WHY I WRITE THIS BLOG

By Lisa Huddleston

When I first began this blog, I was just beginning to re-discover my nearly lost love of writing.  My children were growing up, heading off to college, and I was suddenly (for the first time in 20 years) finding myself with too much time on my hands.  I was also in the throes of a massive identity crisis.

I began with devotionals.  Carefully crafted:  scripture verse at the top in italics, a discussion of what the verse was saying, a short life application, and often a call to action.  It was a safe way to write.  I always did my utmost to support anything I said from scripture, and I rarely heard anything but positive comments.

My writing has changed as I have.  Now I write from my emotional heart–my “being self.”  Yes, I still strive to support my words from a Christian worldview.  Afterall, I am a Christian.  However I have stopped hiding behind the Bible.  Now when I have real struggles and need to explore less-than-popular opinions, I do.  And that has changed the feedback that I have received.

But that is real.  Christians struggle.  Christians even sin.  And I would rather read the words of a struggling believer than those of someone who thinks they have it all together.  (I know–I’ve never even been able to pretend to that!!)

Both when I began and now, writing is cathartic.  Mainly this blog is a way for me to process what is going on in my heart and head–to make sense of the pinballs that are bouncing around in me.  It is not primarily about the reader.  But … I do care about my reader.  I do not want to discourage.  I do not want to promote doubtful or sinful living.  Not at all!  But I believe that being honest allows us both–reader and writer–to deal better with life.  Just as writing helps me to get rid of the junk I feel, reading the writings of others who are struggling helps me to do the same thing.

I’m sure by now you can guess that I have received negative feedback from someone who has been reading this blog.  I respect that and even appreciate the honesty that my reader has extended.  But as with everything, readers have a choice about what they read just as writers have a choice about what they write.  Freedom.  If I have offended (or discouraged or depressed) you, dear reader, please unsubscribe.  I appreciate your freedom to choose.

However this is who I am learning to be.  Me.  A struggling, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing, follower stumbling forward in the path of Jesus Christ.  I fall, a lot, but I always get back up and keep on walking.  And that’s where (or who) I am.  Hope you get that and can keep walking that path with me.

Peace and grace, and thanks for reading.

TENEBRAE

By Lisa Huddleston

The damned nails
Picked out of a basket
On the way into the dimly lit
Sanctuary of Christ
A silent service
Tenebrae
But iron nails kept falling
On the hardwood floor
Building my anxiety, my judgment, my frustration
Damned, noisy nails
Damned, noisy people
Seven silent words
Spoken once but tonight
Printed words on a screen
Then pounding
Nails into wood
But first through tender flesh
Not for judgment
But for forgiveness
For my sin, my carelessness, my clumsiness
And the damned nails
Held Him there until
It was finished

FUNERALS AND OTHER REMINDERS THAT I AM NOT IN CHARGE

By Lisa Huddleston

Yesterday we all attended the burial and memorial service for my husband’s sweet Uncle George.  The day began with bitter cold and snow (!) in March no less.  Sunday is Easter for goodness sake.  Snow is unacceptable, and I was not happy.  Not about George’s being dead and selfishly reminding me that everyone else is also dying.  Not about being stung by the biting wind and ice.  Not about having to put my tender soul through so much emotion.  But funerals wait for no man—unless you are family and are coming in from a long distance—so there I was (we were).  Bitter but present.

Thank God for my husband.  He is the glue in my life—in my crazy head that fractures over the least thing.  Gorilla glue!  And thank God for my precious daughter and her husband.  And for my life-long family/friend Sandra who always makes me laugh.  And for our parents who are still alive and the aunts and the uncles and the millions (no kidding) of cousins and their babies.  So much life at that graveside and at the rowdy lunch for the family that preceded the service.

But I am a true pessimist.  I always do my best to look for the dark side.  Why waste a great cloud by loading it down with a silver lining?  Gray days are fabulous just as they are.  So I tried to be appropriately gloomy and dark.  I wore a black dress, black tights, black shoes (funky, zippered booties with excruciating heels to make me suffer) and a very long, very sober black overcoat.  Appropriately appalled.  Very funereal.

