"The road to freedom for all is long and well worn," a friend wrote in a note to me today. Yes. Not only as we fight for the freedom of those who are held down, but as we work out our own freedom. It is a process to live it, and not exploit others around us. I don't intend to, but we all grope for control in this crazy life, don't we. And as parents and lovers and employers and friends, the lines blur. Let us commit to love today. To peace. And to soft answers and gentle hugs. To encouragement and building up those we know and meet.
One of the most famous stories in modern day martial arts illustrates the value of self discipline:
“A turning point in my life came one day on a train in the suburbs of Tokyo, in the middle of a drowsy spring afternoon.
At one station the doors opened, and suddenly the quiet afternoon was shattered. There stood a man at the doorway, bellowing at the top of his lungs. He yelled violent, obscene, incomprehensible curses. Just as the doors closed, the man staggered into the car. He was big, drunk, and dirty. He wore laborer’s clothing. His front was stiff with dried vomit. His eyes bugged out a demonic, neon red. His hair was crusted with filth. Screaming, he swung at the first person he saw, a woman with a baby. The blow glanced off her shoulder, sending her spinning into the laps of an elderly couple. It was a miracle that the baby was unharmed.
The couple jumped up and scrambled toward the other end of the car. They were terrified. The laborer aimed a kick at the retreating back of the old lady. `I’ll kill you, old woman!’ he bellowed. He missed, and the old woman scuttled to safety. This so enraged the drunk, he grabbed the metal pole in the center of the car and tried to wrench it out of its stanchion. I could see that one of his hands was cut and bleeding. The train lurched ahead, the passengers frozen with fear. I stood up.
I was young and in pretty good shape. I stood six feet, weighed 225. I’d been putting in a solid eight hours of Aikido training every day for the past three years. I liked to throw and grapple. I thought I was tough. Trouble was, my martial skill was untested in actual combat. As students of Aikido, we were not allowed to fight.
My teacher, the founder of Aikido, taught us each morning that martial arts were devoted to peace. `Aikido,’ he said again and again, `is the art of reconciliation. Whoever has the mind to fight has broken his connection with the universe. If you try to dominate other people, you are already defeated. We study how to resolve conflict, not how to start it.’
I listened to his words. I tried hard. I wanted to quit fighting. I could feel my forbearance exalting me. I felt both tough and holy. In my heart of hearts, however, I was dying to be a hero. I wanted a chance, an absolutely legitimate opportunity whereby I might save the innocent by destroying the guilty.
`This is it!’ I said to myself as I got to my feet. `This slob, this animal, is drunk and mean and violent. People are in danger. If I don’t do something fast, somebody will probably get hurt. I’m gonna take him to the cleaners.’
Seeing me stand up, the drunk saw a chance to focus his rage. `Aha!’ he roared. `A foreigner! You need a lesson in Japanese manners!’
I held on lightly to the commuter strap overhead. I gave him a slow look of disgust and dismissal. I gave him every bit of nastiness I could summon up. I planned to take this turkey apart, but he had to be the one to move first. And I wanted him mad, because the madder he got, the more certain the victory. I pursed my lips and blew him a sneering, insolent kiss. It hit him like a slap in the face. `All right!’ he hollered. `You’re gonna get a lesson.’ He gathered himself for a rush at me. He’d never know what hit him.
A split-second before he moved, someone shouted `HEY!’ It was so earsplitting. I wheeled to my left, the drunk spun to his right. We both stared down at a little old Japanese man. He must have been well into his seventies. He sat there immaculate in his kimono and hakama. He took no notice of me, but beamed delightedly at the laborer, as though he had a most important secret to share.
`C’mere,’ the old man said in an easy tone of voice. `C’mere and talk with me.’ He waved his old hand lightly. The big man followed. He planted his feet in front of the old man and towered over him. `Talk to you,’ he roared above the clacking wheels. `Why should I talk to you?’ The drunk now had his back to me. If his elbow moved so much as a millimeter, I’d drop him in his socks.
The old man continued to beam at the laborer. There was not a trace of fear or resentment about him. `What’cha been drinkin’?” he asked lightly, his eyes sparkling with interest. `I been drinkin sake,’ the laborer bellowed back. `And it’s none of your business!’ Flecks of spittle spattered the old man.
‘Oh, that’s wonderful,’ the old man said with delight . . . `absolutely wonderful! You see, I love sake, too. Every night, my wife and I (she’s 76, you know), warm up a little bottle of sake. We take it out into the garden, and we sit on the old wooden bench that my grandfather’s first student made for him. We watch the sun go down behind the persimmon tree. It is most gratifying, even when it rains!’ He looked up at the laborer, eyes twinkling, happy to share the delightful details about his personal life.
