Thursday, October 3, 2013

Backing Away From The Door

This morning I left the house to walk my daughter to the bus stop.  As I approached the front door of my house upon my return, I could hear the cries of a one-year-old who had been alarmed to discover that her mommy went missing a few minutes ago.  My one-year-old.  I pushed the door open gently, knowing that she was sitting right behind it.  The door only opened a few inches before it would go no further.  She was blocking the way.  I could see her - through that crack in the doorway.  I could see her in all her panic and desperation.  But I couldn't reach her - there was a door between us.  She could see me too and that caused her panic and screams to escalate.  She seemed to be saying, "Mama!  You're right there.  Why aren't you picking me up?  Why aren't you touching me?  Why won't you just COME IN!?"  In her precious infant mind she couldn't quite understand that she was the very one blocking the door that kept her mommy out.  I said to her, "Lily.  I need you to back up.  Back up so that I can come in."  But she couldn't hear me through her panicked cries.  Didn't want to hear me, perhaps.  Was demanding that I pick her up first and then she'd back away from the door.  Not understanding, in her simplicity, that the order of events she was demanding defied the laws of nature.  She was her only enemy in that moment...and she. had. no. idea.

As I pleaded with her to back up I gently pushed the door against her body, trying to inch it open just enough to squeeze through.  In that moment I heard God's voice echoing my "mommy instructions" deep inside my soul.  "I need you to back up.  Just back up so that I can come in..."

And through the simple mindedness of my child, as He so often does, He painted a perfect picture for me of my simplicity in Him.

How Often?  How often must I plead with Him to pick me up.  To simply touch me...  How often do I feel like He's just. out. of. reach.  How often do I blame Him?  And how His father's heart must be breaking as He tries to make me understand that I am the one blocking the door.  That I am the one who has erected walls.  That I am, in those moments, my own worst spiritual enemy.

Do you build walls, like I do, around your heart?  Do you wonder why He stands just beyond your grasp and won't reach out to just touch you?  Could it be possible that you're blocking your own door?

Precious Heavenly Father,

Help me to understand how to back away from the door.  How to stop blaming you for your distance.  How to simply let. you. in.

Help me to understand how your heart breaks when I blame you for not reaching out to touch me; when I think, for even just one second, that you must not love me enough.  Help me to understand that my own simple mindedness is the enemy that holds you at a distance.  

Keep talking to me through that door until I can finally "get it".  Don't ever give up on me.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Does Your Love For Your Children Interfere With Your Love For Your God?

I was 13 the year that I nearly burnt the house down.  My parents had left me home alone for the first time, and in an age before cell phones, I had no way to reach them.  The Five fire companies that had responded to my call for help had all left before my parents returned that evening.  The street, which had been closed due to my "emergency", had been reopened.  The front yards and driveways of 3 consecutive homes no longer showed any trace of the fire trucks, ambulance, or police officers that had been present, save the tire tracks that remained through the yards that had been used as parking lots only hours before.  I had clung to a neighbor and cried, with horror, as I realized that I had left my dinner on the stove top, on high, for 3 hours while I had been outside talking to a friend on the phone.  That's why my home had filled with a terrible dense black smoke.   The firemen had opened all the windows and doors and used their industrial fans to suck most of the smoke out of the house.  Then everybody went home and I curled up on the couch, wrapped in a blanket and shivering with all the windows and doors still open on that cool, crisp night.  And that's how my parents found me when they returned around 11:00pm.

The next day, my mom wept as she watched a hen frantically clucking at her babies who had wandered outside of a fence that she was too large to pass through.  Those tiny chicks where just beyond her reach.  She could see the danger that her little babies were in but she could do nothing to protect them.  This mama hen's panicked squawking broke my own mama's heart as she realized that, in reality, she was no more capable of keeping me safe while allowing me to grow up and experience moments of freedom.  She had to begin letting go of a child who was gaining and craving independence, but there was danger in that, and it terrified her.  "Mommmmm!" I whined, as the tears fell from her cheeks.  Usually rational and collected, my mother did not often succumb to emotion and I hated seeing those tears.  I didn't understand her fear or her internal struggle.  And then I became a mother....

12 years later, at 25, I welcomed my first child into the world.  A beautiful baby girl, perfect and healthy in every way.  But amidst the baby showers and birthing classes that went into preparing for that precious first child, there was something that no one ever told me about motherhood.  No one ever told me that from the moment that child left the safety of my womb, I would live in a perpetual state of fear.   The fear of having this child taken from my arms was overwhelming at first, despite her perfect health.  The fear of her spitting up and choking while I slept peacefully beside her made me unable to sleep at night.  I feared tripping and dropping her down the stairs.  I feared car accidents in a way I never had before.  I felt like a mama hen who's baby was sometimes just out of reach.  No matter how well I cared for and protected her, I was (and still am) incapable of complete and flawless protection over my child.  I would clutch her and beg God not to take this beautiful gift away from me.  My heart broke at just the thought.  On the day my daughter was born I learned that the greatest of all loves will produce the greatest of all fear.

