Thursday, August 28, 2014

a story of evil and protection

I don't post twice in one day. Pretty sure I've never done it before, and there's a pretty good chance I'll never do it again.

Today, though, I had to make an exception.

There is evil in this world. Most of the time here in the U.S. we see it from a distance, a faceless terror affecting the lives of other people. It seldom affects us, so though we know it is there we don't feel it's effects.

This morning, evil reached out and touched my family.

I sent Nathan off to school this morning, because he's going to be spending the next year dividing his weekdays between the college campus and a high school campus while he works towards a Master's in education. After fixing breakfast for the kids at around 7 a.m., I saw multiple missed calls from Nathan. When I got him on the phone, he told me that a wheel had come off of the Bronco as he drove into Toledo. A little while later, after being towed to a service station, he told me that the mechanics were emphatic: the Bronco had been sabotaged.

That's not a word I use lightly, but it is all that fits in this case. I have only spoken to him through text messages so far because his phone battery was too low to be able to call, but Nathan told me that apparently all the lug nuts had been loosened on all the tires. The tires had also been cut somehow, though I'm still not entirely clear on the details. They didn't appear flat when Nathan left, so I'm not sure how they were cut. Once the truck is drivable again, he's on his way to the police station to make a report and figure out where we go from here.

Honestly, I'm terrified. I have no idea what it takes for someone to want to do that, and I have no idea why anyone would want to do that to us. Our safety has been put in jeopardy, and I'm desperate to regain some sense of control over the situation.

At the same time, I am infuriated. Someone set out to hurt my family. MY family. That is not something I am able to just accept, and it will probably take me a little while to forgive--and then definitely not through my own strength.

I know, though, that the evil my husband and I were introduced to this morning does not even begin to compare to the evil attacking others on a daily basis, all around the world. For those people, my heart aches and my soul cries out in prayers of protection and strength.

Though this morning has given me a small taste of the evil in this world, it has also reminded me of something great:

~God is good.
~God takes care of His children.
~He and He alone protected my husband as he drove the 30 miles into the city this morning on four loosened, cut tires.
~God has a plan for us, and Evil is powerless before Him.

"But the LORD is faithful,
and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one."
~2 Thessalonians 3: 3

faith & trust

There's a story about a man who went in view of the call at a church. He gave a sermon that everyone thought was amazing, and they all voted to have him as their new pastor. Much to their surprise, he preached the same sermon his first Sunday there. When he stood up the next week and did the same thing again, the church leaders confronted him about it.

The new pastor listened calmly to their complaints then smiled. "Don't worry," he said, "I'll move on to the next sermon when you figure out how to start living out this one."

***

Have you ever been there?

I know I have. There are times when I feel like God is harping on one topic with me, grounding the same lesson into my head over and over again. It's as if He's preaching the same sermon
day after day,
week after week--
sometimes even year after year.

Most of the time, the words are the same. If you look back through the posts in this blog, you'll see a common theme in what I've been told: "You claim to have faith in Me, so trust Me."

faith: belief without proof; confidence; reliance; loyalty; fidelity

trust: reliance on the integrity, veracit, etc. of a person; confident expectation
 (definitions from The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary, 3rd ed.)

I claim faith, but I have a hard time relying on the One in whom I have placed my faith.

Trust is hard for me-- I would much rather rely on myself than trust other people. I don't know if it's because of my stubbornly independent streak or something else.

I do know, though, that if I claim to have faith in God I have to trust Him.

Maybe one of these days I'll be ready for Him to move on to the next sermon.

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see."
~Hebrews 11:1 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

10 years of grief and life

10 years. Somehow it seems like it just happened yesterday, yet a lifetime ago at the same time. 10 years where life has gone on all around me while a part of me has been forever frozen in time. A decade in which I have slowly learned to grieve and live at the same time.

My hometown will be dedicating a street to Michael at 10 tomorrow morning on the 10th anniversary of his death. The rest of my family will be there, hearts heavy with the pain of both the day's memories and the death of my grandpa in the quiet hours between last night and this morning.

This will be one of many memorials I've missed. You see, for years I couldn't --and
wouldn't-- deal with my brother's death, so I didn't go to all the services to honor his sacrifice. My logic was simple: if I didn't have to face it, I didn't have to hurt.

The thing is, a heart doesn't work that way. Oh, it can for a while. But by avoiding the pain, never letting it show, all I managed to do was trap it inside. The pain simmered there, under the surface, and I lied to myself by saying I had things under control.

Control.

There's that word that pops up so often when I'm being honest with myself, the thing I'm so often reminded that I don't actually have. Oh, but I sure tried to control it.

Early on, I was given the impression that this wasn't really my loss. When people would talk to me, they would ask about my parents and Michael's widow. I heard over and over again how hard this must be on them and how strong I needed to be, so it was easy to use that as a cop-out. My loss must somehow be less important, easier to deal with. If I was struggling, that must mean I just wasn't being strong enough.

