|360 Degrees of Transformation||
I spent this past weekend at my Gramma's house...for the last time. Saturday was her memorial, and also her 91st birthday, and my family came together to celebrate and mourn a precious woman. I couldn't have even begun to fathom how precious until after she had died, and I began hearing the memories of the others in her life.
As my family came together and reminisced, I felt inadequate compared to Gramma. She made love look so effortless and perfect. I cannot recall even one harsh word spoken from her. I cannot recall any discipline from her hand towards me or anyone else. I remember patience, grace, mercy, joy, and love. My sister remembers Gramma's patience as well. She spoke of Gramma telling us sweetly to turn off our wanter button, and creating games such as, Who Can Be the Quietest the Longest?
When I was in the first grade, my mom, sisters, and I lived with Gramma for the year. My memories of her included watching her shows, "The Young and Restless" during the day, and "Jeopardy" at night, while I laid my head in her lap and she scratched my back. At bedtime, she made sure to have us all partake in a before-bed snack, usually a cookie or cereal. I recall watching her sitting on her side of the couch, reading her Bible. At bathtime, I would sit in the bathtub and Gramma would rinse my hair with the perfect temperature of water.
I have memories of walking with Gramma and sometimes a friend of hers in the evenings, riding the bus to the mall and riding the escalators. Picking raspberries in the backyard and then later have raspberries and Mocha Mix for a snack or dessert. Before sitting down to eat, she would direct us to wash our hands and then we would pray.
Gramma's house was fabulous in my mind. My entire life, that is where she lived. For fifty years, she lived in the same house. When she and my Grampa divorced, she paid off the mortgage with a part-time job. Right after she died, my sisters and I drove to be with our mom at Gramma's house. We went through most everything, and separated items out, depending on who wanted what. We walked through and remembered things.
Sometimes memories hurt, a slice of sharp, intense pain through your heart that leaves it pounding, as tears rush to your eyes and you gasp for breath. For 31 years I've always known that house as Gramma's house. She was there when I came in the door, every time, ready with a hug and kiss and a smile. Usually she would try to make us food as soon as we came in the door. Down the hall we had our own rooms, where she had changed the sheets before a visit. In the bathroom was the laundry chute that we loved to throw dirty laundry down, and I remember her laughing hysterically over a joke involving that chute. In Gramma's room, the closet doors were made of glass mirrors, so we would play vertically straddling the mirror, and looking at the silly symmetrical reflections of ourselves. At the end of the hall was cupboards and drawers filled with all sorts of things. little random toys, books, papers and crafts. Gramma's kitchen had a lazy Susan, and I loved to play with that, wondering why she called it that. Downstairs at Gramma's was a full basement, wonderfully cool in the hot summer. My sisters and spent a lot of time down there playing with the trolls and toys of our mother's youth. I now have those trolls in my own home. The walls in Gramma's house were decorated with many of my uncle's paintings. He is a magnificent artist, and I have always been proud of his ability. Gramma also was a great artist, painting and writing, although I don't seem to recall seeing her paintings hanging up, but after going through the house, I was able to take a few of them. I was also blessed with her writings. I can't wait to go through the box that my mom packed for me. In one of them was a story that she wrote, and submitted to a children's magazine. It was a story about a magic watermelon pill, and my inventive Gramma let us experience that as children.
Outside, Gramma had a beautiful garden, which, over the years, grew apples, raspberries, rhubarb, and plums. We spent much time jumping on the trampoline, or playing Croquet, and sometimes we would help Gramma hang up the laundry to dry. Inside the garage there was a huge freezer. During hot summer days, Gramma stocked it with Schwann's food, specifically ice cream. When I was older I would joke with my Gramma about having an affair with the Schwann's man because he was there so often. Gramma LOVED ice cream. We always had it. One of the greatest things was going into that huge freezer , lifting up the lid, which squealed, and then digging through to find whatever treat we wanted, while frozen air swirled around. Just hearing that the sound of opening that lid could almost make you salivate, like Pavlov's dogs.
When we left after a visit, Gramma loaded us up with food, a gorgeous bouquet if flowers from the garden, and many hugs and kisses. She would slip a check to one of us girls, saying, "Give that to your mom after you leave." This is a tradition that my sisters and I carry on with our mother as well. We learned from the best. On our way out the driveway, mom would honk, and Gramma would stand in front of her house, waving and wiping away tears.
