The Best

When I wrote this about a year ago, I never intended for it to be read by others. It’s rather personal and definitely not the happiest read. But with my mom’s birthday coming up tomorrow, for some reason all I can think about is sharing this short story. I don’t necessarily wish to, but it is laid on my heart to do so. Who knows, perhaps this post will help someone else out in such a way that I could never fathom.

My mother was the most selfless person I ever met; she truly turned being a mother hen into an art form. Never once as a child did I lack a peanut butter and honey sandwich in my lunch box or the perfect monopoly opponent; she was and would always be there. Her sole purpose in life was to take care of me and my little sister; and to this day I cannot fathom why, out of all things to do in the world, being a mother was her all-time favorite. It was literally all that she lived for. Not only did she personally cater to my sister and me nearly 24/7, but she always kept the house immaculate and every night had dinner simmering on the stove. When I was a little girl I would often ask why she didn’t have a real job like Daddy, and although there were plenty of times we could have used the money, she always reminded me that being a mom was a job, too—even though I never believed her. Come to find out, those years would become the most treasured times of our lives.

Unfortunately, being unable to go back in time to the 70’s and 80’s, there is no way I can give a firsthand account my mother’s childhood, but I can however share what I’ve been told both by her and by others. My mom grew up in the Lone Star State with three brothers and practically no parents. Don’t get me wrong, she had a mom and dad, but both were workaholics and constantly let her know that she wasn’t wanted. Meals were often skipped or “forgotten,” her mother never learning how to cook, and when they were actually prepared they consisted of canned salmon and boxed mashed potatoes. Because her parents divorced shortly after she graduated from Seagoville High, she was on her own working day and night as a waitress to pay for her apartment and tuition at a neighboring community college. Toiling over all-night waitress shifts on top of her studies for nearly three years, my mom ended up marrying my father after two months of on-and-off dating and soon had both me and my little sister.

Seven years later, we all moved from Norman, Oklahoma to Crested Butte, Colorado; it was one of the best things that happened to both my mom and the rest of the family. You know when you see those snow globes of a small town in a souvenir shop somewhere or maybe even your grandparents’ house? Well, that’s basically where we lived; it was a place where it was always the same person bagging your groceries and snowflakes were the main accessory to everyone’s outfit. Not knowing how to ski was like not knowing how to breathe; the locals made sure that their children mastered the black slopes before they started middle school (thankfully my sister and I learned rather quickly by skiing with our teachers and classmates on Fridays rather than going to school like most kids). As for my parents, my dad loved to ice fish on Lake Powell and zoom us around on his snowmobile while mom enjoyed snowshoeing and cross-country skiing solo in some neighboring field or forest. And yes, at times we all thought of trading in our nine feet of snow for a stretch of white sand in any place warm, but when I look back I can see that my parents raised my sister and me in pure paradise.

Even the move from Crested Butte back to Norman seven years later didn’t weaken Mom’s devotion to us. She always seemed to be just as nurturing and loving as ever to her “babies,” even when times were tough. Apparently her being a part-time realtor and my dad a real estate developer didn’t mix well with the recession of 2008, the year my mom told us that it was time for our family to “try something new.” And I admit at first this “new adventure” wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Coming to Oklahoma and not knowing a soul at school, but coming home to Mom everyday made everything just the same as it always was: different house but just as sparkling, the same dinner simmering on the stove. The house was no longer a fine cabin tucked next to one of the nation’s greatest ski resorts, but mom made it home nevertheless. The way my mom carried on made me feel like she’d always be there, even if I didn’t want her to be, but life has a way of destroying the constant at the very moment when you feel like nothing is ever going to change.

The first time I noticed that something was different was the day before I started my classes as a freshman at the University of Oklahoma. At her insistence, we were walking my classes together in an attempt to memorize the slight differences between each of the identical brick buildings. To be honest, to this day I still get a little confused. As we were walking up a flight of stairs that I was praying would lead me to my Spanish class, I couldn’t help but notice that I had made it up to the top of the stairs alone. Casually turning back, assuming she was probably tying her vibrant Nike tennis shoes again, I was surprised to see her standing there, hunkered over and nearly panting. I had to do a double take. This couldn’t be the same woman that was one of Colorado’s most avid joggers and skiers, but nevertheless, there she was. I quickly asked if she was alright, and she, being too good of a mother, told me not to worry and that she was just catching her breath. But if she could have seen how she looked as she said it, she would have instantly recognized how hollow her excuse sounded. I was shocked, and the moment was lodged somewhere in my memory, but I repressed it. I didn’t realize until much later what I had witnessed.

As time went by, my mom slowly grew weaker and weaker. Mom had known since one of her prenatal checkups with me that she dealt with anemia, or a lack of iron in her blood, so she just figured that her iron levels had gotten really low because she rarely ate any meat. But with the extra meat in her diet, the daily iron supplements, and the fresh vegetable juice that I prepared for her every morning it still wasn’t enough. The last thing Mom wanted to do was go to the doctor, but eventually she went and ended up having an emergency transfusion because her blood count was so low. Once we brought her home she felt better than she had in ages. She even had the energy the next morning to cook our family favorite, biscuits and gravy with deer sausage (I can never get mine to taste as good as hers). It all seemed too good to be true.

