Saturday, December 22, 2012

It Just So Happened

It just so happened that the people who lived in our house before we did had terrible allergies. They just so happened to install a central vacuum system to keep allergens to a minimum. That system just so happened to need service when they owned the house.  That family just so happened to leave us meticulous service records when we moved in five years ago. The vacuum broke the week before Christmas and I just so happened to take it to the same service store the original people used.

At the shop, I just so happened to mention to the lady working that she was my second stop after seeing a friend's brand-new baby. The lady and I got to talking about the hope that new life brings, particularly a precious life that entered the world after Newtown. 

As we talked, the lady began to cry. Her own adult son died in a car accident three years ago. For a grieving mother, three years is a minute and a minute can be three years. I didn't know her son, but felt privileged to know of him, that he existed, that he mattered, and that he was loved.

The Holy Spirit just so happened to prompt me that this woman needed hope and comfort. And right there in that little vacuum shop, we just so happened to bow our heads and pray.

It just so happened.

"And he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us" Acts 17:26b-27.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Where I Am

You've seen it on social media. Perhaps even posted some commentary yourself. The politicization of Newtown happened quickly, a backflip from event to response with nary a moment for doubt or reflection. People leapt to their favored societal solution. Pronouncements came swiftly, loudly.

Normally, I'm a fan of the feisty exchange of ideas and the more political, the better. I understand the comfort that comes from certitude, from having the answer. But since Newtown, I'm not in that place.

Let me stipulate yes. Yes, we need better gun laws in our country. Yes, politicians are quite unlikely to devise any--especially in this moment--that are effective rather than merely reactive. Yes, we need a better mental health network for our most troubled. Yes, no system will be capable of anticipating the next yet-to-break sociopath. Yes, our media culture plays a role in making the next off-kilter personality want to be bigger, badder, more notorious than the last. Yes, we need more armed security guards in soft target places like schools. Yes, violent video games distort the thinking of our youth. Yes, it's unreasonable to assume we can kill a million babies a year in the womb and not expect that to have an impact on how we regard life outside the womb. Yes, divorce can tip a typical kid to troubled and a troubled one to dangerous. Yes, yes, yes. Whatever your favored cause, I stipulate that it is both wholly correct and also a true lie in the way that any judgment about such a situation would be.

Frankly, I can't stand to read any of it. To me, it reduces the people of Newtown and their loss to a utilitarian purpose, the advancing of an agenda. I understand those posting their issue statements view their opinions differently, as a path to prevention. I understand people process trauma in a variety of ways. I understand that what people post is their way of getting through the day. But since Newtown, I'm not in that place.

Since Newtown, I'm on social media because my cousin Sue is. My cousin Sue works as a Children's Director for a Newtown church. Prior to that, she taught at Sandy Hook School. Sue was born, raised and married in Newtown. She raises her own two children there. Social media is where she is posting her thoughts and reactions, so I'm wading through the rest of what's on the news feed to be close to Sue and her brothers and sisters living in that area.

I'm with Sue when she reaches into her closet for a church outfit, looking for something appropriately somber while saving her black clothes for the funerals later in the week. I'm with her as she agonizes over whether to leave the church's kid check-in sheet with Ben's name on it, which seems awful, or to run a new one without it, which seems worse. I'm with her as she teaches the lesson on Sunday morning and a child looks up and simply says, "My friends are dead."

We're all with Sue, aren't we? Our entire country is from Newtown this week. Still, the memes on Facebook turn from impassioned to harsh as we seek to assign blame to gun-owners or to the godless or to whomever. We haven't even buried the babies yet.

I wish I could actually be with Sue. I can't, but I pray for her constantly and for everyone in her town. Her updates are how I know what to pray. I don't have answers, but I have access to the one who is the Answer. But since Newtown, even imagining I'm where Sue is proves too loud a place.

Mostly my mind goes to a closet with seven children in it. Kids whose teacher told them to stay put and stay quiet. Kids who heard their teacher try to divert the bad guy to another part of the school. Kids who watched six of their friends make a break for it and not make it. Kids who even after their classmates and their teacher and the gunman were no more, stayed hidden and silent, just like their teacher told them. Kids who stayed so quiet for so long that police were surprised to find them when they opened the closet during their sweep of the school.

It's a dreadfully quiet place. But since Newtown, that's where I am.

Monday, December 3, 2012

You Might Be a Peri-Menopausal Woman If...

You might be a peri-menopausal woman if:

1. You cry reading the greeting cards at Hobby Lobby.

2. You are moved to deep-seated and freely-voiced irritation when the kids keep Perler beads in three disparate rather than one neatly organized spot. 

3. You are wide awake from 2-5 a.m. at least two weeks of every month.

4. You watch your two older boys walk away from the car, chatting with each other as they enter youth group and you burst into tears watching them because almost two years from now one will probably be away at college and then people might think you have only four kids and not five and besides, how will your second teen 
get along without his best buddy around?

5. You threaten to throw out A. coats B. library books C. laundry D. all of the above because the clutter moves you to deep-seated and freely-voiced irritation.

6. You do not really need a reason to feel deep-seated and freely-voiced irritation.

7. You cry at Schoolhouse Rock's "Preamble to the Constitution" song.

Feel free to suggest your additions to the list in the comment section.