Friday, January 17, 2014

"A Time to be Thankful..." ~Psalm 106:1

     It’s not Thanksgiving…and yet I am so thankful.
I am in the middle of Wedding season…my oldest son got married in the Spring.  My middle child, and only daughter, will marry in the fall.  It’s early summer now.  I am in the middle.
     Both have had rocky relationships in the past.  Not your usual teenage drama, but serious, scary, run-for-your-lives relationships.  I have cried, prayed, begged and let go…then grabbed hold again.  I watched and waited, praying we would all come out of them unscathed.
     And the miracle of it all is, we did... I am so thankful.
     I publicly and privately gave my son to God when he was a baby.  And it’s a good thing I did, because it took God’s daily help to raise him.  Every day, some days every hour, he was a challenge.  I loved him greatly and disciplined him greatly.  And prayed.
      He was always the leader of the pack, whether on the football team or church youth group…he was the instigator and the inspiration.  He was strong in his ideas and beliefs.  Which is another way to say he was stubborn.  I loved him with all my heart, even on the days when he broke it.  A child like that is a challenge and a joy.  The joy just takes patience sometimes.  
     As a young man he drifted away from God’s plan.  He had the wrong friends.  He did the wrong things.  He was in a serious long-term relationship that wasn’t right for him.  I watched the path of destruction he walked on.  I talked until he wouldn’t listen.  Cried until I was dry.  Gave up and tried to quit many times.  But moms don’t get to quit.  We love too hard.
     My daughter was born two years after him…and as happens so often, she was his opposite in almost every way.  Blond hair and green eyes, tiny and sweet.  She was a joy from the start.  Sitting quietly for hours, watching her whirlwind of a brother entertain her.  She didn’t talk until she was three because he talked for her.  She was eager to please.  A follower, loyal and true.  She hated conflict of any kind.  She was our laughter and joy.  
     Our divorce messed her up…she was thirteen.  A hard age to face the things we faced.  She got caught in the crossfire, swept up in the whirlwind.  Deposited in the debris that was the life we had left when the dust settled.  She didn‘t complain.  I thought she was okay, but she wasn’t.  She just didn’t tell me.  And I didn’t understand.  But I prayed.  More than ever before.
     What followed were several years of the biggest heartbreak of my life, as I watched my baby girl struggle.  She also left God’s will…in a much quieter and less rebellious way.  
     So now I had two in crisis.  In very different ways, one publicly, one privately.  Both just as heartbreaking.  I felt helpless and overwhelmed.  Out of my element and over my head.  Some days I couldn’t breathe.  I was in a battle.  Spiritual warfare.  If you don’t believe it’s real, you haven’t been where I’ve been.  I prayed and I cried.  I screamed and I begged.  
...Alone with my God.  Many times He seemed far too silent.  But I prayed some more.
     Hours passed, one by one, then days, months and years.  There were not any simple solutions, not any quick fixes.  Daily, continuous, soul-wrenching prayer.  That’s what saved us.
     It’s been many years as I write these words.  We are in the middle of Wedding Season at our house.  But, as you can imagine,  it feels more like Thanksgiving.
     Both of my children have chosen mates well.  My daughter-in-law grew up far away from us, being molded and shaped into an angel for my son.  They are a good fit.  And she handles his stubbornness like a pro.  She told me this week that he has been starting to share his testimony with the youth group in their church.  I could only smile.  Bet those kids are in shock!
     And as for my precious little girl, I prayed so often that God would send the “Perfect Guy.”   Someone to cherish and love her unconditionally, someone to show her what a healthy relationship could be.  I could only laugh when she introduced him and his name was actually Guy.  My God took my prayers literally.  As he so often does.  I couldn’t have chosen anyone more “perfect” for her, even if it was up to me.  Glad it was up to God instead.
      So I am in a thankful phase…just sitting back and watching answered prayers walk up church aisles to marry.  Seeing God's big picture unfold.  The "mess" become a "message."  Seeing my babies restored and stronger than ever.  Believing in miracles.  Believing in prayer.  Believing in God’s promises.
     Love Never Ever Fails.  Neither does He.  I’m Thankful.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"The Tin Cup" ~by Shannon (Sosebee) McChristian

