where were you?

some are going to ask you, “Where were you?,” you know

and others will claim you were never absent

that all things work to the good

and words like that

 

I won’t ask you

I’m not sure I’m ready for the answer

but I do wonder why all the brokenness

in the midst of a day where my little boy

is beaming because he built his first

Lego model from start to finish

all by himself

and on a day that found my girl

dancing and singing and making up stories

while her big sister beamed and found joy in the

silly and yet important things

 

in the midst of all of that

why this brokenness?

the sun was shining, for goodness’ sake

so many had spoken to you and asked for help

 

my heart aches because they were after a dream,

but because someone was hurting and lost

they are no longer here

to dream

to laugh

to love

 

and I want to know why

but I am hesitant to ask

because I’m afraid of what the answer might be

was it me?

did I fail him?

or another like him?

did I fail to stop and smile,

pay attention, take up time,

give away the love you so freely give

just for the sake of giving it?

 

some will ask where you were

but I think I know–

weeping with the rest of us,

tears streaming down your face,

wishing it could have all been different

 

and it could have

 

if only

there were no brokenness

 

and that, you’ve left up to us, haven’t you?

 

Where were you?

pleading with us to look

and see

and love

 

and love

 

IMG_6743

Hard Questions over Spilled Milk

Yesterday I was trying to hurry and give my littles snacks.  We were heading out on our activities du jour, and it was going to be a while before they’d get to eat again.  I served up the last of the brownies and a glass of milk.  As I reached across the sink to the counter to place a glass of milk where Cooter was about to sit with his brownie, I turned the whole thing over.

Oh me.  But no crying, right?

I was actually calmer than usual, especially considering that we were running behind and needed to be out the door pretty quick.  And they still had to have a snack.  AND I had to clean up milk for miles–on the counter, under the counter, on the wall under the counter, on the stool, under the stool, on the rungs of the stool, and alllllllll over the floor.  While trying to keep Miss Sophie from getting into it and attempting to appease Cooter’s hurt feelings based on the assumption that he would now get NO milk.

Sigh.

As I was cleaning it up, our Princess, the peacemaker (well unless she’s having it out with her brother–been one of THOSE weeks around here), who was trying to grab up anything she could find to help clean it up, said in her soothing voice to her upset brother, “Don’t be upset, buddy, Mama didn’t mean to do that.  It’s just sometimes, well, God has other plans.”

Huh.  Well then.  Huh.

So I went with it.  Maybe because I was standing on my head cleaning up milk (did I mention FOR MILES?) or maybe because I was just curious to see where she was going.  Probably both.

“So God planned for me to spill this milk?”

Cooter laughed at that idea.

Princess, who had come around to the messy side of the counter, shook her head.  “Well no, see, I mean, God knows everything that’s going to happen.”

“So God knew I was going to spill the milk, then?”  One swipe, two swipe, almost done.  I stood up.

She looked at me, her eyes wide.  She sighed.  “Why do I think I’m saying it all wrong right now?”

I laughed and hugged her and let her know it was okay.  I don’t know, girl, there are no easy answers.

That’s something we talked about on Sunday night in Evening Prayer.  Hard questions.  And that sometimes, just maybe, we won’t get the answers here.  Or now.  If ever.  And one person pointed out something that my Aunt has suggested to me about Heaven, “Maybe, when we do get there, it won’t matter anymore.”  I shudder to think.  As much as I want to know the things I want to know, it pains me to think I will be able to let it go so easily.  I guess that’s the peace that passes all understanding they talk about though, isn’t it?

Hard questions.  From our children.  What do we do with those?

I found out that a family that my oldest and I both know and love lost their youngest son, not even two years old, in a tragic accident.  I told Aub, unsure if she would see it on social media, and I didn’t want her to find out that way.  She was visibly shaken.

“Mama, it’s already been a rough day and now this.  This sends me over the edge.  My heart breaks for them.”

“I know.  I know.  Mine too.  I’m so sorry.  I just didn’t want you to find out another way.”

We were both quiet for a moment.

“You know,” she said. “They packed up everything, sold most of it, and headed out to do what they felt God was calling them to do.  And now this?  What the heck?  It just doesn’t make sense. Why?  Why did this happen?”

Why indeed.   I had nothing to offer her.  But an ear and heart to listen to her questions.  And echo them in my own.

I’ve found that my children’s questions don’t get any easier as they get older, and neither do mine.  We’ve had some doozies in the past three or four years.  And they still remain unanswered.

I got nothing.

Except that I’d rather they stay unanswered than someone give me an answer that they think should make me be okay with everything that has happened.

There are just some things you might have to accept–yes this happened–but there are things that I can never be okay with.  Doesn’t mean I lose my faith completely, just maybe it hits a bump in the road and needs time.  Lots of time.