As he struggled to figure where the old man’s conversation was taking him, the drunk’s face began to soften. His fists slowly unclenched. `Yeah,’ he said slowly. `I love persimmons, too . . . .’ His voice trailed off.
‘Yes,’ said the old man, smiling, `and I’m sure you have a wonderful wife.’
`No,’ replied the laborer. `My wife died.’ He hung his head. Very gently, swaying with the motion of the train, the big man began to sob. `I don’t got no wife. I don’t got no home. I don’t got no job. I don’t got no money. I don’t got nowhere to go. I’m so ashamed.’ Tears rolled down his cheeks. A spasm of pure despair rippled through his body. Above the luggage rack, a four-color ad trumpeted the virtues of suburban luxury living.
Now it was my turn. Standing there in my well-scrubbed youthful innocence, my `make this world safe for democracy’ self-righteousness, I suddenly felt dirtier than he was.
Just then, the train arrived at my stop. The platform was packed. The crowd surged into the car as soon as the doors opened. As I struggled to get out, I heard the old man cluck sympathetically. `My, my,’ he said. `That is a very difficult position to be in. Tell me about it.’
I turned my head for one last look. The laborer was sprawled like a sack on the seat, his head in the old man’s lap. The old man looked down at him, all compassion and delight. One hand softly stroked filthy, matted hair.
As the train pulled away, I sat down on a bench. What I had wanted to do with muscle and meanness had been done with a few kind words. Now I had seen Aikido in combat, and the essence of it was love, as the founder had said. I would have to practice the art with an entirely different spirit. It would be a long time before I could speak about the settling of conflict.”
This year Thanksgiving fell on the first day of Chanukah. Of all the joyous holiday posts on facebook that day, one in particular made me smile most of all; Ross wrote, "Gobble-Tov."
Ironically, our family wasn't even celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday, we were decking the halls with boughs of holly for a post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving with extended family the following day. We combined two holidays of our own and christened the day "ThanksMas" or maybe "ChristGiving." I can't decide which I like best, for they both capture the heart of both holidays. Mas is the Spanish word for more, and implies that more and more thanks is our natural response, not only on Thanksgiving Day but all through the Christmas season, when we remember the great love God lavished on us when He sent His Son. Likewise ChristGiving sends the same message - Christ is the gift that floods our lives to overflowing, then pours forth from our lives in Gratitude and Love.
ChristGiving. Outpouring. ThanksMas. More and more, all season long.
Today another post on Facebook caught my eye. Alessa wrote: Thanksgiving is the first feast of Christmas. And I thought, "Absolutely!" How intimately these two holidays intertwine; one preparing hearts as it heralds the arrival of the other. Thanksgiving always ushers us into His courts!
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
Happy ThanksMas, and a Merry ChristGiving to you and yours!
It's been a long day... week... month... start of the school year... five years. Truly. Going to three boys (five years ago) sent me for a loop, a loop that's still left me whirling.
There's this thing now that feels like anger. Before I had children I don't remember ever being truly angry. O, wait, there was the once when I was about 7, and my brother told me to "shut-up". I got so angry I swatted at him like an uncoordinated schoolgirl, hitting him awkwardly in the mouth, and ripping open the flesh on my finger against his new braces. Then he laughed at me and I got even angrier. Other than that I only recall feeling sad when I was wronged. Never angry. Then I had children. But even now, as I write this, I'm not even sure I'm angry. When I look back to the top of this paragraph I see the phrase "feels like anger". It's more like frustration stacked upon weariness stacked on dry bones, stacked upon all those expectations. You know the ones, that child-rearing was simply easel painting and cookie making with sweet tuck-in's at the end of each laughter infused day. All those things stacked upon my mothering shoulders, and I'm done by three pm each day. My Long-Suffering, is short. My Patience, is not. My Love, is spent. My Joy, is simply a cousin who lives in Arizona.
I'm aware that my lack of quiet me time, not enough sleep, and inconsistent diet and exercise isn't helping, so I am trying to sanctify some quiet anchors to hold me down each day. To ground me, so that the storms of behavior, learning challenges, messes, brother-squabbles, and unmet expectations don't drag me to that "feels like anger" place.
