Saturday, November 27, 2010


Lately I have been feeling a lot like I've been trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together without the top of the box for reference. I have all these pieces, but because I can't see the big picture, I am having a very hard time figuring out what to do, where to start.

I feel the frustration level that rises from it at times. It makes me feel restless, even anxious at times. It's like I know I am supposed to be doing something, I can even narrow it down to the proverbial "puzzle" itself, but I just don't know where to start.

It isn't like the "picture" of the puzzle is obvious either, no simple picture to catch a glimpse of. It's more like some sort of abstract expressionistic painting with all kinds of shapeless colors blended together. I feel like I am sitting with all these puzzle pieces, and I can't begin to know how to link it together into whatever the puzzle's designer intended.

I love my life, but there are parts of it that feel like are out of order, as though I should be doing something different than what I am. The problem is, I don't know what I should be doing.

My family life is good. I am madly in love with my husband, and though marriage is always challenging on some level, I cannot complain. I like my marriage, I like my husband and have no complaints. Parenting is the same, my kids are far from perfect, which works out well since my parenting isn't perfect either, but I don't have any real complaints in the big picture of things, youthful irresponsibility, and childishness, but over all, life there is pretty good. The wife and mom thing, they're going OK, cannot complain.

I'm not so foolish either to think that life should be something too much bigger than that. If I never do anything in my life but love and care for my husband and kids, then I will have done plenty if I do it well, but still there is this yearning, like there is more to be done.

It isn't a dangerous longing, it's not drawing away from my God, or my family, but it's perpetual, never seems to cease. If anything, I feel like it is a longing placed in my heart by God, to be used of Him, to make an impact for His kingdom, but it just makes it all the more confusing and frustrating when I feel like I can't figure it out. It just seems like if it's His idea, there should be some direction, a glimpse at the top of the box to know what direction we're moving in. I want to know what direction I'm supposed to be moving in, but I don't know where to go.

I know the gifts God has given me. I long to use them. I long to speak and preach His word. I know God has created in me the heart of an encourager. I do my best to do that here on my blog, but honestly it feels like it falls short. The last thing I heard Him speak to me though was "write," so I write. But I still long.

At times there is hope in the longing. I believe God has placed it there, so I hope in Him for the direction to fulfill it. Other times, the longing seems to go on so long and I tiptoe around the old neighborhood of depression. Suddenly my heart gets heavy and low, and I wonder if I missed something. I wonder if I have somehow done or not done something to hinder the plan. I wonder if I've lost a few pieces of the puzzle so that the picture will never come together the way it's supposed to.

Circling depression is a difficult place to be. Emotions have too much power there. Visibility is poor. When you're in that place it's very hard to see past yourself, and the false trinity of "me, myself and I" takes precedence over the true God, the one who has the top of the puzzle box memorized, because He is the one who designed it.

I've been doing the Beth Moore bible study "Breaking Free" and the lesson this past week was about girlhood dreams. It talked about the four dreams God has placed in the heart of every little girl: (1) to be a bride; (2) to be beautiful; (3) to be fruitful; and (4) to live happily ever after.

I scored well in the bride department, and although I don't know if I would describe myself as beautiful, I am much more satisfied with myself than not, and in the last few years I have become comfortable in my own skin. I am struggling with the other two dreams though.

Fruitfulness talked about our desire for children, and about how beyond the children of the physical sense, there are children in the spiritual sense. I have in my life felt a lot like a "spiritual mom" to some. And recently I have felt some loss in that area, I do know that at least for seasons I have been effective in that sense. It is difficult to lose in that way, but I hope that it will come full circle, and sometimes I am pleasantly surprised when seeds from long ago still bear fruit many seasons later. I hope for that to happen again.

As for happily ever after, well, that's a different story. Right now happiness seems evasive. There are many circumstances in my life that are happening that I am not happy with, and since happiness is all about happenings, it can be a tough row to hoe. Thankfully I have joy in my life, which abides even when happiness eludes, but it doesn't make feeling unhappy any easier.

I feel stuck in the puzzle box right now. It isn't fun. I cannot for the life of me figure out exactly what I should be doing, where I should go next, how to put together the pieces in my hand.

