Monday, June 22, 2009

The Choices lull is over. The schedule book revealed that I’m booked solid for the next several weeks. I’d established a new Earn While You Learn client and visited with another young married lady in for a pregnancy test when we got a phone call. “Do ya’ll do abortions there? My friend wants an abortion.” We got her friend right in. In all honesty, she didn’t seem terribly crisis. She wanted an abortion because she already had a couple of children and she had a little pressure to get one—but nothing violent and she also had lots of support. She admitted she knew little about abortion procedures or risks—but she wanted the truth. We walked through the gestational progression of an infant in the womb. I could see her eyes soften as she looked at the detailed pictures of tiny, unborn babies. Tears formed in her eyes as I explained the abortion procedures and she whispered, “That’s horrible.” Then I shared the possible risks to her and some common Post Abortive symptoms—depression, relationship issues, suicidal thoughts, guilt, anniversary grief, alcohol and substance abuse. She seemed to reach eagerly for the good news of the gospel. We couldn’t really tell how far along she was. “Will you come back in a week for an ultrasound?” Becky asked her and she agreed. “I think she’ll come back,” Becky told me. “I really do.” And I agreed. Every time I hear a girl tell me why she wants an abortion, my heart breaks. What a trap each of these women has fallen into! A trap in which there is no easy way out, but deception makes appear easy the most dark and despairing choice—to destroy their own children and, in so doing, their own lives. It’s a quick fix, some say, but I have yet to meet a woman who has endured an abortion who is not suffering—silently, miserably, guiltily suffering. So much for women’s liberation. I hate the bondage of so-called liberation. “You can be like God,” the serpent told Eve. Our culture tells them the same thing, “You can be like God—choosing life or death for your child.” Yet life is sacred—belonging to God. All life. The father’s. The mother’s. The child’s. Satan hates the seed of the woman. Diabolically. And when he tells each woman she can be like God, discerning good and evil and she rejects God’s perfect purpose for her—to sustain life—then comes death. For the baby and for her. The clich├ęs of the pro-life movement, though well-meant, are too shallow to encompass the reality of abortion. “Abortion stops a beating heart” we chant. Well. It does. But it also breaks a beating heart.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

“Is this a swimming day?” Papa asked me as I finished up a slew of outside chores. Vigorously I nodded. We’ve not been to Slant Rock once this summer. As it turned out the Schriebers accompanied us and we splashed in the shallows of a more distant beach until Josiah and I headed over to the rope swing. Somehow it wasn’t as fun as sometimes. We both felt weak and tired, but we climbed the nailed-on boards to swing into the water anyway.

Often my ears will ache a bit after swimming, likely due to the less-than-clean water, but today proved a bit more frightening. As I hit the water the third time, I heard a loud pop and my ear began to burn intensely. “Pressure,” I thought to myself. “I got water in my ear. It’ll go away.”

It didn’t.

By the time we got home and I had showered, I could barely hold my head upright. The pain spread through my left ear and down into my jaw and neck leaving me with an intense headache. Miserably I stared at my supper, my head tilted to the side.

And my family began to make suggestions. Josiah offered ear drops that he’d used to stave off ear-infections. Mom suggested alcohol. Papa offered an anti-inflammatory pill he had. I tried all of them, with no success. In fact, the rubbing alcohol felt like molten lead seething inside my brain. “You know,” Mom said. “Once Uncle Wayne burst his ear-drum and he tried putting alcohol down it and the pain drove him up the wall.” Great. Just what I needed to hear. Burst ear-drums? Do they ever heal?

I began paging through our medical books for info about earaches. And I discovered that using Q-tips and wearing earplugs can force earwax down into the inner ear and cause buildup of pressure and, guess what? Burst ear drums. And guess what I’d been doing that morning before I went swimming? Weeding. With ear plugs in. Oh yes.

There is was. I must have burst my ear drum.

The hopeful news? They grow back.

But in how long? I was beginning to feel like curling up in a fetal position and crying. Supposedly I have a high pain tolerance. My family began making more suggestions, but only one thing sounded good to me: heat. Wouldn’t heat relieve the ache?

So I snuggled the left side of my head against the heating pad on my bed and sat there. And sought to control my thoughts. I could tell I hadn’t lost any hearing. And it couldn’t be an infection—it had happened too fast. And burst ear-drums heal. Eventually, at least. “Please Lord,” I begged. “Heal it quickly. Because I’m not very patient with these things.” After that all I could do was read and I’ve been trying to limit my reading to the most important book, so I flipped open my Bible and began reading Psalms. My comfort book. I sat there reading the rest of the evening. At least three hours. Moving hurt. Turning the heat off hurt.

I don’t know when it quit hurting, but Josiah came in to chat with me and I sat up and waited for the shock of pain. It never came. My face still felt mildly boiled from the heat pad and there was a tingling in my ear. A good tingling.

