July 16, 2017

The Episode I Can't Quit Watching

Sherlock. Series 4. Episode 2. I cannot get enough of this episode. I watched it at least once, sometimes two or three times, on every flight to and from South Africa last month. I had already watched it 4 or 5 times at home. It's beautiful. It's raw. It's real. It's why I love acting. It's so much more than entertaining. It makes you think, with your head and your heart. You should all go to Netflix and watch it. I'll apologize now for some of the language, but, after all, it is lost people writing a show about lost people in a broken world. Language happens. (Please, don't scream at me for watching it. If you disagree, just don't watch it.) I don't really know how to describe my love for this episode and why it touches my heart so much other than sharing my favorite quotes and why I love them.

**SPOILER ALERT** Important things, crucial to the plot, will most likely be shared. If you watch the show but haven't caught up to Series 4, what in the world have you been doing?!? Seriously, if you aren't caught up, you may want to watch first then come back and read it. If you've never watched it before, you can read this and watch the episode and be just fine. But I'll warn you, it might make you want to watch all.the.episodes.

To start, you need to realize that Mary, John Watson's wife, has been killed. Sherlock caused the woman to shoot at him and Mary jumped in the way. This is the first episode after we've seen that happen.

Therapist: Tell me about your morning. Start from the beginning. 
John: I woke up.
Therapist: How did you sleep?
John: I didn't. I don't.
Therapist: You just said you woke up.
John: I stopped lying down.
Therapist: Alone?
 John: Of course, alone.
Therapist: I mean Rosie, your daughter.
John: Uh, she's with friends.
Therapist: Why?
John: Can't always cope....and, uh, last night wasn't...good.
Therapist: That's understandable.
John: It is? Why? Why is it understandable? Why does everything have to be understandable? Why can't some things be unacceptable and we just say that?
Therapist: I only mean it's okay.
John: I'm letting my daughter down. How is that okay?
Therapist: You just lost your wife.
John: And Rosie just lost her mother.
Therapist: You are holding yourself to an unreasonable standard.
John: No, I'm failing to.

This scene is so real. I had to hold myself back on the airplane from shouting, "Yes! That's exactly how it feels. Every word of it!" For months there's little to no sleeping, you just stop lying down. Hello survival mode. It's a wonderful gift that Lord gives you to get through those hard months. Thankfully, for most people, it doesn't last forever. For a short period of time, it's a protection for you, something that keeps you living when your brain can't always tell you what to do. For the short term, it keeps you functioning when your body refuses to eat or sleep. Now, if you live like this long term, it might kill you because you don't even realize the stress that you're under while you're in survival mode.

And, yes, sometimes life sucks and it should be OK for someone to say that. There shouldn't have to be a mask or a pretending that things are fine and OK when they aren't. It's also OK not to have any words for someone grieving. It's OK to not understand, not like the situation, for their life to suck right now and all you can do is cry with them. Pray with them. Sit with them. Laugh when they laugh. Mourn as they mourn.

Boy, do I know that feeling of failure. Of not being able to cope. Of letting my kids down in every area, because I am mom and teacher. It feels like they can't escape my crazy. They can't get away from my anxiety and fear and not being able to stay awake to even read them a story. They don't get all the fun and excitement that other families get because I just don't have the bandwidth for fun most days. Kevin was the fun one. The steady one. Now, they're stuck with just me. Oh, how hard it is to fight against the enemies lies in this area. I am not good at that battle. It takes daily reminding myself of God's truth and provision for our family and our current season.

Sherlock: Taking your own life. Interesting expression. Taking it from who? Oh, once it's over it's not you who'll miss it. Your own death is something that happens to everybody else. Your life is not your own. Keep your hands off it.

I love these words. I did not expect them to come from such a source. And don't I know how true it is that one's death is something that happens to everyone else. Especially for the believer. For the believer, death is a grace. A joy. But it is grief and sorrow for those left behind. Even when they know it was a grace and joy for their loved one. For me, the truth of this sentence proves that every life matters. If life didn't matter, there would be mo grieving and no sorrow. There would be no impact felt for the death of a loved one by those left behind.

