Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Give Thanks by Sharon Lurie

© 2010 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Determined

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so let’s just get this over with, shall we?

Give thanks.

Thanksgiving 2000. I tried as hard as I could to get into the spirit of the season, but I could see little for which I could be thankful. That summer, a friend I used to work with committed suicide. Shortly after that, the man I loved moved over 500 miles away from me. The beginning of September saw me leave a ministry I loved because of things going on to which I could not be a partner. Then, another friend, someone who had been like a mom to me, died in a motorcycle wreck. Four weeks later, my grandmother died. The morning I left to fly home for her funeral, I found my cat dead on the front lawn, torn apart by some larger animal.

I remember sitting in the airport in Cleveland, waiting for my connecting flight to New Jersey. For most of that day, I felt like my insides would collapse. It was at that moment, You invaded my reality, as You always do, and whispered two words that at the time, couldn’t have been more foreign to me.

Give thanks.

I flew back to Indiana right after the funeral, only to return to New Jersey a few weeks later to spend Thanksgiving with my family; I also planned to see the guy I missed so much. I told him how I felt about him, sure that he felt the same. He said he did not. In fact, what he did think of me was a blow I thought would surely finish me off. He had met someone else, someone who played games with his head and didn’t care about him at all. However, for some reason, he preferred someone who treated him like dirt over me. The basic rejection hurt even more in light of the one for whom he had rejected me.

When I returned to Indiana, I threw myself into preparation for my move to Nashville. I didn’t know anyone there. I had no job waiting for me. I had nothing waiting for me in my new home, but it really felt like I was leaving nothing behind, too.

I cried all the time. I was afraid to answer the phone, check email, or open letters because I was sure it would be bad news. Most of my friends who still stood by me didn’t know what to do with me. Some of them just listened and let me cry. Others were quite harsh and quick to tell me I was a victim and wasn’t bouncing back like I should. The thing was, though, I hadn’t just lost friends and loved ones to death in those short months. I had made a lot of enemies for the things I stood for, and the loneliness I felt was tangible.

As I faced the new year, my car packed out for the new frontier, I heard Your voice again, a little louder this time.

Give thanks.

Thanksgiving 2004. My health was a mess, with no remedy in sight. I had to give up the business I had worked so hard to build. A ministry project I threw myself into whole-heartedly went up in flames. Another trio of loved ones passed away without warning, all within a few months. I was having panic attacks all the time, and the fear to communicate with the outside world for fear of more bad news had me feeling shackled and asphyxiated. I was afraid to try anything. I was afraid to get close to anyone. In the midst of my fear and my inconsolable grief, I heard Your Voice again, through my emotional stupor, this time, with a sternness and urgency until then unfamiliar to me.

You have not thanked Me.

God, what do I have to thank You for?

You have not thanked Me!

So, I threw myself on the floor on my face and cried out to You. I thanked You for the trials, for the grief, because You asked me to, and as I did, something happened. The burden lifted. I saw You carrying me and grieving right along with me. I saw You washing away my tears with Your own. I felt a strength and a sustenance beyond my finite human comprehension, and in offering gratitude I could not feel, You gave me joy I couldn’t explain.

Give thanks.

Thanksgiving 2010. My father is not well. I find myself fearful again every time I see an email from home or a New Jersey phone number on my caller ID, because unlike the others in my life who have passed, my father has not made his peace with God, and I shutter to think of him going to eternity in such a state. Four friends have lost parents in the last year, and each time I heard, I was reminded afresh that another time of mourning is imminent. I have now buried 17 friends and family members, and it doesn’t get any easier with the passage of time.

I have no job, and I feel I have nothing to show in either finances or accomplishments for my thirty-six years.

It’s been 10 years since I made the move to Nashville, and 10 years since my heart was broken. I spent an entire decade closely guarding my heart, only to find it, in recent days, smashed to pieces afresh. God, it wasn’t supposed to happen this way. When I climbed Mount Moriah, put Isaac on the alter, and raised the knife, You were supposed to stop me. You were supposed to say I passed the test. Isaac and I were supposed to return home—together. The searing pain of a knife through the heart was supposed to be for the ram in the thicket, not for me. I wasn’t supposed to go home and face another holiday alone and empty-handed. As I sat again, with the noxious taste of grief still bitter in my mouth, I heard You yet again, this time with the volume of a million bugle horns.

Give thanks!

So, I threw myself on the floor again in worship. I gave thanks with the only thing I had, namely those two words. It was there, again, that You gave me the clarity I needed, and I was reminded afresh of all I had for which to be thankful.

I give thanks to You, God, for You are good, and Your Love endures forever.

