Raising Magnolias

Because it's never too late for happily ever after…

Archive for the month “December, 2013”

“We are not altogether on anybody’s side”

OK, so apparently the Dad on the Duck show is in trouble. Or at least he was the week of Christmas. I was driving to Arkansas or packing from Arkansas or wrapping for Arkansas and so I’ll admit I missed the hoopla.

I did, however, see on Facebook a post calling duck-dad a bigot.

Is that different from being called a racist??

The night before, I was desperate for a few more minutes of Christmas-packing-preparation so when Coulter asked if he could watch the Duck show, I said sure.

The next day, driving South, he bragged on me for letting him watch .

I stumbled and stammered.

“Yeah, about that. We may need to quit watching. ¬†I think maybe some guy named Phil—is there a Phil from that show?”

Yes. Coulter says.

“OK, well I think maybe he said something unkind about black people.”

This would be a good time to tell you that my $125 cable bill is basically a donation—my strange way of supporting the local economy except that my bill is mailed to somewhere out of state so I guess it’s not local after all.

And I’m trying to figure out Netflix.

Except I need the internet.

And I’m worried about the spring when Dancing with the Stars comes back on.

Oh, such big issues I’m dealing with tonight. ūüôā

Ever since separating from my husband, ¬†I’ve been unable to sit and watch television. It’s not that I’m this super-righteous, way too busy reading my Bible to be bothered with tv, it’s just that I have trouble sitting still.

Or maybe it’s that when I do sit still, I fall asleep.

Anyway, these ramblings are just to let you know that I don’t watch Duck Dynasty.

I grew up in the south and have a rather famous bearded duck-hunter right in my very own family. Plus, I’ve lived my own Lifetime Movie of the Week over the past couple of the years so unless it’s a movie with Matthew McConaughey in it, I’m not super interested.

Uncle Gregory's the only bearded dude this family needs.

Uncle Gregory’s the only bearded dude this family needs.

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Where was I?

Traveling South.

Two children.

Two dogs.

Freezing rain and sleet and dense fog and torrential downpours but—-

And praise the Living Lord—-

Nobody got sick.

We get to Arkansas. And I find out that bigots and racists are not the same thing.

Or maybe there are, but of a different sort.

Coulter hasn’t mentioned it again but I know there’s a conversation coming.

And I still haven’t read what Phil said. But I get the general idea.

I haven’t read because it’s Christmas (yes, still) and all that noise distracts from the manger.

From Jesus.

From a New Year with new hopes and new dreams and sometimes that’s all it is.

Noise.

But I did read Ann Voskamp’s response:

“Silencing people may not be the most effective way of educating them. When you disagree with someone don’t dismiss them–dialogue with them.”

And I like that.

When did we start dismissing people just because we disagree with them?

Words are powerful. God spoke our world into existence. Adam was given the authority to name the birds of the air and the fish of the sea and we can speak the name of Jesus and we name graces and we name children and I would argue that in all the noise and all the opinions, we haven’t forgotten Jesus.

We’ve forgotten His words.

His teachings.

And how.

He taught.

What’s the proverb about sweeter with honey?

Uhm. Yeah. That. That’s what we’ve forgotten.

Timothy Keller says, “If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.

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I don’t know why I’m writing about this or why the Lord has placed it on my heart. I’m for sure not trying to make a political statement‚ĶI have no statements. Only questions.

I suppose, though, it’s because this all hits pretty close to home and as a Mom I want to have an answer to the question when Coulter asks to watch Duck Dynasty again.

And he will.

And I don’t know the right answer.

Timothy Keller writes (in The Prodigal God—and I think Timothy Keller is my new Ann Voskamp only he’s–ya know–a man.) Anyway, he writes in reference to the Parable of the two sons, “so, whose side is Jesus on? In the Lord of the Rings when the hobbits ask the ancient Treebeard whose side his on, he answers: “I am not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my side‚Ķ(But) there are some things, of course, whose side I’m altogether not on.”

I think my message to Coulter will be (as I wrote about several weeks ago) to just go back to The Word.

His Word.

And I will tell him “we are not altogether on anybody’s side” because it’s not about choosing sides.

It’s about loving God.

And loving others.

