Thorny Flesh

I am having back issues again. Not that again is really the most accurate term for it. The issues have never really gone away. The surgery I had in 2011 to repair a severely herniated disc in my lower back relieved a lot of pain but did not clear up everything. I’ve dealt with balance problems, nerve damage, and pain that comes and goes.

This summer the pain has come and forgotten to go away. It has gotten progressively worse, to the point where I have an appointment with my back surgeon in 7 days.

Now, back surgery is not something I am particularly looking forward to. Though I do remember how immediate the relief was last time. Sure my skin and muscle tissue hurt where it had been cut apart and sewn back together, but that was nothing compared to what I’d felt before. That almost instant relief sounds so good at times. At the same time I remember how difficult the recovery was. The physical therapy. The driving restrictions. The weeks of being homebound, except church and doctor appointments. The relying on others to help with just about everything while I recovered. The no chore restriction-oh wait I actually enjoyed that one! My point is I’m not very sure that I want to have another back surgery. I only know I want this intense back pain to go away. If my surgeon thinks surgery will be the best way for that to happen than OK. God brought me through the last one and I have faith He will carry me through this one as well.

For the last 2½ years I’ve dealt with nerve damage caused by that herniated disc. While praying over the current situation, I asked God again, as I have a few times since those nerves were damaged to please heal them. “Lord,” I prayed, “I know the doctors say nothing can be done and that that this latest problem has nothing to do with the nerves that don’t work right. But could You do something for me? If I do need surgery to repair the disc, could You somehow regenerate those nerves? Can You please wake them up so they can work correctly and the problems they have caused just go away?””

Shortly after my prayer, I opened my Bible study book to a section about health. I read there the following words from the apostle Paul: “I was given a thorn in my flesh…. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said ‘my grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

I said I asked God to heal those nerves, but as I read over the conversation, it sure sounds a lot more like begging than simply requesting. And I know this was much more than just the third time I brought it up. Has God flat-out refused to heal me? I don’t think so. There is always a chance that He will restore complete use of the lower portions of my body. For now, though He is asking me to lean on Him, to trust in His grace, to believe that what the world sees as my weakness could be a beautiful conduit for His power.

I don’t know if the physical healing I desire will ever come. But do you know what is even better than physical healing? The spiritual healing I am experiencing. Day by day my hunger for God is satisfied as my thirst for Him intensifies. If it takes a thorn in my flesh- or a handful of damaged nerve in my back-in order for me to experience that, I gladly embrace it!

It Could Have Been Me

 

Robin Williams played Genie in my favorite ever Disney film, Aladdin

Robin Williams played Genie in my favorite ever Disney film, Aladdin

Robin Williams died yesterday.

When I heard the news, I was at a wedding reception. My immediate reaction was to make light of it. Not because I found even a shred of humor in his death, but because of where I was. I did not want anything to dim the newlyweds’ joy. Yet the happiness of the young couple was not the only reason I tried to shrug off the sadness of Mr. Williams’ death. I just did not want to admit, even to myself right then, how deeply the news was affecting me. I did not want to make room for the thought pushing to the front of my mind.

“That could have been me.”

Every newscast talks about the addictions he battled throughout his life. Most talk about the deep, consuming depression that marked the final months of his life. Some even suggested that Robin Williams was able to use the humor that entertained fans for decades to hide the depth of his family and friends.

I’ve been there. I don’t have the acting chops or comedic timing of Mr. Williams. But I have faced depression and addiction, even suicidal thoughts. I’ve hidden these things from my family and friends. Sometimes I’ve been very successful at hiding, sometimes I haven’t. For years I have lived with the fear that these demons would be the end of me. Even now, when it may appear to others that I have my life together and my issues under control, I am scared that one of those monsters might jump out and grab hold of me.

My addiction is what concerns me most. I don’t do any illegal drugs and I very rarely drink. My drug of choice is food. I am an emotional eater, using food to celebrate victories or mourn losses. Sometimes I crave sweet and creamy; sometimes I crave salty and crunchy. The problem with food addiction is that I can’t stop eating. God designed my body to require food in order to survive. The types and amounts that I shovel into my mouth, though, are not a requirement. Even knowing that, I can’t make myself stop. And that depresses me more. Which makes me reach for more food I should not eat. Which adds to depression. Which….

