When Your Son Asks: Remembering Our Deliverance

Mancub at age 10 sleeping on the way home from Arkansas.

I want my kids to remember me with a soft kind of fondness–that perfect balance of light and hope, discipline and humor, friendship and love. A warm and fuzzy mama–but at the same time tough as the lady who delivers our mail. Have you seen her? She can bench 400 pounds, I know it!

I want my kids to think of me as a good example, someone they want to imitate.

One problem: I’m far from perfect. I screw up fairly often. At least as much as Donald Trump says offensive stuff on TV. I mean well, but …

I was reading through Exodus (actually, that’s inaccurate. I’m so lazy I have somebody else read Exodus to me, on an app. Because there’s an app for that). Anyway, this scripture refers to the story of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. I just love the first sentence.

14 “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’16 And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”

When your son asks you, “What does this mean?”… how well we know this feeling, mamas. How well we know that frightening reality that somebody put us in charge of these precious human beings as IF WE WERE GROWNUPS. Grownups with answers. Grownups who hold those memories in the palm of their hand.

Sometimes, I sweat bullets when my son asks me questions. They used to be so easy.

“Hey Mom. How do you make instant oatmeal?”

“Hey Mom. Can you watch me go down the slide?”

“Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Why doesn’t the dog eat at the table with us?”

Lately, the questions are much more hard core.

“Mom, how does God feel about transgender people?” (This one’s easy: LOVE)

“Mom, I think my friend is in trouble. Can we help?”

“Mom, why does God let bad things happen?”

I don’t know all the answers. But I don’t ignore the questions. We look it up. We talk about it. I want to be the one, along with my husband, that is able to answer those “What does this mean?” questions.

In this verse, God is instructing the Israelites in the importance of remembrance. There’s no way these children, or grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, will ever know the sound of the cries of Egypt as they woke to find their firstborn children dead. It’s just too horrific. Over 400 years of slavery, of the Pharaoh killing the baby boys–the Jewish mothers hiding their babies, shushing their cries.

And the angel of the Lord passed over…

There’s no way the children would remember the unreal feeling of freedom. What? We are free? We can go? The feeling (and then, the eventuality) this freedom can’t last– that the Egyptians would change their minds and maybe call for the blood of the Jews to rectify Pharaoh’s hasty decision. The absolute miracle of the Red Sea parting down the middle as thousands of slaves left forever. The smell of the sheep and goats (and all those people) and the heaviness of the hastily packed possessions–the sheer terror and doubt that any of this was real. But they were told to try to make them understand–the importance of storytelling and ritual. Unleavened bread eaten in haste as we planned our escape. This is what it means, Son. This bread–it is a symbol of our deliverance.

I’m fortunate (NOT gonna say #blessed because I HATE that) to have never been in this kind of bind–this kind of slavery. But we all know a type of bondage.

Addictions.

Debt.

Disease.

Abuse.

Pain.

Crippling fear.

Anxiety.

God is not JUST the God of the past. He knows us. He knows you. HE has the answers.

I don’t always know what things mean, but when my son asks me, I’ll tell him.

I’ll tell him that we are free.

 

 

 

 

 

On Fettuccini Alfredo and Forgiveness in REAL Families

On “Leave it to Beaver,” Ward comes home from a long day at work, and not only does June has a pot roast ready, but she serves it wearing a dress, heels and pearls. The worst thing that ever happens to Wally and the Beav is that Beav gets a bad grade on a test (that’s ok Beav! We’ll try again next time!) or Wally has to take his second choice gal Susie to the dance (that’s ok Wally! Janet was a !@#$ anyway). Just kidding…I don’t think Wally ever got turned down for a date.

The point is, the problems are never that bad, and the solutions come in half an hour (minus commercials).

In real life, in real families, it’s a bit more complicated. It’s a bit messier. It takes more than half an hour–sometimes months, or years–to work things out. Kids and parents both are damaged in the process. Relationships suffer and need some healing. This is what happens in REAL families.

We’re a normal family. When I say “normal” I really mean … normally messed up. We’re a real family.

We love each other, but we’re imperfect.

We hurt each other with our words and actions.

We’re careless, selfish.

We use the last of the toothpaste and don’t tell anyone.

We borrow one another’s clothes and don’t return them.

We hurl out insults (supposedly in jest) that wound as bitterly as the real thing.

We promise to do things (and forget).

We promise NOT to do things (and forget).

We put ourselves first. Most the time we don’t even realize it.

But sometimes we do and keep doing it anyway.

Thank goodness for Jesus.

