It’s early morning and I put on my white scarf – my favorite one. It’s delicate and beautifully practical. The one Ericka brought back to me from India. I’m told it’s actually a covering. It’s white like a bride would wear. But strangely this morning I think of the white paper banners with Chinese symbols – glued across door tops and alongside doorposts of the house where some Chinese family has lost a loved one…
I wear it with my lavender top and my brown skirt – the one I changed into from blue jeans because all my girls decided to wear skirts today and is mama going to wear a skirt too? How could I not oblige?
We have friends coming and – as always- I’m only slightly prepared. Okay, maybe not really prepared much at all. I meant to get out of the house days ago to get the needed groceries.
But there was the cold weather. And the day I was so tired from nightly interruptions I barely felt like lifting a finger. And there were – as always – the six children. When did doing chores alone begin to feel like such light work?
But it’s Saturday and the 60 hours are done, so their Daddy is home and I run off with light feet.
The rain is coming, but it isn’t here yet and I marvel that it feels more like spring than December rightly should.
On short drive to market I marvel again at sunbeams streaming down – breaking out of dark pillow clouds. I don’t notice these gifts enough. There are the six children and all.
‘Market‘ sounds too whimsical, really. It’s Walmart, for crying out loud. And it’s Christmas season. One day maybe I’ll learn to stockpile enough in November that I won’t have to darken the doors of that mega-center again until February.
Funny how this “hap-happiest season of all” brings out the demon in people. I’m just saying.
And funny how a Christian should think these thoughts – of hiding away from the darkness of the world during the very season when Light came into darkness… this thought I push aside for later.
But there’s a different air this morning. Maybe I’ve missed the crowds. But really, I suspect it’s something else. I know it is. This thought I push aside as well.
I grab my buggy and swipe down the handle with the provided germ-killing wet wipes and wonder for a second if this does any good. In fact, what if this is really a conspiracy… the wipes are actually laden with virus so that we’ll all become ill and pharmaceutical companies will make a profit.
There are many thoughts to push aside. I focus on my task.
Fruit. I’m glad the bananas aren’t too brown. Should I pick up some berries as well?
I pass by the packages of hot cocoa and don’t give them a second glance. No one will want it today. We’ll likely be running the air conditioner.
Several times I hear an announcement over the loud speaker and instead of the usual noisey, crackly, invading drum of shrill, it’s actually pleasant. So pleasant. Attention Walmart associates, would Jane Smith please come to the jewelry department? Thank you.
No, thank you. What a relief to my eardrums. In fact, I notice the sheer lack of noisy, crackly, invading drum of advertisements. I’m in Walmart and it’s altogether peaceful.
Is this even possible? Maybe I’ve entered a Narnia-like second-world without realizing it.
Every person I pass is pleasant as well. Not hurried, darting, vacant. Eyes actually meet eyes.
And now I can no longer push aside the thought.
After the tragedy that rocked our world yesterday, we’re all feeling it.
More blessed. Thankful. Somber. Slowed-down.
We’re just shy of two weeks until Christmas. And twenty families are likely looking at stockings and wrapped goodness under spruce needles and nothing can make the upside-down right again. And the rest of us – we hug our little ones tighter. Thank God for His goodness…
Yes, there are the twenty-or-so families here, and then there are the ones across the big sea, still reeling from the attack on their school children, all with the sleek black hair. I think of my white scarf again. In China it’s the color for mourning, not for the dancing of brides…
I look at the spices and try to remember which ones I needed… onion powder… garlic… I move on the cans of hot dog chili…
And then there was that thing my friend Dave brought to our attention. The statement he made. Dave, who’s always spoken the truth.
It was a tragedy, yes. And the country cries out. But what about those babies being massacred every day in every city in America? Why is no one outraged about them?
It’s no secret who the one with darted tongue, the one who is called Father of Lies – it’s no secret who he hates. The very ones that Jesus said “let them come to me.” The very ones Jesus said, “you must be like them to enter my Kingdom.”
I walk so briskly through the store, and finish my list quickly. Lining up behind another lone shopper at the checkout I hear her talking with the clerk. Such a tragedy. Doesn’t make sense. So sad. Why?
I pay for my items and push the full cart out to the truck. And I fill the front seat with filled bags – things that will fill the bellies of those I love.
Those with whom I am blessed.
I should count my blessings, right? And I do, but something else lies there under the surface, and I push the thought aside again for later…
I go through the day counting my blessings, my gifts. Write them down, even. Friends come and fellowship takes place. Messy hotdogs spill out chili and over quiet conversation, messy thoughts pour out honest to hearts that can be trusted. The day flies on and soon children are in bed and the hard working husband sets out to practice for tomorrow’s worship.
And I sit down to read and wrestle with thoughts that now should be pulled near instead of pushed away. The hard ones will never stay away, will they?
And there, in the reading, in the quiet, it comes all at once.
My children breathe tonight, and I count it as God’s goodness. So, for the mother of a child whose lips are ever now silent- God is … not good?
I am only blessed and God is only good when I can count those gifts that make my heart sing? But in loss and tragedy and when I’m the one whose loved one didn’t make it, who’s facing death’s door, whose healing did not come – then I don’t say God is good?
And from the garage – so as not to wake the deep-breathing children – I hear the guitar in practice of the Psalm of the month and I know the words, hear them in my head and heart,
Come, let us worship the Lord,
for we are His people
the flock that He shepherds…
And I know. We are His sheep. He is our shepherd. The Good Shepherd. He is always and will always be good. The sheep know it. They know Him.
And when the hard comes and I want to look at something ugly and call it ugly and wrong and a curse- I can only think, God you’re good. Still.
And I think of Peter’s words to Jesus as he stood there firm in his sandaled feet, face-to-face with the Savior- when many who’d been following Jesus walked away from His hard teaching.
“Do you want to go away as well?”
“Lord, where would we go? You have the words of life.” (John 6:68)
He’s the Word, the Light, the Living Water, the Bread of Life. And that isn’t all.
“I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
That’s right. I remember now. There was a dark night. A betrayal, a tragedy. Dreams shattered. The Innocent – the only truly Innocent One – slain. The Shepherd became lamb.
And some wanted to call it ugly and wrong and a curse. But God was in it. God was in it! And God was good, still. What looked like tragic end and loss and – no, please, no, not this! It was victory and love and grace. It was Gospel.
And I can no longer nibble the creamy mint-filled dark chocolate, and I put it down with my book. All around me there is mess and chaos and every day I feel the burden of my own failures. And we’re behind in our laundry, behind even more in the schoolwork, and my sink doesn’t shine. And loved ones are suffering and friends have illnesses that seem to have no solution and brothers and sisters deal with depression and fear and worry and apathy… and marriages are holding fragile and children are straying… and I feel the weight of all of it.
How many days – months – go by when I feel so much weight of it I can only manage the prayers of the feeble. Oh Lord. Please. Oh, please help. Jesus come quickly.
There is so much I want to call ugly and wrong and curse and tragedy.
But I know I cannot just accept what I feel is good, and call it a gift, a blessing. Call it good, Him good. Because in one hand, there is beautiful, and in the other there is ugly, and He is the hand that holds it all.
Orchestrates it all.
And no, I don’t want it this way. But who am I? A vapor, a mist.
And He is my Shepherd. And I know Him, know He is good.
And I surrender.