You get the picture.

I am relatively sure that depression won’t “get me.” Difficult as it has been, I have accepted that this depression is a part of who I am and the treatment for it will always be a part of my life. Those closet to me have learned the signs of an untreated me- because I have made the choices in the past to stop treatment. They know what to look for and for the most part they know what to say to make me choose to get back to treatment. At this point, in time, I feel confident that depression will not bring an end to my life.

I can’t say the same about food.

Robin WIlliams as Peter Pan in Hook in my second favorite of his films.

Robin WIlliams as Peter Pan in Hook in my second favorite of his films.

My sons like the movie Spaceballs. There is a scene where a newscaster says Pizza the Hut got locked in a car and ate himself to death. Now, I don’t think I will literally eat myself to death, but I worry about y food choices could be doing to my body. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. I am not hurting only me, I am hurting God when I allow my addiction to control me.

 

Yesterday, the dual demons of addiction and depression ended the life of Robin Williams. His legacy of laughter will live on through films and internet clips, though the laughter might be a little bittersweet as the world mourns his loss. Today, I vow to fight those same demons in my life. I don’t know yet what my legacy will be or how many lives I may touch. But with God’s help, I won’t let mental issues keep me from finding out.

Rest in peace, Robin. Enjoy Neverland.

Get Your Praise On!!

Because of a reaction to the medication for my back pain, I had to miss church this week. We were able to set up a Skype link (a rather temperamental one) so I could still be a part of the morning worship service. What I experienced moved me to tears.

Normally, being moved to tears during a worship service is a good thing. There is nothing quite like the spine-tingling thrill of feeling  God move through a group of believers. But it wasn’t His movement that caused my tears. These tears were brought on by a broken heart.

The worship portion of the service consisted of four wonderful, upbeat songs about what God has done for us–Hello My Name Is, I Am Free, God’s Not Dead and Oh Happy Day . Despite my pain I was taping my feet and clapping, dancing as much as I was able, as I smiled and sang along.   Halfway through God’s Not Dead, I looked at the Skype window. No one else was dancing or swaying. I saw no evidence of clapping or foot tapping. Since my view was from the back, I don’t know if anyone was smiling. The only singing I could hear, though, came from the praise and the worship track and our worship team. It broke my heart to think my church didn’t care about the words they were singing. I wanted to shout at them through my computer, “God’s not dead- but you sure look like you are!”

That is a harsh thing to say about anyone, I know, especially my own church family. I know these people, and I know how they love Jesus. But would a visitor know that? What I witnessed on Sunday was not a warm, welcoming worship service. It was not the kind of thing that would make a person think, “These people know and worship a living God who set them free.”

If it had been my first service, if I didn’t know the people in those seats, I cannot honestly say I would be back.

The Bible tells us to sing praises to God. In Psalms, we are told to come together to sing praises. Psalm 149:1 says, “Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song. Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful.” Psalm 100:1 tells us to “Shout with joy to the Lord.” There are at least two places in Psalms where we are told to “Praise His name with dancing” (149:3 and 150:4.)

I know that worship, true worship, comes from the heart in a different way for each person. And it is God we should be striving to please as we worship. Yet we are also called to reach others for Him. What does it say to the unchurched traveler when our songs speak the joy of the freedom found in life with a God who is not dead while our body language suggests we are preparing for a funeral?

I can’t change the actions of everyone in the church. In fact, I can’t change the actions of anyone in the church– except me. When the music plays next Sunday morning, I plan to let it move me. I pray that the spirit of God washes over me in ways I can’t contain and the Pentecostal girl inside of me that has been silent for years comes out in full force!

I have prayed that my church would be set on fire for Jesus. If I can be the spark that starts that fire, I say “Bring it!”

Dear Tori

Dear Tori,

I heard a song this morning that reminded me of you. After I woke up singing Strong Enough, I thought Matthew West would be the perfect soundtrack to my writing. After selecting his playlist on my iPod, I settled into my chair to get to work. It’s not new music to me. I don’t know how many times I have heard it before. But today, the words meant something different. One song in particular, a song called To Me, caught my attention. The moment I heard him sing the words, “Well it breaks my heart every time I see the world break yours in two,” the story I wanted to write flew out of my head. All I could think about was my beautiful niece and how rough life has been on you lately.

