Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Be Still

This is my favorite song - well, my favorite hymn.  I just like it.  The other week, we were somewhere and someone played it.  I hadn't heard it for years, but I still know it.  I also like the song "We Rest on Thee" which is the same tune as this one.  But of the two, this is my favorite.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and bless├Ęd we shall meet at last.

But even as I listened to it the other week, my heart was not at rest in me.  "Be still my soul, the God doth undertake to guide they future as He has thy past".  When its been a year like this, when all that God has guided us through so far - well, it hasn't exactly been something I would want to go through again, when friends have hurt us and left us struggling to understand, when we've lost ones we love, when..... well, the assurance that God will guide the future as He has the past really ain't all that reassuring!  Actually, in all reality, I'd prefer Him to guide to a smoother path!

But I have a choice - to trust or not to trust.  And there are things which reassure me,  "in every change, He faithful will remain".  Every one.  Even the ones where I run off and throw a hissy fit about how difficult life is being.  He won't shake His head at my foolishness and say, "Ack, I've got better things to do than mess with that one."  Not even if others have said that.  He will remain faithful.

Then some lines I love, "be still, my soul, the waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below."  Yet while He was here, He allowed those waves and winds - even to the point that strong men, men used to boats, thought they were going to die and panicked.  Still, all that storm, all that panic, and it only took two words from his voice.  Be Still.

I know that He will not let me sink.  But I am getting a little seasick here.  Seasick and bruised from being battered about in a boat.  Waiting for the sound of those two words, "Be still". 

Except that He seems to be speaking them to my heart and not to the waves.... 

More on Trust

Our pastor recently spoke on the story of Abigail and David.  In some ways, I think this story is almost "packaged".  It is simple and ends wonderfully.  He protects, he is insulted, he seeks revenge, she steps in, he backs down, God defends and kills the idiot, and he marries the princess (ok, well the rich, beautiful, wise, kind woman.)

Life gets harder when there is silence from God and when the fool lives in peace and the insult is never answered.

Now there is the good point of listening to wise counsel.  The point of a woman who can be approached.  Even the servants knew that she was someone they could go to who could take action.  For a woman who steps in, even in opposition to her husband, and does what is right to protect her family and do what is right. (This would be an interesting story to bring up in the face of the "submit no matter what" theology!)

But to deal with an insult never answered is a constant question and struggle for me.  To have been put through pain un-neededly, insulted in pain, slandered, and not listened to by one who then goes on to have no consequences... it is tough.

Yet in that comes the sovereignty of God.  The God who could have, didn't stop them.  He didn't.  God stood by and let us suffer.  I still have questions about that....yet what I do know is that God, through it all, taught me to know Him - through the pain.

(Yet Abigail admits the injustice.....  there is power in hearing it admitted even if it is not by the person who did it.)

But through it all, God taught me to know Him.  Which brings me back to the question of trust.  How then can we trust?  Not only can we not trust people, we can't even trust God to keep our lives free of pain.  So on what is the basis of trust then?  I think it comes down to this one thing - that we can trust the heart of God towards us.

I grew up in the seventies, and yeah, back in the days when traveling groups all dressed in the same outfits would come to church and sing... this was way back before we started on our gypsy life of moving... and I remember this song, and it comes to mind as I write.  I think as a young kid, I heard it and thought about being taken through, as in safely through without it touching me, difficulties... but as an adult, I'm beginning to understand how through, as in right through being hurt, scarred, confused, broken, God will take me through it all.

I've had many tears and sorrows,
I've had questions for tomorrow,
there's been times I didn't know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.

Through it all,
through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word.

I've been to lots of places,
I've seen a lot of faces,
there's been times I felt so all alone.
But in my lonely hours,
yes, those precious lonely hours,
Jesus lets me know that I was His own


I thank God for the mountains,
and I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through.
For if I'd never had a problem,
I wouldn't know God could solve them,
I'd never know what faith in God could do.
 
So just because God is in charge and He is using the things we go through, does it mean we just never deal with injustice?  I don't think so.  I think it is just that we need to deal with injustice from a place of wisdom and not from a place of wounded trust.  I'm just not there yet.  I'm not even sure what there looks like.  Perhaps it is one of those places where someone else needs to step in - an Abigail, only going to the offender - or do we just wait for the Lord to call to account?  David only had to wait ten days for justice.  My wait has been much longer....

Then comes the question of priorities.  Is this really a priority?  In the big picture, is it a priority?  I think of it today like a WWI scenario....

You're in a fox hole with bullets flying overhead and bombs going off.  Your captain ignores your dislocated shoulder, insults you, calls you a coward and a slacker in front of your company, repeatedly dumps loads on your injured arm, and ignores you when all you are asking is for help to wrench it back into position.  It is wrong - very wrong.  But in the big picture of what is going on - is it a priority?  Yes, he is, like Nabal, an idiot, but there are more important things going on right now.  When our company retreats and others take the forward position, then he should be dealt with by company commander, but right now... is it a priority?

I would like it dealt with right now - David's ten day wait seem like a walk in the park to me today.  But where are my priorities?  And who do I believe is in control?  I have to believe two things about God to stay where I am.  The first that His heart towards me in all that He allows is good.  The second is that He knows in intimate detail the hurt and how I feel - He holds my heart.

So today as my heart grieves from one wound from one person and looks forward in the next weeks to coming face to face with another person who has never answered to the wounding he has caused and will likely cause more, I look quietly up at God asking two things - for justice and for mercy.

But I have to trust.  "Whom have I in heaven besides You and on earth I desire nothing besides You".  I have to trust.  And that trust is based squarely on His heart for me and His knowing the depths of my pain.  Trust based on a deep knowing.  He knows me.  I know Him.

I don't like everything.  No.  But in the grand scheme of things, there are things more important than my life of comfort and happiness.  So I go on trusting God through deep pain and just go on....

Monday, August 30, 2010

Love is....

.... eating apples with cinnamon, brown sugar, and whipped cream in bed while watching a movie on the laptop because we have no visitors!  Happy dance!

.... but it is so stinking hot right now...  that is the only downside.  Otherwise a nice warm blanket and it would really feel like fall.  Nope, we've got the fans on and still too warm.  I don't understand this weather - a few weeks ago we were freezing our.... (ummm.... would you believe me if I said I was going to say "toes"?... no?  me neither!)  off!  Now we're sweating at midnight.  Of course, we are not in the same place, but it's not so easy to adjust to two wild extremes.

I like visitors.  Really.  Just its been a few rough weeks and it is nice to eat apples in bed and do nothing for an evening.

Here Again, Gone Again

Lilly left this morning.  As much as I enjoyed her stay, I am also enjoying the silence and aloneness again.

Keep praying for her.  She took a Bible with her as well as many other things to read and watch.  She was impressed by what she saw, and we hope that she will continue to seek for the truth.