When I say that, I need to clarify. I don’t mean, “Thank goodness for Jesus” because I expect him to swoop in and wipe the slate clean. Jesus does forgive, but our words and actions linger long after they’ve been said or done. As seen in the news recently (yes, I’m referencing the Duggars) any kind of abuse can’t just be “forgiven” and forgotten.

When I talk about “Real families” don’t think for a minute I’m advocating any sort of abuse, ever. The girls in that family, and all others who were victims, will deal with the consequences not only of the repeated acts BUT also the secrecy surrounding them. They are victims on many levels, and I’m not even talking about the extreme patriarchy that is twisted way beyond any measure God intended. By making everything a secret, it inevitably transfers part of the blame to the victims, and they’ve been through enough. Hearts hold wounds long after the scarring occurs.

But back to the task at hand, the forgiveness of everyday hurts, not abuse but just everyday life.

I do believe in the healing power of Jesus’s forgiveness, with all my heart. But I need to be careful to not abuse His love, his sacrifice by calling Him in over and over to clean up my mess. I can’t abuse Him like a giant jar of Whiteout, doing what I like then dumping His grace all over my mistakes and giving myself an excuse to do it again and again.

When I say, “Thank goodness for Jesus” I mean, I’m so grateful that He pricks my heart and my conscience, exposing my humanity, my sin to me just in case I start thinking too much of myself. I don’t want to get in the mindset of thinking justice for others and mercy for me. I need to spend time in prayer and quiet, listening for that still small voice to let me know when I’ve done wrong. When I’ve hurt those I love in deed or action.

It’s not enough to say “I’m sorry,” though that’s a good start. Jesus taught us to repent and turn from what we are repenting from. That if we don’t wish judgement to fall upon us, we must stop whatever it is we did in the first place. We must demonstrate the forgiveness with actions of love.

This week has been a rough one-nothing too serious but plenty unpleasant. Do I love my family? YES. Do I mess up? CONSTANTLY. Do I love them enough to admit it, out loud, and apologize?

Errrrrrrrrr….

That is difficult.

I don’t WANT to be wrong. I am wrong often, but that doesn’t mean I want to admit it.

But admitting it is important to healing. If I nag my kids, if I wound my husband with my words, I need to apologize, but that’s not enough. I need to demonstrate through my actions that I’m sorry.

One way I do this: Fettuccine Alfredo. If I’m feeling especially repentant? ANGEL hair pasta. See what I did there?

I know this is a horrible transition but I really want to give you this recipe, because nothing says “I’m sorry” like Fettuccini Alfredo.

The recipe I use is from Pioneer Woman’s website, EXCEPT I add cooked chicken and extra cream, because the portions are too small for Mancub and Papa Bear. I pretty much double the whole thing, if you want to know.

Now that I’ve posted it, I’m gonna watch another episode of the Beav. There seems to be an issue regarding a torn baseball card, and the Beav is really gonna get it this time.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/fettuccini-alfredo-recipe.html

The Savior and the Heart of Women

16 CARRACCI WOMEN AT THE TOMB OF CHR

It makes sense, really, that the women took the spices and went to the tomb early, before the rest of their day began. Women often wake up early, adding responsibilities to their already full plate. But this task–it wasn’t  the ordinary chore, is it? I can’t even imagine the weight of their hearts, like so many heavy slicing daggers, cutting and slicing through the bone, through their marrow to their very souls any time they thought of what had just happened to the One they loved.

Yet, they went, because women are practical. We take care of business, even when our hearts are breaking. The weaker sex? Please. Just because tears blur our vision doesn’t mean we are weak. It’s pushing through the pain that makes us women. They didn’t wait until they felt better. They didn’t postpone this unpleasant task until the pain was bearable. They didn’t take a rest first, or wait for someone to ask them to do it. They took the responsibility as theirs. They owned it. There was no argument amongst them about whose turn it was, and they didn’t let the other go alone.

Each step leading to the tomb must have been harder than the last, yet they didn’t slow. Knowing that He was lying there, lifeless, pale and torn, bruised and stabbed–how it must have frightened them and rendered their already tender hearts.

But wait. The light–the angel–the message: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here! He is risen, like he told you.”

And oh, the joy that flowed, even into the dark recesses of pain. The hope–the anticipation, the special favor bestowed upon them to be the first to know what gives us courage and delight, the bliss that engulfs us even today.

These women, they felt it. The Lord himself rewarded their tender hearts with the first knowledge of his promise fulfilled.

Who better to feel the first tender roots of the hope within us then the women?

