Friday, January 28, 2011

Tattered and Torn, Windblown and Free

Reciting, recalling, remembering verses isn't something that I do. The long rows of filing cabinets inside my mind are hard to access sometimes. Sometimes, it's as though the processing speed is intentionally sped up by someone else and thoughts slide into my mind with as much ease as a seasoned ball player slides into home plate ahead of the tag. A few have stuck with me through the years because they have literally been breathed into my life repeatedly by Him. My children have caught me in mid thought with my eyes closed, head tilted up to the ceiling or open sky, deeply concentrated and trying to find the answer to a question. There are also times where I refuse to exert that much brain activity and the internet searches begin.

One verse that has continually been recalled...brought forth...found inspiring...takes on new depth...or is shown to me personally in new and more beautiful ways (as I am a visual type of person, I enjoy a good day dream) has been John 3:8, "The wind blows where it wishes; and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone born in the Spirit" (ESV)." Want to spend some time in my brain today to see how it works? This morning, I was getting caught up on FB, like I do every morning, and saw a great post from Paul-Anderson Walsh talking about his journey (with a photo of a tree growing up inside a waterfall area) and also where Ted Nelson had posted some more lovely pictures of he and his wife's (Georgie) trip to New Zealand. There were pictures of the shoreline and water from their boating trip to Whangarei Bay. The vegetation is unlike anything that I have ever seen, and that is not surprising since I have never stepped foot outside of North America. While the vegetation is unrecognizable, a tree is pretty much a tree, right? Have you ever noticed what trees look like if they have grown along a coast? When trees are planted or seeded beside water, they are susceptible to high winds. Their roots grow down into the rocky coast...sometimes their roots are visible because the shore has been eroded away by the crashing waves through time. It could be a perfectly calm day with minimal breeze and yet a shoreline tree may look to be in motion because of the constant wind it is usually subjected to. Trees that have grown up in a forest setting may shoot straight up and as they bend and twist in the wind, they rub up against one another and reach for the sunlight above. Very little undergrowth can be found in a mature hardwood forest because of how little light reaches the forest floor. I began thinking about how the Spirit blows us to and fro. We can't possibly know when our Father will choose to stir up or allow the wind to blow us about. Our exteriors and interiors can become tattered and torn...for we are windblown and free...for our roots go down deep into Him. There are other times in which I don't imagine myself to be a tree with it's root firmly planted into the soil, but rather a beautiful red maple leaf on a sunny autumn day. As the leaf is released from the tree in which it came from, it's journey isn't complete. The wind will kick up as we have had the revelation that in Him is all we need and we are released into our full time dependency and relationship in Him. The Spirit will blow and carry us to a the covering of the dark forest...back out into a manicured lawn...swoop us up and lay us down into a lazy moving creek...wash ashore on the sandy beach...dry us out in the sun once again...and repeatedly be subjected to His moving...His timing...His sovereignty...until the day where our earthly bodies become one with the soil and our spirits are permanently united with Him.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fruit Cakes

Fruit Cakes

I've been having some thoughts about religion and relationship. I don't often find the words to explain the depths of what occurred within me…about what transpired…about how religion was slain and the veil was torn, leaving me craving only relationship. Some may not take into consideration what religion even is and how Christ came to change how we relate with Him and with others.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines religion as, “1a : the state of a religious b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance 2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices 3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness 4 a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith”. Relationship is defined, “1: the state of being related or interrelated 2: the relation connecting or binding participants in a relationship: as a : kinship b : a specific instance or type of kinship 3a : a state of affairs existing between those having relations or dealings b : a romantic or passionate attachment”. The Old Covenant was all about religion, how we were provided a way to relate to God. If you do this, He’ll do this…If you don’t do this, He’ll do this. Follow the law. The New Covenant is relational. Christ came, fulfilled religion and opened up free flowing relationship. I love you. I love you, too. Lord, I don't know what to do...I'm scared....I know you me. How are you today? I’m good. Do you enjoy the blue skies and sunsets as much as I do? Yes, I enjoy them almost as much as I enjoy you.