And hear this, oh believer, your life is not your own. It belongs to Your loving Creator. So live like it. Don't waste one moment or one second of this short earthly existence you have. I know that here, the reference is to suicide, and I agree with it in that context, too. But for me, as a believer, I must remember that my life is not my own so I need to keep my hands off it and keep turning it over to God daily. Daily choosing obedience over comfort. Daily choosing to love God and love people. Daily choosing to step away from your plans to follow God's plans. Man, that is not easy to do. But, we must, if we want the abundant life God promises those who follow Him. Yes, in this world you will have trouble. But, take heart, Christ has overcome the world.

After realizing Sherlock loves someone but won't even text her...
John: Just text her. Phone her. Do something while there's still a chance, because that chance doesn't last forever. Trust me, Sherlock: it's gone before you know it. Before.you.know.it. She was wrong about me. 
Sherlock: Mary? How so?
John: She thought that if you put yourself in harm's way I'd...I'd rescue you or something. But I didn't--not til she told me to. And that's how this works. That's what you're missing. She taught me to be the man she already thought I was. Get yourself a piece of that....(to the Mary he's been seeing since she died) I'm not that man you thought I was; I'm not that guy. I never could be. But that's the point. Who you thought I was...is the man who I want to be.

I just...I cry, so hard, at this scene every time. It's so true. The chance to love those around you doesn't last forever. Husbands and wives, this is the only chance you get. Right here, on this broken, dying planet. There's no do over. There's no second chance in a better place without sin getting in the way. Right here. Right now. It's all you get. Don't waste it. Make that apology. Schedule that babysitter. Watch that show he/she loves that you don't. Hold that hand. Give that extra kiss goodbye tomorrow morning. It could be your last chance. Ever. Don't waste it.

What a beautiful statement of what marriage can and should be; a husband and wife making each other better day by day, year by year. Isn't that what Christ does in us? Makes us more like Him each day we spend with Him. Oh, this grieves me so. I know that I was not the woman Kevin believed I was. He did not get the best version of me. I know this because it was only through his death that Christ has made me the woman he always thought I was. Or, at least much closer to the woman he always thought I was. And he deserved that woman. And didn't get her. And that just sucks. But, it is what it is (and if you've watched the episode I'll let you finish that statement) and I can't go back and change in this life and I won't have the chance to change it in the next. So, I'll occasionally weep deeply over the life I wish I had, then wash my face, and hold tightly to the hand of my Savior as He walks me through the life I do have. (Thanks, John Piper, for that thought!) I'll be the best woman I can be as a mom and teacher and friend and servant.

Father, thank you for the gift of acting and writing and creativity. Thank you that you can even use something not written to give You glory, to shout Your truth to my aching heart. Thank You that, though the enemy would try to make me feel this way, I do not walk this world alone. You are with me at all times. You go before me and behind me. You hem me in on all sides. Remind me each day that my life is yours, not mine. That I need to make the most of the time You give me with those right in front of me. Oh, Father, use me for Your glory in all I say and do.

Of Fear, Anxiety, and Trusting My Life to the One Who Created Me

As I drove home from church today there was one question just ringing in my mind: How did we get here?

Where's here?  Well, there are several "heres":

My daughter will be in middle school this fall! And the youth group. And she wears my clothes. And my shoes. And she's almost as tall as me. What in the world!?!?! Wasn't it just yesterday I was finding out we were very unexpectedly pregnant? We were in TX with friends while on a break during the Bibleman tour back in late summer 2005. We were visiting friends (Kevin and Lauren Allen) and the guys had gone to Schlitterbahn for the day, so Lauren and I were at home. And I thought I just better take a pregnancy test before taking the next round of birth control pills. And lo and behold it was positive! Then I realized that my Kevin would kill me if he found out I took the test without him (I honestly didn't think it would be positive or I would have waited) so Lauren and I went out and got another test for me to take and pretend to be surprised with Kevin (see, all those theatre hours in college really did pay off!) I never told him that wasn't the first test I took or that Lauren knew I was pregnant before he did.

