God Made You Special….Remember That.

Thirteen Reasons Why.

 

This title kept popping up on my FB feed, or on suggested lists on Netflix. Maybe because I watch lots of detective shows? I’m not sure. Maybe because one of my kids watched it before I was aware of the heaviness of the show and the starkness of the subject matter.

 

I watched this last week, primarily to discuss with the kiddo. We’ve had some good discussions as a result, with two main aspects I keep thinking about. I would not suggest our kids watch the show, to be honest, but I would guess many of our kids have watched or at the very least have discussed the show with their friends. The age of viral topics is deeply upon us.

 

The show, in case you have not watched or heard about or read about it, follows the story of a high school girl, Hannah, who commits suicide. She leaves behind thirteen tapes, each focused on primarily one person, explaining why she took her life. The tapes are passed from person to person on the tapes, and we follow the character of Clay as he listens to the tapes. He is number nine. The story of why Hannah takes her life is filled with sex, betrayals, false relationships and fear. Loneliness. There are graphic episodes, and the scene of her actual suicide is quite graphic and stark. (Apparently in the book Hannah takes her life with pills, while in the show she slits her wrists in the bathtub).

 

I am not interested in giving a point by point retelling of the show. Two things, however, have struck me, and these I wanted to share.

 

First. There is no mention of God, no awareness of God, no exposure to God, no calling out to God, no reference to God in these episodes. Ok…maybe a reference or two. There is no one in these characters who has a relationship with God. There is no one in these characters who tells Hannah that she is loved by the Creator with a deep and tender and true love. There is no one who tells her she is an image bearer of the One who can love her purely.

 

How utterly different could this story be if someone had spoken Gospel to her. If someone had told her of the redeeming love, the pursuing love of the great God?

 

We have to tell those around us that they are loved. We have to speak and not simply hope others will. We have to watch for those in our midst who need to hear the reality that they are loved and not forgotten, and there is a God who changes everything. The absolute vacuum of anything spiritual in the lives of the kids on this show was stark to me.

 

“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.” – Brennan Manning

 

 

Second. Sex. This is at the root of so many of the problems in the show. There is a reason sex is dealt with in Scripture. There is a reason we are given guidelines. Sex is not something to be treated cheaply, or to be toyed with. Especially in the volatile emotional teen years. Sex has such a deep impact on our psyche, on our identity. The bonding of one human to another so intimately….changes things.

When our identity is void of the reality of God, sex holds even more weight. When sex becomes common place in our relationships, when it becomes so casual, the weight of its implications may not be felt until later. The identity of these kids, and they are still kids, is marked by the impact of sex, of rape and of alcohol. They are tailspin. That is too much to carry in the season of life when they are beginning to find their identity as more than children. When that is even more amplified by gossip and rumors…it is no wonder despair results.

Sex should be a beautiful, life giving, wonderous act. Sex should fulfill and deepen a relationship, but when it is shared with so little commitment, or when it is taken forcibly, it shatters the person.

 

When I was in high school I was an awkward kid. I desperately wanted attention and I was too emotional and dramatic for my own good. I was a mess. I also got plugged in to a church early on and it probably saved me. I had a good home life and a good life overall…but that doesn’t always matter. In the midst of things it can seem like your life is the worst ever. In high school everything is amplified. Every insult, every slight, every hurt…it plays again and again in our minds and we can turn nothing into something life shattering.

 

I also got involved with an older guy. We never had sex, but he pushed me beyond my comfort level. It changed me. Thankfully, I had others around me who spoke life, and who spoke of God. Others who reminded me of my identity in Christ.

 

I struggled with thoughts of suicide. I never came to place where I was willing to follow through…never made plans. One night I was the closest as I drove home from church, and I don’t remember what had caused me to be so upset, but as I drove home my thoughts of suicide were interrupted by a car accident. My own.

 

The point is…suicide has been an option and a thought for a very long time. Thirteen Reasons Why is not new.  Teen years are tough, and they have been for a long time. It is the season of figuring things out, the season of finding out friendships are not always what we think, and relationships are exciting and terrifying. The one thing that is new is how quickly rumors can be spread and images or gossip shared. That is part of Hannah’s story in the show, and the impact of rumors and gossip is validly given exposure.

 

Does the show glorify suicide? I agree with Russell Moore, the show does not glamorize suicide, but it makes it an option:

 

“In order to provoke tragedy in a hurting teens life, no one needs to make suicide glamorous; one only needs to make suicide plausible.”

