via T-ball memories.
There’s nothing for me in the in-between.
Pick a side, cuz that chasm falls deep.
Can’t climb out, no second chances,
A black hole pit, a temporary release…
That burns the bridge over the in-between.
There’s nothing for me in the in-between
Have you ever took up your life, forgone the seatbelt and purposely crashed into a wall?
Metaphorically speaking. …I believe we all have at times.
You see, unwise decisions and habitual sin lead to devastation.
And, I have done it myself, speeding along at my will, wrecking my life, and all the while God is watching and allowing me to be wounded by my carelessness.
For example, I’m a writer, and I have many pieces that I’ve written that have not been shared. Many are too personal and many are simply waiting to be finished. Many are finished and the timing isn’t right.
Whatever the reason, when I read over them, I am remembering the WHY of why I wrote them. I can see them for what they are, as well. I know when they are ready and when they need work. I know when, let’s be honest, the written work is not very good. The intention and labor behind it was good, but the body needs a lot of work.
My whole point here is that God knows us and knows when we need work. He knows, probably like a writer too, that even the best piece can be better. But, at some point, the piece is just ready, and the refining will come along the way.
And I, in my humanity, can’t wrap my brain around this. I can’t comprehend how I could possibly be ready to serve him and so fallen, so imperfect and so undeserving of his attentions.
Especially, knowing that nothing is hidden from God and that on my own, my righteousness is like dirty rags…. God knows this about me, you, for we are all a people naturally bent towards rebellion.
Even more so…..
God knows us and our capacity to forget him.
Can you imagine? What if you had a spouse, and you knew that your spouse’s natural tendency was to forget you? What if you caught your spouse cheating, but it didn’t shock you because you knew it would happen?
But, what if you still loved your spouse anyway? What if you let it go at his or her own detriment, knowing all the while the damage they would do, but vowed to wait for their return, anyway?
Wouldn’t we question the sanity of the faithful spouse I just depicted? Yet, that is exactly what God is like. He is our faithful bridegroom.
We deserve divorce papers, but instead, he draws us into his will
We deserve separation, but instead he bridges the gap between heaven and hell with his own body, bent and broken on the cross for his glory and for our benefit
Yet, we continue to turn away from him; we have little indiscretions, big ones, and sometimes, we plainly forget Him.
Yet, there he is..still waiting, still faithful, and still loving us without wanting to shame us, beating us down with “I told you so’s” or making us atone for idolatry because Jesus….
Because Jesus……who left his glory in heaven to walk the roads of humanity and than later… to die for us all, even those of us who spit upon his brow with our total rebelllion. He embodies true mercy.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t fathom that. I don’t want to most of the time. True mercy is scandalous and makes us want to say “he doesn’t deserve it! She doesn’t deserve it.”
mercy doesn’t accuse and it doesn’t follow human moral codes of justice.
Instead, it comes, undeserving and so beautiful…and
It’s for those of us, just like me and like you ….who are violently driving themselves towards their death, ready to wreck against an iron wall upon our own violation.
I see that ….
God has allowed me to be the driver to my own death. I see now that He didn’t swoop down to pull me out at certain times.
And, in light of this, I can see that God allowing me to wreck myself is one of the best gifts he has given me.
Because only in the midst of my deep forgetfulness, can I remember how MUCH I need the wonderfulness of his mercy.
God, may your mercies work miracles through me….
****I wrote this in February of 2017, the day Natalie received her official cancer free diagnosis. But, this time two years ago was when Natalie was first diagnosed with cancer, and I’ve asked her mom’s permission to share this story, from my own perspective. I hope you read it…and celebrate Natalie’s beautifully victorious life with me.****
I remember it now.
The phone calls came, one after the other.
“Hey, I told Rhonda about the lump on Nat’s tummy, and she said we need to go to the doctor right away.”
“They think it’s a tumor. She will have a biopsy done today.”
“Natalie has cancer….they are hurrying to get us admitted to St Jude’s.”
I didn’t want to believe it; I didn’t want to move. I wanted to stand, frozen in time, pretending that this wasn’t happening to our closest friends.
But it was happening, and so I went to support our friends.
I stayed in the hospital for hours to play guitar for Natalie.