Today I knew that there wasn't much time for me. 24 minutes was all I could squeeze in if I didn't take a shower. So I got on the elliptical machine in the garage, gave the boys a movie for their "P.E." (yeah, I know), and grabbed my Bible and my new book "Unglued," and hit it hard. After reading through my study and writing (in awkward chicken scratch — due to the funny lobbing up and down of the elliptacle), I finally broke into chapter one of "Unglued," by Lysa TerKeurst. Within the first two sentences I felt as though I had written the book. Me, but on the other side of the weariness, where hope lives.
I wanted to share with you my favorite line from today's (bumpy) reading. Already underlined by my sweet friend who is sharing this treasure of a book.
I thought of that stuff that "feels like anger," but is really so much more complicated. And I thought of the times I most assuredly respond in anger to my beloved boys, and I made this pledge: No More. But Lysa stopped me before I could start. She went on to say that women tend to want their transformation over night when they make a vow to change. But it doesn't. Miracle that it is. It's a process. One foot in front of the other, moment to moment process that she calls "Imperfect Progress." And so I am embarking on this, imperfect journey towards an increase fruit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.
Sweet-pea Scented Difficult Days
Hormones swinging out, then chase right back in;
Each baby brings with him this offering.
Emotions climb up high, then calm back down,
Our newborn cries, we nurse, but dare not drown.
But sometimes we do, and then wipe our eyes
Blow our nose, and go turn off the house lights
Succumb to sleep, two hours at a time
Waking to sing one. More. Time. "baby mine."
A new day starts, then twelve more pass at once
Did I shower? Shave? Or ever stop for lunch?
How can I be so elated and sad?
Those hormones, sleep, and food would make me glad.
But sometimes they don't, 'cause sometimes they can't.
Today, tomorrow, blend together in a rant
About the ugly and the true. But O!
O, O, O! Let us breath and know, know, know,
The spit up covered glory of each day.
Sweet pea scented, baby powder dusted,
glorious reflection of swaddled grace
Turned up to receive our love, face to face.
And sometimes we do stop, to smell the truth.
The roses, posies, sweet pea scented truth
Of love, tucked deep in the baby wrinkles
Where tears of joy and exhaustion mingle.
It's been five years since I experienced those sleepless nights, where days with many little ones blended one into the next. But I've come to realize that when we grow out of one challenging season, there is another challenge ready for us to transition into. Sometimes we have seasons of reprieve, but not for long, for God loves to stretch and perfect, and that is done best in the hard. Challenges and struggles and stretching are all God ordained. Ordained to refine and transform us into a more honest reflection of Himself.
Through Christ who gives us strength.
Today is September 11th, 2013. I have been married exactly 12 years, 1 month, and 7 days, and yet I remember September 11th, 2001 as a newlywed, just like it was yesterday. We all do. Everyone remembers. Every one of us can recall where we were, what we were doing, whom we were with, the day such terror shook our nation, reducing the mighty twin towers to a rubble of twisted metal and dust. We recall the images that flashed, one by one, burying a tender piece of each one of us, and our sense of security, along with our fellow Americans at ground zero.
American life was lost that day. Not only the 2,977 victims, but the innocence we have long enjoyed as the leader of 1st world countries. Safe. Secure. Privileged. So in the wake of that fateful day, as families buried loved ones, the rest of us had to decide what to do with that bit of us which had died alongside them. Would we burry our faith and trust? Or would we allow our faith to resurrect, increase, and soar, as a Phoenix from the aftermath?
Knee deep in the emotional rubble of evil, terror, and hate we always have that choice. The choice to believe not just in the power of good, but in the power of a good and loving God. O, the debris that holds us down is deep. Isn't it? Deep and ugly and twisted. And it boggles my mind how evil rages throughout the globe today. Not just memories of the evil; but real and living, sulfer breathing, chemical warfare producing, raping and pilliaging evil; roaming around, devouring human life.
And I thought of the Gutenberg Bible on display at the Huntington Library. I thought of the cool, dark room where it sits for all to see. And I thought of the elderly man who stood beside me looking at the gold-leafed, brilliantly illustrated pages a few years ago. We spoke of the historic achievement of Johannes Gutenberg's printing press, among other things. It was a nice, albeit short, conversation. And when he turned to leave I said something I never say to a stranger. Maybe it was simply the presence of the Bible in the room, or the very Spirit of God leading us into what would come. I said, "God Bless you today."
