Scars Ripped Open

I’ve wanted to write. ¬†I’ve wanted to lower my pail into the cool, refreshing well of ideas and pull it up gloating in it’s abundance; but I must confess, I thought my well was dry. ¬†Then, out of desperation, hope came. ¬†Maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t going deep enough. ¬†I lengthened the rope on my pail and lowered it again, deeper, and deeper, still. ¬†I heard the echoing splash as my pail hit water; felt the tug of the rope in my hands as the weight of water filled its emptiness. ¬†My heart felt it’s fullness. ¬†I pulled, marveling at the heaviness of its contents. ¬†The weight was almost more than I could struggle to pull up. ¬†Finally, I reached for the wet, dripping bucket and looked at the surface of water contained there. ¬†The ripples soothed themselves within contained walls and granted me my reflection on its surface. ¬†I look away, shamed. ¬†I know what I must write.

As I sat amongst a group of friends, the subject of forgiveness was raised. ¬†Quietly, I listened as these voices around me shared their experiences, their beliefs. ¬†“What do you do‚Ķhow do you forgive‚Ķwhen the same person hurts you over and over?” ¬†I saw tears in the eyes of some. ¬†The question itself had brought back painful memories. ¬†That was all it took for that same hurt to enter the heart of the injured. ¬†Quivering voices spoke their truths and struggles with forgiveness. ¬†I sat in my chair as if alone and kept my lips tightly sealed. ¬†My mind, though, betrayed me and let my past hurts bubble up. ¬†I constricted my throat and choked those feelings down. ¬†I wasn’t ready to share.

I believe this: ¬†that when you are deeply and tragically hurt by someone you love that it is like a physical wound. ¬†You look down at this gaping slash in your quivering flesh and it fills you with shock. ¬†Surely, you don’t see what you think you see. ¬†It just isn’t possible that someone who claims to love you could do what they just did to you. ¬†When the shock wears off, ¬†you practice some self-care. ¬†You apply whatever salve you can find: ¬†God, food, movies, books, sleep, and then, you carefully protect your wound. ¬†It helps some if the offender seems truly sorry. ¬†It is like an antibiotic that keeps the ragged flesh from festering. ¬†Finally, after time has passed, the wound closes and heals, leaving a ugly scar on your once perfect skin.

Now, let’s look at what happens when that same offense is repeated; the same offense‚Ķthe same offender. ¬†They take their finger and rip open your scar. ¬†They know exactly where to poke. ¬†They know exactly how to hurt you. ¬†The pain is magnified. ¬†The flesh that you thought was healed was somehow, more vulnerable‚Ķlike an “X” that marked the spot. ¬†Shock again hits you with its blow. How could this be happening again? ¬†How could you have ever trusted this person? ¬†Why did you let them near?

You retract to heal. ¬†This time, you seal the gash up tight with stitches. ¬†You cover it with bandages. ¬†The words “I’m sorry” ¬†don’t ring as true. ¬†Sometimes, you learn to keep your distance. ¬†You run. ¬†You find some little corner and build up your wall of defense. ¬†You stock up the things you need and prepare for the worst.

I’ve thought this to myself; I’ve prayed this: how can I ever forgive, truly forgive, if I can’t forget? ¬†It is not only the offender who can rip open my wounds. ¬†A word, a phrase, a story, a flash-back‚Ķthese are simple, innocent things that can turn what was once healed into angry, infected cuts in my being. ¬†Peace can not come when you can’t forgive.

It is easy to become filled with righteous indignation. ¬†Your own pain can blind you to the hurts you inflict on others. ¬†Bitterness is an evil companion. ¬†“Evil company corrupts good habits.” ¬†I Corinthians 15:33 (NKJV) ¬†You can find yourself blaming the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. ¬†The armor can be thick. ¬†It may protect you, but it is very heavy. ¬†Try to picture a joyous person frolicking through a glorious field of wildflowers with a full set of armor on. ¬†There is something comical about that vision. ¬†We must be free and unencumbered to be truly happy.

Now, to what really fills my soul with shame…

Picture Jesus, our Lord. ¬†He is covered with severed flesh. ¬†Each wound caused by my sin. ¬†Look at Him. ¬†Remembering my own pain, is it possible to imagine how many times I’ve inflicted my Sweet Jesus with hurt? ¬†How many times have I ripped open those gashes again and again by committing the same sin over and over? ¬†How many times have I gotten down on these knees and begged Him to forgive me?

