Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Waiting for the Ripe Time








My church is going through a message series on love, marriage and sex. I was asked again to contribute to our church’s devotions website and assigned some pretty challenging verses in Song of Solomon. Since I don’t have to be a scholar in order to write this, I did exactly what I was told to do, which is write whatever God had laid on my heart. Unfortunately, I am given a 300 word parameter on the subject. Keeping my devotional to 300 words is more than half of my challenge. I thought and prayed quite a bit about the matter. I began to write.

When I wrote it I was at the heels of finishing up (for the second time) one of my favorite novels: The Shadow of the Wind. In this book there is no such thing as describing anything with a single word.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon, its author, describes an unused pen as “the best pair of gloves ever given to someone with no hands”, he depicts a rain cloud as a bruise in the sky, and a storm as a reef of clods and lightning racing across the sky from the sea. When I read, “A stream of black water converged in the center of the narrow street and made its way, like a funeral procession, toward the heart of the Raval quarter” to simply state that I had a peach tree in my backyard was impossible.

Fortunately, this here is my space and I get to be the boss of my words and write as many as I please. And you, my dear reader, get to read the entire 525 word devotional that, after 3 more tries, got condensed to its final polished and edited version that you can read here.

 

*****

 

The peach tree was the largest fruit tree in our bountiful back yard. For my best friend Marcela and me, it was a jungle gym with monkey bars as well as a sanctuary and a castle whose boughs were our thrones. It was the bearer of our preteen giggles and the keeper of our cherished secrets. On its branches lay the sweet fruit that would soon become a banquet for our lazy summer afternoons. On one early summer afternoon, when our brows were seating and our stomachs were growling and we could no longer wait for summertime to take its course, we decided it was time to reach toward the closest peach our friendly tree we could offer us. We knew good and well that perhaps our choice would not be the wisest (or the tastiest). Somewhere deep within our beings we understood that we were deceiving ourselves into thinking that it would actually taste as good as what we thought we deserved on this hot, enticing summer day. We were, after all, hot and we were hungry. We wanted it NOW. So we took it.

My dear friend Marcela didn’t even make it down our tree before our green prize found its way back up her esophagus. I, on the other hand, was doomed to hours of intestinal discomfort. Both of us were left with the sour taste in our mouths. Even to this day, if I think about it, I can still savor its bitterness. If only we had waited for our tree to unlock its mouth-watering sweetness in its due time.

Fortunately, I can recall a considerably more satisfying peach from another time and another place. This peach was so sweet and juicy, I had to eat it outside and bent over. I managed to get it all over my hands, my face and all the way down my chin. I had never tasted something so good and succulent in my entire life.

As we explore together the topic of love and sex in the next few weeks and recall its lessons in the years to come, remember this story. Remember that sex, when experienced before its due time (outside of marriage), will leave a lingering bitter taste in your soul and an ache in your heart that will be impossible to forget. Remember that waiting will yield the purest and sweetest joy that you will continue to enjoy for years to come.

Please know, however, that if your mouth is already bitter and your heart is full of ache and regret, there is another story that should be remembered, the story of the father and mother of the man that pinned these verses: David and Bathsheba. Know that you can move forward, let Christ release any bitterness and ache that may have been left behind. Don’t forget that grace sweeps in and frees us all. He blots out our transgressions, washes away our iniquity and cleanses us from sin (Psalm 51 1-2); he restores in us the joy of our salvation (v. 12). The beautiful sweetness of redemption leaves no room for shame; the aftertaste is that of pure succulent joy.

 





Thursday, August 1, 2013

Letting go and letting them grow up

 
 


There I stood at the American Airlines ticket counter, my hair in a disheveled mess, sporting a style otherwise known as “bed head”; wearing my yoga pants, sweat shirt and flip-flops. I hadn’t bothered putting on any make-up; no one would notice me at 8 a.m. anyway. Once I got home I would be going for a late morning run. Hopefully life would go on as usual because I had rolled out of bed that morning with a small knot in my stomach, one that each passing minute had made bigger and bigger, tighter and tighter.
 
There he stood at 14, almost 6 feet tall, wearing his favorite American Eagle jeans, Sperry shoes and a t-shirt that read “Orphan’s Heart”. In his hand he held a boarding pass and was about to take off on a plane headed to Guatemala – without me.
 
I want to do this mom, I really want to, he had said.
 