The memories from my Gramma are ones I will have forever. I consider it a blessing and an honor to be her granddaughter. I feel even more blessed that she was able to know and love on my children. They have some memories of her as well, and I am very happy about that. My Gramma had a wonderful sense of humor, and one of the things I will miss about her is her laugh, which she gave freely. I will remember the touch of her hands, and her loving spirit. The last time I saw her, less than a month before her death, I was holding her hands, telling her how soft and warm they were. Even then, she had love in her. God was gracious to me, and on my way out the door for that last visit, I suspected that might be the last time I would see her. So I got to give her some extra hugs and kisses, and tell her how much I loved her, and how precious she was to me. And God is so gracious because He created a way for my Gramma and I to meet again, this time without goodbyes. My Gramma is with God right now, happier than ever, and I know He is telling her "Good job, my faithful servant." My Gramma didn't travel the world to tell people about Jesus or help build up communities in third-world countries, but she did show her family exactly how Jesus loves us, and how we need to love others. My Gramma was amazing, and I love her.
I will see you again, Gramma. Thank you.
1 Corinthians 13
The Way of Love
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
It is exhausting always putting myself out there. I share my thoughts, feelings, emotions, struggles, insecurities, and triumphs with anyone who has access to the internet. It requires so much care to make sure that what I post is going to be appropriately interpreted by the majority. Sometimes I make mistakes in what I say, or sometimes the minority misinterprets it. Then the work begins to smooth the situation out. Sometimes people are very easily offended, and instead of trying to look at the situation, at the words, at the intent, they respond in anger.
I have gotten better at responding to the anger calmly in order to explain the true meaning of what I have said. To try to mend the hurts of the other party, even if I was not the one to cause it in the first place. It requires so much energy to hold my own hurt, anger, and frustration at bay. But throwing anger at an already tense situation is asking for a disaster to happen. People will get badly hurt, and in a world of injured people, we don't need any more casualties.
There is a saying: "Hurt people hurt people." This is very true. But causing more hurt doesn't heal us. It only debilitates us further. I work so hard not to let the words and actions of others cause me to compromise my own emotional health. If I let that happen, it will send me into a spiral of depression and spiritual weakness. I can't afford to let that take control of my life anymore. But my head gets very tired, and my heart gets hurt. And I have to hide. I have to cry. I have to give myself grace to pull back and take care of myself. To let those cuts in my heart heal.
People are important to me, but I don't do well in social settings. I have trouble carrying on conversations unless I know the person really well. It is exhausting for me to be around people. I notice a lot more details than the average person, and I hear more than what the average person is saying. So I tend to know more about what is really happening, or what they are really feeling. It requires constant active work on my part to carry on conversations or interact with other people. I don't want to just blurt stuff out without considering the effect it will have on the other person. Therefore, it requires so much mental and emotional energy, and it takes a toll on me after a while.
I can no longer be broken. I am unbreakable, because God has made me new. But I can get weary. Every day I must draw my strength from Him. Every single day, ever single hour, sometimes every single minute or second. I used to try to regain strength from my own empty well. Or I tried to gain it from the empty wells of others. But instead, I fell in. I used to live a numb life. It was so easy to retreat to the dark and empty place inside of myself, where I couldn't hear anyone and I couldn't feel anything. I was disconnected. It didn't feel safe, but it was the least painful option. People couldn't hurt me. But it was dangerous to be there. A person can get permanently lost inside themselves. I knew I wanted help, and I needed it. But I didn't know how someone could help me. I didn't know what to ask. It has taken me a lot of years to get out of that dark hole, and more years to get rid of it. I have finally let God fill it with His Spirit.
I still struggle with the hurts inflicted on me by myself and others. This time, though, I won't retreat, and I won't give up. I have a responsibility to help the others who are hurting. I take it seriously. So I will keep going, and I will keep putting myself out there. I will keep interacting with hurting people, and I will encourage them to fill up with God. And when I need to, I will take a rest to heal, and fill up my empty well from God's unlimited spring of life.
There are some moments when life simply sucks! I love God, and I am not angry at Him, or in denial about His existence. But He never promises that life will be easy. Some days it just sucks. Some weeks life just sucks! I can complain and complain all I want, but what will that solve? It won't solve the problem at all! It won't bring me sympathy (which I'm not looking for anyways). I'm not looking for someone to solve my problems. Believe me, if they were solvable right now I would take the easy way out.
No. NO NO NO! Life does not work that way! Believing in God is not a one-way ticket to wonderful days and happy bliss. Live is messy, full of sin, and difficult. So difficult sometimes that people actually kill themselves to get away from it.
My special needs child is driving me somewhere I don't like to be. Every time that I ask her to do something she doesn't want to do, she comes back with how horrible I am. I am dumb. I am rude. I am a terrible mother. I'm fat, etc. Now, if I had a partner that told me all those things, that would be verbal abuse. My child calls me that, and while that isn't automatically recognizable as verbal abuse, IT IS! My special needs child sometimes treats me like crap! I am exhausted from it! If I hear that whiny and angry voice one more time I may just jab a stick in my ear.
