Friday, June 17, 2016

Relentless

I sit here drinking in the perfect summer morning. No humidity, timid, sweet noises from a nest of baby birds in a bush not three feet away from where I sip my coffee, they waiting eagerly for mama to bring their morning breakfast, me just stopping for a brief moment.

I tried to do this yesterday. To slow down, read, write, breathe. After about 4 minutes, my leg was jumping, my coffee cup was already empty, the oppressive lists closing in on me like one long, cruel tyranny.

But I need this. This five or ten or fifteen minutes that stops the chaos. My husband took the littles for a drive and the oldest is sleeping in.

Peace. Quiet. Calm.

It's been a relentless few years for us. We have gone through and are continuing to go through some of the most stressful transitions a family can endure. Two newborns, cross country moves, new jobs, mystery illnesses, chronic sleep deprivation, all the goodbyes and making of new friends only to say goodbye again.

Some days it just feels like too much motion.

And to put it bluntly, I am glad God is stronger than I am. Because there ain't no way I'd still be standing if His strength wasn't my anchor. If his hope and peace, even on our craziest days, weren't my truth.

We move in one week. We say goodbye, we load the van with reluctant children and we set off on a new adventure.

Not that I don't like adventures, but I'm hoping for at least a few years where we can have adventures to the beach or sleepaway camp. The kind that don't shake our family's rhythm, but just bring more joy and challenges into the everyday. I'm hoping for no more moves or jobs for awhile. For the chaotic daily raising of my kids alongside friends, of working and dreaming and lots of laughter. And way fewer lists. Of no major decisions for my husband and I to wrestle through. We have had our quota for awhile, thank you very much.

For my prayer each morning to be from a verse that has continually sustained me these past seven years of change and waiting and loss and hope.

"For God alone my soul waits in silence; 
from him comes my salvation, my fortress;
 I shall not be greatly shaken." 
Psalm 62:1-2

May it be so, Lord. May it be so.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Beautiful Church

This morning I led my final song as interim worship director at our current church. As I drove home, companionably chatting with my two-year-old , I felt an up-welling of joy and gratitude.

I have been in a LOT of churches in my life. I grew up in an amazing, non-denominational, small church family in NY where church lunches were full of lasagna, holy kisses and boisterous laughter. In college, I flitted around a bit- from a Presbyterian church to an Assemblies of God to an international church in London, finally landing on a semi-Pentecostal church in inner city Richmond where I was one of very few white people with a LOT to learn. That's where I was first trained to be a worship leader and when I really started to think about race in the church. From a country church in North Carolina to helping plant an urban church to a few more wonderful places in my early 30's, it's been an adventure.

And with all our moving around, I've had a lot of chances to be ON worship teams.

This was the first time I've really led one for more than a Sunday or two.

A number of people over the last few months asked me if this job was stressful with raising 3 boys, preparing for a move across the country and dealing with the special challenges of our middle one.

I never had to hesitate when I answered.

Friends, this job was life-giving. It was like a long sip of water after a brutal trek across a dry land. The chance to come together with other rational adults two times a week doing one of the things I love to do best? Well, it was magical for me. The laughter, the camaraderie, the moments we truly were able to worship together as we led (and those who lead worship KNOW what I mean)...well, it's making it even harder to leave, to say the least. The opportunity to work more closely with our pastors, to see their heart for our congregation and our city, the chance to see myself and those around me grow in our gifts and take risks together has truly helped me see again WHY the church is so good and so necessary even in all it's messed up beauty.

And as I sat in the pew this morning, having just participated in my youngest son's baptism with my church family, listening to my pastor preach about being at peace with one another, listening to his stories about the Rodney King trial, white privilege and racism, I realized again just how unique this place is. It's not the first time I've heard things like this from our pulpit. In fact, justice is woven into the gospel effortlessly around here all the time. It would be strange NOT to hear words about God's call for reconciliation and healing in our world. To be blunt, that is not true of most of the churches of which I've been a part.

I am really going to miss this place. Like all the ones that have come before, it has shaped me in new ways, challenged me in others and helped me to give of my gifts.

Have I been hurt by churches? Sure. Pretty badly. Have I been loved by churches? Yep, more than I deserved. Is it easy to be a part of one? Nope.

But here's the thing. There is no perfect church because there are no perfect people.  You can't put a bunch of broken people into community with each other and expect things to go beautifully. We are defensive. We are passive-aggressive or, some of us, just plain aggressive for no good reason. We avoid conflict. We seek it out unnecessarily. We thrive on and create drama. We keep to ourselves and don't let anyone really know us. We mess up all the time.

