Sunday, April 28, 2013

Oh Lord, Don'tcha Buy Me a Mercedes Benz

I was pulling away from my son's school the other morning when a strong sense of déjà vu assaulted me. 
I say assaulted because it wasn't a pleasant feeling. 
It was a feeling of total unrest.

As I drove away, racking my brain for the appropriate recollection to match this feeling, I smelled it.  The whiff of wanting floated out of my cerebral cortex and into my Honda Hybrid.  A memory as strong as the aroma of freshly brewed Starbucks or Mama's rigatoni and meatballs, but not agreeable in the slightest.  A memory of dropping my son at school then venturing down to the richy-rich neighborhoods, driving street by street to choose my new house, sure that once I lived there, all would be well.

As long as I can remember, I've lived my life in a series of "When I's" and "Back When's" and "As Soon As I's." 
As in "When I lose 25 pounds and finish P90X, I will finally wear a bathing suit at the beach."
"Back when I was 20, I borrowed Kelly Alcott's black & pink bikini and looked really cute swimming in Lake Michigan.
"As soon as I conquer my negative physical self-image, I'll really look forward to donning a  two-piece to get out of this heat." 
And though this way of thinking has always been prevalent, I never really registered that I was conducting my life in such a manner until that telling moment behind the wheel. 

In retrospect, I guess I actually thought there were times these reflections were helping me by challenging me to live a more successful life.  Such as:

"Back when I lived in Alabama instead of this great, big, crowded city, I was considered the best singer, so..."
"When I was studying with my voice teacher, I was invincible and never lost my voice..."
"As soon as I get my Tony for my Broadway performance, I will be satisfied and..."
"Back when we didn't have a mortgage, we had more spending money..."
"When I finally have a bigger house and a guest room, I can..."
"As soon as I move closer to the beach, I'll be more inspired and better able to focus on writing that novel..."

The "When I's" and "Back When's" and "As Soon As I's" of life are perilous.
Do you see the danger?
Can you feel it?
They've kept me from letting go of hurts.
They've prevented me from moving forward.
They've, most treacherously, kept my present out of focus.

Last week, I had the privilege of putting up six additional regular adult-sized bodies at my house for a long weekend.  The Young Americans came to do their 3-day workshop at my daughter's high school, and with them came the need for home-staying fifty teachers.  Eight of the college students I had toured with in Ireland came back to California for a couple of days before striking back out on the road to Japan.  So, of course, with every ounce of delight in my heart, I opened up our home to those of the eight who needed a place to stay.  (Five of them plus my daughter's best friend decided to take us up on the offer.)

Those of you who have been to my home are either reading incredulous and wide-eyed right now or laughing hysterically at the thought of WHERE IN THE WORLD I put these six bodies. 
My house is small, to be certain. 
But we made it work and lovingly so.

I realized, the morning that I was pulling away from the curb of my son's school experiencing my icky déjà vu, that - for the first time EVER that I can recall - there was not one part of me thinking "When I" or"Back When" or "As Soon As I" when considering to take care of these kids.  
As in "When I have a bigger home, I can house this many..."
"Back when I had a plan for being rich, this would have worked better..."
"As soon as I win the lottery, maybe the Young Americans will like me better because they will be more comfortable." 
No, nothing like that. 
In fact, it's the only time EVER that I can remember feeling no stress about what others may be thinking of my home and family. 
On the contrary, I only felt pride and intense joy in the life we have built with His grace.

We had a great time while the students were here, all crammed into my family room, eating Colleen's famous and delicious homemade brownies with ice cream (Adam Green: "Mama, can I please have another bowl?"); taking a trip around Los Alamitos Bay in our little Bay Boat duffy rental; laughing and loving and supporting one another in music and life and change.
They loved my children as I loved these awesome students on tour. 
Such an amazing trade-off for my kids who let me go for two weeks. 
And best of all by far, we lived in His grace.

So as I move forward in this whirling, tilting, adventure of a life, I endeavor to never again live in the "When I's" and "Back When's" and "As Soon As I's."
Unless, perhaps, it's to consider:
"When I finally reach Heaven I'll..."
"Back when I was soooooo dense, I can't believe I couldn't really hear Him..."
"As soon as I see His glorious face, I'll finally know..." 

But truly, even those musings can wait.

