Peace On Earth

I have a lovely friendsin. I’m sorry if you don’t. They are good to have. The term came to be because she and I are friends, but also happen to be married to men who are 1st cousins…so that makes us friendsins.

She is a special lady with a special little boy named Maddox. She has watched her precious little boy struggle for most of his 6 years on this earth. Maddox was born healthy but then at only 3 weeks old he contracted meningitis and suffered significant brain damage. He wasn’t expected to live after he was removed from life support, but he did. Then he wasn’t expected to live to his 1st birthday, but he did. He’s been the exception to most rules.

Maddox is the kind of kid who still manages a smile to assure his loved ones he’s still fighting. He’s never spoken a word and is visually impaired, but he knows his mother’s touch and will light up at the sound of his father’s voice. He is living proof that miracles happen.

He teaches me that it doesn’t take words or deeds to love.

Now, 6 years later and just 3 days before Christmas, it appears he has arrived at the time when he will soon be in heaven.

His mother loves him so much that she recently said she was ready for him to be healed and be with Jesus. I can’t imagine the strength it takes to say those words out loud.  It’s not what’s best for her, but it’s what’s best for him and that’s her heart’s desire. The selfless love of a mother radiates from her.

Through her broken heart she has peace.

When I put myself in her shoes I can’t image I’d be walking this journey with as much grace as she does. I’m by nature anxiety and worry filled, especially when it comes to my kids. She is certainly not free of anxiety and worry, but she has faith that keeps it from overrunning her mind.

Watching her family over the years has been such a blessing and has taught me so much by their example.

Peace isn’t a place we arrive. It doesn’t only come when everything in life is going smoothly. It’s easy to have peace when all is well.  It’s those times of turmoil when our faith is put to the test.  It is in those times when we can discern real peace from perceived peace.

Peace is found when one can believe and trust the promises of God despite the circumstances. It’s living a life of assurance that God is in control thus we don’t have to be. Peace is independent of the outside noise of life and the hurts of this world.

Watching them be peaceful in the midst of their storm shows me that it’s possible.

During this week, as we are with family and friends, enjoying a table full of food and the sound of excited kids may we always have a heart of gratitude. May we appreciate the good times, understanding that good times don’t last, but praise God neither do bad times.

People have bad days, terrible days, get sick, get divorced, have financial devastation, and are betrayed by those who should love us the most. Things go wrong when we live in an imperfect world full of imperfect people.

Not all little boys get to grow up into men.

Love is the biggest blessing and can be the deepest heartache.

Not everyone will have a gift to unwrap under the tree this year, but we were all given a heavenly gift that we can enjoy this Christmas and all throughout the year. We were given a baby who was born to a peaceful woman in a lowly manger.

He was called prince of peace by no coincidence.

He came as God’s gift to us. He gave us promises that he immeasurably loves us and has a plan for each of us.

Christmas is a day to remember and celebrate that gift of peace who was born that day.

If my friendsin can find peace as she watches her son fade from her then there is hope for all of us.

Maddox has a purpose in life.

I believe he is a teacher. He teaches everyone who knows him how much love can be conveyed with just a smile. He is a picture of bravery by being a tiny warrior who perseveres beyond what any doctor expected. The prince of peace proves that while he equipped doctors to attend to his Maddox’s needs, that he is the great physician and the only one who knows the number of our days.

Without ever saying a word to me Maddox is teaching me what it looks like to find peace no matter the situation.

As Christmas rapidly approaches, my prayer is that every single one of you feel the peace God intended for you, despite your circumstances. I’m on the journey to do so as well.

I pray that should our little warrior go home to be with Jesus today that peace will overcome and flood the hearts of my friendsin and her husband. I pray for peace to be so all-consuming that they will clearly recognize it’s coming straight from their Maddox’s new home in heaven.