Luke 24: 1-8

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.

Tears in a Bottle and the Counting of Tossings

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Psalm 56:8 ESV
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?

I take comfort in the fact that my Lord puts my tears his bottle. He saves them; he gives my pain value. Like rainwater held for a later time, when the drought comes, the time when I do not shed tears and I’ve forgotten the salty touch of them on my tongue and the sadness in my very marrow, he shows me my tears that I might see that yes, He cared. Yes, He remembered. He took notice. He made it a priority to rectify my pain.
At a later time, I will look at the rainwater tears and know that my God held me up, steadfast when I thought my legs would fail. But they did not.

I take comfort in the fact that He takes count of my tossings–when I can’t sleep at night for worrying about things that I have little power over. He notices when the pillow bunches hot from my crying. He cares when my blanket is wound around my legs like a rope. He believes in me when my eyes cannot close to the stirrings of worry in my heart. He is Abba, Daddy. He touches my forehead and tells me to rest now. That He is in control.

So You Think You Aren’t A Feminist? Think Again.

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The word “feminist” sometimes frightens people. It really shouldn’t. Sometimes people automatically link the word with the more extreme examples coming from the Third Wave Feminists of the 1980s. The picture black and white photos of Hilary Clinton and Gloria Steinem, their faces full of rage–angry women who seemed to hate men while striving for some kind of lesbian utopia where men were relegated to lives on the sidelines serving us.

This is not true for all of us. I love men, I do! Especially the four men I’m closest to–my hubby, my kid and my nephew and, oh yes–Jesus.  So don’t lump us all in with these radicals. I’m not. I am, however, radical for Jesus.

While some of these women did come across as men-haters, I think that their abrasiveness was less militant and more frustration from the ages-long suppression of their ideas and voice. One such feminist I’ve come to admire from this period is Gloria Anzaldúa. I studied her writings, and was particularly struck by her books This Bridge Called My Back and Borderlands. 

When I began reading Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/ La Frontera: The New Mestiza, I initially thought it interesting reading but not so relevant to me. What do I have in common with women who live on the border, in no man’s land, with no real place to call home? What connection do I have with their struggle? It sounds like a bloody, hard-fought fight, and one that is not nearly over. Even their version of God and heaven excludes them. I have a home. I have a family. I have an education and history. My God accepts me, and even longs for me.

Still, I sometimes felt the discord between feminism and Christianity. How could I be both Christian and feminist? Was this possible?

Yes. Sarah Bessey, in her book Jesus Feminist, writes:

At the core, feminism simply consists of the radical notion that women are people, too. Feminism only means we champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance— not greater than, but certainly not less than— to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women. 4 Several years ago, when I began to refer to myself as a feminist, a few Christians raised their eyebrows and asked, “What kind of feminist exactly?” Off the top of my head, I laughed and said, “Oh, a Jesus feminist!” It stuck, in a cheeky sort of way, and now I call myself a Jesus feminist because to me, the qualifier means I am a feminist precisely because of my lifelong commitment to Jesus and his Way.

Does Jesus, at any point, tell women to shut up? Does he shame them, discard them, tell them to find their place?

Not really.

In fact, Jesus is kind of a feminist Himself.

On Starbucks, Angel Sightings and Pregnant Teen Moms

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But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”  “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:30-35

I’ve often imagined this story as one of wonder–and terror.

So here’s Mary, who some say was about 14 when A FREAKING ANGEL SHOWED UP TO TALK TO HER.

An angel.

We’re not talking about a sweet little overweight cherub, flying around and sprinkling pixie dust everywhere. We’re talking about a full-grown (whatever that means) angel in all his terrifying glory, just randomly appearing to Mary was going about her day.

Can you imagine how this scenario would play out in modern times?

For example, Mary is stopping by Starbucks on her way to Jewish History class (because obviously there’s not a Christmas Break yet. Work with me, ok?). On her way inside the magical glass doors to the happy smells of ground coffee beans and white privilege she’s blocked by a glowing being.

Mary: “Excuse me, illuminated guy. I’m trying to get by to order my skinny white mocha before I’m trampled by the crowd.” Then she looks up, not to see a business man with a BlueTooth apparatus hanging off his ear, BUT A FREAKING ANGEL.

Mary: assuming that her Hebrew final has finally caused a mental break: “AHHHH!”