Maybe it was just swimmer’s ear, but I’ve never had swimmer’s ear that incapacitated me like that. Never. At any rate, I rolled up the heating pad, put it away and closed my Bible.

And that’s just the end.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Last night as I struggled against the insistent tears of hurt, I sat up in bed and told myself, “Abigail, don’t be silly. Suffering for doing what’s right might sound heroic and deserving of drama, but you’re losing sight of true suffering for what is right. Jesus suffered unlike you can ever imagine suffering and He learned obedience through the things which He suffered and has left us an example that we should follow in His footsteps. Which means it’s just what we should expect—all of us. And it works to teach us obedience. You are learning to be obedient to the Father and that’s just exactly a part of your Christian walk that you need work in.” Slowly, methodically I refuted my whining “Why did I get hurt? I didn’t deserve this” attitude. I reminded myself of my rebellion against God, my sin against His holiness and my utter helplessness to stand justified before God. Suddenly what I deserved came into focus like the slow turn of a camera lens: I deserve hell, utterly separated from God, hopeless, dark and agonized. It is only by His mercy that I am not a miserable, damned sinner. Perspective dampens the martyr’s tears and wells up within me the overwhelming joy. I am saved. From a horrible eternal existence without God. From exactly what I deserved. Jesus took the wrath that I deserved. Here I sit, moaning about something I didn’t deserve when He has left me that example. In that moment I knew that I was not suffering. My pain was healed. If the Lord of glory would rescue me from eternal punishment at the expense of Himself, He will do for me what is best. Why do I so lack trust and wallow in misery over things that should bring me joy? So, by His grace I did what was right. Do I suffer for it? Sheesh. Can it really be suffering if it is what God has allowed to teach me obedience? Obedience is only tested through the hard and painful things. Can it really be suffering if given from the loving hand of my Abba Father? Can it really be suffering when measured alongside the suffering of Christ?

Peter held it too much an honor to be crucified like his Lord and asked to be crucified upside down instead. Did he suffer for Christ? He said that suffering in the flesh helps us to forget our flesh and live instead for the will of God. That doesn’t sound to me like a tragedy, but a triumph.

I will learn to embrace the cross, the thorns, the nails if only they demonstrate that I am following the footsteps of Christ and will someday be like Him.

“For even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed.” 1 Peter 3:14

Teach me, Lord, to measure pain
Alongside of my greater gain
The things that make me seek to hide
Drive me to Thy wounded side.

And there I place my hand and see
That Thou wast wounded more for me
And through Thy pain Thou learned to kneel.
So I will learn and Thou wilt heal.

Concerning Believers and the Sabbath

Accompanied by Josiah, I was dropping off eggs to Dr. Don one day early this spring when began to share some of what he had been studying lately. Z. Hall had been looking at the Sabbath and had encouraged him to do the same—with the result that he had become convinced he ought to “keep it” and was very excited to do so. Dr. Don is always excited and he spoke a million miles a minute with a quick wind-up asking if we had any thoughts, but in the busy rush of a dental clinic he had to be off to the next patient before we had a chance to respond. I walked away chuckling. If he thinks I am quiet and serious, it is only in comparison to the outstanding energy he and Miss J possess. I did have many thoughts which began with one simple scripture and have continued with me until I have at last been able to unravel them all in digital letterhead. What I’ve discovered has brought me great delight and, as always, has brought again to mind the beauty of the gospel and the precious Lord Jesus—who is Lord of the Sabbath.

The phrase “keep the Sabbath” has been used loosely throughout the years since Jesus’ resurrection. In my lifetime I’ve heard it defined in a dozen different ways for a dozen different purposes. But if we, as believers, are to keep the Sabbath, we must understand what it is and where it originated. And we must know if Jesus’ coming has changed the Sabbath or ended the Sabbath or fulfilled the Sabbath or left us simply groping to know whether or not the Sabbath is a remnant of a past covenant or an integral part of this period of grace.

“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy,” came the command from Mount Sinai, through the tablets of stone which God wrote in the presence of Moses (Exodus 20:8-11). The edict harkened back as a picture of creation, when God created the world in six days and on the seventh, the Sabbath, He rested (Genesis 2:2). “For six days you shall labor and do your work, but the seventh you shall keep as holy to the Lord your God. You shall do no work therein.”

For the Jewish community, living under the Law of Moses, each day began at sundown and continued through sunrise until the following sundown, in the pattern of creation (Genesis 1:5). The Sabbath began at sundown on our Friday and ended at sundown the following day—on our Saturday. The prohibitions for work included all regular labor and travel and food preparation (Exodus 16:23; Deuteronomy 5:12-13; Exodus 35:2-3). The goal? To keep the day holy to the Lord. It sounds beautiful, until we consider the consequences of failure to keep the Sabbath: for gathering sticks on the Sabbath, a man should be stoned to death (Exodus 31:14-16; Numbers 15:32-33).

