Posted by: graceunbound | February 24, 2010

This crazy thing called love

Last Thursday a Virginia state delegate made an incredibly thoughtless comment about disabled children being punishments to women who had aborted their first pregnancy. This left many of us wondering, “What sin, then, did I commit?” It left others thinking, “Then why do my adopted children, whose mothers chose life, have disabilities?” And it was, no doubt, a searing pain to the heart of those who have chosen abortion and are already bearing the emotional consequences. But this is not a post about that man. It is not a post about disabled children being a curse. I think that Jesus settled that question quite nicely when asked of the man born blind “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” His answer? Neither.

That question is settled in my mind. Instead, this post is about the flip side of the coin. This post is about all of the people who tell us we are blessed, we are strong, we are amazing because of some random trick of the genes, some accident, some collision of environmental factors that has given us the children we have. By this logic my sister-in-law with the autistic son is more blessed than I am with my Asperger’s son. The parent of a child in a wheelchair is more blessed than the parent of the child who walks on legs of different lengths. All children are blessings. End of story. God didn’t look at any of us and say “Wow, I really love them so I’m going to give them a child with special needs.” Am I blessed by my son? Absolutely, but it is because he is my child, not because of anything he is or says or does.

Here’s a secret for those who think we are so strong, so amazing, possessing some indefinable character trait that no one else has. We aren’t. Sometimes we cry ourselves to sleep because we are exhausted from caring for our children, whether it is the endless round of caring for a child with severe physical needs or the emotional ups and downs of caring for a child whose brain just doesn’t work like that of other children. Sometimes we wish for normalcy, and then feel guilty because we love our child and wonder if we have just wished away all that makes them most special, most lovable. We will always be just a little bit jealous of those who seem to sail through life with ‘normal’ children. The unknown of our child’s future seems very big and very dark, how can we help our child navigate it when we don’t know how ourselves?

No, we don’t have any more strength than any other parent. We don’t have a patience that appeared magically as a gift along with our child, it has been forged through trial and error just as the patience of every other parent is forged. What we have for our child is simply the thing that every parent is gifted with: Love. Crazy, wild, uninhibited love. Love that will keep on loving even when we want to cower in embarrassment because of something our child has said or done. Love that keeps on whispering “I love you” to our child long after other children are saying “Wuv oo” to their parents in the belief that someday they will repeat those beautiful words back to us. Love that forgives the tantrums, the meltdowns, the raging because we know in the end after all of the emotion is spent they will return to our arms.

Oh, to be loved with a crazy love like that! And you know what? We are! We are all God’s special needs children, each with our own flaws, our own hangups. Sometimes we blurt out things that must surely embarrass him (I’m looking at you, aforementioned state delegate). Sometimes we rage and kick and scream. And yet he waits, patiently, lovingly for that moment when we come running back to his arms. Over and over he whispers to us “I love you.” Day after day he waits for the moment we will turn to him and say without prompting “You know what, God? I love you too!” I know how I felt the day Gates first said “I love you” and I knew it wasn’t just a parroting back of words. I know how it feels now when he says it nearly every day, when he spontaneously turns around and runs back to give me a hug. It’s a crazy thing, this love that keeps on hoping, keeps on loving, keeps on forgiving.

That’s all I have to offer, no special gifts, just crazy love. Love that is renewed every day because I know that I am also loved with the crazy, wild love of God.

Posted by: graceunbound | April 27, 2009

Seasons, sadness and joy

This is the post I don’t want to write, the one that has been nagging at me for the past week, the one that I’ve been putting off. I need to just write it and get it done with.

When I started this blog just over a year ago it was, in a way, a personal journal of my journey, my musings about faith and life as I struggled to learn how to let grace lift me so that I could begin to soar. As I honed my mission statement it became a way of trying to encourage other women, born out of a deep desire to see women blossoming into the full potential that God has given them. I have loved this season of blogging, and it has brought me joy to see that many times my words have actually touched the hearts of other women.

However, lately I’ve been feeling that perhaps this season is over, at least for a while. I love writing, but I’m sensing that this is something that I need to give up and give back to God. Is it a dry spell? I don’t know. I keep running into other things that confirm the thoughts I’m having; the Bible Study I’m currently part of, and this post by Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer among other things. The thought of not sitting down and posting my thoughts makes me sad, but at the same time I have a peace that this isn’t the end. God has given me this gift and he will not take it away forever. I still have a passion to see other women experiencing peace in their lives and freedom in the day to day struggles that often bind us with cords of frustration, bitterness or exhaustion.