Photo credit:  Downloadable Mercedes-Benz wallpapers at

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Living the Extraordinary

You may think of living an extraordinary life in terms of money, success, and social opportunity. 
That mental image can be accurate.
But if you think that dirty dishes and piled up laundry...
and messes and paperwork...
and small living spaces and simple surroundings
means that a life is not extraordinary, you would be wrong. 
Dead wrong.
As I tooled around in my little kitchen last week, I was stopped in my tracks by the sweet sounds of my 13 year old boy's voice, singing in the shower:
"Cause if one day you wake up and find that you're missin' me
And your heart starts to wonder where on this Earth I could be.
Thinkin' maybe you come back into the place that we meet.
And you'd see me waitin' for you on the corner of the street.
I'm not movin'.  I'm not movin'."
Glorious moment, especially to this musical Mama, who prayed that the sweet boy soprano voice has one more year before changing! 
I glanced to my left and saw the dirty dishes in the sink. 
The very ones that I had asked Braden to load the morning before.
The ones I was not present to remind him about that afternoon because I was working. 
Yet, for once, I was not put out.  
Instead an intensely powerful thought formed in my head.
"My life is extraordinary."
Ten years ago, my son received a high functioning autism diagnosis.  We didn't know at the time whether or not he would ever function normally, much less be able to perform (and apparently, ignore) every day tasks and chores.
Seven years ago, after his Type I Diabetes diagnosis, he was so physically weak, drained of all energy, that I questioned how he would ever live a "normal" life.  Yet in the next room, there he was, joyfully filling our house with song.
Then two years ago, amidst the complications of Braden's diabetes,
plagued with stress, 
lack of sleep,
and imagery of my son not making it through the night,
forced to quit my job due to the loss of my voice,
I found myself in that slimy pit known as depression and anxiety.
Two years ago, I wondered how I would ever go on...
how I would piece a life back together devoid of my music career...
how I would get out of bed each day.
Yet the day before the undone dishes, I was occupied at a new job.
God has blessed me abundantly with a new career,
freelance writing, touring with my alma mater and master teaching at The Disney Company,
the last of which prevented me from being home to remind Braden to load those very dishes.
A moment later, as I walked through the house, this newly formed thought taking a stronghold on my day,
I glanced down at the (never-ending mess of a) pile of paperwork on the table.  I grasped in that moment that, instead of being frustrated by the pile, I was overjoyed at the crowning piece atop it, a Bible Scavenger hunt game that Braden played in his religious ed class a few nights prior. 
A game that he detailed for me with laughter and excitement when he got home
(excited because they won and he got a raffle ticket, of course...but still...). 
And I teared up as I realized this simple game...
this simple piece of paper...
this simple lesson...
meant more to me now than it ever had before because it represented the spiritual education of my children. 
It meant that we had God-speakers,
whom God Himself had provided in our lives and the lives of our children.  
That He is here,
faithful to this family,
going nowhere,
leading us every day.
That simple fact breaks my heart in it's significance.
Yes, I am living an extraordinary life.
It may be a mess.
It may include piled up dishes and laundry.
It may include paperwork I can't get to daily.
It may involve crying and illness and stress and small living spaces and, every now and then, a breakdown or two.
But it's my mess.
It's a blessed mess.
And most importantly, it involves healing and singing and joy and laughter and love and family and faith and HIM.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Finish

My heart and prayers are in Boston today, along with so many others around the world.
Of course, my sorrow for these innocents is no deeper than anyone else's.
But still it is a poignant sorrow, born of years and years living with a marathoner.

There but by the grace of God go we.

I see vividly in my mind's eye image after image.
My husband crossing the finish line time after time, diligently working to complete the race, years spent trying to beat his personal best.
My children and I standing near the finish line or along the route, cheering him on, rejoicing in his victory.
The years of training...time (and I'm embarassed to admit, frustration with the time it has taken)...pain born of fatigue and pushing beyond the limits of one's body and mind.
Then yesterday, a day starting clear and whole, ending in tragedy.

I can't begin to imagine.

Though I cannot pretend to understand
the meaning,
the heartache,
the emotional and physical pain,
the taint,
I pray and am able to see out of the darkness.

I see people running toward the chaos, willing and wanting to help.
I see runners, already 26.2 miles down, heading straight to the hospital to give blood for those in need.
I see emergency responders, firemen, paramedics, support staff, and volunteers
bringing aid...
bringing relief...
bringing comfort...
bringing help.
I see hundreds and thousands of posts of prayer for those affected.
I see the good born of tragedy.

It calls to mind a favorite scripture verse I often share with Drew, or pray for him, the night before a marathon:

"And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." - Hebrews 12:2-3

I don't know or understand the meaning of Boston's tragedy.
But I do know that God will walk beside each person through it all.
So that they do not grow weary or lose heart.
So they will continue to run with endurance the race He has marked.

- Deep in prayer with each of you and
millions around the world who are
supporting our Boston brethren.
Thank you for reading.
Thank you for praying.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Defensive End

While making school lunch and replenishing diabetes supplies for my son this morning, an old church hymn suddenly popped into my head.  It wasn't a favorite.  I actually never particularly cared for it...a bit too 4/4 time and stoic for my artistic sensibilities.  But there it was, the refrain resounding over and over again.

"For You are my God.
You alone are my joy.
Defend me, O Lord."

"What does that even mean?" I thought.
Defend me against what?

Round and round it went while I continued my morning.
While I ironed the clothes.  (For You are my God...)
While I fried the eggs.  (You alone are my joy...)
While I filled the school water bottle.  (Defend me, O Lord...)

I have felt on the defensive this week. 
You know those days? 
Where you just feel a bit "off." 
A bit anxious. 
A bit sickly. 
A bit gassy. 
A bit itchy. 
And a lot like you may burst into tears at any moment. 
Do you know those earthly moments?

"You give marvelous comrades to me:  the faithful who dwell in Your land.  Those who choose alien gods have chosen an alien band."

