Tuesday, September 13, 2011
I won the arm-wrestling competition two years in a row in high school.
My sister labeled me as "freakishly strong".
I had the nickname "tank" for about two weeks in junior high.
(Does anything last longer than two weeks in jr. high?)
But my crust is thin. And underneath, I'm a freakin' softy. I mean, yes, in the physical sense; I'm really a lump of bluugh. But in the emotional, empathetic sense, too. When my heart is close to God, the walls that allow me to insulate myself from the world are so thin. So easily infiltrated.
It's a good meter for me, actually. When I hear something terrible, and I'm like, "Eh. That's not so bad," or the Penelope response of one-upping someone else's struggle with my own lame one, or the ever popular pretend-to-care-and-forget-in-3-minutes response, I know that I've allowed my crust to get too thick. I've left too much personal space between me and God. Then I see that same person again, and I'm all, "Hi! Good to see you! How are you?" through big smiley teeth and they're all, "Well, still in a lot of pain from my surgery last week," and I'm immediately changing my face to concerned and going, "Aww, yeah. That's hard," and in my head I'm like, Oh shoot. I knew I was supposed to pray for something. Yeah. I'm a jerk.
But when my crust is thin, and then I hear some news or see someone suffering, it sticks. Hard. And I know that it's right, even though it feels horrible. Even though it disrupts my practically worry-free life. Even though it's inconvenient. We're supposed to suffer with one another. Bear each others' burdens. When Job lost everything everything everything, his friends sat in silence with him for seven days and seven nights (before they ruined it with their presumptuous, judgmental criticism. Paraphrased, "Dude, you must have done something to tick Him off." But let's dwell on the positive). They didn't even speak a word for a whole week because they saw how great was his suffering. This is fellowship.
Sometimes I think about the things that God grieves over, and I can't imagine the depth of His burden for us. For cancer. For loss. For divorce. For addiction. For our continuing disbelief. And God sits with us in our burdens, if we'll have Him.
Today, I visited with this lady I know. She's living in a personal care home, wading through the final stretch of life's waters. Her body is failing, despite the sharpness of her mind and the fire in her heart. She's nearly mute and blind because of her crippling illness. We had a sweet visit where I caught her up on the latest, and read aloud from a book she likes. All was well, and then, before I left, I had the numbness to ask her if she was doing okay.
No response. Not even a head waggle.
And then I tuned in. For real. And I said, "Hey. Are you doing just okay?"
Slow nod, yes.
I embraced her and she crumbled. She held on to me with every bit of strength she could muster. It was a long long time before we let go. I promised to visit regularly, and she cried onto my shoulder. Silent tears.
We need one another, people.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
To tell you the truth, I think a lot about posting here. A lot. Like, two or three times a week. But I get here and I just don't feel it. And I kinda like to feel it.
I get here sometimes, and I fight with self aggrandizement. Other times I fight with false humility.
I try to scrutinize my motives, and realize I'd rather say nothing than try to pump out something that wasn't fully from my heart. Even if it sounded awesome.
So, I've been silent for three months.
It kinda tells you the state of my heart. Blah.
But now I'm here. So has something changed? No. Not really. Well, except that I've just realized where I'm at. And I wanna fix it.
What went wrong? Nothing. I let life get busy, and I forgot to leave time to let God speak to me. I had things to say, but they were my things. And who cares about that? (Well, maybe a few people. But that's not what I was going for here.)
It's amazing how we can let hours and days and weeks go by without listening. I talk to God all the time. I've been in prayer. I've laid my burdens at His feet. I've spoken to my friends and neighbors and family about God and how awesome He is and what He requires of us.
But I haven't done any listening.
I'm like a kid who thinks they know how to ride a bike, saying, "I got this one, Mom. I already know how." And then they bite it in the middle of the road.
I don't want to bite it.
So, I'm going to listen. And I'm telling you, because I want you to know. I'm telling you, because I need to for my accountability. I'm telling you, because then I have to do it.
I'm going to listen.