I’ve tried bargaining with God. “OK, I’ll quit posting, but can I at least do 7 Quick Takes Fridays and Then Sings My Soul Saturdays? Stuff like that?” The answer feels like ‘no’.

So, I’m stepping away indefinitely, hoping and trusting with all my heart that something good will be born out of this. I am sad, because I’ve loved sharing my thoughts, loved the process of writing something out, but there is also a freedom and joy in taking another step into the unknown. I’ll be leaving the blog up for the time being because I may return to it eventually.

I’m blessed that you have taken time out of your days to read my rambling thoughts. I WILL still be nosing around on everyone elses’ blogs. Who knows what the next season will bring? I hope that for all of you it brings sunshine, joy and peace.

Blessings to all of you,

Loretta

Posted by: graceunbound | April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009

Over the course of this past year I’ve noticed a wonderful trend. Green living is slowly moving out of the fringes and into the lives of a larger part of the population. Last year at this time I was that crunchy oddball who brought her own bags to the store. This year on any given shopping day I see roughly 50% of shoppers bringing their own bags (thanks in a large part to the stores promoting and selling their bags at a reasonable price). This year ‘green’ cleaners are starting to take up more and more shelf space and major cleaning product manufacturers are getting in on the act. More people are experimenting with home gardens. Green is the new selling point.

I like this trend. I derive a lot of pleasure from trying to live green, to live simply, to live sustainably. If you’ve already started making changes in that area…awesome! If you haven’t, it’s never too late! We’ve been given a beautiful earth to inhabit and care for, let’s treat it like the precious gift that it is.

Today I’m compiling a list of links that I hope will help you either start or continue on your journey towards living green.

The first link is a great starting point. Simple Mom has a list of 40 simple things you can do to go greener at home. Pick one, pick a couple and get started! (I REALLY tried for that 5 minute shower this morning, that’s going to take some practice.)

Green cleaning. I’m really getting hooked on this. Yes, you can buy commercially packaged green cleaners in the store. Use caution though, that cleaner marketed by the big label cleaning company may tout it’s ‘natural’ ingredients…but natural is still a largely unregulated claim on products. An item can also be natural and still not be sustainably produced. And let’s face it, the cleaning products without the benefit of a behemoth company behind them can be pricey. Your best alternative? Make your own! I’m finding that it is much easier than I ever expected it to be, and I love being able to customize the scent of what I’m cleaning with. (In my world, everything smells like peppermint.)

Some links for making your own green cleaners:

Clean & Green  Fantastic list, broken down by area, of how to use common household items as cleaners, as well as recipes to make your own cleaners. I should note…this is NOT my site, even though we share the same not-very-common first name.

Natural cleaning recipes from Green Living Ideas.

Finally, if we really want to make a difference, we need to be teaching our children about the importance of caring for the earth. Green Living Ideas (again) has a great article on preparing kids to live sustainably.

I hope these links give you some good ideas. Take that first step, or that next step. And get out and enjoy nature!

Posted by: graceunbound | April 21, 2009

Love, Like

Today as I dropped Gates off at school we did our standard goodbye routine.

Me: Have a great day at school!

Him: OK, I will!

Me: I love you!

Sometimes he ignores this last line, sometimes he doesn’t (usually he’s too busy running towards school). Today he answered. “I love you too, mom.” Pause, then he turned around again, “But sometimes I don’t like you.” And off he ran, leaving me to wonder what prompted THAT this morning.

It’s ok, really. I don’t expect my children to like me all the time. I’m a parent, I’m going to make decisions they don’t like. I’ll survive the moments when they don’t like me, knowing that as they grow in maturity they will start to understand why some of the decisions were made. But even after the moments of not liking me it always comes back to love. Snuggles, hugs and laughter, we can’t escape the fact that our lives are intertwined and we know we would be lost without the safe place of our love to fall back into.

As I was driving home after dropping him off I began to think about that statement and my relationship with God. Sometimes I feel the same way. Sometimes I want to say “I love you, but right now I don’t know if I like you.”

When my husband spent a year after we moved here looking for a job, I didn’t like God very much.

When I began to realize that my perfect child had developmental delays, I didn’t like God very much.

