

Before you go all Bible thumping on me, you gotta understand something: I love the Bible. I think it is the very breathed out words of the living God, without error or unable to be added to or subtracted from. It is my most cherished book and the Psalms speak volumes about the plight of human emotion.

BUT, I also strongly hold to the fact that LOTS of other things can help us when we are in the doldrums: like the calming poses of yoga, the trained words and methods of a psychologist or therapist, recovery groups, self-hypnosis (yes, I’ve used this one with great success), rhythmic breathing patterns, friends with open minds and hearts, journal writing, heck, even a great cup of coffee or a relaxing glass of wine.

I will never again just offer the bible verse band aid. It’s no solution to the wound, only a temporary cover-up. Underneath the gash remains, festering, like the continual grief I was weighed down by that Sunday.

Instead, I will offer a listening ear then perhaps a truthful word, soft with empathy and flavored with the salve of hope of Jesus Christ. I will offer arms to hold or hug, eyes to see solutions beyond the obvious, and feet to walk along the path they are walking on until a brighter way comes into view.

Don’t Forget

So many people are profoundly affected by the death of an actor or actress. This week, we lost both- Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall- one by choice, the other by natural cause. We react. We recoil. Then, depending on perspective, we respond to the reaction. CrAzY!

I never cease to be amazed at both sides that get their shorts in knots over these things:

“Why do we care so much about an actor committing suicide when there is practical genocide happening in the Middle East?” “How could such a talented actor, who has inspired and entertained millions, just up and kill himself? There must be some cause- financial problems, a life threatening disease, an unhappy marriage, etc.”

We analyze and pontificate and postulate. We read articles, trying to figure it out, somehow hoping it weren’t true.

Two things are true:

  1. The world and its crises are not on the same playing field as the loss of a talented actor to which millions of people relate with- i.e.- they are not comparable issues.
  2. Somewhere in the midst of it all, loss of life gets sensationalized and “social media-ized” and then we’ve missed the whole point.

Death comes to all and it is never pretty.

I can’t eradicate Ebola. I can’t find homes for all the refugees. I can’t stop every person who is suicidal. I can’t ease the ever-present racial tensions.

But don’t forget these are people. Loss of a human life is always devastating – for any cause and in every situation. We have to recognize that. Robin Williams was a father, husband, brother, friend, uncle, son- and yes, he was a talented guy whose screen presence will be remembered. The countless images of sickly patients waiting to die on gurneys- they belong to a family somewhere. The images of waif like children sitting homeless on the dirt- that is someone’s hungry three year old. The images of a grieving African American mother- she lost her son to violence this week.

Life matters. What we say, do and think matters. Love matters. I might not be able to change the world, but I can make the small world I live in a better place. I can spread love, have joy, offer hope, give help, and promote peace. I can grieve with humanity at the loss of life and offer hope for eternity. I can remember that these are people and not simply news stories.

Contrast This

This week, I wore the cloak of invisibility. But here’s the weird thing: I didn’t even know I had it on. Allow me to explain.

I was at coffee with a friend and in walks a mutual friend and his teenaged son. They stop and greet my friend by name and proceed to chat for the next five minutes. I sat and stared. INCREDULOUSLY. At first I think they don’t recognize me (I’m sans makeup). Then I look right into the eyes of the man talking and he avoids my gaze, as does his son.

They leave our table without ever even breathing a word to me. I was invisible. Not even good enough to make eye contact with or be greeted by name… I must confess I thought of some bad names for them after they left.

Contrast the following day. I meet up with a friend who is taking my youngest to a theme park for the day. While we wait for the others to arrive, I jokingly say I wish we had time for an espresso. Out comes her peculator and beans, and she’s apologizing that she doesn’t have her “regular” beans imported from Italy. She bids me sit down and rest my leg (still recovering from a recent surgery). Within minutes, we are sipping from dainty mugs and chatting about life.

There at her table, I find comfort. I find love. I find hospitality.

