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Someone asked me a question this afternoon and I’m not sure I addressed it properly.  The question was “Is all this change scary?”

And the answer is, “Yes and No.”  

Change is always scary because it’s an unknown, it’s not at first comfortable, it may come with surprises, sometimes unexpected and unpleasant, and often it requires something more of us than we think we are capable of giving or doing or being.  On the other hand, every day we greet change.  Every day is a change from the day before in some way, even a small way, and sometimes big ways.  A moment can bring change, good or bad or sad or joyful, so change impacts us all the time whether we realize it or not.  Our lives are always changing in some ways, and with incremental change we seem to adjust and go with the flow.  Big changes, however, require more of us, more fuss and notice and consternation and worry and fear.  I think fear is the leader when it comes to change.  We seem to naturally fear something different.  Sometimes we should fear it, other times we just do for no good reason.  So, yes, the big change comes with a set of scares that will eventually become the norms and give way to the incremental flow of day to day life with its usual flux of changes.  Thinking of change in these terms helps me to be able to go forward.  It’s iffy for now, but it won’t be iffy forever.  There will be new iffy in time.

Overall, however, my answer is No.  It’s not so scary when I rely on the Lord to see me through the changes.  How do I do that, one might ask?  My trust in God is based on my experience, my relationship, and my desire to love my Lord with all my heart, putting Him first and foremost in whatever happens in my life.  Can it be disappointing at times?  Yes.  Can it hurt and ache and knock the breath out of me so that I wonder if the tears will ever end and I will learn to breathe normally again?  Yes.  Can I start to doubt myself, and wonder if everything I am doing is so out of tune that I’ll never get back in tune to who is truly me?  Yes.  And those are very real, very human feelings.  Some of us don’t like to admit we have them.  And can fear sometimes be stronger than reason and logic and allow our emotions to take a giant roller coaster ride?  Yes, of course.  But through those thoughts and feelings, in spite of them, there is a deep seated, tried and true, ever-abiding and hopeful faith that God will walk with me, stand with me, hold me up and even carry me.  He will see to my needs.  He will provide more than I can imagine.  It doesn’t entirely banish the fears, but it does allow me to go forward with confidence, with some sort of indescribable peace, that my next steps are, indeed, the right steps.  

I trust that the Lord who has an eye on the sparrow, also turns that eye upon me, and you, and every person He created and breathed into life.  That love, that care and concern, tops it all.  Scared and secure at the same time.  I wonder if God smiles at that.  I kind of think He does.  

 

 

 

 

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I watched a demonstration of putting this safety wire through bolts to keep them from slipping or loosening during vibration.  It was really cool to see the funky pliers that I’m sure have an actual name do their work of twisting this thick wire together to strengthen its purpose.  These bolts go on airplanes and that’s not something we want to come loose a thousand feet up in the air.  Falling parts just don’t work for me.  I was fascinated by how hard it was to try to twist the thick wire by hand yet this tool did the trick in no time.  The students who were learning the art of this safety wiring were practicing again and again, cutting and puncturing their fingers again and again.  They were critiquing their work and coaching one another, cutting out what was bad and starting over from scratch.  There was a method that had to be followed to do it properly and they memorized it.  Their persistence to get it right and tight was dogged; there wasn’t another option.  It was either right and tight or wrong. No kinks and no extra wire.  No missing a step of the method.  They knew what they did made a future difference – safe or not safe.  Life or maybe not life.

As I watched I thought about the times in life that I wish I had been that dogged and persistent.  Times I wished I had realized that to keep on twisting a kinked wire weakened it. Times that I skipped a step and hoped it didn’t matter.  I didn’t make sure the bolts were tight and in the vibrations of life, they loosened.  A thousand feet up and out they came…and parts started falling.

As I thought of these things I also thought about how even though I hadn’t done my bit as well as I should, God did His.  He stretched out His arms and opened His hands to catch those falling parts, loose bolts, wires and all.

Safety.

Amazing to me how people can go through this life with all the bangs and falls and not turn to the Lord.  He’s there, patient, waiting, ready…with outstretched arms and open hands.  Nail scarred hands.  Hands that did no wrong but took the fall for us all.  That’s a wow in my book.  And because that’s such a huge wow, it makes me sad to think of those who reject His gift.  And it makes me wonder why, why is it so hard for some to give their hearts to God?

