I began writing about this topic last year. More than ever before we need conversations. One on one with love on.
Dear Cameron Joshua and Erin Marie,
Today there is a crisis in our nation and the country is in a Stay In Place order due to a virus called Corona virus, which means we aren’t able to meet together for what for us is the most blessed celebration of our faith, Easter Sunday. I have been missing you both so profoundly as you, Erin, turn 6 weeks old, and you, Cameron, turn 3 in a few weeks. I am missing more of your life than I ever thought I would but today Hope resurfaced.
Today my beautiful grandchildren, today, your Papa got up and made coffee for us, then he showered and put on a suit and tie. I followed his lead and dressed for church as if it was any other normal Sunday. We got in our car and drove off to the church.
John 20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.
Today your Papa went into an empty church, and said to the essential staff that it takes to preach an online message to and said, “The church may be empty this morning but so was the tomb and we are going to proclaim the WORD to more people than we would have reached normally.”
8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
Your Papa met Jesus when he was not much older than you are and he has proclaimed him since. He wasn’t going to stay home and not reach anyone on this day, THE DAY, our faith is built on. He was going to go to his pulpit and shout it out to the world. This isn’t any ordinary day and this isn’t a day to be taken casually. Is any day really?
If you’ve ever preached to an empty room it isn’t easy. You get feedback and body language from those who are present and came to hear. It helps you move forward but your Papa has been doing this a long time. And he pushed through knowing he was called by God to give Hope and an invitation.
So today he was a Pastor to a world who is scared that they will get a virus. He preached for you both, that you always know that Jesus is the center of our life. He preached to the ones who still don’t know about Jesus and he reminded me and himself that Jesus is the center of it all. While God has sat us all down, Papa is still doing what he has called to do.
I wrote all of this out in my bible today but just in case it is lost, technology will live on. One thing you will have forever is that Nana and Papa love you with their whole heart and you have a strong legacy of prayer and service to the Church and Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! He is Risen. We have hope and God’s Promises.
The disciples were asked to watch and pray while their Shepherd soon to be Savior went off to pray. Distracted, not sensing the importance of the training and the hour they found themselves in, they quietly fell asleep. How alone Jesus must have felt. Yet in just a short while he would endure the cross and let God be famous.
Pastors feel this way sometimes too. Lonely. Yet their faithfulness to their calling keeps them steadfast knowing they are truly never alone and that Jesus is nearby. Never wavering to the allure of slumber or limelight although both sometimes seem appealing they keep moving forward. Big boisterous voices wagging fingers in condemnation or watered down gospels get applause and a sensation of grandeur for a moment while the pastors in the trenches of community work year after year to train those at the sound of their voice to listen for the voice of Jesus. Let God be famous.
Beth Moore said, “Cynicism is just arrogance pretending to be smart.” We can criticize the church and/or their leaders, tell you how we would do it, tell you that she is irrelevant but we would be exalting ourselves and not the one who reigns supreme. Let God be famous .
No, it would do us best to serve and love faithfully. When my husband was a young pastor a pastor and mentor told him, “Doug, if you want to make a difference in your community, plant deeps roots in the city, buy a pick up truck, and serve the people.” In other words, don’t quit. Make a difference where you are planted. Serve God faithfully, do what you can do for people and let God be famous.
I watch Cameron intently as he plays. He is serious, studious, loving, funny in a sarcastic way, and I can’t help but see my son in him. His profile, the way he assesses the environment before he either engages or not. The way he moves closer to us as a stranger walks into the room. His total refusal to call my mom Nana because as he pointed out, “No, you my Nana.” It points to his loyalty. The way he sees himself as protector.
I point all of this out to my daughter-in-love and while she smiles and laughs with me I recognize she has no point of reference to her husband as a toddler. Nor should she.
I wonder if she knows that as she mothers him the time flies quickly by? I wonder if she knows that the reason why he will pick a great wife is that she will raise a great man and have faith in herself that she can? I wonder if she knows the love she feels for her son will multiply a thousand times when she looks at his child?
