Friday, November 30, 2012

Outer and Inner Beauty...

Part 1:  Outer Beauty...

I've mentioned before that my mother was admittedly vain.  There were many reasons for this.

First of all, she was gorgeous.  

Her hair was naturally long and  blonde. Later in life, it gracefully grew into a wonderful silver.  She never dyed it.

I don't remember ever seeing cellulite on her thighs or buttocks.  

My mother modeled professionally, sometimes in a bikini, when she was in her mid thirty's AFTER having given birth to her three children.  

Where my mother's sister was valedictorian, my mother was beautiful.  Where her sister was a concert pianist, my mother was beautiful.  

You get the picture.  

This became my mother's worth, in her mind.  This was why she felt valued.  This was her identity.  She loved being beautiful and my father loved having a beautiful wife.

My mother hated aging.  She spent money on all kinds of lotions, creams, toners, scrubs, masks, make-up and gadgets to help her look young. 

Once she bought a skin toning machine that sent electrical pulses to facial muscles making them contract and twitch.  Billed as a non-surgical face lift, believe me, it didn't feel pleasant.  

When she discovered they didn't work, she'd give them to me. Except for the machine.  I'm not sure what happened to it. I don't think I've ever gone to the Nordstrom's make-up counter and purchased any type of facial product.  

I just used what she gave me.

Recently, my father decided to clean out all of her stuff from their bathroom.  

It filled four grocery bags. 

Here's a very small portion of what I kept. There's eye cream that's like Spackle, lip plumping salve, reverse gravity serum and face firming potions.   

I also discovered disposable contacts to make her eyes bluer.  I tried using one, but just couldn't quite get it into my eye.  But if you notice my eyes look especially vibrant blue one day, you'll know I succeeded.

Surprisingly, my mother never had a real face lift.  Maybe because she didn't like doctors. But with a cruel twist of fate, she did have two facial surgeries to remove basal cell carcinoma. 

The first one was about five years ago.  

She had a spot below her eye next to her nose that she prayed over.  She also applied natural ointments. We would tell her to go to a doctor and get it checked, but she refused, saying God would heal it.

Eventually, it grew so large my father made her go to a doctor.  She was diagnosed and had a very substantial surgery.  When it healed, I was amazed at what a great job the plastic surgeon did.

Sadly, my mother told my neighbor that because her family did not agree with her in prayer for her healing...God didn't heal her.

I was dumbfounded.

Later, she told me it wasn't really cancer.  The doctors were wrong.

I was dumbfounded again.

I hesitate to share these stories about my mother, because I don't want you to think she was crazy or that I didn't love her.

My mother coped with her life in the best way she knew how, by grabbing onto a theological system of faith with the tenacity of a pit bull, even though it didn't fit her reality.  

And she never let go.

I wish her reality had matched her beliefs...

I loved her very much.

"Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.  The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear of God."
Proverbs 31:30

Next Part 2: Inner Beauty...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Angel Chimes, Christmas's Past and a Broken Camel

My father brought over my mother's Giant Angel Chimes.   She's had them since I was a child.  

He and my husband put it together, lit the candles and the soft, gentle melodic ringing began.

Instantly, I was a child again, remembering how my brothers and I loved those chimes.  Hovering around the coffee table, faces as close as we could get, mesmerized by the turning of the angels and the sound of the chime.  
We were hypnotized. 

In time, the enchanted faces and ears were those of my four daughters and then finally my son as they watched it spin and sing.  

My father brought it over tonight at my request. 

 I want to see my precious, four year old, grandson stare and listen intently.  
I want hear his million "why" questions.  

I want to capture the look on his face.

Such feelings overwhelmed me...

I remember happy Christmas's as a child and some not so sweet.  

The year I got my K2 snow skis was a good year.  We were a skiing family and spent every weekend on Mt. Hood in our little cabin, flying down the mountain by day and sitting by the coal stove at night.  But my parents always fought about Sunday, because my mother wanted us in church not speeding down a mountain.  Sometimes we visited the little community church in the area and then headed up to the mountain.  Later, we discovered a small gathering of worshipers who met in the lodge on Sunday mornings.  Even better, the sermon was short leaving more time for the snow.

I remember a Christmas when my brother and I sneaked into my parent's bedroom and began rummaging through their closet. Our folks were gone for the day.  Knowing Santa wasn't real, we thought perhaps our Christmas presents were hidden there.  We were right! We pulled each item down and gleefully examined them.  Then carefully replaced them.  My parents never knew.  On Christmas morning we opened all of our gifts knowing what each package held.  There were no surprises that year, though we pretended.  It was a sad and disappointing Christmas for me and I learned my lesson well.

Then there was the Christmas our tree came crashing down in the middle of the night.  Most of mom's beautiful hand blown glass ornaments she had collected for years broke into a million pieces.  She cried.  My dad fixed it as best he could securing the tree to the wall with fishing line and eye hook.  

After that, my mom gave up on collecting anymore glass blown ornaments.  

