Wednesday, April 24, 2013

suffering around the Christmas tree


I'm not sleeping well these days.  I keep waking up from anxiety ridden dreams that make no sense.  And during the waking hours my thoughts keep drifting to places of suffering.  To Newtown.  To the face of my mother, for who life is way too big of a struggle.  To thoughts of the Bethlehem community that faced the massacre of its own babes all those years ago.  It changes the feel of Christmas.  But in some way, I think Christmas always seems to come with a mix of emotion. 

There have been other years where I have had a heavy heart, like the year my sweet friend lost the baby girl she was carrying. For all the joy and excitement and love, there seems to be equal parts of brokenness and hardship and pain without end.   It all makes me crawl up on the couch with my Bible.  It makes me long for God.  Not just the celebration of his birth, but of his return. 

It drags me back to the question without answer... Where is God in our suffering?  Why does he allow gunmen and disease to kill us and those we love?  Why does he heal and protect some and not others?  I don't see where God has ever answered this question (although some well-meaning
Christians have tried to speak for him...never a good idea to speak for God when he is silent).  I don't have answers despite pondering the question and studying it for years. 

Yesterday we said good-bye to my parents.  We had had a wonderful celebration with them and my brother's family.  Good fun, food, festivities.  Lots of laughs.  But it is not without pain.  We don't talk about it because we are not sure how much the children actually notice.  But their Grandma is becoming a shell of who she use to be.  She has lost over 50 or so pounds since Easter.  She can't see.  She struggles to put her thoughts into words and to hold her head up.  She's tired a lot.  She is truly just a shell of the woman who raised me, and I seriously wonder whether she will be with us next year for Christmas.  Part of me sincerely hopes she is not.

Part of me longs for her to be free from this body.  From this fight to breathe and eat and think.  I long to let her go into the hand of our heavenly Father.  Odd to think that one who has all to gain by death lives and those in Newtown with all to live for, they died.  Where is the justice in this?  Where are you God?

As much as my heart asks the question, my heart also knows.  God is here.  He is with us.  He is with me.  He was in Sandy Hook Elementary school that awful Friday morning.  He is with my mother every morning she awakes.  We suffer but we are not alone.

praying for those who are D positive

Today my pastor and friend, Mike Moses, has posted my blog entry from yesterday on his blog.  I gave him permission to do so because he has more followers than I do (not saying much, since I have about 5).  I would like to think my journey in the key of D could benefit others in their journey through the same chord. So today I pray for those who struggle with depression. 

Paul prayed this prayer for the Ephesians:
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints , to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.      (Ephesians 3:18-19). 

In the tradition of Paul I pray:

For those of you who struggle with depression, that you would hold tight to truth, even when it seems so contrary to your emotions, and that you would trust that the Father loves you deeply, not as a despicable excuse for a human being, but as a chosen adopted child, the one He wanted and because He wanted He pursued.  I pray that you would trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain you even in the pit, to put your foot on sure footing and to hold you secure through both the fire and the flood no matter how long it lasts, assuring you that it will not overcome you.  I pray that you would choose today to not listen to all the self-criticism and shame that wells up inside you against yourself, that instead you would choose to think some about how tenderly God is with the broken-hearted (which you are).  I pray that something small would cause you to laugh and have hope. I pray that the Father would be your constant companion, not judging you but assuring you that you are not alone, forgotten or unseen.  I pray at the close of the day you can sigh, satisfied with today because of God's love and hopeful for tomorrow because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.  May you lay your head on your pillow and sleep peacefully under the eyes of the God who never slumbers or sleeps.  Amen

Monday, April 22, 2013

My life in the Key of D

It is a typical spring in many ways around our house.  Running kids to some type of practice and watching our kids play sports they love.  We love it too.  And, like everyone else in North Carolina we and all we own are covered with lime green pine pollen.  Huck's eye are a constant shade of red and Chris is once again snoring every night.  And I'm waiting.  Because it hasn't arrived yet.  Perhaps it won't come this year...I'll get a pass and skip directly to summer.  That would be nice.

What am I awaiting?  Sinus infection? No.  Strep?  Been there and done that two weeks ago.   What I am awaiting is my fairly regular seasonal bout with depression.  Most people who struggle with depression struggle more often when its gloomy and cold (read winter), but not me.  Mine seems to bloom out on me just like the flowers in my yard:  in spring.

Our church is doing a series currently about the blues and yesterday's sermon was on depression.  For my money, Mike Flake hit the nail on the head.  I have been struggling on and off with depression for at least 20 years and by far the greatest comfort and hope comes in knowing that God is always present with me.  When I am in the pit and when I am not....I am never alone.

I especially like what he said about how we often see depression as weakness.  One of the cruelest aspects of depression is the shame those that suffer with it feel.  We always feel like we should be able to pull ourselves out of this.  Get going.  We should be grateful for all we have.  We shouldn't be so indecisive or waste so much time doing absolutely nothing....we should...we should...we should...  Perhaps the cruelest words we ever say to ourselves.  And such an enormous lie. 

"We should" is a lie that leads us to further despair and further from the arms of God. "We can't" is the weak, puny truth that brings life back.  We can't   do anything we should by ourselves; we can do only with God, and though God.   And what little or great is done dependent on God is sufficient enough, amen.  I am a strong woman.  But when depression blows through my life it is sometimes all I can do to keep food in the house (I am not even saying I prepare it; and I can't  do this and keep up with laundry).

On those days my life is reduced to the basics and my prayers become how to get through the day.  Do A, then B, then C.  Sometimes I can't even decide this on my own; at which point the woman who use to run a very successful branch of a small business calls her best friend.  I tell him my dilemma and he tells me what to do with a kindness that doesn't besmirch my already tattered dignity.  And I do A with God's help and do B with God's strength, and I try not to think about all the times I have done A and B and it was so easy that I never even thought to ask God to come along for the ride.

On these long days God's presence is EVERYTHING.  It makes me feel known and not completely alone.  It is like a shawl that I can wrap around me for comfort and to hide beneath...because the longing to hide and be invisible is great.  He allows me to be proud to have brought home groceries even if I forgot the bread (which is why I went to the store in the frist place).  I can feel proud because I walk with him doing the very little, puny, insignificant thing he calls me to and then strentghens me to do.  Today it is all I can do.  Yesterday I may have moved a mountain, but he reminds me that that was yesterday.  He hasn't called me to move a moutain today; just to go to the store and don't give up.  Tomorrow will be another day.  Maybe it will be another mountain moving day, but maybe we will just go to the store.  It won't matter because we will do it together, and this dependent obedience is all he asks of me anyway.  It's all he asks of everyone of us.

There is so much more I could say about this profound journey I walk in the key of D. But if I could leave behind bread crumbs for those coming up behind me, it would be this.  God's presence, the Immanuel, is EVERYTHING, and it is enough.