I give thanks to You, God, for the comfort You have given me through each season of grieving, because now I can effectively comfort those with me now who are walking through their own losses.

I give thanks to You, God, because You have given me the ability to weep with those who weep, not just rejoice with those who rejoice.

I give thanks to You, God, that in so many instances You did NOT grant me my request, because the legacy of the Israelites and countless others is You did grant their request, but also sent leanness to their souls, and I can say in all honesty, though my soul is wounded, it is indeed full.

I give thanks to You, God, that You allowed me such intense bitterness, because it was ultimately for my peace, and through it You have loved my life back from death.

I give thanks to You, God, because in everything and everyone I lost, You stripped me of the temporary to endow me with the eternal and to give me joy because of those I’ve led to You. Every work in building Your Kingdom that You’ve allowed me to share in are treasures in Heaven that no one or thing can ever take from me.

I give thanks to You, God, because You’ve made me worthy to share in the fellowship of your suffering as to be conformed to the death of Your Son, and that is a fate far sweeter than any pleasure this life could offer.

So, as another Thanksgiving approaches, those two words You have so faithfully reminded me of have become for me not a proverb, a platitude, or a once-a-year sentimental suggestion, but a lifeline, a gateway to sanity, and most importantly, a battle cry.


The End

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Year of You and Me, Part 1 by Sharon Lurie

© 2010 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Hopelessly Romantic

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and uninten…oh, whom am I kidding?

Dear BKR,

One year. Twelve months. 365 days. 8760 hours. 525,600 minutes. 31,536,000 seconds. Each moment interminable while being lived but fleeting now having passed. For reasons known only to God and us, we’ve had to be separated over this past year. I am anxious to know what you have learned.

So many things are racing through my mind and body as the day approaches. Will I recognize you? Will you recognize me? Will your eyes still ignite and will your grin dance across your face? When I feel your fingers interlock with mine, and your warm, invitingly intrusive breath in my ear, will I still get weak?

I am excited. I am terrified. I am heartsick. I truly did not know what I had until it was gone. Some say out of sight, out mind. Others say absence makes the heart grow fonder. For me, it has most certainly been the latter. Maybe that is why God has called us apart for this past year before bringing us together for life. Perhaps God knew that any other test would’ve found our love wanting; maybe time and patience, while often seen as an enemy, prove to be wise teachers. I think of Romans 5 and James 1, how they speak of the work of trials and perseverance to produce joy and godly character in us, and though the waiting seemed interminable, I know what God has done in me, at least, is to make me the woman you need me to be, and that makes the wait more than worth it.

I am so sorry. I don’t know how much more eloquently or convincingly I can say it. I made things so much harder than they should’ve been. I projected so many of my own insecurities and my own negative self-image onto you. You never wanted that charade. You never asked for a fairy tale. All you wanted was honesty, authenticity, and the truth, and when it came to your own failures, flaws, and shortcomings, that’s what you always gave to me. I couldn’t give it to you at the time, because I didn’t know it myself.

The truth is, you took me by surprise. I never saw you coming. You didn’t meet my expectations, not because you were lacking, but because my expectations were. I was used to having someone to fix. I was used to being the mature one, the strong one, the emotional and spiritual leader, and the one who had to hold it in and wear the game face, no matter what. I was used to being bled dry in every sense of the term, and then, when I would ask for something in return, being told that I was the needy and demanding one.

To be honest, when we met, I couldn’t figure you out. Your character astonished me from the start. As time went on, I set myself up to be hurt and disappointed. Deep down, I hoped I would discover you were really a serial killer or a sexual predator so I could stop liking you so much,. When I found out you weren’t, I felt petrified that you were cooler than I could imagine. And so, I waited. I waited for history to repeat itself. I waited to be used up and thrown away, but with you, that moment never came.

It scares me to death to admit this all to you, but in the year that’s passed, I remember you telling me that to you, my story, no matter how ugly, crazy, or tragic I saw it, was the most beautiful thing about me. I’m sorry that it took us being apart for me to finally believe it.