And then, we heard the treatment plan estimate.
So, we did what we could. We brought food; we helped pack; we made a care basket for the road. We made a list of how we would help look after their house…
And then, we hugged.
We said goodbye
(Here we are, minutes before they walked out the door.)
All in just TWO days.
As I left their house, I began to weep ugly, big, fat, rolling tears. I was devastated, scared, and most of all, angry!
I wish I could say I was angry over the injustice and brutality of cancer, especially, childhood cancer.
That would be normal and unselfish and…..righteous, even.
But, at the time, all I could think about was how our life would be forever changed. This cancer was taking away our best friends, leaving us on the outside, in a completely different world, watching, helpless, out of control….
Yet, here I was, angry that our weekly coffee dates were gone. There would be no more last-minute dinner invites. Our weekly habit of putting together our leftovers and other random foods (the extreme opposite of formal dinner parties) would not be resumed.
(In actuality, there would be more dinners.)
I was angry that my own daughter would lose a very special presence in her life. Natalie, you see, is the closest thing to a sister Isabela has. How could we bring her through this? How could we show her hope in the face of this destructive and life-threatening cancer?
I was angry and there was nothing I could do to save the day….
Because, that’s what I do, you know? I’m that friend who swoops in, brings food, cleans your house, helps you move, takes you to the airport at 3 a.m., watches your kiddos, helps wherever and however I can. I am there, and I want to be there for my friends.
But this time I couldn’t. There was absolutely nothing I could do but pray, wait, pray, wait, pray wait, pray wait and OH, how hard that is for a broken and fallen person, such that I am.
So, with shaking hands and faith, I pulled over into the parking lot of a mall and I wept.
I felt like I had experienced a death, yet I knew even in that moment, it wasn’t about me at all.
Still, I wept.
I wept selfishly at how everything would change for us, yet I knew that this was the least of things to weep over.
Oh, how I wept.
I wept bitterly over the loss of our strongest support system. Yet, I knew that in reality, they were the ones losing their support systems, their home, their community and quite possibly, their daughter…
Yet, however self-consumed I was, I never said a word. I have never shared those feelings about that day. Part of it was shame – man, I felt guilty – but mostly, it was because it wasn’t a story that needed to be shared, from me, at the time. It wasn’t my right, it wasn’t my priority, and most importantly, it wasn’t my truth.
Somehow, even in my anger, even in my grief, I knew this.
It wasn’t about me.
It was about them.
It was about Natalie, her family and doing everything we could to be positive, even if we were scared out of our minds. It was about sending small gift packages and funny memes, even when we were depressed and questioning God’s providence.
It was about always respecting and valuing their faith and never-ceasing to share scriptures of hope with them. Even when hopelessness was raging inside me so much so that all I could hear was the rushing winds of fear and the howling screeches of anxiety….I could NOT give in. I needed to be strong.
And, in the dark night of my anger, I realized I could not stay. I could not live there. That knowledge gave me gumption. It gave me the ability to speak back to the storm around me.
You know, looking back, I’m glad I stopped to weep over my selfish concerns. I’m thankful that I got it all out, then and there. I needed to take a few minutes to release my fears over the situation and even the ones pointed at myself, the “what if I won’t know what to say,” and the “what if I won’t know how to be a good friend through it all” kind of things…
I needed to release it so I could see clearly. So, I could stand on the other side of fear, and say, ” No! I will NOT hide out. I will not be so distracted by my day-to-day that they will have to go through this alone. I will be a constant. I will listen. I will supplement fear with faith. I will pad frustration with gentleness. I will finish negativity with reminders of blessings and truths, however I can.”
Sitting in that car, I calmed down and made an internal vow to not just encourage my friend, Natalie’s mom, to be strong. But, I also made a vow that I would stay strong too, even if I had to fake it….
My friends, I have truly failed at a lot of things; I have truly failed a lot of people.
But, this is one thing I might have done good on.
Still, I do have regrets.
I wish I had visited more. I wish I had quit my job so I had the freedom to leave and give Natalie’s mom a break when she needed it most (this is a big one). I wish I had sent more care packages. I wish I had texted more often. I wish I had prayed more; I wish I had cleaned her house more while they were gone.