And for now... cleaning up my house and getting it in order.

except the phone just rang again... another wave hitting right when we thought we might have a chance to recover and take a few deep breaths...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What We Miss in Acts 12

Acts 12 has become a very interesting chapter for our family this year.  We read it with new eyes.  For in some details, it was very much what we faced this spring - oh, there were differences, of course, but there were many similarities.  So many that whenever we have told our story, people's eyes get big and they say, "oh, like Peter in Acts 12!"  It is for us a very special piece of Scripture right now.

But this last week, we were in a meeting and the speaker began to read from Acts 12.

1 Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them.
 2And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword.
 3When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread.
 4When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people.
 5So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.
 6On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison.
 7And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter's side and woke him up, saying, "Get up quickly " And his chains fell off his hands.
 8And the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and put on your sandals." And he did so. And he said to him, "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me."
 9And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.
 10When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.
 11When Peter came to himself, he said, "Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting." 

And then I saw it.  The verse we all just read through and go on to the miraculous story.
1 Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them.  2And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword.
 3When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread.....

We read through that verse so fast that I doubt we see it.  We rejoice in the miraculous freeing of Peter.  But, do we even stop enough to see that he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword?

It is hard to read right now.  Hard to wrap my mind around it... why?  One gets an angel, a surprising release, walking into a group praying for them, seeing the shock and joy on their faces, a quick get away to a safe place.

The other gets put to death with the sword.

Just doesn't seem right.  Hard to struggle through right now as the recipients of the amazing freedom from the brink of death.    Because our hearts love our brothers.... the "James's" who did not get the answer we got.

So next time before you read through the amazing story of Peter's release and Rhoda the servant girl in Acts 12, take a moment to stop in verse 2 and realize that they killed James with a sword.  And God stood by.  The same God who worked the miracle for Peter.  He let them kill James.  And this group gathered for prayer in the house where Rhoda served knew that.  Their hearts rejoiced for Peter, but it was not the rejoicing of absolute delight and a cocky victory.  It was the rejoicing of those who also mourn and know the times and the danger they lived in.

Difficult to read.  Difficult to know.  But I have lived in enough places in different countries to know that it is not that uncommon.  I remember the first time when I was only 8 that I heard that a missionary had been killed.  I did not know him, but I was staying with a family who did know him.  I stood quietly as the man of the family we stayed with buried his head in his hands and waited for the call... and when it came, it was the story of James, not of Peter, and this man wept.  Since that day, I've stood by and watched that scene play out more times than I ever thought I would.  The problem with being connected to a world wide family is that we are connected.  When we suffer, we all suffer.

But at times, I catch myself in the middle of a very normal day with my very normal family activities, and I stop.  Why were we given Peter's answer and not James'?  I don't think I will even know the answer to that question, but now, even if I hear on the news of deaths, I pause to wonder.  And grieve.  Because I caught a glimpse of what the families of James's are asked to walk through.  And I wonder - why did we get Peter's answer?  Why didn't they?

I don't understand it all right now, but seeing this verse this last week brought me a strange comfort.  This vast difference in answers was going on even from the early church.  There are Peters and there are James.  There is both mourning and rejoicing.

One day, it will all be over, and we will all be together.  At times, I think God is wrong in Revelation where He says there will be no more tears...  I think there will be a few tears of happiness when we all see each other again after all we've been through.  To have walked through it all, and be in a place of no more suffering...  I think there will be tears of happiness as we run back into each other's arms.  Together with no more goodbyes... nor more fears... no more danger... just joy.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I Still Don't Think I Am Ready For This...

My day was going fine today until I checked my messages.  A friend wrote that she wants me to speak in November to a group of women from different churches...

I've got that deer in the headlights look right now.

You see, I've gotten decent enough at sharing what I think in writing, but I usually hide behind my very outgoing husband in groups.  I've spoken before, yes, for a few minutes at the end or middle of his talks, but NEVER done an event by myself.  I'm sort of freaking out here.

It's not that I think I can't do it... I should be able to...  It is just that the thought terrifies me!  Totally out of my comfort zone.  I see myself so much more as a background person.  Let me handle logistics for thirty people arriving.  Let me rock babies to sleep while supervising a group of kids to prepare a simple meal.  Let me write stuff.  Let me map out a strategy or evaluate something.  Let me do anything besides stand up and speak!

And my heart is tender right now, sore.  This last month and a half has changed so much of my ordered world and I feel bewildered.  Missing the security and familiarity I was so used to.

I still don't think I am ready for this.

To Trust or Not to Trust - That is the Question

Trust.  This thing I've been learning.  What does it mean to trust someone?  That they won't fail us?  That we can count on them?  That we know their heart and it is good?  Do we ever know these things?  Can we ever completely trust people?  Won't it be that they are human and will fail?  So how can we ever trust?  Or is it simply enough to say that we know someone's heart and that they do not intend harm?  But that is a little of an unrealistic attitude, denying pain only because there was no intent to harm.

I've been punched in the chest when I walked up behind someone who, unknown to me, was just throwing out his fists in an effort to stretch his shoulders.  There was absolutely no harm intended at all.  Yet it knocked the breath out of me and I collapsed.  There are families whose children were run over as a parent backed out of a driveway.  No evil was ever intended - the thought of hurting their child would have nauseated them.  But they buried their dear child.  So it is foolishness to only look at intent and ignore the result.  Pain hurts - intended or not.

So how do we trust?  An interesting question for me right now.  Does this change in time?  I've struggled with trust most of my life from the time as a young child when I found out the world is not a beautiful place.  How do we trust people?  Do any of you have anyone who you trust completely who has never disappointed you and never hurt you?  Perhaps you do, but I would highly doubt it.

So do we bother to trust at all or do we live as suspicious cynics?

Over the years in the learning to trust, I've grown a little - enough to be unsatisfied with the life of the suspicious cynic.  But I've learned another painful lesson, too - the more you trust someone, the greater the ability you give them to hurt you.  So why do we even trust?  It obviously does not seem like a logical decision at all - trust people who will fail and that very trust enabling that very failure to cause deeper pain?

So why trust?

If a stranger tells me they don't like me and I am a burden, it stings; but I walk away, shrug, and brush it off.  If one close to me says these same words, it knocks the breath out of me and I collapse.  It leaves a huge ugly bruise which aches long past the event.  Other words, other breaking of trust can leave permanent scarring.

So why do we even bother to trust?

Why?  I think it is because we are created in the image of the God who is calling us back more and more to be transformed into His likeness.  God who trusted Himself to us - even knowing that we would kill Him... that even after that we would not always count His sacrifice as valuable.  Yet, He opened himself to us - entrusting Himself.  And He calls us to follow.  Also because God is light - He is about transparency and openness, the very foundation of trust.  So we work towards trust because we work towards the image of God.

Without trust, we will never get to know each other, to really be able to encourage, to love, to care for each other.  So trust is needed.

Yet it comes back to the beginning.  Trust opens us up deeper to people who will certainly hurt us and that hurt will be deeper because of that very trust we offered.