1st verse of the song now playing full and loud.  "Yeah, yeah, I've got good friends.  They mirror You.  Bring You more fully to me.  And thank You, by the way.  But, really, what is going on here?"

"For You are my God.
You alone are my joy.
Defend me, O Lord."

That common time was echoing like a marching band now. 
Okay, let's get to the root of the cause. 
"Yes, You are my God, Lord," I thought. 
"Of course, You are my joy.  You know that I feel that way by now, I hope. 
I hope I tell You enough? 
I hope you know I get it. 
But defend me?  Defend me against what?  The forces of evil?  My last blog post? 
(Clearly still not sitting right with me, Lord, but that's a subject for another day, yes?)
Show me, please. 
Reveal the message. 

A searing realization to the brain.
A moment of clarity.
And then a question.

"What do you do when you're defending against yourself?"

Ah, yes.  As it has been for the greatest portion of my life, I, again, am my own worst enemy.  Doubting Thomas.  (Poor Thomas.  Such a bad rap when we're all so guilty of doubting Your presence.  I wonder if "DoubtingCynthia" would catch on?)  Wondering how I could possibly be chosen to represent.  Insulting You with my complaints and feelings of inadequacy.

"You are my portion and cup.  It is You that I claim for my prize.  Your heritage is my delight.  The lot You have given to me."

Verse two, show me the way.
Yes, as long as You are my portion, I have won the world.  My lot and my gifts are Yours.  As I read this morning, the most beautiful and inspiring words by Janice Elsheimer, "Our gifts are not from God to us, but from God through us to the world."  Yes, Lord,  my share of You is abundant.

"Glad are my heart and my soul; securely my body shall rest.  For you will not leave me for dead nor lead your beloved astray."

Verse three healing the itching, the heaving, the weeping and the fear.  Verse three securing this body, this holy vessel, for my walk with You; for the strength to carry You with me to the world.

"You show me the path for my life.  In Your presence is fullness of joy.  To be at your right hand forever for me would be happiness always."

Okay, Lord, I'm willing to overlook the lyricist's attempt to fit the last two phrases into the same musical dictates in order to include the words "forever" and "always."  I get it.  You wanted those infinite words to reach our hearts and stay planted.  To show us that standing under your right hand IS our path...forever and always.

So when asked again:  "What do you do when you're defending against yourself?"
The answer is listen.
Listen for strains of His music holding your heart's answers.
Listen for Him singing to you in the words of the ages and the melodies of His care.
The answer is trust.
Trust that your path is intentional.
That He has you right where He wants you.
That He has equipped you for every challenge you encounter.
The answer is rest.
Rest in His hands, in His tender embrace.
Rest in the knowledge that He's got you.

Listen.  Trust.  Rest.
And that marching band will subside into the very recesses of your faith.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Stinkin' Sewage

{Warning:  "She's ba-ack" and apparently taking no prisoners in this post.  No warm and fuzzies here per usual.  Read on with this cautionary notice in mind!}

I was telling my friend, Miley, a few weeks ago about another backup in our plumbing, this after being under construction for a month for a previous leak.  I came home to find my husband ripping the carpet out of our den, fast and furious with his Exacto knife, sweat dripping and purpose driven. 

When I asked what he was doing, he replied, "I feel like this leak was a message to me from God.  Address things you've been putting off.  Rip out of your life what needs to be ripped out.  Take care of business."  I can't recall a moment in recent history when I've been prouder of my husband, listening to and heeding His Father's call.  (And I'm proud of him ALOT!)

While on the subject of stinky sewage and things needing to be ripped out, Miley and I started discussing those relationships in our lives that need addressing. 
You know the ones? 
Those that cause you anguish? 
The people who make you feel as though your feelings are the wrong ones, sympathetically clucking at your "oversensitivity" to their innocuous comments, while refusing to acknowledge that these seemingly harmless comments are actually passive aggressively meant to harm
The people who, no matter how many times you forgive and intellectually understand that their narcissism is a defensive act against their own past hurts, bring out the ugly in you?

"It's Satan seeping into your life through them, just like the sewage wants to seep in through your busted plumbing," Miley very aptly and humorously summed up.

Oh, how I love this woman.

She was right, of course.
Satan stinks and will do anything possible to get to us.
He'll find our weakest points, our most tenuous relationships, and ooze right in through our anger, fear or despair, leaching the God-focus right out of us.

These are the relationships in my life I need to let go.
Not out of anger or judgment but out of protection of my own heart.
I can be forgiving.
I can be kind.
I can be loving.
But I will not let Satan and his wily ways get to me while I work to strengthen my focus on Him who gives life...
Who gives peace....
Who gives unconditional love and support while I struggle to walk the path He's laid before me.

Satan, that wascally wabbit....
That dirty, stinky, mess of evil.
I cannot let him seep in.
I need to seal off those cracks in my heart vulnerable to his presence.

Where does your sewage leak in?
Are you being called to patch it up?
Is God making an announcement for carpet cleanup on Aisle 9, ripping out the fibers of your weaknesses?

I'm there.
And I'm rippin' (and patchin').
And I'm followin' (and prayin').
And life will be whole because of it.