No, she doesn’t know yet because none of us do before it happens. Instead good moms stress kindness, love, manners, respect, honor, humility, and education all while juggling a huge to-do list and worrying that we aren’t doing enough or that we are doing too much. In the meantime our children wrap themselves around our heart and we know that we will never be the same and we don’t want to be. No, no one can prepare you for those feelings that will come until they do.
I look at my grandson and my heart swells with joy. When we sing together or when he says, “Nana I will sing you a song” and breaks out in a toddler version of Amazing Grace it is as if angels are singing. Yes, yes, off key and pitch but nevertheless beautiful and a sound you wouldn’t trade for the world.
In those moments we do not have the profound revelation that all that we have lived through, all the hurts, pains, dysfunction that we all face will be worth it for the results that await us in the near future.
My daughter-in-love is beautiful. She is real, honest, loving, filled with integrity and character and the most amazing mom on the planet. She along with her husband are teaching Cameron the value of family, creating a strong and stable home where violence and love are opposed to one another. I heard Anthony say to Cameron in the middle of a toddler tantrum, “No, I don’t hit you and you don’t hit me. You can be angry but you can’t hit.” Above all their home is Christ-centered and they are laying solid foundation in our faith as Christians.
I am grateful she continues to humor me as I tell her stories of my son as a toddler, listens to recordings of his bath time, and has taken time to read through every single piece of art he made in pre-school. She is preparing Cameron to be a good big brother, a worthwhile friend, a man of character who will one day lead his family well. And although she doesn’t know it yet, she is preparing her heart to guide a daughter-in-love, to love her well, and to laugh and hold her grand babies one day.
I wonder if she knows that I hold her close in my heart because of who she is all by herself? My son’s wife, my grandson’s mom is all secondary to who she is. Her name is Frances Martinez and you are blessed if you know her.
While sorting through my feelings of tribalism and it’s non-ending cycle of inclusion and exclusion I found Joaquin Phoenix and his acceptance speech something to be thought out. Take a listen:
Words like championing causes vs commonality of passion towards any issue doesn’t necessarily include or exclude unless we have no room for opinion. He talked of an egocentric world view and while his point was a natural world view, it wasn’t lost on me that even in discussion of causes we leave no room for difference. As he so eloquently put it we are best when we support each other instead of canceling each other out. There was another layer laid on my heart as I continue to work out my thought process on this issue.
Social Media is becoming the bane of my existence and yes it is not lost on me that I am typing on a blog.
It all started December 2. My husband’s birthday. Well, maybe it started before then, but this is when it clicked for me. We each have social media accounts but due to metrics which I don’t care to understand, nor research, nor change, my posts rarely, if ever, show up on his feed nor do his show up on mine. We comment to each other about it even.
I decided that for his birthday I was taking him out of town. I also made a self discovery that the long flowery post for his birthday on how great he is wasn’t for him since he may not see it. So why write it? I mean, do I need to tell the world how much he means or was I simply posting to be seen? No, instead I decided I would tell him everything I thought face to face. We arrived at our hotel and we stood out on the balcony watching the waves and I told him everything I would have written on Facebook. Eye to eye watching his smile reach his eyes cause he’s a words of affirmation guy.
Only I found myself answering questions. People noticed I didn’t wax poetic on social media they wanted to know was everything alright? Perhaps because we’ve all been sucked into believing it was the thing to do in the past. Were we in trouble? No, but at some point you have to get real, real about who you are and what you are doing. Maybe I’m changing because honestly prior to this I thought how special it was to post what I felt for my husband on social media, but really? How I feel about him shows. It shows when we sit together. It shows when we look for each other in a crowded room. It shows when we have dinner together and talk about everything and nothing. I don’t have to prove a point.
We are both pastors. Between us we host four small groups a week. We each host one alone and two together. Those two together we host in our home and so our friends are over twice a week which means we share our home with about 20 people a week. We love it. We love our friends and we love our life but there are some things we determined some time ago we would not share. So our bedroom is off limits. That is a sacred space that belongs to the two of us. There isn’t anything special about our room except it’s a room for us in our home that only the two of us share.