Religion becomes the lists of how and if you checkmark the lists through and through you will know Him and you will be satisfied. All your needs will be met if and only if you do this, this, this, and this. In order. All I’s dotted (well, if they aren’t capitalized) and all T’s crossed. Guilt, shame…try harder…judge…hide. It makes us an employee working for the boss that always keeps his door closed…or even when it’s open, he is sterile. We don’t know much about him other than what is written on his resume. He has these freedoms to do as he pleases and we work really hard to get his approval. Every once in a while we get a raise and we pat ourselves on our backs thinking, yes! I’ve gotten his approval only to look and see that even those that didn’t perform got a raise too. That’s not fair. They didn’t work as hard as me and yet they are still being blessed…they still find favor. What’s up with that? Or it could be a relationship with someone very distant…not close in proximity. You’ve encountered them. You’ve met them. You fell in love with them, but somehow, lost all communication. You have an address, so you start sending gifts. You figure if you give them things that maybe they will send you some stuff back or maybe you can earn some favor…maybe they won’t forget about you. I know what I can do for them. I can send them a fruit cake. I know how EVERYONE LOVES fruit cake…or maybe a tennis bracelet or a Barry Manilow CD. Yea, that’s the ticket.

Relationship with Christ is different. He isn’t some corporate entity waiting to drop the guillotine on his unsuspecting employees. He is 100% accessible at all times. He doesn’t sit in an office intentionally separated from His people. He dwells within His kids. We have a book, a diary of sorts, which we can read about Him. But we also get the opportunity to see Him in action in an infinite amount of ways in our daily existence. We get to encounter Him within ourselves, and see Him in others. We are given moments, and we share moments with Him. He takes the time to be with us, and He gives us eyes and ears to see and hear Him. It’s a running dialogue…a running conversation… a growing relationship. I can ask him questions and He can choose to respond. He knows the depths of my heart. He knows my likes and dislikes. He knows I don’t like fruit cake…or tennis bracelets…or well, I don’t listen Barry Manilow, but my dad did & he reminds me of my dad…so….I don’t need his CD’s (I have his 8 tracks in the garage somewhere). He knows that I enjoy all 4 seasons, and He enjoys spending all 4 seasons with me. He aches when I ache…He celebrates when I celebrate. He loves me when I act like a whiny baby and a turd (I am adding "turd" into my dictionary in "Word" as I type)….and I love Him even more because His love is unconditional. That’s what relationships do…well, healthy…loving…nurturing relationships do.

Last winter I was outside shoveling. I shovel as it snows, periodically throughout the day. Shoveling an inch or two of snow multiple times is way easier on my body then waiting for a storm to pass and then shovel. I was in the driveway, pushing the snow to the outside edge of the circle when I noticed my breath. I paused knowing He was in the moment. The dialogue began. He said, “I love spending this time with you”…I said, “I know, I love it too…I love shoveling snow with you”. I noticed my breath again. He said, “I’m in every breath you take”. When it’s decently warm outside, we don’t notice our breath. Sure our breathing may be difficult or increased depending on our physical activity or degree of health and we are made aware of, but it isn’t visible to the naked eye. In the cold, our warm breath is made visible. We are able to see our breath crystallize in front of us. Is He in our breath no matter the season? Yes. Those are the sweet moments of relationship. He meets us where we are and pulls us into an intimacy that will remain with us…seasons later. A couple of hours ago, I sat down at the computer thinking it was time to research topics for an upcoming assignment. Instead, the thoughts I had dancing around in my head became honed in on, of all things Him. How do I even attempt to tell them the difference, Lord? About how it isn’t just about giving you all this stuff that you might not even like…How you really like spending time with…He said, “Fruit Cakes”…call it fruit cakes....Oh yea….giggle giggle…perfect.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hands Soaked in Fuchsia

Our summer has been a whirlwind of activity. Softball & Baseball gets us out of the house 5 days a week throughout most all of June and last week, with Zeke's tournament games, we were out and about 7 days in a row. We love it. It keeps us busy and physically fit...and in the case of Zoe, be rather painful as she contends with Osgood-Schlatter (her left leg). We are meeting and bonding with some incredible people that are becoming extended family.