Should we be surprised? Through the Law comes death (Romans 7:9-10). And as each person living under Mosaic law soon found, the Law also brings a curse (Galations 3:13). And where the Law is, sin abounds all the more (Romans 5:20). Romans gives us the true perspective on the Law, “by the works of the Law is no flesh just before God.” (Galations 2:16) Because even if we kept all the Law and yet stumbled in one respect, we would be guilty of the whole Law (James 2:10). Justification cannot come through the Law (Romans 3:20). The Law is holy and righteous and good, but it lacks power to make men right with God (Romans 7:12; Romans 8:3-4).

Then what is the purpose of the Law? This side of the cross, we are given a clearer understanding of the purpose of the law: to show us God’s holiness. To show us our helplessness. Paul preached clearly to those who would seek to be under the Law that “the Law has become our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ.” (Galations 3:24) In our vain groping to be right with God, we search for things to do to please Him, to earn His favor. But the works of the Law can never please God. With all our working, we will always come out like the rich, young ruler—unable to love God the most (Matthew 19:16-24). Living under the Law, David understood that God wasn’t really interested in our “sacrifices”, but there was something He was looking for: “a broken and contrite heart.” (Psalm 51:17) That was the purpose of the Law—to shut every mouth (Galations 3:22). To break our hearts with the knowledge of our sin.

But death is in the Law because it can only break hearts, it can never heal them. The Law was preparatory, setting the stage for the great act of God: Jesus Christ. In Christ the Law was fulfilled—in two ways (Romans 10:4; John 15:25). Jesus fully kept the spirit of the Law which He summed upped as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-40) And He finished the Law. The purpose of the Law is to break our hearts and shut our mouths and leave us silent before God—in need of a Savior. The purpose of the Law was to take our hands and lead us to Christ. The purpose of Christ was to reconcile us to God—to make us right with Him (Ephesians 2:16; Romans 5:1). Righteous. Holy. Once we know Jesus, there is no more purpose in the Law. Its purpose is fulfilled. Finished. The Law does not speak to the righteous man, but to sinners (1 Timothy 1:9).

Where does this leave the Sabbath? By the time Jesus made His debut in the worldly time-table, the Sabbath had become an intricate system of rules which could be wriggled in and out of until they bound every man, woman and child under a load too heavy to carry. Instead of being a day of rest, the Sabbath had become a day when good was denied and evil was planned (Mark 3:4). Instead of being dedicated to God as a day wholly devoted to Him, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day devoted the Sabbath to seeking to destroy God’s Son (John 5:18). Yet Jesus proclaimed Himself Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5).

Jesus said, “Come to Me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and lowly of heart and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

In the Law we see God’s holiness, we are reminded of the past, but we are also given glimpses and foreshadowings of things to come (Hebrews 10:1): the Passover lamb, which pointed to Christ, the day of Atonement, which pointed to Christ, the mediating High Priest, which pointed to Christ. As the writer of Hebrews phrases it, “Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant.” (Hebrews 12:24) So also the Sabbath of the Law was a shadow of things to come—of a greater rest in Jesus.

Is there a Sabbath rest for the believer? Absolutely! “There now remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for he who has rested has ceased from his works.” (Hebrews 4:9-10) The rest which the Israelites failed, by unbelief, to enter into in the wilderness is the very rest which we may now enter—through belief in Jesus who has finished the work that saves us and has sat down at the Father’s hand (Hebrews 3-4). In the temple of old, the priest’s work was never done. Even on the Sabbath, he must offer sacrifices, for even on the Sabbath did the people sin. No seats were placed to relieve his weariness. Always the constant reminder that men cannot outweigh their sin by sacrifice. Only Jesus can. Jesus, the High Priest who offered Himself and was heard has opened a way for us through the curtain that was torn and sits by God, always living to intercede for us (Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 7:25). Because His work is done, we can, by faith, enter into His rest—a rest from our works. A rest from the Law.

Through Christ we are able to keep the spirit of the Law—“Love the Lord with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Through Christ we are able to stand before the mercy seat of God, accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6). Through Christ we have entered our Sabbath rest—and remain in it—free from the works of the Law. Free from the curse of the Law. Free from death that comes through the Law. The mystery is revealed, the purpose of the foreshadowing is made clear. Christ fulfills the Law. Christ is Lord of the Sabbath.

In light of this, the writer of Hebrews tells us, “Through Him, then, let us continually, offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that gives thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:5) Ought we to keep the Sabbath day holy to God? Scripture tells us our Sabbath rest is in Jesus, and in light of Jesus every day should be holy to God. The Sabbath ended a period of works. Our works have ended. Our Sabbath does not. Just like the priests in the temple were to offer continual sacrifices, so we should, too. Just like worshippers sought God in the temple of old, so our bodies are a temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19), indwelt by His Holy Spirit and we are to “offer our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God.” (Romans 12:1-2) Acceptable through Jesus. And in a like manner, whatever we do, in word or deed—gathering sticks, baking bread, traveling—we are to do in the name of the Lord! Not through the Law comes holiness, but through Christ and His work and through doing all yoked with Him in light of His love.

"Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day--things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ." (Colossians 2:16-17)

There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God: Jesus.

Monday, June 15, 2009

See, it's like this: it doesn't happen often, but when it does, beware. Today I was riding an emotional rollercoaster--and it looked like a suburban. It's been building up for a couple of weeks. No, actually, it's been building up for a year. A year's worth of build-up can be pretty nasty. And to top it off, several things this weekend resulted in a complete drop-out in the careful nest of my emotions--mostly due to relief, partly due to confusion and a lot of bewilderment. Why did I have to go through all that misery, confusion and pain, trying desperately to do the right thing--and there's no point to it?

Then along comes the reminder that I still haven't sold the suburban. That suburban that I've had for a year to sell. That one goes like this: Papa gave me the suburban (sort of) to sell with a caveat. See, the money I get from the suburban is supposed to pay for my wedding. Whenever. That's the missing link for all those people who keep pestering me to find out when I'm going to get married. I can't until I sell this suburban. (That's a joke...I think.) The problem is that I never wanted the suburban. In fact, it was kind of embarrassing, so I never explained to anyone why my parents gave me a suburban. In olden days girls had countries or lands or cows for dowries. I have a suburban. It's not very useful to drive in the meanwhile and if I never sell it, it's not exactly the kind of vehicle I care to start out with. In fact, on the surface it feels like the kind of gift where the giver says, "You know, I've got this thing I don't want anymore. And someday soon, I'm going to have to pay for her wedding. So, why don't I just give her this thing I don't want anyway and tell her to sell it and pay for her own wedding." And I feel just that valuable. Which isn't very.

Is that the truth? Tell me, dear Searcher of Hearts, since when were emotions dependent on reason or truth? My wish-wash emotions aren't terribly interested in the truth. So this gift I have has been weighing on my will, mind and emotions for a year now. And I've tried everything that doesn't cost money out of my pocket in order to sell it. Oh people are interested until it comes down to a price and then they aren't. At least not in a reasonable price. Or they're super interested, but wait? You live in D-town? That's too far to drive. Nevermind. More trouble than it's worth.

And today Papa expressed his frustration that we still have a suburban. You must understand, this suburban and I are both still at home for one simple reason: the right person just hasn't come along yet. The right person who needs just this special vehicle (which is really not so much special as not in demand) and is willing to pay the price. Yet here we are, still paying tags and taxes, trying to keep clean and spiffy and advertised something that no one wants. And here I am, trying to sell a suburban to pay for a wedding when no one even wants to marry me.

How pointless is all of that?

I fought tears and crashing emotions all the way to work where I dropped Papa off and wished him a good day and noticed that the gas was on empty. I hadn't even been the last person to drive it, but I would get to fill it up--and I was already late for Choices. I drove away feeling frustrated, lost and unloved.

Remember, emotions are not always reasonable. Or based on truth.

Trying to talk truth into my weeping soul, I began reminding myself, "Nobody promises results, Abigail. You're just supposed to do your best and seek to do what's right anyway."

"Yeah," I argued with myself, "But that's just not fair. I've tried so hard! I've been honest and forthright! I've researched, I've posted ads, I've tried to please my parents. I don't get why hard things always happen to me. Why I'm always frustrated and hurt and confused. What am I doing wrong?"

That was a rhetorical question, you know. When I ask, "What am I doing wrong?" I don't expect an answer, or I expect to hear "nothing." Because, clearly, no fault lies with me.

Instead a verse in Philippians drifted over the current of my complaints. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks. This is God's will for you."

Great. The good ol' rejoice always passage. Smiling is God's will for me.

But the truth began to sink in deeper than my level of self-pity. In everything give all honesty, I had always resented that suburban. I had viewed it as a burden, something I hadn't asked for, which would be sold to pay for a designated purpose I never sought. Gee thanks. Some gift. In all my recalling, I could never recall being thankful for that suburban. In all my recalling, I could recall being irritated about trying to park it, or having to park it at the library for advertising and walking to Choices, or having to wash and vacuum it or having to get gas. I certainly was not grateful for that gift. A generous gift from my loving parents.

Then began the sermon. I'm very eloquent when I preach at myself. "Abigail, be grateful! You be grateful! Be grateful!" I signaled and shifted into the turn lane on Main street. "You be grateful for this suburban!"

And the suburban died. Right there in the middle of the busiest intersection in town at two o'clock in the afternoon, this suburban that I was going to be grateful for died. And it wouldn't restart.

Two possibilities--absolutely no gas, not even fumes. Or the battery, which we'd just replaced and had worked on, since the battery light was on. Becky called to tell me there was no power at the clinic and we were closed and I sniffled into the phone as I explained where I was anyway. Kindly she offered whatever help she could. Then I called Mom to see if Josiah could tell me anything about what my next course of action should be. I didn't relish braving oncoming traffic while checking on the battery if I just needed more gas. I tried starting it again. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Even on empty, surely I could have made it that last block to the gas station.

