Not my Son!

I became a mom about 9 years ago when my oldest son came bounding into the world. After 14 hours of labor, he appeared, stared me straight in the face and made not a sound. He took the room by silent storm as nurses and doctors cooed over him, exclaiming that he was one of the most beautiful babies they had seen. I thought, “Uh, of course you would say that, you HAVE to say that about all kids born.” No, they told me. There is something distinct about this one, they said. Distinct? Well, he certainly made a dramatic entrance. After he was born, the medical staff present busied themselves with me and sent my son upstairs. I knew before they told me, that something was wrong. I could feel it. After he was delivered, there was no pain….there was only peace. I watched the midwife at my feet count the pulse beats and watch pan upon pan fill with red liquid. I knew that I was losing more than a typical birth, all said and done I lost about 2-2 1/2 units of blood. I remember looking at my mother, who was watching me and telling her that all would be just fine. If what I had come into this world to do was to deliver my son, I had done just that. There was an overwhelming calm as I smiled at her, and closed my eyes. It was a moment of warmth, silence, and grace. I do not recall the scurry in the room, the nurses barking at the phone on the wall to bring up an ER tech. I do not remember my mother telling the room that my eyes were closed and my hand limp. All I remember is that for a moment I knew that I had done exactly what I was to do. At that moment, all was right with the world.

How can that be? Your son is upstairs, you are unconscious, on your way to checking out. How can you be at peace with what is happening? Don’t you want to see your son grow up, to teach and mold him, to love him everyday? How can you think this is ok? Fight, fight with all that you are!

Well, at that moment I could not fight, it was not my role to do so. There were others to do that on my behalf, my role was to fight for the life of my son, deliver him, and make sure he was safe. I had done that. There are other mothers out there who are called to do much more than I for their children. It is part of the role and call of a mother.

I think of another mother on this Easter. You see Holy Week has a different feel to me now that I have my own children. There is something so tender and raw about this journey of her Son. I think of Mary, mother of Christ as she watched the progression of events, and I marvel at her. There are times I look at my own sons and giggle as I think of the tirade that Jesus must have put His mother through while He was growing. The absences, the comments, the wandering off for days on end, and the cryptic messages must have driven her to distraction. The pleas of,”mom,can I?” Imagine this boy as a teen, full of knowledge, a yearning for something different, but maybe not able to articulate what it is. Imagine this boy as he questions, struggles, listens to inner voices calling him to something too large for conception; conception larger than what His mother was called to do.

There are moments I understand this woman, this Mother of love and grace. I understand the standing back and watching, praying that the testing of limits her child is doing will keep him safe. I wonder if she listened to his comments with peace or an unsettled feeling? I listen to my oldest talk about what sees and what he hears, it takes my breath away sometimes. He has a level of understanding and perception that floors me. What many of us spend years of education trying to figure out, he explains with a simple twist of his head, a smile, and a shrug of his shoulders. It is exactly what it is, for him there is no need to complicate love, compassion, beauty, and forgiveness. He knows what it looks like, how it feels, and is unafraid to express them in his own words. The wisdom of simply expressed thought, thought that we make confused by barriers, obstacles, and conditions.

I think of this Mother as I watched my children this week. I am careful what I say, how I approach the emotion in these days. While the week begins with great joy and celebration, a parade and cheerful laughing, there are also moments of gut wrenching sadness and loss. Easter week holds the contradiction of all emotions. What must Mary be thinking as she journeys this with her Son. She knows she cannot save him, she has seen the effects of the last three years. Would that she could take this from Him. As a mother, I feel that pain, the knowledge that your child hurts, is anguished and she can do nothing to stop it.

Would that she could join Him in the garden the night before He accepts fate. I imagine she would cradle her Son, rocking him back and forth, letting Him cry out the pain. Her arms would encircle Him, willing the strength that only a mother can provide, praying it would be enough. The tear stained face of her Son must tear at her heart, I can almost hear her railing at the same Father He cries out to in this moment. “WHY!” “Not MY son.” “No, He is YOUR Son.” “I will do what needs to be done.”