So I was strong, and I barely cried. When Michael would come to mind--in the early months it was because I would think of something I wanted to tell him before suddenly remembering that he wasn't there to tell--I would blink back the tears, swallow the lump in my throat, and shake the thoughts away.

I was strong.

It took a long time for me to finally realize what I probably should have known from the beginning. My pain wasn't the same as what my parents were dealing with or what his widow was going through. That didn't make it any less real, any less searing, any less world changing.

I lost my brother, and with him I lost a part of me that will never come back.

You see, siblings get under your skin. They are as much a part of you as your heart is, part of your body and your soul. They know your history, your jokes, your corny sense of humor. They hurt when you hurt and rejoice when you rejoice. They may laugh when you fall but are the first to pull you back up to your feet. You take it for granted that you will grow old together, watching each other's kids grow up and poking fun at the first sight of gray hairs. Siblings occupy a part of your soul that no one else can access, and when one of them is ripped away it changes you forever.

10 years ago, part of me was suddenly empty.
And no one understood...except my baby sister, but it was my responsibility to be strong for her the way I knew Michael would have been for me. I didn't want her to see me hurting because I wanted her to know I could be there to support her if she needed me.

That empty part of me still aches, and most of the time I still blink the tears away and swallow the lump in my throat. There are some days, though, when that doesn't work.

Those days are filled with a roller coaster of emotions and memories, with pictures flashing through my mind
~laughing as Michael tried to saddle Red Cloud
~driving him home after a basketball game because he was pretty sure he had a concussion but didn't want Mom to worry about him in front of all the guys
~putting on a Garth Brooks lip-syncing concert in his tiny bedroom
~breaking down next to his casket at the graveside
~wiping my fingerprints off of the chrome in his old truck when we pulled into the high school parking lot before school
~my babies who never got to be teased by their uncle
~sweaty hugs after football games
~watching him and John walk down the hall as people moved out of the way, only to have them stop to tell me hi--seniors talking to a lowly freshman
~a black bracelet with his name on it worn to Sarah's wedding

Tomorrow is bound to be one of those days, a day I sometimes wish I could simply sleep through and wake up on the 16th. For every stab of pain, though, there are 20 years of happy memories, and I wouldn't trade those for anything.

This year I won't be with the rest of my family at the street dedication because I'll be here in Ohio getting my kids ready to start school next week. I know, though, that the morning will be filled with people who loved Michael and people who love my family, and for that I am thankful. I'll be there in spirit, but I'm forever grateful to those of you who will be there in the flesh, strong arms there to hold up my family when I can't.

10 years. It's a milestone I never could have imagined reaching.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

too stubborn for something better

Cows are funny creatures. I was reminded of that this past weekend when I was home to visit and got to help Pop move his herd across the road. Summer in Arkansas means hot and dry most of the time (though the start of this summer hasn't been too bad), and that means the grass can't quite keep up with all the cows snacking on it all day long. Since I was home to help, Pop wanted to run all his cows in, put wormer on them, and move them across the road to where the grass was greener... on the other side of the fence... sorry, I couldn't resist.


It went relatively smoothly at first, and most of them came up when he hollered and started up the tractor. We even managed to get them worked relatively uneventfully--Pop only got kicked a couple of times, and the only one to kick at me graciously stopped her foot a good couple of inches in front of my face (yes, my face. Pop's comment was, "She's a bit of a high kicker, huh?").

But then, we had to try to get the rest of the herd.



A few of Pop's cows were a fairly new addition to his herd, and they weren't really used to coming when called and walking across the road to the other field. They were, however, together in one corner, so the plan was to easily push them along the fence line, around the chicken houses, and into the holding pen. Pop was in his truck and I was on foot since his four wheelers aren't working.

The plan...ha!
 
It wasn't long at all before a few of the calves were spooked, and then everybody took off running. Just in case you were wondering, I'm not very good at out running cows. When they're in a small space it's easy enough to step in front and get them to turn. When they're in the field, though, me stepping in front of them doesn't amount to much.

They were stubborn, and most of them are still right there--trying to graze on some extremely picked-over grass while the rest of the herd enjoys the good stuff.

I couldn't help but wonder how many times I've been like that herd that stayed behind when the Farmer tried to move me to something better. How many times has God tried to lead me, nice and easy, along the fence to get me right where He wants me, only to have me break away as soon as I get a chance, running for what I see as safety just because it's what I know?

Eventually, those cows will follow Pop's tractor and his voice, and they'll let him lead them across to where he wants them to be.

And hopefully, I'll follow suit. One day I'll learn to let God lead me without fighting to stay where I am, where I'm comfortable. Maybe I'll see that the pastures He leads me to really are greener.

One day, I'll listen to His voice instead of trying to do things my way first.