Is God Disappointed In Me?

I remember it like yesterday, but I can’t read his expression any better in my memory than I could 15 years ago.

It was somewhere between a mix of frustration, disappointment, reservation, compassion and confusion. We’d covered this ground so many times before, Granddad and I, and he was nearing the point of wondering if things would ever change.

Oh please, don’t give up on me, my mind whispered, even as I held back the tears and held my ground—“I’m not going to eat chocolate ice-cream.”

For all of my fifteen years, a visit to Granddad and Grandma’s house had been synonymous with the frozen treat—preferably chocolate and served in a bowl pulled fresh from the freezer. But since anorexia had dug its deceptive claws into my mind, I refused to participate in this sacred tradition.

Looking up at Granddad that night, his unreadable expression branded my heart. I felt like a failure, a stubborn, unrepentant, rebellious failure.

Unlike many others in their battles against an eating disorder, I was blessed to have male authority figures who did their best to represent the Heavenly Father. They loved me, disciplined with gentleness and according to biblical principles. But they weren’t perfect. For a time, I translated that pained expression from grandfather’s face to my belief about God; it hindered my relationship with my perfect Heavenly Father.

In I Corinthians 1:9-10, Paul opens a letter of stern rebuke and uncompromising correction. As I studied those verses, I began to see the truth about how God corrects His children.

“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (emphasis added)

The Corinthian church had a lot of problems. They were abusing the Lord’s supper, and engaging in and tolerating sexual sin among other things. However, Paul begins the letter with: “Grace to you.”

That’s how God always addresses us, even in the middle of our failures and repeated mistakes. Even when we’ve sinned and broken His heart, God sees us as the righteousness of God in Christ, simply because we believe in the perfect sacrifice of His Son. Even when we need correction and training in righteousness, God always reminds us that He has given us grace in Jesus Christ, we are enriched in every way because of Jesus, God confirms that Jesus is within us and He will keep us firm to the end because He is faithful.

Advertisements

Privilege of Loss

I’ve been blessed to go home to the mid-west multiple times in the last 12 months. My checkbook might not be feeling very blessed, but it did survive!

First Kylie was born!

Then, a couple months later, poor Kelsey got sick. Then Chelle got married! Each time I am swept off my feet by how much I love my sisters… and their husbands… and their daughters… and my parents. I am in love with steamy-hot Kansas and Oklahoma. I am in love with what will always be home.

Quite literally, I live a nomadic life. Patrick and I unpack as little as possible with each move, just to avoid re-packing it later. I am of the mind that if we don’t open in the two years that we live somewhere, everything in the box is disposable. He doesn’t agree. Anyway, that’s beside the point.

When I flew home after Kylie’s birth, I felt buoyant. I had enjoyed every moment, hugged at every opportunity, stayed up late, and soaked all the life out of every flicker of the second hand. But suddenly, as Kelsey drove away, and I stood on the curb outside DFW my heart lunged toward my feet.

Oh how it hurt.

To leave.

To leave Kylie.

To leave my sisters.

Say goodbye for longer than a restful night.

The pain was all-consuming. I wandered into the airport feeling lost and listless, panicked and angry. What time would pass, what days would lengthen Kylie’s little body? What progress would be made toward Rachelle’s wedding day? What tears would drip without my knowledge? What happy moments would I never experience?

Never mind that I would have my own happy moments, tears, friends, joys, growth… my own life. I would miss them. The pain wedged itself in my windpipe and fought each inhale for my whole flight home. Slowly, it loosened…

When Brave ran into my arms at my own front door,

When Patrick came home and we sat down to watch our favorite TV show together.

That’s another privilege of pain I realized. Do you see it? What if there was nothing wonderful about my sisters? Nothing compelling about home? Nothing to long for, look forward to? Isn’t it far better to have someone to cry for than to shed no tears at all?

Recently, my Bible study girls shared prayer requests. One of the girls asked for prayer for her grandmother. Another one mused out loud, “How blessed you are to have had grandparents for over 30 years!” In my self-pity moments after a sad goodbye, I don’t stop to be grateful for the fact that I have someone to miss.

My grandfather died last year and it hurt deeply. But I had loved him and been loved by him for 30 years.

I am certain that I would rather feel the pain of longing, the ache of loneliness and the tears of goodbye than to have no one to love, no one to miss, no one to hug goodbye.

“I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.” Tennyson

Christmas Memory

I thought your absence would mellow,

That time would dull the ache I feel,

When I smell snicker-doodle coffee

When I slip on a soft flannel shirt.

I worried that I would slowly forget

The callous of your fingers

The sharpness of your whistle.

I thought your absence would mellow.

But just yesterday I cried.

I miss you.

I remember so many Christmases

When I was a little girl.

I remember caroling and gazing at the lights.

I remember services at your church.