What happened next I doubt I'll ever forget, as sharp an imprint on my memory as the early morning news of 9/11. He turned to me with twisted face and hissed, "God? God ?" And then he rolled up his sleeve and laid his forearm bare. The numbers on his old thin skin spoke of an evil unfathomable. "God? You really believe there is a God? A God who would allow this... evil?" Shaking his fragile fist, and looking imploringly into my eyes he waited for an answer.
This is what spilled out of my mouth that hot afternoon, out into the cool, dark room where history is stored. "I am so sorry you've had to endure such hatred. But God is real, and He does love you, Sir. However, this much I know to be true: God can't make us love Him back. He gives us all the freedom to love Him. And that is love. A loving God wouldn't force us like slaves to love Him back. Would He? No, he lets us choose love. But with the freedom to choose love comes the freedom to choose hate. And evil. And those who chose evil did evil to you. But God does love you, Sir. He does." We both stood there, strangers, with tears rolling down our faces. His old and weathered, and mine still young. Both wet.
He took aa step back, and said, "I've never thought of it like that." And then he turned away from me again and walked away.
Today I recall 9/11, and the Holocaust, and the freedom God gives to mankind. To choose. To love. To hate. To run to Him. To be reborn. From the ashes.
It's never too late to turn to God, in your freedom, and choose love.
Humbled by my train of thought today.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NIV "Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NIV "And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power."
Isaiah 4-:31 NIV "But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
Romans 15:1, 2, 4-7 NIV "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God."
Accept your own shortcomings, friends; accept your lowly, weak, frame, and turn to the one who lifts and restores, redeems and resurrects to new life. And then walk in His strength into the lives of the weak darlings within your home, within your sphere of influence, within your reach, within your world.
Romans 15:13 NIV "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
It's been a couple if weeks since my last blog entry — ironically, my last post was focused on the generous encouragement I received from three lovely friends. For you see, I've been down lately. Too down to write through it. And this down hasn't been a recent falling, and scrapping of the knee. When I look over the last couple of years blogging here, I see many posts tagged away into a file called "The Hard Days." It's embarrassing how many of them there have been. But it's simply been hard.
You know my heart here at "LoveCovers..." is to point to Christ even in the hard: His power perfected in weakness, His redeeming love, His transforming ways. And I have. And I do. And I will. But one of my spiritual hiccups has been equating the hard troubles of life, in my case the lack of joy and peace, with something spiritually wrong with me. There are so many verses that I know, tucked away, ones that promise if I abide, then there will be this blessed fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. And so I tuck in deeper still, growing in my dependence and my faith that I am loved, and yet still... where is the joy?
A week ago I had some test results come back, three specific bullet points that shot to my core and made me cry ugly tears. 1) My adrenal test showed that my adrenal glands are shot; not producing enough cortesol for my body to deal with stress. 2) My Thyroid (Reverse T3) came back high — supporting that my body has not been able to deal with stress. And finally 3) when a homeopathic therapist tested me to find out which hormones are out of whack in little ole me, the result was shocking. He explained it to me in these simplistic terms, "When a woman is pregnant her normal hormones shift out, and a different medley fill her body as she grows the baby. After the baby is born, the normal hormones swing back into place. Or they should. During this time women can get 'the baby blues." When the healthy hormones don't balance out again we suffer from depression, post partum depression. You, my dear, haven't been very happy for about five years, have you?"
Only a week on some hormone therapies and natural adrenal support meds and I am slowly starting to feel something akin to happiness.
I may be over-sharing here, I try not to on this blog. But this at the core of all my thoughts these days.
I hope to be writing again soon. There are so many bright spots on difficult days. Today, for instance, my baby went off to kindergarten for his first class day. While we homeschool three days a week, this was a monumental big boy day! O, my heart!
But tonight I am not going to stay and encourage you with the lessons I am learning. Tonight I am going to take a hot bath after tucking my littles into bed. I'm going to spray some lavender on my pillow and relax into a good night's sleep. But if I had the time and the energy and the words, this is the post I would want to write.
Thank you, Ruth, over at...
I so much enjoyed seeing how Caleb has matured recently. I witnessed it in the “fire” of his fight with Brody last night. I am still not quite sure what caused the fight, but they starting throwing fists. Caleb took some blows before I could break it up, and I saw how Caleb restrained himself . . . even though he said, “I want to hit him really bad.” I know at that age, it is SO hard to use self control, but he did. He had great manners and just seems to have grown in being a gentleman.