Then I mull over each scenario. In true metacognitive fashion, I rack my brain for answers to the first situation: maybe they didn’t recognize me, maybe they were having a bad day, or maybe I offended them at some point and they just can’t stand the sight of me. WHAT?! Stop it, I say to myself. Or maybe they are just rude, judgmental jerks that think too highly of themselves. Yep, I’m gonna go with that one.

In contrast, I feel hospitality with this other person. She exudes it from the very core of her being, a definitive kindness and empathizing love. She signs her texts to me “xo”. But is this just a personality thing, a temperament difference, or even a gender thing? NO, NO and NO.

It’s a perspective thing. Exhibit A lives life in a conservative, narrow-minded, (and I’m just going to use strong oxymoron here)- a Christian bigot kind of way. Exhibit B lives life in a big-hearted, broad thinking, Jesus kind of way. She embodies the definition of hospitality: the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

Having had these experiences back to back, I want to, more than ever, exhibit the grace of Jesus. May it ooze from my pores, flow freely from my mouth and display itself at my table. May it be given in generous unvarying amounts to everyone- known and unknown.

And God help me forgive exhibit A.

Proverbs Poetry

 

Here is a piece I wrote after reading Proverbs 7, which cautions a young man about the temptations of the seductress. Drugs, alcohol and sex lure and tantalize. The young are being more and more barraged with promises that these vices bring pleasure, fulfillment and escape from life’s problems or insecurities. God and His wisdom are being touted as boring, restrictive, narrow-minded. May we pray harder than ever for the next generation. Love them intensely and teach them truth.

 

I looked through the window of my house, just between the shades.

Evening was coming on, the dusky darkness becoming heavier with each moment.

I saw an idle throng of people, loitering about.

Among them was a senseless young man- inexperienced and shortsighted.

He was ambling down the shady street, the street of hallucinations.

Around one corner came a dazed looking man.

He had been waiting for the youth, undetectable in the inky shadows.

First came the laugh then the hushed tones, “Come in here and see my stash.”

Brazenly and without waiting for an answer, he grabbed the young man’s arm.

 

In, he pulled him.

The stench of smoke filled the air.

So thick, it was hard to see and made his stomach recoil.

He coughed. His lungs weren’t used to this.

Although, he’d never been there, the kids were from his high school.

He said hello to an acquaintance and got a nod in return.

The room was disheveled and fetid, so starkly in contrast to his home.

Yet, the mellow vibe appealed to him.

“Try some of this.” A tall thin guy handed him a pipe.

This was uncharted territory for the youth.

Gazing up, he remembered the statistics of drug addiction from class.

But the ambiguous smile and his reassuring words, assuaged any fear.

All around were glazed over looks, bleary eyes and relaxed bodies.

 

Soon, the youth was slumped over in a chair.

His body felt numb, but his mind was racing.

The things his mind conceived were incomprehensible.

It seemed like he was catapulting through a kaleidoscope.

Before he knew it, he craved more.

Day after day, he longed for that escape.

Little did he know, this house was on the street called Destruction.

At the end stood a precipice with vacuous blackness below.

Like a net hidden for the prey, was this habit-

A snare meant to entrap.

Like a calf being led toward slaughter,

The rope now around his neck doubled as a noose.

He was bewitched.

 

So, son, listen to me, take these words of mine most seriously.

Don’t fool around with friends like that;

Don’t even stroll through that neighborhood.

Never go into the house.

Countless victims have come under the spell.

Many have fallen prey to its clutches; their minds forever changed.

That path that appeared pleasing will lead you straight over the precipice and into hell.

Proverbs 7:1-4

“My son, obey my words.
    Store up my commands inside you.

 Obey my commands and you will live.
    Guard my teachings as you would your own eyes.

 Tie them on your fingers.
    Write them on the tablet of your heart.

 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister.”
    Call understanding a member of your family.”