From my heart to yours, MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Rehomed

My husband use to travel a lot. This meant I was often the solo adult in charge of keeping the children alive. My safety never crossed my mind whenever he was home. I’m not sure what I thought he’d do if anyone tried to break in, but I’m certain he would have taken care of it. By ‘taken care of it’ I mean that I know he would kill someone with his bare hands, if necessary. However, in his absence I realized I needed backup.

This is why we got a security system and surveillance cameras installed at the house. I took some self-defense classes and read up on gun safety. The No Trespassing signs were discreetly placed on the front and back doors in effort to detour any prospective intruder or Jehovah Witness. We also decided we would get a big black dog. That should do it. Any more than that and the neighbors may have thought I was paranoid. (Not all of this statement is true. I can’t tell you which part is and which part isn’t. It shouldn’t concern you. PS The security alarm part is true. And the part about the dog. )

It needed to be a big dog, scary bark, but also one that didn’t shed, poop too often or bother me in any way.

Enter Margaux. She was the calmest, most chill would-be killer dog of the litter. This adorable wavy haired pup quickly turned into a balls crazy, ADHD, spawn of Satan dog within a matter of weeks.

I had a vision of my big fury protector walking calmly beside me, watching side to side like a secret service agent, always ready to spring into action if needed. What I got was a dog that required more patience of me than either of my kids had ever required.  We had Margaux for all of 8 months before we rehomed her.

(Rehome is a new word which is a nice way of saying that we couldn’t deal anymore so we gave her away.)

During the short time we had her we: replaced the garage door (twice), replaced the garage door opener mechanism (twice), replaced multiple bushes from the landscaping, backfilled many holes in the back yard, apologized to neighbors who she chased while they were on a neighborhood stroll, too many chewed up shoes to count, etc. During that 8 months, separate from vet costs and food expense, we spent more than $3,000 in home repairs.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven times.”

Folks, I didn’t say it. That came out of Jesus’ mouth. That totals up to the fact that we are on the hook to forgive someone at least 490 times before we can say to hell with them.

Statistically, Margaux would have hit 490 around a year or so, but I’m not Jesus and decided to move on a little sooner than that.

There are times when I have to prayerfully consider what is worth fighting for and what needs to be moved on from. Margaux needed to be moved on from, for both our sakes.

We were toxic for each other. I didn’t appreciate her skill sets of digging, chewing or making me chase her down the street. She couldn’t peacefully live with the fact that I demanded she only gnaw on her chew toys and not the couch legs.

We tried, we really wanted it to work. We got her private obedience lessons and everything. It just wasn’t happening. We weren’t meant to be, her and me.

There are approximately 7.13 billion people in this world. I only know a few of them. Every once in a while life seems to allow a person, or in this case, dog, to be in my life for a season of time then pass on by. Every once in a while that pass on part comes with heartache and disappointment, but occasionally the pass on part comes with relief.  Either way, there are certainly times when pass on is necessary.  In their absence I can usually see how they made a beautiful mark on my life, but mostly the mark is better appreciated after they’re gone.

I always learn something from the ones I had to rehome. Thankfully rehoming doesn’t happen too often. After quite a few years on this planet I finally have come to grips with the fact that I can’t be friends with everyone, whether human or canine. There are some who are flat out toxic and need to be, not given up on, but moved on from.

Dogs are a lot like our human relationships in that they are flawed and imperfect creatures. They fall short. I fall short. We both require a lot of love and forgiveness and require patience.

However, sometimes even after trying everything I know to try it still just doesn’t work. The boundaries I have to set which allows me to be a sane and content individual get crossed. Some relationships steal joy and at some point become necessary to be rehomed.

There comes a time in certain relationships when I have to walk away.

Before you deem me a complete loser for rehoming our dog I do want to mention that we also have an 11 year old, tiny, white dog named Piper. He’s the kind of dog you see Paris Hilton carry in her purse. He’s part of the family. My kids don’t remember life without him. He’s a great dog now. As a puppy he peed on everything. It doesn’t seem as bad now because years have passed and we were younger then, but at the time we were house training him I remember wanting to throw him away on certain days.