Today was a slow-down kind of day. It is one of the first days that we don't have anything going on...well, until the girls were invited to go spend the day/evening/night with a friend and her mom.. They were picked up in the afternoon, taken out to dinner, and I rendezvoused with them in Kent to see Eclipse at the theater, left them in my friend's care & made my way (solo!) to Walmart to pick up my face soap that I forgot when I did my "big shop" 2 days ago. Zeke spent the evening with my mom. I just heard the squeaky sound of our clothes hamper upstairs and his clothes slide down inside the wall beside me~ he's a good boy and always throws his dirty clothes down after he showers.

Following our movie, I took some back roads to Wally. I threw on my sweatshirt, slid my sunglasses up and over my messy hair, and walked in through the garden entrance. I grabbed my face soap and made my way around looking for some bargains~ none were to be found. As I grabbed my bag and receipt, I happened to look out the upper windows of the exit doors. Most Walmarts are nearly identical to one another. You have security scanner thingamajigs at the entrance/exit, followed by the little lobby area where you'd grab/deposit your cart, and the big glass doors that are always backwards~ enter on the left...people come out on the right...what's up with that? When you are looking at the exit at this particular Walmart from inside the door, you can only see outside the windows at door height...there is actually a wall from the ceiling down, which separates the store from the lobby area. This is where the big blowers are located that shoot down heat in the winter time, hence that wall. So, as you walk through, your eyes are trained to not look up. I look up :) Everyone is chit chatting with one another, or walking by to grab their cart. Some are waiting for whomever they came one is looking up. If they only looked up...would they even see it? Not just see it, but know it was Him? The sky was extraordinary. The sun was setting...leaving His beautiful hand prints soaked in fuchsia. It reminded me of when a child dips their hands into finger-paint and drags them across paper. Hints of yellow and blue were His canvas...fuchsia on top of the silhouette of his hands. Immediately I am grinning in gratitude and I looked around the parking one was even looking up. I hopped in my van and began driving home. When I got off at my exit, I stretched around to see if He was still working the sky in brilliant color and He was...more yellows and blues....a little fuchsia....I raced east down our main road and made the turn going north, crested up and over the hill and looked to the west...Oh He wasn't done yet...some of the brightest stars were popping out amongst the blues and yellows...and the gray..and He timed it perfectly to go along with the David Crowder CD I was jamming too....GLLOOOORRRY!!! GLLLOOORRRY!!! GLLOOORRRY!!! God is Near to each one of us!!! Yea, He likes to impress me with His awesomeness...look up, you'll see it too.

David Crowder Band Eastern Hymn Lyrics:
Bring us love, You who are love
Bring us peace, You who are peace

We need love, O divine love
We need your peace,
Your merciful peace

Bring us love, O divine love
Bring us peace, You who are peace

How gracefully
You come along
How gracefully
You come

Glory, glory, glory
God is near to each one of us
Holy, holy, holy
God is near to each one of us

O grant us reprieve from the fighting
So we just rest our
head on the shoulder of the One
In His arms we're forever
grateful for the contact
O so blessed for a moment's rest
Weeping knowing we have been touched
Weeping knowing we have been touched
O we have been touched

(Originally posted as a note on FB, July 1st, 2010)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Help and Comfort in a Duffel Bag

My family typically hibernates during the chilly winter months of Northeastern Ohio. Aside from school activities, the occasional outing for fun, or time spent with their friends, we aren't very busy. Once spring is on the horizon, our schedule begins to pick up steam. Baseball and softball start up for my three children, summer golf league on Saturday mornings begins in June, by early August soccer practice begins and that will take us through the last weekend of October. Fall festivities, then the yummy holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas come, followed by hibernation again.