Hard questions.  How can I be thankful for those?

I guess tonight I’m thankful that my children ask these of me, with me, and that we can sit in the dark together, asking and wondering.  But together.  Always together.

Love to all.

 

 

 

 

and so I love

I scan the room for him

no sign of his face, those eyes, that smile

I walk to the door and peer outside

someone is lying in the grass, in the sun

napping

or so it seems

It is my friend, my brother

and I am glad he is resting

The rain has poured for days

and his camp was flooded

So now he sleeps

under the sun that for today is a friend

but will soon, in a month or so, become

the enemy

making the out-of-doors unbearable

all over again

I walk over and tease him

He looks up and grins

always in good spirits when he’s had a drink

or a few

He went to church he says

and he is pleased with himself

with the church, the pastor

with the words he heard and sang

They mean something to him

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

these words from Matthew 6:25 he hears and agrees with

“you know,” he says to me, looking me in the eyes, squinting in the sun, ” I am like that.  I don’t worry where my food is coming from”

and then his words break my heart

“I know which dumpsters to look in if I’m hungry”

the pain shows on my face

“Don’t look like that–it’s okay–some friends, they put food there, in separate bags”

the image stops me cold

my friend doesn’t worry

he takes life in stride

he finds his food in bags in dumpsters

put there by friends, by kind souls, who know

who anticipate

someone might come along and need the leftovers

the cast-off food,

what can no longer be served?

“oh ye of little faith” echoes in my head

and volleys back and forth

with “the Lord helps those who help themselves”

I don’t know which says what anymore

about my journey and where I am

I no longer know how to help my friend

and so I listen, and I tell him I’m glad

he can find food so easily

though this is so foreign to me

and just beyond my comprehension

I live in a bubble, I think to myself sometimes

I am not strong or aware or making a difference

and so I listen, and I tell him to take care, be careful

He says he is, asks me the time

the time is 3:30 and that only marks for him how much longer

he will be able to lie in the sun

before the gate will be locked for another day

He tells me he will nap

and then head back into the woods, hoping the sun and wind

have been his friend

and dried his tent and blankets

and other things of his

I wish I could take him home with me, or put him in a room

somewhere dry and safe and warm when the night winds blow

but we tried finding him a place, a place of help and

sanctuary and refuge and challenge

and he did well for a while

but in the end, the wind called him back

the bottle sang her alluring song

and, in the words of my Daddy, who had the same blue eyes

and wrinkles when he laughed

“You can want it for them,

but you can’t make them do it”

I can’t make him want sobriety

or a home or to be any different than he is

and I won’t ask him to be anyway

And so I listen

and I love

I love on days that the laughter is slurred

and on days the words are clear

on days my friend is clean and fresh

and on days he misses the sign up for a shower

or doing laundry

I love my friend when he laughs and I love him

when the sadness rolls in

like a heavy fog following an afternoon storm

I love him when the dreams are big and beautiful

and when the nightmares are scary and dark

I don’t have much left to give him

but love

and hope

and acceptance

and

wonder–wondering about that faith of his, is it strength of faith

or foolhardiness

that gives him peace about food and the next day and life

as he lies in the afternoon sun?

God spoke to my friend, this man I call brother

and brought him peace,

peace for today

and for that

tonight

I give thanks

 

Mac’s New Shoes and My Questions for God

My phone rang early this morning.  I had it set on vibrate but I could hear it echoing in the drawer I had left it charging in overnight.  I picked it up.  Mac.

I breathed a sigh of relief.  He usually comes to Daybreak around the time for Sister Circle on Tuesdays to visit and catch up and get (give) a hug and share a fist bump with Cooter.  But yesterday he wasn’t around.  I asked a few folks, and no one had seen him recently.  It was the last pretty day before some lousy weather so I was hoping he was just enjoying it and that everything was okay.  Then someone mentioned they’d heard he was in the hospital but they couldn’t remember…..was it two weeks ago?  Or two days?

It took me a moment to clear my throat and say Good Morning, I was so relieved.  He had been working on rain and cold-proofing his camp yesterday, as best as he could.  He apologized for missing seeing us.  He’d gotten so busy, and when he looked at his watch it was 4 p.m.–almost time for Daybreak to close up for the day.

I understood.  Time flies.  It happens to all of us.

He said he was going to hang around the shelter this morning and then walk several blocks over to eat lunch at the soup kitchen at a local church.  This is no small feat for him.  He struggles to walk even short distances most of the time, as his knees can give out on him.  Even sober, he looks wobbly when he walks.  As it was rainy and the roads were slick this morning, I asked if maybe there would be a shuttle to take everyone over.  He said no, they didn’t have such as that.  “I’ll walk.  I do it most days anyway,” he said.