And now she's starting the youth group and looks older than most of the high school girls (thank you, grief!) I am so not ready for this. Not ready for the talks about boys and sex and broken hearts she'll have along the way. I am not ready for the times when she just needs a daddy to tell her she's beautiful and he's proud of her, but he's not here to do those things. I am not ready for the new friendships and hard times and all that growing up brings. I feel so inadequate for the task. Speechless. Helpless.

But, I must remember that I can trust her life to the God who created it. He is faithful. He is loving. He is all-knowing and all-powerful. He will see every tear, make a way when there seems to be no way, see to every need. No matter her age. Or height. Or shoe size. Or broken heart.

My son is quickly becoming a little man. I have no idea what to do with a little man! I come from a family of all girls! Thankfully, Trail Life is a huge help here, but, despite my desperate pleas, I cannot convince them that they also should just go ahead and teach about the body and its changes and all that jazz (and I am only kidding, they totally should NOT teach that!) Of course, I was planning on Kevin being here to teach all that boy stuff to him, and he did do the initial teaching shortly before he died, but the bulk of it is left to me. And I already feel anxious about it. Yikes! How did I end up here?!?! I need a how-to, step-by-step book for this one. I have had some awesome books to talk through all this with Sophie, but where are all the same kinds of books for boys? They don't exist, I tell you! Shame! (I picked that one up in South Africa. You'll probably hear it a lot!) Could someone write something quickly so I can have some help?

But again, I can trust his life to the God who created it. He is still faithful. He is still loving. He is still all-knowing and all-powerful. He will see every tear, make a way when there seems to be no way, see to every need. No matter his age. Or height. Or mounting body odor. Or broken heart.

My children wear me out. Whether it's school or just life, they are tiring to me. This hasn't always been the case, but is yet another casualty of grief. I begged God this year to let me send them to school outside of our house. The teachers would be better. The education would be better. We'd all probably be happier. He said no. I cried. Then He led me to some new curriculum and is holding my hand the whole way. My heart races when I think of starting lessons. My head pounds and starts to hurt. I can hardly breathe. But I know that obedience is the only option.

I feel like such a parent fail that even having a conversation with my kids makes me need a nap. They have so.many.words. All.day.long. It raises my blood pressure and makes me want to crawl under the covers thinking about it. What a horrible parent! I love my kids. They are sweet and smart and silly. They make me laugh and cry. I HATE GRIEF for doing this to me. It's slowly getting better, but it's also getting really, really old.

But, I know that I can trust all of our lives to the God who created each one of us. He is faithful. He is loving. He is all-knowing and all-powerful. He will see every tear, make a way when there seems to be no way, see to every need. No matter the blood pressure. Or the lack of energy level. Or the fear of screwing up my kids.

God is bigger than any mistake I might make. He's bigger than any wrong words I can say. He's bigger than the lack of an earthly father. These things I have to repeat constantly or the fear and anxiety win. The craziness gets the upper hand. The enemy gets the victory in that battle.

Oh, Father, keep me calm. Focus my heart and mind and eyes on You. When the fear and anxiety creep in, speak Your words of truth loudly to my heart. Drown out the enemy's noise. Remind me that You alone are the anchor in the storm.