So, we hurt each other. It's just going to happen.

But after 33 years of doing this church thing (my mom started bringing me when I was 4 years old) I can honestly say this: church is good. NOT because it has all the answers. NOT because it is always a safe place. NOT because I can show up and consume things that might make me feel good for awhile. NOT because we sit around and sing Kum-Ba-Yah all the time while holding hands and throwing wildflowers around.

Church is good because it can be people, created in the image of God, struggling to figure out what that looks like together...learning what grace means, steeped in forgiveness of self and one another, rejoicing and mourning with one another, breaking bread together, pushing ourselves to be able to truly become the person God has made us to be.

That, my friends, is a beautiful mess.

So, as we say goodbye again, I pause to thank God for this current body of people, for one more Sunday to worship with them, for the relationships I know will continue and for the ways they have prepared us to take this next step of faith as a family.

Thank you to this family for letting us be our crazy family, for letting us be who we are, for being family when we have been far away from our other family for three years. I couldn't be more thankful.

Monday, June 6, 2016

When Persistence Pays

I am already 9.5 years into this whole mom thing and some days I still feel like I'm playing house. Dressing up little people, feeding them, pretending to impart some type of adult and lifelong wisdom they will no doubt quote when they are older as they remember me fondly as calm and collected all the time.

Ok, I barely got through the last half of that sentence, but still.

Am I the only one? I often wonder when I'll truly feel like an adult and with each milestone, I find myself wondering anew.

Except for this week. This week I knew I nailed this mom thing, this adult jam. Just for one brief, shining moment, I could almost hear the tournament music playing in the background as scenes of the last year and half with my toddler flashed across my mind.

This week, we got a diagnosis. After trips to therapists, meetings with the state agency, setting goals, sensory diets, parenting strategies, countless books, too many emails back and forth with the doctor to count, strict nutritional guidelines...after all these things, I still knew something wasn't right. That he wasn't responding the way he should to all we were doing if there were really no underlying causes. I knew it couldn't just be personality. No one is born miserable, right?

So I kept pushing. I kept looking. I asked questions. I found groups of people who had been through the same type of challenges who had found answers. I suggested possibilities to our amazing pediatrician who was more than willing to dig deep right beside us. I failed, I despaired, I hoped again, I tried again.

And, my friends, I performed the most disgusting ritual I have ever had to do, scooping poop from horrifying diapers into different vials, mixing and mashing them up with a scary little spoon with teeth and, I am not kidding you, putting the whole package in the mail to a distant lab. I am pretty sure the house smelled like a sewer for a solid 24 hours. Well, more than usual, anyway.

That sample was gone a whole month. Another month of inexplicable meltdowns, of anger and rage, of early rising and whining and a child who was clearly unhappy a lot of the time. There are few things harder than watching your child struggle and feeling helpless.

But this week, we got an answer. It may not be causing everything, but there is no doubt it is serious enough to mess with him pretty hard. I am pretty sure no matter what was going on in this little guy's body, he would still be off the charts energetic. I am sure we would still have tantrums and chaos more than I did with my first. He DOES have a "live life to the fullest" kind of personality and I love that about him. But maybe, just maybe, if we can heal up his little body, he can live life to the fullest with more smiles and fewer meltdowns. With more joy and less angst. With less thinking about how his body is uncomfortable and more diving into the fun around him. He is SO good at that.

This week, we won. This week, I felt like a real adult, a mom who fought for her son and succeeded.

Maybe you think it's cruel to rejoice in a diagnosis. But friends, when you have spent more than half your child's life searching for some way to help and someone tells you there IS a way to help now, you feel a tremendous sense of relief. It's not something incurable. It's not even uncomfortable to treat. He won't know the difference in his day until all of a sudden he will. He will feel good instead of crummy. The littlest things might no longer cause 45 minutes of screaming and throwing his body on the floor. Maybe our family will be able to go places. Maybe someday we can introduce some of the taboo foods back in and go to an actual restaurant occasionally or order in a pizza when I'm done with cooking.

We can hope so, at least.

And hope is something of a theme in my life. Through miscarriage, infertility, adoption and now the extreme challenges of a higher-needs child struggling through toddlerhood, God has continued to pour down hope. To give us just enough to try again. To explore, to fail and pick ourselves back up.

So, here's to the next phase of hope, one filled with treatments and, dare I say it, healing.