Thankfully, my hope is not in the puzzle. It's not even in the puzzle "doer" (me). Thankfully the hope I have is in the Puzzle Designer, who is a Virtuoso. Every puzzle He has designed is a one of a kind masterpiece. It is a beautiful work of art, pre-designed before anyone ever opened the box. I suspect perhaps that it was the Designer Himself who hid the top of the box from me.

I don't know why He hides the top of the box, but I am certain it is for His good purpose. Maybe it's because He is more interestd in us partnering with Him in its unfolding rather than trying to run ahead and put it together the way we see fit. Maybe it's because He doesn't want us to follow our own plan for putting it together, to be set in stone about "doing the edges first," because He has a more masterful way of bringing all the pieces together.

I'm not saying it makes it any easier or less frustrating to be holding the pieces, but if I can focus on the Designer rather than the design, I know I can count on all the pieces coming together in the perfect way, in the perfect time, and when the masterpiece is unveiled, it will have been worth every moment of the process.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Disposable Generation

I have such a passion for young people. I look at the generations behind me, and it fills me with hope. As a mom, the weightiness of the importance of training up the next generation, grips my soul. But the burden I carry falls far beyond the three the Lord placed in my home. It stretches out into the lives of their friends, their classmates, the entire generation.

I look at the young people God has placed in my life, and I am amazed by the unrefined potential I see. They have the world by the tail, and they don't even know it. They are in a place in life where their "what if's" are still full of possibility, not yet ventured into the land of "if only's" and regret. As the old saying goes, "the world is their oyster," and the pearl in side waits to be discovered.

I look at this fine young generation, and I see HOPE.

And can I be very plain and say, it is not just in the kids I know that I see this potential and promise? I find myself often out in "the world" and I will be gazing on a young person who is a total stranger to me, and the overwhelming sense of possibility in their life. I have literally had to restrain myself from being the crazy old lady, walking over to some poor kid I don't know and gripping him by the shoulder to say, "YOU'RE SPECIAL!!" For fear they'll look back at me and think I'm the special one, but not in the complimentary sense I meant it to them.

I remember one day sitting in the drive-thru at Taco Bell there was a small crowd of youth sitting in the back of a pick up truck, hanging out. They weren't the clean cut crowd that I am (thankfully) most familiar with my own kids, and I remember thinking to myself, if the police drove by and saw them sitting outside the liquor store they were socializing in front of, it's likely they would have been asked to disperse. They were covered in piercings and tattoos, a couple of them smoking. I could hear a few swear words peppering their conversation. Truthfully, they didn't look like they were up to any good, but as I sat watching them from my car, I was overwhelmed with love for them.

It was clear as I saw them, who were the natural leaders, who were the followers. I saw one young girl who was truly stunning in her appearance, but I saw insecurity on her face. I am not always the people watcher, but I was sincerely drawn to watch this crowd. I wanted to go over and tell them, "Jesus loves you," because honestly, I wasn't sure they knew, but I'm sad to say, I chickened out.

I'm not sure most young people these days know that truth. It breaks my heart.

Often I have found that as I watch a group of young people in their "natural habitat," you get one impression looking from the distance, and an entirely different perception when you stop and look more closely. So often when I stop and look a little more closely, when I look into the eyes of a young person, where I hope to find the light and life that is the potential and promise of the future, what I actually see there is hopelessness, fear, even despair. If you look closely, what you see is a hurting generation.

Sigh. I am struggling to write this blog. My heart is bursting, I want to grab every person I know and shake them by the shoulders. I want the full attention of every person I know to shout "WARNING!!" "Wake up!"

A week ago, I reconnected with an old classmate from Facebook. Within the first 24 hours of us being friends there, it was obvious that something major and tragic had happened in her world. Via private message, she confirmed my suspicion and let me know that one of her sons' friends had taken his own life.

Because curious is my nature, I did some searching online, and found information through google about the young man. And by appearances, he was the kind of kid who seemed to have it all. And yet somehow, somewhere along the line, despite what things may have appeared, hopelessness set in, and this young man, a high school student decided that suicide was his only option. I remember thinking to myself, how tough that must be as a mom, to try to comfort your kids when something so tragic hits so close to home.

