dear mama who worries

Dear mama who worries,

I will admit it. I worry all year long. September to June. You, too?

I schooled, and home schooled and schooled again through various moves in the early days of my children’s education. But in the summer of 2006, I was too overwhelmed by all that was going on in our home to take on another year. My boys had so much energy. And I was struggling to get myself out of the house, let alone out of bed.

I needed help. So we sent our middle boys to school.

Just four weeks later, on October 2, I wanted to pull them out forever.

My heart has never stopped aching since that day. Maybe yours hasn’t either.

On that day, I learned that if evil can find it’s way into an Amish school, evil can find children anywhere. And the ache deepens day after day as I understand more fully, over years and releasing just  what that means.

No matter how hard I try to protect my child from harm, I can’t be there every moment. And even if I was? I am not a super hero. I’m not even an armed guard.

The ache is a longing now. A longing for things to be set to right. For wickedness to end.

* * * * *

It is an act of faith to let our children out the door every morning.

And every morning, we commit our precious children here and far into God’s care. Whether they are 5 or 11 or 14 or 20 or . . .

And after every tragedy, whether in a school, a theater, or mall, or car, there is a time of fear and we face the temptation to pull them in close and never let them leave our side ever again. Not ever.

I think every mama on this Monday morning will say a prayer. Whether she believes in God or not. Because someone has to watch them. Someone, please.

Watch over my babies. Keep them safe. Protect them from evil. 

Oh Lord, hear our prayer.

* * * * *

I happened on a word of comfort tonight . . .

from a woman who reminded me that we begin to worry for our children before they ever leave our body.

I am a woman of prayer. It sounds bold-faced to write it down, but there it is. I write it anyway. Prayer comes easily to my spirit – perhaps it is because a former pastor of ours once told us that the same part of us that worries is the part of us that prays. I knew I could worry constantly, so that meant I could pray constantly. — Sarah Bessey

We carry our babies next to our hearts. We love them deep inside before we ever see them.

* * * * *

The world is broken, but evil is no part of God. And He sends His angels to protect. At every moment, they fight. And we pray

a Psalm of protection for our children . . .

Long ago, my favorite writer wrote a song for the children in his care:

This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
He is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday . . . .
For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.

Psalm 91, a song of Moses

Oh Lord, hear our prayer.

* * * * *

Dear mama who worries, I do, too.

But today can we breathe those worries into prayers? All day long.

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a season of sharing the work

I spent this rainy afternoon with women gathered around a table.

We watched and listened as our hostess demonstrated chopping and cooking techniques to create a soup meant to feed a crowd.

What is it about sitting in the presence of someone cooking a fresh meal that soothes? The steady rhythm of chopping, the steam from the pot, the aroma of onions and spices sauteed in butter? Is it that the cook does not skip a beat as she makes the meal just for you? While you watch. While you wait and listen. Comfort. This is comfort.

Thou preparest a table before me . . .

A hot bowl of red savory soup in the grayness of a stormy day, in a weekend of sadness. The world around is chaos. But here, in the corner of a dim sanctuary, we are breaking bread.

A scattered hum of words is spoken.

Just the sorts of conversations women who are grandmothers, great aunties, daughters, mothers of grown children have when they sit separated only by a full bowl, a full cup, a full plate. The stuff of life that fills novels and movies. Only real. Real people. Real tears. Real joys. Real life.

When the meal has ended and we prepare to go to our homes, we work together: washing dishes, collapsing and hauling away tables, setting the church to rights, loading the car with all the preparations and leftover food.

The motions are second nature. Each of us does exactly what we would alone, only there in harmony, in God’s house, working side by side.

We have been bonding over the work since time began.

Gathered at wells drawing water, gathered in fields harvesting grain, gathered at wine presses trampling grapes, gathered around rivers washing clothes.

In the common work of living and surviving we have always leaned on each other even as we do in this hour: Carrying heavy pots, folded tables, boxes of kitchen tools side by side by side. Wiping counter tops. Covering leftover food.

We are comforted, refreshed, encouraged. Ready to face the storm again.

Because of a simple bowl of soup, shared work, and living this season together.

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hope from a season of despair

I’ve been a writer at a marketing agency raising money for nonprofit organizations for the past six years. I’ve written for prison ministries, for family ministries for humanitarian aid, justice ministries, rescue missions. The stories entrusted to me help spread the word about what our clients do and raise money so they can keep doing what they’re doing.

Several years ago, on my first interview trip, it struck me that even though my life had been Sunday school, Church, mission field, Christian family, and I had had zero exposure to illegal drugs, when these men and women talked about coming to the end of themselves, I got it. Though our lives couldn’t be more opposite, the end result was the same.

The devastation that drugs and addiction bring to a person and a home are universal. Neither Dave nor I went to prison, we didn’t get a divorce, our kids weren’t taken away, and yet we came to the same breaking point as an addict on the street: God, I need help now.

As wonderfully fitting as my work is, I confess that I get discouraged. I feel like I’m writing everyone’s words but my own. My name doesn’t go on anything I pour myself into. The fruits of my creative labors are for somebody else’s benefit.

But on Thursday night I sat at a round table with co-workers and friends in an enormous room, dining on filet mignon and jumbo prawns, and witnessed contagious, hilarious generosity.  Just the sort of evening to breathe new life into a tired writer.

Items up for bid at this included float plane excursions, U.S. Open tickets, and time doing various things with people like the Seahawks’ Kam Chancellor, the Sounders soccer team, and Macklemore.

And they didn’t go cheap. The minimum bid for anything in the live auction, hosted and called by local television personalities was $1,000. A night on the Mission’s Search & Rescue Van with Macklemore sold for $25,000. A donor called in from his hospital bed to pledge $100,000.

