The desires of my heart

30 07 2007

      Abbey’s sweet comment on my last post mentioned that she was praying for God to give me the desires of my heart.  Let me share a secret with you.
      Lately, in the past month or so, I have been sitting up late websurfing.  At 1 a.m. Neal throws a pillow at me and asks, “Are you coming to bed or what?”  I’m still hunched over the keyboard, clicking.  Click click.  Click click. 
      I’m looking at webpages of adoptable children.  I’ve been talking to an orphanage contact in Guatemala.  I’ve been reasearching the Snowflake program.  I’ve been reading blogs about adopting special needs children.  I’ve been watching slide shows of small faces on the US waiting list.
      Since Patrick was born, I’ve been praying for another child, another daughter.  When he was two days old I stood in my room and wept, saying, “Lord, he’s a perfectly beautiful baby.  But why am I still hungry for a little girl?”  In the months after his birth I mourned the loss of that daughter almost as fiercly as if I’d carried twins and one hadn’t survived.  I grieved terribly, all the time feeling how ridiculous it was to grieve with my precious Patrick in my arms.  
      I dream about her sometimes.  She’s small and has dark hair.  Something is wrong with her heart.  In one dream, she was sitting on a bridge waiting for me.  All around her the land was lush and green, and there was a slow brown river moving under her dangling bare feet.  She turned and looked at me tiredly, as if she had been waiting a long, long time.
      On these late night quests through the internet, as I learn about the options for homestudies, fundraising for foreign adoption, and subsidies for special needs domestic adoptions, I have been praying.  Lord, I have four kids.  Why do I want this?  You would think I have enough to do, wouldn’t you?  Wouldn’t you think I had enough to do?  Enough kisses, enough laundry, enough love?  Why is my heart so hungry over all these little faces?
      He answered me one evening, and I almost despaired.  He said, “Wait until after you move.”  I wanted to sit down and wail.  Neal was planning on staying with his job in Wilmington for at least two more years.  Maybe as much as five.  Five years!
      “How about now?” I asked him.  “I’m sick of cleaning the same old house.  My wandering foot is itching.  Let’s go!”
      He prayed about it a few days and came home.  “The Lord said, ‘Not yet,'” he told me.  My hopes sunk.  I tried to stay away from the internet.  I busied myself ordering books for the next homeschooling year, picking paint colors for our bathroom, and writing.  I wandered around the house, trying to tell myself I wasn’t vaguely discontented.  Trying to tell myself I was just bored.  Suffering from cabin fever, maybe, or an overdose of air conditioning.
      And then, last week, out of the blue he called me and said, “Angela, are you sitting down?”
      How can I sort out the mixture of pain and delight with which I recieved his news?  An agony of joy.  A swamp of dread.  And a soft, new-born hope: maybe my daughter is on the way.  Maybe it will be only a few more months.  Maybe we’ll have a new home, a little more money… and my dream girl will come home.
      The desires of my heart… a new home in a cooler place.  Trees outside my door, mountains in the distance… a house with four bedrooms, and in one of the bedrooms lies two little girls.  Their heads on the pillows, side by side, are dark and light.  Is it too much to ask, Lord, this thing I dream at night?


