Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What Would Charles Ingalls Think?

My husband loves to make fun of me and my "What would Charles Ingalls think?" statements. Because I make them a LOT.

I grew up a huge (HUGE) lover of "Little House on the Prairie" and was always fascinated by the idea of life in the 1800's. At least once a month during some type of conversation, I turn to my husband (or whomever I'm sitting next to at the time) and say, "Can you imagine what Charles Ingalls would think?" I always wonder how he would react if he were suddenly transported through time and found himself in the middle of a modern-day situation like sitting in a moving vehicle in eight lanes of traffic. Or in a movie theater. How FREAKED out would his mind be?

So now you know how my mind works and where I'm coming from when I say - How miserable have we made ourselves as a society through advances in technology and sheer knowledge of how things could be?

I seriously woke up this morning with a huge case of "Why?" and it's been a bad day because of it. I then proceeded to read a few articles and blog posts online where other people are floating down the same river of despair about what they don't have, can't achieve, or haven't been given by God that others have. 

Welcome to Modern Day Misery.

Think about it like Charles Ingalls. Back then, you worked for what you had and lived. If you had a big family, you worked harder to provide for it. If you had no children, then you had no children. That's just the way it was. 

If you came down with a disease, then you either died or you didn't. There were no drug companies charging 1,000 times what the drug is worth - and if you couldn't pay for it, well, then, you don't deserve to live; thus creating the question of "Why is my life worth less?" There were no insurance companies to hate for creating huge gaps in who gets what coverage.

Having or not having children was not a question of whether you could mortgage your entire life to afford to try to make a baby - it was just whatever God handed you. School was learning. Banking was a building simply holding your money for you. You got around with your horse and wagon. 

People supported one another with pies and prayers. AND THAT WAS GOOD ENOUGH.

My heavens what heartache and disappointment and unhappiness and uncontentedness we, as a society, have brought upon ourselves in the name of moving forward and "better" living.

Have you ever wondered what was so bad in the "old days" about just finding out that you have a disease and then living the time God had given you out? My friend with cancer said to me last week, "I felt just fine when I had cancer and didn't know it. Now I feel like hell every day because they are 'saving' me." She will, most likely, go on to live a long, full life because of her treatment; but many others do not, and live their days out miserable trying to be saved because modern medicine says they can do it. 

Imagine if we as individuals retreated to the personal mindset of not controlling every aspect of everything and having it the way WE want it. Some things are, obviously, much better because of advancements in technology, medicine, and life in general. But many things just create disappointment and despair where there really need not be any if we just accepted what we can and cannot (or should not) control and moved forward with our lives from there. 

If the soil and climate where you live are not suitable for growing a Crepe Myrtle tree, maybe you shouldn't try and spend thousands of dollars changing the soil, creating a false environment around the area, etc. Seriously - just plant a different kind of tree and live with and enjoy that tree. Or don't plant a tree at all. 

But we get so caught up in what we CAN or MIGHT be able to make happen if we find the right tools, people, and technological advances, we never stop to think if we should or if it will just create a whole new stressful part of our lives to spend money on, obsess over, and then be crushed about if it doesn't work. And then - THEN - you are right back at the same point where you started - only financially and emotionally bankrupt - and questioning why God won't make it possible for you to have this tree that other people have.


The older I get and the more I deal with that is seemingly unfair, the more I learn that I am the purveyor of much of my own emotional stress. Yes, I'd be happier with this greater flooring or if my kids had been without their issues being raised or if I had a farm where I could rescue many more dogs - but focusing on what I don't have and how unhappy I am without those things or ways of life is of my OWN doing. And I'm probably missing a lot of what I could be doing and enjoying instead. 

And I also realize that it is not at all fair to ask people around me to show grace and mercy for my attitude and emotional state surrounding something that I've built up MYSELF to be a huge monster to deal with. 

Some circumstances are incredibly hard to accept and deal with and require outside help; and some just are what they are and the emotional tornado surrounding them is of our own doing. We need to acknowledge that, accept those circumstances, and adjust our attitudes accordingly. 

Sometimes, we are our own worst enemies. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Trust in the Suffering

I shared a photo with somone earlier today, and the first thing I said was, "This was taken four days before we found out Dad had brain cancer." The photo had nothing to do with Dad, or his battle with cancer at all.