So how do we trust then?  What do we base that trust on?  Definitely not on any guarantee against pain.  On the contrary, it seems to be in the face of a guarantee of pain.

Learning to Trust

I think I'm failing on this lesson right now.  Perhaps.  Well, I think I am still getting a passing grade on the learning to trust God.  It is the trusting other people that is more the issue right now.

I've taken a gut punch in this subject, and I am still reeling from the unexpected blow.  I just did not see it coming and am utterly confused about it.  But, oh, you can be sure I'm on guard now!  Not about to take another blow with no protection!

But while we had a week away, the week with the spiders and freezing cold, I had sometime to think,  The time involved sitting in meeting every morning and evening, and to be honest, I could not concentrate enough to understand all that was being said, so I busily worked in my journal.  (I do have this bad habit tuning out some meetings and just quietly writing. - but really, it can be such a effort to concentrate enough to understand!)

I wrote in the first part of the week about how I was feeling... hard to find words to express all that.  We have been through one thing after another this year, and recently lost some friends in a tragic accident, so we were in shock and pain.  At the funeral, we sat crying, but something impressed itself on me through the grief.

There were some of us who counted loss as a normal thing - not a welcomed thing, not a sure thing, not a thing to be belittled, but something that did not shock us.... we already knew that life is not a guarantee and that God lets the unexpected happen.  We grieve, but we turn in our grief up to God.

A verse that comes to mind (I know it is an odd one) is one about my soul rests like a weaned child upon the Lord.  A picture of quiet rest not demanding and fussing.

Then there were those in another context who I think had never before really faced that life has no guarantees of anything happening... people who are shocked when cars crash, when sickness hits and cancer steals life, when planes fall out of the sky... as if just because we believe in and follow God, that He will stop everything to see that we all live to be 97 and die peacefully in our sleep.  Their shock, horror, pain, and sheer incapability to deal with the death was awful to see.

We grieved, we gathered together and comforted each other, we cried, but we did not rale against God.  There was the quiet acceptance already that we all knew things happen.  It didn't shake our trust in God.  I don't think in the entire thing that I was tempted to look up at God and demand the answer to an angry "why?".  I've lost friends before....  I still know each one... I miss them..... but I have to accept that God knows what He is doing and my long life and comfort is not really the top thing on His priority list.  Neither is it on mine, I hope.

We looked up at God with deep sadness, pain, hurt, a shock in the fact that they are gone, not in that God allowed it.  In tears....  but a settled trust.

So it is not the trusting God that has taken a blow.  It is trusting other people.  I'm not doing good there at all.  And it hurts.  It's ripped open a gash in me similar to the wound in my son's arm - big and ugly.  And it is not healing well.  The problem is I'm not sure I want to be doing good there again.  Why trust if it only means you will get hurt?

The first days at camp, I journaled about how I felt, but came to no resolution.  Then the day of the spiders, I decided to relax (OUT of a boat!) by sitting in the sun and reading a book.  Just a junk book - there wasn't much choice if I didn't want to read a commentary on I Peter.  One of those books authors write to get a paycheck, but the world would not have missed if it had never existed.

But the book was about trust.  About  girl who struggled with trust.  I read it in about two hours, and set it down.  But then I began to think about trust....

Really, the pain that I'm struggling with, that I curl up silent against my husband late at night and wrap his arms tight around me because of, is about trust.  I had felt safe.  I had not expected to get hurt.  And I did.  And I still have no real clue as to why.  And that hurts.

It is about trust.

Then I began to think...  that evening, I wrote down a series of questions.... why do we trust?

Honestly, I see no logical basis for trust at all.  None.  Not for trusting other people.

But it is late and I can't find my journal.  When I do, I will sort out the questions and answers here.  I haven't given up on the whole idea of trust, but I am less willing to do it now.

Yet, strangely, the one person I trust the most in my life at this point is one who has also hurt me quite a lot in the past.  My husband.  Right now, he is my comfort, the one I trust, the one I run to with my heart hurting and confused.

He can't say much right now.  He's a little confused, too.  But he holds me.

Trust - it isn't that logical at all.  Yet, I trust my husband.  Even after what we have been through.  So perhaps hearts heal.  Mine just hasn't yet.  To be honest, I don't know if I want it to.  Not in this case.  The gash is too close to my heart to ever want to go through it again.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dancing in the Storm

One of the things I have learned over the years is to dance.  Now, don't get me wrong - I can't dance!  Elegant and graceful are not words one would use to describe me at all.  I'm rather short, squat, uncoordinated, and klutzy.  I'm strong and can go on forever at a task, but I am not graceful at all.

Yet, I've learned to dance.  It is how in my heart I express delight in God.  I've learned the truth in the verse that says, "The Lord takes great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." I've learned to listen for His singing, for His delight in me.  My response?  To dance.  An unrestrained dance of a small child's delight.  I've danced through the good things; I've danced through the tough times; I've gotten to my feet in defiance of those things which should have crushed me and danced through the storms.  It is the quiet singing of Gd which calls to me and my heart turns up once more and begins to dance.

These last weeks have been tough.  Remnants of things this spring hang over us, difficult times come, the sheer crazy busy-ness wore us out, the constant presence of a guest, things broke, life was not easy; our friends were out of town so we were alone.  We were tired, exhausted.  Then when we were at our breaking point, it only got worse.  Tragedy struck and our hearts were sore.  Then on top of that, friends left us.  One thing after another hitting when I was already low, and I sat in stunned shock.  I think one of the harder things in life besides gut-wrenching tragedy is when friends disappoint us.  It can come out of the blue and feel like a gut-punch, knocking the very breath out of us.  Then the cold sets in - the cold of sudden aloneness.

This has been my last few weeks.  But over the years, I have learned to dance, and now, in the quiet stillness, my bruised heart looks up to the One who quiets me in His love, who delights over me with singing.  And bruised and bleeding, I raise my head and begin to dance.  It is a painful dance right now, one with many tears.  I'm cold, tired, and still stunned.  My heart is crying.  But over the turmoil comes the gentle voice of God singing, and I respond with a quiet dance.  This time through the pain, but through the tears comes the cry of my heart, "Whom have I in heaven but You?  And besides You, I desire nothing on earth."  It is right now a dance of mourning, of pain - the fullness of all the pain and confusion in my heart lifted up to the One who loves me, but I dance.

The morning will come of a new day - one that looks so terribly different from today, but as the dawn breaks on the new day, I know some things will remain certain.  God will still be there, still singing in delight over me, still committed to me.  And I will still dance.  I will dance as my wounded heart heals.  I will dance in the new day as my mind wraps around what the evening before I could not even imagine.  God remains and my heart shelters in that fact.  My refuge.

Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee

I run to the Rock that is higher than I 

Nevertheless, I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
With Your counsel, You will guide me and afterwards recieve me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever...
but as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge that I may tell of all Your works.
Ps 73

Though the fig tree should not blossom
         And there be no fruit on the vines,
          Though the yield of the olive should fail
         And the fields produce no food,
         Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
         And there be no cattle in the stalls,
    Yet I will exult in the LORD,
         I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. 
Hab 3:17-18
I find it interesting that while God comforts and shelters us in trouble, He does not take away the pain.  We still carry it.  We still go through it.  There is no spiritual opiate, no mind-numbing drug to ease our way.  Only in the midst of the pain, hurling ourselves into His arms - there we find shelter.

I don't know what your "yet" is right now.  Some are big things, some are little things that have just been there for so very long, some are things that others might shake their heads and wonder why it is an issue - everyone has their "yet".  Some we are free to share, others we aren't; but let's chose through the pain, "Yet will I exult, I will rejoice."

Wounded or not - going on.  We've come too far to quit.  And my heart has been trained to dance.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In the Same Boat

Usually when we say this phrase, we are talking about happy companionship or suffering a hardship together with friends.

Well....

Our family went north recently - more north than I think I have ever been.  Quite an experience for this heat loving human.  Another group doing a totally different thing thought we needed a break and invited us along on their event.  It took two days just to travel up there, and it was COLD!  Not that cold - when the days warmed up, we did (well, not me) swim in a lake and use various styles of boats.

They had one boat which resembled a kayak, but different than what I was used to.  A little harder to steer.  It held two people, so I took my daughter on a ride across the lake and through a channel to another lake.  It was there that it began....

I heard a squawk from behind me, and a "I'm ok, mommy, don't panic!"  Then some more squawks and a muffled scream.  "A spider!"  I was helpless to assist but clarified that the spider was indeed IN the boat and she could not get him out.

If that wasn't bad enough... "Mommy, don't panic, it's ok, really, but oooh! Mommy! there is more than one!"

"How many?"

"Lots of them mommy!  Please, its ok, just it is ok, I don't like them, but I'm ok, don't panic!"

This daughter knows how mommy usually reacts to a spider - jumping way out of the way and standing there shivering and calling for a male member of the human race to exterminate it quickly.

I could not believe that there would be many spiders in the boat, but I glanced down by my legs, and AAAACCKKK!!!!!!!

There were at least fifteen spiders crawling around my feet, landing on my legs and jumping off - basically having a happy family outing all over my legs!!!

Now I knew why she was saying, "Mommy please don't panic!"

There was no place to jump, and no way to reach inside and kill them.  And no male member of the human race to scream for.  We screamed, her and I, we screamed little squeaking screams the whole way back across the one lake and through the channel.  She alternately sobbed and tried to comfort me as I paddled as fast as I could.

Thankfully, rounding the corner into the last lake to cross, there was a male member of the human race - her brother paddling on a small raft sort of thing.  He immediately paddled nearby to see why we were screaming, but could not from his position rid of us the spiders.  He was, however, able to get close enough so my daughter could jump onto his raft into safety.  He brought her back across the lake.

And I was left alone in the same boat with the spiders...

It is simply amazing how fast I can paddle with spiders crawling over my legs.  I screamed, squeaked, shuddered, and paddled to the docks, jumped out, stripped everything off but my swimsuit and stood there shuddering in horror.

UGH!  UGH!  UGH! 

Never again!

By evening, we surveyed the damage.  My daughter and I both have matching bites on our tummies.  And nightmares.  I think I have successfully gotten over ANY desire to sit in a kayak again!

What Happened to the Creepy Old Man

He was injured in an accident.

Really.

Well, his face was.  She was so proud of the pie she had made and the picture she had carved on it.  No hearts or berries or leaves for her - she had carved a face, complete with beard and mustache.  By the time I put it on the pie, it warped enough to look like a creepy old man.  She was delighted.  "Look mom, he even has eyebrows!"

So he did.

She carried the creepy old man pie proudly on her lap in the car to the party, but as we rounded a corner, I heard a thump and a wail.

The creepy old man had slid off her lap and hit the side of the door.  She was desolate.  I retrieved as much of the old man that was salvageable, but the face did not resemble him at all by the end.  There was enough pie that still could be eaten, but the carefully carved features were destroyed.

I can't say that I really missed him that much.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Apple Pies

I am making apple pies today.  Just because they smell good.  Our backyard is covered with fallen apples.  I hope to get energetic enough to can apple pie filling, but for now, I made two apple pies.

Comfort food.

I cut out a pattern of grapes and leaves in the top of one.  I let my daughter and her friend make the cut outs on the top of the other one.  When I got back, there was a face complete with a beard and mustache carved in the apple pie!

It still smells good, even with the creepy old man staring out from it, I guess... :)

Airline Life Jackets

It is really hard for me to blog right now.  It is just difficult to not be able to say what is going on because there is a lot of things happening.  It feels like crisis after crisis hits and we can't recover from one before the next news hits.  The best description I have is like being tossed in the pounding surf against rocks.  We've been knocked off our feet, and we can't get up before the next wave hits.  It is hard to find which way is up, and we can't always reach the bottom.  Wave after wave tosses us in their merciless grip.

Then besides being in the waves, other things have been happening.  We had a long drive yesterday, so I was able to think a little more and sort out how I feel.  A few hours from home, I finally figured it out.

An airline life jacket.

That is the best picture I could come up with to describe how I feel right now.  You know those lovely things that hide in a plastic bag under your seat that you hope you never have to see?  That little scrap of yellow plastic that the flight attendant smilingly puts over her head and exaggeratingly shows us how to pull the straps to tighten, and right before existing the plane to pull the red tabs to inflate the jacket.  Then, as an extra back-up, she smiles and without effort leans to the side to blow into the tube "in the rare event that the vest does not inflate properly".

You have confidence in those things, don't you?  That if we ever landed gently in water and were able to get out, that this little thing would help us keep our heads above water, right?  It even has a light to attract rescuers.

Because something else happened in the middle of all the crisises, too.  Someone we would have counted on - that we would have said, "this person will be there no matter what" - isn't.  The effect is like being tossed into the rolling surf, and right before you exit the plane, you pull those red tabs....  and nothing happens.

Nothing.

The second option, of course, is those little tubes.  But first the shock of being thrown in the water hits.  The shock of what you always counted on, suddenly being of no worth.  Then, what the smiling flight attendent with her gentle head turning demonstration does not prepare you for is that it takes AIR to blow into those tubes.  How can you blow up a tube when you can't barely breathe?!  So we tumbled in the surf, now under, now in the air, now being bruised against rocks, now back out in the deep.

This is how I've felt in the last weeks.  In a crisis, a bigger crisis involving large groups, but also in personal pain.  Both hitting just days apart.  And I'm struggling.

At times I want to cry, but I haven't done that yet.  I am just stunned.  It is the type of pain that it hurts to draw a breath, and to blow it out makes me want to sob, but I'm too sore to cry.  Besides, I have to swim.  Now, I'm a decent swimmer on most days and rely on my incredible ability to float... but in these pounding waves, there is no floating.  We only struggle.