What if Jesus were like me? ¬†What if those nail-scarred hands turned me away each time I came to Him for forgiveness? ¬†What if He remembered every blow I’d dealt Him instead of looking down on me in Love, embracing me, kissing the top of my dirty head before sending me out to try again.

I’m not worthy of this love. ¬†My reflection shows it to me every day. ¬†How can I not see that every other man, woman, and child is just like me? ¬†“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23 (NKJV)

In the words of Jesus: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. ¬†But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” ¬†Mark 11:25-26 (NKJV)

In the words of my husband, James: ¬†“That’s in the past. ¬†Every time you go back there, you know you’re going to run in to¬†something!”

Don’t dwell. ¬†Keep busy. ¬†Move on. ¬†Throw off your armor and go pick some wildflowers!

I’ll try to do the same.

Road Trip

Michelle, Me, Matthew, and Amanda (top right)

My husband, James, and I are about to set out for a road trip, heading for Savannah, Georgia. ¬†Neither of us have ever been and we are both getting pretty excited. ¬†Last night, after Wednesday bible class, good friends were telling me of their experience with the historic town. ¬†Their stories fueled my excitement even more. ¬†My mind is racing back and forth like a squirrel in the road, trying to decide what to pack. ¬†James and I aren’t planners. ¬†We like to go with the flow, letting someone else do the planning. ¬†Two non-decisive people trying to pick highways and hotels can get pretty interesting. ¬†We can get in some heated discussions just trying to pick a restaurant‚Ķnot trying to get our own way‚Ķaggravated that the other one won’t pick!

I love the spontaneity of the open road, trusting that the right hotel will have an open spot for me; I will find a nice juicy hamburger at the little dive on the right; I won’t run out of gas before the next station; my car won’t have engine trouble or a flat tire; someone will help me if I need help. ¬†Give me a map that has been folded and unfolded. ¬†Let my eyes scan the roads for my next destination. ¬†Give me interesting things to find that I didn’t even know I wanted to find before I left my driveway. ¬†Color my world with tinted sunglasses that give the reds a deeper hue, polarizing the blue sky and contrasting it with white fluffy clouds, while cutting down the glare of the sun’s bouncing rays off the car ahead of me.

One of my favorite road trips was one I took with my three children and my young brother-in-law (who was only six months older than my oldest daughter) back in 1995.  It was spring break for the Dallas school district but I was in the midst of my home-schooling project.  I had convinced their father to let me teach my children at home after two years of persuading.  I was worried about the environment they were being exposed to on a daily basis, as well as the flaws I felt were in the curriculum at the time.  Part of their new homeschool studies was Texas history.  We had been reading about the Alamo and I had decided it would be exciting for them to see it for themselves.

This trip was an adventure in more ways than one. ¬†For instance, not only had I been homeschooling, but my ex-husband and I had just started our own business. ¬†Money was more than tight. ¬†We developed a thing my oldest daughter, Michelle, worried her pretty little red head about‚Ķ”THE DEBT”! ¬†It hung over our heads like our own personal storm cloud, threatening to come flooding down on us to wash us and¬†our dreams away. ¬†I was driving an old Ford van that we had bought used from a good friend. ¬†It was clean but we had to replace the motor in it just a few weeks before my planned trip. ¬†It had no seats except the one vinyl bucket-style driver’s seat. ¬†I had the kids load up their beanbag chairs they had gotten for Christmas, along with one tent, pillows, sleeping bags, a flashlight, a cooler, peanut butter, jelly, bread, and lots of Pop Tarts.

This journey was one of many that my children and I would make together. ¬†Their father worked almost non-stop. ¬†I knew that if we were to have any adventures, we would have to go on‚Ķjust us. ¬†I wasn’t afraid to venture out without a man. ¬†Not sure, why. ¬†My brother once told me that I had Jesus riding around with me. ¬†I told him that I thought he was right. ¬†I have always felt protected. ¬†Jesus¬†is¬†my man. ¬†He holds my hand when there is no other to do it. ¬†He sends my help when I need it.

Once, on another road trip, I had a tire blow out while driving down the interstate highway between Texas and Louisiana. ¬†As soon as I pulled over, a truck driver pulled his semi over behind me. ¬†He told me he had seen my tire in distress and had been trying to get my attention. ¬†He put my spare on for me and got me back on the road out of pure kindness. ¬†I had two little children in the back seat and I don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t “been there”.

