Sunday, February 28, 2010

Never Alone

We’ve had rough week in the DuBose household. My husband became sick last weekend with a bad cold and cough that eventually developed into a severe case of sinusitis. Jackson began to exhibit symptoms Monday and I became sick Thursday. A cold is apparently the gift that just keeps on giving.

Poor Jackson began sneezing and coughing with a slight fever Monday. By Wednesday he had a temperature of 102.3 with what I thought was a full-blown cold. Luckily he was supposed to see his pediatrician that day for his fifteen month well-baby check-up. Not only did the poor little guy have a cold, but he also has a really severe bilateral ear infection, throat infection and bronchitis. We’ve made two subsequent trips to the pediatrician for antibiotic injections (each visit) because he actually got worse as the week went on. The worst part about it was how much he cried. Jackson never cries. He is the toughest most resilient child I’ve ever met. He is a trouper. These multiple illnesses, however, really kicked our little man’s butt. He cried every day this week for nearly the entire day and some of the night. Oh, and I forgot to mention he is cutting eight teeth, four of which are molars.

You’re probably wondering why I’ve given so much detail about Jackson’s illnesses. Jackson’s illnesses aren’t really the topic here but I needed to express how sick he is and how much pain he has endured. As a parent it is so hard to see your child hurting and in pain. You feel absolutely helpless. I looked on in pure anguish, grasping for anything that would take his mind off things and make him feel better. This week really broke my heart.

While watching Jackson endure this it dawned on me that this is how our Heavenly Father feels when we endure hardship, suffering and pain. I only have two children to worry about and fret over. God has 6.8 billion people to worry about. Wrap your head around that number. Can you even imagine for a minute the overwhelming sadness and grief God feels in watching us endure our trials and tribulations? Our God is a merciful and loving God who wants only the best for us in life. He never wants to see us suffer. This epiphany reinforced to me that I am never alone in my suffering. I am never alone in my pain. I am never alone in my sadness. God is right here with me and to quote the final stanza of Mary Stevenson’s immortal Footprints in the Sand poem, "The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, is when I carried you."

Thank you, Father God, for your pure and perfect love. Thank you for your grace and mercy fresh and anew each day. Thank you for your faithfulness and for never giving up on me. I love you.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Here's to You

We are made in God’s image and therefore, inhabited by His Spirit. Hence our interpersonal relationships are sacred—or at least they should be sacred. Sadly this isn’t always the case.

I don’t know about you, but I’m easily tripped up by the day-to-day machinations of life. I get so caught up in “doing” that I tend to gloss over the important things. By important things I’m referring to people (family, friends, neighbors) in my life. I’m continually blessed by people through kind words, actions and offers to do things for me and my family—things I’m deeply appreciative of. But I can’t help but wonder if I truly convey my gratitude to people for what they do for me.

I fear I may treat people too casually. It’s certainly not because I don’t appreciate them. On the contrary, I am extremely grateful for my family and friends. My problem lies in the fact that I’m usually in ten places at once in a figurative sense. My mind is always racing ahead to the next thing I need to accomplish (or worse yet, reflecting on what I didn’t accomplish). I’m not only guilty of this while performing mundane tasks such as driving, grocery shopping, office work, housework, etc., but I also commit this grievous affront while communicating with people—in person, on the telephone or via correspondence. I’m seldom 100% present, and this is a tragedy.

That said, I hereby avow to stop this nonsense and to be a better wife, mother, daughter, cousin, friend. From here on out I intend to affirm others as my Heavenly Father constantly affirms me and to fully convey my appreciation and gratitude for each and every person in my life. My friendships are sacred and I want each and every family member and friend to know just how much they mean to me. I want my relationships to be a direct reflection of God’s holy nature that lies within me.

Romans 12:10
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Build a Bridge

People today are hungry for love, which is the only answer to loneliness and great poverty. In some countries there is no hunger for bread. But people are suffering from terrible loneliness, terrible despair, terrible hatred, feeling unwanted, helpless, hopeless. They have forgotten how to smile, they have forgotten the beauty of the human touch. They are forgetting what is human love. They need someone who will understand and respect them.
Mother Teresa

Build a bridge. Get over it. I confess. I’ve uttered this phrase once or twice (or a dozen times). I’m not proud of that. I can tell you that when I’ve spoken these words, patience, understanding and compassion were far from my heart—even if I said them in (sardonic) jest. I can also tell you looking back I don’t really like the person I am when I call forth less than compassionate statements such as this. But does that stop me from doing it? No. Frustration is at times a byproduct of life—at least my life.