But most of all…I wished I had loved Natalie more. I wished I had hugged her more. I wished I had enjoyed her laughter and freedom to just be who she was more.
(Beautiful Natalie, home from St Jude’s)
I wished I had given more attention to her, I wished I had talked to her more. I felt so ashamed when I thought of the type of friend I was to my own best friend’s daughter.
I felt intense regret for not playing with her more or playing the guitar for her more, all day if she wanted……
This precious and beautiful life, our Natalie. So full of joy and perfection, our Natalie.
This is my greatest regret…..
But yet, there is hope, you see. Read on…
Today, I received a phone call from Natalie’s mom. I had been waiting all morning for this phone call; I knew it was the day of her scan. When the phone finally rang, I ran around the house, desperately searching for my phone, answering it when I heard it.
This silence was tinged with anticipation, and in a split second, I thought “No, please do not let this be the silence of mourning.” But, her voice broke through the tension, choked with tears, saying, “ She is cancer free, Natalie is cancer free!”
I don’t remember what I said. I’m quite certain there were no real words spoken, anyway. Whatever it was, it was lovely, shattering the darkness with one loud, beautiful and deafening crash!
It’s finally over! This time, I can cry tears of joy, defiant joy! No more death, no more disease, no more cancer, fear, anxiety and no more insidious and ruthless cancer lurking behind us! Life has won today! Life has won; Natalie has won; God has won and hope has returned. Thank you, God.
Thank you, God.
(cancer-free and home-coming party)
“Why do we doubt the Lord of the seas
Who has parted its waves; made a way from the enemy!
Why do we doubt the God of miracles
Who has raised the dead, created the world!
From dust, He made flesh
From death, He raises LIFE
His works never stop
His word stands through time….”
“There’s nothing like family.”
Thats the saying, and it’s true. There is nothing like family. For us, we are keenly aware of this because we have lived away from our dear family for so long.
You know, as a military family, we have our own little sayings. I’m not sure if this is an official one, but “there is nothing like military family” rings true for us.
This family doesn’t have the same DNA running through our veins, but we are family none the less. We are the ones who get together on Easter, Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, and other holidays, because none of us have family nearby to celebrate with. We are the emergency contacts on each other’s school forms; the ones who bring dinner when the other is sick; the ones who mow the yard when the other is deployed. We are the babysitters and the pet-sitters; the extra-key holders and the come over for let-over eaters.
We can sit at a table with other veterans and automatically bond, even if we do not know each other or have anything in common except for the service of sacrifice. And if we are lucky…we adopt each other, becoming the family that gets each other through our assignments
There is nothing like military family. Listen…in this family, we get it. We get the sacrifice, the burden and of course, we get the lingo. We get it and that knowledge alone brings us into family. It’s a beautiful comfort in such a temporary world.
When I go to Belgium this summer, that is one thing I am excited to witness. I am excited for these kids to find a new family in their hearts. To bond together, to adopt each other, to become brothers and sisters and to sit at the table of fellowship, ingesting the goodness of family.
“There is nothing like military family….”
While that is true, I know something truer. We are all family, made one in Jesus Christ, with the same blood running through our veins. And in Him, we are called to extend and enlarge our family.
This is what I hope to do there and with my life. I want to live with intention and invitation into my family. I am not sure who I will be when I’m there in Brussels, maybe a mentor, a sister or even a mother, BUT I do know that whatever role I fall in, the love of God will be with me. And, through His love, my family will grow. And for that, I am blessed.
missions donation link: https://www.gofundme.com/getAliciatoBelgium
Maundy Thursday: The Last Supper, The foot-washing.
For most of us, it is easy to see our weaknesses. Even more so, we know the secret mutterings of our hearts. We know the ugliness and the fight to trump ugliness with kindness. When mercy, kindness or simply “doing the right thing” wins, we know we have been victorious! The wrestling match between pride (fueled by fear) and humility (fueled by love) takes place in the secret recesses of our hearts – and there, facades are either crafted or broken down.
And then, some things are easier to see. The outward decline of a body and soul ravaged by drugs are plainly visible. Even more visible are the garments of pride, which blind ya from embracing the knowledge of our poverty. Yet, the grand finale is anger, and it emerges with a thunderous roar. Exploding into a storm of murderous intent, it is impossible to ignore, and it offers a temporary fix until the carnage stops us in our tracks. “What have I done,” we may ask ourselves.
