Thursday, July 23, 2009

The saddest thing I have ever encountered was an infant car seat I unearthed from the rubble in an abandoned apartment and brought home with a mind to clean up and pass on to someone who needed it. The tragedy is multi-layered. First was that this car seat was partly buried under dirty laundry in a unit that would put the homes on "How Clean is Your House" to shame, especially given the brief amount of time this particular home was occupied by these particular people. The seat was filthy, but it wasn't until I got it home & took my garden hose to it did I realize how filthy. The pad behind the cover is covered in mildew and may be unsalvagable.
OK, let's backtrack a little. I work at an apartment complex. A month or so a go a young couple came in, hoping to find a clean, safe place to rent. The story was that they were going to lose their children because of the antics of the upstairs neighbours. Everything looked ok, and we got them moved in. Before their first weekend had passed they were receiving noise complaints & visits from the police, and before the month was over they had been evicted-for noise, non-payment of rent and property damage. As it turns out the young man in in this story had a court date for something & wound up in jail, and his girlfriend left, and their new home became a flop house. Excuses & poor decisions aside, and believe me, there were plenty, this whole thing was a disaster.
I guess my point is, these people had very young children somewhere, children they claimed to want custody of, and yet they lacked the basic life skills to take care of themselves much less an utterly dependant child. It has been said that you need a license to get married, drive a car or own a dog, but any idiot can have a baby. Its sad & scary & too true. All I could do was pray these anonymous children found their way to good foster homes where they might get a fighting chance. Every child deserves to be loved & cared for. They don't get to chose the homes they are born into. This mess was pure selfishness on the part of the purported adults in this story, and its heartbreaking.
I have to wonder where this couple's parents were, and if this was somehow generational. This lack of knowledge arose from somewhere. I look at my own blessedly sheltered childhood-I had verything I needed, most of what I thought I wanted, I was loved, cherished-I knew, I still know, there is a safe haven from the storms of life. I knew my parents would fight for me no matter what. I have tried to provide the same for my own children. They are my most precious blessings, and they know it. They know, I hope, that whatever happens I will be in their corners. Don't mess with the mama bear! And then I look at my ex's childhood. A life of anger, fear, abuse, abandonment. No wonder he was unprepared to be a parent himself. He tried, I know he did, but he just couldn't put the past far enough behind him-or maybe, in the end, he just gave up, refused to seek help, advice, to try to make a better life than the one he had known.
Jesus said "Let the little chidren come unto me, & do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Mt 19:14) I'm not sure now what I'm getting at. I was just so utterly dismayed by the sad story in that dirty and mildewed baby carrier. Every night on TV we are bombarded with images of suffering childen in third world nations. Maybe we need to remember there are children suffering right next door. Those of us who are compelled to serve in the mission feild need to remember the mission feild we are already standing in. And the rest of us need to remember to at least be thankful we had parents who loved us & did their best to provide for our need.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Choose Joy

Finally remembered where I was trying to head in my earlier post. Each of us has countless choices to make everyday-from the mundane: do I have toast or cereal for breakfast? Do I need a jacket today?, to the lasting: Do I take this job? Do I fight for this relationship or walk away? And yet there are those choices we often don't see as choices. Choosing to be happy, to see the good in life, in people, to speak well. Not long ago I read a quote to the effect that life is too short to be anything but happy. How true. Life is short-why would anyone choose sorrow, anger, fear? Some might argue that they didn't choose these things, that circumstance created their attitude, but then you have to ask-who is in charge of you? Of how you feel? Oh, yes, God, ultimately, but YOU choose how to respond to circumstance.
Life is frustrating. Friends hurt us. Lovers leave. Lines are long. Children are willful and challenging. And in those moments we weep, we rage, we shake our fists in frustration, wonder when it will finally be our turn. Then we take a breath. Now the choice: Do I allow circumstance to make me grouchy, bitter, maudlin, or do I use that breath to laugh at life, to choose joy, refuse to be knocked down?
Maybe it depends on the source of your joy. Does it come from external things or does it come from that secret place in your heart where heaven dwells? External joy is affected by long lines, flat tires, rude people. Internal joy sees these frustrations as bumps in the road, as opportunity to grow, to be shared.