I think the why is because we don’t want to accept that someone is sovereign over our lives,  that there is someone greater that we cannot control, that we can’t shape and mold to our own way of thinking, that we can’t influence and we can’t charm to get our own way.  God comes with boundaries and clear lines drawn in the sand and I think we feel that when we accept God we will feel compelled to bend and change our thoughts and actions, that we lose who we are, that we lose control over our own lives.  Flash – we don’t have it anyway.  We can make decisions and choices and try to control our own destiny but when it comes right down to it, we are at the mercy of things outside our scope of influence all the time.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean perfection or rose-strewn paths; there is hardship in our lives and pain and grief and sorrow and mistakes and mess ups.  We’re human. Being a Christian isn’t about rituals and rules, either; it’s about a relationship between God and the believer, a relationship based on faith, a relationship based on trust and love.  And it means when we haven’t tied the wire right, when we’ve let the bolts fly off, that His Word grounds us, His voice whispers words of forgiveness and hope, His peace fills our heart, His strength holds us up, His comfort never leaves us, and His hands catch us again and again when we fall.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

No picture with this one…no one photo would fit because they come at us at different times in our lives, through different events and circumstances.  Sometimes we’re the children, the innocent ones, the ones who love them, are bound to them, the casualties of someone else’s mess.  Sometimes we’re the catalysts, those who cause the hurt and pain and horror that impacts and scars and burns deeply into the life of others.  Either way, there’s always that question that crops up somewhere.  “Why would a good and loving God let this happen?  I can’t believe in God because of this.”

There are so many things that happen in the world that shatter us, that freeze our faith wherever it is and cause us to keep it at a distance.  The senseless, unexplained things that happen seemingly at random.  It’s so hard to look kindly at others who aren’t there when we are because we wonder, why us?  What did we do?  Why aren’t we worth whatever they are?  Why is it easy for some and tremendously hard for others?

I don’t have a great answer. 

What I do have is personal experience with pain and trials and suffering.  And I have asked those questions.  And there have been times I’ve screamed at God in anger for what was happening because the hurt was so intense it seemed I wouldn’t recover.  

Somewhere between becoming a mother and growing my relationship with the Lord something hit me smack between the eyes.  We had Aaron and we had another child we were in the midst of adopting.  She was a year younger than he was but something in her young little life caused her to do very terrible things to Aaron.  One day I came home while my mother in law was babysitting them and this little girl was sitting on top of Aaron choking him and he was bleeding from having been repeatedly bitten on the face.  My mother in law was screaming while holding an empty pitcher, the contents of which she had dumped on the girl child hoping to shock her into stopping the assault.  Without a word, I immediately  wrapped her tightly with my arms and got her away from Aaron and into her room; I then examined Aaron and determined he would need stitches in his forehead.  My mother in law commented that she didn’t realize things could get this bad with this little girl, but she was proud of how I handled what needed to be handled.  

I think of that time as a one of hardship, pain and suffering, and going out of my comfort zone and into fire. Not being tough parents but making hard decisions that hurt everyone at the time and caused great emotion, but much later those decisions were seen to be spot on, to be exactly what was needed when it was needed even though they came with costs.  I know the Lord was with me, us, during that time, but everyone in our world looked at us askance, many even condemned us.  

It made the pain worse, so much so that sometimes I questioned it.  Why weren’t we good enough?  Should I, we, have just let one child beat the snot out of the other all the time?  What about if I let my kids go play in the street and then get mad at the cars that struck them because I didn’t set boundaries for where to play and step in to enforce them when needed?  Is it okay to let a child do whatever he or she wants without interference so long as they are happy doing it?  Here, Sally, of course you can put the fork in the outlet…you’re having fun.  None of us think that is in any way reasonable, right?

But we expect that of God.  We expect him to sit back and just smile on whatever choices we make and then make darn sure nothing happens to us when we stick that fork in the outlet.  And when it does, we get mad and we stop believing, stop having faith.  

Or maybe we were the innocent ones and other people were pushing the fork in the outlet, people we love and trust and look to protect us and care for us and treat us fair and right, but didn’t.   Where, oh God, were you then?  Why didn’t you swoop in and save us?  Why did you let us go through this?  Why, why, why?

That’s the hardest of all.  And I don’t know if we will ever find an answer this side of Heaven.

But I do know what we will find here on earth if we want it…we will find God was with us, we will find that nothing touched us without passing through Him because He gives us the tools we need to go through whatever it is…if we believe and turn to Him.  He is the comforter, the healer, the maker, the creator…and wants us to know we are loved through any and every circumstance. 

How?  How did God show me that when all the awful and terrible was happening?

Maybe it was the strength you had to go through it.  Maybe it was one kind soul who you could turn to.  Maybe it was a special animal that you whispered your hurts to.  Maybe it was a book that let you escape your world for an hour or two.  Maybe it was the something in your heart that kept telling you to go on, go on, you can do this.  Maybe it was anger, anger that you turned to determination, something good and useful and purposeful, to help you not be the person who hurts others like that.  

But you hold on to the anger with God and the disbelief because if you give even a tiny bit of your heart there, you’re afraid it’ll break again.   

Fear.  It’s fear that traps and holds us.  

What if the truth hurts more than what happened?  What if the truth is that whatever happened to hurt you really has nothing to do with you?  