A feeling of unreality

27 07 2007

      We’re on vacation in Camden, hanging with my in-laws.  I like their house.  I never feel like I have to clean something up if I don’t want to.  I rather enjoyed going out in her garage and tackling her spider-ridden wash area, but if I want to leave my shoes in the living room or walk over the toys in the hallway, I can.  I don’t have to make my bed.  No one freaks out if the breakfast dishes hang out on the table for a while.
      It’s a very relaxed feeling.  I like it.  I can clean when I want to, and the rest of the time I can read and eat Oreos.
      But about four days into my lovely vacation, Neal called me up and asked, “Are you sitting down?”  Now, in my experience, when people ask that they don’t really mean it, so I didn’t sit down.  But I should have.  About thirty seconds later I fell down on the carpet.
      My side of the conversation went something like this:  “What?  They fired you?  I knew your boss didn’t like you, and I wondered if something like this would happen…  oh, they fired the whole department?  Are they committing suicide over there?  You can’t fire your entire IT department!”
      Not only did they fire him, they packed up his desk, confiscated his laptop without giving him time to remove any of his files, handed him a severance check, and threw him out the door.  He lost all his writings, all his scout files…
      I’m swimming in this feeling of unreality.  Surely this can’t be happening.  Sometimes I even forget about it.  I woke up this morning thinking, “So… what are we doing today?”  Then I remembered.  It was like a punch in the stomach.
      I guess I won’t be teaching a novel-writing class.  Brenna won’t be taking dance.  I may or may not find out what happens to Eric’s novel.  I guess if I teach 2xtreme, it won’t be for very long.  I’ve been praying for Jason Osborne for so long… will I see him healed?  Can I finish the C.H.E.W. yearbook?  Will our house sell?
       Where will we be living in three months?
       This is the only church I’ve ever known.  How on earth will we ever find another one?  I’ve grown up here.  These people are my family… my heart is torn and bleeding.  There are so many things I’ll be leaving unfinished, so many promises now we’ll never see fulfilled.
      My son and daughter sobbed for nearly an hour.  For Brenna, this is the only town she remembers.  Her best friend Hannah has been like a sister to her.  How will we leave Greg?  What will I do without Lisa?  I’m stunned.  I’m reeling.
      We haven’t even finished the bathroom yet!  How can you sell a house without a toilet, sink, or real floor in one of the bathrooms?  The sewage connection is nowhere near ready.  There’s drainage problems under the house, and some wierd fungus eating the floor joists.  If we can sell this house, it will be an honest-to-God miracle.
      I am trying not to be afraid.  Please, God, don’t separate me from my husband.  I’m no good without him.  He pushes up my courage, bolsters my confidence, soothes my fears, holds me when I cry, absorbs my stress…  I’ve lived without him before, but it’s not a pretty thing.  It’s his strong arms that push back the world and make a small space for me to grow and develop.  I need him!
      It wasn’t totally unexpected.  We had words from the Lord, a dream, some hints that perhaps we wouldn’t be in Wilmington much longer.  By much longer, we thought, “Not more than a year or two.”  How could we know it would be, “Not more than a month or two?” 
      We are sewn into so many places in this community.  How will we ever tear ourselves out?  I suppose it’s an illusion that we’re important.  I guess Winston Sirjue will garden without us, the homeschool co-op will teach without us, the scouts will camp without us.  Someone else will teach, someone else will lead, someone else will paint, someone else will write for Leslie…
      Oh, God… the tears are falling on my keyboard.  I know you have plans for us, plans to give us a purpose and a hope.  I know that you saw this day coming months or years ago, and that what you have in store for us will be good.  I know you have promised to provide for our every need, and you have never failed us yet.  I just feel like we’ll be leaving so many things unfinished…
      I promise sometime soon I will look up and begin seeing the possibilities of a new life somewhere else, but right now, I just feel like some old piece of furniture that no one wants put out on the curb in a yard sale.

Parallel Universes

20 07 2007

      I went to Elizabeth’s house tonight to pray.  I love praying in groups!  I think I like it better than roller coasters, better than chocolate, even better than a really good hair day.  I like it better than eating chocolate on a roller coaster while looking fabulous!
      In between bouts of prayer, we were talking about life and our experiences with God’s grace and provision.  We also talked about how, as we have become more secure in God’s love, things that once hurt us don’t hurt as much anymore.  The unkind word, the lie, the underhanded action still hurt, but the hurt doesn’t last as long.  The offense is quicker to fade.  The pain is easier to forgive.
      I think it’s part of being alive in Christ.  A statue, hard and stony, is dead and brittle.  Any attack will chip or mar, or even shatter it.  But a living organism has the ability to heal.  And God, as our healer, makes the process even faster. 
      So I was thinking about that.  And we were also talking about near miss car accidents and other examples of God’s daily care over our lives.  I started thinking about all the times the Lord has provided the money or shoes or car or stove we needed.  I thought of all the times he’s healed me.  I remembered the time he healed me of pneumonia, of a persistant sinus infection, of back pain.
      He also has lifted my depression and chased away the suicidal thoughts that tormented me so fiercly for so many years.  God does so much for me!
      It’s like, as Christians, we live in a parallel universe from the rest of the world.  All around us, people are crushed by illness, depression, and lack.  They are destroyed by addiction, lies, and abuse.  And here I stand: safe on solid ground.  Troubles come, but with God’s help, they go again!  They don’t move in and take over the recliner and the remote!
      Side by side we life.  Two people are fired.  One takes to drink, one hangs on and eventually finds a new job.  Two children die.  One set of parents collapse and divorce, another set goes on to have more children and minister to homeless people in their city.  Two men get cancer.  One man dies, another is miraculously healed and goes on to marry at the age of 78!
      So many people say miracles are figments of our imagination, psychosomatic, or hoaxes.  But I have felt a miracle in my own body.  One moment, my slipped disc was so painful I was in anguish just sitting on the couch.  Then God spoke to me, I felt a warmth press against my lower back, and I was healed.  There was no more pain.
      A man came into church with a diagnosis of cancer.  A few weeks later, he came back with the medical reports- miraculously healed!  Since when does cancer just up and disappear?  If only the news papers would look and see… if only they would investigate the cases of disappearing cancers, healing hearts, sudden remission of pain… 
      The kingdom of God is all around us.  It’s thick around you now like a golden haze.  A word, a gesture, could catapult you into another dimension where healing and help and love and miracles happen constantly. 
      Which universe would you choose?