Someone asked me how I was feeling as the day was approaching and what my relationship with you has meant. If I could sum it up in one word, I would have to say “redemptive.” You did everything well by me, but there are certain memories, as well as lessons I’ve learned from your words and your example, that stick out in my mind:

• All the doors you held open for me
• How you would stand up every time I entered or left a room
• The first time I ever told you about how someone I trusted hurt me deeply. In times past, when I told others the story, they would say God had a plan, or I should forgive, or how I must have done something to bring the pain upon myself. Not you. You became furious and were ready to go to that person who had sinned against me and beat the living daylights out of him. Just the fact that you validated my pain, I was able to put that hurt behind me and move forward.
• When my cat died. She was such a great companion, and when I lost her, a part of me died with her. When I called to tell you, I expected…well, I don’t know what I expected. What I did NOT expect was you to cry right along with me. Sharing in my grief with me did more than all the Scripture-quoting and condolence-offering in the world.
• When the town drunk showed up inebriated at my apartment. You broke all sorts of land speed records and came over with your nine millimeter, 357, AND sawed-off shotgun to protect me.
• My car wreck. I still don’t know how you made it to the hospital so fast. I had a concussion, and even though I wanted nothing more than to go to sleep, that would’ve been the worst thing for me. You held my hand, ran your fingers through my hair, and talked to me to keep me awake until I was out of danger. Then you took me to your house, and held me when flashbacks overtook me and sent me into a panic.
• The New Year’s Eve road trip. I had a friend in trouble who needed my help, but she was several hours away, and I didn’t have the money to get to her. Without me asking and without hesitation, you got out your wallet and gave me more than enough to get to her, showing me not only was I important to you, but the things and people that mattered to me mattered to you, too.
• When you showed up at my door, even though you were living an hour away at the time, and didn’t really have the money to spare on gas, just because you’d not heard from me and were concerned.
• The Rescue Mission. I never had to beg you or twist your arm to go there and serve with me, and the fact that you would hug anyone there, no matter how badly they smelled nor how atrocious their criminal record impressed me immensely.
• Bible study. You were never impressed with how much Scripture I could quote, or how much biblical history I knew. You only wanted to know how I was going to let the truth change me for the better.
• The scandal at your company. So many people compromised and sold out. You were offered a chance to join in, but instead, you stood your ground, even though your life and livelihood were in peril, and didn’t give up until every wrongdoer was prosecuted and brought to justice. What I loved most was what you said to me when I asked why you didn’t give in and get in on the take when everyone else did. You didn’t say to me, “That’s not what I do.” You said, “That’s not who I am.”
• What you’ve taught me about God. More than anything, your faithfulness is an example. I have not known faithfulness, consistency, or authenticity in the men in my life. I haven’t known the man who swears to his own hurt and stands by his word until the job is done. I haven’t known a man who DAILY picks up His Cross, denies himself, and follows Christ. I haven’t known a man who is exactly what he says he is. Until you.

The list goes on and on. I love your character. I love how you serve. I love that you love kids and see yourself as big brother to everyone. I love how you’re brave when I am weak. You’ve never said once that some task was beneath you. I love that fact that, from day one, you have fought for God’s best in my life, even when that includes fighting to protect me from my past and my own wrong choices. I love all the little details unique to you, and I’m so sorry I never had the courage to tell you until now.

God has taught me something very important, and I want to tell you about it before we see each other again. Ever since I was a little girl, I always believed the greatest thing in life was to be loved unconditionally, particularly by my husband, and I can say in all honesty that you have loved me that way. God says there is something greater, however: a love that changes me for the better. Too often, when people demand unconditional love from those around them, it is nothing more than a veiled request that says, “Don’t make me change. Don’t make me mature. Don’t make me grow up.” I realize now that was often the case with me; even though he takes me as I am, God’s love is too great to let me stay where and as I am. So has your love been for me. You make me want to be a better woman. You make me want to be daring. You make me want to recklessly abandon myself to God’s refining process and not look back. You make me want to love God and love others with everything I have. That kind of transformational love is the better portion, and that is what you have given me.

There are only a few more days left. Shortly, I’ll be able to touch your face, hear your laugh, and be enfolded in your arms. I pray the year’s been good to you; I pray you’re that much closer to your dreams. I pray your faith is progressively giving way to sight. Most of all, though, at the risk of sounding selfish, I pray when you see me again, you see a woman worth fighting for, someone to share this wonderful adventure called life, and beauty, molded by the Potter’s Hand, ready to be unveiled for you. I hope that I am someone that helps to make your heart full and not to empty it. I will do all that I can to be the godly woman you need and want.

You scare and unsettle me like no one else ever has or probably ever will, and yet I’ve never felt safer or more secure. I trust you. I trust you whole-heartedly. I trust you to keep your word. I trust what you say to me is what you really mean. I even trust you to hurt my feelings when they need to be hurt, or when you see what’s best for me better than I do. You are my Inman. You are my Hawkeye. You are my Paul Varjack. You are my Declan O’Brady-Callaghan. In all of my stories and songs, you are the man and the hero I always write about. I love you ferociously, and I will always, always, always have a crush on you. You were so worth waiting for, and I can’t even begin to express what it means that, despite everything, you waited for me, too.


The End