This is where I am right now.  Aching at the pain of some crisises, desperate to do something about others, cautiously watching others, bruised by the constant pounding, tired of struggling, and then confused and hurt by the actions and words of friends who we expected to be there as much as we expect our life jackets to inflate at the pull of a cord.  Let down, feeling abandoned in a difficult time, but perhaps more than abandoned, feeling like an unwanted burden that they were glad to get rid of.  And that personal hurt in the middle of crisis saps the will to keep swimming.

I am still swimming, but my eyes stare a little blankly and glaze over at times.  Thankfully, my husband swims alongside me in the pounding waves and his voice encourages me to keep going, to kick back up once more.

The problem is, there seems to be no change on the horizon.  It will likely only get worse.  We can only hang in.

Yet in it, we have confidence in God.  Not the confidence that He will makes all things wonderful and fine... but that He'll be there in the pounding waves.  His voice can still the storm.  Yet He doesn't always chose to do so... difficult at times to go on in the face of that knowledge.... but I know His eye is on each one of us and He has promised to keep those who come to Him for refuge.  I won't drown...  but no one ever said it was going to be a relaxing day on the beach sipping margaritas, either!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

In the Middle of Our Own Pain...

Life goes on.  It just does.  At times I wish life would stop and let us catch our breath, but it doesn't.

My husband's cousin, Lilly, is still here.  Next week is her last week with us.  Just tonight, after an exhausting day, she sat up with me late at night asking questions.  She wondered if in this country families are just more loving... and I smiled.  No.  It is just that the people we hang with are Christians - believers, real Christians, not just people who say a name.  The people I work with are not like these people we have been with.  Again we talked about following Jesus being about heart change and that is reflected in their lives.

After a few minutes, she asked me what my husband's family believed.  She said, "I stayed with the for a summer, too, but I didn't see any evidences of any belief in God in them at all."  I carefully answered that with the truth and with great respect for my in-laws.  They basically believe that there is a God, but that if we are good, then we have a chance and if we aren't, then we don't.  I told her that because I deeply love my in-laws, I wish I could give them what we have - a sure hope.  That we know we are going to be in heaven with God.  That is why we have so much joy.

She thought some more, and then said, "This is really the first time I have seen something different than (her religion) that I could have any sense of comparison at all.  I don't think I had ever had contact with a Christian before to see them and know what they believe."  Then she began to ask about my husband and when and why he changed from one belief to another.  I did answer her some, but told her she should ask him herself why he changed.  He did that before I met him.  (I wanted her to know he did not do it on my behalf.)

We talked for hours.  She is calmly watching and thinking.  Please pray for her.

Pray for energy for us - in the middle of our own pain, we are still living in front of her, praying for her, trusting God to work in her heart.  Tomorrow night, we will be watching an interesting film with her in a group of other people from her country who work with us.  Pray for her tomorrow, that she would see the truth and choose to follow.

When It Begins to Hurt

I've learned something from my son's injury as I've been watching it slowly heal.  Every day, since the very first day, I've changed the dressings, watched it carefully, and assessed changes.  At first it gaped open with skin ripped to shreds - and yet the child felt little pain at all.  Part of that may be due to the adrenaline that was undoubtedly coursing through his veins, but he never did more than wince slightly.  In fact, he actually walked out with the firemen to help us look for any pieces of his arm left behind as cool as a cucumber and talking calmly.

During the first days, occasionally he said his armed ached slightly, but only once did he take a pill for pain.  Most of the time, he totally denied any pain at all.  He cheerfully told a nurse who came to check on him when she asked where he was on the pain scale that "well, I don't think I have ever had any bad pain, so I don't know".  This was said over the ugly patched up rip of his arm!

It healed more and more.  I washed it daily and eventually cut away the dead skin with sharp (somewhat sterile) scissors, and kept assessing.  The kid had no pain.  None.  We poked the injury with tweezers all along the scarring and along the open area - no sensation, no pain.

But this week, finally, as the last open area is finally beginning to fill up with tissue, he is beginning to wince when I change his dressings.  It isn't the open area of the wound yet - it is the fresh scars.  He finally has feeling there.  Interestingly, the feeling is not in proportion to the injury.  If I rest my finger on the scar while swabbing out the open area, he jumps.  If I pull off tape that stuck to the scar, he cries that it really hurts. 

At first I smiled.  How much can it really hurt? I mean, you're the kid who didn't even moan when you ripped your arm open!  But it hurts.  Because that new skin is tender.  The scar line is sensitive.  And I need to be cautious there.

Next week, the open area may close, and then we will move from dressings into ways to decrease scar tissue.  But for now, I need to realize that he is sensitive where he has healed.

That knowledge helped me this week.  I have two different areas of significant scar tissue on my heart - newly healed up, or at least almost healed.  I'm tender there.  These last weeks, two different things happened that caused significant trauma to those tender areas.  Two separate scars injured within days of each other.  And I reacted in sudden shock and pain... perhaps out of proportion, someone watching might say, to the injury... but it HURTS!!  It hurts more than it may hurt another because my scars are so fresh, so tender.

It still hurts.  I am calming, though, a little.  Maybe.  I really don't know yet.  I'm extremely protective of those scars right now, tense as a wounded dog, as highly strung as a rabbit in a clearing.  But I am beginning to understand that the injury may not be as bad as the sensation... will it help?  I doubt it, really.  I will be ten times as likely to protect those scars the next time around, but I will understand perhaps why I am doing it.

And then, life is not calming down.  This year, life has been much like being caught in the surf against rocks.  One wave hits right after the other and we just don't have time to get our head above water and our feet on the ground before we get tossed in the surf again.

I just want to catch my breath.  But no, today more news... more, again... not again.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Cold North Wind

Winter has set in early where I am.  A sudden cold wind blowing down when I least expected it.  I am shivering at the chill in the air, unused to life outside of the warmth I've grown used to.  Perhaps it will warm up, but if it does, it will only be for a few days again, and then the cold will become permanent.

Time to pack away things, to clean up gardens, to close down a chapter in my life.  To prepare for the cold.  Nothing will stop it.  Seasons come and seasons go, and this is on its way out.  It is getting cold. I think it is the earliness of it all that surprised me.  I did not expect it - not to wake up to the cold north wind.

It is a time to look at the things I wanted to do and sort through them.  I stare at this box on my table... something I wanted to go through this summer.... still sitting...

There are different ways of cleaning up.  At times I clean up by sorting through things, finding the precious and keeping it; throwing the rest away.  My husband cleans differently.  His idea is that there is little you will miss, so throw it all away.  Not usually my favorite, but as I stare at this box, I think it is time.  The winter is setting in, and I will not carry my box any longer.  It is time to take it to the docks and throw it unopened in the ice cold water.  The current will carry it away, and I will dust off my table.

