Monday, November 12, 2012

Pain & Skunk Wrestlers

It's November 12th and I've missed an entire week of being thankful. (Thanks, Facebook, I feel like an ungrateful jerk.) I literally slept most of it away nursing a concussion inflicted by playfulness and my refusal to believe that I couldn't be Angelina Jolie. Not because she's gorgeous, never had adult acne like yours truly, and has the best lips I've ever seen. Nah, not for that. I find outer beauty nice to look at with a timer. But, I’m one of the weird ones who finds myself annoyed with vanity, even my own. And yet, what appeals to me when the director calls “Action” is the strength she exudes. Yes, I get that every move is scripted methodically. But, thanks to my over-active imagination, I think she could throw Brad Pitt and actually break his arm or his pretty face.

I've always felt stronger than my size and stature let on. Perhaps heartache and choosing laughter and grace over hatred and bitterness has helped. When I believe Gods word is true, all of it, I have to believe it's meant for me. It’s the layers of time, blank space mingled with marvelous grace that made me. The time and fiery darts from the enemy that tried to sift and cripple me. The times where I sinned so loud and grieved with heaving sounds alone with the God who never once left me. Never. His grace covered me making a way for me to attain something unattainable in my own strength.

I missed an entire week of being productive and being joyful in my home. My pain became my focus. Truth be told, my heart was hurting before I received the blow to my head and my pride. I couldn't be strong enough to make it not hurt. Four months of bad news and a failed adoption. Time has revealed all the red flags and honored our step of obedience to care selflessly for a child that came with unbelievable baggage. I would do it again in a heartbeat, just for him. That boy was my reason for wanting to adopt for ten years. That desire and calling faded when I knew he wasn’t mine for keeps. Wading through hurtful changes in our ministry and other red flags and road flares didn't stop a head-on collision.

The dust cleared and every heart is still beating, still loving Jesus and doing their best. It's just life and the status update you are NOT to post for entire world, that hasn't a clue, to see. Friday these words spilled out just four days after the ER trip and it was whiplash to my soul hearing this, out of my mouth, the joyful half full girl...

"Life is not all peaches and roses," I said, with a Southern, sassy tone that sounded bitter.

I felt it and I rejected it. Bitterness? No. Not this girl.

Who doesn't like peaches and roses? Someone has to clean the fruit and cut off the bruised parts if by chance it falls to the ground instead of being plucked and picked before bruising. Someone has to tend to the roses, right? Carefully knowing how to handle something so beautiful, yet with thorns that prick and draw blood.

I choose the fruit of the Spirit. I choose to be vines and branches, Christ as my gentle Gardener. I throw off those things that so easily entangle me, I run. (Hebrews 12:1) No, I limp. But, I take strides away from the ugly and the trap of the enemy.

What made the harsh tones spill out of woman who feels naturally sweet in disposition?

Pain did.

All I could do for a week was point to where it hurts, trying my best to wait it out and let things go back into its rightful place. I did everything I was supposed to do, everything the forms said to do from the ER. Aren't we all trying so hard to be "somebody"? This world is tired of fakers, they see straight through the polished image blinded by the words coming out of our mouths. Jesus, give us a polished heart over a polished image. Please, even if it hurts.

My head still hurts. And now I think that nice doctor's optimism of a shorter recovery was a little over the top. And when he said, "Be careful," with tender compassion and wrote me a prescription for something to help with the pain and the nausea while I healed. I felt hopeful and like he understood me. And then when he gave my husband a dirty look and said, "You too." I smirked on the inside and then I felt bad that he felt bad. But, he was not the one with the head injury.

In the southlands they say if you wrestle with a skunk you're going to wish you hadn't have.

I'm not going to lie to you, I'm the skunk and I got my tail kicked hypothetically speaking. OK. I lost that round. But, I'm pretty sure no one is going to try to wrestle with me again. Ever. Being the runt of the family I learned little tricks when my sisters and I fought. No one could wrestle and be tougher than my little sister. I could always tell that look on her face when playful became serious.

Those eyes told you so much. That pretty face, big brown eyes, and seriously the most gorgeous lips ever, said one thing..."You better stop now because I'm about to finish this."

I snicker when I see the "I'm serious" look when she's keeping her adorable children, whom I think are perfect, in check. I straighten up too, kind of, because now is a time when I respect her more than ever. I understand her so much more now and treasure her more than a thousand fair-weather friends. I would trade them all in just have her. She's my sister. I would fight for her, not with her. We've outgrown our wrestling matches and catfights. Thank the good Lord.

We are thirty-something’s who now joke that we've both had CT scans on our brains. I assumed I would have my scan first because clearly, I'm the oldest and I've always been the “crazy” sister. But together we are better than we are alone. We have more gifts to offer, more creative ideas that flow and things that make us laugh. Four hands to clean up and arms for hugs. Trust me, we were so shady as kids but as long as we weren't fighting or screaming our heads off we could try about anything. Today when my Sissy calls on a day off, I want to drop everything just to see her and be her kid’s favorite aunt.