Then I heard sirens and saw the flashing blue lights. By now I had tears streaming down my face. So much for being grateful, I was ready to call a wrecker and have this stupid car towed. And plan a fifty dollar wedding. Fifty years from now. I feel terribly sorry for the police man who approached my door. He probably has enough to do dealing with one emotional woman at home. When I opened my door I was both laughing and crying. And I know I must have looked like a tiny teen who didn't know squat about cars. He quickly noted the for sale signs and asked, "Are you just test-driving?" Ludicrous. I don't WANT this car. Can't you tell that just from looking? (I'm sure my parents never guessed. I still need to be sure I've thanked them.) I tried to explain my situation as best I could and he nodded in sympathy. "Can you start it for me?" Which I did and nothing happened. Then he said, "Do you have it in park?" Well, no. I'd been driving when it died. And I was already emotionally nuts by then. Of course I didn't think to put it in park. I shifted into park and turned the key. And it started. "I feel stupid," I said and laughed and snorted and choked on tears. "You're okay," he smiled. "See if you can make it to 2nd and Arkansas and I'll follow you."

I made it. And filled up. And went home. And washed the suburban. Vacuumed it. And sprayed that silly foam on the tires to make them shiny. Because everyone is looking for a car with shiny tires, you know. Then I posted up some new ads. And I whispered, "Thank you for this suburban. I don't understand. I don't get it. It doesn't seem fair. It hurts. It's annoying. I don't see the point. But thank you."

Because I don't have to understand. Things don't have to go right. Things don't have to make sense or have a point. But I have to be thankful. That's God's will.

Now, the temptation is to say, "Look, Abigail! You learned your lesson! You're thankful now! God can bless you now!"

But the Lord is not a genii in a bottle. Rubbing Him right doesn't earn me three wishes. Doing the right thing doesn't equal getting what I want. I assure you, I want to sell this suburban. Trust means doing the right thing and believing that He sees it, is pleased and will reward it--sometime. Someway. His way. I can't make anyone buy that suburban. I can't make things happen by believing--that's humanism, paganism--not Christianity. But by believing, sometimes I can see things that are happening in a new light--I can believe God's promises that He will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly, that He works all things for the good of those who love Him, that trials produce proven character and that His will for me is my sanctification--that I would be made holy like Him. With those promises in mind, I can look squarely at anything thrown my way and say "Okay. Thanks."

Thank you, Lord, for an excellent reminder.

And...when You get around to it...please sell my suburban.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I forget just how spoiled I am. Until we have thunderous storms like today and find ourselves devoid of electricity. And then we have nothing to do. By the end of the day when Travis offered a generator even the luxury of lamplight seemed a privilege of rare proportions.

It's good to be reminded of all the "extra" things I enjoy without a second thought.

It's good to be reminded where I was without Christ, as I read Romans again today. I read Romans a lot and, in spite of having memorized it a couple of years ago (thanks to Tabitha's encouragement), I always discover how little I actually know. For the last couple of weeks I've been answering in my own mind the questions that others put to me and I hope to have written thoughts to share soon--for feedback. You know, it's not really fair to read my thoughts and not share your own. (Ahem, Jacinda...Hannah...Sarah...and others.) ;)

I need a shower. The generator, unfortunately, didn't suffice to get our well-pump running.

If you read this, tell me something amazing about the Lord.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

“Read this,” Sherry told me Monday as she handed me several printed pages. “We’ve been given a citation and will appear in the Senate chamber Wednesday. See if you want to come.” My stomach flip-flopped. I’d expected some increased opposition after the murder of Dr. Tiller but I couldn’t imagine what we could have possibly done. “What is it about?” I asked, my brows knit together, perplexed. Sherry smiled easily, “It’s for our service to the state and community in saving lives.” I blinked. Wait. The citation wasn’t bad?

I told the family at supper. “It’s a citation for good work,” I explained. Papa leaned back in his chair, an enigmatic smile spreading across his face. “I got a Police citation once.” Three heads snapped quickly to look at him. “It was a citation for aiding in the apprehension of a criminal. They called me a hero.” I raised my eyebrows. “Tell us about it.” And he did.

See, when I was a wee little bairn, we lived in Hutchinson, Kansas where Papa worked as an electrical technician at the Kansas Cosmosphere. Before it was such a big deal. In fact, you can still see his work in the displays as well as several space suits that Mom sewed for the manikin space walkers. One day, Papa was working on a bicycle on the screened patio when he heard a ruckus. As he opened the screen door to see what the noise was, here came a policeman in hot pursuit of another man. As Papa started to close the door and turn away the policeman yelled “Stop him!” Papa opened the door right in front of the fleeing criminal who lost his footing and tumbled to the ground as the officer of the law dived on top of him with handcuffs. That was that. After loading up the hand-cuffed man the police officer stopped by the thank Papa. “I want to give you a citation,” he said, in spite of Papa’s protest that he hadn’t done anything. “You did more than most people would have done.” By the time Papa arrived at work the next day, he was heralded as a hero.