Plates of cheese and crackers,

After candlelight services.

Stacked in bunk-beds for meager hours

Till we could tumble down the stairs.

You waited at the foot,

Steamy, black coffee in hand.

Sun-sparked through frosty windows.

A buzz of home and warmth.

The air was full of you.

Of bridled enthusiasm for childish glee.

As we tumbled down the stairs

To assault the Christmas tree.

I promise to remember.

Your voice echoes in my heart.

Christmas will never be quite the same

As long as we’re apart.

Granddad, I miss you.

Grandma, we remember.

But, remember,

It won’t be this way forever.

Absolute Me

It is the best of time and the worst of times.  The best of places, the worst of places. The best of me, the worst of me.

I guess that’s what family brings out of us.

I’m spending a couple weeks in Indian territory (Oklahoma and Kansas).  I probably already told you that.  Before I left, I was counting days.  The best memories have been made in my parents’ home. The back porch, the basement bedroom, the kitchen table, the coffee pot…beckon me to relive old memories, embellish treasured moments and create new experiences.

This trip also took me back to my grandparents’ home.  I haven’t been there since December 2006.  It smelled the same.   Most of the same people were there.  The only changes were a few more clocks, ticking with their own rhythms and their own special celebrations of every hour.  New pictures of weddings and babies fill new frames.  Grandma never seems to replace a picture, only add to them.  The only change – Granddad wasn’t there.

On the last day there, I laid on my back on the floor in coolness of Granddad’s room.  I stared at the ceiling and admired the sameness of the the wall ornaments, law books and old VHS movies.  I lost a few tears as they slipped into my ears.

That’s where the best and worst met.  The best memories and worst finale – death.  You can’t have one without the other.  The biggest hugs and funniest conversations around the table with loved ones, inevitably must end with goodbye kisses and sad farewells.

I love being here, but I also seem to lose a bit of myself.  It began in the airport.  Surrounded by thousands of other people with their own agendas – each as important as and independent from my own, I began to feel as if I was watching myself meander through the terminals.  Now, I’m surrounded by my favorite people but I can’t carve out silent moments with Jesus or two uninterrupted hours with my journal.  So, which is the real me?

Beloved Entertainer

Granddad was a natural entertainer.  He didn’t burst into “Singing in the Rain,” or any other musical themes.  He didn’t quote lines from famous movies.  I never saw him dance a step – except at my sisters’ weddings.

Granddad refused to let anyone be bored.  If there wasn’t something fun to be doing, he could find a chore for you.  I will never forget the afternoon my sisters and I spent on our dirty, kid knees scrubbing the grout in my mother’s kitchen with a toothbrush.  When we finished it was almost white and all along I had thought it was a dingy mauve.

Granddad had a knack for making work fun.  However, “work shed” is a misnomer from a child’s perspective.  When I was young, every trip to Grandma’s house involved a trip to the work shed.  There Granddad had screaming saws, tubes and buckets of paint, yard tools and dangerously sticky substances that we were not allowed to touch.

A few years before, the work shed’s space had been a carport for Granddad and Grandma’s RV.  What a fantastic invention – traveling in your home!  I vowed once that I would never marry, but grow up, get a German shepherd and travel the country in my RV finding work when necessary.  When Granddad and Grandma parted with their RV, I somehow forgot about its magic, and that dream faded.

One specific project of mine that emerged from the work shed was a little wooden dog.  It was so thin that it was almost two dimensional.  It had long, floppy ears.  Granddad carved it for me on the circular saw, turning the fine piece of wood with great dexterity following lines that only an artist like Granddad could draw freehand.  Afterwards, he set me up on a bar stool, close to his workbench.  With a palette of acrylic paints before be, I got busy adding the puppy’s eyes and paws and selecting his spots.  In the meantime, the master creator began to work on my sisters’ projects.

I never saw Granddad read anything except the newspaper.  But he loved a good story.  Grandma had a library of heart-warming novels that she packed on every road trip or read a few lines before bedtime.  She also read their daily devotional out loud.  One of the mysteries of my grandparents is that I never saw one without the other.  They thought the same, loved the same – the definition of persons completing each other.

Granddad and Grandma had an array of movies.  To this day, I don’t know how many DVDs they have.  We always watched “Winnie the Pooh” and “Mary Poppins” and “Meet Me in St. Louis,” on an old-fashioned VCR.  For regular shows, Granddad followed Star Trek with some regularity.  I fancied myself a fan, though I never saw an episode in between visits to my grandparents’ house.

One Christmas, Uncle Richard gave Granddad a book of Calvin and Hobbs comic strips.  Somehow, someone decided that Granddad loved it and wanted to collect all of the commemorative editions.  I don’t know that Granddad ever read one, but for at least two years, I read and re-read them every time we visited.  I loved to sit in the glider rocker, in the sunroom and ignore my suddenly “immature” siblings.