July 03, 2017

Lessons Learned From My Journey To South Africa

I recently returned from a mission trip to South Africa. I went with a group of 8 people from my church and it was an amazing trip. It was hard, exciting, crazy, and filled with laughter and tears. It was a joy to see sweet friends in what I am now convinced is their natural habitat. It was a privilege to meet the precious souls who serve alongside them and those sweet children they pour their lives into each and every day. If my kids had been with me, I would have stayed another month. I am so humbled by the beautiful way these souls have sacrificed and given so freely of themselves so others can know Christ. I want to be them when I grow up! Here are just a few things I learned on this trip:

The Lord is sovereign, even over government paperwork. There were some tense moments when we thought half of the team was going to be stranded in London.  Stress was high and emotions were even higher. Emergency texts went out and our desperate prayers went up. I am so humbled at the way the Lord allowed us to watch Him work, a little at a time. He provided a worker from British Airways who was calm and truly had a helping spirit. She fought for us, called the right people, and did what was needed to move things along. He parted the waters so we could walk through on dry ground. And it was beautiful! It reminded us that, big or small, the work we were going to do was important. It was a beautiful reminder that no matter how hard satan tries to stop the Lord's work, God wins.

Others don't need our saving, they need the Savior. It is so easy to think that the rest of the world just needs our American money and ways and for us to ride in on our white horse so we can solve all their problems and save them from their horrible fate. While they do need help, what they need most is the Savior, so everything we do must be done in order to point them to Him. Yes, they need teachers and doctors and nurses and engineers and parents and so many other things, but those all pale in comparison to their need for Christ. And we must love them enough to do whatever it takes to share Christ with them. We must learn their language, understand their culture, listen to their stories, and put our pride aside. None of this is easy, but things worth doing so rarely are.

Living life with others is truly the holy hard and the ugly beautiful that God will use to change hearts and lives. It was such a joy to see these beautiful families the Lord is weaving together as only He can. These beautiful parents who have poured their heart and soul into raising these sweet kiddos, even in the hard and pain of their lives, and being so intentional to pour God's truth into their lives at every opportunity. It was humbling to watch those who gave up everything here in America to head to this foreign land to serve, not consider any of it a sacrifice in comparison to the joy of pouring their lives into the lives of the parents and children there, all so many more would know Christ and make Him known. I am amazed by how quickly they learned their names, ages, interests, skills, struggles, and stories. I am jealous of how quickly they were able to fall in love with the people, latch onto the languages, and dive right into life with them. Sometimes that means inviting them to dinner at their home, sometimes it's playing net ball all afternoon, sometimes it's sitting down making jewelry or working on a maintenance project. All the time it's dropping the mask, being real and raw, and letting God use the hard of your life to reach the hard of their lives. God is good! I pray that I can live my life with just a fraction of the passion and love these beautiful people have for their work and the people there.

Tea time should be instituted here. Yes, Tea time is now my favorite time of day. Each day at 10 a.m. they stop whatever they are doing and gather for tea, toast, and fellowship. I think we would all be nicer people if we did tea time each day.

Grief and anxiety are real, no matter what continent we're on at the time. This is true for me and true for others. Hard is hard. Grief enters our lives, holds on as tight as possible, as does all it can to rob us of all joy, hope, and peace. It's heartbreaking to see this in the lives of children so young, who have faced such hard things at such a young age. But grief can also be the great equalizer. We've all faced it, to varying degrees. We've seen how it changes us; our reactions to the simplest things, the tears that flow much more easily, that vacant look in your eyes when you just can't focus. It gives us a connection point, a way to relate. It sucks that it works that way, but God can use even our grief to draw us closer to others and closer to Him. Praise God! I hate to admit it, but I had my first panic attack in a long time while we were there. It was over the silliest thing. I felt so stupid, but I couldn't make it stop. It's been several months since I've felt so helpless, out of control, and at a loss to do anything. Bless the precious people going on this trip with me, who had to think I was crazy that I couldn't handle the simplest of games, but who surrounded me with prayer. Bless my sweet friend, who has suffered great loss and been in the throes of panic attacks herself, who hugged me and loved me, even though I couldn't bring myself to do the one thing she was asking me to do: play a simple game with the ones she has come to love like family. I am so blessed, even in my crazy! And what a reminder those tense moments were of my complete dependence on Christ.