There's a place where the God-created beauty of maternal love and instinct collides with the fallen-ness of a world that was originally designed for perfection. In my life, this collision reflects itself as fear and this reality has made me even more keenly aware of the sinfulness of the human heart.  We live in a world so desperately tainted with sin that something as beautiful as a mother's love for her child can be wrought with a fear so intense as to damage a woman's faith in her God. His perfect gift of motherhood can be the very thing that begins to divide the recipient and the Giver.  How can we be in harmony with a God we can't trust?  And how can we trust our God when we're clinging to our babies in utter terror of losing them?

I have been a mother for 5 years now and in that time I have welcomed 2 more precious babies to my brood of little ones.  These 5 years have been a journey; a balancing act of executing my God-given responsibility to protect my little ones in every way possible while still ultimately trusting their lives to Him.  It has been a continual process of opening my hands to Him and saying "Here Lord, they are yours and I will make the choice to trust you."  When I peek in their bedrooms after they are asleep at night and I see their sweet sleeping faces illuminated by a soft light; the rays falling across their delicate and impossibly beautiful cheeks, I still beg God to not ever take them from me. And I believe we're supposed to do that. But, day by day, I'm learning to let go, one heartstring at a time. It's a pain I pray I will never have to know. But beyond that, God is teaching me to pray that if the day were to come that he allows that trial to come into my life, my faith in Him would be so complete that my broken heart could simply rest in the trust that I have in His wisdom.  It's knowing and BELIEVING that " all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28.  It's knowing that The Artist sees the complete picture, while I see only a tiny brush stroke.  It's being willing to suffer to allow God's glory to be shown, because it is God's glory that allowed me to experience the gift of motherhood in the first place.  It's finding that beautiful, and completely terrifying place of total submission to the God I serve.

My mother wept as she watched a mama hen clucking at her stray babies that day.  Realizing that she was no more capable of keeping her own children safe, she felt the weight of an impossible task upon her shoulders.  It was a burden she was never meant to bear.  "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?"  Matthew 6:26. Open your hands and your hearts to the Lord, sweet mother.  Allow yourself to live at peace with this world by trusting in the God who orchestrates it.  The responsibility is yours but the burden was never meant to be.  The "letting go" will be a process, but determine to make that journey, one delicate heartstring at a time.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Keep Holding Me, Daddy. A message for fathers of teenage daughters


Do you remember those sleepless nights when I was a baby? Those nights that you spent rocking me while I cried so that mama could get some sleep. Do you remember how I stretched out my tiny body, kicked my little legs, and arched my back angrily. Fighting you. How you held me tight. Rocking. Humming. Whispering. Caressing. Until, beneath the weight of immense exhaustion, my eyelids finally drifted shut. Still, you held me. Still rocking.

Daddy, I need that from you now. I know you think I'm grown. But you couldn't be more wrong. I have the body and the mind of a teenager, but inside my heart I'm still just an infant. I'm just as scared now as I was when I was brand new to this great big world. Perhaps more so. Because in my short years on this Earth, I've seen too much. I know the pain of a heartache. The sting of failure. The crushing weight of rejection. The sun, although beautiful, illuminates all that's ugly in this world so I lock myself in my bedroom, with my ipod in my eyes closed, knowing that my heart is still too tender to be able to withstand the ugliness waiting for me when I open them.

Daddy, I'm confused. I'm trying to embrace a world that I'm not quite able to understand. This world of violence, manipulation, and tears is far from the world I dreamed about as a child. The world I still dream about in childish moments. In my naive innocence I believed in a world of simplicity and love. As such, I grew a heart tender enough to nurture daisies and daffodils and all things beautiful. Finding instead, that a heart that delicate is easily pierced by the thorns of reality. The scars are proof that my heart was never made for battle. The innocence has been lost in the suffering. And I find myself in this scary place of not knowing what's real about the world in which reality lives. I'm not sure what I can trust about you (you have, after all let me down a time or two), and what's worse, I'm not even really sure what I can trust about myself (I've let me down too). I know I break your heart with the words that I say sometimes but that's just part of the test: Are you man enough to be my Daddy? Will you stand by me and love me still?