Good Friday always dawns cold and dreary for me. The sun may shine, but there is a cloak of darkness which covers my emotions. I watch the clocks, silently ticking away until noon. Thanks to modern day cinema, I can hear the driven nails, see the sprawled arms, feel the weight of the crowd. If I close my eyes I can see the picture clear and the mass of people presses closer and closer to the action. I can see those whom He loves. Mary Magdalene, oh how my heart breaks for her. I see disciples, believers, and brothers already confuserequd and mourning. I see the guards, those who doubt, those who question, and those who hate. In the front, is His Mother. I can picture her Son looking down at her, a mixture of grief, loss, and peace as He does what He is called to do. Feel the agape, unconditional and reverent love this Son has for his mother. Out of the sheer madness and agony of the physical pain comes a love which can only be described as Divine. He looks at John, whom He loves and commands him to watch after His mother. He speaks to His own mother, tears glisten from His eyes as he presents John to His mother. She is not alone. He has ensured her safety, her care, and made clear the path for her love to be continued. AAAAAAhhhhh!!!!…..

The noise continues, the deafening cloud draws the bodies closer, the summit of emotion reached. So many would scream the final line. I hear a quite resignation, a peaceful resolution, the fight is finished–there is no more pain. The whisper may come as loud shouts in the soul, but the eyes close, the hand goes limp, the last breath drawn. She delivered her Son amongst the primal earth and brought Him to this moment years later. She had no ER doctor to call, no final IV jammed into an arm to save. She heard and saw and breathed the last breath right along with her baby boy, her Holy Son. She remains, stays, mourns, and misses this boy made man. Tender hands usher Him down, tending the body, swathing this example of her heart made flesh. What must she think in this moment, how must she feel? How can this Mother believe that tomorrow or the next day will heal this wound?

This woman amazes me. Her love, her unconditional love and fight for her Son drove her to the cross. Drove her to watch, to hear, to clutch at those around her…Her love required her to let Him go. Ow. That hurts. Her love required that she let Him go. She had not hold over Him in this moment, just as she had no hold over Him from birth. A wry smile might play at her lips as she sits with that knowledge days and years later. There must be a quiet peace as she knows that what is done is done. It IS finished, but the next act is about to begin, if only she can wait a day or two. If only…..

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Pride, it Goeth.

Pride, it Goeth..

Pride, it Goeth.

<a href="http://http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x7gab9
Pilate And Christ Jesus Christ Superstar by roniyy“>

I feel compelled to scribe more on this topic of pride and identity, especially since it may not be just me that struggles.  One of my favorite artists is U2.  The moment I hear the word pride, I instantly go to the song, inspired by the life and work of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I always smile ruefully to myself as the lyrics play in my head and I again commit to be part of making a difference in my generation.  It always serves as a moment of inspiration for me, then the smack-down of the real world sets in and I realize what an attempt that would be.  Still, there is always that flicker of a bigger flame that is fanned.  Much as I would love to shove down the passionate change advocate, she rears her ugly head and demands that I reexamine the chance to set the world on fire.

I have to admit having to examine my motives for fanning that passionate flame.  I have to ask myself if I   be part of change because there is a desperate need to see real and positive change happen, or because I have a need to be elevated?  That is a tough question, one I am convinced the great social and political change artists wrestled.  I hope they struggled, I hope they did and do as much as I feel called to tussle.

It is not an easy question.  I explored it when I first became a teacher.  Did I want to teach for the glory of standing up in front of a classroom and speaking to a new generation?  What were the real reasons that I wanted it?  The fact is, the more I did it, the more in love with “my kids” I fell.  There are many that I have as Facebook contacts, many that have emailed upon marriage, or a new baby, or when life has gotten away from them.  I consider that a holy honor.  There was always that nagging idea of my motivation at the back of my head.  If I were not teaching, what else would I do?  Without that title, who and what was I?

Fast-forward that same notion to 2012.  I entertained the idea of a lead pastor in a congregation and realized about a year and a half ago that was not my intention.  I can do the administrative work, but I would rather not.  Every stinking inventory test that I took confirmed that.  I had a battle of sorts as to what that meant as an MDIV grad if I were not in charge of a congregation…any congregation, including the big ones.  Now as I work on a non-profit and in the mix of all the nitty-gritty work it entails, I find that the question comes into focus again. 

I am forced to ask myself why I am involved, why I feel so passionate in telling the stories of those affected.  Is it the energy of starting something new?   Is it the impact and potential difference that doing the work and telling the stories provides?  What happens if it blows up and nothing happens?  Am I still ok? 