 

A Letter to the Shunners

Dear Shunners,

I write out of love. I write because I must. I write because I am tired of it.

Yes, I have three children and yes, they are all unique and varied individuals. Right now, only one of them is an adult and free to make choices that are many times in direct opposition to what we believe, as his parents.

If you know him and see how he has changed this last year, it may sadden or shock you. But what you can never know are the conversations we have behind closed doors; when no one else gets that intimate glimpse into his heart or sees the confusion and insecurity in his eyes. Nor can you hear him wrestle with the magnitude of what it means to grow up, the fear of having to take responsibility and become financially independent.

To those that don’t know him and have either listened to juicy morsels of gossip or taken advantage of moments when in a quest for transparency or vulnerability, I’ve shared too much, shame on you. You are culpable for making a judgement call based on a snippet of information. Your limited knowledge has gone to your head and given you license to shun- him, our other children and maybe even us. Just so you understand what I mean, here’s what shun means: avoid, evade, eschew, steer clear of, shy away from, keep one’s distance from.

Perhaps you didn’t mean to do these things. Maybe you shun because you are afraid of a rebellious child and the implications of it on your own child/family. I understand the fear. I used to feel that way before providence would have it that we would need to love our own prodigal of sorts. Or perhaps you have forgotten the priority of Jesus’s message was to seek and save the lost- not shun and avoid the lost. This is the message we carry to the world.

So, I lovingly plead with those who cannot empathize with us or him during this season, to stop. Stop shunning. Stop standing in your high and lofty place as judge of our family, our parenting methods, or especially our son. And please stop assigning guilt to our other children based on the struggles of one.

Most of all, be mindful of self-righteousness, a lack of grace and the tendency to eschew someone whom you perceive as a rebel. Recognize that no matter what decisions our children make- good or bad- our love for them remains zealous and unchanged. Our fierce sense of protection still wants to “assault” those with intent to hurt them.

We don’t make excuses for wrongdoing. We accept culpability for mistakes we have made in parenting. Conversely, we embrace in gospel love those who think differently than us, look differently than us, live differently than us- especially when they happen to be our own flesh and blood.

Grace will reach farther and soften a heart more than shunning ever could. Grace will lead the rebel home.

With tenacious boldness,

Jane

Drowning Parents

They just keep coming like relentless waves crashing against the rocky shore. At first, I was shocked. Now when I hear something new, my stomach turns sour and my eyes well up with tears. “Not another one”, I hear myself scream.

I am searching for some common thread and find none.

They found a condom in her purse. He smoked something that made him vomit. She is pregnant. He is verbally abusing his girlfriend. They were up all night at the hospital because she had alcohol poisoning. Gay porn was discovered on his laptop. She ran away from home. He is getting high every chance he gets. They found a pregnancy test in her drawer. She denies the faith. He questions if there even is a God.

These are all real scenarios, from real kids that I know. Kids from the church. Kids that were home schooled or public schooled. Kids that were in AWANA all their lives. Kids whose parents are godly, gospel loving parents. Kids who served in the nursery. Kids who went to youth group every week.

I grieve. I wrestle with it. I ask God why. I shake my head. Something went wrong. Or did it?

There are the “other” parents that I now observe from a distance because some of them have put me there; ostracized because they “have heard” what my son has done. They are afraid that their children will be tainted by him, so they avoid me and do not let their younger kids play with mine.

The rest of us, whose kids are the main characters in the scenarios above, are left…. heart broken, baffled, wrung out, embarrassed.

We raised them to be different. Maybe that’s just it. All the work we did and we thought we would have our “prize” at the end: a successful child, a godly child, a child that others look at and admire as an example. Then naturally, they would look at us and think, “They did parenting right. Accolades are due them.”

I can’t shake the guilt or disappointment- no matter how I try. It keeps coming back, hauntingly. I know it doesn’t do me any good, (in fact it only harms and points an accusing finger). It comes through the stares of the parents whose kids are on the right path, keeping their noses clean and heading towards a bright successful future. They don’t mean to (probably), but they have this oh so smug aura about them. And every time, it twists my own knife further.