I don’t know who these people are, but I know they believe strongly enough that broken people can be renewed to open up their wallets and give $1.5 Million to help heal them.

A man named Richard told his story. He’d been homeless and a meth addict for years, and he laid on a park bench for five days and asked God to take his life. Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission’s Search and Rescue Van found him there and when they asked if he’d like to spend the night in the mission instead of on the streets, he said yes.

A year later he’s standing up on stage at this event telling 500 people that God did take away his life. He took away the life of addiction and drugs and hopelessness and gave him a new life in Christ.

I also witnessed the very thing I wrote about two days ago. That thing about monks and how we defeat discouragement and depression and acedia with serving and working with our hands.

The keynote speaker, with a net worth of $100 Million, famous for his role on a successful TV series surprises us, “Tonight, I’m going to tell you my story.”

And his voice breaks and he says, “I’m not afraid of anything, I’m known for being a shark, I don’t have weaknesses. Except . . .” And he weeps out words of devastation, of losing his kids in a divorce.

And he says all the money and fame and prestige could not heal the most painful hurt in his life. He was in such deep despair he went to the balcony and contemplated ending his life.

Afraid of himself, he called a friend and said, “I need to help someone else right now, or I’m going to die.”

That friend sent him to Seattle where he labored at the Men’s Shelter, alongside men like Richard. Through choking tears, he tells about going out on the Search and Rescue Van with Richard and how they found a man who was crying in a park and the two of them prayed over him and served him, millionaire on one side, homeless meth addict on the other.

And in the end of his story, this broken mega millionaire says: simple acts of service fixed me.

Stories of hope and revival lead to other stories of hope and revival.

No way in my life did I ever dream that our worst season of despair would turn into a season of philanthropy. Impossible that I would heal while writing words that help raise millions of dollars to help hurting people. I suppose about as impossible as a grateful meth addict reviving a billionaire.

* * * * *

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because people do change

Spring is trying hard this year to be my friend . . . but it’s failing miserably.

From hermetically-sealed enclosed spaces, I stare out at blue sky and sunshine. We’ve had a lovely Northwest spring tease. But so very, very polleny.

Someday, I will remember I get allergies every spring when the trees begin to blossom and start taking allergy meds the moment I see the tiniest bit of green.

Which reminds me . . . I forgot to plant sweet peas. Again. Actually, I’ve forgotten to plant anything. Because one day it’s winter and the next day it’s spring and there really is no difference between the two because below 40 might as well be 40 below to me.

So here I sit, head full of allergies, exhausted from binge catching up on to-do lists of things that must be done NOW. I always wait till the last minute, and then I bury myself until its done.

Oh, and I also forgot I have a bookshelf style greenhouse. I got it for my birthday last year, and I forgot about it — of course — because it sits on the back porch and is entirely visible through my kitchen window. I think I even told the kids to set it there because otherwise, I’d forget.

Once upon a time, I had gardens. We even planted seeds — in the ground in California, indoors in little soil pods in Washington.

34-year-old me, frustrated with trying to grow tomatoes in Tacoma, is jealous of 44 year-old me in Poulsbo. And she’s slightly mad because she would have had all sorts of seedlings in that green house right now, ready to put in the dirt.

Well, she has one more night to be jealous of 44 year old me. Then she gets to be jealous of 45. And she is desperately jealous. Believe me, I know. She wrote her life in journals. And I’ve been reading them again, writing our story.

If 34 year old me had known it would be ten years before she was flooded and amazed with the realization of how much her life had changed, she wouldn’t have been able to put one foot in front of the other. Ten years is terribly long, long time went you’re waiting for things to be better.

Twelve years ago, we moved to Washington for Dave to go to seminary to become a pastor . . . which happened this year, on January 1.

Two devastating job losses, two stints in rehab, six major relapses, food stamps, homelessness and six years of painstakingly rebuilding life from messy ruins is what 34 year old me has to look forward to.

Best to let her have her garden . . . a tiny piece of serenity in a world spinning violently out of control. 44 year old me does not envy her.

* * * * *

44-year-old-for-one-more-day me has been waking up this week full of gratitude for a husband who takes such good care of me, even when I’m a miserable chore of a hacking crone . . . which sums up how I sound and look today.

Most mornings now, I wake up to fresh coffee and the rattle of keys  . . . Dave, going to drive our oldest boy into town for zero hour. When he returns, we talk about the day and he makes himself eggs for breakfast, makes himself lunch, irons his own clothes (he’s always done that), and prays over me and for all our life and loves before he walks out the door, early — as usual — for work.

After work, he does more driving kids when I can’t — and sometimes even when I can, but he’s just very kind — and an hour at the Y (his only “me” time as far as I can tell). His reward in all this is a great relationship with his daughter and three sons, 45 pounds lost, and the love and trust of his wife.

None of this happened overnight. For six years and five months, he’s taken one step at a time in the right direction — rebuilding our home brick by brick. Faithful in little to faithful in much. And he loves people and often says and does things that are hard but right to say and do, and I am startled at how he is the man 34 year old me wanted so, so badly for him to be.

Oh, and he leaves the boys chore lists.

So I don’t have to think about cleaning today. So I can write.

* * * * *

And so I write hope today instead of being mad at myself for who I was supposed to be when I woke up tomorrow: 20 pounds lighter and at least last year’s “Do it all in 2012 2013″ to-do list-of-things-that-should-have-been-done-a-decade-ago done.

I write this hope for 45 year old me who can take a step each day in the right direction, too.