It was hard to let him go. Is he doing the right thing? Will he get up in time? Will he make it to the bus in time every morning? Will he loose his money, or, heaven forbid, his passport? Will he behave in a way that will make me proud? Will he get hurt, lost, or be afraid? Will he leave something behind? Did he remember his toothbrush? Did he pack enough underwear? Will he yearn to come back home?
 
My tears stopped at the back of my throat. I could hardly swallow. I was a complete mess.
 
***
 
There I stood at our local “Sprouts” grocery store, all dolled up, having a good hair day. My socks matched my shirt, and so did my ring. They were yellow, in case you were wondering. I was confused and overwhelmed. My cart was filled to the rim with fresh fruits and vegetables. I don’t know how it got so full. Groceries just kept piling in, oranges, grapefruit, apples, pomegranates, bananas, dates, mung beans …what?…black beans, rice, strawberries, blueberries, spinach, celery, lettuce, pineapple, almonds, and cashews- to name a few. My hands were sweating and my heart was aching.
 
I’m thrilled that he wants to be healthy, but does he have to go this far? Is my cooking not good enough for him anymore? Is what we have provided for him all these years so bad?
 
I want to be a vegan mom, I really want to, he had said.
 
It was hard to let him go. Is he doing the right thing? Has he thought this through? Does he understand how much planning this will take? Does he know how expensive his lifestyle will be? Does he know how hungry he will feel all the time? Will he get enough protein? Will he be malnourished? Will he become anemic, weak, or dilapidated? He has no clue. Neither do I.
 
I walked around in a daze. I was a complete mess.
 
***
 
 
There I stood in the middle of my kitchen after a long day at work and two trips to the grocery store, cramping so painfully I could hardly keep my legs from giving way underneath me, his precious 12 year old eyes pleading with me to make cookies with him. I had promised. I have no idea what I had on; I have no idea what I looked like. I just knew I needed to get to my bed. After breaking his heart and laying my wary body to rest (I felt like I was going to die), he ran up to my room moments later, “Dad said he would clean up!  Can I make them mom? Can I make them by myself? I know how to do it,” he said.
 
It was hard to let him loose in my kitchen. What if he breaks my bowl? What if he forgets to add the salt? What if flour spews all over the place? What if the cookies burn? What if he gets burned?
 
I lay in bed in agony. I was a complete mess.
 
***
 
It is so hard to love. It is even harder to begin to let go of the ones we love.
 
There comes a time when letting go is the most loving thing to do. It’s when continuing to make choices and do everything for our children becomes more about me than it does about them. It’s a time to let those choices be lessons of consequences, endurance and perseverance. It’s also time for me to let go of blaming myself for every stupid decision they make and taking the credit for every good one.  
 
Big mistakes happen, and we learn to let them happen as we go to bed at night with our soaked Kleenex tightly clutched in our hand, fervently praying and our hearts moaning with every ounce of our being.
 
This is when bright, selfless, adult-like choices begin to take place as we beam with so much joy in our hearts we feel like we are going to explode.
 
As a parent I find that this has become one of the most painful and yet joyful stages yet. It is not just a test of patience and endurance for them, but for me as well. It is teaching me that whether we look like it or not, with disheveled hair or a perfect hair day; whether we feel like it or not, suffering in agonizing pain or going for a 5mile run, the loving grace of the only one to whom they have always belonged to in the first place is the only hope that me and my messy self can count on. My attempts at being the best mother I can be in the midst of my selfishness and inadequacies have always hung onto and will continue to always hang onto the One who knew what he was doing when he entrusted them to me.
 
 
 
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Here is a short update on my stories.

 

Isaac’s visit to Guatemala was a fabulous, life changing trip. He came home without a scratch, and I hear from his grandfather, who went on this trip with him, that he was an amazing, hard worker and loved member of the team.

Photo credit to Jeanette Williams Lethers


And although he is not a vegan, Isaac is the most healthy, conscientious eater in our home. I’m so proud of his hard work and his discipline in wanting to live a healthy lifestyle.

 

Elijah’s cookies were perfect! But then again, this was coming from a child that could follow directions from any LEGO kit as early as age 4, so, I honestly wasn’t surprised. We have made cookies dozens of times, and I know he is a quick learner. I’m not sure who was responsible for what; all I know is that after a couple of Advil PM and a good night’s sleep, I woke up like a new person to a clean kitchen.






Are you in the midst of letting go? what are the lessons you are learning along the way?