Mother Teresa, dreams about flying and the Archangel of Bad Jokes

16 07 2007

      I was watching a movie about Mother Teresa last night.  It was incredibly moving.  She was healing and helping desperately poor people, loving them, feeding them, saving their lives.  I loved the movie, but I was also thinking, “God, what am I doing with my life?  Who am I helping?  Who am I witnessing to?”

      I sit at home cleaning, cooking, teaching, doing laundry.  Yes, I serve my husband and my kids, but in the face of the incredible suffering on earth, it seems entirely inadequate.  Oh yes, and I write.  Whose suffering have I relieved by writing humorous articles?  Hmmm.   I’m still thinking…
       My husband walked in the room and saw that I was sewing while watching the movie.  (How many poor people could I feed for the cost of our VCR?)  A little friend of ours is very interested in knights right now, and I am making him a suit of medaeval clothing for his birthday.  The cap is simple.  You cut a circle out about the size of a serving platter, gather it around the edge, and sew it to a flat strip that circles the child’s head.  Then you sew a few feathers at one side, and (hey presto!) you have a lovely medaeval cap.
      I love sewing costumes from that time period.  The clothes are all very simple to make.  They didn’t use complicated things like pockets, collars, or lapels.  No zippers, no button holes.  The clothes were designed to be sewed by hand by poor peasant women who were struggling to clothe a family of ten without a sewing machine.  I can make a full outfit in three or four hours on my serger.

      So Neal comes in and looks over my shoulder.  “What a cute cap,” he says, “you are such a talented woman.”
      Talented!  Yeah, I’m talented all right.  I can do anything useless.  I can’t make money, make my children behave, keep my house clean or balance my budget.  My car needs servicing, my bills need to be paid, and my kids are growing out of their clothes.  But if you need something frilly and useless done, I’m there!  I can sew costumes, write poetry, paint pictures (I’m working on an acrylic painting of a salamander for my son’s room right now), play piano, tickle babies, and tango.  I can act, bake a smashing birthday cake, make a hand-made cloth doll, and possibly write a novel.

      But what good does it do?  What can God do with an artist?  How can I feed the hungry, tend the sick, and preach the good news to the nations?  I could clothe the naked, I guess, as long as they’re interested in styles from about the 1100’s on.

      I look at my life and the sad truth is very clear: I have the wrong skill set.  I can’t do anything big for God.  I am a stereotypical rich American, frittering my life away on trifles and eating crème filled, chocolate iced donuts from Krispy Kreme while the rest of the world starves.
      You know, I had a dream last night.  It was another flying dream, which I have all the time.  I had so many flying dreams when I was a child that I really believed I could fly.  I tried it once, too.  (Sensibly, in case my aerodynamics didn’t kick in immediately, I started from the top of a stair well.)  Sometimes I fly alone, catching the air currents with my chest and arms and riding them up.  Or I fly with a swimming stroke, amazing anyone who is with me.  I can never fly very high.  I’m not completely free- but I can drift lazily, floating about twenty feet off the ground.  Other times, I use a piece of cardboard or something else like a kite under me.  It’s sort of like using a boogie board in the air.  I can catch the wind and surf on it.
      Anyhow, I was flying around in a department store doing various things.  I saw a lot of people I knew.  I did some shopping (my feet didn’t hurt at all!), and I took my things out to my car. 
      Now here’s where it gets really weird.  Whats-his-name Candy, you know, the famous comedian, was sitting in his car.  He beckoned me over.  I couldn’t believe he wanted to talk to me.  But he knew me!  He said he’d been reading my blog and it was really good stuff.  (Can I count it as a celebrity endorsement if it occurred in a dream?)  He said my writing was very funny, which, coming from him, was something of a compliment.  Then he pulled down his sunglasses and looked me in the eye.  “You are going to write some more, aren’t you?”  He was very serious.  I got the impression that if I didn’t say yes, he was going to have someone rough me up a little!  So of course I said yes.  Never anger a comedian.
        “Good,” he says, “you do that.”   And he put down his glasses and drove away.  Now, I believe that God does send us dreams with meaning, but I’m having trouble deciphering this one!  Unless Mr. Candy symbolizes an agent from God (The Archangel of Bad Jokes?) bearing a message about my writing… something like God saying, “Angela, I want you to keep writing.  With all the suffering in the world, sometimes I just need some comic relief.  And you’re it, baby.”
      Gee thanks, Lord.