Teen suicide has been in the news a lot lately. Several celebrities have decided to step up and speak out against this horrible tragedy, that unfortunately does seem to have a contagious aspect to it. I was talking with my sister-in-law a little while ago, and she was talking about how she has seen in her own experience how the suicide of one person will encourage another to try the same. I see it like this, the hopelessness, can become epidemic, to the point that people are driven to desperate actions to alleviate the pain of what they feel.

What really kills me, is that hopelessness is a lie. The fact of the matter is, anywhere there is life, hope still remains. Unfortunately, that hope is often easily overshadowed by circumstance and emotion, and sometimes no matter how true the truth may be, it doesn't matter if we refuse to believe it.

Boy is the a mouthful.

Sadly, the liberal media has only focused on a particular side and demographic of the teen suicide, but the truth is, it's far further spread than it's being noted. It isn't just young gays being bullied who are buying into the lie that suicide is an answer. Kids from all sorts of walks of life are buying into the deception.

Deception? Yes, deception. And let me just say, it is a HUGE campaign of deception that runs far deeper than our children's current circumstance. In my estimation, the root of it begins in the great misconception that life is optional.

I used to, on occasion, have the opportunity to speak publicly on the topic of abortion. Since not ling after my birth, every child became a choice. I suppose you could hope for that to be a good thing, each child believing they were wanted since they won't aborted, but I think the ripple effect of that fact plays out differently than we would like it to. Instead of speaking to the value of the individual, it speaks far more loudly to the devaluing of life as a whole.

Kids these days don't think they matter, and if you look at all that the world is speaking to them, you can sort of understand why they feel that way. For 27+ years, abortion on demand has not only been a viable choice, but a common one. When I have had the opportunity to speak to youth groups, I have often pointed out to them, that for every two of them that are sitting there, there is a third child whose life was ended by abortion. I'd like the silver lining of that to be that each one of them would feel chosen, but I think what it truly speaks to their soul is that their own lives were optional, and that very sentiment is prevalent in our nation.

Compound that information with the propaganda about "quality of life." I remember a decade ago when Jack Kevorkian was in the news all the time. His nickname was "Dr. Death" because he proclaimed himself the champion of the "right to die" cause. That was when the "quality of life" mentality came to the forefront. Life ceased to be inherently valuable, and how much a life mattered became a judgment call.

I can hear the attitudes rising already, I can hear the arguments about ending suffering, and dying with dignity, I've made them all myself. When I was a senior in high school I took a speech class and we had an assignment to do a persuasive speech, and for some reason or another, I chose the topic of euthanasia, and I took the argument for it. And I made an excellent case. My biggest memory was after the speech. One of my classmates came up to me and told me how she had always thought of euthanasia as wrong, but after listening to my speech, she had reconsidered. At the time I felt really good about it, looking back now, it's one of my greatest regrets.

But at that time in my life, I used to buy into the lie. I believed life's value was subjective and not inherent. The problem with that perception is that defining quality does not naturally narrow, but rather widens. It may start with the narrow defintion of the a terminal patient sentenced to death by a diagnosis. That's when they call it a "mercy killing." Sounds nicer that way, doesn't it? We do that to our animals after all, we "put them down" to stop their suffering, and the argument is made about compassion for people. But the definition inevitably broadens. The point is proven in the case of abortion. Many children first wanted are "terminated" when a diagnosis comes forward about an unborn baby. And let us never dwell on the fact that it's called practicing medicine for a reason. I personally know at least 3 children who were born against their doctor's advice - perfectly healthy.

The argument is against suffering. Well, let's be real, nobody wants to suffer. But how exactly do we define suffering? There are all kinds of pain, and everyone has a different threshold for it. And if we think it's ok to make drastic decisions based on physical suffering, why should we exclude emotional or spiritual pain? And the "quality of life" becomes more and more subjective, harder to define.

We'd like to believe that this kind of mentality won't touch our own, but it's become so ingrained in the fabric of our society, that we don't even realize the mentality is pervasive, particularly in the hearts and minds of young people. Add to this all the other challenges of just being a teenager, and the mentality is toxic. It's like a horrible poison an entire generation has been exposed to, and you never know in whom it will suddenly become toxic. Add to that the uncertain days we live in, and it feels like a ticking time bomb.