When I see pictures of starving children, I don’t like God very much.

When natural disasters kill hundreds or thousands, I don’t like God very much.

When I know in my heart he wants me to do something that I don’t want to do, I don’t like God very much.

When I struggle to make sense of some of the things in the Bible, I don’t like God very much.

Yes, there are moments when I just don’t LIKE God. As I grow I begin to understand some of those moments in a different light; I begin to understand the why behind what happened. Some of it I know I’ll never understand while I’m alive on earth. But underneath it all is the current of love, a love that will not let me go, a love that I don’t want to let go of either. His love is my safe place to fall when the world doesn’t make sense…when HE doesn’t make sense. Just as Gates knows he can count on my love enough to be honest about not liking me sometimes, I know that I can count on God’s love. Even when I don’t like him.

I love you, God. Sometimes I don’t understand you and I don’t like you, but my life is intertwined with you. I would be lost without you, without your love. I’m glad that you love me unconditionally, even when I’m acting like a child. I’m glad that after the times of not liking you I can still turn to you and say “I love you,” and know that you are loving me too.

Posted by: graceunbound | April 15, 2009

No earthly reward

The other day Gates got out the playdough to play with. Later, when he had returned to the basement to play something more physically stimulating like “Throw yourself off the couch and bounce off of the exercise ball” I went upstairs to grab a drink of water. Imagine my surprise to find that he had, with no prompting from me whatsoever, cleaned up and put away all of the playdough and tools. This, quite frankly, was a day to mark down in the history of our family. I went downstairs to immediately reward him with some verbal positive reinforcement. His response after I thanked him for being so responsible was, “Do I get money?” Never mind that we’ve never paid him for chores before, I’m not even sure where the idea came from other than an offhand comment made the other day that if he wanted more money he needed to do some extra responsible things. (Said after he was once again trying to talk Indy into giving over the few coins he had in his bank.) So, apparently he can remember that, but he can’t remember the five times today in which I have already told him when we would eat supper.

Don’t I operate like that sometimes? Don’t we all?

Hey, I spent FIFTEEN MINUTES in prayer today, God. Are you going to make the rest of my day blissful and easy, with peaceful children who will let me do everything that I want to do?

Hey God! I tithed! Now I’m waiting for you to miraculously provide the funds for that new set of dishes I want.

If I do a missions trip to someplace with huge bugs, will you make a publisher contact me out of the blue with an offer for a book deal?

I did what you wanted, now where’s the payoff?

Hebrews 11, the roll call of faith, lists many who acted in faith and obedience to God. Verse 13 reminds us that none of them received the promised reward while they were still alive, only glimpses in the distance of what was yet to come. And I do not think it is any coincidence that the chapter comes rolling towards its close by naming many of the horrific ways in which people had suffered for their faith. In its final verses the author declares:

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39, 40  NIV)

God had planned something better. It wasn’t about the individual and what they did or how great their faith was. The reward comes when God ushers in his Kingdom and we are all made perfect; those who are the patriarchs of the faith and those who follow in the footsteps that they have laid out. Only all together will God’s final masterpiece be complete. Only then will the fullness of his reward be known.

Posted by: graceunbound | April 5, 2009

The Church and the Kingdom

It’s 10:05 on a Sunday morning. I’m sick with a miserable cold and staying home from church, but my husband was going to take the boys. This, however, is South Dakota. And in the last twelve hours we’ve had several inches of wet, heavy snow dumped on us. Here in town it isn’t too bad, our street isn’t plowed but it would be drivable…but first the drifts in the driveway need to be cleared. And so my husband headed out with the snowblower. And stayed out. It’s now 10:10 on a Sunday morning and he still needs to shower before leaving for church at 10:30.

I don’t think he’s going to make it. He didn’t stop with just clearing our driveway and sidewalk. First one neighbor, and then another, and then another. He uses our snowblower to help out those without one, unconcerned with the passing of time. At first I fret…”Doesn’t he know he’s going to miss church?” And then I stop. He’s missing church but quietly doing Kingdom work. Most of our neighbors don’t attend church. We’ve never had spiritual conversations with them, but I know they see us heading off or coming home from church, Bibles in hand. Today my husband is being that quiet witness to them that church isn’t just about getting together in our little club to worship God, he is willing to give that up to help out someone who needs it.

It’s 10:18 on a Sunday morning; I don’t think my family will be at church today. But I think that God is smiling.