I know I will lose some precious things, but they are things I have not had for long, so I will not miss them.  I will throw away the uncried tears, the pain, the joy, everything in that box.  It is time to clean out the house and prepare for another season.

I've lost something.  I will lose more, but life is like that.  We can't keep everything, not even always the things precious to us.  I only wish life had a warning of these things - these losses.  It is the suddenness of their hitting that is hard to deal with.  If only we had time to say goodbye.

One of the hardest things I dealt with in my young life, - but promise you won't laugh- was another loss I never had the chance to see coming.  Actually it was hard, but not that hard.... really, but when I look at saying goodbye without warning, with no chance to hang on to comforting things, this comes to mind.  You see, my life was one of constant turnover.  We lived here then there then there and then there.  Nothing stayed the same.... no friends, no scenery, no people, nothing.  But there was one thing I had from the time I finished kindergarten until I was 14 years old.  Then, suddenly, without warning, it was gone.  It was a simple thing.... one you will laugh about, but it was the only constant in my changing world, something that was mine and none other.

It was my sleeping bag.  I guess in time it became like a baby's blankie.  But it was mine.  It was wonderful... warm, soft, fuzzy on the inside... and it was mine.  I had it whereever we moved.  When it was cold, it kept me warm.  When floors were hard, it was my mattrass.  When we had a bed, it was my comforter - spread over my bed.  I loved the thing... something constant in my changing life.

Then, on one move, imagine my shock to find it gone.  Gone.  Nowhere.  My mom shrugged when I asked... she thought we wouldn't need it where we were going, so why waste the space.

Gone.

I understood her logic.  Really.  But no one told me.  I never got to snuggle it one more time, to lay my head down on it and remember all we've been through together.  I missed it.  Still do.

I've shopped for sleeping bags since.  I finally broke down and bought one.  But it is not the same.  I shop for them by reaching inside - are they fuzzy?  I haven't found one yet, and I miss its comfort.  I miss its steady presence in my life.

Don't worry - I've grown up since and I am ok.  But I was just shocked.  I wish I had been given the chance to say goodbye.

This last week has been a time of loss for me.  The season has changed, the cold winds blow, and I miss what I used to have.  I didn't know it was going to be gone.

I never got to say goodbye.

I'm ok.  I will continue to be ok.  But it is just the awful suddenness that is hard....

No goodbye.

It seems this life God has called us to is like that more than I want.  I think it is something that will continue to hurt.

I've lost something.  The seasons have changed, the wind is blowing cold, and I shiver not so much for the lack of warmth, but from the suddenness of where I find myself.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Box on the Table

A few years ago, it seems, although it may have been more recently, my father came to visit us.  My father is - well, he is a bit towards the side of the mad scientist.  Not quite that bad, but slightly.  He has a tendency to be doing something - inventing, taking apart, fixing, whatever - and forget where he is or what is going on around him.  I learned early how to take grease stains out of clothing because he was forever getting grease on his Sunday shirts from "just looking" at the car.

This particular visit, I had more company than him, and I had really been making strides to keep the house clean and neat.  I was so happy with my neat house.  Then he found a computer that no one was using and decided he and my oldest son, the mad scientist in training, would take it apart and fix it.  (Why computers always need "fixing" is beyond me!)  So they put the computer on the most convenient spot - the coffee table, and began to disassemble it.

Now, call me abnormal if you want, but I do not really do not like a disassembled computer sitting on my coffee table for a few weeks.  It makes it hard to visit trying to see around the thing.  And no matter how clean the rest of the house way, that thing stuck out like a sore thumb and stared at me.  I had no peace with it sitting there.

Right now, I feel a little like that.  See, I have this box I've been carrying for awhile.  I've, thankfully, written out the story here, and it was extremely helpful.  But most of the details and the feelings which I can not so easily share anonymously are boxed up.  There they sit, on my coffee table in their box.  The thoughts, the feelings, the fears, the details, the tears... all boxed up.  Because of all the conflict surrounding the events, they got thrown in this box to be dealt with later.



I think I've been waiting.  You see, I'm fairly used to boxes of unfinished business.  I've kept them all my life.  Only in the last years have I been carefully unpacking my boxes and sorting through them.  I've grown to love an empty closet, carefully cleaned out with the things I want to keep lined up on the shelves.  I really don't want more boxes of unhealed pain littering up my life.

I have some friends who told me that they would listen - that we could sit down and unpack the boxes.  But it hasn't happened.  They've been busy.  One person who is not a close friend has been willing, too, but she's been busy.  I've been told, "I really care, and I really want to hear your story.", but then it wasn't a good time.  They were busy.

So the box sat on my coffee table.  I live around it.  It is ok.  I mean, most of the house is neat and tidy.  It is just that my neck is getting sore from craning around the box to see.  A few times, I've knocked on my friend's door or called.  Its been busy.  Its never been a good time.  So I waited.

Now it is five months in.  The "I really care and I want to hear your story" is ringing rather empty.  I still live around the box, but I've grown tired of ringing the bell or picking up the phone.  I've been over with a few other things important to me, too, but gotten a busy signal.

I think no one else knows that I have this box.  Perhaps they do.  Some have volunteered to listen, but I can't really talk about it yet.  I need to pull it out with a good friend - someone who understand who I am - before I can pull it out with a casual stranger.  So I stand here holding my box, and hear another, "I'm busy."

The 'I'm busy's  are starting to speak louder than the 'I care's.

I don't want to ring again.  I don't want to hear another busy signal.

And I struggle alone.  Feeling a lot like a child at show and tell who has brought his box to be opened and heard, but there was no time.  He brings it again and again, and is not seen.  Now he stands with his shoulders drooping, his head down, and tears pooling in his eyes.  Invisible.  Not seen.

One of my problems is that I have been not seen in hurt before, and it left a ripping gash in my life, a hurt difficult to deal with.  That has been healing.  But this now is ripping open the tender, newly healed places.  I am struggling to know what to with that pain, so I am throwing it in a box.  Piling it up on top of the box on the table.

Then, this week has been full of pain from a different source.  A blow on top of unhealed trauma.  I already was struggling to hang on - at times doing well, at times struggling.  Trying to be patient with my box on the table.  But now this next one is pushing me over the edge again.  I'm not coping well.

And I'm angry at having been left by the ones who I would have said would not have left me - left to stand holding my box alone.  I'm angry.  Not in the going to beat you up type of anger, but the tears of anger type of angry.

I'm still waiting.  I know one of them has not totally forgotten because when fresh wounds hit this week, they sent me a quick message, "Are you hanging in?"

Oh yes, I'm hanging in.  Been doing it for awhile.  Will likely still keep doing it.

The problem is, all those unshed tears are rusting the box shut.  It may never be an easy thing to open now.  I don't want to open it only to have people walk away while it is still all spread out over my table.  That would drive me nuts like the computer did.