About 30 minutes after I wrote this I read in the book of Ecclesiastes; here's what I got:
"Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few." Eccl. 5:2
Sunday, April 3, 2011
I remember nearly 11 years ago when I lost my first grandparent. My dad's mom, who was the only other redheaded lady in my family. She was a seamstress, a southern cook, and she liked to do the nightly crossword. So, you can guess why I liked her.
When she passed, I was sad. I'd put on sad music to cry a little, and when a truckload of her sewing supplies got shipped to my house, I pored over them with nostalgia and appreciation. But truth be told, I didn't really know her all too well. I had bits and pieces of her personality tucked away in my heart. I had memories that made me smile. But mostly I was sad that Grandpa was alone, now. That after 50 some odd years, he didn't have her any more.
So then this past summer when I lost both of my grandfathers, something began to fall apart in me. Wait - wait! Stop this. Stop the bus. I'd like to get off now. But the driver ignored me. And life went on.
It was a strange feeling. The grandparent/grandchild relationship can be so special. In the child, the relationship fosters love, acceptance, and a sense of history. And I wasn't ready to be losing them all.
But my Grandma Angela was still alive. My favorite of them all. My grandmother was a special woman. She had an award winning smile, an infectious laugh, and a love and joy for life that resonates with me. She was an artist, a lover of good coffee, and a health nut WAY before it was cool. ("Ew. What kind of chocolate is this, Gram?" // "It's carob. It's just like chocolate.")
As a child I visited nursing homes with her to help her with Arts & Crafts Hour -- she did that faithfully at many nursing homes for years and years. I was her assistant every Tuesday for a lot of my childhood, and she even had a custom name tag made for me. "Susana Lear -- Assistant". I still have the name tag in a special place on my shelf. It was my first job, and it fostered in me a love for the elderly that has followed me through my life.
She passed a couple of weeks ago; her body crumbled under the pressure of loneliness and age. She was suffering in her mind, so I know she's happier now in Jesus' arms.
I wasn't ready for her to go.
My cousin Niki said to me, after the funeral, "Okay, Susi. You win. You win the crying award." I was so sad to see her go. I was so mad that my kids wouldn't know her as I knew her. That it was up to me to make sure they understood what a wonderful person she was. Her passing has left me melancholy and sentimental. I mope around the house when I think of her. I cry quietly in my car on the way to work. I'm crying right now, for Pete's sake. It's still too fresh.
But life has its lessons. And whether we want to or not, we get to learn them. So here's my lesson. I realized that I wasn't the child anymore, who needed to be loved and accepted by the grandparent. (Okay, I get it. 32 is pretty old to realize I'm not a child. Leave me alone.) I realized that life moves on. I'm my mom now. My kids are me. And they have four amazing grandparents. Time is shorter than I thought. I needn't waste it.
I've moved up the generational ladder, and I'm coming to terms with that. Now it's my kids' time to know and love their grandparents. It's their time to build the relationships and the memories that will someday turn to sadness with their passing.
(But let's not go there yet. Please, God. Let's not go there yet.)
Monday, January 17, 2011
I'm jealous of me.
Recently, my friend Jen sent me the preliminary copy of her new book, Seven, which will come out next summer. It was based on the concept of Pick Five. In fact, the first line of the book is, "This is all Susana's fault." So it got me thinking of Pick Five, and my whole experience a year and a half ago.
I started reading through some of my old Pick Five posts, and I remembered the feelings, the rawness, the openness that I felt at that time. There is something so amazingly powerful in being completely vulnerable to God.
And I was vulnerable. Then.
I had simplified my life so that I could hear God clearer.
And I could hear Him clearer. Then.
But what about now?
Well, now I look back and I'm jealous of the me that existed then. I'm jealous of the relationship that I had with God then. I'm jealous of the authenticity with which I could speak of the scriptures, because I was in them every day. I'm jealous of the clarity with which I saw the world, and could feel God's love for every individual. I'm jealous of the passionate way that I lived life and expressed my love for the Lord.
And now I'm like a lump. I'm the spiritually fat, numb, complacent me. And I'm jealous for the old me.
Time for change.
"You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place." Revelation 2:3-5