I am thankful for the abundant cargo space of my van for it is useful to carry all of our pop up chairs, sporting equipment (golf clubs included), and the infamous "Robertson Family Duffel Bag". Sporting equipment rotates in and out, depending upon the season we are in. The Robertson Family Duffel Bag is a staple and never leaves the van permanently~ only for cleaning, refilling, and to be carried to and from the van at whatever event we are at. Sometimes, I condense the duffel bag into a backpack if we are going to be on the move such as hiking through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Virginia Kendall, or are at the zoo.

The contents of the bag are always helpful in many different situations and we are always willing to provide snack or medical relief to those that surround us. I am reminded of the scripture John 15:9-15: "I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done—kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love. I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father" (The Message). Our duffel bag has become a small way that we can show the love we have within, to others and if we can help, we will!

What's in the duffel bag you may ask? Currently we have as follows: instant ice packs (we've gone through 5 out of 6 in less than 2 months for family injuries and injuries to others), band-aids in a couple of sizes, anti-itch cream, Neosporin, bug spray, suntan lotion, a few extra water and Gatorade lining the bottom, tissues, plastic bags, hand sanitizer (stinky port-a-potties), snacks of all kinds like pretzel rods and granola (right now we have non-melting snacks because we learned the hard way that Fruit Roll Ups stick to the plastic they are on). The duffel bag is large enough that I can toss in 4 small umbrellas that I keep under the seat of my van for rainy weather and has loop handles on the top that I can slide an old multipurpose blanket through for impromptu picnics. We stay on a rather tight budget so stopping for a bite to eat is rarely an option and my children know this. They can have a snack out of the bag as we zoom home for dinner. Children and adults can get hurt, not have anything to drink, get a bit too much sun, or get attacked by mosquitoes, and it's always a great feeling when you can at least volunteer to help. Look and see if you have an extra bag laying around your house and fill it with some great necessities to share. A few pounds of Twizzlers go a long way!

How Alzheimer's Had an Impact on Me (Brief Synopsis)

My dad began experiencing early onset Alzheimer's when I was in High School. His mother died of Alzheimer's, his older sister died of Alzheimer's, and 2 of his other sisters died of brain aneurysms. We noticed the little things he did that pointed in this general direction fairly early. Paul W. Falkner, my dad, was a highly intelligent man and could fix just about anything. If he didn't have a part to fix it, he would create one from scratch. He started putting masking tape notes on things to serve as reminders. His coffee pot would have a note that said, "take out the trash". The bathroom mirror had a note that said, "brush teeth". Little things like that. Then his brief case became a post it note board...pick up snacks for work, fill up with gas, buy cigarettes. His job had him under evaluation and he was sent to a Psychiatrist. I remember the call I got from my mom the spring after I graduated high school (1993) informing me that the Psychiatrist confirmed our biggest fears. Early onset Alzheimer's...dementia...

My dad kept working at lower and lower capacities. I began driving my dad back and forth to work after his summer vacation in fall 93. He got up to go to work after his 3 week annual summer vacation and forgot how to drive. He walked up to his (my parent's) bedroom, sat at the end of the bed and told my mom that he didn't know how to get to work. The company was buying him time by setting him up on the loading dock. This lasted for a while...until he had his 30 years in and they let him go.

In 1997 I left Ohio and moved to Atlanta, by choice. My mom and sister were left to care for my dad, alone. My mom was working full time and my sister was still living at home while working and going to school. Shortly after I moved, my mom did what had to be done. She quit her job and began taking care of my dad full time. Disability doesn't cover the bills very well. She did the best she could. Whatever monthly expenses that weren't getting covered by their limited income, she charged. His health continued to deteriorate. In 1998 my mom came down to Atlanta to see me graduate from the Academy of Somatic Healing Arts as a massage therapist. In order to come, she had to coordinate with my sister so she could be with my dad the whole time. It was about this time that she began talking to hospice.