But that stinking silver lining was just too bright.  Ah, what a wonderful family celebration.  George and his already heaven-dwelling wife, Joyce, just did everything too right not to celebrate!  Their four sons and two sons-in-law led the memorial with perfect originality—proving what great parents they had had.  Parents who loved them into being uniquely who God had knit them to be.  Whew!  Not a dry eye in the room.  It really should have been attended by everyone—family, friends and strangers alike.

I sat listening with silver-lined tears staining my face and my natural pessimism staining my heart.  Did they know how lucky they were?  Very few have families like theirs.  And I know I’m not living nearly as well as they did.  And, oh my gosh, what will my kids say about me?  And what will my sisters and I do or say at our father’s memorial?  And why don’t I invest in peoples’ lives more like George and Joyce did?  And why can’t I even be a little more understanding about the disabilities my own parents and in-laws are facing as they age?  Instead I am royally pissed off at the system around here.  Why do people have to fall apart so disgracefully?  It is shameful to do such rotten things to such strong people.  And how soon will my children be just as angry over my failings?  (Are they already?)  And, God, do you really mean for it to be so stinking awful?

Forget this mess.  I am out of this.  Nope.  Not going to play the game if I can’t even understand the rules.  I like word games.  Not thoughtless games of chance.  Just cremate me and throw me to the wind.  And not in the vegetable garden as my daughter used to fear—no mother-flavored asparagus (I promise).  Some place wild and free, please.  Hang hippie wind art from the trees.  Let the tossing and blowing remind you of my always restless soul and the brevity of breath.  Whew!  I’m a mess when I can’t be in control–which is basically all the time.

Thank God for my husband!  Thank God for God, too.  Whew! And again I say it—whew!

SPRING PROMISE

By Lisa Huddleston

 

Frog songs in soggy bogs

spot the road from the city to

my country home

 

Spring is coming and

daffodil exclamation points

dot the cow fields with yellow

shouts of joy

 

I see and hear the signs with

anticipation that

borders on pain

 

The last few weeks of

winter grey loom large

and threaten to blind my eyes

and stop my ears

 

Don’t look

Don’t listen

Never see nor hear

 

Yet spring is coming and

hope is not hopeless

 

The signs are not in vain

Burning bushes

Pillars of both fire and cloud

Manger-tucked babes with

stars in dark skies

 

My eyes will yet see

My ears will yet hear

the whisper as well as the thunder

of God

A PIECE OF PEACE

By Lisa Huddleston

“It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Parakletos will not come to you” (John 16:7).

 No, Jesus wasn’t promising a parakeet to his followers.  I have had a parakeet more than once:  Pedro bit my earlobe and wouldn’t let go, and Simon/Simone only loved my husband, dive bombing me whenever she could.  Neither experience was a pleasant one.  And, yes, I realize how ridiculous the previous sentences are—especially in light of what I really want to discuss.  But, my pinball brain tends to bounce sort of like a parakeet too bored in a cage.  Up and down.  Back and forth.

Today a dear friend called to discuss my previous post and the horrifying tragedy of Newtown, CT.  She reminded me as others have that immediately following Jesus’ arrival on earth there was terrible slaughter of innocents.  Mothers cried with broken hearts then as now.  Fathers helplessly watched as horror unfolded.  And Jesus knew their pain.

Why is that a comfort to me?  How does it help to know that innocent children have died before and before and before?  It should make it worse to know the enormity of the suffering.  But it helps me to know that the One suffers with us.  Our God is our Parakletos.  Our Come-Along-Sider.  Our Comforter.  Our God-With-Us.  We are not alone in our tears.  Never are we alone.

Even trapped in a wire cage with gifts of limp parsley and nothing but a mirror to talk to.  Bouncing up and down in boredom or rocking back and forth in despair.  The Parakletos is here.  For our benefit.  For our comfort.  For our loneliness.  To counsel, to protect, to help.

Amen.