 

The show makes much of what happens in the wake of Hannah’s suicide, and in some ways makes an argument that there is redemption in the characters as a result. Things change. Her death is a catalyst for honesty and even for repair of some relationships, while others end tragically themselves. Apparently, after reading a summary of the novel the show is based on, the show moves far beyond the book. The suicide scene in the show is stark and tragic. Hannah slits her wrists in the bathtub. The book has her take pills.

 

The point is that suicide does not have to be glamorized…it only has to be an option. The show absolutely makes it an option. For those kids who are struggling, who are feeling lost, it would absolutely not be a good show for them to watch. Those of us who are far from the teen years and all the angst, it might be worth watching at least parts as a reminder of all the emotional stress these kids are facing. Hannah’s story may be amplified and sensationalized, but it was a good reminder to me that the kids walking around with their heads hung down and even the kids who are outwardly over cheerful..they need to be seen. They need to not be invisible. They need to be reminded they are loved. They are special.

 

And our kids…they need to hear it from the start, and they need it repeated throughout their lives.

 

 

 

 

You are loved. Life can be terribly hard, and it can be incredibly wonderful. Learn to find that wonder…seek it out and hold on to it because there are times you need to remember the good.  They need to hear as they are older the realities about sex…and why it is not something to be treated cheaply because it is so intimate and precious.

 

 

Life is precious. Life is tenuous. Let’s be gracious with these kids around us, and with the adults as well. Let’s remember what a story can look like when it is completely void of God…the hopelessness and the thinking that there is only one solution. Let’s remember that in God is eternal life is in His Son. (1 John 5:11) Let’s be quick to listen, and quick to share the hope we have.

 

The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. – Buechner

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Levity, Laughter and Love

Whew. I opened my computer today and was greeted with powerful news. News of parents praying with fervor for terribly sick children. News of missing children. News of murders and fear and stress…

 

Powerful news.

 

It can take our breath away. It can cause our souls to be downcast. Beyond downcast. To not be able to breathe.

 

Thanksgiving falling in the midst of all of this?

 

Whew.

 

I leave tonight to go back to New Mexico to spend Thanksgiving with my Dad, going through some of my mother’s things. She will be there, and yet she is not there. Such a limbo this Dementia places upon us.

 

Still, 14 of us will gather for Thanksgiving and I know that we will laugh and we will shout and we will eat, and it will be good. Then we will look through things and remember so many memories of laughter and of good, and of trial as well.

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” – Tolkien

 

The laughter is all the stronger, and more healing, when there is mourning mixed. I know this to be true.

This morning I stumbled upon a couple things which brought some light, and some levity, to the powerful news. It made me realize how much I needed some levity, and maybe others do as well. I’m sure most of you will catch this video elsewhere, but I love it and want it here as well.

 

Laughter. I am so thankful for laughter. And music. Books, as well. Coloring books even.

 

Thanksgiving….gratitude for so many things. Even in the midst of peril and darkness, great gratitude for laughter and love.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:15-17

Dirty Socks and Beauty

Oh the difference a week makes!

 

Last week I was still humming in the glow of the conference I had just attended. Tired, yes, but still warm and filled with thoughts of beauty. Filled with hope and with an eagerness to stir imagination in my children. Filled with refreshment from conversations and music and feasting.

 

Today? Well, today there are dirty clothes strewn about the house upstairs. They haven’t quite made it to the laundry room. The laundry basket is overflowing with clean clothes which need to be put away…I was tired after the third round. There are still a few dirty dishes in the sink which couldn’t make it in the load last night. Sweatshirts and shoes are in various places around the family room.

 

Library books are stacked on the kitchen table, next to the decoratively cool turban squash. And an empty Jones Soda can.

 

Somehow there is an empty hair gel container also on the kitchen table…Maddie has been emptying out the bathroom for me.

 

We have a leak in the fireplace that has come under the marble and soaked the carpet during the days of Noah we had recently. Beginning to dry out, but it left an interesting smell and we had to wait until the rain stopped before someone could come to look at what is wrong. Hoping that happens soon.

 

Ah, basking in the beauty.

 

Life is busy; crazy busy. Steve is swamped at work with a project which will culminate the first full week in November. Until then he is working seven days a week. Sports are in almost full swing. Practices are happening and games being attended. Biblestudies are happening and church events. Field trips. Tutorials.

 

Life.

Full and busy and constant. 

Dirty dishes and laundry and leaks.