I kept listening to the song, paying very close attention to each word. Maybe all of it isn’t about you. OK, so I suppose it is fair to say Mr. West probably didn’t have you in mind at all when he wrote the lyrics to this song. But there is so much in it that is just so YOU. If I were to write something about just how special you are (which I suppose I am doing with this letter) I couldn’t do much better than he did.

Your laughter really is one of my favorite sounds. You were the first baby I got to live with and see every day. I used to love coming home from work or school to hear you laughing as you played with your parents or grandparents. No matter how bad my day was, it was hard to be sad or upset with such a happy little girl in the house.

Ever since you were tiny, you have had a beautiful smile. Your smile fills up your whole face. It adds a special sparkle to your eyes. It has always shown the joy in your heart, the joy you find in life. Do you remember when my Rylee went to Heaven? I didn’t think I would smile ever again. But you kept smiling when you said, “Aunt Lynn, don’t be sad. Your baby is with Jesus. And you will always have me to play with.” Your smile helped to bring my smile back.

Now you are 17. Playing with your crazy aunt isn’t nearly as important as hanging out with your friends or boyfriend. And that’s OK. I know you had to grow up sooner or later. (Later would have been better for me….) You have grown into an absolutely beautiful young lady, both inside and out. How can I not be proud of that?

I know you have had your heart broken recently. More than once. I’ve cried right along with you. You probably want to hear that it will never happen again, that the next time you give your heart away it will be to the boy who will protect and treasure it the way your heart deserves to be protected and treasured. Oh how I wish I could promise you that. But I can’t see the future. And I can’t protect you from the pain and heartbreak that it might bring. If I could, I would. I’d happily take all of those bumps and bruises for you—without complaint—if that would keep the smile on your face and the laughter in your heart.

Some day you will find the right special someone for you. I don’t know when or where it will happen, or who that someone might be. But I have faith that it will happen.

Until then, I hope you realize how wonderful and very special you are. The world is a much more beautiful place because you are in it. I can’t say it any better than Matthew West did, so I will close this letter with the words from his song:

            To me you are

Heaven’s finest invention by far

So much brighter

Than the brightest star

What I’d give to make you see

Who you are to me

I love you, Miss Tori.

All my love forever,

Aunt Lynn

 

So much sadness

 

Have you ever had a week that seemed to be defined by the emotions around you? That’s what this past week was.

Last Sunday morning, I awoke thinking it would be a week full of bittersweet moments. The week was to start off with an impromptu picnic with some church friends. Our town has an annual parade celebrating the beginning of summer, and my house is only a few blocks from the parade route. In fact, the street right outside our house, including the space where my husband normally parks his truck, is part of the parade staging area. A family from church was planning to attend the parade, so we invited them to join us for lunch before walking to view the Rose Parade. It was a great afternoon, and something that I thought would be a good way of bracing myself for what was coming. After all, in the coming days I would have to attend two functions at the elementary school that would be “lasts” for my 5th grader—his last student of the month celebration and his last music concert. I was prepared for those emotions, for the pride of seeing the wonderful, intelligent young man he has become, mixed with the sadness of knowing the little preschooler I sent off to Hunt in the fall of 2007 would be entering middle school in just a few short months. Oh, where has that time gone?

And what mother would not be choked up at hearing her son introduce his classmates rendition of Disney’s A Whole New World by saying something along the lines of, “We are looking forward to the whole new world that is opening up to us as we prepare to enter middle school in the fall”?

Those bittersweet emotions associated with celebrating my middle son’s last moments of elementary school, as well as all of the other “normal” end of the year emotions and celebrations with his brothers…those are what I expected this last week to be filled with. What I didn’t expect was the deep sadness of loss that washed over me in waves.

