Dear Children… About Your Inheritance…

“I need something.”

The cryptic words from College Son flashed across the screen. After 3 weeks of minimal contact, this could mean almost anything. Historically speaking our relationship dictated this typically meant some research advice or proofeadery.

“What?” I replied while  bracing my jetlaggy brain for a challenge.

“Your recipe for spice cake.”

I stalled.

Ummm….  Seriously?

Inheritance Title

See, this is no ordinary recipe for no ordinary spice cake. I’ve been making and perfecting this dreamcake for over 20 years. This is my closely-guarded recipe for THE spice cake  I’ve kept tucked under my (ahem) “belt “ all this time.  It’s the kind of recipe a Ninja-Chef really must have in their personal arsenal for special occasions and surprise guests, new baby welcomes and potlucks. Savory, spicy-sweet and best of all: sinfully simple. I don’t part with it easily.

My daughter asked for it a year ago. Unbeknownst to me, she entered a contest and won a 250-dollar gift card to Ikea. She bought a chair. A chair. (Isn’t that like selling your birthright for stew? Never mind.)

Something they’d grown up with, now it was College Son’s turn to ask.

“Never.” I teased. Emoji-smiling, he explained that his girlfriend (the one I am trusting God to make my DIL someday!) wanted to make it for him.

At least she can cook.
From scratch.
My mock-resolve melted.
I sent it.

“There.  Now you have your inheritance.” I said Emoji-winking back. Digitally, we exchanged smiles, hugs and kisses and he was happily on his way with a piece of his family history. Truly, as silly as it sounds, he now possesses a solid piece of his shared inheritance.

Doesn’t seem like much, does it?

It’s no surprise though that if you took any of our children aside and asked them about their inheritance, three out of three times, their first response would be a mixture of low-toned laughter and chagrin. They know, by the worldly definitions, we’re “broke” and planning to be “broke-r” before it’s all over with. At least this is the current nature of our estate in terms of dollars and not a whole lotta sense!

Love And Marriage

Still I have a strong feeling in the pit of everything within me that their next response will be a knowing and satisfied smile. Because in reality, they know we have given them everything we have to give and oftentimes it’s been far more than anything our parents were able to give to us.  They also know it’s never been about money in the bank.

Make no mistake: it’s been a touchy subject through the years as they’ve reached the ages and stages where their friends were given cars, educations and luxury items we never were able to afford—at least not the way most people have done it. There have been many tears and tantrums on both sides of the equation. But we’re here. We’ve made it and we’re better than intact: we’re whole.

And while we pray there’s still plenty of time to amass more “wealth” to add to their inheritance, there are many things besides a knockout recipe for spice cake we’re striving to leave as our legacy– solid and eternal things we hope they’ll always treasure and, if Jesus tarries, preserve and pass along to many future generations.

The Family Bible

I hope they’ll find treasured comfort in knowing that we not only loved them and each other to the highest best of our ability but that it was a love deeply rooted in our shared love for God.

I hope they’ll find great inspiration in how we found this God-love so wild and wonderful that it was worth risking our place in a world-driven status quo to spend an adventure-filled lifetime stumbling along the lesser travelled path towards His greatest good.

I hope they will hold close and share often the stories of these adventures–many spent with them– and discover this same courage in themselves to step out in new directions to spend and experience their one beautiful life serving our one amazing God.

Humbly I hope they’ll cling as tightly to Jesus as we have because they’ve witnessed time and again how His grace, mercy and forgiveness have seen their two imperfect parents through many…  many….   many times of failure.     And every success.

I hope they’ll talk about how their Mom “trusted God and sought to pray the hell out of any situation!”, how their Dad was never so afraid of failure that he wasn’t willing to try—fail and try again and how both of them together fought arm in arm against the enemy who came to seek, kill and destroy their marriage and family.

And how through that same powerful grace from God, together… they won.

The Great Commitment

So that here now and in the future when they’re possibly surrounded by little ones of their own and telling the “once upon a time” portion of our newly-written family history— when they talk about the things they share together, most of the story will be told from the perspective of vast wealth and riches— of lives that were shaped and held together by God— all the while knowing and communicating that their inheritance from us was never merely “enough”:    it was always everything.

That’s our prayer.

And that amazing spice cake?
Well,  that was simply a bonus.

Lorretta signature

Critical Mass

 

Back in the day there was an advertising campaign that said, “If you want to capture someone’s attention, whisper.”  I’m sure it sold a lot of perfume.  Honestly, that notion has never been more relevant than it is today. It’s so freaking noisy.

In this day of mass consumption and mass communication everybody has the ability to talk things to death and beyond, leaving little room for the thinkers, doers and listeners. We’ve been pushed to the fringes, trapped on the jagged cliffs of Mt. McBlahBlah while the lemmings leap over us to their deaths. Somehow, we need to regroup and remember there is a better way.

