Hard Stories: Being Selfish

I was torn.  Little bit kept wavering on whether she’d stay at the main house or the bayou house, and the baby was wailing because of an injured ankle.  I started the car, it was already late because we had so many fireworks to pop, and tried to load the boys.

Little bit said she would stay with her grandparents, and the remaining four of us set off across the pasture.  The car parked at the back door with me still in a quandary over whether to stay with the boys or go back to the main house.

I got the baby settled in a chair with a wash cloth and icepack and decided to head back.  The boys were tearful and asked me to stay.  I said I’d come back if little bit was still dressed.

I drove back across the pasture with my headlights full of bugs in the dark night and lugged my bag into the main house.  Little bit was happy as a clam in her p.j.s “making her beauty” with grandmother, her pink blanket already settled in between her grandparents pillows.

She brushed her teeth and told me she would stay in their room.  I decided to stay put, and I washed my face and laid down in the guest room, alone.

And cried.

I didn’t stay where I was most needed mainly because I was angry at my husband.  As the night had worn on, we had a silly argument, and I could tell he was angry at how I responded.  I started the fireworks with the kids before he came out, and we didn’t interact for the rest of the evening.  I wasn’t particularly interested in staying with him.

Had we been home, we’d have gone to sleep in the same room, maybe angry, but we’d have slept in the same bed.  Yet here I had an out.  Another house and a paper thin excuse that the one child with two adults might need me specifically.

The baby with the injury and the eldest with his pleading, and even my husband who had taken my bags to the other house earlier, were the ones who really wanted me with them.  And I left for selfish reasons.

I had also had three glasses of wine over the course of the evening, and I can make foolish decisions when my brain is fuzzy instead of fueled with the clarity of action my faith requires me to take.

I had also shared a story with my mother-in-law about the first time I saw my father after the divorce, quite sometime as the case was and in less than ideal circumstances, and I had never spoken the story out loud before, not even to my husband.  I somehow managed to feel the wounds fresh on my heart all these years later.

I can still be selfish.  I can still be foolish.  I can still be wounded.

It was not an irreparable action.  Yet those selfish, foolish, wounded-fueled decisions in marriage and parenting can add up if you don’t watch it.  It becomes all too easy to write off the instance as “a one-off” and not ask for forgiveness and determine to do better the next time.  Then those costly one-offs add up to more distance and more damage.

There is hope.  In the midst of the I can be’s… (add your own laundry list of less-than adjectives).

I can do all this through Christ who gives me strengthPhil. 4:13

So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.  And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.  Romans 11:5-6

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ JesusPhil. 1:6

There is grace for a new day.  So I can be forgiven.  I can start anew.  I can do it better.  I can be selfless, and wise, and healed.

 

This week is about the hard stories.  The ones I’m not particularly happy to share.  But if we don’t start talking about the hard stories, how we will find our way to the other side?

Vincent Vacation, The Grandeur and The Fear

Our introduction to Yosemite National Park was an early June afternoon at the northern Tioga Pass which only opens in late May because of snow.

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As soon as we passed through the park entrance gates, snow began to fall.  The kids have never seen snow since it’s not snowed in Houston since they were two months old.  We pulled over so they could catch a few flakes on their tongue.  The next day in the Valley it was 100 degrees.

Such is the grandeur and unpredictability of Yosemite.

El Capitan greeted us at first view when we drove in Sunday morning:

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We ate on the Merced beach across from El Capitan’s trail with the rain beginning to fall:

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We drove past the tiered Yosemite Falls on one side and Bridalveil Falls on the other:

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At the top of Tunnel View we could see most of the Valley spread before us – from Half Dome to the falls to El Capitan with glimpses of Cathedral Rock and Three Brothers:

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The wildness is breathtaking.  Spectacular.  Extraordinary.  It’s also a little bit terrifying.  The hairpin turns around mountain ranges with no rail or views beyond the next curve.  The warnings of roaming bears and coyotes.

Truth be told, I’ve been scared by a lot lately.  News reports are chilling.  Headlines from Nigeria to our backyard have set me on edge.

I was acutely aware of my growing fear in the wilderness.  I stood guard over the family picnicking by the Merced in case of a wandering bear (despite my husband’s chuckling that no person in recorded history has been killed by a bear in Yosemite).  I gripped the door handle and pressed my foot on the invisible passenger brakes as he slowly inched up the mountain’s edge.  I packed extra food and drinks in case of weather or misdirection.

Yet everything was beyond my control.

So much in my life is.  Funny, those are the things I worry about.

I shared what I began to see about my fear out there in the wild with a dear friend, and she wisely remarked, It sounds like you are afraid of the big.  But it’s in the bigness of God that we also find safety. 

Sigh.

Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain.
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eautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth,

like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King.
God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress.
As we have heard, so we have seen

in the city of the Lord Almighty, in the city of our God:
God makes her secure forever Psalm 48

This wasn’t the vacation post I’d set out to write about the grandeur of Yosemite.  There are plenty of words to fill a page to share the beauty of each nook and cranny.  Not just the mountains and the waterfalls, but the flowers and the rocks and the dappled light through the trees.