And if that doesn’t work, I’ll cancel cable. ūüôā

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Tarina, Dana and a Bleak Mid-Winter’s Night

This morning we were singing “In the Bleak Winter’s Night” or something anyway, about bleak winters and it’s not really my favorite hymn because winters in Nebraska are bleak enough without having to sing about it,¬†but I’ve come to understand that you have to sing the hard stuff too.

It’s not all Joy to the World.

In the middle of this not-so-favorite hymn, I thought of two things or people rather.

My friend, Tarina and our covenant grandma, Dana.

Emotions sprang up and teared up and I was flooded—all mess and where are the sunglasses when you need them—

The ugly cry.

Tears, I know, brought on from the memory of singing that hymn last year—-sitting next to Dana as she held me tight, wiped my tears and absorbed my sobs.

Bleak Midwinter Night—something, something bleak.

Tears, I know, ¬†brought on from the memory of the first time I spoke—

Out. Loud.

About my marriage.

Last week our Pastor spoke from Matthew and he’s a preacher and a ¬†teacher (oooh, we should sing about that!) and he challenges my faith and grows my faith and helps me deepen.

My faith.

I’ve been a believer for the greater part of my life but I’ve never once given props to Joseph but here my Pastor is saying, “You dummy.”

How can you miss Joseph?

And Mary?

I’m just kidding. He didn’t call me a dummy. But it’s entirely possible he was thinking it.

It reminds me of piano. When a student messes up (practicing, not performing) I always encourage them—you have to go back.

Back to a  place before the mistake. Before the mess.

Before the stable and swaddling clothes.

Before the Baby.

You can’t start with the manger.

Mary listened to Gabrielle and she believed.

Joseph  listened to the Angel and he believed.

And on and on and on.

Every act of ¬†obedience in what we’ve come to know as the Christmas story starts with faithful listening.

And my friend Tarina? That one fateful car-ride home? Sitting in the driveway of her home for what must’ve been an hour?

She listened.

And  believed.

My friend Jodi? My friend that I barely knew,  but knew I could trust?

She listened.

And believed.

Me.

Pastor Kyle?

Jenny?

Heidi?

Julie?

And I could write pages and pages of my faithful village.

Listeners.

And they, with my family and so many others walked through a freakin’ bleak midwinter, spring, fall, midwinter again, spring—

Yeah. OK.

But today?

Today, it’s over.

And I totally get that you thought this already happened. Say, back in August? But no. It’s today.

Today I check the single box. Or the divorced box. Or the “I once was married but now I’m not” box.

Today.

And Pastor Kyle asks this very day, what are you pondering on?

What are you pondering and continuing to ponder and I’m sure most Christmases I get it wrong and I’m sure most holidays I get lost in the hurry and the flurry and I lose sight and I ¬†forget Christ, but this Christmas?

This Christmas, I’m pondering Mary and Joseph and village of listeners.

My village.

I’m pondering that God’s faithfulness really¬†is to the heavens¬†¬†and his mercies really¬†are new every morning and his loving-kindness really¬†is everlasting and not for a moment—

Did he ever forsake me.

Really!

Divorce is not something to be celebrated but endings marked with joy and hope for new beginnings are.

There is reason to celebrate.

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And what did Mary and Joseph leave behind, believing and obedient and trusting that there were far greater things ahead.

And I wonder how many times God has sent a messenger to me—and I was too busy, too doubting, too scared, too mad, too—

Whatever—

To listen.

But I’m listening, now Lord.

“Here I am, the faithful servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Here I am, Lord. Your faithful servant and the Joy of the Lord is my strength.

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Here I am Lord, your faithful servant and I’m listening.

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And laughing.

And resting in the peace that surpasses all understanding.

I’m celebrating Jesus.

The Christ-child.

Who came—

And is coming again.

And when He does? Look out, Y’all! Glory to God! And I don’t know how it’s all gonna go down, but I am fairly certain I won’t ever, ever, ever have to sing (or live) the bleak mid-winter night.

Ever.

Again.

Merry Christmas, friends!

Piercing the Cloud that Brings in the Light

Emma Claire is on her way home.

Home from the city that never sleeps.

Most people seemed a little shocked that my parents would take a 5 year old to New York City and I’m thankful for their surprise because it reminds me that yes.

It’s surprising.

But not for the reasons they may think.

