Sunday, December 10, 2017

Presents, Presence and Shining your Light

Fellow Sojourners,
Most of my life, I have heard the phrase "Live like you're dying", and I always knew there was truth there.....but nothing like a diagnosis of a disease there is currently no cure for, to make it really hit home.  Every holiday that comes up, every time we have the blessing of being with our kids and grand kids, every get together, I am thinking.....this may be the very last time I will be with these people I love to the moon and back and I want it to be epic!  Not the perfect kind of epic where everything has to be, well, perfect.....ain't nobody got time for that!, but the kind of epic where the time won't be lost in the shuffle of normal happenings, but will somehow go deep and put down roots and bear much fruit.

This is Ayil.  We planted and pray for deep roots.

This is Tzedek.  Our two new "trees of righteousness".

At Thanksgiving this year, all our children and their families were at our home except for our eldest granddaughter, who, unfortunately got sick earlier that morning.  Our home, our little piece of Texas, has never been so full of love and laughter and I found myself pinching myself to make sure it wasn't some kind of cruel dream.  After living out of the country for most of our lives, we don't take being together for granted!  We were SO thankful to be giving thanks together and eating together and laughing together.....cousins running in and out, guys young and old throwing a football in the park across the street, all of us standing around in a circle and chiming in on what we were the most thankful for the past year, asking God to bless our embarrassingly abundant meal and then diving in on plastic throw away plates because no one has that many ceramic ones and who wants to do all those dishes anyway?  It was epic in every way and I marveled that after all this time, God would bring us here to this moment and allow us to be here together.  It was all kinds of grace.

All . kinds . of . grace

And on this epic Thanksgiving, we planned ahead for Christmas so it would be epic as well.  My girls have all grown weary of the misrepresentation of the holiday and the emphasis on it's about the gifts and not THE GIFT.  Funny how one little letter can change everything.  So, we have decided to be proactive in turning the tide in our family at least and we drew one name.  One name to buy one gift and do it secretly so the one gift will be from "the family".  Everyone middle school and up in age drew one name.  We only have two littles left in the family at this point, so we all pitched in a little bit for them, but their little gifts will be from "the family" as well, because that's what we were all meant to be.........we are meant to be the gifts to each other, because really...presence is the best present.  And that's what Christmas is about......Jesus became God with us, or Presence, so we should be present as well, and that should be the best thing ever.  Now, it's not Christmas yet and it remains to be seen just how successful this new venture will be in our family, but it will be epic no doubt!  It's a lot like life, you try things and if you fail, you either completely batch it or you tweak it and try again.  We call it sanctification....a fancy word for "you just keep at it until you get it right"....the "just like Jesus" kind of right and we actually do eventually get it right because He helps us do just like Jesus.  But we are hoping that the children will see that it doesn't matter how much you spend or how many gifts you have under the tree, but what really matters is how many present moments we have together and we can never take any of those for granted because they are the best gifts.

Presence wraps us up warm just . like . this.

This is also the first year in more than I can remember where we will be putting lights on our very own house!  I love the lights at Christmas that remind us of the LIGHT who came to a humble stable and swallowed the darkness right up.  One of our family traditions wherever we have been, has been to make a batch of hot cocoa, even if it wasn't cold outside (which it usually wasn't), and put it in travel-worthy mugs and drive around looking at lights.  I love seeing light create beauty right there in the midst of the dark.  That's what we are called to be.....light.....that shatters the darkness.  I guess it must be a vulnerable thing to be the light if our tendency is to hide it.  Darkness can be scary for sure, just ask my grand son, Preston, and it can seem like it is all consuming, so it takes much courage to just stand there defiantly and let your light shine.  If we were all to do that all the time just think how beautiful it would be!  So, we will put those lights on our house this year and we will stand there courageous when the darkness comes because we know that LIGHT trumps dark.  Always.

Being light takes hard work and there is risk.

Light swallows up the darkness and is a bit of glorious!

Be that one light.


Praying for much light and laughter and Presence this Christmas for each of you,

Friday, September 22, 2017

Opening your hands and finding them full

Greetings Fellow Wanderers,
As many of you know, I have been on a trial...they call it a trial because they don't really know how it will affect human beings.  Most of these drugs have been tested "in vitro", which means in a petri dish and have proven to be effective. From there, they may progress to animal testing, which really bothers me at a deep level.  Haven't we done enough to the animal kingdom, subjecting them to death and making them live in a sin-filled world because WE wanted to be like God???  For the cause of science, it is done.  Next step is to test the drugs on actual people: "in vivo".  They aren't sure of dosages or side effects when the trials begin, so you basically have to volunteer to be a guinea pig.  (Ever thought of where that coined phrase came from?)  However, if people aren't willing to take the risk, we might not find a cure for all these chronic diseases that so bountifully plague us today.  So, I took the plunge..... and it didn't go so well.  By the six week mark I was thinking I was surely going Home (that Home we are all going to but we have never been to yet) and that kind of shook me like nothing before.  I will spare you all the horrible details.....and you are welcome!