I must love people here as well as those in South Africa love the people there. It is so easy to love people a world away from our real lives, isn't it? But when it comes to pouring out love on people in our everyday lives, it feels so impossible! I am asking the Lord to enable me to see the needs around me and give me the energy and courage to step out in obedience to serve them as He would have me to serve them.

Father, thank You so much for the honor of going on this beautiful trip. Thank you for the new friendships and the encouragement You brought into my life through this trip. Lord, show me the next steps You have for me here. Continually bring to my mind the beautiful people of Bethesda and give me a discerning spirit to know just how to pray for them. Lord, let what I learned on this trip stay with me and affect me for the rest of my life.

June 19, 2017

The CBC Family Tour is Headed to South Africa!

Today is the day we've been waiting for! We're starting our journey to Bethesda today to work and serve some precious people. Here are some ways you can be praying for us:

Travel Safety
We first must drive to Chicago for our flight. Pray for safety as we drive. Ask the Lord to protect the bus we'll be riding in this morning. Pray that the drive will be a great time of fellowship and continuing to get to know each other better as we prepare to serve.

Then, of course, we have two flights before we reach South Africa. Pray that the planes will be functioning correctly, the pilots are rested and healthy, and that we can get what will be much needed sleep on each flight.

We won't be in South Africa until Wednesday morning, but pray for safety for those picking us up at the airport and for our trip to Bethesda.

We'll be making a stop in London on Tuesday. We are currently planning to take several hours and see some of the city. If you've been watching the news, London has had a lot of tragedy lately. Pray that the Lord would remind us that He does not give a spirit of fear and we can trust that He is the God who provides and protects. Pray that we will be attentive and listen to His voice for any changes that need to be made to our plan. And that we would have good attitudes if/when changes need to happen to our London plans.

Serving in South Africa
Of course, this is the main point of our trip. Pray that the Lord will fill our mouths with His words of love and truth and encouragement at all times. Pray that we would be open to any changes in plans because He knows best and knows where we need to be to make His name known. Ask the Lord to show us how to love well those missionaries on the ground at Bethesda. They do hard, holy work and it's tiring and it's not always easy to see God's hand moving. We want to be support and encouragement to them while we are there so they can continue to fight the good fight of faith with and for these precious young lives the Lord has put in their care.

Boldness in sharing the Gospel
This is probably where I need the most help! Ask the Lord to give us the boldness to share the Gospel and His story through our own story any time the Lord gives us the opportunity. Even if it means talking to someone on the plane instead of reading. Even if it means praying over our waitress as we eat in London. Even if it means chatting with the person next to us as we wait to board the plane. Pray that we will be sensitive to the Spirit's leading at every point of this trip so that others can know Him and put their trust in Him.

Our Families
We are all leaving family of some kind at home: spouses, children, parents, siblings. It's hard. It's more than a little scary, for them and for us. Pray that the Lord will fill us (and them) with peace so we can focus on serving and not on worrying about how things are going back home. We won't have lots of opportunity for phone calls and internet and posting things (which I do all the time, so it will be a huge adjustment for my family!) which will make it all the harder for our families back home. Ask the Lord to do great things in South Africa and in the hearts of our families while we are gone.

Thank you in advance for all of your prayers!

June 14, 2017

The Anniversary I Don't Know How to Celebrate Because I Am Honestly Not Sure I Should

My wedding anniversary. Kevin and I were married June 14, 2003. I was so nervous that day! I felt much younger than my nearly 25 years that hot, summer afternoon. It was one of the easiest decisions I've ever made, if I am honest. In fact, I thought he would never ask and that I would be doomed to be a single woman forever. I often wonder if I'd known then how hard for better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer would be, would I have still said, "I do?" I'd like to think the answer to that is yes, but honestly, I am really not sure.