The fall of 1998 I found out I was pregnant with my first child. His health began deteriorating at a quicker speed. My mom called me at one point to tell me that my dad had the hiccups for days and days and days...his appetite became non existent...their bodily functions start to fail. I was almost a full 9 months pregnant and on July 1, 1999, my dad died at the age of 58 in the living room...on the couch.

It's impacted my family greatly. My daughter Zoe was born July 15, 1999. My sister was married in September 1999. I had another daughter in 2000, was married in 2001, and lost my husband in 2005. It's kind of a bummer that my dad missed out on all these kids! And heck, I even moved back home! What has impacted me in a positive way is to see the ways that I "favor" him. I have his ability to fix stuff. Not quite as good as him, but I am learning. I am pretty smart like him, too.

Whatever debt that my mom had gained during the couple of years taking care of my dad had to be rolled into her home. Life insurance was expensive for her to carry and after all the estate taxes are taken out, she barely made a dent in the debt. So, this passed year was the 30 year anniversary of living in this home, the 10 year anniversary of my dad's death, and my mom's house still has 20 some years to pay on it. She did the best she could. My parent's marriage wasn't the best. There was 11 years difference in age. My dad was old fashioned. My mom, well, I still don't know how to explain her. I think she has aged quicker...and my mom has definitely lost some of her sense of humor. She'd probably yell at me if I said she still held on to some bitterness and anger, too. The impact is long lasting, like with any death. Only with Alzheimer's the impact begins to be felt in the earliest symptoms and last for years after. From start...1991ish (onset) to 1999ish (death) to even now.

That is a brief synopsis of how Alzheimer's had an impact on me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Common Ground

Common Ground (My first submission for the CollectivelyWise website)
Posted April 19, 2010

As a parent, it is imperative to connect with your children in a multitude of ways. Sometimes, I get a little lackadaisical. I become unaware of our non-connectedness. But, then, something happens...either by their doing, my doing, or by intervention from heaven above that draws us back together and we stand on common ground.

My middle child, Sage, has had a "thing" for coffee since before she could walk. I remember having a square coffee table in our living room. It had four glass pieces framed to give off the appearance of a window. I have always woken up to 2 cups of coffee since becoming an adult and my taste for coffee was developed early on in life when I would sip on the leftover chilled coffee my dad would make. In an effort to indulge my continued habit and not risk burning injury, I would put my coffee cup in the center of the coffee table as I would relax in the morning and watch my young ones play. Sage had an army crawl and didn't begin walking until she was roughly a year old. Around the age of 9 months, I watched her army crawl over to the coffee table, pull herself up, grab for the cup of lukewarm (the only reason I did not stop her) coffee, pull it close by the handle, pick it up and proceed to sip from it. She was a natural! I don't allow Sage to have coffee often. When I do it is usually just a smidgen in a cup, complete with cream and sugar. Just this passed weekend she and I made a run for some household necessities. As we were leaving the little town we were in, she asked me (after reading the sign at McDonald's) what a Carmel Frappe was. So we went to check it out together. Her eyes lit up with excitement when I handed her a small & I took my medium. We chatted all the way home. We stood on common ground.

When I was a child and even into my teenage years and older, my mom and I would write notes to one another. Back then, cell phones weren't around and this was how we gave each other "heads up" on our whereabouts. My kids write me notes and draw me pictures, frequently. My oldest child, Zoe, sent me an email a few weeks ago. The kids and I share a common love for a band, Family Force 5. They are a silly band, that is lyrically safe (in my opinion) and a little edgy in sound that I can also appreciate and rock out to. Zoe had been poking around on You tube and found a newer track that was called Topsy Turvy. Knowing that I was involved in my own internet searches and school work, she forwarded the link to me along with a little love note via email. I sent her back my opinion of the song and told her how much I appreciated the fact that she kept me "in the loop". She sought me out and connected, on common ground.

What are some of the ways that you share common ground with your children? Are there certain ways that they reach out to you? Are we encouraging our children as they find things that are uniquely special to them? Or are we too busy and want everything they like to be in line with what we as adults find enjoyment out of? Look for the common ground and connect with your little ones.