EATING GRACE

By Lisa Huddleston

We are eating from vineyards and olive groves that we did not plant (Joshua). That’s grace. God reached down to speak to us–lowly beings that He created to do his will. But unlike the angels, we had a choice. And so we chose to sin. And we still do.  Yet, God in His mercy, feeds us from vineyards and olive groves we did not plant.  And we still choose to sin!  Oh Lord, stop me. Cause me to want to serve you out of love.  And so I keep on keeping on.  Eating grace and sinning but wanting to do better.

TATTOO STUDIO HOMILY

By Lisa Huddleston

I’ve often remarked that God shows me the same message in many different settings until it suddenly clicks and I “get it.” He knows that I am a multi-sensory learner. Let me taste it, touch it, hear it, smell it, and then just maybe it will click.

That’s what happened last Friday as I sat in the chair at Ian White Tattoos receiving the painful message that God has been trying to teach me. My new friend, Amanda, is an apprentice there, and she patiently worked with me as I “oohed” and “ouched” and “yowed” my way through her artistic endeavors. Hey, a foot is tender. God has placed lots of sensitive nerve endings there so that we take care not to stub our toes and walk on glass. It really hurt!

Ironically, the message that Amanda engraved is “A long obedience in the same direction.” It speaks of patience and endurance and perseverance. Qualities that I mainly lack. Friedrich Nietzsche first penned the words, but I received them through Eugene Peterson and have made them my own. It is a long obedience that results in true progress so I felt that my foot was the perfect place to remind me to keep walking.

Anyway, Amanda was great. She didn’t call me a baby (although she probably wanted to.) She didn’t even laugh when my sweet son told me to “man up!” She kept saying “just a little more.” Then she told me to take a deep breath and blow it out. “Whooo … “

It worked! I relaxed, and the pain lessened incredibly. For the rest of the time, I blew out my anxiety and concentrated on relaxing my tensed muscles. It required a great deal of focus—another quality I often lack—but it really worked!

Then it clicked. Oh yeah … I remembered the time on my knees when God said, “Pick up your feet and go with the flow, Lisa.” I remembered other times He told me that He had it and I could let go. He was the current of my life. I could trust Him with wherever that current took me. I had to relax.

So that’s what He meant. Unclench my jaw. Untense my muscles. Relax my grip. Let go. He gave me lots to ponder, and before I knew it the pain was over.

Thus ends the message for today. Maybe.

WILL RIDE FOR TOTS

By Lisa Huddleston

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever.” (Hebrews 12:2, MSG)

Last summer I foolishly let my husband know that I would like to complete the Bike Ride Across Wilson County this summer.  It was a whole year away.  It seemed safe to mention.  Who knew it would arrive so quickly?

So, with only a couple months remaining in which to train, Chuck and I headed out Saturday morning to do what we call the “Ride for Tots.”  Sounds noble, doesn’t it?  Like a benefit ride for children in need?  Nope.  Just our name for the ride that takes us down Highway 70 to Highway 109 to the Sonic near I-40 and back.  Yes.  Tater tots.

It really is a great route for training.  It has wide, safe shoulders and long, slow climbing hills that force endurance.  Its distance is 16 miles—around half the length of the BRAWC—and its midway point includes tots.  Perfect.

Sadly we hadn’t taken this route since last summer so I was huffing and puffing at some points.  Especially when we arrived at “Shut Up Hill,” so named because the first time we rode it Chuck tried to encourage and distract me from the pain by chatting incessantly until I yelled, “Shut up!”

Anyway, we had already had one interesting incident on 70 before reaching the Hill.  A brand new, Ford Edge had pulled over in front of us in the bike lane and stopped.  We approached carefully and then pedaled by it on the left, because there wasn’t room for us to pass on the right.  Seconds after passing the car, we heard a very loud crash.  Apparently taking a test drive, the driver had decided to make a U-turn to head back to the dealership.  He had carefully waited until we passed (thank goodness) then immediately drove straight into a large “Bubba-sized” pickup.  Wow!  Chuck turned to look then turned back and kept pedaling with a shrug as I exclaimed, “Oh my goodness!”  Nothing slows that man down!