Lost hope, lost life, lost love. It hit me more than once during the past seven days. I can’t be more specific than that, because in no case was the loss specifically mine. Not my loss means it’s not my news to share. But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect me at all. It’s left my head spinning and my heart broken. There’s an old Carman song from the late 1980’s or early 1990’s that contained the line, “It’s as if you’re sitting there in that stunned moment while your faith gets violated and all you feel is weak, powerless and lame.” That is kind of how I have felt. Not so much that my faith has been violated, though I will admit that one of these sad events did have me turning to God and asking, “Why is this happening? Why are You allowing this?” I questioned not really God’s goodness or His existence this week; rather I questioned His methods.

But “weak, powerless and lame.” That is a pretty apt description. As I have felt sadness sweep over me, I’ve thought about those more directly affected by these events. I’ve wanted—more than once—to gather my hurting friends and family in arms, to shelter them from the pain, to put all the pieces back together for them, to make the things that feel so wrong right again.

But I can’t.

I can’t fix this. Some of this can’t be fixed, not by me. Some can’t be fixed by human means at all. Even the parts that can be fixed by human hands require God’s intervention first.

God, You the situations and the people who are on my heart. Be with them all. Give them Your strength and peace. Even those who are acting strong now are hurting. Show them that You understand, that You are there, and that You love them all, even—maybe especially—in the midst of this storm. Don’t let them lose sight of You. If they have already been blown off course, Lord, help them find a beacon back to You. It is only in Your arms, in Your presence that they will find true healing and peace, no matter how their situations play out.

Love Letter

Dear Eric and Becca,

I am so tempted to say “I know how you feel.” But that’s not true. Having been in your situation, I have a good idea what you are going through. I know what my pain felt like. I remember hearing the ER doctor tell me I was miscarrying, that nothing could be done to stop it, and that I should go home and rest—and wanting to rip his heart out, the way it felt that he was ripping mine out. I remember the agony, the confusion, the anger, the emptiness. The hopeless longing that it was all a bad dream. And it’s not hard to imagine that the two of you are feeling some combination of those same emotions.

But I can’t say that I know just how you feel because each loss is different. Each parent is going to grieve in a different way. The two of you, as much as you love each other and as much as you both love that little baby, are going to grieve the loss differently. Some days, Eric will hold you, Becca, when you feel like you can’t go on. Some days, he will not be able to stop crying and you will need to hold him up. You will be strong for each other, even when you feel like you have no strength. That love you share, the love for each other and the love for God, is what will give you that strength.

People are going to give you a lot of advice. You have probably already noticed that.  You are going to hear things ranging from why this happened to how to grieve to when to try again. The advice will come from friends, family, and even from virtual strangers. Some will come from people who have gone through a loss like yours; some will come from people who never have. Please keep in mind that every piece of advice is meant to bring comfort. Some of the words won’t sound very comforting. In fact, some are bound to sound downright hurtful. It took me a long time—months, years in some cases—to move beyond the words and see the kindness at the heart of the one who spoke them to me. I don’t want that for you. My prayer is that you both can keep your eyes and your hearts focused on God through this difficult time, that you can do a better job than I ever did of handing your pain over to Him.

Eric, whenever I think of you, I think of you with a smile on your face. You were always a happy baby boys, smiling and laughing. As a child, you teased everyone. The only time I remember you not smiling was when I “forced” you to dance with me at my wedding. But I don’t think I ever saw a brighter, more radiant smile on your face than the one that was there the moment the church doors opened and you saw Becca in her wedding dress. Becca, the only time I met you was the weekend you married my nephew. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a couple as genuinely happy and in love as the two of you. It seems unfair that the strength of your love has to be tested in such a tragic way so early in your marriage. You made the conscious decision to invite God not only to the wedding but into your marriage. And I have no doubt that He will hold you up and give you the strength and peace to come through this challenge.

Will you come through it unchanged? Probably not. You will both carry that baby in your hearts for the rest of your lives. That baby, no matter how brief his existence, was—and forever will be—a part of you, an extension of your love for one another and your love for God. Just because you don’t have the physical reminder doesn’t mean he’s not there. Love him, remember him, cherish him—in whatever way is best for you.

This isn’t the way anyone would chose to grow. But so long as you hold on to each other and to God, you will grow and blossom through this in ways you can’t possibly imagine.