We learned he had at least six tumors in his brain in the ER two years ago last week. These dates in April will be seared in our brains forever because it changed our lives forever.

I still see pictures and refer to events as "before" and "after." Before we knew. Before we had to go through that as a family. Before we knew hell. Memories flood my brain and heart in formation like soldiers marching . . . BEFORE . . . AFTER . . . BEFORE . . . AFTER ...

"Before" = we were still happy in a carefree way. "After" = we are happy now, but in a different way. 

I wonder when that will stop happening. 

When does the before and after just become what happened in life?

When will that gaping, great divide be just a crack?

Everyone loses loved ones. It's a part of life. But not everyone must watch what we watched, see what we saw, do what we did, and feel what we felt - and still feel. If I had a dime for the number of times I have screamed at God for not letting my father someday just die of old age, I'd be richer than Trump.

But then again, I wouldn't have learned what I learned, loved how I loved, and seen the light of God in my dad's eyes like I did. I wouldn't have seen the hands of Jesus up close and personal at the end of my own mother's arms caring for her love of over 50 years - and the rest of us at the same time. Dad wouldn't have touched as many lives in the way that he did - by handling what he was handed with such grace - had this not happened. His life would have meant just as much, but fewer people would have seen God in action had this not happened.

In short - more people met God because our family suffered through what it did.

Some people know suffering through the experiences of someone close to them or have hearts for those suffering from afar and feel the pain that way; and some are placed in the middle of the fire and must trust God not to let them burn. These are two very different experiences, and there is seemingly no rhyme or reason to which group you may fall into at some point.

Sometimes, just sometimes, you learn first hand that suffering must happen in order for God's glory to shine through. And it's not fair at all to those who must do the suffering. But God never promised us fair.

One day - someday - it will all make sense to those of us who know God. Until then, we try not to go crazy wondering why  - and, instead, place our trust in the one who has a plan. 

Today, as I accompany my sweet, good friend to chemotherapy, I am reminded that God, indeed, is in control as I see a glimpse of why I have been through what I have and am now here on this side of the cancer once again. 

Being a passenger can be awfully hard; but we are not the driver, so we must quit trying to steer. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Our Hope Lies Not In This World

The "New" World Trade Center
I'm sitting at the World Trade Center in New York City next to the 9/11 Memorial where the two towers once stood. In their places now are two haunting holes - pools where the buildings once rose from the ground to heights hardly imaginable. If you've been here, you know how it feels to stand here and watch the water flow into these two huge squares, seemingly gone forever as are those who were lost that day - along with all of America's innocence, really. 

The North Pool

It invokes the most amazing feeling of smallness in this world - helplessness - if your faith is in things of this world. 

The South Pool
I just watched a leaf float completely over the South Pool - swaying this way and that, up and down - but never falling in. 

It drifted across, completely at the mercy of today's breeze, finally coming to rest in a tree on the opposite side just feet from the waterfall. 

Quite indicative of how these resilient New Yorkers - and the rest of America - were in the days, weeks, and years following those heinous attacks on us. 

We were floating adrift, wondering what had just happened and what had our world come to? But we didn't fall in. They - we - made it to the other side of the tragedy and have come to rest in a very different place. 

We will never forget neither those who were lost on that day, nor the way of life we took for granted before that. 

But one thing does not change no matter what the evil of this world tries to make us believe - and that is that our hope should not be resting in the things and people of this earth. Our hope and faith should rest in eternity. Beyond this rubbish. 

No - I cannot explain why this world is full of evil and why our mighty God allows it. I just know that this is not my last stop. If this world were perfect for us, we would have no reason to have faith in eternity and God himself. Our faith would be lying in the perfection of this earthly realm - and would be conditional upon God's making it wonderful for us every day. Faith is not conditional upon what God can do for us today, but what he has already done for us for eternity. Our God is an eternity-based God. 

Like that leaf, I will come to rest someday on the other side. I will hug my dad and have so much to tell him. Or maybe I will just lie there with my head on his chest like I did when I was little - and like I did the day I learned he would be leaving us soon two years ago tomorrow. The day he told me, "It's okay, girlie," and I looked back up from his chest and replied, "No, it's not," and just bawled. 

Where is my God through all of this hell on earth? Preparing my home in eternity. 

Eyes on the prize, people.