As we reached the foot of “Shut Up Hill” I was thinking of that shocking situation.  Wondering why that driver hadn’t looked beyond the two bike riders to the oncoming traffic and so on.  Then the pain in my lungs erased my concern for anyone but myself.  I no longer looked at Chuck’s back or the top of the hill.  I glued my eyes to the road right in front of my tire and pushed.  Right, left, right left.  And I chanted as I pedaled, “A long obedience in the same direction.  A long obedience in the same direction.”  Occasionally I looked to the top to judge my progress, but mainly I kept my eyes focused on the here and now until I finally began the descent on the other side.  The breeze welcomed and my aching legs enjoyed the rest as I glided down with the Sonic sign in my sights.  Tots!

Immediately I began to ponder my situation and to notice the universal truths it contained.  Life is sort of like “Shut Up Hill.”  Really!  It can be breathtakingly hard, and there are days when I feel as though I’ll never make it until evening let alone to the finish line of life.  Other times are more like the downhill ride.  Everything is right, the breeze blows through my hair, and my reward is in sight.  Wheeee!

Either way, this ride and that car accident we nearly witnessed combined to reveal an important truth.  In every situation I must keep my eyes on Jesus.  Sometimes I need to focus on Him in the here and now—the near sight.  And at other times I need to have far-sighted vision.  But always always my sights need to be set on Him.

Now that unlucky guy who was taking a test drive in that brand new Edge had 20/20 near vision—and I am glad he did or Chuck and I could have been road kill.  But his far vision was lacking.

Others have great far vision.  They think of heaven all the time, but can’t see the beggar at their door.  You know—they’re so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good.

I am glad to know and to have it made known to me again that Jesus is not just in the hereafter but He is here in the now!  He dragged and pushed my out-of-shape self up “Shut Up Hill” just as He has carried me through so many other trials.  And He is my reward when my race is done.  What a day of rejoicing that will be!

CLOUDS OF WITNESSES

By Lisa Huddleston

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.”  Hebrews 12:1

I know this comes as a shock to no one but me, but I am not Superwoman.  What was I thinking when I planned to marry two of my children, to celebrate four graduations, to start a part-time job, and to schedule my mother’s back surgery all within three months?  Me—who struggles with depression and anxiety even without all this activity? Me—who needs at least eight hours of sleep even on a great day?  Who knows, but I don’t think there was much wisdom involved in my confident assertions that I could handle it.

Truthfully, some things were beyond my control.  Others were due to my wanting to be in control.  But all the while I’ve insisted I could handle it.   And I am handling it.

It really is okay.  Really.  Sarah and John were married last week in a wonderfully beautiful ceremony.  I managed to work two days.  And Mom had her much-needed back surgery this Tuesday.  My sister stayed with her last night, and my other sister is there right now.  But I am not Superwoman.  No I am not.

Sunday afternoon I needed to get out and burn some stress so Chuck and I took a ten-mile bike ride along some country roads.  On a particularly beautiful stretch, we both looked up and saw the beauty of the blue and white sky stretched across the Irish green valley and I instantly cried out, “It’s the large cloud of witnesses surrounding us!”  We both smiled, and I pondered as I pedaled.

That phrase has always intrigued me.  Why not a crowd of witnesses?  Whoever heard of a cloud of witnesses?  Well in that particular moment on that particular stretch of road in the midst of my particular stress, I saw the clouds.  And they witnessed to me of God’s love and control.  For a split second I saw the truth.  It really was a “cloud of witnesses!”

Hallelujah!  I am not Superwoman.  I am not in control.  And I don’t have to be.  There are times when all I need do is look to the clouds and let them testify as true witnesses to the One who knows all things.  And that is really, really okay.

My mind is flooded with similar phrases from the Testaments.  Let the scales fall from my eyes.  Give me eyes to see and ears to hear.  Fix my eyes upon Jesus.  Make the blind to see.  Show me your Glory.  And always let me see the beautiful clouds of witness in the blinding blue expanse of your love.

My calendar still shows the impending parties and activities to which I have committed myself.  And I look forward to each event—even while I stress over ALL the events.  Thank you, Lord, for your strategic placement of your witnesses.  I need to be reminded that I can always rest in you even when I have no time to rest.