Mom was giggling from across the table as Papa finished his story with his disclaimer, “The policeman was the real hero.” “Tell them what it was the guy had done,” were Mom’s words. Papa grinned too as he remembered. “Well,” he said slowly, “He’d stolen a pizza.”

Now see? I always knew my dad was a hero, even if he didn’t tie Superman up in his own cape like he once told me.

Today, Crisis Pregnancy Centers all over the state of Arkansas were given a citation for their dedication and service in saving lives—both women and babies. It was my first time in my new home-state’s capitol building, and I turned circles gazing up at the marbled pillars and stairways before we entered the Senate chamber for the simple ceremony. In fact, we were some of the only people there, due to congress being out of session for the summer. It was brief and quaint, but it’s something that’s never before been done in Arkansas. Perhaps never in the nation. Recognized by the government for the effort to save lives. Just after Dr. Tiller’s murder. Just when we expected to be blasted with a smear campaign and redoubled efforts to close our doors.

We’ll hang the certificate in the clinic and take comfort knowing that we have friends in congress who will do their best to uphold the rights of the unborn and the interests of abandoned women from the side of politics.

Praise the Lord for such an encouraging reminder!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I feel as though I’ve thought a million thoughts today and talked a million more. And when I get them all down on paper, perhaps I will expose a few of them to the critical eyes of the world. I am amazed to consider that the Lord knows all of them already.

Lauren shared with me over the phone how she and Nathaniel have formed a method of dealing with issues “on the love seat” to remind them that love must be at the root of it. Without revealing particulars she shared some of her thoughts on when and how to work through issues. “My problem,” I expressed, “is that I have the mistaken view that loving means just always giving in.” “Well,” she answered, “I could probably learn a lot from that.” “No,” I protested. “Not giving in and joyfully serving, but giving in without joy, just giving in and grumbling inwardly. So instead of setting boundaries, I just give in and it festers until I am whining and wondering why I have to be the one who always gives in.” She suggested the best thing I’ve heard yet: seeking to respectfully set boundaries, express preferences and desires and then give in. That’s love.

Why is it that just when I begin to discover what love really means, I discover as well how unloving I am? It seemed easy to never say anything negative, always give in, just do whatever it took to make good happen and pretend like I had no feelings. It’s so hard to really love. In fact, I think I’m a complete failure.

Jesus, help me.

My 22nd birthday, Friday, June 5, 2009

All week long Mom had been asking, “So, what do you want to do for your birthday?” All week long I’d been answering, “I don’t know.” In the back of my head I was thinking, “I’d like to do nothing for my birthday.” Not nothing as in I don’t want to do anything, but nothing like Winnie-the-Pooh means it. The kind of nothing that can be done while relaxing.

At breakfast, Papa assigned me a weedeating task and I sighed inwardly. I should have asked to do nothing. Instead a shouldered the weedeater and marched out to the tick-infested woods. And returned tick-infested. I thank the Lord that chiggers don’t bite me. And I’m immune to poison ivy. And mosquito bites vanish in a matter of hours from my skin. In the realm of ichiness, ticks are my only enemies. Usually they are easily vanquished, no matter how numerous. What followed was a shower during which I got a brilliant idea.
With Emily coming in the afternoon, wouldn’t it be lovely if she and I could go knock around town, maybe do some thrift-store shopping and just generally do nothing for the afternoon? With soggy hair and a crooked smile, I suggested my plan to Mom as she fried hamburger. I expected her to declare “What a lovely idea!” Instead she half-shook her head. “I don’t know about that,” she said. “I’m not sure if that’s a good idea or not.”

I swallowed my tongue. In fact, I think it slid all the way down the back of my throat and down through my nervous system into my left foot where it sat feeling like a heavy lead-weight. Hadn’t she been asking all week what I wanted to do? And we were doing absolutely nothing. The kind of nothing that simply means not a thing. I rounded up my scattered thoughts before I asked, “Were you planning something?” She kind of shrugged. “Not exactly. I just had a little thing I thought we might do. We’ll see about it.”

Emily was due to arrive any time when I finally ventured again to ask Mom what she was thinking. “Well,” she said, “It’s probably okay. See what Emily wants to do when she gets here.”

I bobbed my head. Emily’s pretty easy to get along with. Usually.

In came Emily. I was in the rapping mood and started talking a hundred miles an hour. “Hey! How are you? I was thinking…I know you just came from town, but would you be up for a little goofing off? We could look for some business shirts to go with those jackets you’ve got.” “Well,” said Emily, “that might be okay.” In an instant I was off again, “Oh! But before we go, look at this bag of clothes from Amber C and see if you like any.” Emily agreed and began digging through clothes while I sat by watching.