Henri Nouwen, writer and philosopher, invites me to consider a couple of understandings.  Our society relegates us to find our validation in what we own, what we do, what others say about us, and what we believe about ourselves.  Every conflict that I can think of falls into one of those 4 categories.  Either I am at odds with what I am, people say that I am, what I have/or don’t have, or what I do/don’t do.  Most of the conflict I encounter entail ones where I am at conflict with myself.    When I hear other people comment on appreciating me for who I am, I want to scream.

That is correct, I can acknowledge that there are many people in my life that I love like family–to whom I am not related, who would walk through fire for me, simply because I am me.  The concept of that makes me want to tear my hair out.  WHY??? What have I done to warrant such a connection? If that means that I have done nothing to warrant it, that also means that I can do nothing to keep it.  I think that scares me most of all.  As humans, we are conditioned to expect the worst from other people–to expect that given the opportunity, they would destroy us in a heartbeat in order to get ahead.   I spoke to a relative the other day who told me about how someone had gone off at them for no apparent reason.  This person mentioned that it would be ok and necessary to totally cut off people who intentionally hurt another.  I thought that that made sense, but at the same time was so sad.  I know there are many times when I have either intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone else.  I also know how bad it makes me feel to know that I did so–regardless of the reason. 

I also know what it feels like to be cut out of someone’s life.  There is no more hollow feeling than to know that a person that once regarded you as either a friend, colleague, or family member no longer believes you worthy of their acknowledgment.  That is the main reason that I cannot stand apathy.  At least when we hate someone/something, we care enough to hate it.  Apathy is a void of caring–it feels so hollow, so empty, so alone.    I would rather someone hate my guts than to refuse to believe that I do not exist.    I have felt that, experienced the painful void of connection.  It stinks in a place that I cannot describe.  It is what makes it almost impossible for me to believe that someone would care about me simply for who I am, not what I do.  I cannot wrap my mind around this concept.

It is also the same reason that I struggle with the idea that Abba Creator would care about me unconditionally and without reserve.  I must have done something to earn it, therefore, I must keep doing in order to make it last.   I know the last statement from a  faith standpoint is wrong, yet my experience shows me different.  If, then, my reasoning and faith are in conflict, one must rise to the forefront of being more right or acceptable.  (sorry, debate training in full gear here)  If my faith is more acceptable, then my reasoning has flaw.  If that is the case, then what I have based my understanding of acceptance as is also flawed.  What do I do with that?  How do I respond?  How do I let go of personal pride long enough to embrace a more faithful understanding of acceptance?  Do I have the courage to do that? 

Someone challenged me to embrace the idea of accepting other people’s care for no other reason then that they care.  This idea scares me to the core.  I am terrified that if I do not perform or meet their standard of my existence, then I will lose their care, and ultimately, their love.  I know intimately the feeling of losing that, and am terrified to risk the gamble again.  You may call out my hypocrisy here as I type this and know full well that I would never hold my children to this standard.  That I tell them each day that no matter what they do, they are dearly loved.  That they are beautifully and wonderfully made.  They know this to their core.  I want to scream from the mountains that of all the ideas that fill them each day, they KNOW this!!!! YES!  Today, that hard work is established.    Even if they become mass murderers (which they won’t), they know that they are loved without expectation, without reserve.

So, what of my pride that will not allow me to breathe in the love from others not related to me?  What of this pride that requires that I push ahead and never let up?  My mother told me something yesterday that hurt the second that I read it.  She mentioned that I have always pushed and pushed and pushed to do it right and perfect and to have it happen NOW–and that I never change.   It was the last statement that hurt so deeply.  It felt like I had been disregarded and written off because I struggle so.  That is my struggle, and not one that she can fix for me.  I am not sure what I would have liked her to say instead, I just know how raw a chord that struck with me.

Again, I refer back to JC Superstar and this silent king that exuded such grace, such compassion.  I want to emulate that.  I want that more than I have wanted anything in the world.  I believe it is the hallmark of some of the heroes of social and faith change that I look to for inspiration.    ” An amazing thing, this silent King.”

I need to sit with that, I need to ponder what that means and what application that has for our world in 2012 as well as in my personal life.  If it was the extreme and rare concept then, it is even more baffling today.  How do I embrace that, and how do I model that for my generation and for those following?  This is a burden I feel intensely, and the flame of passion will not subside.  I pray for the courage to boldly love in compassion and mercy, and to accept it wholly.