But as the months went by, Mom started to grow weak again, and I was at a loss for what to do. I would talk with her privately about her going to the doctor again, at least for some more blood, but she wouldn’t have it. She had told me that “once was enough,” and that it was the last place she would want to go back to. But eventually it got to the point where we couldn’t take no for an answer. It started off like any other day. My sister and I were video chatting with a cousin of ours that had just recently joined the U.S. Navy in Maryland. I remember it was quite amusing watching my cousin try to talk to us while devouring a giant chocolate-covered strawberry. Suddenly, my dad threw open my sister’s bedroom door and abruptly told my sister and I to end our video chat. After a quick goodbye, my dad told us that Mom had become incoherent. We rushed her to the emergency room where they immediately gave her more blood and scheduled her for an MRI, which she would have never agreed to if she knew what was going on. I felt so helpless. The same mother that was there for me my entire life could now hardly even recognize me. When the doctor told us the next day that her body was riddled with what they thought to be cancer and that it was too late to operate, all I could manage to do after crying was hold her hand.

My mom passed away a couple hours after the diagnosis. The doctor asked us if they should do a biopsy to confirm if it was cancer or not, but my dad decided that if she never knew then we shouldn’t know either. To be honest, that was fine with me. When Dad mentioned to the doctor that she would have never agreed to undergo radiation if she learned she had cancer, the doctor slowly nodded his head and said something that you wouldn’t think someone from his medical background would say: “Perhaps it was for the best.” At first I didn’t think I heard him correctly. How was my mother leaving me for the best? But as he continued, he explained that Mom’s choice to stay at home instead of spending the last year in chemo had most likely given her both a longer and less painful life. As the doctor explained this to both my family and my mom’s (they drove up from Texas just moments before she passed) I realized that he was right.

I can hardly remember the week that followed Mom’s death, but I know somewhere in there I managed to type up my mom’s funeral program and buy myself a new black dress (Mom was never that fond of the old one I wore to funerals). I felt like I was in some sort of dream-like state where the world was spinning in slow motion, but this quickly changed once the funeral started. Suddenly everything was real. The only time I had found solace during the service was during the slideshow that concluded the funeral. As pictures of my mom doting on me and my little sister flashed by, I suddenly realized why my mother had dealt with her failing health the way that she did: it was because of her daughters. For our sakes, she held on to being “same old Mom” as long as she physically could; doctors would have easily crushed this fragile fantasy like breaking a toothpick with the first MRI. Being a mother for my sister and me was what she held most dear in her heart, and for the majority of her life that was enough to keep her going. My mom was and will always be the strongest, bravest, and most loving person I will ever know. As I watched the video clip of my mother waving goodbye at the end of the slideshow, every fiber in my being was quaking with the realization that I had truly had the best mother in the world.

Fear? I Can Live with It.

Technically, tonight, I am still a junior. I have never taken a single college course or talked with a single person my senior year. This fact brings feelings of both excitement and fear. Initially, it was mostly fear to be honest. It kinda still is. But when you invite this feeling in and harbor it for a while, it can very well consume all that is pure and lovely in your innermost being.

Having suffered from severe anxiety in the past (more on that in a later post, pinky promise), I feel that my instincts towards sensing fear may be more heightened and sensitive than others. At first, I faced this fact with fear and trembling. By doing so, making matters much much worse than they actually were. I thought that God was punishing me with a curse of some kind, crippling me both emotionally and physically for being so fearful all the time. But now, I don’t see my sensitivity towards fear as a harsh reprimand of any kind. In fact, I see it as a gift. Even more so, a blessing.

Some people, for whatever reasons, go through absolutely horrific things in order to learn from their experiences and become better people. Actually, all people have to learn lessons from bad experiences. But with different people suffering from different temptations and tendencies, there are different trials that God allows into our lives. And these trials are not meant to deprive us of all hope and joy, but rather to build up our faith, allowing patience to have its perfect work (James 1:4).

With all of the pain and pressure my fearful tendencies have brought me over the course of my life, my faith has been made as resilient and radiant as a diamond. I find myself relating heavily to 1 Peter 1:6-7:

“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

Whenever I feel fearful, I turn to the scriptures that pertain to this feeling. There are hundreds of verses in the Bible that tell us not to be afraid. These particular few, however, have provided me with far more comfort than I had ever dared hope to receive:

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” 1 John 4:18

“Do not tremble; do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim my purposes for you long ago? You are my witnesses—is there any other God? No! There is no other Rock—not one!” Isaiah 44:8

