The Circle of Life

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…
Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
There is a time for all things. Sometimes, those times just occur simultaneously. It’s been a season of multiple “times” in my life recently. I’ve had times to do all of the things listed above; I feel like the last year has included every activity under heaven. Illness and death, graduation, painful separations from people and places that I love, relocation, new risks, leaving old dreams behind and realizing new ones. And then there is that rare moment when a dream you thought was dead is plopped down in your lap again. Literally.
When I left Chattanooga in July, I thought that I was leaving behind my dream of fostering and adopting. After more than two years of training and several possible placements that went to other homes, I moved to Louisville, terrified at the change to come, but perfectly content being the single girl in a new city. I moved in stages over the next couple of months, slowly bringing what I needed as I needed it.
In April, I had moved into my grandmother’s house, planning to remodel it and live in it with my future kids and my two dogs. I ended up there for about 10 weeks with three dogs and no kids. But this crazy time of crazy times began last November, when my grandmother unexpectedly passed away. I had the honor of spending her last days with her, and on the day before she died, I snapped this photo:
2014-11-24 18.36.42-1When we moved my grandmother to the Hospice unit, we realized she was most comfortable on her side, but she needed a pillow to prop up her arm. My back seat is always full of stuffed animals, so Pooh ended up being the pillow my Nana hugged. I love this picture. It’s a reminder of the love and support I know I always had from all of my grandparents. She is the one stepping into eternity, but it looks like she’s holding me up. It now hangs over my desk at home as a sweet reminder that no matter where I may go, I have a support system that is always holding me up.
My grandmother’s death allowed me to have a space, a home for new life, and when I moved out of her house, I thought that dream had ended, or at least been delayed indefinitely. The last few months, though, life and death have been intricately intertwined, a precious reminder that there are different times in life, and sometimes they really do happen all at once.
Life and death and love and eternity.
All powerful words, all captured for me in the image above.
Which is why, when I woke up last Sunday after dozing off while putting Big Sister down for a nap, seeing this took my breath and brought tears to my eyes:
2015-10-24 21.32.23There’s someone else, cuddling Pooh with one hand, and hanging on to me with the other.
One moment is a sweet reminder of memories made and a life well lived, a legacy to uphold.
The other moment is a precious promise, a new and unexpected life to cherish and protect, a generation to whom that legacy will be passed.
The last month has been a whirlwind of preparing my grandmother’s house to be sold to a different young family. Several weekends I have gone back to Chattanooga and have simultaneously closed a chapter with my grandmother and begun writing a new chapter with my own kids. These intertwined times were literally being separated into different boxes, what was being preserved, what will be moving to Kentucky. But the best moments were when those old memories were packed up to come to Louisville for Big Sister and Little Man. Books and toys and highchairs that have been used and loved by generations of kids in my family are being used again. And my Nana would be thrilled to see that.
My worldview recognizes that life is a line; there is a beginning and an end to time itself, and it’s not stopping for anyone. But even while time marches on, the seasons and rhythms of life remain. There are circles and connections, and sometimes the time to laugh and the time to cry may just happen at the same time. Just like spring comes after winter, new life is born out of death, and occasionally, we get to be there to see both the end and the beginning. And both are good.
And by the way, that Pooh has officially been designated a family heirloom.

On Sharing Life and Death

The thing that hath been, it [is that] which shall be; and that which is done [is] that which shall be done: and [there is] no new [thing] under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9, KJV


I sleep just like my grandmother. Curled up on my side, one leg stretched out, the other pulled into my chest. A pillow between my arms. I didn’t know that she slept that way until last night, as I watched her curled up in a hospital bed, finally sleeping peacefully. For a little while, she is not consumed with pain.

I share her feisty nature, which is still obvious in spite of the fact that she has wasted away to skin, bones, and the cancer that fills them. That peacefulness was disrupted briefly when Robby the CNA rolled her over and she let him know that he had “messed up the bed.”

I wonder as I wander, just like the gentleman next door, who also paces in his pajamas between his room and the kitchen.

Shared bathrooms between suites. Pajama clad people shuffling, half awake through the halls, in search of coffee. Other people sleeping, oblivious to what’s going on around them. It’s like my college residence hall, only it’s the Hospice unit where my Nana has come for her final days.

One thing that unites all of us who are living is that, one day, we will be living no longer. For all the differences that we think separate us as people, life and death unite us like nothing else.

There is nothing new under the sun. The older I get, the more I see in the now, and the more I learn of the then, the more I recognize that we all have a deep yearning to be different, be unique. We want to be seen and be known.

And we are. Unique. One of a kind. Fearfully and wonderfully made. We are Imago Dei.

The struggle comes, I think, in the fallen desire for our uniqueness to be recognized as better, as right. And so diversity is not celebrated, but scorned. We fail to be unified in our diversity because we fear what we do not know.

As I sit in the quiet, at that moment when the sky is gray and pink with all the anticipation of the coming day, all I can think is, “What am I anticipating today?”

The last day of classes before Thanksgiving break.

The birth of babies.

News of a former coach receiving a life saving transplant.

The day my Nana steps into eternity.

War overseas and rioting at home.

Christmas being provided for mamas and their kids by generous people.

Glimpses of grace.

Words of encouragement.

Hugs. Prayers. Laughter. Family.

There is nothing new under the sun.