Check Out “A Fairy Tale”

11 07 2007

I’ve updated the page “A Fairy Tale”.  I’m pretty pleased with how it’s going!  It’s about 2/3 finished now, so check it out.

 (Look under “Pages” on your right & click the title you want to read.)

The Lost Coin

11 07 2007

     I ran into someone a few days ago who was doing a bible study on God’s judgement.  Specifically, they were looking at the places where scripture says things like, “Don’t you know that those who do wrong will have no share in the Kingdom of God?  Don’t fool yourselves.  Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshippers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, theives, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers- none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God.” 1Corinthians 6: 9&10
      This person was studying and wondering if, perhaps, we have been wrong to assume that, having done these things, we can still think we can be saved from judgement and damnation. 
      It’s the usual evangelical statement that no matter what you’ve done, if you accept Christ you’re in.  Under this theory, you should expect to greet Dahlmer near the pearly gate.  It doesn’t matter what you’ve done: if you repent and ask God’s forgiveness, you’re forgiven.
      But my friend is questioning this.  There are a lot of places where you could read the verses to indicate otherwise.  Jesus himself said that unless you forgive, you will not be forgiven.  What if I slip on some kool-aid and die while I’m still hacked off at my son for leaving his shoes under the table?
      There was a story circulated a couple years ago about a pastor in Africa who was resurrected after being dead and embalmed for a day or so.  He claimed he was taken by angels to see hell, and that they told him that because he died while he was mad at his wife, he would have ended up there.  Only of course, he went back for a second chance.
      This story really upset me, and so did my friend’s questioning.  Because you see, I’m one of the adulterers and idol worshippers and greedy unforgiving people in that verse at the top of the page.  Jesus specifically says that if you’re divorced or marry a divorced person, you’re committing adultery!  There were no extenuating circumstances mentioned.  Since I am divorced and remarried to a divorced man, I’m guilty on both counts.
      So if eternal condemnation for anyone who has remarried after divorce is what that verse means, it doesn’t matter how sorry I am, or what I do from here on out- it’s too late for me.  I’m out.
      I just can’t believe that.  It just doesn’t match the God I know.  He says He’s slow to anger and abounding in mercy, that He’s willing for all to be redeemed.  The bible also says that though my sins be as scarlet, He will wash them whiter than snow.
      Jesus tells a story about a woman who lost a coin.  She tore her house apart looking for it.  (I know just how she felt, because I tear my whole house apart a couple times a week looking for my car keys or a lost tennis shoe.)  When I think about the possibility that something I do or think wrong costing my salvation, I feel like that woman who lost her most precious treasure.  I want to tear my life apart until I fix it, until I find it again.  It makes me feel lost and desperate.
      If I don’t have that security in Christ, what do I have?
      If I could lose it, how can I ever feel safe again?  It frightens me.  To think that something in my past or some mistake in my future could tear me away from God terrifies me. 
      So here is my verse in response, from Romans 8:  “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love.  Death can’t, and life can’t.  The angels can’t, and the demons can’t.  Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away.  Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing  in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
      And will he condemn me for my past?  No.  “Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own?  Will God?  No!  He is the one who has given us right standing with himself.  Who then will condemn us?  Will Christ Jesus?  No, for he is the one who died for us and was raised to life for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us.”
       Here’s a bit from the same book, Chapter 9- “So recieving God’s promise is not up to us.  We can’t get it by choosing it or working hard for it.”  We can’t earn it by being good, or lose it by messing up.  It’s his gift to us.