I've been hearing from others how I am the parent and I need to take charge. Great! I would love to! I would love to in a second! Do you know how many times I have told her I am not all those things she says I am? How many times I have given her consequences and she only gets worse? I've told others, because I've experienced it myself, that it gets worse before it gets better. My history with her has been worse, and its gotten better than it has ever been, but now it is a new playing field, and now I am tired. I am at that point where I don't care what she's doing as long as she is staying away from me and keeping her mouth shut. I love my kid. I really do. I've proved that over and over. But I don't like her sometimes.
Here's the second sucky thing about that. I have spent all of our savings on this "service" dog for her. I paid for him, got him neutered (because that is the responsible thing). I've had his medical issues treated (because that is responsible and he should't live like that). I've been walking him twice a day. He's been getting an attitude with me, and sometimes I'm scared of him, even though I think he's just being playful or rebelling. So, not only is my special needs daughter treating me like crap, her special needs service dog is treating me like crap. It is unfair, but some days I don't like him either. And sometimes, I want someone else to take the ungrateful, verbally abusive child and the rebelling dog for a walk!
I feel like screaming sometimes. And crying. God gave me all these gifts. He's answered prayers left and right. He's provided for us financially and physically and emotionally and spiritually. But sometimes I'm just worn down and I need to write this all down before I go crazy...AGAIN!
Life sometimes sucks.
I am on a road of baby steps, backward steps, answered prayers, disappointments, and waiting periods. I KNOW, without a doubt, in my heart, soul, and mind, that God has got my back. But sometimes things still suck. Sometimes I'm tired. Sometimes I'm worn down and I can't hear my precious Savior's assurances. Sometimes I'm so tired that I can't see ahead that He has something better for me, and I must travel through this dark and horrid wilderness to get to it. Sometimes He's carrying me but I still feel like I'm crawling along on bleeding hands and knees.
I've been in worse places.
So, now that I've complained to you, let me tell you that I know that sometimes life sucks, and I know what it is to be just sick of the things that God takes us through so we can be better. Sometimes I throw a fit, and need to cry to Him about how much I'm sick of it all, and ask Him for the good God things to come quicker. Here's the difference, though, that I noticed today. I cried out to Him knowing that I didn't have to feel GUILTY or SHAMEFUL or AWFUL or UNGRATEFUL for telling Him how I really feel. He wants me to tell Him how mad I am, even if it were at Him, and how tired I am, and how hurt I am. He wants to hear ALL OF IT! Every last miserable, stinky, complaining detail. The point that we can do that is when we know that we really do trust Him and believe that He loves us and wants to give us grace.
Ah! I am covered with grace. Beautiful grace. Live-giving grace that ONLY comes from God. Oh Jesus, without your grace I am nothing. But sometimes things still suck, and the situations we are in are still difficult. I know this attitude and complaining and exhaustion and hurt and insecurity and backwards steps won't last. But right now it is here. And it is in your life sometimes, too. And I know exactly what it feels like. And I won't sugarcoat it because that isn't fair to you. This, too, shall pass. GOD promises, and I encourage you to talk to Him about it.
Life sometimes hurts. Right now, I am hurting. Its my birthday tomorrow, and I should be celebrating. My kids are doing better, and I am doing better, than we all have in a long time, but I am hurting. The enemy is digging in hard! He's throwing poison arrows at me, and tripping me. Hah! Keep going, satan, you little worm, because I know the end game, and you lose.
So, some good things, among the hurts. I had an insecure and hurting moment with a friend, and that was cleared up because God is good. I received some anonymous school supplies for my girls (I suspect I know who it is from), and I rejoice because this beautiful and precious person or people listened to God's whisper. We had a good day today, with a dear friend, because God is good. My kids have cleaned their room, after I asked God to intervene (this is a MIRACLE!), because God gives grace. It is my birthday tomorrow and I get to finally meet my niece and nephew and see my family (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!), because God answers prayers. Yesterday, some INCREDIBLE NEW friends helped me get a handle on getting my apartment in an organized and clean matter (this is two good things in one) because God is love. And the last one, but never final, is that God is there for me, every second. He's been in my past, He's walking in my present, and He's waiting in my future. He's so patient. He's so gracious. He is love.
I can't even explain completely to you what a life-transformation you can have only through Him! I can only live my life, with its sucky moments and its miracles, and rejoice in every single triumph and every single miserable moment, that God is available to each and every one of us.
My moments sucks sometimes, THANK YOU LORD! I praise YOU! Because without You my life would be deadly, empty, and dark, even if it was perfect.
Please feel free to ask me questions. The stuff I have gone through has drawn me closer to God. I don't want to hide it away because then what is the point of it if not to show you about the real God?
We might be in different places, but all of us are on a journey.
Leah's Life Verses