Truth be told though I would much rather build a spiritual bridge than a sarcastic bridge. I’ve written previously of my desire to be salt in a bland, hurting world; a light in the midst of darkness. This can only be accomplished by leading a lifestyle of faith as demonstrated by my conduct, speech and compassion for others. Simply put, my daily quest must be to live a righteous life, pleasing to God. After all, as a Christ follower there should be some resemblance of Jesus in me—a clear correspondence between HIS life and mine, don’t you think? My wholehearted desire is for my faith to result in works—not based on works mind you—works that are a tangible, living expression of the fruit of the Spirit—love, peace, patience, kindness, self-control, joy, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness.

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, in all the places you can, as long as you can.
John Wesley

Our hurting world needs evidence of God, now more than ever. Therefore, it is up to us—you and me—to demonstrate His power. This is easier said than done. Like everyone who has walked the face of this earth, with the exception of Jesus Christ of course, I am a sinner. I struggle daily to walk the walk as an ambassador of Christ. I try desperately to lead a life of integrity, compassion and peace. I know I can’t accomplish this on my own. I must be dependent on God for His wisdom, guidance and strength. I pray every day for His Holy Spirit to work within me, to mold me into His likeness, so I can live a life that is pleasing to Him.

Isaiah 64:8

8 Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

After all, we—you and me—are the earthbound display of God’s glory. When He calls us into a love relationship with Him, He calls us to be like Him.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to begin construction on a spiritual bridge or two today. Next door, down the block, across town, in my own family, halfway around the world, there are so many people and places in need of bridges. I better get to work!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Clash of the Titans

id n. - In Freudian theory, the division of the psyche that is totally unconscious and serves as the source of instinctual impulses and demands for immediate satisfaction of primitive needs.

ego n. - 1. The self, especially as distinct from the world and other selves. 2. In psychoanalysis, the division of the psyche that is conscious, most immediately controls thought and behavior, and is most in touch with external reality.

mer•cy n. pl. mer•cies
1. Compassionate treatment, especially of those under one's power; clemency.
2. A disposition to be kind and forgiving
3. Something for which to be thankful; a blessing
4. Alleviation of distress; relief

Id, ego and mercy—three small words comprised of between two to five letters each. The first two words are related in nature. The third word, mercy, might as well reside in another universe. Yet all three words have great importance in our household at present.

Master Jackson has learned the fine art of temper tantrums. At only 15 months of age I think he’s a little ahead of the game, but then again he is a toddler and toddlers lack inhibitions and control. As an adult, however, I am supposed to exhibit self-control, two-fold actually—enough for both of us. Some days this is easier said than done.

Master Jackson is not a laid-back, chill kind of child. He is extremely inquisitive and always on the move. He has been like this since the day we arrived home from Ethiopia. The child has always needed to be in constant motion, and this usually means in my arms. Not necessarily because he enjoys my company, mind you, but because I do more interesting things than he does. Being in my arms gives him a much better vantage point from which to explore the world. Realistically though he simply cannot be in my arms 24/7. I have things I need to accomplish (work for Bella Group, laundry, dishes, making meals, cleaning…) but Master Jackson can’t comprehend this. Combine this fact with Master Jackson’s attempt to conquer his world and you have the potential for a short-fuse at any given time. Master Jackson is not an exception in this respect. Simply put, when he doesn’t get what he wants, he turns to one of the only tools at his disposal for venting frustration—a tantrum.

Sounds like I have it all figured out, right? Sounds like there should be an easy solution to keeping the titans in their respective corners, right? Wrong! Master Jackson’s tantrums are just the tip of the iceberg. Not only do you have Master Jackson and his newfound knack for pitching a fit when the wind changes direction, but you also have the strong personalities of Bobbie and Greg to add to the mix. As mentioned above, Greg and I as adults have the ability to control our impulses. That does not mean, however, that we do not feel frustration and irritation. Yes, as adults with very real pressures and problems we sometimes have short fuses ourselves—with each other, neighbors, store clerks, our employees, people who share the roadways with us. The list goes on and on. And did I mention strong personalities? Ah, yes. Classic Type A personalities.

Wow! That is not a very pretty description of Greg and I, now is it? It makes us sound downright mean spirited. Guess what—sometimes we are. We can be impatient with and unkind toward each other. That leaves me feeling pretty lousy about myself and I bet Greg would say the same. God expects more from us and He spells it out very clearly in His Word.

Proverbs 15:18
18 A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.

Ecclesiastes 7:8-9
8 The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
and patience is better than pride.
9 Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.

Romans 12:7-9
7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. 9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

The good news is that through prayer we can ultimately use our powers for good. Through prayer I can ask God to impart in me the same mercy and grace He extended to us through the death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through prayer I can ask God for His wisdom and patience which, by the way, are right in front of me through the Holy Spirit who is always with me. I just have to check my ego at the door first. And when I fall short of God’s expectations for me, let’s not forget that through prayer I can confess my sins and He will forgive me, far more readily than I forgive myself.