Daddy, I know I haven't been easy to live with. Maybe not even easy to love. But I'm in a scary place right now. I'm still so much a child, but I'm living in a grown-up world. I haven't yet learned to reign in these emotions. These emotions which are larger-than-life because they're rooted in fear and insecurity. The time will come when I figure it all out. The time will come when wisdom will build a barrier to protect my fragile heart. But that wisdom will take time to grow. When it does, that barrier will enable me to love passionately and live peaceably again. My heart will feel safe to be tender within the confines of wisdom and I will return to the baby girl you thought you lost.

In the meantime, Daddy.... please don't stop loving me. Do you remember those sleepless nights when I was a baby? Do you remember how some nights, in exhaustion, you gave up and placed me, writhing, back in my crib. How I wailed in protest at you giving up on me. My displeasure escalating to a whole new level. I am still that baby, Daddy. When I fight you now it's with my heart, not with my body. And when you rock me anyway, it's with your heart, not with your arms. But don't stop rocking. Be a man who's tough enough to be my Daddy. Your arms will be the boundaries I need until, with wisdom, I can build my own. I am safe within the boundaries of your arms. And even if I fight them, I want them there. Just like the baby all those years ago, I may fight you while you're holding me but that doesn't mean that I want you to put me down. Back then, putting me down meant that my cries got harder, louder, longer. They still do today. You can still hear them...if you'll listen with your heart.

I love you, Daddy,

You Teenage Daughter

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Homelessness Of The Heart

I’ve learned that there’s value in homelessness.  There’s a type of homelessness that leaves your heart aching and lost even while your body is sheltered.  It’s a kind of, “homelessness of the heart”, and I fell into it several years ago.

I was born and raised in a small community in Pennsylvania; the same community that my parents were born and raised in and their parents before them.  It’s just that kind of town.  I probably would have given birth to my own babies in that same hospital and taken them home to that same community and raised them beside those same neighbors, too.  Would have….if I hadn’t promised my life to a man who promised his life to his country.  You see, I fell in love with a man who loved his country so much that he would put every single step of his future into “her” hands.  And by my devotion to him, I made these same crazy promises.  At 23, I left Pennsylvania.

The transition from “belonging” to “homeless” was gradual, almost imperceptible at first.  I returned for quick visits frequently and my heart ached daily for the comfort and simplicity of home.  It’s a feeling all too familiar to anyone who has ever lived in one place all their lives…and then leaves.  A severing so distinct and poignant it could almost be mistaken for a physical severing rather than an emotional one.  Not a butterfly being removed from its chrysalis, but a butterfly being removed from its caterpillar-self, being separated from the very essence of who he is, in some abstract, disorienting way.

But when the painful severing process was finally completed, I awakened to a new reality; one that I hadn’t really considered before and found quite alarming.  I no longer have a home.  I no longer belong to that little Pennsylvania community…could never go back…maybe wouldn’t even want to.  The leaves have fallen and re-birthed  from those Pennsylvania trees too many times. The fallen snow melted, then fell, and then melted again. Life has gone on without me inside each of those familiar homes for so long, the distance so great, the living of life so different.  The course has been set.

You can never truly feel “at home” in a place where you have no history.  In some cases, the roots that are ripped from the soil in one location are replanted in a new location. Ten, twenty, thirty years go by and those roots grow deeper and deeper.  For these people, the homelessness may never fully develop.  As the ties that bind them to their former home are broken, they’re replaced by a developing history in their new surroundings.  The transition is challenging but natural. For a military family, the roots never have a chance to grow.  Just when they finally begin to take root, they’re plucked from the soil and replanted again.  It makes us strong.  It also makes us homeless.

I felt sorry for myself, missing out on one of the most comforting, natural parts of human life.  I felt sorry for my children, for giving them a life entirely void of permanence in their surroundings.

And then the lesson came.  The way it often does:  at just the right moment, in the most tender, quiet place in my heart.  God saying, in the softest of whispers, “This world is not your home”.  And my homeless heart smiled as it received these words, along with the enormous message embodied therein.  Homelessness of the heart isn’t a curse.  It’s a radiant blessing.  It makes every trip to someone else’s grocery store, every wrong turn out of my own driveway, every church service in every new town a genuine reminder of something that’s difficult to pay more than lip service to.  This world is truly not my home.  I have a beautiful hope in my homeless heart finally finding peace and a sense of perfect belonging in Heaven someday…  A person who drives the very same roads, walks in the very same front door, and attends the very same church year in and year out has a precious blessing on this Earth.  But the absence of that constant sense of “home” turns my eyes heavenward daily, and that is truly priceless.

There is value in homelessness…when it’s the kind of homelessness that draws you closer to the “home” your heart was made for.

Have you ever experienced a "Homelessness of the Heart"?  Please share your experiences in the comments below!