Turns out he had been in the hospital.   On Sunday evening.  He was having seizures again.  That happens if he doesn’t take his medicine.  And without insurance and a regular doctor, he doesn’t have access to taking his medicine regularly.

When he started having the seizure one of his friends called 911.  An ambulance came and picked him up.  Instead of taking him to the downtown hospital or the one just a little ways up the road from where he stays, they took him all the way across town to the hospital on the north side of town.

“What?” I asked.  “That’s all the way over near Wesleyan.”  I cannot imagine what their reason was for that.  It can be a twenty minute drive on a good day.

“Yeah, that’s where it is.  They discharged me at 7 p.m. Sunday evening, but since it was already dark and I didn’t have anyway to get back to my camp, they let me stay in the lobby.  I left about 7 Monday morning and started walking back.”

“You walked all the way across town back to downtown?” I was blown away.

“Yeah.  It took me near about all day, but I did it.”

Y’all.  I can’t even.

We talked about some resources that could be available to help him get his medicine prescription regularly, so I hope that will get better for him, and that he will be stay on the medicine, warding off future seizures.

Then he changed gears.

“Hey, I know God is good and everything, right?”

After everything he’d just told me and he was still singing praises?  Okay, I had to hear this.

“Yeah?”

“Well I was at the terminal the other day, right, and I walked by a trashcan and in it was a brand new pair of shoes.  In the box.  Can you believe that?  In a trash can?”

Wait, what?

“Wow, Mac, that’s amazing.  Were they your size?”  Here’s where I am, I’m expecting that they pinch his toes slightly or they flap around a little but they’ll be fine.

“Yep, my size exactly.  Fit perfectly.  And it was a good thing, because them other ones were starting to fall off my feet.”

Oh, ye of little faith sister.

My friend was thrilled with his shoes and he trusts that God meant for him to have them, to find them there in that trashcan.  After we hung up with his promise to meet me next week, my mind’s eye kept playing back to a moment yesterday.  I was driving across the Spring Street bridge before Sister Circle, and I saw Mac’s best friend, JJ.  He was walking along the edge of the bridge, carrying a bag from McDonald’s.  When I told Mac I’d seen him, he laughed and said he hadn’t seen JJ in a while, and that the bag was probably empty.  I asked why and he just laughed it off.  I guess that’s a story for another day.

As I saw JJ in my memory, my heart asked my head a question I still can’t answer.

Why would God give Mac new shoes and leave JJ out hustling for food over near the bridge? 

I don’t have an answer, and I’m not sure I’d like any that anyone offered me.  My heart says it’s not so sure that those shoes were from God.  I have something that I have said a lot lately, it seems.  Pardon my grammar, but here it is:

Sometimes it just be’s that way.

Sometimes someone who needs something happens upon something they need.  Sometimes they meet someone willing to help.  And sometimes, more times than I care to think about, they don’t.  They wind up eating out of the Pizza Hut dumpster out back–“folks throw away a lot of good food, you know”–or they beg for money so they can buy a burger.  Or a beer.  The burger fills the void in the stomach.  The beer makes you forget that void and all of the others.  For a while anyway.

The thing is that I am glad that Mac thanks God for those shoes.  I would not take that away from him for anything in this world.  I just don’t know that I can bear to believe that kind of theology in my own life.

Very recently there was an accident.  Two vehicles. One person was killed.  The other one was in critical condition and just recently was discharged to continue healing at home.  In a conversation about how awful the whole thing was and how prayers are needed and how wonderful it is that this person who could very well have been killed is home now, someone said, “Oh Someone had His hand on him.”

Oh my.

I wanted to cry.  And cry out.  Where was that Hand for the person who was killed?  Why put a Protective Hand on one and not on the other?  God, what is all that about?

And again, the only way I can find my way out of that heart-wrenching question and answer and guessing game, is to say, “Sometimes it just be’s that way.”  I’m sorry, I just can’t believe that God chose one over the other.

Anymore than I can believe that God chooses for one child to be born healthy and another to be born with a life-threatening disease.  Or that God chose to take my Daddy, whose healing was prayed for by so many loving friends and strangers, “because He needed him more than I did” and left other people here to live.  Or that one dedicated, faithful student could be in a hospital bed fighting for her life but God “protected” the other student who chose partying over studying.

I just can’t wrap my brain around theology like that.

“Sometimes it just be’s that way” is a lot easier to accept.

But then again, I think my Aunt is probably right on target when she tells me with regards to all of these mysteries, “I think we are all going to be surprised.”

And for a cold, wet, and rainy Wednesday, that will have to do.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Related Post:

“Why I Am Not Blessed”  https://imightneedanap.com/2013/05/17/why-i-am-not-blessed/