Can we get back to a place where something doesn’t need to be wrong to not make an over the top public declaration that the person who it was meant for wasn’t going to see? I post vacations after they happen. I don’t always post when our grandson is over. Sometimes things are in the moment and I don’t need an audience. Yes, I want to share my life. Yes I want to keep in contact with people in my life, but I want the sacred as well. I’m not a fishbowl person and I recognize that I live a fishbowl life in many ways but still there remains private, not secret, places in which I can choose not to share.
So I took a piece of my life back. I honestly don’t think anyone cares what I do all day. I don’t think you care or have time for what I ate today, unless it’s some fabulous recipe that I may want to let you know about. Beyond that, my makeup routine, coffee routine, workout routine, it’s all mundane we all have them.
I am grateful to those who reached out to see if my marriage is intact, if it’s good. It shows my friends noticed and they care. I loved that but it’s time to get real with myself and with you. I want to look into those blue eyes and tell him what he means to me and I don’t need an audience.
Intimacy can’t be found in media. When it is attempted it’s called pornography.
Intimacy is found in tangible expression.
Intimacy is real, sacred, private.
When we began to speak of our tribes several years ago, I embraced the concept wholeheartedly. Growing up third generation American my ancestors told stories of why we needed to stick together against racism and for survivalism in a country that didn’t always embrace its diversity. Tribalism embraces a poverty mindset that says we must preserve ourselves in the midst of those who would take away who we are.
Growing up in California I was privileged to have grown up with a wide variety of culture yet even then there was tribalism. When we go to eat Chinese Food in China Town we know there aren’t going to be stores where we can buy tortillas.
So the concept of “streams” and “tribes” didn’t signal any alarms until I began to examine how we use them. We use them to keep people rounded up and to keep others out. We hang onto to a sense of who is in, who is allowed to visit, and who is definitely out.
Jesus came to dispel tribalism or at least redefine it. He brought about the discussion and complexity of community while he mingled with many. When Jesus is among the people his mother and brothers show up to talk to him.
Matthew 12:46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
In fact his detractors questioned his choice of dinner companions.
Matthew 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Ultimately the inclusivity of whosoever is what brought him down. The tribe could not fathom sharing their lives with those who did not belong and that is the shadow which we walk in today because tribalism is still our thing. When we determine who is in and who is out not based on qualification but based on standing within the tribe we are acting out of the lack instead of embracing the abundance Jesus tried to bring. When we decide we can’t live in community within the confines of a tribe not because of evil but because of our perceived notions of where we stand within that tribe it shows we have yet to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.
As I struggle to dispel the concept of tribalism and embrace inclusive community I doubt this will be the last post on the topic but it begins the process of discovering my role in it all.
Lulu the Wonder Dog came to me in 2007. She stole my heart and set me right. She taught me so many lessons. Only some of which I have shared on this blog over the years.
Then just before Christmas she went down. And just like that I found myself in the middle of a custody dispute. She spent a day where she didn’t want to eat and she didn’t want to play. I called the vet and got in that very day, and bloodwork and an exam yielded no explanation. A geriatric dog they said. Lulu and I rebuked the diagnosis as she was sharp and athletic and besides who calls an old gal geriatric to her face? Oh she had a few fatty tumors that dogs of a certain age get but we dealt with it like we deal with that occasional chin hair.
I put my forehead to her forehead and we prayed. I asked God to prolong her life. I asked for wisdom and to send us the right vet who wouldn’t just call her old to her face.
We muddled through Christmas and she would rally and then set back. New Years Eve she kept getting up to clear her throat and I woke up with her several times. So New Years day we were back at the vet. Another vet saw her and diagnosed her. cancer. I refuse to capitalize it. Lymph nodes swollen, thyroid enlarged all indications of cancer. He told me she was still in decent shape. It wasn’t time to make decisions yet but to take her home and make her comfortable. He also warned me that her death would probably not be pretty. Somehow I got us both out to the car before I broke down sobbing so hard I could not catch my breath. Again, I asked the Lord for more time. The custody dispute was in full swing.