Shalom,

cahl.

Consumed by Pride…response to my last blog.

Consumed by Pride…response to my last blog..

Who do you Say that i Am?

Identity.  This word has been coming up in conversation much lately and I am compelled to contemplate why.  I’d like to say that at my advanced (almost 40) age I would have this identity question figured out, I don’t.  It is interesting for me to note that others struggle with it too.  The pastor with whom we share office space struggles with it in his 40’s.  My female colleague and fellow seminary grad does, I do, my husband does.  There seems to be no end to the dilemma. 

The other day my eldest son brought home a book, “When I Grow Up.”  In it were the short descriptions and pictures that he and his fellow 2nd grade classmates want to be when they grow up.  Typically the half dozen male football and basketball stars littered the page as well as a couple actresses and teachers from the girls.  In the mix were a couple of military men and one woman police officer (You go GIRl!)  Displayed proudly on page 3 was my son, the snake hunter.  Of all the professions that he has discussed, snake hunter makes the pages, complete with an illustration.  A couple years ago it was a marine biologist, a volcanologist, or a demolition derby race car drive.  I remember hearing him at age 3 telling me he wanted to study underwater volcanoes and bring new meaning to volcanologists.  Yup, he was 3.  When he CHOSE his first Halloween costume (also at age 3) he was a pickle monster-an invention of his own mind.  You bet I made him a pickle monster costume…it is amazing what green pillowcases and a beanie can do!

Why did I share this?  His imagination allows him to be whatever he wants to be.  He rattles off the newest idea with flair and confidence, never believing that he won’t accomplish them.  I can’t tell him he won’t be a snake hunter ( although I hope he does not bring them to me when he visits).  I am not sure his future wife will want them in the house.  I can tell him that I would rather he not be a demolition derby race car driver because I would prefer he keep safe.  However, if that is what he is bound to be….let him at it.

I envy that confidence. I am smack dab in the middle of that conflict right now.  I am adopted.  That is no secret.  I grew up in one identity, knowing that I was chosen by that family.  I will not go into the adoption card right now as that is mine, and no one elses story.  Some want to know their birth, others choose not to and that is a deeply personal choice.  For me, it caused a constant struggle as to who I was and what I was to do.  No skin felt right.  I was not an athlete.  I was not quiet and meek, I was anything but.  I was a communicator from birth, not quite the powerhouse I knew in my heart I could be.  Never had the look or grace to be the actress I felt in my gut….or the confidence to belt the song that my shower and car heard.  Never was the pretty girl to match the attitude and talent others saw, and I knew it.  I was a good communicator and I was a good teacher.

There again, however, the skin did not fit.  I did not want to teach to tests.  I wanted to teach children, high school students.  I knew there was limitless potential in them and I loved watching the dawn of personal understanding come into their eyes.  I relished the conversations, the wrestling with creative concepts, the chance to look at something in a new way.  I loved it~  call it a teachinggasm!!!

Then I entered Seminary, not a pastor i would be.  3 1/2 years later, I am not a total teacher, though parts of me are.  I am not a congregational pastor, though I understand Chaplaincy and pastoral care.  I am a writer, though I have nothing published.  I am an actress though I have performed in nothing since college, and even that was minimal.  I am an MDIV graduate, with no set congregation or place to call home.  I am in charge of communications and marketing for a non profit that is seeing such momentum that it amazes me, but for the last 3 1/2 years I have brought in hardly any cash revenue.  The guilt weighs heavy on me.  The moments that I brought in the most dough were when I was management and sales at the mall, and then my children never saw me.  I KNOW i am not supposed to do that for a living.

So, here i sit listening to my sons come in from outside as they watch Veggie Tales and the Pirates who don’t do Anything.  That’s how I feel.  Like I do not do anything.  So, where is that identity?  Am I content without a title, a home, security?  Am I ok just being and letting ideas and dreams go for the greater good?  I do not honestly know.  In my family, excellence was expected, a 2nd place trophy brought sarcasm, ( and i came home with many of them).  Conversely, good grades, scholarships, and 1st place finishes got me notoriety.  I knew it.  I feel like I have failed in my quest to be a good kid and prove to my family and others that I was worth their time.  You see, they chose me, they did not have to take me.  They did, and there were so many times I failed them–all of them.  Now, with a grad degree and a cauldron of dreams, I have nothing to show them or anyone.  What have I done?  What legacy have I left?  Of what would my children be proud?  When other kids make  fun of my son’s mother cause she looks funny ( they do make fun, we know that), what grounds my sons and what will they say mom does?  What contribution do I make and does it matter?