The quintessential way to pass time with Granddad always involved a deck of cards.  At their house, we learned to play Cribbage and Rummy and Spades and a game with a bad-word name that we re-named “Oh P-shaw!”  Otherwise, we could pull out the dominoes or poker chips or dice.  Picking a long game was a sure way to stay up late at Granddad’s house.

Granddad’s Room

The door was never shut.  Inside was a curio of Granddad things.  The room smelled Granddad, too – a clean yet musky, deep blue fragrance, like a mix of pipe tobacco, that he didn’t smoke, and aftershave.  All of Granddad’s solid t-shirts with the chest pocket and his traditional winter flannels clung to that same scent.

 

There wasn’t much walking space in Granddad’s room.  He commanded one cushy, swivel desk chair and there was usually an empty one next to him waiting to be warmed by a younger rear end, should we decide to join him.

 

It wasn’t that Granddad’s office work was all that interesting.  He had stock tickers scrolling across an 8 inch TV screen and his computer monitor refreshed the stock values with every frequent mouse click.  The appeal was simply being with Granddad.  And the entertainment was posted on the walls, slung over the chairs, or set precisely on his polished, dark wood desk.

 

“Well, hi there!” Granddad would swoop me up in a bear hug and then set me down in front of him.  “Just sit here with me a minute, I’ll finish this up.  After lunch do you want to play a game of washers?”  Doubtless washers was a wonderful idea but I would have sat next to Granddad all day.

 

While he was turned to me, after 60 seconds of silence, the computer screen began to swim with exotic fish.  The small speakers let me listen to their bubbles pop.  Granddad rarely changed his screen saver.  Sometimes it was multicolored pipes that grew constantly, connecting to make giant abstract art.

 

To start with I would clamber up beside him, balancing on my knees in the second swivel chair.  That way I could reach his gray, windup ducky.  Just a cheap trinket, but as much a part of Granddad’s room as the carpet.  As Ducky wound down, I slipped from my seat and practiced contorting myself to sit on the special “good posture” chair.  It was built of two cushions at odd angles.  You put your knees on the bottom support and leaned your tush back on to the second one.  There was no back rest and as far as I was concerned the chair looked rather uncomfortable and useless.

 

Next I turned to the white board hung on the wall behind the door, at eye level for a seven-year-old.  Red, green, blue, black and yellow dry erase makers perched nearby.  Grandma was pretty trusting and as far as I remember none of us every ended up coloring on her walls or carpet.

 

On the wall on the other side of the door were collages of my mom and uncles.  I was always impressed with how beautiful my mom was.  The pictures of her before she met Daddy hardly seemed the same person.

 

Memories for every age hung on the walls of that room: The bird clock, that chimed with a different bird song every quarter hour, the 3D picture that I “got” several times but don’t remember what I saw and the funny one that depicted a million one-liners like, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” “flat as a board,” “time flies,” and “rat race.”  I saw that picture 100s of times and I still find things I hadn’t seen before.

 

Granddad’s room had a private entrance since it was at the back of the house.  It led to the back porch where Granddad and Grandma had a hot tub.  Anticipation let me smell the chlorine water before I even opened the door.  My sisters and I would don our swimsuits and grab the animal shaped rafts that Grandma kept for us.  I loved the green and pink frog with buggy eyes and Jenny usually claimed the giraffe.  We were generally clean kids, but Granddad had to shock the hot tub with an extra dose of chlorine after every visit.  He also had to refill the tiny pool since we splashed most of the water out.

 

When our lips turned an iridescent blue, Mom always grabbed towels from the downstairs bath and came through Granddad’s door to find us.  Then she would shuffle our dripping bodies back through Granddad’s room to the nearest bathroom.

 

Dried and still chilly, often I would climb up into Granddad’s chair at his desk.  Mesmerized for the next short time, I would watch the tropical fish swim across his screen. 

Truth, Love and Family

For a while here, I want to tell you a few stories about my Granddad.  I wish you knew him.  I wish I could replay every minute I had with him from little me to big me.  I remember  Granddad’s hands.

Granddad held my necklace over the sink.  The stopper was carefully wedged into the drain so there was no fear of losing his seven-year-old granddaughter’s treasure.  The links were hopelessly tarnished with tomboy grime.  I wore the little pendant when I played softball, hide-and-seek, went swimming and when I slept.  Soap scum clouded its luster and the sunshine charm didn’t sparkle very brightly.

 

I stood on tiptoe next to Granddaddy.  The mysterious chemicals swirling in the sink’s depths smelled like the stuff mom used to mop the floor.  Granddad’s hands were toughened from his wood working talents.  I’m sure that his hands often did harder work than building decorative shelves for his grandkids, playing basketball in the driveway and greasing our bike chains.  But Granddad did all these things like they were his highest priority.