 

Beauty and afterglow has a hard time elbowing for room. I would love to sit and read for hours, but I have lesson plans to figure out and grading to tend. Where do I fit in this imagination and wonder and creativity?

 

Some seem to do it with an elegance and grace that amaze me, while I feel disheveled and harried. Tacking on my wonder while I hide the dirty laundry.

 

Deep breath.  

That was what I needed.

Mondays are generally a bit messy. I find it difficult to get my rhythm back after the weekend, and I want to start with some silence. The house always bears some battle signs from the weekend, and I know I need to tend to it, but first…I need to tend to my soul. That is part of what I learned last weekend.

 

Beauty, and tending to beauty and imagination and wonder, is not a luxury nor an extravagance. It is a necessity. A priority.

 

That deep breath that gives the strength and the calm to face the litany of things needing to be tackled. It’s not just dirty dishes and laundry. It is parents aging and friends struggling. Jobs with great stress, or friends with no jobs and the great stress of ends not meeting. Deep breath.

 

I need the strength I find in the beauty and the wonder to carry me through the tasks at hand. All of them. Loving well, tending the things in my care…living well. 

So the dirty dishes and the laundry and tidying will wait just a bit longer.

 

A strong cup of coffee and the porch and ancient words of prayer await.

 

Messy Monday….meet a resolved heart.  There will be beauty and wonder here in this house this week, even if a dirty sock is poking out somewhere.

Hello Instagram, Meet my Dirty Dishes.

You know those pictures I post of food and of when the house feels warm and cozy and clean?  Those pictures of when I’ve been cooking our favorite meals? carnitas

Pictures like this

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Pictures of when things fall into place and there is a peace that settles on the home. When the home feels more like a sanctuary…when it feels like I hope for it to feel and like I desire.  A home that is inspired by articles like I find at Art House America.

I have to admit, though.  There are times when things simply do not mesh.

There are times when I feel like I am running to stay ahead of the day, and I am just barely keeping up pace. I don’t have the lessons planned far enough ahead. I don’t have the groceries bought. I don’t have the meals planned. I don’t have on hand what I need. The kids are just enough more energetic than I am and it is keeping me on edge because it is highlighting the fact that I am falling short.

That is when the house looks more like this:

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Yep.  Not a lot of healthy, home cooked, green wonderful veggie-type food there. Meds. Flung to and fro, mixed in with all kinds of snacky type food.

Oh, and the sink…well…we’re really keeping up on the dishes today as well:

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It actually looks much worse in person.

I would have taken a picture of the laundry room, but I had to stop and clean up the cat vomit and got distracted.

Here’s the thing.  In the middle of this we have accomplished math lessons and reading, we have learned about Hittites and Canaanites, about the battle of Troy and about the Judges of Israel.

We have laughed heartily.

We’ve been to the grocery and the orthodontist and on the way sang loudly to TobyMac and Taylor Swift.

I rocked Maddie, after stepping over her toys that were scattered on the floor, and I sat for a few minutes holding her and just breathing her in. Just being with her…even though I didn’t have a few minutes. Because, even though I am far behind on duties; on lesson plans and menus and laundry, I am still in the middle of a life full of promise and hope and love.

We’ve been doing life and sometimes the chores get a bit sloppy because life gets backed up. I have the tendency to get edgy and grouchy when I know I am behind on the duties that I am responsible for, and I can take that out on the kids…because I know I am falling short. I desperately need a pause button so I can get caught up.

Those pause buttons are hard to find and the duties and the stress can continue to pile up. But we have to find those pauses…when we are rocking the babies, or listening to the laughter of the older kids…or looking at our kids sleep.

And then everyone else is still posting pictures of great meals and clean houses and clean smiling kids on Pinterest and Instagram and FaceBook. We’ve all seen the posts, and we’ve all read the blog articles telling us not to stress over them…but sometimes we need another reminder.

So here is another reminder.

Don’t stress.

Everyone has the back-up of dishes in their sink sometimes. Everyone’s cat, or dog, or kid, pukes on the floor at some point 😉

Everyone feels the need to hit the pause button…we just don’t always post that on Pinterest or FaceBook or Instagram all the time. We like to post the good side of us. And sometimes that makes it really tough for all the rest of us to say that we struggling and that we are hurting and that we are lonely…or disappointed…or …. whatever.

But we need to say it and we need to not swallow it down and try to just ignore it and shoulder on, because it just becomes bigger and harder to swallow down.