Another time, my youngest daughter, Amanda, and I were on a trip through California when my car broke down. ¬†Mind you, we were far away from anyone we knew, but we just happened to break down in Santa Maria. ¬†We had arrived there safely the night before, lucky to find a room as we had arrived just before the paparazzi. ¬†When we selected this town to spend the night, we had no idea that Michael Jackson’s famous trial was to be held there the next day. ¬†Anyway‚Ķthat morning we got a few miles down the road when the check engine light started flashing. ¬†We turned around and went to the dealership and were told that the alternator had gone out. ¬†The mechanics fixed it and as part of the service, washed and vacuumed the interior. ¬†An older man came out and handed me my keys and several hundred dollars in an envelope. ¬†He said, “Ma’am, I found this money under your floor mat when I was vacuuming.” ¬†He smiled as I sighed in relief at his honesty. ¬†I had forgotten in the mayhem that I had stored some money there to keep from keeping too much cash in my purse. ¬†Another case of being taken care of. ¬†Not only had the car broken down when I was near a town and¬†not¬†on one of the many long stretches of lonely highway we had driven on, but also an honest man was put in charge of vacuuming my car.

The spring break trip I took with those four kids back in 1995 went as smooth as butter.  With my weathered map as their guide, my children navigated me from one state park to another.  We stopped in Goliad State Park and camped by the river and told stories lit by our one flashlight.  We heard the canon fire, like it had many years ago.  We camped amongst the deer and hills of Inks Lake, the children feeding the deer out of their hands.  We saw the Alamo, thronged by hundreds of other visitors that spring.  We walked the famous River Walk.  We drove down to the coast, intending to camp on the shores of Mustang Island, but instead stayed overnight in a Corpus Christi hotel due to the weather.  We went to the ocean for the first time together that next glorious morning.  What joy it was to see my children and their young uncle taking their first jump over the lapping waves, to see Amanda hold out her fearless hand to feed the hungry gulls, to see them all laugh and play in the sand, to witness their first love affair with the ocean.  My son, Matthew talks about this trip to this day.  All my children do.  It was as special to them, as it was to me.

Road trips are a lot like life itself. ¬†You’ll be cruising along on a beautiful day and out of the blue, literally, you’ll be thrown a big curve in the road or, an obstacle will fall right in front of you. ¬†(You know, those “WATCH FOR FALLING ROCKS” signs? ¬†I wonder how many people really had time to react to one of those!) ¬†I’ve been on trips, trapped in the car with ill moods and bad tempers, clenching my teeth together while all the better-left-unsaid words hammer at the back of them. ¬†There have been trips were those bitter words escaped and turned a beautiful memory into gall and regret, looking out the tinted window with eyes blurred by unshed tears, not really seeing anything but my own misery, wishing I could just jump out of the car and run as far as I could.

Would I let those roadblocks keep me from taking another adventure? ¬†No. ¬†And, I mean, NO! ¬†Life¬†is¬†an adventure. ¬†If there isn’t a highway, find a dirt road, a trail, or make your own path. ¬†Just get out there! ¬†Put on a pair of shades, let the sun hit your face, feel the wind in your hair. ¬†Stop along the way to explore. ¬†Maybe jump in every body of water you come to. ¬†(That’s on my bucket list!) ¬†God gave us so much to enjoy. ¬†Don’t disappoint Him by sitting around watching other people’s made-up adventures on that glaring box in your living room.

Happy Trails…

1995 Road Trip

The Handoff

I used to run. ¬†Not this attempt I call “running”, now. ¬†Real running. ¬†Real racing. ¬†Legs pumping, goal reaching, side-stitching powering forward. ¬†Definitely not the fastest. ¬†Certainly not the best, but I loved it.

There were fears I faced: not winning, not pleasing Coach Felty (whom I wanted to please like a father), not doing my best.  The thing I feared more than these was the handoff; that part of the relay when it was your turn to hand the baton over to your team-mate.  What if I dropped it?  What if we lost precious seconds because of me?

We all have a handoff moment in our earthbound journey whether we run, or not.  There comes a time when we pass what we know, what we learned, what we feel to those whose turn it is to carry on the race.

I remember when my father was on his last stretch of the track. ¬†I spent hours with him, caring for him, watching over him. ¬†He sat in a chair at the table, unable to find comfort, afraid to lie down. ¬†He wanted a cigarette in his hand and a piping hot cup of coffee in front of him to sip on. ¬†It was never hot enough and the cigarette was rarely puffed on. ¬†The weight of his sickness didn’t allow him to enjoy even these vices that used to bring him pleasure. ¬†I wanted him in these moments to speak to me. ¬†As I sang hymns to him in the dark, I waited for his words to me. ¬†They never came. ¬†He¬†did¬†teach me to play a domino game called Moon. ¬†To my shame, I can’t remember how to play it. ¬†I don’t know why it was ever important to him to teach me.