 

His fingers were big and crackly, but always clean.  Even when dark marks from the tool shed stayed on through dinner, they were cleaned marks.  Black and browns ingrained in the lines of his palms so deeply that GoJo could’t reach to remove the stains.  That’s why I had brought my necklace to Granddad, he could clean anything.

 

Granddad’s hands were never still.  Whenever we pulled into my grandparents’ driveway in Bartlesville, under the sweet-gum tree, all four of us girls tumbled out of the car into Granddad’s waiting, working arms.  Often he was outside washing his car while he waited for us.

 

We clasped his hands and drug him into the house to play Sequences, You Blew It, Spades and Mexican Dominoes.  Granddad’s hands seemed to be able to splay an entire deck of cards without dropping one.  After lunches (Grandma’s capable hands crafted special sandwiches: she put butter under the peanut butter on PB&Js) Granddad’s hands scooped bowls of ice cream as big as his fists.

 

Granddad’s hands created masterpieces.  He made a little, just the right size to hold in my little hands.  It hung on the wall by our front door.  When guests entered and closed the door behind them, it dingled and sang a welcome song.  I loved to reach up and pluck it myself.  He made my sister, Jenny, and me our own little shelves to put above our bed.  He carved roller skates as the brackets for my shelf and painted them my favorite shade of green.  I remember he making a clock for my cousin, Chris.  Granddad painstaking cut out figures from baseball cards and placed them at each hour.  He built game-boards for Wahoo and Sequences and invented a game called Penny Toss.  The prize for tossing a penny into a certain cup or circle on the floor won the player more pennies.  I bet Granddad invested $20 a night into that game when all of his grandkids joined the competition.

 

When we walked somewhere, Granddad always swung his hand way back behind him.  He would wiggle his fingers in the air searching for mine.  If we were on the sidewalk, he would spin me around to the inside of the walk, farthest from the street.  Granddad’s hands always caught the door handle first.  If not, a sharp, “Ahem!” reminded me that a lady always lets Granddad get the door.

Granddad gingerly scrubbed my necklace with an old toothbrush.  Rinse, repeat.  I began to lose interest.  How could Granddad concentrate on one little necklace for 20 minutes?  I dutifully feigned interest, wishing I hadn’t asked him to polish my jewelry.  Granddad did everything perfectly, to the tiniest detail.

 

Finally, he laid my little chain flat on a paper towel.  A knot the size of pea made it look two inches shorter than when he had begun cleaning it.  Then, like magic, Granddad’s big, capable fingers dangled the chain from one end.  In a quick twist and pluck the knot slipped like butter through his fingers and my long chain slid to its full length.  Wordlessly, Granddad draped the necklace around my neck managed to fasten the tiny clasp.

 

Granddad placed his hands on my shoulders and held me at arm’s length admiring his handiwork.  “You’re beautiful, Abby,” he told me.  I threw my arms around his waist and locked my hands behind him.  “I love you, Granddad.”

 

In Hopeful Anticipation

I know that this site generally discusses lies.  But death is a reality, the final truth of life.  My granddad died on Wednesday morning.  His memorial service is tomorrow.  I wrestled violently with what I should do – go home? when? stay here? Finally, per my Heavenly Father’s leading and my mother’s graceful confirmation, I decided to stay here in VA instead of flying home to Oklahoma for the service.

As I prayed for wisdom on this decision, I journaled my prayer.  What came from my pen was a letter to Granddad, about two days before he died.  How comforting to KNOW that our loved ones know Jesus and are suddenly more alive than we are!

In Granddad’s memory and hopeful anticipation:

Dear Granddad,

I wonder what you’re seeing right now?

Have you closed earth’s eyelids and already glimpsed the face of Jesus?

 

When they say that to live will never be the same,

“How right they are,” you must be thinking!  “I never yet have lived!”

 

As you gripped the strong hand of Jesus

And he pulled you past earth’s clouds,

You might have turned and waved goodbye, uttered half a sigh.

In a moment’s years we too will know the real life that you see

And wonder why we wept down here and cried impotently.

 

I believe the grass is more verdant where you stand

And waterfalls shout acclamations of joy.

Earth’s been silent far too long

And you’re first to applaud heaven’s chorus.

 

To be honest, down here, I wrestle with protocol.

How best to mourn, how to comfort,

And yet how much is necessary?

Do you appreciate our tears?

 

I imagine you are already so enraptured in new-life, real-life,

That you may not even notice our sadness.

 

I don’t believe you’ve died.

I believe that you have proven that REAL life runs parallel to our petty shroud.

 

Perhaps like David, you’ve shad your raiment.

You are cloaked only in ballad of worship.

Granddad, dance, dance with all your might.