I stood watching the typical Times Square shenanigans tonight, all while spending time with good friends in the comfort of our 2-family house on this side of the river in a quiet neighborhood. I was wearing my cozy pajamas and slippers; that’s what I call a new year’s celebration. I stood there as the ball dropped and found myself saying good-bye to a year that was one of the hardest of my life. I was teary, but it was a different type of tears than the new year’s usual. I didn’t spend time reflecting and wishing I could have done some things differently. Instead, I spent the last few moments of 2016 saying good riddance, and moving on toward 2017 with my head held high. I have no idea what this year holds. I never knew what last year held. The roller coaster began on January 4. Where am I a year later? Still on a roller coaster, but not as intense. Sitting in a holding pattern as I wait for the next move; will the move be mine or his? I will not miss the heartache, the pain, the tears, the anxiety, the fear, the frustration that I felt this past year. Battles fought, words hurled. I won’t miss any of that. However, I wouldn’t trade anything for the closeness I felt to Jesus through all of this. Time and again I felt His faithfulness shine through on my cold dank heart like a refreshing ray of light. He got me through it all the while saying, “I love you. I have plans for you. I see you fit to stand this test.” I am thankful for His goodness, His grace, His mercy.
I was 7 years old. I was in first grade at Leesburg Elementary School in northern Indiana. I had one of the most remarkable teachers on the planet. Her name was Judy Frank. There was something about her. She was amazing. She was caring, she was sweet, she was no nonsense. Even after I left first grade, I still visited her classroom to say hello. There was something about her. Even after leaving elementary school, I visited her classroom to say hello. We talked on the phone, sent letters and cards to each other. She was funny, caring, a great listener, and that adult that God places in your life when you’re in junior high and high school and you think your parents make no sense at all. All the while she said the very same things they did. She knew what she needed to say. She was a parent after all; had two sons of her very own. She came to my high school graduation open house and wouldn’t sign my guest book until the very last. She said to me, “I was there at the beginning of your education and I will be there at the end.” Yep – she was the last person to sign my guest book. I hold it dear.
It was that Christmas back in first grade when we had a Christmas convocation in the gymnasium and Mrs. Allen our librarian led all the songs. We sang everything from Frosty the Snowman to the First Noel, and Mrs. Allen would solo Let There Be Peace on Earth, and then bring us all in to sing through the song with her again. I still love that song. The last song we sang was Silent Night. We got through a verse or two with Mrs. Allen, and then as we were dismissed, she had us sing as we were walking back to our classrooms. I was 7, but I have not forgotten that voice. I looked to my right and there she was, singing with a voice that rang sweetly in my ears, and to this day it rings sweetly in my memory. Mrs. Frank – I have not forgotten. In 35 years I have not forgotten that moment in first grade. Silent Night has never been the same.
I hold that moment especially dear since my dear friend left this earth nearly 23 years ago. While I sing that song today, I think back in time to that little town of Leesburg, in a little school on a cold December day, and I smile. My heart is tender and I find myself thankful for the person God sweetly placed in my life so many years ago.
Merry Christmas, Mrs. Frank.
I wore black to work today. I had to. My heart hurts.
I’m trying to make sense of it. All I know how to feel is sadness. I never in my life thought I would vote for Hillary Clinton, but I knew I could never vote for Donald Trump. I couldn’t vote for a man who made very dear people in my life fear for their very own lives. I live in a city of such diversity that I come across people of different religion, race, life-style choice every single day and some of them are very dear friends of mine. These are the people in my daily life, not to mention the people on my social media pages who live in different parts of the country. They’re all reeling today because of fear. Why should we live in a country filled with fear? How is that ok? How is that possibly ok? How can I raise my sweet daughter in a country that has people who believe that it’s ok to vote for a man who speaks words of hate and division. A man who treats women with utter disrespect and bullies people because he feels that he can. And it’s all made ok because he’s on a certain side of a ticket? Or because he’s “lesser of the two evils”? I’m not saying Hillary’s perfect, but my goodness. I know this world is broken, but my goodness. We’ve elected a man to be the leader of our country who has blatantly shown utter disrespect for people because of who they are. We want to teach our children that? We do? Really? It’s ok to be a bully? It’s ok to not like someone because they’re different? My heart hurts.
A good friend said something to me today – “I envy you for your faith today.” I was moved. I didn’t know how to respond, but eventually I said, “My faith is not shaken in my God whom I trust, but my heart is broken nonetheless and I am thankful for His gracious understanding as to why it is.” It doesn’t even begin to make sense to me. Several people I know reading this blog will say, “But it’s God’s will that he got elected.” I know this. I know He has a plan, but my finite human mind cannot fathom this mess. So please let me grieve. Let me mourn the mess.
My mind has gone to the words spoken 53 years ago by a man on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said something very profound. Please don’t let us take a step back decades after we have made such progress to make this country a safe place. A place of refuge, a place of peace – a place we sing about being “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Please. I’m going to close my post with the last words of his speech from that August day when people traveled from everywhere because they believed that there was actually good that could overcome evil:
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” (Isaiah 40:4-5) This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
Onward in love, grace and peace.
Still the desire to run with freedom;
to fly like a dove and be at rest.
Still the yearning to protect my heart
so I won’t have to feel more pain.
I’ve been asked to move on,
but there’s something in my step
that just won’t let me;
a pebble in my shoe that keeps
nagging at each step I take —
reminding me that there is not
yet resolution that I feel deep
inside needs to take place.
Still restless. Still unsettled.
I desire the calm that I can sense
is hovering, and I’m waiting
for it to settle in.
It’s called the war room. Not just a movie I watched, but also a place in my heart where I give to God the things I cannot fight against. I feel as though I’ve been fighting someone’s physical presence, yet all the while I’ve been fighting against things in the heavenlies. You see, his heart isn’t won over by a thing that I can see. His heart is won over by the one whom I cannot see but is the ruler of this earth and its dominion. The one who wants nothing more than to hold peoples’ hearts hostage from the One Truth who is the Giver of life abundant. So while I’ve been trying to fight the unseen ruler of hostage hearts, I have neglected to give the war over to the One who can win. The One who reigns over the heavenlies with His angels who are warriors who fight the good fight.
My war room needs to be filled with prayer, forgiveness, love, grace and mercy. My war room needs to be equipped with the gospel of peace, the belt of truth buckled around my waist, and the breastplate of righteousness in place. For the only way to battle the one who is fighting to keep David’s heart hostage in darkness, fear and worry, is to use weapons from the One who has already won the battle for my heart; the One who saved my life, the One who is the Lover of my soul.
The war room. It can be a place of brutal battle, but oh how I have seen the goodness that comes from sitting with the Giver of life and what battling in that room can do to someone’s heart.
Thankful for a war room. Thankful that I don’t have to battle alone.
It’s a wall made of skeptical bricks.
Bricks that have been created
as mere protection of being hurt
over and over and over again.
When you’re not exactly sure what step to take but you feel a nudge that is steering you in the right direction… I think that is guidance.
When people give you common advice and it coincides with the step you feel you need to take… I think that is orchestration.
When you feel the step you’re supposed to take is “so out of your character” but you do it anyway because it really feels right… I think that is courage.
When making a move knowing that Someone’s got your back no matter what happens; that He’s sent people to walk along side you to make that move… I think that is faith.
After spending days and weeks and months asking for wisdom, and things begin to click… I think that is an answer.