Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Laughter At A Funeral

My brother in law died in April 2009. 

Photo taken by Melodi2
Tensions were high that morning as we prepared for the day filled with overwhelming emotion and numb brains. The Counting Mutant was the designated speaker of the eulogy. His brother had committed suicide. People filed into the small funeral chapel. Family seated together in the front rows all with tears creeping down, their faces filled with confusion.

Two decades before I sat in this very funeral home. In high school, a friends’ sister was killed in a boating accident. She was barely a teen. Not long after we again met to bury their mother killed in an automobile accident. Those memories invaded my mind as I sat next to my sweet Mutant. His stoic nature created a calm demeanor. I knew he was struggling though, deep within his introverted self. The last natural son of his father, the duty to speak had fallen to him.

Music started to play. The collective hearts in the room began to sink. On queue, the Mutant walked up to the podium. I braced myself. He shakily began his carefully crafted speech.

He was so brave. His voice quivered just a little, his gaze connecting to each person in the room as he spoke those first few sentences.


To my horror that sweet man drop his face and gazed at the podium. One of his hands flew up to cover his eyes as he shook his head. My friends grabbed my hands in comfort as we watched him shutter a little. I heard everyone supportively hold their breath as we waited for him to gather himself. After a few moments he lifted his face. With a changed expression on his face the eulogy was eloquently finished. Something happened in that moment to lighten his burden. I wasn't sure if it was resolve or…

The day was bittersweet. Tables decorated with flowers and butterflies lined our backyard. Ducks glided along the water of the lake. Hugs, Friends and family who hadn't seen each other in years softly laughed about my Brother In Law’s antics. His life was our focus. It didn't matter how he died.

Hours later The Mutant and I sat completely drained. For the first time in days we were alone. The task of the funeral completed. Sunset colored the lake in ethereal golds and reds. In the stillness we sat together outside at the empty tables littered with bits of dirty dishes yet to be cleared away.

A flicker of his hand covered face jogged my memory. I cautiously put my hand on his arm. Our hazel eyes met and I asked, "What happened during the eulogy?"

Frown lines melted and laughter filled his eyes, "As usual," he began laughing,” Just as I began to speak your parents walked through the door. Stood looking confused then quickly found a seat. I had to stop talking because I was laughing so hard. They will be late to their own funeral."

A Mother Life

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Counting Costs

Originally posted on February 4, 2012

Her eyes widened. Behind the swirl of olive, gold and brown her mind swam desperately for an answer. With frustration and twelve-year-old honesty she answered, "I don't know what it means."
I turned to her ten year old sister across the table. "So, if you had to choose Jesus over your Mom, would you do it?" Her jaw dropped and a rim of tears warmed the corners of her eyes.

We were studying Luke 14:25-33:

 "Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 'If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Photo take by jeltovsk
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?  For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' 

Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple."

I remember as a kid, listening to this passage and feeling terrified at the contradiction. Sunday School taught us the Colossians 3:20 words as the answer for everything, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord." 

Now Luke was telling me that I was to love God above everything else, even if it meant hating my parents.

What is a good Christian kid to do?

When I asked adults in my life, the fumbled answer was: just ask Jesus into your heart and read the Bible. It will make sense if you don’t have any sin in your life. 

I think they were just as confused as I was about the whole thing.

In preparing for this Girls’ Bible Study breakfast, I knew the something better was required. As I prayed and pondered it hit me; maybe Jesus' words meant exactly what they meant. It was not a flippant arbitrary statement.

Then words these words echoed: count the cost.

Photo take by xandert
For my Grandmother, the cost of her becoming a Christian was disownment from her family. God brought my Grandfather, who introduced her to the Gospel. She spoke proudly of the Jesus who loved her enough to give her hope. She counted the cost and loved Jesus more.

I realized it doesn't mean expecting disownment or rejection because of a response to that holy call. It means to stop, and consider what I am willing to give up. The choice is not consequence free. Friendships may be lost. Family abandonment or employment may change.

How often have we prayed never pausing to consider the cost of the answer? Patience is prayed for and what follows is a difficult season. I hear friends respond with flippant sarcasm, “I prayed for patience and look what it got me. I won't pray for that again."

My response to those girls was this: Counting the cost is stopping to think. If I choose an action, am I ready for the result? If I ask to grow closer to God, am I ready for a season of dependence? Do I pray for someone's healing without pondering the possible damage from the metamorphosis?

Counting the cost looks like a conscious and purposeful prayer motivated by hunger to understand God better accepting whatever the consequences. When I pick up my cross, I am choosing his method of answer and laying down my own. This action grants me the grace to endure.  The result always is an unexpected answer: I fall deeper in love with Jesus.

More than anything I want to see him more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly, Day by Day.

A Mother Life

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mommy Nugget: Flying the Coop


Are they a gift?

Some call them a curse. A Mother’s saying is, “I hope you have a child just like yourself.”

Men are told they have daughters if they were unkind to girls in their teens-Karma.

Each time I held my new born child and felt the wonder of the moment I was aware of the weight. The power to influence this little person to change the world, or destroy it. Every word, action or intent will leave a fingerprint on their soul.

Filled with terror, I would get away within the first few weeks to cry out for help from the Divine. God knew this child. Within the secret place of my womb Divine Love knit together DNA, cells, synapses, muscles and skin. He knew the number of their days.

And… I was responsible. Would I give them roots and wings or a millstone around their neck? At the end of my days, standing at that beautiful throne, I would need to give an accounting of what I said or did.
Photo taken by wallyir

God and I came to an understanding: I was a steward.

These little people were only moving through my life. I did not own them. Their visit would only last 18 years at least. After that, the relationship would become more of a mentoring than authoritative. I needed to remember that. God had a plan and a path for them. It probably would not agree with my visions of grandeur. God deposited talents and a calling into their heart. I realized that my job was to teach them how to hear that Still Small Voice and follow it.

The truth is, my voice will only carry them so far. Once they are out of earshot, the will be listening to something: a teacher, peers, their own grand schemes…

The terror assuaged, I focused on the end game. I was not raising children. I was raising adults. Personal responsibility, compassion and respect would motivate all of the rules and disciplines that were carried out.

When tattling occurred, we held court. The accuser and accused each had an opportunity to state their case. Then both would examine their part and judgment levied.

Personal property was held with the utmost respect. Sharing was not demanded from the authority, it was given. If BoyA broke BoyZ’s toy then it was replaced by BoyA with his own money or effort to earn the money.

Friendship and equality were heavily enforced. BoyA, BoyZ and GirlyK were best friends. That friendship came first, above everyone else, because someday The Mutant and I would be gone and they would need each other.
Today as I consider BoyA-a high school graduate and beginning his next move- and BoyZ-a high school senior-I feel peace. I am not sad because I like who they are. I have few regrets because I savored every moment I had with them.

They were God’s greatest gift of tangible redemption to me.