     Thinking today about an old tin cup.  
      When my kids were small, I often tried to “create” good memories for them.  I thought somehow by making a huge deal of the happy moments, I could balance out or erase the bad ones.  Of course it didn’t work that way.  Now they are adults, and when we discuss their childhoods, I don’t remember half of the events they can describe in vivid painful detail.  And they seem to remember more negative things than positive.  Epic fail on my part.  My efforts to pick and choose only happy memories for them failed miserably!
     When I think back to my own childhood memories, I realize the difference in the generations was that my parents didn’t have some of the luxuries I did as a mother.  They were too busy trying to keep us all fed and clothed to worry too much about what memories we would have.  The “creating” of memories was left up to the will of God, which is as it should me.  Most of the time, we can’t successfully force happy memories.  Sometimes they just happen. 
     And so that brings me back to the tin cup.
     We lived on a farm.  It didn’t look like the farms I see in glossy magazines today.  But it was a farm none the less.  We had cows and horses, dogs and more dogs, barn cats and occasional goats.  Eggs to gather and babies to birth.  Prairies, ponds and pastures.  Old hay barns to play in, and a mountain in the background to climb and explore.  Beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  It was a farm all right.  And a wonderful place to grow up.
     One of the advantages of a farm like we had was self-sufficiency.  My parents worked hard to raise animals that provided meat for our table and vegetables that made up our side dishes.
     We had a small garden plot near the house that was handy to send us kids running out to just before supper, maybe to grab a couple of last minute squash to fry, or a tomato to slice up fresh.  Nothing has ever tasted better to me till this day.     
     But the real garden was about a half mile away.  The big garden.  Part way up the mountain.  We called it a “truck patch.”  Maybe because you could easily drive away with a truck-full of fresh grown produce on any fall day.  We would ride our ponies bareback to the patch, or maybe catch a ride on dad’s open tailgate, bumping through mud puddles and squealing with delight when our hot bare legs got sprayed with muddy water, bare feet dangling and brushing the ground.  Those dangling legs are how we measured our growth, mine were always longer than my baby brothers.  Wondering now at what point he outgrew me…been a while since we’ve ridden on a tailgate side by side.
     I’m sure that large truck patch was a lot of work each year for my parents.  That’s not the part I remember.  
     I remember all of our relatives coming to work side by side on weekends.  I remember racing down the perfectly straight dirt rows.  I remember running wildly with my cousins and the neighborhood kids, climbing in the trees nearby.  Climbing the nearby mountain.  I remember on long summer days when our parents were busy, how my brother and I would “sneak away” alone to the truck patch and work together to lift a big watermelon high above our heads.  Then turn it lose and watch it bust into edible pieces.  
     There is nothing better on a hot summer afternoon, than to sit barefooted in the dirt and eat a watermelon without any silverware.  I dare you to try it.  (But don’t tell my dad we did that.  We told him it was wild animals.  And I’m just sure he believed us.  In spite of the tiny human footprints in the dirt.)
     But I have gotten off track.  I wanted to talk about the tin cup.
     Up behind the truck patch, on the side of the heavily wooded mountain, ran a little stream of water.  We called it a creek.  The water was icy cold and crystal clear.  The rocks scattered throughout had been washed smooth and stayed cool year around.  It was a quiet place.  Shaded and peaceful.  Perfect for a mid-day break from working in the heat of the huge garden.  That creek was one of the happiest places of my life.
     There was a small tin cup that hung from an old piece of hay-baling wire, high in a tree limb above.  I remember my Grandpa holding me up so I could “get it myself.”  I remember that cool water trickling down my hot dusty throat.  I remember noon-day breaks sitting near the creek to eat our sandwiches.  All the people I loved most in the world spread out resting and visiting in the shade around me, with the sounds of the creek running close by.
       I’ve lived in nice houses since then, with air conditioning and cool showers.  I’ve had fancy smoothies and cold milk shakes on hot summer days.  I’ve taken naps in luxurious hotels.
     But  I’ve never rested better than on those hot summer afternoons by the creek.   I’ve never tasted a better drink than from that old tin cup, with my Grandpa’s calloused hand holding it steady.  
     And I don’t think I ever will.