Being forced to slow down this past week did me more good than it did harm. I threw out the list and schedule. I listened to my body and my head screaming at me to lay it all down and rest. And I did. I listened.

Dear Jacked-Up Me,
You're not sixteen and you could care less now about being Miss Popular and chasing boys and dreams. Remember when you cared so much about what people thought of you? How somehow you thought the whispers defined you?

Remember how you cried when the mean girls were mean and good at it...and you didn't realize that is what people do when they are confused and just as insecure as you?

That's what people do when they are hurting and they just want it to stop.

They are mean.

So, don't you be a mean girl. Ever. There is never a good excuse or reason for it. No amount of physical pain or emotional pain is a license to be a jerk-face.

So cry and pray and forgive and repeat as often as necessary until the hurt fades out and joy comes back. Because it always does, joy always comes in the morning.

I wasted a week complaining about my stupid concussion. This week I am fasting all complaining. Period. I found it unhelpful and it just annoyed the "skunk wrestlers". Wink. Wink.

It's weird how much I love you, even if I don't know you. I'm praying God's best for you today. Don't be a skunk wrestler. And to quote a famous skunk, Flower, "If you can't say nothing nice, don't say nothing at all." Profound, don't you think?

Much Love,


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Leftovers and Hands to Hold

I have always been captivated by the story of Ruth and Naomi. I have watched tragedy turn wounded hearts sour changing them inside out. I've cried those bitter tears grasping to get it, to accept it, and grow deeper because of it. The question 'why' wrecks you. Yet we verbalize our questions as it echoes back at us mockingly.

"Who is going to rescue me now?"

God will. He always does.

In Ruth 1:19 the wounded widow returns home without sons, without her love, and without hope for provision. Naomi's pain left her almost recognizable, yet her people saw traces of the woman they used to know. She went out full and came home empty. (v. 21) But, she did not return alone. Clinging to her side and the God she served; stood the devoted daughter-in-law who refused to leave her stranded in her sorrow.

Ruth made a vow to the broken mother, "Where you die, I will die. And there I will be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me." (Vs. 17)

Home was wherever they stood. Together. Broken. In need. Hungry. Clinging to a thread of hope and each other. You see, we were never meant to do this thing called life on our own. Love doesn't walk out on you when all of life gives way and crumbles; it stands with you even though you tell it to go away. You may feel like you have nothing to offer in a state of brokenness, but with all my heart I believe letting people love you and loving them back means a complete willingness to show them our "ugly" and our mess. We shouldn't have to jump through invisible hoops in hopes of earning unconditional love, but we do. We jump through hoops. We go through the motions. We fake it trying to mask the pain.

When Naomi spilled out her bitter complaint blaming the very God who gave her a determined daughter, I see no reply of reproach just a hand to hold as they return to a land at beginning of the harvest season. A quiet presence walking with her through the hurt, Ruth steps in to nurture her and work another mans land to provide for her. Ruth works hard, gleaning, sweating, and reaping a harvest as she finds herself content with leftovers. Proving herself a virtuous woman, the people take notice. The Kinsmen Redeemer takes notice of her, rewarding her. Her gleaning for leftovers turns into prosperity, wedding bells, sounds of babies crying, and second chances.

The God we serve does not give us leftovers. He goes all out with the full spread, He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. He fills our cups until they overflow as goodness and mercy follows us. Not just on certain days, but all of our days. (Ps 23:5-6)

There are no sloppy seconds with our God. Baby, it's the full-course meal that satisfies and goes down easily. He is the hand we want to hold and the friend who walks with us through the mess. So work the land, cry your tears, but give God your today’s and tomorrows. Let the bitterness spill out in salty form, pray until it's emptied out. Bitterness is never a good option. It only taints what was meant to be an oasis of peace deep within, even in the mess. Never once have I felt disappointed with the God who rescues and redeems with His royal bloodline.

"Then the women said to Naomi, "Blessed be The Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him." (Ruth 4:14-15)

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the hands I get to hold along this journey, I feel like that devoted daughter that says till death do we part. I want to be better than seven sons, diligently working with these soft hands and soft heart while my God takes notice. To be soft is not a sign of weakness. It is strength wrapped up in gentleness and doing what we do best, nurture. We take turns nurturing the generations, loving them, tending to them, and listening when our Naomi's offers instructions on how to snag a man. (Ruth 3) Or better yet, they instruct us on how to live and grieve, returning back to a place of hopefulness and trust in God saying, "I used to feel so bitter, but because of you, I just feel blessed because you are here in my ugly and in my beauty. I'm with you, whatever this crazy ride looks like."

If I could hold your hand I would, but I offer this prayer over you as you read. May you find your heart satisfied when life feels like soggy leftovers and there is no friend on the other end of the line. May find yourself clinging to a God who restores, redeems, and rescues. May His name be famous!

Much love,