I love you. I pray that God continues to wrap you in His love, peace, and strength in the days to come.

Love always,

Aunt Lynn

Unawarded

I am feeling a little down today. Yesterday was May 31. Bet you already knew that…. May 31 is the date of the annual MomWriters Virtual Ball. MomWriters around the globe are invited to meet up in a chat room to talk, laugh, and have a good ol’ time throughout the day while waiting for the announcement of the winners of the Golden Pen Awards (GPAs). This year’s ball was a blast! With chickens on the loose and a nearly endless string of Conga Rats during the GPA ceremony, how could it not be? (Admit it, you are so jealous that you want to know how to become a MomWriter!!!)

As much fun as it was, I can’t help feeling a little bummed. And not just because it is over, though I freely admit that is part of it. Yesterday was a busy day, between end-of-season soccer games for two of my sons and a meeting at the church, so I wasn’t able to spend as much time in the Ball chat room as I wanted to. My disappointment is tempered a bit by the knowledge that I have the chance to meet a few MomWriters later this year during my family vacation (so glad hubby is OK with it!) and with the excitement of knowing I may meet a few more at an official gathering next year!

It was the presentation of the GPAs that began my sadness this year. Actually, I think the sadness started with the nomination process. In the past, I’ve been nominated for numerous awards. This year, I was nominated for only one. And while I’d love to show the class and maturity that many award nominees do and say, “It’s an honor just to be nominated,” I can’t. Even if I said it, I wouldn’t mean it. Especially since I nominated myself for the award.

In truth, it’s not the lack of nominations or the lack of awards this year that has me down. (I do believe I have won a total of 5 GPAs over the 7 years I have been a MomWriter, so going without for one year isn’t a big deal.) The disappointment comes from the knowledge that I don’t deserve a GPA this year. I haven’t put in the work. My blog has sat idle. I have read books but not posted reviews. I’ve written short stories but only for my college classes. And in all honesty, many of the sort stories I’ve “written” for college classes have been old stories that I found on various hard drives and just reformatted for class.

My frustrations and sadness stem from the fact that I have not done the necessary work to earn an award. Guess there is only one way to keep that from happening next year….

Dear Olivia

Dear Olivia,

                When I was a little girl, my head was full of dreams. I dreamed of being a beautiful princess, on a quest to slay a dragon and save the prince from an evil curse.

                Of being a space explorer, discovering new worlds and new life forms.

                Of being a famous singer/actress/athlete, amazing the world with my ability to do everything better than anyone else.

                Of being elected President and making the world a better place for everyone.

                Of being a “boring old Mom” and just loving my children

                The tone of my dreams changed—sometimes daily, depending on my mood. But in almost every dream there was a man who shared my life. In some dreams, my “dream man” looked like my favorite singer, my favorite actor, or my favorite classmate. No matter his name or who he resembled, there were a few things that were always true about my “dream man”:

                He made me laugh.

                He made me feel safe.

                He made me smile.

                And above all, he made me feel loved.

                No matter what I did, how I did it, or what mistakes I made (because even in my dreams I couldn’t seem to not make mistakes) my dream man loved me. Unwaveringly. Unconditionally.

                The same way my Daddy loved me.

                Because, you see, my Daddy has always been my hero. He has always been my safe place, my protector. Daddy is my laughter when I want to cry, my cheering up when I feel down, my pushing on when I want to give up.

                If you are still reading this, and as we have never met face-to-face I can’t say I would blame you if you had stopped reading by now, you are probably wondering why I am telling you this. That answer is pretty simple. From what I know about you, you feel the same way about your Daddy that I have always felt about mine. You have a very special relationship with your Daddy, one that is so touching to witness. His job in the military makes him a hero to many Americans, but no one else will every look up to him quite the same way that his little girl does.

                I want to thank you, Olivia, for sharing your Daddy. I know it can’t be easy to be away from him for months at a time. My imagination might work overtime, but I won’t claim to be able to imagine what that would be like. As hard as it must be for you to be without your Dad, you show such deep strength in your ability to do it.