I suppose this post is too long already, but I want to tell you about a vision I had once.  I saw an image of all of the people waiting in line after death to be judged by God.  The line passed through a narrow place between two hills.  Upon the hill on the right side, Christ stood.  His cross was there, but he wasn’t on it.  Instead, he was bending down over the heads of the people, touching his palm to their foreheads.  The nail marks in his hands left a mark of blood on their head, and those he touched were taken out of line.  It was sort of like bypassing customs- if you had the mark, you didn’t have to be judged for your sins.
      So everyone was crying out to him to touch them.  They were, like in the bible verse, crying out all the good things they had done.  Some of them were even “Christians” who had gone to church and expected to be chosen, but he didn’t touch them.  And I had the impression that some of the people he chose were suprised.  He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.  The God who sees our hearts, our motives, and our intentions, our secret thoughts, our hidden sins and mercies, will know very well on the day of judgement who is HIS.

A Little Logic Injected in the Situation…

6 07 2007

      I suppose it’s obvious, from my posts, that I am fairly conservative.  Actually, I’m very conservative.  If I had my way we would never have progressed past the 1800’s.  I would still sweep around the house in a black silk morning dress with three point pichu lace and have Irish immigrant girls to open the door and cook for me.  Alas.
      But every once in a while, despite my best efforts to the contrary, I am exposed to some modern political thought (if you can call it that).  I was reading the local liberal entertainment monthly today.  All the conflicting view points amused me.
      Here’s just one example… the political editorial was about immigration.   The author claims people object to Hispanic immigrants because they’re “flooding” the U.S. with a foreign culture and language, and it makes us feel wierd.   He states, “This is why language is at the heart of the immigration issue.”  And we just need to get over it, he asserts.  (John David Morris “Speaking of Immigration” Encore magazine July4-10, 2007) 
      Later in the magazine is a scathing editorial criticizing Republicans for opposing “Health Care Reform.”  (The Modern World by Tom Tomorrow, ibid.)  The cartoon asserts that the US can easily afford to guarantee everyone in America the right to medical treatment without insurance.
      Let’s look at those two opinions together:  Free immigration (open borders) is good.  Government subsidized health care for everybody is also good.
      You know, once upon a time, the US HAD open borders.  Absolutely anyone could come over here, try to find a job or a farm, and try to live the American dream.  But what made that possible was the entire lack of welfare, Medicaid, subsidized housing, social security, and food stamps.  They were free to come and starve if they wanted to.  If they prospered, great!  If they didn’t, hopefully some Christian person took pity on them before their babies died.
      It wasn’t good.  It’s ugly to see people starving on the streets because the people who are wealthy are too selfish to share with them.  Did you know that even during the Great Depression there was plenty of food to go around?  In fact, articles about dieting were one of the most popular headlines in magazines of the time.  People suffered in the Great Depression, as always, because of sin and selfishness, not because of lack.
      So because of people’s selfishness, a lack of charity and Christian kindness, the government took up the job of providing for the poor.  It set out to make sure that God’s precious children had food, a place to sleep, basic necessities and education.
      Ok, but here’s the kicker boys and girls… the government doesn’t have an endless money pot out of which to provide these things.  All the money the government has comes from you and me.  It’s finite.  And so, logically enough, there was a need to limit the number of poor people that need to be fed, clothed, and cared for.
      They do that in several ways, only one of which is by limiting immigration. 
      You can’t have it both ways.  If I have a piece of land, and I let it be known that anyone who wants to move onto my land will recieve food, clothing, a nice room and a few other things… how long do you think it will take before my land is overflowing?  And how long do you think my salary will hold out?
      It’s not a nice thing to limit immigration.  There are so many desperate people in the world who would feel incredibly blessed to come to the US and live in poverty and relative freedom.  It seems cruel to deny them that chance. 
       It is also cruel to take people who live among us and cook our meals, mow our lawns, care for our children, and harvest our food and treat them like slaves or outcasts just because they came illegally.  To deny them basic rights as Americans.  To deny them treatment at the hospitals just because they cannot pay.  And yet, the doctors aren’t slaves either.  Someone has to eventually pay, or the hospitals go bankrupt.  It’s not an easy puzzle to solve.
       I guess all I’m asking is that these “liberal” snipers would stop acting like the solution is easy and obvious and that the conservatives just can’t see it because we’re stupid.
      If you invite the world to move in, you can’t promise them all free food and medical treatment.  And if you promise all of the destitute U.S free food and medical treatment, at some point you have to draw some limits.  Any kid knows that you can’t gobble up all your cake today and still have some tomorrow.
      Not even in America.