Deep inside our hearts, battles wage war and the rules of combat are tricky. For not every victory is a true victory, and not every loss is a true loss.
Then, in time, part of what takes place in the darkness is exposed in the light. The overflow of our hearts is made known – never to be hidden for too long. But still, somehow there are things that remain unseen and within this realm there forms a graveyard of sorts.
In this graveyard exists the “casualties of war” soil, the injuries of childhood thrown in open graves, the neglected pains of the past fertilizing neglected ground – the unseen to the naked eye core of our humanity where we are either healing or rotting in our wounds.
Graphic, yes, but the wounds of the heart are surely an underground cemetery of buried and seemingly lifeless things. There beneath lies our secret shames, internal struggles, our deepest pains, past failures, abuses incurred, walls of pride and highly organized legions of anxieties.
Deceptingly, these burial grounds seem to be deadened, yet they work quietly in the under currents of our being, their wastelands aiming to reform our identity into a casket like shape that seeks the stench of death rather than the fragrance of life.
On this Maundy Thursday, I think of my wounds. They are so deep in my heart, I can ignore them effortlessly until BOOM! The trigger is pulled, and I find them still swirling into my being, stealing my breath away and rendering me helpless- like a child alone in a wilderness of waters, yet dying of thirst.
On this Maundy Thursday, I think of my pride. For others, it may be a covering of accomplishment, but for me it is an undergarment of insecurities. I am not brave; I am too shy; I am not skilled; I am too sensitive; I am not enough; I am too introspective; I am not thin enough; I am not attractive enough; I am too quiet, too serious, and am too small for my big big dreams. In a sense, it is the “why can’t I be like and liked by everyone else” of my childhood coming into play, torturing me until I mask my insecurities with faux humility.
On this Maundy Thursday, I think of my internal agonies. The ones I won’t say out loud; the ones that bring the most pain; the ones that demand justice; the ones that send me weeping into a garden like Gethsemane, except I’m dreading the past instead of shaping the future.
I think of them often as I get older, and I soothe them with the balm of Jesus.
ON this Maundy Thursday, I see Jesus taking care of some things. After all, it was his last day to be free, to be alive, technically. For us, that would mean saying goodbye to family and making sure our affairs are in order. For Jesus, that meant breaking bread, feeding those around him and than doing the unimaginable.
Washing the feet of his friends…
Yes, He would wash their feet….dirty from walking dusty roads. Unattractive, from years of labor and offensive until properly cleansed. The cleansing was a job meant for a servant, not a friend, and certainly not a king.
Yet, Jesus ministered to his disciples in His final hours. His hands touched their feet and cleaned them in a parallel of what was to come – such a tender servant-sacrifice preview.
Peter could not handle this. And, I say that we are Peter, too. We cannot handle His healing touch on our feet and to those who say that we can, I say you are wrong.
For though His touch washes the dirt and grime from our most unattractive sin-stained bodies, it also brings the fire of conviction into our souls. It says to forgive, even when when the offender is unrepentant. It says to let go of offense, even when we’ve been wronged. It says to surrender our hearts to humility, even when we are due recognition. It says to WASH THE FEET OF OUR BRETHERN (literally) yet we run away from the foot washing basin, run away from the call of Jesus and STILL call ourselves obedient and here……
Here, we are Peter too, unable to handle the touch of the Servant-King on our feet and His wildfire flames of conviction flushing Holy Spirit conviction throughout our veins.
For, if we could “handle” it, than we would not need Him; we would not need His healing touch, His perfect sacrifice, the resurrection leap, the Holy Spirit helper…. If we could “handle it”, then we would not need Jesus, who was humble to the point of washing the feet of His betrayer on the night He was to be betrayed. If we could “handle” it, then we wouldn’t be betrayed by anxieties, fears, and we would walk perfectly in grace and mercy like Jesus did ….. We would be on equal footing with the One who walked straight to the foot washing basin to the cross and who chose to lay down His life for his friends AND His enemies.