So…go ahead…post pictures of your dirty sink on Instagram and tell the world you need a day to pause! Recognize your limits!! Before they become something larger than they need to be.

Because we have an enemy that will take something small and twist it and turn it and poke at it and fester it until it becomes something it never needed to be. He will take a silly picture of someone enjoying life, posted on a social media, and make you feel less about yourself.

Listen…the successes and the joys of our friends do not diminish who we are…they simply are the joys of our friends. Let them be that, and rejoice with them. That’s all.

I promise to post some unflattering pictures of our life in the coming months 😉

For now…remember that the One who cares for us cares for us in the midst of the life we are in, right now. Not the life we hope for, or the life we wish we had. Not the life we hope to create.

Right now…with the promise that He is the One who is Faithful to bring about the life we hope to create. He is the One who can bring us to the place where we are loved and whole and well…and where we have peace even with dirty dishes and cats who vomit.

And that….is privilege.

I have to confess that I grew up with a fair amount of privilege.

We had some pretty great toys as kids, and we grew up able to to hang out on this great space in Colorado in the summers especially…riding horses and motorcycles and exploring.

Most all of that was due to having a Dad and a grand father who were diligent in their work and who were wise and who blessed us. We didn’t always know how blessed we were, and we didn’t always appreciate it…and we didn’t always know the sacrifices that were made so we could enjoy these adventures and this life.

Now, when I’m a little older and hopefully a little wiser, and more importantly now that I am a parent as well, I am aware of how special my life has been. I am also aware of the privilege we are in the midst of now. This privilege is different, and yet it is also the fruit of my Dad’s diligence and his sacrifices.

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This is the privilege of watching my mother age in the care of those who love her, and I am aware that it is a privilege. There are so many who are simply not able to keep their loved ones at home because of the need for constant supervision…but we have been able to do so because my Dad has made that sacrifice and my brothers have as well, along with my nephews. These men take great care of this lady.

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That is pretty remarkable.  

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So on this trip I was able to chip in some of the time and watch Mom, to take my part in caring for her. To be part of the privilege of seeing her in the moments of confusion and know that even though that look of lostness comes over her…to know that she in a place filled with laughter and with children. A place filled with memories and filled with thought and care…a place which she designed to be welcoming and hospitable to those who would come. A place made to be home. Sometimes that makes things all the more difficult because if she was in her “right” mind she would be rejoicing in these moments and she would delight in this laughter and the place would be alive with her touches of hospitality. There are times the awareness of her dementia makes that sting…and it should. Brokenness hurts and reminds us that this is not as it should be.   Still…in this imperfection, she is in a place where she is known.

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She may not know it, but she is in a place which embraces her, and in the moments when she is silent and does not have words, or when she is flooded with words that simply repeat and express confusion…she is still surrounded by laughter and life.  She is not left on her own or isolated, and when she has those moments where she is alert…there are those there to laugh with her and embrace her.

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And that is privilege.

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And the richness of that privilege is not lost.

I spent much time this trip with just Maddie and Mom. It always amazes me how children just accept things and Maddie never was troubled that there was something amiss with Grandma. She would light up and embrace her, kiss her, or scold her…whatever the situation called for…with great enthusiasm. And she drew Mom out.

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That was privilege that could not happen in a “home”.

I think often of Madeleine L’Engle’s book, The Summer of The Great Grandmother where she talks of the last summer with her mother, and I think she would smile at our gatherings in Colorado. Our generations mix and aging happens in the midst of development.

The children learn that we are frail, and they learn that we have to not be afraid of that and sometimes life is hard…but it is a lot easier when we handle it as a family in the midst of a place filled with laughter and life and memories.

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And that is privilege. 

Plans to do….something great.

The other night we were hanging out at the inline hockey rinks. Zachary had requested his birthday party simply be hanging out with his hockey buddies and playing hockey. After a weekend of…playing hockey. The kids loved it, though, and we played until it got dark. Then we pulled out glow sticks and attached them to the kids helmets and sticks, and we used glow-in-the-dark balls instead of pucks. I parked the truck next to the rink and would “charge” one of the balls with the headlights while the kids used the other one.

One of the parents standing with us mentioned that this would be one of the memories of the kids of their summer. Mom standing there charging up glow-in-the-dark balls while the kids played as long as possible. They didn’t even want the chocolate cake…they just wanted to play.

The parent’s comment caught me, though. I’ve been thinking ever since:

“What will the kids remember?”