Angel: (Putting his giant hand on the shoulder of Mary’s “I’m a Belieber” T-shirt) “Mary, don’t be afraid.” Easier said then done, terrifying angel guy. Incidentally, have you ever noticed that when angels show up to speak to people they always begin the conversation with “Don’t be afraid” which is roughly translated to “Don’t stop breathing and fall over from a heart attack”  from the original Hebrew.

“God thinks you rock and has decided that…”

Mary, finally noticing that something is awry. “AHHHHHHH!”

Angel: “So here’s what’s going to happen. I know you’re still a minor and living at home but CONGRATULATIONS. You’re going to be MYSTERIOUSLY PREGNANT because God has decided that you are the perfect little girl to be the mama of Jesus.”

Mary, not wanting to offend the terrifying crazy guy while simultaneously trying to keep her heart from stopping, gently points out the obvious. “Oh! Well…I haven’t even had my first kiss yet, and my parents are old-fashioned and all, but I’m pretty sure that it takes more than that to get pregnant. Plus, ha ha, I was just playing with my My Little Pony set yesterday.”

Angel: “Not to worry. You don’t have to take out a personal ad in The Daily Scroll or anything. The power of the Holy Spirit will overcome you and … well, you may want to stop off at the 7-11 and buy some crackers and Sprite because you’re gonna be pregnant by sundown. You also might want to pick up some sweats and a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting the Messiah.”  By the way, your kid will be THE SON OF GOD.”

Mary: “AHHHHH!”

Actual Blue Tooth Business Guy, who’s annoyed at the hallucinating teenager who’s blocking his triple espresso. “Excuse me. Are you…” (noticing her paleness and assuming she’s about to have some sort of fit) “in line?”

Mary: Stepping out of the way, because she’s sweet like that and doesn’t want her personal issues to keep others from their happy coffee place. “No, not yet!”

Angel, patting Mary’s head: “It’s all gonna be ok, kid. You’re going places. Not only will you be talked about for the next several centuries, people are gonna write songs about you and tell your birth story over and over. Also, your face will be put on a candles that are sold at Dollar General and you’ll be in the movies. Better get an agent!” He disappears.

Mary, stunned and remembering that chapter in her health book that describes schizophrenia as appearing in the teen years, finds a place in line behind Bluetooth Guy.

Barista: “Welcome to Starbucks. What can I get started for you today?”

Mary: “I’ll have a Skinny White Mocha–decaf.”

Merry Christmas, Y’all!

Women of the Bible: Rachel and Infertility

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“Give me children, or else I die.–Rachel, from Genesis 30:1

Psalm 113:9: He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.Praise the LORD!

As women of faith, we are taught that one of our most important duties, as well as blessings,is bearing children. Many of us grew up playing with baby dolls, changing pretend diapers and feeding with pretend bottles. For the majority of us, if we wish it to happen, becomes reality. Sometimes we don’t plan it at all–it happens on its own. We grow up to become mothers and grandmothers and everyone lives happily ever after.

But what if it doesn’t happen? What if, despite our prayers and medical visits, expensive fertility treatments, we find ourselves unable to become pregnant? Or, in many cases, we celebrate the little pink line on the pregnancy test only to miscarry both our child and our hopes for motherhood. It’s heartbreaking and unexplained. Why does God sometimes withhold children from good women, and allow bad mothers to have baby after baby, with seemingly no plan or purpose?

What does that mean? Are childless women ostracized, left out of God’s will and finding punishment? Surely not. Though painful and unexplained, I don’t believe that our God is THIS kind of God.

The problem of the “barren womb” is documented many times throughout the old testament.

Rachel of the Old Testament was beautiful and loved by Jacob, and Matheson points out that their relationship is the first marriage that is recorded to have begun in friendship and not arrangement–a marriage of choosing. But Rachel could not have a baby, and it pressed on her spirit. Having been taught that God blesses women by giving them children, and serving little purpose in a patriarchal society, I’m sure she felt worthless and heartbroken when the baby didn’t come.

Genesis 30 tells the story:
When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”
Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” Here Jacob represents the helplessness of the husband in this kind of situation.

Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.” Poor Bilhah! Forced to bear a child and to give it away, never being fully able to be called Mama. A whole different kind of pain.

A few verses down, after a heated competition with her sister where other women were involved and impregnated, Rachel finally becomes pregnant with Joseph. “God has taken away my disgrace,” Rachel said. “May the Lord add to me another son.”

Many times, women like Rachel who think they cannot get pregnant, do. Equally as many do not.

Take heart, dear one. You are not being punished; you are loved.

Jesus waits, in the quiet, in the questions. Reach out to him for he is there. He counts your bitter tears and sees your suffering.

You are not alone.