When we made the hard decision to let this little girl go to another family, one thing kept running through my mind…this might not be about me, us.  This might be about her, her needs that we aren’t capable of meeting.  And though I was blasted, criticized, and  ostracized, this little girl went to a place where she got the help she needed, found the parents who could meet her where she was, and give her all she deserved.  It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about Aaron.  It wasn’t about us.  We were the fall out, as unfair as that was, but years later, it was good.  

Ah, you say, this isn’t the same as my hurts.  Hurt, pain, grief and suffering are still hurt, pain, grief and suffering.  It’s what we do with it, how we live with and through it, that makes us who we are.

Believing is a choice, too.  Believing and accepting God’s promises.  And when that happens, faith occurs.  Faith is believing in something we cannot see or touch, but life gives us experiences that, when lived in faith in Christ, crushes doubt.

We have a good God.  Bad things break our hearts, minds, bodies, families, marriages, homes, etc.  God is still God.  And He hasn’t given up on you. 

 

  

 

  

A friend was recently telling me how hard it is to talk to her dad.  Like me, she’s 50 ish and she relates that her father was always…not there.  She recalls when chosen to be on the cheer squad in high school rushing home to tell her parents and her dad said, “You think that makes you special or something?”   She relates that when she married and they had their first fight, she made the mistake of crying to her parents and her dad said, “I don’t know why he married you in the first place.”  She remembers when her mother passed that her heart was broken and she turned to her dad for solace, he said, “Crying won’t change a thing”, and to this day remains distant toward her.  She says, “I never felt like he really claimed me as his daughter.”

My heart bleeds for her pain.

My Daddy is a retired military man so there was always travel, always moving, always distance.  Some of my earliest memories are of the smell of his aftershave, the crispness of his uniform, and driving him to the edge of town where he’d hitch a ride to his duty station (think 60’s).  He always had silly stories to tell, would sing crazy songs, and tease us every which way he could to get a belly laugh from us.  When home, he cooked and the smell of pot roast or scrambled eggs and sausage sent us in dizzy delights.  My parents divorced, and though I didn’t have the day to day time with him, I have two boxes full of letters as testament to his love for us.  A younger me didn’t understand what was written between the lines.  The older me reads those letters and aches with pain for the younger dad.  There was never a doubt that we were loved.  Never a doubt that he was there…and that I was, indeed, loved.

In 1982 as a married young woman, Mike and I lived near the same city as my dad, his wife and two children.  At that time, I had not lived near my dad or had much contact with him in over ten years.  It was a terrible time financially for Mike and I, but I wanted to be near my dad so we moved to Huntsville.  We were so very poor and lived in a roach-infested apartment.  We had a an outdoor picnic table for furniture.  Life was hard.  On Valentine’s day he dropped by on his way home from work and walked in with a vase of three roses and sat them on my counter.  We talked a few minutes and as he left I reminded him that he’d left his wife’s flowers on the counter.  He looked at me, smiled and said, “Those are for my darling daughter.” 

I cherish those words to this day.  I still have the vase!  Those words were claiming words!  Just as God claims us, my Daddy claimed me with those words!   With those words, the past was the past, and a fresh day had begun. 

My dad had a triple bypass this  year.  It was harrowing to get an emergency call while at a conference in California, work my way back to Phoenix on stand-by, and then fly back praying he would be alive for me to see him.  He’s there…we’re here…but love knows no distance.  How blessed I am that he  not only got through that rough spot, but has recovered wonderfully. 

Our relationship is email after email of updates, jokes and tidbits of information.  I treasure each one.  I have come to rely on my Daddy’s wisdom, wit, and easy-going, laid-back approach to whatever is happening more and more through the years.  I love that he doesn’t judge, but he does support, encourage, give advice when asked, and turns my thoughts to the Lord.  Every email proclaims that I am his daughter.  Every email says I love you.  I never thought I would have what I have with my Daddy, but I am thankful that I do and I can’t imagine being without it.  

I am doubly blessed in that with both my Daddy and my Bob I have experienced two incredible father-daughter relationships.  Because of this, I believe, I have tremendous faith that continues to grow as I continue to grow my relationship with my Lord.  

Fathers, Dads, love your children and accept them for who they are.  Don’t let the circumstances of life keep you from letting your little boys and girls, and big boys and girls, know that you claim them as dear, that you cherish them for who they are, yours.  So many things don’t matter but somehow we have a way of making them a matter of contention, hurt and pain.  We use them as walls that stand between what the relationship should be and could be if we’d just reach over and pull the other one close.  Love heals.  Love shouts “YOU ARE MINE!” and there’s nothing that can change that. 

Thank you, my Daddy, for who you are and what you are in my life.   Thank you for your unconditional love.  Thank you for our most precious relationship that I value more than I could ever say.   Thank you for your love of butterbeans and cornbread that can turn a sour day into something mighty sweet after all!

Merry Christmas.  I love you.

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