“He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you.” Psalm 91:4-8

I can in no way try to deny the existence of my fears, that would be like trying to deny the existence of the devil himself, but I can and will refuse to be a slave to them. God may be allowing Satan to test my spirit, but the spirit that has and will always be there is a spirit of love given to me by my good, good Father. My battle with fearful feelings has easily become one of the greatest blessings of my life. For it not only has me constantly running into the arms of my loving Savior, but it also opens my eyes to the void in my heart that only Jesus can fill. It can easily be filled with other things that bring us pleasure, but only the Holy Spirit can sustain you in such a way that keeps on giving, and giving, and giving. And guess what? He expects absolutely nothing in return, only that our arms remain open to receive limitless amounts of faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

The Great Sin

Technically I wrote this about a month ago, but I just really love C.S. Lewis and thought I’d share it via blog post:

Having recently read C.S Lewis’ Mere Christianity, I would have thought that my favorite chapter would have been over something like forgiveness, charity, hope, or faith. Turns out the one that struck me the most was entitled “The Great Sin.” Sounds kinda scary, right? In it, pride was explained in thorough detail from the inside out, never beating around the bush.

Pride was explained as “the complete anti-God state of mind,” and even going further to say that, “as long as you are proud, you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” Rather than being triggered by our animal nature like anger and greed, pride is purely spiritual, making it all the more dangerous. As a spiritual cancer, it “eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.” With vanity you aren’t content with your own admiration, seeking it instead from others. But with pride, “you look down on others so much that you do not care what they think of you.”

At the end of the chapter, it provided the key to attaining humility: to recognize and own up to your own prideful nature. For “if you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.” I was never one to think of myself as a prideful person, but after reading this brief eight page chapter I realized rather quickly that I grapple with this vice constantly. Whether it be through social media, the clothing I wear, or any other outlet of my life.

Having a humble heart was never something I particularly prayed for in the past. But having recognized my own shortcomings in this particular area, I now see having a humble heart as an absolutely vital component to my Christian identity. The other chapters were amazingly wonderful, but this one seemed to have a brilliance all its own.

Weak and Weary? Perfect.

This brief study on weakness was triggered by the only two verses in my Bible that are not only underlined and highlighted, but also circled and bookmarked:

“And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Now, what is it exactly about these two verses that caused me to set them apart from the others in such a way? A way all their own? In short, they uphold the weak. The weak. The ones that are always picked last whenever dodge ball was the game of choice during P.E. The ones that are attacked and mugged/raped in seemingly stagnant street corners and back-alleys. The ones that are deemed worthless and deadweight on a long journey and left for dead. The ones that lose a friend or loved one and fuel their gut-wrenching sobs with the strength that was formerly keeping them upright. The ones that studied all night and use whatever strength they can muster just to make it to the coffeepot.

In a way, the diversity of the weak and weary populace is a beautiful thing. Millions of scenarios could be used in millions of different places concerning millions of different people, in fact, all of mankind. At one point or another, everyone experiences a moment of weakness, whether they would like to admit it or not. In a weird way, this unifies us all, one with another. With the art of social media and simply just holding our tongues, no one ever need know about our particular struggles that sap us of our strength, but are they really something that we should be ashamed of and pretend to be invincible against?

Perfection is my enemy. That is, the imaginary kind which is based off of one’s own merit. Having the perfect job and living in the perfect house may portray the appearance of perfection to most, but what does all of that even amount to? Today, probably a mountain of student loans and a rather hefty mortgage. But even if both were paid for free and clear, would we then be made perfect? No.

For it is Christ who can make one perfect, Christ. The definition of perfection is stated asthe condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defect.” When we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, doesn’t He free us from all flaws or defect? Our sins will be made white as snow and cast into the depths of the sea. Without our faith in Him, we could never even get a glimpse at what real perfection even looks like.

Credit to attaining perfection is also given to the very trials that initiate weakness. James 1:2-4 says,

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

In other words, weakness comes in full circle. It may seem completely unnecessary and unbearable, but God still has the power to either utilize it or overcome it, either way using it for His greater purpose and for your own benefit. Although it may not always be apparent, this fact is undeniably true. In order to utilize it, God chooses the weak to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27) and tells others to go out of their way to help them, exemplifying Christ’s love (Romans 15:1).

As for overcoming weakness, Isaiah 40:29-31 provides the perfect example of Christ accomplishing such a feat,

“He gives strength to the weak, and to him that lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength: they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

To sum up, weakness is a necessary state of being. Each and every one of us is a slave to it, yet it also fuels our loving relationship with our good, good Father, causing His strength to be made perfect. Without weakness, we would also never look to Him for help or guidance. Why would we? Without the steadfastness produced by the testing of our faith, we wouldn’t be made perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Feeling weak and weary is in no way enjoyable, but God will not allow pain without something new to be born. Perhaps you may one day be born with a pair of wings atop your shoulders much like an eagle.

Hello, World!

Well, looks like I have finally accepted the warm welcome from the wonderful world of blogging. Hopefully this introductory post will be followed up with some awesome posts pertaining to an awesome God. I’d like to think they will be posted only about a week or so apart from one another, but realistically it will probably be a month or two. Either way, in God’s perfect timing.