In the middle of all this that is going on, I'm being asked to carry other's pain.  Interestingly enough, it is where I find the most comfort - doing for others what no one is doing for me.

But my heart hurts.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Identifying Marks

My son's wound is slowly healing now that it has proper treatment.  It looks so much better.  We're laying bets now as to what the scar will look like.  Whatever it look like, it will identify my son for life.  We thought of that recently when I looked at some form to fill out and it had a blank for "identifying marks".  He will have one. 

This identifying mark will have a story behind it.  A story of a basically good boy who was doing a good deed, a story about a typical boy behavior which ended in a fairly dramatic wound.  The story of the fight to get care, of the kindness of doctors far away, and his mother's insistence in caring for him.  The story of a boy's incurable grin and good humor through it all.  (Actually the hardest thing for him is sitting still for a 20 minute soaking!)

It is an identifying mark.  All his life, people will see it and ask, "What happened?"  And he will laugh and tell his story.

I think we all have identifying marks.  Some are visible.  Others aren't.  We have stories behind healing or healed marks.  My son's scar will forever bear testimony to the love and concern of his mother who did not accept the verdict of "it will look like a WWI war injury, but who cares?".  Some of my healed scars bear testimony to a Father's love and concern - He did not leave me open and raw, but healed.  Others bear testimony to people He sent into my life to heal.  But I have my identifying marks.

This last week has been rough on us in other ways - far deeper wounds than the ones etched into my sons' arms.  We're in need of the comfort of the Healer.  Today we hurt, but I am not so afraid of the wounding even while it hurts.  I know my Father is skilled and concerned about our wounds and will care for us with a determined love far stronger than the love I fought for my son's arm with.

It will leave an identifying mark, though.  One which bears testimony to the pain, and hopefully one which tells a story of a Father's loving concern and our joy through the pain.

What things have left identifying marks on you and what do they testify to?

Friday, August 6, 2010

When All Else Fails, Phone Home

I also thought about DIY Medicine for a title, but...

I am so thankful in our lives for a doctor in our home church who has made himself available to us for years now.  He's answered so many frantic e-mails, took phone calls in the middle of the night, and seen us when we've been home for free.  He's advised me when other missionaries visited out town "over there" for medical care and we had questions.  He's phoned in prescriptions all over the US when my son's asthma acted up or I ran into bed bugs.  He came in on his day off when my son stuck an arrow through his lip on our last home leave.

So, when I continued to get no care here, I picked up the phone and phoned home.  I sent a few photos of the injury and asked what to do.  He was able to give me a good idea of what to do.  Then I was faced with two different doctors who were both adamant about their treatment option.  I was inclined to believe my doctor at home, but then got to thinking.  One of my best friends in Bible school married another classmate of mine, and he went on to become a dermatologist.  He would be the best one to ask about it.  So one more phone call home and one more e-mail with some photos.

Now we have a clear plan of treatment.  The "let it dry out and heal" is old treatment.  I've been given a better way, so we are well on our way.  After just a half hour soaking, washing well and removing loose dead tissue, we've covered it with an ointment and a dressing.  It looks better already, and he is having less pain in moving the arm.

It is a little bit of DIY medicine, but at least I am thankful for the wonderful guidance I have by doctors at home.  The doctor here basically told me, "well, he'll have a scar like a WW1 war wound, but he's a boy and not going to be a model, so who cares?"

I care.  I really care.  Not because my son will be a model, but because he is my son.  I want him to be able to be active without the pulling of scar tissue from a poorly healed wound.

Hunting Down Care

Life is so different here than at home.  At home, I walk in to a hospital or doctor's office and expect to get help.  Here, it is a different story.

My second son's arm is healing well.  It is the first son we are concerned about.  Several weeks in, he still has a chunk of thick dead skin attached to him.  It needs to come off, but getting someone to do it is a problem.  I've been bounced between two different doctors and offices.   The most they can come up with is, "no, the other office needs to do it."  It reminds me of when that son was born and the trouble we had getting him circumcised.  We got told off, racial slurs thrown at us, and refused to do it.  My husband was told, "go back to your own country and get it done!"  Finally a kind OB stepped in and did it for us even though he never does those.  He used to when he worked in the hospital, so he did know what he was doing!  None of his office nurses knew how to assist and worried aloud if they would pass out watching, so I stepped in and assisted.  Not exactly the place I wanted someone to pass out and not hold the baby still!

So my job today?  To go out and fight with the medical establishment to get proper treatment for my son.  The boy is a trooper and has been very good.  Pray that we get help today.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

God who Redeems our Pain

These last two weeks, as I have been struggling to deal with the ripped open pain of the baby no one remembered, I've been hurting.  I've carried this pain pretty much alone - who to share it with?

But God has a way of redeeming.  Of stepping in and working through our pain.

I work in a totally secular environment a few days a month.  Usually only four, but this month I've been working a lot.  I've spent a lot of time with the aides and nurses, and we talk.  Saturday night was a crazy night at work.  Totally crazy.  But somewhere near midnight, we got all the old people settled in bed, and we were finishing up some small tasks and talking.

I don't know how the conversation came around to pregnancies, but it did.  The nurse, who is younger than me was talking about how she doesn't think she will be a good mother and would not like to be pregnant.  She's told me that before, but this night she went on to say, "It's not that I have never been pregnant before..." and she told me about the two times she was and the abortions she had.

Inside me, my jaw dropped.  I know people do this, but the horror of it stood in my face.  And I struggled to know how to respond.... if I say nothing, do I stand by silently?  All the condemnation that I grew up with was there, but is that the best way?  To simply say, "wow, I can't believe you would kill your baby!"  That did not seem the best way.

I prayed desperately and listened quietly.  Then she shared about the pain involved in the first proceedure -it had shocked her.  I nodded, and told her that when I delivered my first daughter who had died at almost 19.5 weeks, that it was the hardest labor I went through.  She listened and began talking some more.  She knew the story of my ring, and she knew I mourned the loss of my daughter, so she asked a question.  I shared how I was so upset that they threw her in the garbage without letting me see her.  That got her upset like only a nurse can get, and she said, "Why did they do that?!  Isn't that one of the first things we learn is to make sure the mother gets a chance to see a stillborn baby, to say goodbye, to have a photo if she wants?"

I told her that my baby was three days short of twenty weeks - the cut off to be a "legal" human being.  That angered her.  "Three days?!  What is three days?  She was still a baby!" she stormed.

We talked about the circumstances of that birth some more and how difficult it was for me to lose my baby.  Then there was silence while we finished our task.  After a few seconds, she said, "I know I only had an abortion because I wasn't ready to be a mother...  I guess that is a really selfish reason to end a life, isn't it?  But I just know I would make a horrible mother."