I know it sounds great. I also know its hard to do. It is a choice, born out of the knowledge of who I am, who I belong to, who I want to be. If you're saying to yourself; "wait, you just don't know what kind of hand I've been dealt. X, Y & Z happened to me. I don't want to live like this.." Let me say this: It doesn't matter. Like the apostle Paul I could make a long list of tragedies in my life. I could make a longer list of the blessings in my life-and I do, when that nasty little voice in my head starts to whisper and point out every failing. It doesn't take long and that voice fades into the background. Some days I have to grit my teeth and declare positive things-choose joy. A paraphrase of Proverbs 23:7 might read "As you think in your heart, so you are." Try it for a day, for a week. Look for the good when hard things are in your path, even if all you've got in that moment is "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger". Its a start, it will get easier.

Look how far I've come

Psalm 66:10,12 "For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. ...We went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment"

In the past my entries here have largely been commentaries, complaints about a certain ex-partner (if he ever really was my partner). While he may still occasionally turn up here I am going to try to shift gears & make this a commentary on MY life, the things I am learning and growing toward.

I was sharing with a friend on Facebook the other day my first real encounter with my creator, how even when I tried to explain the experience away I somehow knew it was God speaking in the storm, and how amazing it is the times and ways that particular moment is brought to remembrance. This time it was a request to open the book nearest at hand, turn to page 56 and post the fifth line in the status bar. On top of my computer tower is an old KJV Bible, one I've had since I was a little girl, and not the one I use daily. Line 5 on page 56 is Exodus 3:14 ("And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said , Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.") I did not chose that particular book, as I said, it is not my usual study Bible, nor is it the book I am currently reading, and yet, there it was, testament to my inability to find a home for all of my books, with a reminder of the first time I heard God speak to me audibly. I was 13 and I was staying with a friend in Waterton. We were sleeping in a tent beside her parents' RV when a storm blew in (not so odd, if you are familiar with the changeable weather in the park). We dragged out sleeping bags into the motorhome & went back to sleep. I don't recall the dream, but I will never forget hearing THAT voice, echoing in thte night, "I AM I AM I AM" over & over, the depthof it resonating deep in my chest, the way thunder does.

Anyway....sharing that with her brought to mind just how far God has brought me on this journey we call life, and she suggested, not for the first time, that I should be writing. I realized that I need to shift my focus again, and look to what I've learned, let where I've walked serve as inspiration, caution, encouragement, even amusement for others. I truly believe that what we experience, whether by design, error in judgement or simple accident can be used to a purpose. God is good and faithful. Wherever I have found myself He has been there to bring me through to the other side.

Its been an interesting week -Tuesday at work we learned we were changing management companies, fire & rehired in a single breath. Except for a change of mindset & computer system, nothing's really changing, but still, it was enough to have some people reeling. Wednesday I had a delightful lunch reconnecting with old friends, but returned to an email from Skippy in which he said he was ending his life. I don't want to sound careless or cavalier, but he's done this before. I still haven't heard from him, don't know if he meant it or if it was a play for sympathy. Was I supposed to get on my white horse & ride to his rescue again? I had only just laid down new boundaries-a new phone number, insisting he only contact me via email, refusing to let him come to my house (to which I added the assurance I would deliver his remaining papers to him). We had an agreement about visitation. So. I emailed his room mate to see if he knew anything-he didn't. I called. Whoever it was who answered the phone didn't sound like she even knew who I asked for. A friend suggested I call the hospital to see if he was a paitient. I've decided to let it alone, weird as it is. The rest of the week has been quiet, just managing the aftermath of those 2 days. And here we are.

This has been rather disjointed, but its a start of a new thing, and like most new beginnings it will be rough, but it will get better, take the shape its supposed to have. Hang in there. I will.