Will it stand out in their minds that when they came downstairs I was distracted and on the computer; focused on the lives of others while they waited for my attention? I hope not. I’ve been more present to them and more intentional this summer about doing things. Enjoying them and enjoying the wonder that is summer as a kid.

Things like:

Catching Lightning Bugs (love living in the south)

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Playing with Baking Soda, Vinegar and Food Coloring

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Snowcones!

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Water Balloon fights

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Baby Pools!

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Dinners with an abundance of color and flavor

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What will they remember?

Staying up late, sleeping in, laughing and giggling.

Road trips to New Mexico.

Running outside and the feel of grass on bare feet.

Snow cones and swimming pools.

They will remember I was there and Steve was there.

They will not remember how clean the house was or if the laundry was done on time. They will not remember if the bed was made.

Lord, help me remember that those things need to be done without taking over. Help me remember to just enjoy these days.

Help me remember that these little souls are eager for affection and attention. Help me to remember that their wonder only takes a little encouragement to blossom.

Simple things. Attention. Intention. Just being present.

They laugh at me that I take pictures of our food and of them eating snow cones…but I know these days will be gone before I am ready. Taking pictures is part of my way of holding on to the moment.

I want them to know how to play and use their imaginations, but I think more than that, I just want to enjoy them. In my enjoyment I think they find a security and a confidence to just be themselves…and know that is enough.

So, this summer is all about memories of lazy things and “unimportant” things.

I have no plans to achieve great things this summer…I have plans to wear pajamas until noon and have tickle fights.

I have plans to whisper in their ears throughout the day that they are loved.

I have plans to lay in bed with them and read books.

 

I have plans to listen to them.

I have plans to look at the stars and tell them of a God who is filled with creativity and imagination…and that they are made in His image.  To remind them that they are loved by this God…that He delights in them and their laughter and their wonder. To point around them so that they can learn to look with wonder and hope and awareness.

Maybe I do have big plans after all. 

Merciful Monday.

Maturity is not a patchwork affair assembled out of bits and pieces of disciplines and devotions, doctrines and causes. It is all the operations of the Trinity in the practice of resurrection.

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 494-495). Kindle Edition.

Yes, yes, I am still reading Peterson. Yes, I do still intend to write more posts as I work through this book. Nope, I’m not ready this morning.  I am reading and thinking, but not quite ready to write…beyond the above quotation.

The last month has felt like a whirlwind. Sports have been in high gear, school has been on that final push, Maddie has been testing the waters of turning 2. Curriculums for next year needed to be chosen, registration for tutorials had to happen. Add three birthdays within a month of each other and Mother’s Day into the mix…and I’m feeling ready for summer.

On the way to the orthodontist the other day we stopped by the library, I picked up a new book and barely made it past the first few pages. A Measure of My Days is about a young country doctor practicing in Maine. What caught me immediately was his description of his morning routine: waking up at 4:30, turning on music, making coffee and taking two hours to read and write. I breathed that in and realized how desperately I miss that sectioned off and protected time to feed my soul.

I have not done well with carving that time into my schedule in the last month, and my soul is weary and frazzled. I cannot survive just on the blessings of Sunday morning.  I need those moments of reading truth from others and finding their root in the Bible. I need that silence…or that music couched solitude…to grow my soul.

The quotation above from Peterson has held my attention, though, because just carving out that time is not enough. We cannot throw together a recipe of the right disciplines and devotions that will guarantee that we mature in the faith. We cannot expect to just mark the things off our list and feel that we have accomplished our pursuit of God sufficiently.

The working of the Trinity in our lives…the reality of the Resurrection in our souls…the breath of the Spirit in our bones…the imagination of the Creator in our minds.  This is what we need.

What I need.

I am frazzled with momentary things, with things that have their place and their importance, but which need to take their rightful place in the momentary and the mundane. My soul does not need to feed on the gossip of FaceBook and the trivia of television.

My soul needs the reality of the Resurrection. My soul needs the disciplines and the pursuit of God…but my soul needs that couched in the working of the Spirit.

I’m not sure that I can do 4:30. I’m not a morning person. School is done, though, and this morning 6am brought silence and peace and the calling to seek God.

I’m not seeking a patchwork of “right” things…I’m seeking God.

I am thankful that I can start afresh this morning and focus on Peterson’s book, focus on some things I want to think through. I am thankful for the refreshing of habits that have been neglected.

So…Merciful Monday this morning.  I have time to tidy the house and to sit at my table with headphones on and read. Think. Pray. Write. Repeat.

Care to join me?