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I would have done them all injustice, but I could have easily written that post.

But I wondered if maybe there’s not someone else struggling with fear over the big.  Fear which could easily take over even though it’s everything beyond our control.

I found tremendous peace in remembering the bigness of my God is the antidote to the bigness of my fear.  {==> Click to Tweet}

You see, the God of all this grandeur, isn’t about fear; this extraordinary God is about extraordinary love.  And as big and unpredictable as life, and my fears, are, He is bigger:

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  I Tim. 1:7

God is love… There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.  I John 4:7

He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day…
Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.  Psalm 91

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I know it’s scary when we can’t see around the corner, but He can, and He’s there.

The Storms

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We squinted at the small screen as the radar showed a long line of storms from San Angelo to Oklahoma City.  Unfortunately, we were headed north on I-35 to visit my father in Oklahoma City.

We would have been on edge in any event given the deep red shades on the radar, but we’d only just gone through one of the most severe thunderstorms that week we had ever experienced in Houston.  Swaths of the city were underwater and our neighborhood saw 11 inches of rain in six hours overnight.  We were still picking up debris. 

As we drove north from Dallas toward Oklahoma City, I monitored the storms inching toward the freeway and entertained the children as he drove at an ever escalating pace.  My stomach turned flips as the storms moved ever closer.  Just on the other side of the state line, I told him if we could make it to Ardmore within 30 minutes, we might avoid the main line of storms.  As if to punctuate the importance of beating the thunderstorms, our phones alarmed with flash flood and thunderstorm warnings and the sky lit up with incoming lightning. 

As my nerves jangled, I opened up the Bible app on my phone to remind myself of the most famous storm the disciples encountered.  Mark 4 tells it like this,

That day, when evening came, he said to his disciples, Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Oh ME of little faith.  Imagining the disciples being overtaken by waves on a small boat gave me some perspective.  It settled me.  I began to pray.  Dear Lord, please guard our car.  Guard our family.  Guard us as we approach this storm.  Please help us make it through.  Get us to the city without driving in the midst of that terrible line of thunderstorms.  Send your powerful protection. 

And we made it.  The storms hit I-35 once we were north of them. 

I prayed with heartfelt thanks for the safe arrival at my father’s house. 

But then I paused.  I recalled a passage from Undone I had read that afternoon on the ride up.  The author tells of her and her family’s weeks of prayers as they awaited the verdict of whether her cancer had spread.  The doctor called and the news was positive. She still had recovery ahead, but the cancer had not spread.  She fell on her knees in thanks for the good news. 

Until she received her doctor’s reply to her enthusiasm, Yes, God is good – I believe this even when we struggle to understand all of His purposes.  She quickly sobered and remembered others who had received different news: Yes, God is good.  It was easy for me to say it at that moment buoyed as I was with good test results.  But would I still have celebrated the goodness of God with different results?  Would I have testified to my confident, unwavering belief in Jesus had the test scan turned out differently

Would I?  I began to ask myself some questions:  Would I have been grateful had we spent time in the center of the storm?  Would my faith have reacted differently if our little family experienced flood waters rising, hail falling and wind blowing?  Would God still be a good God who cares about us?

This is what I’m constantly learning when confronting storms:  God is good.  He’s good when He saves us from having to go through the storm.  He’s still good when He stands with us IN the storm. 

I don’t always understand where God is leading.  Or why.  I’ve stopped trying to understand with my limited field of vision.  I will probably continue to pray to be delivered from the storms.  But I will trust God is good and is fighting for me even in the storms. 

And I know I will arrive safely at my Father’s house. 

God-sized Dreams Mission Moments Plea

The headline blared: Boko Haram Militants Raped Hundreds of Female Captives in Nigeria.

It was the above the fold story. The first thing I read in the paper that morning. The opening paragraph from the Times on May 18th screamed this indictment: Hundreds of women and girls captured by Boko Haram have been raped, many repeatedly, in what officials and relief workers describe as a deliberate strategy to dominate rural residents and possibly even create a new generation of Islamist militants in Nigeria.

The voice in my head screamed louder: HOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW?

The how rapidly morphed into a howl: within the same 24 hours I read the gut-turning, mind-shattering story of the atrocities being committed by ISIS against NINE YEAR OLD girls over at Ann Voskamp’s corner:

Click away, turn the other way if you want, but those girls are wild to turn and escape — and they can’t. They are categorized. Stripped. And shipped naked. Examined and distributed

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Please join the God-sized Dreams community today as we seek to support the girls and women surviving horrific assaults in Iraq and Nigeria.

Planting of Splendor

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The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me…
   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins

    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.

Isaiah 61

No matter where you are today, what your life circumstance, how large the obstacle feels, He will use even this and you will be planted for the display of His splendor.  Even in this.  Because of this.  Splendor will come.