But if the best is only possible with the possibility of the worst, bring it on, whatever the day may bring, because each day confirms that we share so much more than we will ever know.

Chicken Run 2013

Be forewarned, this post has absolutely NOTHING to do with messy, fallen, sinfulness of man, nor does it contain any advice as how to deal with said mess. It’s just fun.

The last several days, ok months, of my life have been pretty well consumed with the deep, messy issues of life. Human trafficking. Domestic abuse. Teens in crisis. Adults in crisis. Me in crisis.

My doctor has told me more than once that I need a hobby. An outlet to get away from it all. Writing has always been my outlet, but now that I also write about issues concerning social justice and the Gospel, my outlet has been overtaken by the messiness of the world, too.

So I’ve picked a couple of TV shows as my “down time outlets.” Unfortunately, Downton Abbey has been one of my shows, and last night’s season finale was just too much real world tragedy invading my fictional escape, so today needed some distraction from it all.

Enter the Chicken.

While working on the final edits of a paper, I put my puppy Scout outside to play so I could get some work done. At one point, I looked out the window to check on her, and I saw that she and Old Man Elvis (our beagle that I really think died about four years ago and no one told him) were chasing a chicken. In the backyard. “Interesting,” I thought. “This needs to be captured on film” (which only old people think, because no one actually captures anything on film anymore. But it just sounds better than “This needs to be captured on iPhone”).

So I recruited my mom to first come watch the dogs chase the chicken. Then we figured we should probably help the poor chicken get back over the fence to her own yard before our dogs scared her to death.

Only problem? I HATE birds. They’re gross. I’m not touching a live chicken, especially not long enough to get it back over a fence that’s 20+ feet away.

The following was my creative outlet that brought some fun to this Presidents Day. It was a much needed break from reality, but also a reminder that fun and joy ARE supposed to be a part of our reality. Jesus said he came to give abundant life, and sometimes living abundantly means leaving your in-text citation editing for a couple of hours to chase a chicken.

Now and Not Yet

“…for we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Some days, the clear vision of the “not yet” is blurred by the glaring reality of the “now”. Like the majesty of a distant mountain range blocked from view by your own hand, it can be difficult to maintain an eternal perspective when the temporal is so large in our view.

The Christian life is a walk, a way of life. Much like a journey through the woods, our walk is full of ups and downs, beautiful scenery and arduous treks. There are times, in the middle of those uphill climbs, that it’s hard to remember the end goal and it’s easier to stop the journey and just head back down the hill.

That’s why Paul reminds us in that phrase in 2 Corinthians that we walk based upon what we believe, not what we see. Sometimes all we can see is the here and now, the circumstances that are crowding around us, the situation that never seems to change, the pressure or pain from which we feel we will never get relief.

As believers, we know that there is hope beyond the here and now, but how do we move past the feelings to the faith? What do you do when the circumstances of life blur your vision so that you can’t see the eternal perspective? How do you remind yourself to walk by faith when you can’t trust what you see?

How God Sees Us

If you want to learn something that will really help you, learn to see yourself as God sees and not as you see yourself in the distorted mirror of your own self-importance. This is the greatest and most useful lesson we can learn: to know ourselves for what we truly are, to admit freely our weaknesses and failings, and to hold a humble opinion of ourselves because of them. Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ

My natural inclination is to seek the good in people. I like giving others the benefit of the doubt. Mainly it’s because I know that I want that same benefit from others about fifty times a day. But I am afraid that my desire to seek the good in others has led to my assuming that people are good. John Locke (the 17th century philosopher, not the character on the best television show EVER), declared that man was a tabula rasa, a blank slate of neutrality which is then conditioned to accept either good or evil.

Sadly, Christians have accepted this view of one another and of ourselves. The culture screams, “I’m ok, you’re ok,” and we like the sound of that. I used to have a rather nebulous concept of sin: I could toe the party line that mankind is in a generally sinful and fallen state, but the concept of daily committing specific sins that needed to be confessed and repented of was foreign to me. I had accepted the idea that God knows I’m a sinner and I’m just here on this planet, doing the best I can til He calls me home. But is that how God views sin? What does that belief say about my view of God?

It is human nature to think pretty highly of ourselves. We can think even more highly when we compare ourselves to those around us instead of to the perfect standard of Christ. But when we view ourselves through the lens of Scripture, when we see the standard of God’s glory and realize we do indeed fall short every day and in every way, it should be humbling. There is nothing that will leave you clinging to the mercy and grace of Christ than to daily recognize your own sinfulness and helplessness apart from Him.

But this is not to be some downer post about the depravity of man; although, our total and complete depravity is depressing. Mankind apart from God is a depressing sight to behold. “But if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation…” (2 Cor. 5.17). The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in every believer (Rom. 8.11), and it is that power that enables us to put to death the flesh and its sinful desires. By learning about Jesus, by studying His Word, by discovering what He says about how we are to treat our neighbors and how we are to live, we hide in our heart His word and enable the Holy Spirit to use that Word to defeat the sin that so easily entangles us.

So how to do we see ourselves as God sees us? Through the Bible! It not only exposes our sinful nature and convicts us of it, but it provides the armor of God we are to put on to protect ourselves from the work of the enemy. If you truly want to see yourself as God sees you, measure yourself according to the scale that God Himself provided.