Sticky Note Tuesday

So…it’s been an interesting coupla weeks to say the least…glad I don’t have to blog but can instead just tack up these notes….

To make yourself part of the sticky note parade…just click the button on my sidebar!

RePost on Mary, Mother of Christ

The following post was originally written in April. I am reposting it here again as a result of our Sunday School class discussion regarding the birth of Christ and how people were told he was coming. This morning we talked about Simeon with Mary and Joseph at the temple during Mary’s purification sacrifice.

When I originally posted these thoughts I got a few comments. I’d like to hear more of what people have to say. I think Mary is an understudied and underappreciated woman in the scriptures in my own church experience. Traditionally, our children are taught very little about her. It’s fun to delve a little further into what must have been an amazing life.

 Mary, Mother of Christ Resurrected.

 I am amazingly drawn to the life of Mary, mother of Christ. Popular culture paints her as a young woman to whom nothing extraordinary happened. She was young, naive and simple…until the day the angel Gabriel appeared to her.  Until then, we imagine, she had lived a quiet life in Nazareth, doing the things all other girls did. No mention of her immediate family, parents or siblings. But, when this angel showed up, she doesn’t seem afraid of him. Luke describes her as “troubled” and although Gabriel asked her not to “be afraid”, Luke seems to imply that she simply wondered what was up with this?! Luke 1:29 “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.”

According to the Nativity Gospel of Mary, extraordinary circumstances surrounded this young woman’s life long before this angelic visit and long before she herself was conceived.  Her father, Joachim, was greatly troubled at his barrenness. The high priest at that time belittled him saying he was unworthy of presenting his gifts before God because God had not seen fit to bless him with offspring. Joachim wandered into the pastures of the shepherds to hide himself in his sorrow. While he was there, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and assured him that he would indeed have a child. God had seen fit to “open the womb” of his wife, not to just give them children, but to bring glory to Himself. Sound familiar? This angel then appeared to Anna, his wife, and told her that she would bear a child, name her Mary and that this child would find favor with God. She would be a special child in the temple of the Lord.

According to this writing, Joseph was also called divinely to be the “root of Jesse” through which our Lord Jesus Christ would be born.  It seems that both Mary and Joseph were somewhat accustomed to divine intervention.

When Gabriel appeared to Mary, he filled her “chamber” with “great light.”  [Chap 9, vs. 3] “And the virgin, who was already well acquainted with angelic faces, and was not unused to the light from heaven, was neither terrified by the vision of the angel, nor astonished at the greatness of the light, but only perplexed by his words; and she began to consider of what nature a salutation so unusual could be, or what it could portend, or what end it could have. “

It seems to me that God would be mighty picky about the vessel in which his son would be nurtured. If God was to take the form of man and be born of a woman, a virgin, He would likely have groomed her from the moment she was conceived. I imagine Mary must have become quite used to angels checking in on her now and then, and, dare I say…she may have conversed on a more intimate level with YHWH who would ultimately become her son? It seems so fantastic and supernatural…yet she accepts it with such grace as though she always knew it would happen this way.

Christ loved his mother like no other person on earth…as I hope my children love me. As he hung crucified, he beseeched John to love her and asked her to take John as her son. Watching out for both of them as he left them behind. Unbearable heartache enjoined with unending love as the skies opened and God himself took on the pain and sin of the world in complete and utter surrender to love…while this woman who loved Him in all imaginable ways looked on. Her heart must have been bursting and breaking and flying high to be entwined with the unimaginable healing power of grace.

The Nativity Gospel of Mary as a historical account of events was likely handed down orally from generation to generation…much like our own family histories today. It does nothing to diminish the deity of Christ, rather delves into the history of his mother and I read it as a love note on her behalf.  Frederica Matthewes-Green has this wonderful essay on Mary that discusses writings pertaining to the Virgin Mary.  Many of us are afraid of her…we don’t want to fall too deeply into what some fear would be a worship of Mary on par with a worship of Christ…but I think it’s worth looking at this woman as a integral part of the life of Jesus Christ on a deeper level than just that of the birth mother.  Did she live her life waiting for her son to give of his? How much did she know or understand? I wonder, too, how much time Jesus spent with his mother after his resurrection…how could he stay away; how could she?

An amazing woman, to be sure…and one that I am desperately anxious to meet some day.

Life is Not Fair

Change the subject for a minute.

My child’s heart was broken yesterday.  Shattered and torn apart.  Every room I walk into is littered with pieces of it and desperate as I am, I can’t clean them all up. He experienced first hand what discrimination and disappointment feel like. He felt real injustice for the first time.  That soul wrenching ache under a blanket of tears that confuses, confounds and defeats us when the world doesn’t spin exactly right. Punched in the gut and can’t breathe kind of crying.

His life was touched by grown ups acting like children. Grown ups who made seemingly insignificant decisions but impacted more than the basketball season.  They forever changed the way my son looks at his peers. I see the light of realization dawning in his eyes as he begins to understand that some people get what they want by being born in the right place to the right people.  Other people get what they want by smiling sweetly and making promises (sucking up) to others. Still others just simply bulldoze over smaller runts to get to the top.