The irony of the whole toddler/tantrum dilemma is that Master Jackson throws tantrums because he wants independence and control over his environment. Master Jackson and I engage in power struggles because he thinks he is more capable of doing things for himself than he really is. When faced with boundaries and realizing his limits, the stage is set for a tantrum. When I on the other hand realize I can’t do things on my own, forego my own independence and turn things over to God my life is so much better. There is a calmness that comes over me, my family—our entire little corner of the world when I’m no longer trying to stuff a square peg in a round hole. Boy do I look forward to the day when Jackson gains this insight. I know that’s a long way off and until then I’m going to continue to breathe in and breathe out and remember that at only five letters long the word mercy is a much bigger word than either id or ego.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Laughter Really is the Best Medicine

My husband is one of the funniest people I know. The man can make me laugh at the drop of a hat, and at the most inappropriate times. More importantly he can make me laugh at times when it is most needed—when I’m stressed, angry or sad. He is truly a spirit lifter, not only for me but for everyone he meets.

The last few evenings Greg has been on a roll. Seriously. He has had me in side-splitting laughter—especially just before bedtime. I’ve had to tell him, “Enough already! I’ve got to get up in the morning.” I truly adore his sense of humor though. It is one of things I love most about him. Who doesn’t want to laugh? And I am blessed to laugh a lot.

The following are a few benefits we as humans reap from laughter.

• Laughter Activates the Immune System
• Laughter Decreases "Stress" Hormones
• Muscle Relaxation
• Reduction of Stress Hormones Immune System Enhancement
• Pain Reduction
• Cardiac Exercise
• Lowers Blood Pressure/Prevents Hypertension
• Enhances Respiration

So I want to thank you, honey, for all of the wonderful physical benefits I gain from your antics. Keep up the great work! At this rate I just may live to be 100. But just remember, I’ve always told you to think of our marriage as a life sentence. I’m not going anywhere. So the longer you keep me on this earth, the longer I’m going to nag you about picking up your belongings around the house and putting your dishes in the dishwasher.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Let Your Light Shine

January 2010 was one of the longest months of my life. The New Year started off with many challenges for the DuBose family. They are not unique or new challenges mind you, but rather the exact same challenges most (if not all) of you are facing in one way or another at present. Life is not without trouble. Simply put, we live in a fallen world and as inhabitants of this fallen world we all experience the exact same things at varying degrees at different times. What I don’t like, however, is how I’ve let these challenges take over my life and steal my joy as of late. And what bugs me even more is that I facilitate the joy-stealing.

I ardently try to be optimistic at all times. After all, I have great frames of reference to reflect upon. In tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I recently heard excerpts of one of Dr. King’s most famous speeches. In this speech he states, “Because I’ve been to the mountaintop.” I can relate. I too have been to the mountaintop, but I’ve also been to lowest of valleys. I’ve been to the bottom of the pit where I never thought I would (or wanted to) see the light of day again. Through the grace of God though, when I’m struggling with something, I climb back up to the top of the mountain because the view is so much better there. Admittedly, however, I’ve had a hard time doing that over the past couple of weeks, but not for lack of effort.

I’ve prayed hard for God’s divine intervention in the situations we’re facing. I’ve read scripture.

Luke 12:6-7
6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

John 14:1
1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.

I’ve participated in a fast as a recommitment to the LORD. I just finished reading Max Lucado’s Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear. Yet despite all the effort I’ve exerted I’m still mired down in the “what ifs”.

This morning I decided to try a different tack. Today I asked God to let me be a light to people. I implored Jesus to live in my heart and to let his love and light shine through me onto everyone I came in contact with—especially the two people that live within these four walls with me. I prayed that God would let me be present in all things—in reading Jackson stories, at mealtime, at bath time, in the grocery store, during walks in the neighborhood. Experience tells me that being present can make or break someone’s day. We have no idea what the person standing next to us is going through. Holding a door, or offering a kind word or smile may be the only kind gesture or human contact that person experiences today. I admit, I have been so preoccupied with the pesky “what ifs” lately that I’ve been very poor company for everyone.

Shortly after I prayed these prayers I saw a photo on Facebook of someone I vaguely know. Actually we would have been related in a roundabout way if not for a divorce that happened along the way. To make a long story short, I sent this person a message on Facebook, telling her how heartwarming it was to see her obvious commitment to family and wishing her well. She wrote back with a very similar and lovely statement about me. So in this very brief period of time my prayer was answered. Jesus projected his light onto someone through me and in turn he reflected that light right back on me, boosting my spirits and putting a smile on my face. That one reflection of light has allowed me to spend the rest of the day basking in the “what I haves” as opposed to the “what ifs”. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you for your grace and mercy. It is indeed enough.

Matthew 5:14-16
14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.