We didn’t rehome Piper because despite his challenges we still were able to maintain a sense of joy and peace while co-existing with him.

Margaux presented challenges that were relentless and never ending. She was worthy of love, but made us chronically miserable. She’s happier now with someone better suited for her personality. And so are we.

Her 490 ticker can start new with them. Maybe that’s what she needed, what we all at times need, a fresh slate.

It turns out that Piper, despite his size is a great guard dog. He will bark when the wind blows. Nothing is happening in this house without him to alert us of it. Margaux left her mark in our hearts as well as on several walls and baseboards. She will never be forgotten, but we all concur that life is more pleasurable without her.

It’s important to note that it’s still not wise to attempt to break into my house as our tiny little Piper dog can hold his own. He’s never met an ankle he was scared of yet.

Mutually Human

statue of lib

Raise your hand if you remember watching Roots. Or Selma. Or Straight Out Of Compton.

Keep your hand raised if you are a white person who felt some shame and even a little bit of guilt as you left the theater for what racist white people did in those films.

Yeah, me too.

I wanted to pull a Jerry Maguire and run around hugging everyone while announcing “I love black people!” Just to make sure nobody thought any of those bigots in the movie represented me.

I get the feeling that the Muslim taxi driver who picked us up from the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City probably felt the same way.

The museum is not for the faint of heart. It’s a 3 hour self-guided tour of heartbreak. It features relics of that day. The luggage of one of the hijackers, pieces of airplanes, twisted metal, shoes, eyeglasses, firefighter hats and pictures.

Tons and tons of pictures.

Pictures of average looking people who went to work on an average looking day but then ended up having their picture as part of an exhibit in a museum.

All of the bad guys who caused this tragedy were Muslim extremist. I studied their vacant expressions in the pics of them featured in the museum. It was easy to start allowing ugly thoughts about Muslims to build up inside my mind as I continued through the exhibits. We stood and watched the surveillance footage of the hijackers casually checking out of their hotel on the morning of Sept 11th then heading to the airport with mass murder on their daily agendas.

So callous.

It’s hard for any sane person to fathom their rationale.

Also, I’ll admit that prior to arriving in NYC for the Thanksgiving weekend with my family I had to take a Xanax before boarding the plane. It was just a few days after the Paris attacks. The terrorism risk was raised to high for air travel.

So my pre-anxiety due to current world events coupled with my raw emotions from touring the museum had me slightly on edge.

When we walked out of the museum heading to dinner the cab that my husband hailed just so happened to be driven by a Muslim man. I immediately recognized that to feel anything ill towards this young man, as though he had done anything wrong, was discrimination and unfair to him, but I felt slightly uneasy despite the logic.

I watchfully climbed into his car.

Traffic was a snarled mess and it took us a half hour to go 7 miles. In that time we got to know our cab driver pretty well.

I know it’s not customary to chat up the cabbie, but we are from the south. The initial 45 seconds of silence felt weird and rude and uncomfortable so our southern hospitality overrode the ways of the big city and a conversation ensued.

Because of this I can tell you all about the driver, what he loves and what bothers him, his political views and his thoughts on religion.

I can’t help it. When I get nervous I talk.

He was a young 32 year old who called both Libya and Algeria home. He was married and had a baby girl. He and his wife came to America 22 months ago to pursue their dreams of getting college degrees and making a good life for their daughter. His wife attends college classes until 2pm every day while he stays home with the baby. When she gets home he leaves and drives his cab until midnight to financially support the family. Their plans are for him to go to college after she graduates. He told us he fluently can speak Arabic, Italian, Spanish and English. He said his daughter’s 1st language will be Arabic, but that he wants her to also speak English. He was proud of his Muslim heritage.