Today at 2:40 I heard his trust fountain squeak shut a bit.  It’s not fair, it sucks, I don’t understand.  Squeak.

How do I explain the stupidity of selfishness to a child who, up until now, has trusted in equality?  How do I keep him from losing sight of his own integrity if he sees others get the big prizes by manipulation? How do I get him to accept defeat graciously if the adults in his life can’t get a grip on that? How do I make him feel better?

Yesterday, my son’s heart was dropped and shattered.  Today it’s mending but it will never quite fit the same again.

Yesterday he learned how tiny he is.

The Love of the Father

In early October, 2006, a man walked into an Amish school armed with rifles, pistols and deep pain. No one will ever understand why he chose to execute a group of young Amish girls; we don’t need to. It is the aftermath of that day that will live forever in the lives of so many people all over the world and the consequences of his deeds are far reaching in ways that no one expected.

Three nights ago, Andy and I witnessed God’s healing and grace in action. We were invited to visit with a little 8 year old girl who bears the scars of that day in October. I will call her Miss S. Andy was one of the people who treated her that day. I remember the evening after the shooting, he was telling me how feisty she was. With the extent of her injuries, he tried to intubate her to help her to breathe and she kept pushing him away. He desperately hoped that meant she would make it through. She did. And when we walked into her kitchen she ran up to him and laughingly said, “I look better than I did the last time you saw me!”

As we sat in their living room, we heard her father’s stories of how brave she was, how miraculous her healing and what an impact she had on the staff at the hospital who worked with her. He told of daily visits to the hospital, relying on others to drive them. Only on Sundays were they unable to be with her. Aunts, grandfather and parents; someone was always with her. As he spoke, tears threatened to fall, but he had a never ending smile on his face as he watched his daughter. Their family also lost a daughter to a bullet, but they do not dwell on her pain or death. They focus on the miracle walking around their house.

While we were there, two other families stopped by to visit. They didn’t know we would be there, it was just their normal visiting night. God planned it though, I am sure. One couple lost their daughter that day. Another man was a first responder and a member of their church and knew the girls. He had been the first to aid the little one Andy took care of.

The living room was crowded with chairs for the 8 adults and we counted nearly 12 children from age 12 to 4 weeks running in and out of the room. Listening to the Amish men speak of their experiences that day and reliving their roles was so healing for us. They asked questions of each other. “Where were you?”  “What happened next?” and “When did you find out who passed away?”.  They discussed helicopters, the speed of the police cars responding and the dynamics of the whole event in very factual terms. I felt as though I was sitting in a group therapy session. Nearly six months later, and these parents still pour out their memories and questions to eachother in order to unload their grief.

The most incredible moment for me was a conversation between the first responder and a mother whose daughter had died. He said he had been struggling with the fact that he could have identified each of the girls and let their parents know which hospital their child was sent to or what their physical condition was. But he didn’t, and it wasn’t until much later that night that parents knew the fate of their children.  The mother of the slain girl looked at him and said, “If I had known what had happend to (her), that she had passed away, I would have left the school and gone home. Instead, I stayed with my friends and waited. I am glad you didn’t tell me or I would have been alone all day.”

In our Sunday School class we are studying what Mennonites believe. Woven into all that discussion is the idea of community as a place to study scripture, learn and work together. These Amish families that night embodied that perfectly. They relied on each other to hold them up each day and listening to them talk together for hours about thier experiences was healing for them and for Andy and I.

Miss S never stopped smiling or kissing me after she opened the gift we brought her. Her father noted that the hospital wasn’t able to take the “silly” out of her when they removed part of her brain! His obvious love for her was palpable.

Both of her parents repeatedly stated that without God carrying them through they would have cracked up. They have received hundreds of letters and cards from around the world from people who want to live their lives differently and with less anger now that they have witnessed forgiveness and grace from the Amish parents. To them, that makes it all worthwhile. They even received word of a country closed to the Bible that was allowed to view footage of the event and send their condolences through their government controlled mail system. The idea that the murder of little Amish girls in rural Lancaster county touched the lives of people behind a communist curtain was amazing to their parents and made God so much more evident in the aftermath.

Miss S’s father asked me if I thought the effect of this would continue or if it was just a short lived “one day” ripple of grace. I told him that I think that his children and the children in his community will be testament to Christ for the rest of their lives. I believe that.

The love of a father for his children so close to the love of The Father for us. Amazing grace and peace where there could be so much anger and fear.

The new school building is nearly ready and the kids are excited to use it. That building itself is a testament to faith and trust.

We healed that night a little, I know Andy did. So did the parents we met with and the children playing around us. Miss S has a brand new baby sister to love and 6 brothers to take care of her. She is a little bit of a celebrity and a very happy little girl. Her scars are hidden with a new head of hair and her vision is returning to normal. She bears little outward scars of the fearful events of that day in October and inwardly, I think she’s just fine.