My mom loved beautiful things, but beautiful things break. 

Eventually, my mom never put up a tree or decorated in any way.  My dad said for the last five years he would put out the Giant Angel Chimes and light them.  

Now they are in my home where they belong.

Just behind the angel chimes is a hand carved wooden camel.  He was carved in Lebanon, Israel and belonged to my grandmother.  My mother's mother.  At one time, there were three of them in a caravan, but over the years they'd been lost.  My mother gave me the last existing camel the first Christmas after my grandmother passed away.  

He stood proudly on my fireplace mantel.

That is until my husband accidentally knocked him down late one night.  I was already in bed and didn't discover him until early the next morning.  His head and one leg were broken off.  My husband had attempted to glue him back together, but it hadn't dried yet.  

I cried. 

I cried thinking about my grandmother and mother gone before me.  I cried thinking about how it feels as if many of the things I hold dear get ruined or broken.  I cried because I knew this holiday season would be my first without my mother.  

I cried knowing I've missed mother for a long time, even when she was alive.  

The camel is glued together now and standing tall on my coffee table.  He'll never be the same, but he is mended.

Just as God is mending my broken heart, little by little, slow by slow, steady stitch.  

Someday the holes will be healed over, but there will always be scars.

I am broken.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Questions for God...

Why bother, God?

If I remember all my Sunday School lessons and  many years of church sermons correctly...

 You are omniscient.  That means You know everything that was and is to come.   You've always existed and You always will.

And You are three in one, the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So why did You bother?

Why did You create angels?  
Why did You create the earth?
Why did You create humans?  

You created angels to serve and obey You, KNOWING one would "fall" or "sin" by wanting to become like You. You cast him out of heaven.

Did you create Evil-Sin?  Where did it come from?  Did it always exist?

Then You created the universe, earth, plants and animals and then the first human, Adam and finally a second human, Eve. 

All the while KNOWING they would listen to Lucifer in the garden and chose to "sin".  You KNEW they would listen to Lucifer and You banned them from the perfect garden.  

Since then humans have suffered for 6,000 years with: war, famine, earthquakes, floods, heartache, loneliness, pain, murder, betrayal, sexual abuse, jealousy, torture, suicide, disease, genocide and more.

In fact, there was so much evil, at one time in history, You sent a flood to destroy every living thing except  three men and their wives and some animals.

You KNEW this would happen.

You KNEW,  so You sent Jesus, the Son, one of the Trinity, to become human.  The plan all along, because You KNEW.

And He suffered and died and rose from the dead and ultimately ascended back into heaven.  The Trinity all together as One again.

All of this to Save us.  To give us Heaven one day, where there is no more suffering. 

But until then we humans CONTINUE to suffer: disease, suicide, murder, war, torture, sexual abuse, genocide and on and on it goes.

And You KNEW all this.

So why did You create us?  
Why bother?

I'm told we are to glorify You, to worship You, to magnify Your Name.
I'm told You want a Relationship with each of us.  

In my little finite, human brain, this seems sort of... EGOTISTICAL.

Why not just go on Being? 
Why not just continue existing as the Trinity?  Forever and ever? Not creating. 

Do You NEED us?
Do You have to CREATE, because it's Your nature?  Maybe You cannot NOT create.
Do You have to be worshiped?  Be glorified? Have Your Name magnified?  And be relational?

If You had not created all this, if You had just EXISTED without creating, would suffering NOT exist?

Why did You bother?

And yet, I KNOW Jesus became HUMAN and SUFFERED...and I KNOW He KNOWS me...because I SUFFER too, after all I'm HUMAN...His creation.

Jesus Wept.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Surprises of Life...

It was an ordinary Halloween Day.  

Walking in the nature park is routine for me.  I love watching the trees and prairie change with each season.  Misty and quiet, water hung on the trees and grasses that morning. The light was soft and filtered. 

And as I rounded the bend I looked up to see a four point buck!

He froze, standing tall and regal intent on me and my movements.  The rain started softly falling and then I noticed his doe standing just in front of him.  And yes, there was a young one with short velvety points.  

All three statue still staring back at me.

Slowly I opened my umbrella.  They jumped and moved, the buck putting his head down, pushing his doe forward with his antlers.  Reluctantly she moved a little.  Then they stopped and stared again.  

  I didn't move.  
I was in awe.  
     I was in worship.

My counselor talks about creating space in my life.  
Space to process my grief and my life.  
Space to soak in God's creation and be fully present. 
Space to connect with Him.

Later that day, I went to my counseling session.  As I left her office I began walking towards my car.  The sun had come out and glistened off the wet sidewalk covered in red and yellow leaves.  The gutter was full of rain.  

Tentatively, I thought, "I feel hopeful again.  It's going to be ok."   

My spirits had lifted by the buck that morning and my conversation with 

And then I tripped catching my boot on a crack in the sidewalk.  I walk at a fast clip and so my momentum pulled me forward as I lost my balance and I knew I was going down.  Somehow I rolled landing flat on my back in the rain filled gutter just behind my car.