We can’t handle it, and until we know what we don’t know, we won’t know! However, it is okay indeed, because Jesus knows US and our secret burial grounds. Now, we can bare our ignorance and our bare feet because despite being fully known, we are fully loved and that’s LIFE.
So today, let us remember that the greatest challenge in our humanity is in allowing Jesus to touch our dirty feet.
I am not speaking of before we knew Christ. The disciples knew Christ; they were His closest friends.
I am speaking of the after. We are eternally cleansed, but our feet still touch dusty roads. They are tinged and sooted with the dirt of unrepented sin, bitterness, pride, anger, pain, and distraction.
Jesus would like to come and wash our feet but will we allow Him to? Will we allow Him to soothe away our pride, heal our pains, cleanse our wounds, humble our crippling pride?
Don’t forget that evil roars like a lion in wait, pouncing, hiding, and destroying. But, hooray! There is hope in sight, for our Servant King will not allow us to be ill-equipped. For Jesus takes care of our greatest needs, feeds us in our weakness, kneels before us, washes our travel-weary, sin-exhausted feet, and in the receiving we are protected from that preying lion!
But still and most importantly, Jesus goes out and dies for us. It’s not the earthly victory we understand, but its the heavenly victory God has understood for us. And now we can get up and truly walk on the road to Easter Sunday.
Even through failure, rejection, and loss, we will find Jesus there! On the other side of Easter, we will find Jesus there! For He has burst through the grave, defeated the last enemy – death forever crushed – and has opened up the road of praise directly into the throne room! Jesus is with us on our journeys, now and forever. He is our Lord, our Savior, and our compassionate King, tending to us, dirty feet and all.
So, on this Maundy Thursday, let us remember the former darkness for it is there God has encountered us, shining His light. He works there, creating, molding and cultivating beautiful souls, readying them for their debuts, and equipping them for the battles ahead.
Let us remember the power of the cross defeated and wield the victory given to us over the graveyards in our hearts. For with us we have a soul saving, Lazarus raising, tomb raiding, death breaking, life resurrecting, forever crushing the dead places in the name of Jesus- look at what He has done for us- the son of man, slain Lamb, Risen King to come again!! (Woooooooo!)
My friends, let us sit to rest with Jesus, but not hide our feet from Him. He has come to wash them…and we would do well to receive.
Courage, my heart.
For some reason, those words popped into my brain, a vision of letters somehow engraved into thin air…..
And I thought of every bar necklace, every t-shirt, every coffee mug that stands boldly with declaration of intent.
I wonder….what if we actually held the sign of our truths? What would mine be?
Not all at once, but sometimes and many times…too many times.
I am a vessel of many feelings, fear probably the strongest and most deceptive of all. Oh fear….what death is born from your whispers!
The older I become, the more this truth empowers me, rushing through my veins and carrying me through unpredictable, volatile, HEAVY, storms:
despite all things, I am REDEEMED and living in a yet-to-be-fully-explored FREEDOM, and THIS is the fulfillment of ANY dream, EVERY hope, and where my humanity and eternal JOY collide.
The fear of the unknown?
The devastation of fairy tales ruined?
Rejection and betrayal?
When my marriage is in the desert place, due to our neglect, and as we rebuild, we wait, hand in hand, for the rains? I am still redeemed.
When miscarriage upon miscarriages reveals the betrayal of body to heart? I am still redeemed.
When rejection from family turns spring into winter, chilling your very insides into a frozen congealed mass of tears ready to BREAK out. I am still redeemed.
When anxiety paralyzes and handcuffs and whispers and rages and threatens and tries to re-identify you. I AM STILL REDEEMED.
In the valley of death...I AM STILL REDEEMED.
And this is my and YOUR greatest JOY – the horizon of HOPE waiting …….
THIS is what I believe. And this is what has carried me. THIS has redefined me and EVERY relationship, my marriage, my perspective, my PEACE and has EMPOWERED me to survive with my mental and spirtual health not just intact, but strengthened. Stronger.
The beauty of redemption is that it changes FEAR into PEACE.
I am redeemed. Today, and forever, redeemed. And I seize that as my biggest WIN, my brightest JOY and my driving HOPE.
I am redeemed. Despite all things, redeemed. We are redeemed. Through all things, redeemed!
Thank you, JESUS