Amazing Grace

The idea of grace is so hard for humans to imagine. We go through our lives protecting ourselves from hurt and deception. When someone, especially someone we love, deeply wounds us, we find forgiveness to be a daily struggle. But grace, unfettered and unattached is even harder to fathom.  Throughout the past months I have found myself in a position of receiving grace daily from my God. As I cling to my anger I find him chipping away at it; reminding me that I don’t deserve any better. Grace is forgiveness in action. Sometimes that requires reopening old wounds to find out how to heal them again more fully this time.  It is never easy, never painless and never fun.  But it is intensely freeing.

I remember my first and only Grateful Dead concert.  There were people on the grass in front of the band called “spinners.”  They would extend their arms, get up on their tiptoes and just spin around and around with the music with their faces pointed towards the sky.  Granted, they were likely higher than kites, but even so, I found them so beautiful to watch.  Like nothing else in the world mattered except the music soaring over their heads. Todd Agnew has a song which has become the theme for my life right now. Whenever the chorus hits, I feel like standing in my bare feet on a beach and spinning and spinning while grace like rain falls down on my head. I’ve added it here with some great visual so you can share in the spin.

GRACE LIKE RAIN

This is my new theme song.

Deepening Roots…Growing Up….Growing Older

Last year at this time we found ourselves on the edge of so much change. When we entered 2006, Andy and I knew that the year was going to bring profound changes in our lives. I could almost taste it and it was exciting in an apprehensive sort of way. Nothing could have prepared us for all that happened, and certainly none of it was expected. Much of it was hard and painful; nothing was simple. And right up to the last minute of the last day of December, we were feeling things shift.

Kayleigh’s decision to move to Michigan was the first change. At the time it felt like the biggest one; but it wasn’t. The fact that she left impacted everyone in very different ways. Liam seems to have taken it more easily than anyone. He’s angry sometimes, but the kid is amazingly forgiving and, although he doesn’t understand what she did, he has decided to learn from it. He states over and over that he doesn’t want to do some of the things Kayleigh was doing because he felt the fallout and wouldn’t want his brother and younger sister to feel that way. He saw how hurt we were as parents and doesn’t want to make us cry. He remembers how rejected he felt when she wouldn’t spend time with him and knows someday Colin will look to him for attention like that. All very idealistic for a ten-year-old kid; let’s hope he sticks to it! Erin just sits in her anger sometimes. For weeks at a time she’s been moody, pouty and violent. She doesn’t understand that she didn’t do anything to make Kayleigh leave, nor does she understand that no matter what she does, Kayleigh will never be back the way she wants her to be. I can’t imagine the heartache of having a big sister who embodies everything you want to be and then she rips your heart out. Erin deserves to be angry. But she is learning to deal with anger (not just with Kayleigh) and developed some new coping strategies. That’s a good thing. Colin has stopped standing outside her door calling her name; she is now someone that comes and goes for holiday meals. He’ll certainly have questions someday and we’ll leave them to her to answer. Andy seems to easily tuck his hurt somewhere far away and to be honest I don’t know how much hurt there really is. I know I’m no longer hurt. I think we’re both just a little numb. After decades of verbal violence and psychological head games with K’s mother, we got so used to tuning out the madness. It’s been almost a year and we’re just happy not to worry so much. We love her now from a distance and I think that’s the better way for us to be. We will learn again how to be in a relationship with her, but as adults in the future, not as traditional parents in the present. Peace came to reign in our house and that was sorely needed. From this big change in our family make up, we all learned how important we are to each other and how desperately we want to stay together through everything. Kayleigh always had another parent to run to; the other kids won’t. They are stuck with us and they know that! And we will all be in it together.

The career changes for both of us were huge as well. Andy left what should have been the job to retire from to come “home” to Lancaster EMS. Less travel, less headache (and less money) were the tradeoff. But he’s so happy he did it and now has settled into his role there. Just in time to be present for the slaughter of baby girls in an Amish school. For such a time as this he was placed. Through that, Andy has been able to share his faith with his co-workers and with the press. He has learned about forgiveness (as we all have) and soon will get to meet Sara Ann and see how what he does really matters. I can’t wait for that!

My career change from nursing to sales was just wierd and unexpected but has brought rewards on many levels and it is becoming clear to me that God knows exactly what He’s doing and I should just shut up and deal. The schooling I’m starting is just another step in the road and one day ministry will be my “other job” while sales will provide the bread on the table. One has to fund the other, I think. God has a plan and His is much more long term than I could ever imagine.

Then, surgery came and went and now I wait to heal. I put that off for 13 years fearing the changes that would bring. By summer, I hope to be nearly pain free or as close to that as I can get. That just may be the most welcome change of all!

So, now we settle down in our new roles in our jobs, our new positions in our family and our new physical conditions. We wait on God to show us clearly where to go next. This year we sense His guiding hand very clearly and we know that if we trust Him, we’ll be exactly where He wants us to be.