"I'm actually lying in the gutter!" I thought and I laid there taking it all in.

And then I laughed out loud.  
It felt like the whole world was laughing with me.
And I was happy.  

Ah, the surprises of life.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Turning water into wine...

When I was a child my mother and one of her best friends, Pat,  filled a drinking glass with water, set it on their kitchen window sills and declared to all of their children and husbands that Jesus was going to turn that ordinary glass of water into wine.

He had done it in the Bible.  He would do it again...for them.

Pat and my mother, Patty, believed with all of their hearts that Jesus would perform this miracle.  Pat had three children as did my mother.  Pat's children and husband laughed and snickered behind her back.  I'm not sure how or what my brothers or father felt, I on the other hand was confused.

I would come home from school each day and glance at the glass of water.  It was still water. An ordinary glass of water sitting on the kitchen window sill.

 I would go to Pat's house to play with her daughters and yes, the water in the glass on her kitchen window sill was still water.  Pat's daughters joked about putting red food coloring in the water just to see how their mother reacted.  Her husband laughed that he was going to dump out the water and fill it with real wine.  I don't remember that they actually followed through.

One day, I came home and the glass with it's water was gone and it was never spoken of again.

This is a perfect picture of my mother and her faith.  All of her life she prayed and believed with every ounce of her being that God would perform one of her miracles.

He never did.

We never got that private jet she said we should have so my husband could travel to Africa with ease for his ministry work.  She never got that seed money of 3.3 million dollars which she had sown by generously donating her money to that televangelist.  Jesus never healed that spot on her face and she had to have plastic surgery to remove it and repair the damage...twice.  My mother would command the wind to stop in Jesus name or declare the sun must shine.  She never begged God for her desires.

She demanded them.

My mother was a broken, hurting, gorgeous woman who lived in denial of real life, because reality was too painful.  She couldn't be present when her grandson was diagnosed with cancer or when he endured a year of treatment and a year of trying to fix the fall out from radiation.

It was too emotionally painful for her, she said.

She couldn't visit her own mother when she lie dying in a stark, sterile hospital room all alone.

It was too emotionally painful for her, she said.

Reality did not match up with my mother's world view.

This became more extreme as she aged.

Yes, this thinking and belief system messed me up.
Grieving her has been complicated.

What my mother never learned, as I have, is that Jesus stands with us in the pain.  He is Present when we journey through childhood cancer or the tragedy of a son's suicide or the death of a parent or the murder of our loved one.

And that Presence is often seen and felt and known through us, His people.

We are Jesus, as we grieve with our friends, as we carry their burdens, as we hurt with others.

My mother could never accept that we lived in a broken hurting world.  She often said it "should" be this way or it "should" be that way.

But it never was.

My mother missed out on His Presence.

His Presence in the pain and heartache of Life.

The Bible sums it up this way:

Jesus Wept.


Frozen moments...

There are moments in life when time freezes and your brain focuses on one small detail before your eyes.  And you realize life will never be the same, that your world as you knew it has shattered and you have no idea what is next, but all you hear in your head is some insignificant sentence going round and round your brain.  

"Wow, look how beautiful that tree is.  It looks like it's raining golden leaves."  

I was perched on a hard wooden chair next to a soft chair where my friend sat weeping.  I held her hand as she shook and I stared out her living room window at the sun shining through a gorgeous golden tree while the leaves fluttered softly down to the ground like snow.  

Only four and a half hours had passed since  9 am that morning when she had found her eighteen year old son dead by his own hand.

Time was frozen.  
Her son was gone.  
Golden leaves were fluttering down to the ground like feathers.

"Look how the candle flames dance and shimmer around the photos."  

Multiple candles glowed in the dark room where music, soft and peaceful filled the air.  I lay on my mother's bed listening to her steady breaths as she lie in a coma in the hospital bed just a couple feet away.  Overwhelmed with emotion I began praising God in my head.  My baby brother and his new wife from a foreign land quietly knelt beside her bed. The gentle sounds of their voices blended in perfect harmony as they sang and prayed together in French.    I was in a sacred place.

Time was frozen
My mother was dying.
Candlelight flickered off of an old framed photo of my mother, young and fresh  sitting next to me, two years old with thin scraggly hair and freckles. 

"He sure looks tall and strong, but why are his pants too short?"

I sat in a tiny airless room off of the side of the main surgery family waiting area with my husband and a number of his male friends.  I wished I was alone. The doctor walked in and sat directly in front of me and softly reported that the biopsy surgery went well, but yes they had found round blue-cells in the tumor. 

Time was frozen.
My four year old son had cancer.
The doctor was tall and strong with glasses, short brown hair and he wore his pants too short. 

In each of these frozen moments, my life was completely altered along with the lives of others.  
We are all connected.  
In each of these frozen moments, Christ was with me.
In each of these frozen moments, Jesus Wept.