The following day she was semi-back to normal. Eating, running around and bossing our two year old golden retriever, Baron around.
Day 2 of the diagnosis, she eats her breakfast and just for fun, goes and eats a part of Baron’s food. And I thank God and think things are good. I go off to run errands and when I come back things are not good at all. I call the vet and we head for an emergency visit. I get the same vet from two days before and he says, “Aw man, I thought for sure we had more time with this sweet girl.”
And just like that it’s over. I lost my custody dispute. I called unfair advantage and at the same time I thanked God for the gift of Lulu The Wonder Dog and told him I guess he needed her more. For those of you who don’t believe there are dogs in heaven don’t bother with rude replies. I read about lions, and lambs, and horses and if heaven is all it is cracked up to be, and I believe that it is, then of course Lulu is there because well, heaven wouldn’t be heaven without her.
So alright Lord, you win this custody dispute but I know your promises are true and I know that I am saved and heaven bound so it’s just a matter of time.
And I know what you are asking. What about Baron? Baron is a complete love. He’s smart in a dog way, he loves to snuggle, he is thief of just about anything, and he has been known to snatch and grab off of the counter when he thinks no one is looking. He’s your typical dog though, but we have bonded more so over the last couple of days of grief. He is moping around the house. He woke me up at least three times the night Lulu didn’t come home. Now each time I walk in the door he comes up and sniffs me to see if I know of her whereabouts and walks away and plops down and sighs. I get it. I miss her too.
My husband said in his loving way to get a grip when I told him I was done with dogs and never wanted another one again. “Listen, you’ll never have another dog like Lulu because there just has never been a dog like Lulu and there can’t be. She’s one of a kind. But you’ll have to think about getting a bonehead dog for Baron because he truly is grieving.”
It’s too soon for me to think about it. Ok he answered. Maybe in five years. Maybe never.
But I never could imagine my life without her and if I was offered the chance to do it all again with her I would say a million times yes.
Oh and the custody dispute? I resolve to deal with it because ultimately Lulu The Wonder Dog was always his and merely entrusted to me for a season. I took ownership because it”s like having kids, we think they’re possessions but they aren’t at all. I feel pretty blessed though that the Lord trusted me with her. I have to be on the top of his list to get that assignment. Or maybe she was at the top and God knew I needed help. After all, I said all the time I didn’t know who rescued who.
In the meantime, it is pretty still and quiet at the Young’s house as we begin to try to adjust. So say a little prayer for us and hug your dogs a little tighter. And if you think about it, give them a little treat in honor of Lulu. Not a dog treat as that is common and she would turn her nose up for sure and would expect your dog, if they had dignity at all, to do the same. Instead give them a big scoop of whipped cream, that would please her to no end. She loved everyone and it would make her happy to know she made someone’s day a little brighter.
I was listening to a call from Dr. Laura that has me mulling some things over. Have you ever heard the desperation in someone’s voice and related to those thoughts? The conversation I heard has made a significant self discovery.
The call was from a mom who had her last daughter leave for college. She was having a hard time adjusting to an empty nest. She had poured herself into her life as a mom and she felt she no longer had purpose beyond that. Dr. Laura carefully navigated her back to herself. She asked her what she had dreamed of being as a young woman and took her on a journey of rediscovering her life before motherhood and moving her toward her life after motherhood.
None of this to say that motherhood is bad It is a wonderful season. She immersed herself in the role that was offered in that time and space of her life. I am happy she was able to see and set her priority as a mom. This isn’t easy to do. I was driving during the call and actually said out loud to the radio, “Awww, you’re a mom with a good heart.”
Then it got real. Dr. Laura told her she was to be commended for her thoughtful way of navigating this time of her life. She said that sometimes women have more babies so as to not let go of that feeling of being needed. As soon as their child gets to a certain age, they’ll have another baby and begin a cycle. Dr. Laura didn’t say it as a bad thing rather just a fact of life for some.