For those of you who are curious, Topsy Turvy by Family Force Five

Monday, March 22, 2010

On the Steps with Jesus

On the Steps with Jesus (March 22, 2010)
On Saturday, Sage and I spent the afternoon together. Zoe had gone shopping with her friend and was going to spend the night at her house. Zeke was loving the idea that we were going to be out of the house and he opted to stay at home and play Wii. You know, he may just become a video game developer some day. Sage and I had a few things we had to accomplish. First, we needed to get some milk, bread, and yogurt to supply us until our next big grocery run. Second, we wanted to pick up New Moon and watch it because it was fresh out on DVD. My girls and I read all the books and enjoy the movies. You got a problem with that? lol. Third, we just wanted to hang out and spend a little time together because we could.

We were heading west down Summit Road toward Kent, when Sage brought up an interesting topic. I have been sitting here racking my brain about how we got on the topic...I think it was just "relational" and "locational" in its nature. I think her curiosity was leading her to question about where God is....where Christ is. She knows that she has a new heart. I think we all struggle in our journey with His way of relating to us...and where he is physically in the moment.

Where was Christ? Is He down here or up there? Is He some big eye in the sky, peering down upon us? I told her about a time when I was in the counseling office with my counselor, Tim, and a counselor in training, Mary when we were living down in GA. I was having the same exact struggle as a 30 year old woman in the middle of my most traumatic season of life. If He loved me sooooo much, where in the world was He at? The sun was pouring into the office window and the room was gaining in warmth and intensity. Tim and Mary were in prayer along side of me and I was asking God to reveal Himself to me. I asked Him to show me where He had been in my life. I was 7 years old when I asked Jesus to come live in my heart...a.k.a....take my heart and replace with a new one. I spent the majority of my life completely unaware of His presence. So I sat there in the silence and warmth of the office waiting for Him to show me...and I don't think we were going to leave that place until He did. I had a memory. When I was a kid, I would sometimes be woken up by the sound of my parents in one of their "debates"....more or less, an argument...much like any argument between married couples...with a good amount of verbal assaults hurled toward one another. I methodically pulled the covers off of my body and slid out of bed, walked out of my bedroom, and slowly tip toed down the steps. I have always known where to step and not make a sound....the creeks and cracks of the floor have to be memorized so you can properly sneak in and out at all times of night growing up. About half way down (or up, depending on which way you are heading) the wall breaks and the banister starts. I sat there so I could hear them. I was speaking this out loud as the memory unfolded. Tim asked me, "do you see Him?" my mind I imagined looking down the steps and through the banister....and then I felt Him beside me. I looked over to my right and He was sitting on the steps with me. I smiled...At this point in the retelling of the story, Sage chimes in with, "what did He look like?"...that I can't really tell you. It's as if you can see a figure and recognize it for what it is...In my mind at the time He was a gentleman...He was glowing~ no not like EDWARD in the sun (Twilight reference for any of you out there that love the story and will inevitably think of Edward when I mention the word "glowing"...even though I would like to believe that my new body will glow when I get it...what?)...glowing in that the steps were not lit very well...but He was visibly present. When I looked at Him, he smiled back...and before I knew it we were both shaking our head back in unison...He knew I was sad, He was agreeing with me. The memory began to fade and I was left with a very palpable starting point of all the times He was present with me....He showed Himself to me...outside of me...but in my mind I knew His Spirit...was within.

So as Sage was wrapping her brain around that idea...she motioned to the gap in seating between us. She was sitting on Zeke's booster seat in the front passenger side of the van so we could actually make eye contact with one another. She said..."so my Jesus and your Jesus...or my Spirit and your Spirit are sitting here in the gap?" I said, "well...He may choose to show you that He is there...just to make His presence more concrete, but the reality is He is every place, in every moment..." She started giggling and said, "so when we go to the movies, Jesus gets in for free with me"...Yep, Sage...He sure does...