The bible talks about how the shedding of innocent blood will not go unpunished. When I hear that proclaimed by pro-life groups, sometimes I want to look around anxiously waiting for the hammer of God to come down and fall upon us. And honestly, with my own testimony, and knowing the truth about what abortion is and the effect it has I find it completely reasonable for God to hit us hard. But I think also that the mentality that has been created about life's value being subjective is a reaping of what has been sown as a nation for almost 28 years. The generation of young people around us has grown up with an unspoken knowledge that every single one of them was, in fact, completely disposable.

Kids don't know they matter. They think there value comes from how they affect the world. They don't understand that the world is affected because they exist. The "world" doesn't speak to them being created for a purpose. Add to this a time of great change and confusion in their teen years, and a door is opened to question if life is really worth it.

My heart aches at how short I am falling at getting out the words I want to right now. It's all a lot of intellectual mumbo jumbo trying to explain a deeply emotional subject matter. It makes me want to scream.

Yeah, that's it. I want to go get a megaphone and climb up to the highest hill I can find and start screaming out to every young person who can hear me, "YOU MATTER!!! GOD LOVES YOU!!! YOU WEREN'T AN ACCIDENT!!! YOUR LIFE IS IMPORTANT!!!"

Too many of them aren't hearing it. Even when it's being said, it's falling on deaf ears. The truth of their purpose and promise is being overshadowed by circumstance and emotion. When it goes on long enough, hopelessness sets in.

Hopelessness is a lie from the very pit of hell. Where there is life there is always, always, ALWAYS hope. No matter what the insurmountable seems to be, if there is life, there is hope.

I found out today that teen suicide touched our own youth group. It broke my heart. I know the leaders of our youth group. I know they proclaim the truth to our kids. I know they love and value every single child that walks through the door, and I know they express it to our kids. And still....

What do we do? How do we help? It makes the situation seem hopeless, but I know, where there is life, there is hope.

We have to reach out to this generation. We have to speak to them the truth of their preciousness, not because of what they do, but because of who they are. There is so much to overcome in proclaiming that truth to hurting hearts, we have to silence the world, we have to silence their own hurts and emotions. We have to silence circumstance and pain. We have to.

Not knowing what else to do, I grabbed my own teenager by the shoulders today. My wonderful, well-adjusted, in love with Jesus 16-year old, I looked him straight in the eyes and said, "You know that's not the right choice right?" Confidently he assured me, of course he did; but I would be a fool to think my family untouchable by this disease that is permeating our culture.

I've never heard of a family hit by this devestation respond with "oh yeah, we totally saw it coming." It doesn't happen that way. It is always shocking. It is never expected. Loved ones are left behind searching through missed clues drowning in a regret of what is no one's fault... and everyone's fault.

We must find a way to impart to our children their preciousness. They've got to get it. They have to understand. They weren't accidents or mistakes. They matter. God loves them. We have to love them.

My heart is heavy because I feel like I have failed to say what so desperately needs to be said here. I want to grab every young person I know like I did my son today, all of them, even those who seem to be cruising just fine. I want to look them in the eyes and see the light and life of the hope, promise and potential that lives inside them. I want to take a bat and beat away every lie that speaks against it.

I want to tell them how God has a plan. I want to tell them how he knit them together in the womb. Every talent and gift, every weakness and struggle, their emotional make up, their appearance, the way their brain works and doesn't, all a purposeful stitch in the Master's plan for the masterpiece each one of them is meant to be. EACH. ONE. OF. THEM.

If I could go back to that day in the Taco Bell drive-thru, I think I would have shouted out across the parking lot, or even driven over and parked alongside them to say, "Hey, you matter. Do you know God loves you? Your life has a purpose." And even as they probably would have laughed me off, at least I would know they'd heard it at least once in their lives. And oh how I pray it wouldn't be the only time.

I don't know what I am to do with this breaking in my heart. I know I am going to sow in my own kids the truth of their preciousness as best I can. I will do my best to speak to God's love for them, and His purpose for their lives and hope if I do it often enough, it will drown out the lies that speak against it.

But I have to say, it's everything I can do right now not to go out and buy a megaphone and find a hill. Those of us who know the truth have got to speak it, because if we don't, the truth is, there are many who may never hear, and the fact is, the enemy of our souls is determined to take down them all, even the ones who have heard the truth.