Posted by: graceunbound | April 5, 2009

At the foot of the Cross

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This post is written as part of the blog carnival hosted by Angela at Becoming Me. Check out the link to find more great reflections from other bloggers on what Easter means to them.

Easter has often been a rocky time for me. It was something we celebrated and I could quote you book, chapter and verse on why we celebrated Easter but I couldn’t have ever really said that I felt like celebrating Easter. Sacrilege, I know, a good Christian girl not wanting to celebrate Easter. But there you have it. Easter was one of those days where I felt left out.

When I was younger I felt left out because all my friends got Easter baskets full of chocolate rabbits and jelly bean eggs, most of the time we only got something if my dad’s employer handed out candy. As I got older I felt left out because I never seemed to get the pretty new Easter dresses that other girls got. Older still, and I began to feel left out because despite a world of head knowledge about the resurrection, despite baptism, despite Christian schooling, despite a professed faith I just didn’t ‘feel’ Easter. Wasn’t there supposed to be joy? “Lift your glad voices,” and so forth? If I couldn’t feel the joy of Easter, was I even any good as a Christian? It’s taken me most of a lifetime to realize that I first had to surrender at the foot of the cross in order to understand the glory of the resurrection.

Looking back now it seems pretty clear that even in my teenage years I was already struggling with depression and anxiety, and Easter coming at the end of a cold winter, more often than not being cold and wet when it arrived was not going to imbue me with warm and happy feelings just by showing up on the calendar. But my lack of joy and my inability to feel what I thought a good Christian ought to feel only added to the frustration, only fed my depression more. “Why can’t I get this right?” I would think. At the darkest moments I questioned whether life was even worth living if I couldn’t get this one simple thing right.

College came, and during those years I began to gain a better understanding of the grace and love of Christ. In the following years there were some beautiful Easter experiences. Sitting alone at the top of a hill on campus watching the sun rise over the mountains. Joining with my church for a sunrise service on a hillside overlooking rolling hills and farmland. Many years, though, Easter has just marked another date on the calendar.

Last year my frustration again came to a head. It was a difficult time, struggling once again with depression, struggling with my identity as a new stay at home mom; once again, I just wasn’t ‘feeling’ Easter. In the days and weeks that followed though I began to learn something. Easter doesn’t begin with the happy feel-good celebrations. Easter really begins at the foot of the cross, and until I begin to throw myself daily at the foot of that cross and the wonder of the sacrifice that Christ made on it, Easter will remain nothing more than a pretty pastel holiday. It’s the sacrifice that covers my sins. It’s the love involved that allows me to trust Him to carry my burdens. Easter is the assurance that Christ has conquered death, it is my future hope of eternal life.

I’ve learned something else as well. Feelings are fickle, subject to chemistry, the weather, what I had for dinner last night. Easter was never meant to be a feeling, it is a fact. I can celebrate the fact that Christ is risen even when I’m at my lowest points. I’m not celebrating the warm and fuzzy peeps and chocolate bunnies wrapped in pastel ribbons Easter. I’m celebrating the power of the stone rolled away, the empty tomb, the risen Lord appearing to his followers. I don’t have to feel anything to begin to celebrate that, I just need to bow in reverence and from the depths of my heart say, “Thank you.” And joy will follow.

Posted by: graceunbound | April 4, 2009

Lovely

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God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31 NIV)

Sometimes I find it easy to get caught up with only seeing the brokenness of this world we live in. The cities filled with concrete where car exhaust chokes the air, the barrenness of famine stricken lands and the hollow eyes of malnourished children, riots, rubble in bombed out neighborhoods a world away from my quiet street. I wonder, what happened to this very good world that God created?

Sin happened, and sin brought consequences. But I don’t think it changes the fact that everything God created is still very good. I need to be still, to look at the world and its people with different eyes. Wherever we go, whatever we see, when we look beyond the shattered shells we see the loveliness that God intended.

When I listen to the song ‘Lovely’ by Michelle Tumes I think not only of the things that are obviously beautiful, I also think of the hidden beauty, the kind that takes time to see. Flowers growing through the rubble, smiles on scarred faces, hands reaching out to give and to help. This world is broken, but the kingdom of God is still breaking through, and where it does there is beauty.

For more Then Sings My Soul Saturday visit Amy at Signs, Miracles and Wonders.

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