Admittedly, in the last year, I've found the "until death do us part" portion of the vows to be the hardest to accept. I still struggle with the thought that this relationship, that I longed and waited for so many years, is just done. Over. Never to be again. There will be no happy "Mr. and Mrs. Kevin McSmith" reunion when I cross into eternity. There will be no perfect marriage, no chance at this relationship minus the sin and addiction and just plain humanness we both brought to it here on earth. This makes me sad to think about. I know satan is using it to continually steal my joy for what is awaiting me on Heaven's shores. There is nothing about that last statement that I like to admit. It's not the "good, Christian" thing to say, but it's true.

This is an actual text I sent to some friends this week: "I am a big, crazy, emotional mess...The enemy is fighting hard to steal my joy this week. He's bringing up lots of 'should haves', 'what ifs' and 'you should haves/could haves' as I am looking back over my almost 13 (not long enough) years with Kevin as our anniversary approaches. I am specifically asking the Lord to make June 14 a day of praise and thanksgiving for the rest of my days because, honestly, I'm struggling for it to feel like a day of joy or anything that I should acknowledge. Which is weird, because I have no trouble celebrating his birthday and making that a day of joy..."

And I have struggled for over a month with what to do with this day. How do I celebrate the anniversary of something that so clearly has an end? Something that's really just a would have been? I should have that same feeling about his birthday, but I guess I look at that day as celebrating his life, which is such a joy to me. A day to celebrate our marriage, when the other half of that marriage isn't here to celebrate it, just seems ridiculous, sad, and impossible. I've tossed a lot of ideas back and forth and nothing really ever jumped out at me. So, here's where I landed:

 There's really no better way to start the day than Krispy Kremes and Sonic, right?!?! And the money from the donuts goes to missions, so I am pretty sure that means the calories don't count.

 Little surprise gifts to hand out.
 The first house purchase I personally made after Kevin died was a new shower curtain. I needed to wash it so I grabbed this cheap one from Wal-Mart and put it up today. I am really liking it!
 I have been repeating this phrase to myself a lot today.
 Flowers to match the ones I carried at my wedding 14 years ago today.
 14 silver and purple balloons (the colors from our wedding.) I really wanted to attach notes and gift cards to the balloons, but just couldn't find a way to do it, so I had to go back to what we did that first year we celebrated Kevin's birthday and I left the notes/giftcards on cars downtown.
 A beautiful resurrection spot.
 I had 14 balloons and there are 15 things that 1 Cor. 13 says love is. So, each balloon got one and all the envelopes got the 15th (Love Never Fails.)

I did release the balloons, but the wind was blowing so fast I couldn't get a picture of them floating away. But, as they were releasing, what kept coming into my mind was "Your love, oh, Lord, reaches to the heavens. Your faithfulness stretches to the sky." Oh, how true those words are!

And as I was sitting there, some of the words to a song from our wedding wouldn't leave my mind. The song is "The Potter's Hand" and if I could find the version we played at the wedding, I would play that for you because Delicia's voice is just too beautiful. You'll have to live with my horrendously off-key, I am trying not to cry version, for now. (CLICK HERE) I don't even know if these are portions from the same verse or not! 

And just so you know that I am so thankful for that beautiful June day 14 years ago (that's right, this would have been our "golden" anniversary as it would have been 14 years on the 14th), here are some pictures of that wonderful day:

I had a beautiful time of prayer at his resurrection spot today. Prayers of thankfulness for our marriage and all it taught me about my Heavenly Father, myself, and how to love others. Prayers of thankfulness for the two beautiful children that are the result of this marriage. Prayers asking for forgiveness for the many times I was not lovely, lovable, or loving in our marriage or in my parenting. Prayers seeking the Lord's will for my life and for my family. Just whatever the Lord brought to mind, I prayed over it. It rained just before I got there and was beautifully sunny and very hot for the 45 minutes or so I was there. It was lovely. There were tears and sweet memories and smiles thinking back over our time together.

Hold your spouses close. This is the only time you get with them. Don't take them for granted. Talk it out. Be honest. Be loving. Be real. When that last breath is taken here, there is no second chance, no do over, for this relationship. No, "we'll get it right in heaven." This is your one chance, so dig in, hold on tight to the Father, and give it your all!