I asked, “Do you ever have time to see your wife with that schedule?” He shook his head and said, “No, but it’s the sacrifice we make for the dream.”

To further solidify my American snob status I asked another question and immediately realized how pretentious it sounded. I said to him, “So you must really love it here compared to Libya don’t you?” He immediately responded that he misses home, their food and inexpensive healthcare. He told me I shouldn’t visit Libya right now because “the terrorist are doing crazy things and nobody understands them” but once that’s all over and things return to normal there he suggested I go visit. “It’s a beautiful country.” he said.

In that short conversation he became human.

Not Muslim or Libyan or anything else, but just mutually human.

I can sympathize with him on how it must feel to be Muslim right now in this country while the extremist of his faith are making headlines for the most horrific of reasons. It probably feels similar to how I feel when I see people in this country do inhumane things in the name of Christianity.

News Jesus always seems biased and intolerant. The news Jesus and his followers always look harsh and unlovable and condemning. The Jesus portrayed in the national news is not the same Jesus I know.  The Jesus I follow didn’t turn people away or hate anyone.  He didn’t condone anyone being heartless towards anyone else.

I don’t recognize news Jesus. Most Muslims don’t see any semblance of their faith in the footage they see of ISIS either.

If you read my bio on this website you will notice that I said I was raised by Baptist parents.

Want to know who else is Baptist? Those lunatics at Westboro Baptist Church.

You know the ones I’m talking about. They picket at military funerals and hold signs about God hating homosexuals.

Yep, them. They are Baptist.

I cringe every time they do something hateful. I really wish they didn’t call themselves Baptists and weren’t the ones scoring the PR for the rest of us, but the terrible tragic stories are always what is newsworthy. It’s one of the reasons I no longer associate myself with any religious denomination.

The people who shoot up abortion clinics and promote their ideas with fear under the name of Christianity are similarly minded to the crazy people who fly planes into buildings and promote their ideas with terror under the name of Islam.

Right now the big debate is if or how to allow Syrian refugees to enter our country. I don’t like being political on social media or on my blog because I hate reading about that stuff by others. However, when I hear people talk about a nation of people as though they are dogs and less human than we are because a few of them are heartless, it becomes a human issue, not just a political one.

I understand the concern with keeping the bad out. I fully agree that we have to be careful of who we allow to enter our country. It would be foolish not to be cautious. What I don’t understand is the harshness by which some Americans talk about the refugees, as though they aren’t real people.

I certainly hope that if I’m ever in a situation where I need to flee to safety with my family that I’m not rejected because the people who I’m running from are scaring the people I’m running to.

If this is the mentality Americans have then why don’t we be fair and implement these rules for all large groups of people in the name of public safety?

Let’s stop allowing men to attend the movies. All the shooters at the massacres in the movie cinemas over recent years have been men. We just can’t risk it.

Let’s go ahead and shut down online dating too. Statistics show that 10% of sex offenders use online dating services. Scams, rapes and even murders have happened as results of dates set up via online dating sites. It’s too dangerous.
But we don’t do anything like that because it wouldn’t be fair to the majority who are law abiding citizens.

There is evil in every group of people. People are flawed, but I have to believe that there is mostly goodness in every group of people.

As the cab ride came to an end and my exhausted family filed out of the cab I looked back at him and said, “Have a good night. Happy Thanksgiving.” He responded with a smile, “You too.”

Within 24 hours of stepping off the plane in Nashville, TN, from our NYC Thanksgiving trip we were back home putting up a Christmas tree. When the kids were little they would gleefully help decorate the tree, but now as teenagers they laid on the couch watching holiday movies while I did the decorating.

I’ll take it.

Right now I’m just happy we are safe in our home, not worried about suicide bombers nearby and not feeling as though our kids are in imminent danger as they head to school tomorrow.

Praying for the refugees who cannot say the same.

So grateful I live in this great country of ours.

Giving thanks a many.