                We hear a lot about the sacrifices made by our troops and by their spouses in order to protect our country. I don’t think enough people think about the sacrifices that are made by military children. They seem to be overlooked, maybe because the kids are so young. But I want you to know that not everyone has overlooked your sacrifice. Thank you for sharing your Daddy, your hero, with the world.

                Sharing your hero makes you a hero.

                Love and Prayers,

                Lynn McMonigal

Mary’s Memories

It’s Good Friday.  My sons, husband and I are watching The Passion of the Christ.  As I watch Mary follow her son on his way to Golgotha, I wonder what was in her mind.  Surely she knew that her son was The Son of God, that He was fulfilling the purpose for which He had been born.  (In the film, as Jesus is being beaten by Pilate’s men, Mary says, “My son, when, where, how will you deliver yourself from this?”  I may have the words slightly wrong, but that is close.)  Still, how horrible it must have been for her to watch that.  It had to have broken her heart to not only see each lash He was given but to hear the hatred and disgust those in the crowd–the same people who had welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem a few days before, were not hurling at Him.  Did she ever question her part in God’s plan? As her son was tortured and her heart was breaking, did Mary ever regret having agreed to become the mother of Jesus?

This is not the first time I’ve wondered about that.  A few years back, I wrote a little something from Mary’s perspective, examining just those questions.  I’d like to share that with you tonight.  Here is how I think Mary would have looked on her life after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

 

MARY’S MEMORIES

I didn’t know what I was agreeing to. That’s how it often works with God. He asks you to do something and you choose to say yes or no. He always gives you that option—that’s the wonderful part. He’s not going to force you to do something you are really not comfortable with. Of course, if you say no, there’s no guarantee He will ask you to do something else. The bad part is that He doesn’t always explain exactly what is going to happen.

That’s how it happened with me. I had a general idea of how this was going to work. Scripture told us what to expect.

But I didn’t have a clue just what would be involved. All I knew is that God was asking me to do something special. He could have chosen someone prettier or smarter or older. But He chose me. I didn’t understand why at the time and I can’t say I fully understand why now. But He asked.

All my life, I had wanted to do something for God. I hoped that He would find some way to use me. I just never dreamed it would be in such a big way.

I still remember that day so clearly. Or should I say that night. I had prayed before bed as usual. My friends thought I was too old to keep praying like that. They reminded me that my father had found a good husband for me. So what if we still needed to wait a while before the wedding? My friends said I should “stop bothering God and just be happy as Joseph’s wife.”

I wasn’t unhappy at the thought of being his wife. Joseph was a good man, a godly man. And he was always such a hard worker. He was a carpenter, which meant we would probably never be rich. I didn’t mind. He would be a good husband and I would work hard to be a good wife. Together, we would be good parents. Truly, I could be content with that. But if God wanted me for something more, I wanted Him to know that I was willing.

I can’t tell you how many times my friends said I was wasting my time. “God never uses women,” they said. I reminded them of Deborah, of Ruth, and of Queen Esther. Maybe there were more stories about the men, but God could use a woman, too. If she was willing to be used.

It was an ordinary night. I kissed my father, helped my mother put the younger children down, and then headed to bed.   But the light that woke me was anything but ordinary.

It was so bright. I had to shield my eyes. I was able to make out the outline of a tall man standing there. How had he gotten into my home? I was scared.

And then he spoke. “Greetings!” he said. “The Lord has blessed you and is with you.”

He said that I shouldn’t be scared, and for some reason I wasn’t anymore. Instead, I was excited. My prayers had been heard. God had a place for me in His plan.

And what a plan! For years we had looked forward to God’s promised Messiah. This man—this angel—was telling me that God wanted me to give birth to that Messiah.

For a moment, I did consider saying no. I wasn’t much more than a child myself. I wasn’t married and could only imagine what Joseph’s reaction to this would be.

Yet, I didn’t know how to say no. I’d prayed for years to be used by God. Now that He was showing me how He wanted to use me, it seemed unfair to tell Him no. If I did say no, would He ask me anything again? There was nothing more to say than, “May it be as you say.”

Joseph was very supportive—which in a lot of ways surprised me. He was so good about it. I wonder if he ever regretted it. Jesus was one of the best tempered children. Still, being his parent was not always easy. Joseph never complained but it must have been even harder on him than on me.