The scene in Jesus Christ Superstar comes into play every time I think of this topic.  when Jesus is being questioned as to His identity–“Who do YOU say that I am?”  This resonates with me.  What do I want and why.  To what end do I work and work and work.  I cannot answer.  I hate that I can’t answer that.  It makes me feel selfish and it calls me to question my motives.  Why do I want what I want?  For fame, glory, money, or respect?  Maybe part of that is true.  Maybe I don’t want to be the loser I believe my family and classmates and college colleagues believed I was/am.  Maybe I want what I want to validate my own existence and my rightful place in my family.  Maybe I have been chasing that the whole time in an effort to feel like I belonged and was needed–not just needed but wholly wanted.  Typing that last sentence brought tears to my eyes as the human part of me battles with the spirit that knows what I just said is wrong.  Damn, what will I be when i GROW up!  I don’t know and I am coming to knowledge that I just may have no clue as to how to get there.

Maybe admitting that is step one..maybe, just maybe.

shalom,

cahl

I talk truth baby~!

So just had a “comin to Jesus” with my oldest son.  He started pounding on my youngest tonight, pounding so hard that i could hear it at the dining room table where I sat.  I could hear the fists meeting flesh and then the piercing cries of my son filled the air as he ran from his big brother.  He is scared to death of his big brother and even went so far as to give him permission to hit him if he needs to do so.  I DON’T THINK SO~!

This mom chewed.  No, I did not yell, I chewed and held his smart and intuitive bum to the fire!  Last night he told me that he knows what he does some of the time and that he is doing it to make me pay, tonight was no different.  He actually used the word “pay.”  So, I did what I knew to do, I reflected truth back at him and told him it was not ok ever hurt my son, my husband, my dog, or anyone else.  No one is allowed to do that to him either…or me, I forgot me.

When his energy level has reached an all-time high, the immediate reaction takes over and speaks for him.  To some extent I can excuse some of the behavior as energy and body  release, the line was crossed tonight.  I cannot allow any member of my family to harm another for any reason.  In fact, I cannot allow anyone to willingly hurt another….no matter what.

This parenting gig is massive hard work.  A good friend told me her father reminds her continually that we are not just raising kids…we are raising and pouring into the future.  He is a future voter, husband, father, community member, employee or employer.  It is my job ( and the job of the village) to raise effective people who depend on good character and sound morality to guide them.  If I cannot instill that I am not doing my job as a parent.

Unfortunately, this gig does not come with a manual.  It does not end at age 18, nor does it become any less exhausting, (so I hear).  How nice it would be to provide safe and listening places where moms and dads can unload some of that burden and vent.  Even as I write this, there is a vein of guilt that runs through me as I think about what I am doing and whether it is the right move or not.  Confusion and second-guessing rule the day.  There are days I am so emotionally drained I have no energy to brush my teeth.  How many people have the guts to say that, much less the permission?  There are times that I am driving home from class that the world looks quiet and I do not want to walk back into my house, where legos and boys run strewn.  I do, always.  There are times though.  There are so many times that I forget that I am more than a mom, a wife, a graduate, an employee.  I forget that I want and need too.  Many times I feel guilty for even thinking it, that is unproductive.  I neglect that I am a woman, wanting to be appreciated and sought after each day.  Most of the time I feel pretty overlooked and unappreciated as an individual person. Most of the time I do it to myself and then end up pissy about how I am received.

Bottom line, I do have the first clue about claiming what I need and want.  I stink at it and then I become bitter about what I’m not getting.  Well, tonight, I held both kids’ feet to the fire in another effort to instill more character.  Will it work?  Who knows, but I have to keep trying…one of these days I may quit pounding my head against the wall.

In the meantime, how do we lighten the load for one another?  Do we allow others to help?  Maybe that is step one, allowing people to help.  Maybe step one for me is to start thinking about what I need and want….any pointers out there?  Good luck out there!!!!

Shalom,

cahl.

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