It was then that it hit me. I was that woman. When my daughter Casey was heading off to college and the thought of being alone hit me, I immersed myself in a new marriage, small stepchildren. When things got especially hard, I immersed myself in one week old rescue dog I named Lulu which was an ode to Toddler Casey who one day proclaimed that her name was CaseyLulu and no one could address her as Casey anymore. When nothing seemed to be going right and I felt as if I were drowning in grief and displacement, I went harder at this process never allowing myself to settle in a new role. So while I didn’t have another child physically, I began again in essence. Perhaps the reason I didn’t think about what happens next was because I was a young mom and I had never been an adult without children. If I learned a lesson, can I put it down in words for myself and others who are going through these same points in life?
Our season as our kid’s parents is short in the relative scheme of life. We are entrusted with these little beings to raise and it is our job to entrust them with the future and the knowledge of God and healthy relationships with others. After that, we become colleagues to these familiar adults and offer advice when asked. It is before we get to this time that we have to look for the next thing we are going to do with our lives.
Life is forever changing.
My hope is that you are aware and looking forward to the next part of your life. My time for mothering is complete. My children are all up and out. Each of them are productive members of society and for that I am grateful beyond measure to God.
This new season that I am in brings on challenges of its own in new thought processes. I have a new purpose as a Nana to Cameron Joshua who is 2. Lulu the Wonder Dog turns 13 in about a month and our eyes fix on what is next. We are weighing options of retirement, where and when are the questions as we look to the next opportunity. As I type I realize much of life’s answers and good choices are made with lots of prayer and self reflection before we impulsively plunge into something that looks like a solution to frankly a problem that doesn’t have to be one. Life isn’t lived out fully if we are putting out fires of what-if thinking but instead it is lived out with assessment and consideration and looking at the bigger picture and the future that awaits.
A friend called to ask advice over an incident that occurred. I listened carefully, then I laughed because what do you do other than laugh? The story went like this. My friend has three dogs. As with most pet owners they are indoor/outdoor dogs and at any given moment they can be inside or outside.
The neighbor children took to daring each other to climb over the fence into my friend’s yard to see what the dogs would do. My friend’s dog’s are trained and friendly but they are dogs and therefore can react differently than anticipated if they feel threatened. My friend happened to be home to see the children climb over into her yard and her dogs, fortunately reacted accordingly without barking or acting aggressively.
Upon further thought, she walked over to the neighbor’s home and politely told the mother about the incident telling her that her dogs were trained but that dogs react differently under pressure and she didn’t want anyone to get hurt. The mother became angry and said that these dogs “better not” bite her children. Rather than apologizing for her trespassing children she went into accusation mode. My friend shouldn’t have dogs if they are going to hurt children. Needless to say the conversation didn’t go well. The mother told my friend she would call the police because her dogs were dangerous.
What do you do when there is no foundation for an accusation? I remember a similar incident when we had our cat Joy who passed away of old age a few years ago. A neighbor came to my door and said that my cat was getting the other cats pregnant on our block and I needed to do something about it. She knew this because the kittens looked like my cat she explained. I assured her that it was not my cat as my cat was female and spayed. She shouted, “Are you sure because these kittens sure look like your cat?” Believe me I am sure.
One of the 10 Commandments is that you should not lie about your neighbor. I know these sets of basic human decency boundaries are considered outdated but they still hold true today for a civilized society. How do we hold to tenants that no longer apply? For those of us in Christ the bearing of false witness is a real thing. In a world where the media reports and then fact checks later it can get confusing as to what is right and what is wrong. Friends, don’t be deceived. We will give an account to God for every word that proceeds from our mouth. In a culture where truth isn’t valued it will be important to keep yourself clean of these types of infractions. Instead keep your peace. The accusations being thrown about are truly not your concern and don’t add a minute to your day.
My advice to my friend? Guard your pearls. Matthew 7:6