A red pick-up pulled up into our nifty little parking lot. I glanced out the window and did a double take. “That’s funny,” I knew it wasn’t Tim and Lindsey, though I was expecting them later. “It looks like…it can’t be…it…really looks like…who in the…? It is!” And that was all I said. Then I split a grin almost big enough to swallow myself. And I just stood by my bedroom door grinning as the girl scrunched in the middle seat of the pick-up stretched her long arms and climbed out.

Just a little something Mom had planned. Just a little something called Tabitha and Cliff.

“Now you can go into town if you want,” Mom flashed me a smile as she came out the door. “Were you surprised?”

I had no clue. Absolutely none. Even though a few almost hints had been dropped. Why in the world would I suspect that Tabby and Cliff were coming all the way down just for my birthday?

With Cliff’s permission to steal his wife, we piled into Emily’s car and headed into town where we pretty much did nothing. I couldn’t have had a better birthday if I’d have planned it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I am a victim of abuse. Just look at my right thigh—covered in a lumpy, reddish, purplish, bluish wound. It’s a fact from which I can no longer hide.

Every night for several weeks now, it’s happened. Every night. Sometimes more than once. As any crisis, the phases begin with my sudden awakening as I hear the dreaded sound. In sets denial. “Tell me this isn’t happening. Not tonight. It can’t be. I’m too tired for this.” Persistent truth turns my thoughts to the more plaintive pleading. “Please stop barking, Freckles. Please. Please just be quiet.” The truth is as loud as the barking outside my door. I clamber out of bed as the next stage settles in: anger. Seriously. That dog should realize that we aren’t afraid of deer attacking us and massacring us in our beds. As soon as I open the door and our little wag-tail dive-bombs my toes, licking and wriggling all over with delight, my anger melts into guilt. How could I be angry at her when she so desperately tries to please. “Be quiet,” I say sternly, holding her mouth closed tightly. That exemplifies resolution for my crisis. Suddenly I understand the full import of what is happening, I comprehend what I must do, I suck up and do it and in the end I am a stronger person. Except for last night.

Because last night, Freckles was the victim of an unjust accusation. I slid the heavy glass door open to scold her and discovered that while she licked my bare toes earnestly, the barking continued. Taska, on our property, let the whole world know that she had decided to run for best watch dog. About as conceited and ridiculous as Al Gore running for president. Of course I knew that we’d torn most of the deck off. All that was left was a narrow walkway in front of my door and a small walkway out to the hot tub. I thought I was stepping onto the walkway to peer out at Taska, but actually, I missed it by a few inches and stepped right off the edge of the porch. Thump. Down I went about three feet and landed easily on my feet where I stood, feeling slightly dazed. It wouldn’t have been a nasty accident at all, had not the walkway decking boards decided to give the side of my right leg an aggressive kiss on the way down. The result was something like an enormous hickey, spreading the length of my right left. And it hurt something fierce. Freckles licked my face as I climbed back up onto the deck. “Good girl,” I whispered, gritting my teeth. “Good girl. Don’t bark.”

We saw the light at the same time. Just a tiny green lantern flittering aimlessly across the driveway. “Bark!” went Freckles and dashed off down the steps. With a quick lunge she gulped down the firefly and met me at my door with a green sparkle stuck to her lips. “Be quiet,” I warned, before limping inside.

A private examination revealed a large patch of strawberries growing up my leg. I climbed into bed and went to sleep. Freckles didn’t bark.

By morning the strawberries had become a fruit salad. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. Very colorful. Perhaps even a few gooseberries had joined the ranks leaving my thigh feeling rather tender the rest of the day.

Now, if my father had done to me what that porch did to me, we’d call it abuse. And I’d be a victim. I’m thinking of exposing that porch for the monster it really is.

I hope Freckles doesn’t bark tonight.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My mind has definitely switched back “on.” I think I’ve thought a million thoughts this week, but can’t remember a single thread of them.

A quick life update:

The Schriebers moved here from Illinois at the first of the month. Glenn and Papa met online several years ago and Glenn has steadily pursued a friendship with Papa, even traveling to visit and encourage us when we lived in Kansas. For several years now they have desired to move and be near us, but this was the first time they were able to sell their house and order things to allow for the move. They've always lived in the same vicinity--the adjustment for them will be huge! On our part, we are delighted to finally have church fellowship. As in any fellowship, we'll have to get used to each other and learn to prefer each other in honor.

“Of all things,” Josiah said sadly one day, bearing a dustpan into the kitchen, “I stepped on a bat.” The poor fluttermousse lay panting, his wings bent and his webbed tail spread out. He must have already lay expiring on the cold garage floor before Josiah’s bare foot discovered him. Perhaps it’s a hopeful sign that more of his kind linger in the nearby woods, ready to annihilate the army of gnats that has encompassed us. This valiant departed assailant had to be laid to rest in the woods shortly after supper, his last breath gone on the wings of time. This was shortly after our visit to the Mystic Caverns where we expressed our desire to have bats move in around our house to help with the insect overpopulation.