We did have to spend some time hiding while Jesus was very young. The only real trouble He gave us, though, was when He was 12. Though I can’t really fault Him for that. What kind of parents take a full day to notice their child is missing?

Missing isn’t exactly the right word for it. We didn’t know where Jesus was, but He was right where He needed to be. I remember Him telling me not to worry, that He was in His Father’s house. I didn’t know what He meant at the time. I only knew that I was relieved to see Him safe and sound.

Maybe it was foolish of me to be so concerned. I just had a small part to play in God’s plan. My son WAS the plan. He wasn’t going to be hurt, not until the time came for the Plan to fully go into action.

I was in Jerusalem the day he entered the city for the last time. I remember the crowds and oh how glad they were to see Him! For a moment, I thought the time for God’s plan was still years in the future. And to be honest, that is what I was hoping. I knew why my son was born—and to keep Him with me was selfish. But as His mother, I wanted to be selfish. I wanted my son to live—on Earth, where I could see Him and hug Him—for a few more years.

I knew the prophecies. Isaiah wrote that the Messiah would be wounded and bruised. Knowing that would happen to some random person and seeing it happen to my son were two completely different things. I wanted to protect Him. Each time they hit Him, I felt it. Every drop of blood He lost felt like it came from my own heart. I wanted to turn away, to run off and hide. And yet I couldn’t. He was the Messiah, the King of Kings. But He was still my son, my little baby boy.

When they led Him to that cross, I could see the little boy who used to follow Joseph around while he worked. As He hung on that cross, I saw Him as the sweet little baby I had rocked to sleep. I cried as He suffered. I wanted to stop His pain. Even though I couldn’t do that, I couldn’t turn away. I couldn’t miss a moment of His life.

At the same time, I couldn’t help feeling so proud. He was so strong. He cried out in pain, but he didn’t resist, didn’t fight back. And at the end, He had the strength to ask for forgiveness, not for himself but for those hurting Him. I’ll never forget the sound of His voice—the pain and anguish in it—as he gasped, “Father God, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

One of His last thoughts before He died was of me. He saw me there, weeping, and told His good friend John to look after me. As my son hung there, in pain and utterly humiliated, He was concerned about me being alone.

When He breathed His last breath, my heart stopped. There was an earthquake and the sky turned black. I’m told that there was no light at all. But all I remember was seeing His head drop to His chest and I knew my first born son was gone.

I was able to smile then, even through my tears. I know it sounds strange to some. Most mothers aren’t going to smile after watching her child die. Then again, most mothers didn’t raise the Son of God. At the moment He died, His pain was over. In that same moment, He was with the Father. With my eyes closed and face turned toward Heaven I could almost hear the angels welcoming Him back. There was no reason for me to be sad. His death was not the end. His death meant life for so many others. It meant that I would be able to spend eternity with Him.

No, I did not know what I was getting into. I did not know how much joy His life would bring and I did not know how much the end of His earthly life would hurt me. If I had known, if I had understood just what He would go through, would I have still said yes? Would I do it all over again? Knowing what I know now, if God were to send an angel to me in the night, would my answer still be the same?

Absolutely.

“May it be as you say, Lord.”

Book Review–HOUSE OF SECRETS by Tracie Peterson

I’ve read Tracie Peterson’s work before, but until I came across this book at my local bookstore, I had no idea that she wrote anything other than historical fiction! Not only does she occasionally write contemporary fiction, Peterson writes it VERY well.

FiftHouseOfSecretseen years ago, Bailee, Geena, and Piper Cooper witnessed their father drugging their mother. They kept the secret, thinking that was the only way to reserve any sort of “normalcy” within their family. When their father invites them back to the same summer home where the incident happened, the girls decide it’s time to share what they know. Only the more the talk about that night–with each other and then with their father–the more they realize that really don’t know anything at all.

HOUSE OF SECRETS is a beautifully written book that about the bonds of sisters, and the power secrets can hold over a person. The story also deals with mental illness, and the far-reaching effects an illness can have–even years after the ill person has passed away. The characters are real and relatable. I found myself in or near tears at numerous places throughout the book. This one has definitely earned its place on my bookshelf.