Meanwhile, we are crushed, sitting on the sidelines trying to love our children unconditionally, trying with every ounce of our being to exemplify patience with their foolish choices. Our hearts broken. Our minds perplexed.

All I can do is cry out through the tears as another wave, another heart-wrenching story comes at me. I beg God to save them all, to let them see the dawning of another day, to save them from an early death and eternal separation from Himself.

Did I do everything right? No. Neither did the other parents. Are there lessons to be learned? Yes, by us all. Will God have to save all in His time? Yes. He makes things beautiful in HIS time.

I am left to weep and try to make sense of it all. The waves wash over me and they linger through the salty residue left behind. At moments, I think I might drown. Then I remember the life preserver at my waist. I can’t see it. I just know it’s there and that alone assuages my fear and guilt for another moment.

Erase the Lines

We’ve all drawn them, at different times and for particular reasons.

Lines.

Lines we will not cross. Lines we put up as a type of guardrail along our comfort zone. Lines to protect us. Lines to insulate us from influences or more pointedly, insulate our children. Lines to make us fit into a specific social strata. Lines because of innate fears.

Depending on who and where we are, our drawn lines will morph greatly over the course of our lives. Hopefully, they will move for good conscientious reasons, not condescending or contentious ones.

There are well thought out, well-placed lines. Parental boundaries put up for the protection of our children – this is an example of a good line drawn. Then there are ugly ones- the ones drawn because of pride, prejudice, arrogance, ignorance, bigotry, hate, selfishness.

The older I have grown, the more I despise these lines. They sicken me frankly. I want to go over and erase them, but I can’t. They are there to remind me that I “DON’T BELONG” or my kids shouldn’t attempt to cross them or my ideas just don’t mesh. And here is what puts my blood at a simmer level: There are sometimes insane amounts and even uglier lines within the church.

Socio-economic lines are inevitable, but I do declare, around our hoity-toityville town, they have a pronounced presence. Sadly, most people that have drawn them never even realize it. I personally have lived on both sides of the tracks. We have had the big new house. We’ve resided in the low-class all ethnic group neighborhood. Nowadays, some might even call our neighborhood “white trash”. They draw their “I would never live there” line. Let’s face it, we generally like to be with other people who are “like us” and balk against those who are not. These lines are often drawn inadvertently, but must always be looked at with a critical careful eye and erased immediately if done with malicious motives.

Ethnically speaking I’m white, pasty white in fact. But I grew up in Los Angeles- arguably one of the most diverse places in the good ol’ US of A. Besides off-handed comments from a few family members, I grew up color blind. The first time I had a “white” best friend was in seventh grade.Here’s what I knew: God made the world and EVERYONE in it.  Lines drawn because of the color of someone’s skin make the world a small place; a place where the beauty and richness of diverse people groups or cultures are replaced by small-minded bias, by fear of the unknown and an air of superiority.  This line, especially in the church, should never, ever be drawn.

The other lines can be petty, picky and perfunctory. Often times they are unnecessary, unkind and uncouth. These are the how we parent our kids lines or the how we school our kids lines.  There are political lines, eating habit lines, media or music preference lines. They are endless. In and of themselves they are not bad and these differences are what makes the world go around. BUT, when we draw them in permanent marker, they serve to exclude all who are not on the same side as us. We become guilty of group think. We become aggressive defenders of preserving our line instead of being open to the possibility of erasing it. Every once in a while, our hand is forced to erase a line we had so carefully marked and when we do, we suddenly find that we had kept out others that needed us or the line was a stupid idea all along.

My challenge to you dear reader is to think long and hard when lines are drawn. Mark them in chalk if you must. Always be willing to step across them for the sake of abandoning a prejudice or erasing them altogether in order to love someone who is on the other side.