This thought came to me in the middle of the night, while I should have been sleeping. ¬†It nagged at me until I got up and dealt with it. ¬†I think we didn’t have a handoff moment. ¬†I think Daddy was more like someone in the crowd, cheering or a teammate, running along-side me to encourage me to do better. ¬†Daddy was a dream-chaser like me. ¬†He taught me that I could learn to do anything I wanted by reading a book or finding someone to instruct me. ¬†He taught me this by example. ¬†He also taught me to love God. ¬†I saw his struggles with being a christian. ¬†I know he wasn’t perfect. ¬†No one is, certainly not someone who loves life as much as Daddy did. ¬†There is always that fence waiting to be climbed, torn down, or simply sat on.

Being the control freak that I am, I want to take charge of my handoff moment.  I want to tell my children now, while I am full of life and not distracted by pain or death some things that I need them to know.

  1.  I love you.  I love you all and I love you all the same.  I know children think that is something parents just say, really having a favorite, but this is my truth.  From the time I knew you were in my womb, I was thrilled.  When they placed you in my arms, they placed part of my heart right there were I could touch and care for it.
  2. I know I made mistakes. ¬†I’m sorry. ¬†I’m also sorry that you will make mistakes with your own children. ¬†It is part of what makes us one of God’s creatures. ¬†I hope that you know that even so, I never wanted to do anything, say anything to hurt you.
  3. If you don’t learn anything else from me, I hope you learn this: God loves you. ¬†Yes. ¬†You will screw up and make a mess of things from time to time. ¬†It is never too late to turn to your Maker and ask for forgiveness. ¬†He is never further away than a prayer, a earnest cry.
  4. I tried to keep your ancestors alive for you through the stories I told.  You may have tired of hearing them, but I hope you will remember.  I hope that you will carry them forward like a treasured heirloom.  Keep them and pass them down.

This is your baton. ¬†Hold tight to it while you run your race. ¬†Don’t forget to release it when it is time. ¬†Your children are standing there, panting with excitement, waiting for their turn. ¬†Their “track” may not be as easy as yours was. ¬†The world is a scary place. ¬†I don’t envy the environment they are being released to. ¬†Let them see that you will meet them where they are and that you will be there when it counts. I see you, standing there waiting for me. ¬†There are not any hands that I would want to pass my baton on to, more. God blessed me with three beautiful souls. ¬†I know you will run faster than me. ¬†That is why God put you where you are. ¬†A good coach always puts the fastest runner last. Now,¬†go!

“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus…” Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

To others that may read this, other than my own children, I hope you take some thought about passing your own baton. ¬†Maybe there is someone’s forgiveness you need to ask. ¬†Maybe there is someone to whom you held a great love, but never told them. ¬†Maybe you know a soul that doesn’t know Jesus and your heart aches with the Spirit’s urging to speak to them, to share the story of your Savior.

Not long ago, my mother told me that she, like me, had waited for some word or instruction from my father. ¬†She honored his request to be cared for and to die at home. ¬†This was at great cost to her. ¬†In the 1980’s, hospice came about once a week. ¬†My father’s cancer was quick in its work and my father suffered much because there was no one there who was qualified to monitor his pain medicine. ¬†He was never put on morphine. ¬†His pain was excruciating and Momma did the best she could. ¬†They spent all their final time together. ¬†She never got the words she craved.

After his passing, she searched the house, going through books and papers, drawers, everywhere she thought he might have hidden a last letter to her.  It was never found.  It was never written.

I believe flowers are better appreciated by the living than by the dead.  All the money we spend on funeral flowers to ease our own suffering could have just as easily be spent on flowers that they could have enjoyed.  Imagine your loved one receiving a beautiful bouquet of their favorite flowers with a note written in your own hand.  See, in your minds eye, them smile as they read your words, as they press their nose in to the soft, velvety petals knowing that they are loved.

We have the power to spread so much joy.  I pray that we will all take the time to honor that gift while God lets us hold it.  How do we best honor it?  By giving it away.

“And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”¬†Acts 20:35 (NKJV)

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”¬†Proverbs 25:11 (NKJV)