I finally sat down and sorted through a million things I'd stacked in my "think about when I get a chance" file. I worked through some of my fleshly cravings for fulfillment to be reminded of the truth that Jesus is all and does all good. I waded through some of the circumstances and issues that confused me a year ago and caught my breath at the perspective I saw--from just a year away. Circumstances are just circumstances. Sure, God allows them. But they bear little weight when measured against truth. And sometimes truth demands time to become more clear. For the first time in my life I am not confused. I think I am finally beginning to grasp the balance between true patience and my own supposed patience, true love and my supposed forebearance. True love is so hard--takes so much time and effort, seeking someone else's best interest through scripture, wisdom and kindness and seeking to base my actions on that--not simply saying what they desire to hear or giving what they want or doing what they want. It's painful--but nothing like the cross, the nails and God's rejection which Jesus suffered for me.

I was listening carefully to Papa’s voice one day as he read the expanded version of First John when the dive-bombing occurred. A mosquito-eater tumbled out of the sky and bounced onto the table, just inches from my Bible, then clumsily bobbled across the table and off the edge. His mission must have remained unfinished since he repeated the performance twice more before disappearing from the scene of conquest.

I finally got a tetanus booster, a week later for five dollars at the Health Department. My foot was entirely healed.

Lauryn got fish. I wish I could even retell the history of her tank of five finned friends and the dramatic disappearance of Pinky Tuscadero and Fred. Falsely accused, Hot Lips was detained in solitary confinement for further questioning until Fred reappeared. Thus began operation "rescue Pinky Tuscadero" which ended happily with Hot Lips being cleared and the whole family being reunited with joy and laughter.

We watched Miss Lauryn direct the Dtown Highschool Choirs--complete with choreography that screamed her name. She did a fabulous job. Is anyone surprised? She graduated with honors a few days later, along with Emily, Shoko, Donnie and Stacy. We spent the day either in bleachers or at parties--parties according the the believers here consist of prayer, encouragement, good food, praise and lots of love--well and sometimes some volleyball.

Originally I told Angela I'd help her photograph her friend's wedding. Then she agreed to become the wedding coordinator, which loaded her down with responsibilities. But it freed up her camera. In fact, I enjoyed our teamwork--I did all the photography, she did all the bossing.

It was about ten o'clock when Nathaniel called a very pregnant Lauren to ask for a ride. See, a group was playing "Fugitive" and Nathaniel, Donnie, Tommy and Dathan had worked out a perfect strategy for eluding the cops. Lauren and I hopped in the car. Well, actually, I hopped, she plumped. Being pregnant slows down activity and Lauren is VERY pregnant. As the four boys crowded into the back of my car I had one thing to say, "you guys smell amazing." Tommy's voice piped up, "What do you mean by amazing?" Folks, those guys normally have great hygiene--Tommy even reputedly smells "dewicious"--but that night they smell amazingly BAD. Their strategy paid off with a winning game!

Lately I've been blessed by April's company. In fact, we discovered that we wear the same size of clothes--she's just six inches taller. Sadly, she looks much cuter in my clothes than I do.

I've been following up on Christy's clients at the clinic. Sometimes as I open a file to decide what course of action to take next I am overwhelmed by the stark sadness in the notes she left--abuse, taking advantage, broken hearts, substance abuse, abortions, devastation. I closed files that were years old. For years Christy has faithfully waded through sad situation after sad situation. The Lord has been at work in my mind and heart--finally I am able to weep as I read a file, pray for that poor girl, close the file and walk away knowing that the Lord is the only One who can save--any of us.

Jess graduated highschool. Dathan had never met her, but he cheered the loudest. Even did a special cheer for her. Of course, he was cheering and shouting names for almost all the rest of the graduates. And clapping so widely he nearly smashed my face in. Without the least embarrassment. I was almost embarrassed, sitting next to him as he thoroughly enjoyed himself at a highschool graduation where he knew no one.

Papa is back at work, but has had weekends off so far! A huge blessing!

And just when the grass is growing more quickly than a child, all our lawnmowers decide to go on emergency medical leave. One is leaking oil. A blown gasket? One destroyed its own blade belt. Too much stress? And one has been in pieces in the barn all year. If we could find all the hardware for it underneath the Schriebers extra stuff that's being stored in it, we might put it back together and sell it.

It's a strange thing. I'd been exhausted for months, dragging myself out of bed each day, struggling to stay awake during Bible reading or prayer, going to sleep any time I sat down and sleeping hard. Lately I've rediscovered quiet time--alone time with Jesus. Perhaps it's just been emotional exhaustion that leaves me zapped. At any rate, I am at rest--with energy again. And thoroughly enjoying the Lord's lovingkindnesses.