And sweet Brody . . . I know he feels emotion very deeply, and I could tell he was feeling a lot anger after his fight with his brother (which made him cry that he wanted to go home)!. Once he settled down, I told him I was sad that he wasn’t having fun at our slumber party. He announced that it wasn’t a real slumber party since we hadn’t had a pillow fight . . . so I whacked him with a pillow! After a few minutes of pillow fighting fun, Brody got in bed and turned into mister chatterbox (so funny). Anyway, after coming to tell me (a few times) that he was having trouble sleeping, he said, “God made my with lots of problems.” Before I could object, he caught himself and said, “But he also made me with lots of good things.” I loved that, because I knew those were words of truth that his momma spoke to him, and he is hearing them and believing them. In the morning, he also said, “Miss Angie, I’m sorry that I cried about going home.” That is so mature to apologize for something (and the next day too). And remorse shows sensitivity to wanting to do what is right. I know you are diligently directing him in what is right.
And Asher . . . what can I say? I ADORE him. He has the sweetest little heart and is so articulate for his age. I think your youngest will really bless you.
Anyway, just wanted to give you some words of encouragement, because you looked so discouraged when we met up. And since you asked for advice, here it is: keep up the good work, stand firm, and don’t grow weary … you WILL reap a harvest!
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
I looked up Gregg Harris' 21 Family Rules, printed them up, and thought I'd pass them on to you down below. Because we need one another. We need a Tamara to walk with, an Angie to remind us of the fruit that is being produced in our midst, and an Ashley to inspire fresh ideas for tomorrow.
I can't be the only one who wanders into the valley some seasons, and so I share. Here's hoping you are blessed.
The 21 Rules Of This House
by Gregg Harris
1. We obey God.
2. We love, honor and pray for one another.
3. We tell the truth.
4. We consider one another's interests ahead of our own.
5. We speak quietly and respectfully with one another.
6. We do not hurt one another with unkind words or deeds.
7. When someone needs correction, we correct him in love.
8. When someone is sorry, we forgive him.
9. When someone is sad, we comfort him.
10. When someone is happy, we rejoice with him.
11. When we have something nice to share, we share it.
12. When we have work to do, we do it without complaining.
13. We take good care of everything that God has given us.
14. We do not create unnecessary work for others.
15. When we open something, we close it.
16. When we take something out, we put it away.
17. When we turn something on, we turn it off.
18. When we make a mess, we clean it up.
19. When we do not know what to do, we ask.
20. When we go out, we act just as if we were in this house.
21. When we disobey or forget any of the 21 Rules of This House, we accept
the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Today at the beach you dug a cavernous hole, then asked your friends to bury you in it. The only thing sticking out was your handsome face. Looking back I think how well your sandy tomb must compare to being the oldest child in our house full of strong-willed boys.
Absolutely fed up at times. Up to your neck! I get it.
And the toughest part of all must be when I zero in on you, and your behavior, and your heart. I know it is is usually your brothers who are touching your things, messing up your room, pushing your buttons, and causing you to explode. Once again, I get it. But I want you to get this, sweet heart; our home is the perfect, God ordained, training ground for the rest of your life. All the skills you need to deal with people as a Christian man will be cultivated right here in our home.
I tell you often, "Caleb, there is only one man you are in control of. That's you. You can't control your brothers, your friends, or your bed time (most of the time), but you must be able to control your own man." My boy, when you go to College you will likely have a roommate who interrupts you and plays music you don't like. Will you be able to control your temper and be kind to him? You will be, if you can learn it here at home. You may have a boss one day who talks down to you; will you be able to keep your head lifted high, knowing who you are in Christ? You get to learn that here at home as well. And one day when your lovely wife has a list of projects she needs your help on, and three little sons all vying for your attention and affection, you will need to know how to love them in the business of life. And you will! If you commit to learning to love here and now, in our home.
On the dry erase board that hangs by our breakfast table in the kitchen nook I have writen these words:
A new commandment I give you, Love One Another;
as I have loved you so you must Love One Another.
By this all men will know that you are my disciples,
if you Love One Another. (John 13:34-35)
I sang this verse in church during my growing up years, and it stuck in my brain and my heart. It is my hope that as I sing it and live it in your presence, that you too will be inspired and encouraged to love others. For Christ loved you first, my son. That truth, that reality, that knowledge is where it must flow from. But we practice it, the loving that is, here and now at home.
I said before, I know that it's hard. I get it. But I am praying for you and cheering you on as you practice love, practice this hard thing of loving despite the unlovely actions of your brothers, and even fumbles your father and I often make. We are just sinners saved by grace, my son. All of us. So let's practice love together, that the world will know we are His disciples.
So proud of you. I'm your greatest fan!