I looked up quietly at God right then and thanked Him for the gift of my daughter.  In sharing her brief life, I was able to do what words of condemnation were not able to do - show with love to my friend that I believe in life before birth.  And that message was heard and understood without pushing her away.  My job is not to slam her with guilt and condemnation, but to show her the truth.  Then I simply said, "well, you could always give one to me - I've always wanted more!"  She laughed, and we went on.

Later on, she talked a little with me about feelings of guilt and also how she doesn't feel the guilt she thinks she should feel.  I listened.  When I left, she told me to get my ring fixed and bring it to show her, and that she was glad my husband had got a stone for her.

I left that night and drove home feeling sick.  Sick at the thought of two babies killed by their mother.  But interestingly, I did not feel angry at her.  I thought I would in this situation.  Instead, I felt a deep sorrow for her.  For what she did not understand.  For what she did.  For the guilt, even so small, that she felt.  For the pain she had grown up with that tells her she will be a failure as a mother.  For the simple fact of two babies whose mother does not even mourn them.

But my eyes also filled with tears of ... of joy?  of peace?  Seeing the gift my daughter was.... walking through the valley of her death changed me.  I have a depth I didn't have before.  I've seen God use it to make me more able to connect to others, to comfort in pain, and tonight, to share the value of life in a way that was understood, without a "holier than you" condemnation.  God had used the grief of these last weeks and redeemed it in a way I would not have expected.

The simple fact that my friend who has listened to my grief the last weeks over my first daughter, and sympathized with me could not both sympathize with me and deny that a child not born is not human.  My sharing my pain brought her gently to the place where she knew that abortion was ending a life.

Would she do it again?  I don't know.  That is for God to deal with.  I am only here in her life, sharing with her, living in front of her, and letting God talk through me.  I pray she won't.

And on the way home, I told God to give those two babies of hers a hug from me.  Tell them that there is someone who mourns them.  They are not forgotten.  Even their mother has not forgotten.  She told me who each one's father was.  "The second one was Adam's baby".  I noticed that she referred to it as "Adam's baby" - baby... not a word someone who thinks it is "just a bump of tissue" says.

Pray for my friend.

The Baby No One Remembers

It was my anniversary this year.  Fifteen years.  I woke to a total surprise.  My husband gave me a box, a ring box sitting on my tummy before I was thoroughly awake.  Inside was a beautiful family ring.  I had mentioned getting one before, but never gone through with it.  They are expensive, and I never could justify it.

I had wanted one with five stones.  Five to represent my five children.

That morning, when I opened the box and saw the five stones lined up, my eyes filled with tears.  Here is a visible thing, a lining up of five, not four.  My mother's mind counts to four when we are at the beach or pool, when we load into a van, counting to make sure they are all here.  But my heart counts to five.  I have birth to five babies.  Three boys and two girls.  A beautiful ring, with no one missing.

I wore it proudly all day, admiring it.  My heart at rest to see five, nothing missing.

But then towards evening, right as we were to go out, I decided to look up the stones - what were they?  My oldest I knew.  He was born in the same month as me, so I know his birth stone.  But what was my Lydia's stone?  Or how about my other daughter?  I didn't recognize those stones.  So I phoned my mom.  She had helped my husband by picking out the stones, so I wanted to tell her thank-you and to ask what the stones were.

She told me what my youngest daughter's stone was, and then told me that for Lydia they had picked October's stone "because it was pretty".  They couldn't remember, she explained, when she was born, so they thought October looked pretty.

I sat down in shock.  My own husband and my own mother could not remember when my daughter was born?!  Nor did they think it was important enough to ask, to get it right?  How can it be a stone to remember her birth if it does not represent her birth.  October?  She was born in March - no where near October!  They ought to know - I had just been to visit a friend who had lost her baby, and had talked about being there over Lydia's birthday and how that was hard for me.

We were going out, so I stayed silent, but quiet tears began to drip down inside my heart.  Did no one remember my baby?  Did no one really care?  Did no one think she was important enough to have her own, her real birthday?  I took the ring off when I got home and put it in its box.  I haven't worn it since.

I did talk about it with my husband on our date, and he told me that I could change the stone if I wanted.  I wrote the jeweler and he was willing to change it for free - waiving the normal cost for the situation.

I haven't taken it in yet.  I haven't touched it.  It makes me cry to think about going in to change it.  It hurts to look at it.  I will have to, and I will have to wear it, but for right now, all it reminds me of is the baby that no one remembers.

Except me.

I remember.  She is my daughter, born of my body.  Not only that, she is like me - the second child, born close to the first because of God's great delight in surprising us with another when we thought we were "planning" not to have another yet.  A shock to my system, and so delighted in once I got over the shock of, "two babies ten months apart??!!"  She had a name, a body, a birthdate, a birth story.  She was deeply loved.  She is deeply missed.

At least by me.

And no one remembers her birthdate.  It's taken me a few weeks to write this post.  A few weeks of tears on the drive to work early in the mornings.  I can't cry at home.  I can't show my husband that the gift upsets me.  He is so proud of it.  He worked so hard on it.  It shows love.  But it also shows apathy - highlighting and underlining the fact that Lydia is the baby no one remembers.  No one except me.

I think that is why the ring was so important to me.  The silent, constant witness of her existence.  She was.  She was real.  A person.  My daughter.  Yes, her life was very short.  But she was my daughter.  In the same way that my beautiful, funny, very much alive girl is my daughter.

I saw her - only for a brief glimpse and without my glasses on.  My husband never saw her.  Why?  This is the thing I have only told one person because the awfulness of it horrifies me.  Because I delivered her into the toilet.  There.  I said it.  I feel so guilty for that.  But I didn't know she was coming.  I got up to use the toilet, and out she came.  Then, as I crawled back to bed, I heard the nurses talking.  The senior nurse told the younger to fish her out, and the younger nurse did not want to.  Finally they did.  They picked her up and plopped her in a plastic container and carried her out.  I thought they would clean her up and bring her back, but they didn't.  They threw her in the garbage, and she was incinerated that morning.  You see, she was three days short of being a legal human being.  Three more days and she would have had a birth certificate, a death certificate, and a funeral and a grave.

She didn't.  Three days.  Three days and they tell me my baby is not human.  And no one remembers her birth.

Except me.

I wanted her stone in my ring - a permanent reminder of my daughter.

Except no one remembers when she was born.

Finally, one day, the tears needed to be cried.  I wrote my friend - the one who lost her own daughter.  She wrote me back hearing what it meant.  Then she signed her name.  But then, at the end of her letter was a sentence which made me smile through the tears.  "Lydia was born on March 4th.  We celebrated her birthday with a cake in her memory."

Someone remembered. 

But that is why I have been silent recently.  I've been grieving.  The lonely grief of a mother whose baby died before she saw the light of day, one no one remembers.

But I remember.  I remember.  And I will not forget.

I will fix my ring.  I will thank the jeweler who understands that it needs to be right.  I will wear it proudly.  It will hurt when I see that stone, but it will also be a thing of joy to me.  Both.

Because, you see, I love my baby that no one remembers.