We have a growing family of these little guys in and around our house. 
They are afraid of us. 
A consequence of the fall. Makes me sad.
I thought I had already come to grips with my mortality...after all, I had had 3 incidents in my life as a child in which I should have perished and yet, here I am.  Then, there was the stint in Colombia where we were targeted for kidnapping, our bank was blown up along with many other buildings and public buses and many people died in the process, it was a war zone, but we remained.  So, in lieu of that, you would have thought that I would have had plenty of opportunity to deal with the reality of death, and maybe I did and maybe it has come in segments, bit by bit as I was able to handle it, but this last trial was a real hit you right square between the eyes moment!

When I was a little girl, I spent many hours with my great-grandmother because back in the day of Kool-Aid stay-at-home-moms, my mom worked.  Every day after school, I would walk to my great-grandmother's house and stayed there until one of my parents got home in the evening.  My great-grandmother was always talking about her death.  It used to really bother me as a kid, because death scared me and in my eyes she was pretty immortal.  I tended to shrug it off as "this is what old people talk about", like all the meds they are taking and all their many ailments and the latest thing for constipation, but I am not an old person, so...not relevant...ignore.  But, it still bothered me because in some small way it made me face the truth:  that someday I was going to lose her and someday I was going to die.  I am sure she was intentional about that and wanted me at a very young age to deal with the fact that eventually EVERYONE will die until Jesus returns.  Maybe she was trying to prepare me for her eventual homecoming or maybe she just wanted me to start thinking about mine, but I managed to avoid it until the day she was gone.  I actually lost her way before her body gave out.  I am sure she had Alzheimers, but that was before we had a name for it.  When I would go visit her in the old folks home (that's what we called it), she would call me Karolyn, which was my mom's name.  She didn't know who I was anymore.  I avoided going to visit often because it hurt too much.  We avoid pain until we can't.

Grandma E. had Lilies of the Valley growing on the shady side of her house and I loved sitting among them
and smelling their sweet perfume.

I think my grandmother was on to something.  I think with so much chronic disease, violence and chaos in our world, we all need a reality check and we need to get past the fear and plunge headlong into the reality that we may not live to see tomorrow.  People that are suffering need all of us to do that so we won't react like I did as a kid and avoid...or pass by quickly with a smile when what the sufferers need is someone to look into their eyes and linger...for awhile.  Being "with" suffering causes discomfort.  It makes you face deep places and things you would rather not look at, like fear....fear of the unknown....fear of loss....fear of pain that isn't unavoidable.  Kind of like entering into a clinical trial.  Who in our "you deserve it all" generation voluntarily offers to share in suffering with anyone?  Hear me, I am in no way throwing out condemnation because I have been a massive avoider for most of my life.  But, this is the life Jesus modeled for us and calls us to live in a real raw and vulnerable way and it is hurts to enter into suffering with others. It just isn't comfortable in any way.  It is awkward, makes you face those scary places you have hidden away in your heart in that closet and locked with a key, you will feel helpless, but trust me when I say...just show up anyway.

In my case, it was fear that was at the root of my avoidance.  I have always feared what I can't figure out, or read an explanation of, the unknown and the unknowable.  Hence, the many fears.  I tend toward people pleasing because I fear offending others...and I fear conflict.  I fear all the what might happen when one of our daughters left home and started living in another country....what if they were in a car accident and we aren't there?  Happened.  We all survived.  Like, what if we have a major earthquake and we aren't together?  Happened.  We all survived.  I could go on and on, but the truth is that I have lived with massive fear issues and death and suffering were right up there at the top. I have been forced to face some of them because God is faithful to His promise to sanctify me, but I haven't died, when I was laying flat on my back for a couple days with nausea so intense that the thought of eating or drinking was repulsive, I was forced to face that fear square in the face and it was the best thing I have done so far!  Like I make a habit of doing, when my back is up against some wall, I asked myself what I know to be true in my situation.  Here is my abbreviated list:

God is there.

God is good.

Everything God does is good whether I can make sense of it at the time or not.

I belong to Him.  Jesus volunteered to suffer...and that I would belong to Him.

My days were all figured out before I was born...the day I would be born and the day I would die and everything in between.

So, why fear?

Then I speak to my soul: Open your hand, Pam and receive. This also as a gift. Suffering is a gift.

Gifts...from our adorable neighbor children.  There are 5 of them. 
These were given to welcome us to the neighborhood.
God is so abundant with His gifts, but sometimes we don't have the eyes to see.

So, I opened my hand and let go of my trying to control something I have absolutely no control over anyway.  I let go of fear.  Whenever we let go of something we are clinging to in this life and its just us standing there with empty hands, God fills our empty hands with something so much better... When we let go of fear...peace comes.  When we let go of fear and volunteer to enter into someone else's suffering.....we start to understand the blessing of how we are meant to live out our days.....Could this be how we change the world?  When the world sees us letting go of fear and suffering with?  When we aren't afraid to share in the sufferings of Jesus by sharing in the sufferings of others?

So, here I sit in this upside down Kingdom with empty hands that are full, having let go of fear, I have found peace.