My mother knows the Broadway district of New York City better than I know downtown Omaha. She’s been planning this trip for 5 years (and probably more) and there’s this magical age when you’re not to young to appreciate it and not to old to be captured by it and these pictures keep coming in (blurry at best and I’m thinking my mom needs a new camera or new contacts) but you can see it.

And for Emma Claire the magical age is 5, but maybe for my parents?

It’s still magical at 60-something?

Life always looks more hopeful, brighter, merrier when seen through the eyes of a child.

A few weeks ago we were in the car and Emma Claire said to me, “Mom, you know how God holds us in His hands?”

Yes.

“Well, I think Coulter and I are next to each other.”

Coulter interrupts. “Mom, why is it always His right hand? I mean, what’s wrong with his left hand?”

And he’s not being a smart-A. He’s sincere.

And I’m not smart enough to answer. “Let’s ask Pastor Kyle about that.”

And then he gives me this answer that supposedly Pastor Kyle had given him, but I think it can’t possibly be right so we are going to re-visit it.

Anyway.

I’d never thought of it, but yes, Emma Claire. I bet y’all are next to each other.

A few days later, snuggled in tight, she brings it up again.

“Mom?”

“Yes, Emma Claire.”

“You know how God holds us in His hand?”

“Uhm. Yes.” I’m thinking we’ve really already covered this to the extent of my theological, you know, smartness-level.

“I think God closes His hand around us at night. That’s why it’s dark.”

Seeing life, the light and the dark through the eyes of a child.

A little bit speechless at this child who’s so much brighter than her mom and remembering a text from Ann Voskamp’s blog about being hidden in the shelter of His wings as He passes by and maybe it’s His wings and maybe it’s His hands but my daughter in her five magical years just hit on a point that a best-selling author wrote about and all I could say was—

“Yes, Emma Claire. I think you are right.”

We are closing in on a year that I have seen more darkness than at any other time in my life. It seemed to come crashing down all around my friends and my community and a friend put it this way—

There is a cloud over Fremont.

There is a darkness.

Husbands lost. 30-something widows.

That was plural.

Marriages imploding. Trust wasted and broken.

That was plural.

16 year-old babies given back into the hands of Jesus.

Mourning mothers.

That was plural.

Mothers, fathers, friends and—

And.

And how do we sing of this, “The most wonderful time of the year?”

But I know it from my own story and I know it from a 5-year-old. He is closest when it’s dark. He hides us in the shelter of His wings. He holds us in the palm of His hand.

And it looks dark and it feels cold but when we stop wrestling and just lean into Him, we will feel it.

We will know it.

He holds.

This morning a hymn—a familiar line that caught me by surprise.

Pierce through the cloud that brings us light.

Hold us, Lord, but open up your hand.  Pierce through the cloud.

Please.

And bring us light.

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New York City. The city that never sleeps.

And this blog would work so much better if she had been to the city of lights.

What city is that?

Technically, NYC is also a city of lights. I mean how else would they never sleep?

And the trip is shocking and the trip is surprising not because she’s five but because her grandparents have shockingly generous hearts.

Sacrificial in their giving.

In the two years of God-controlled chaos and even for a time before, my parents have not gone on vacation. They’ve been in Fremont and while I’ve come to love my little town here, let’s be honest.

It’s not a hopping vacation destination.

I’m thankful for the look I get and the surprised ¬†that registers ¬†because it reminds me of the gift.

And how easily we take gifts for granted.

The gift of grandparents.

The gift of Jesus.

The gift of His birth. Of His death.

The gift.

Of His life.

*****************************************************************************

Working with a client in the gym, I see a friend’s husband. More condolences to offer. He’s been to at least three funerals in the past year and those are just the ones I know of.

I say to him, my guess is your sick of funerals. I don’t know him well enough to go much deeper than that. He laughs. Yep. Ready to ring in a new year.

And I thought Hale Yeah and hallelujah to that! It’s time for a new year. But as I walked away I wish that I had had the courage to go a little bit deeper for there was this piercing truth that struck my heart.

Our hope is not in a new year.

Our hope is a new heaven and a new earth.

Our hope is in Christ.

And this year. I don’t want to forget the gift.

Come, thou long awaited Savior. Pierce through the cloud that brings the light.

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