Critical Mass

You don’t necessarily have to be “qualified” to become an outspoken expert in the field of   ALL THE THINGS— along with half a bazillion others— myself included. I realize this truth.  However, there is something important to be said for motive, wisdom, logic and integrity—necessary ingredients for any decent conversation. I must ask myself this all the time, “Where is your heart anchored”? Because Jesus said that’s where the words flow from.

Until yesterday, I refused to read the recent news. I couldn’t. Not because I do not care or don’t want to know. I simply could not bear the cacophony and white-hot frenzy of more “qualified” experts quite unwilling to listen, hear, empathize or, for God’s sake, REASON with any level of intelligent compassion. Genuineness and integrity getting tripped up and stomped on by those just “here for the show”.  Loud voices with fingers poised on the trigger of their chosen weapon, lobbing word bombs from the safe distance of their comfortable homes. Bang-Bang.  AK-47s may not be the most dangerous weapons in the room considering the power of mob mentality versus the truth.     Think about it.

Satan couldn’t possibly be more pleased. Chaos and confusion—his specialties— are in perpetual supply and we have become a society that thrives upon them. His task is so easy now: drop the hint that the problem is “out there” in the form of terrorism, sexuality, religion, politics and patriotism—whatever. Set the bait, stand back and watch hungry masses tear one another to bits because somebody took a bite out of their sacred cow.  It doesn’t take much because we’ve reached the point of critical mass: the bare minimum required to initiate and sustain a chain reaction.   We’re close.    Feel it?

Sadly , it’s all satan has ever been good at: fear-flavoring every good thing. “Did God really say….?”  BAM:

Doubt.
Confusion.
Anxiety.
Self-ishness.

That one question reverberating across every “modern day” situation we face.  If somehow we buy the lie or at least invest time doubting God’s faithfulness, presence, goodness…or existence… a chink in our armor forms just wide enough for the arrows to bring us down.

Real damage is being done by all the “Us’s” and every “Them”.  No matter where you stand, it’s nearly impossible not to feel the anxious, spiritual buildup like the forges of Mordor rumbling beneath our feet. Not everyone will acknowledge these things. Too many prefer living anesthetized lives of stupefaction through various forms of media and medicines. Numbed and dumbed by an excess of pleasure thinking we can somehow avoid the pain while ignoring how even amongst the most successful in our society, the suicide and drug abuse rates are climbing steadily.

Because there is real pain. But the fact remains that what we’re experiencing in our world today — every bit of it— is not the central issue. These are *symptoms*. Horrible, horrible mutations and manifestations of the terrible disease of sin within.

You know, sometimes.. I can imagine why Jesus wept.  Standing before Mary, He knew even sparing  her this moment of pain would not stop it’s flow immediately. Looking out over Jerusalem then, wanting to gather that city safely into his arms, surely He could see ahead to the world as it is today. His heart was grieved that even in light of His example and sacrifice, choices were going to be made to look away and hurt others anyway.

Even as a Christian, sometimes I find myself wandering into the middle of the fray forgetting that’s not they way we have been called to do this business of life. Sometimes I struggle to remember that God is not a part of the chaos and has no need to shout past Calvary. It is finished.  So how can I live as a part of the “it is finished” people? What is there to say on behalf of those who have to exist in the midst of a world entangled in all the “These things” Paul talked about?

It was this statement this past week from Audrey Assad that brought me back to the center of the issue and before the cross:

Not Easy to Offend

I was reminded that though I’m a warrior for the Gospel, my anchoring and methods of doing battle must be radically different from what I see around me today.

Sometimes I have to take a step back from the noise to gauge more clearly and remember thankfully, our Savior is still speaking ferocious love through the same, steady whisper throughout the ages:  “Return and rest.” ,  “Be still and know.”  and then  Go and tell through and with our stilled, knowing, returned and rested lives.

Salt and Light: It’s how we can be the healing, preserving and seasoning of salt while we illuminate and guide with our light-saturated lives.

Being still, knowing, returning and resting doesn’t seem like much of a solution when you look at it in view of the chaos.

Seems too basic—like putting a bandage on a gaping wound. Instead it’s more like a kiss from God on that ancient snake bite that doesn’t just heal for the moment…it’s the cure— the antidote for the poisonous sin deep in our souls.

And perhaps, in this age of hyper-awareness it may be the only way we can “capture the attention” of this noisy world around us so that the healing Gospel can whisper through the chaos.  It’s my prayer: Let them see Jesus in me.

SssshhhhhhhLorretta signature

Everything… and Nothing At All

A handful of felty-gray days pressed and pulled at the fringes of my heart giving off the sense that something was wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Not exactly. You know that feeling: the low hum of a yet undefined anxiousness blending with a slightly ominous overtone that starts to mute the true sounds of life.

When the message came delivering that bittersweet news, those fuzzy fragments came together giving final form to the feeling.  Strangely, I was relieved because now there was a place to put it all….a place to go and sort from. It was news that explained everything and at the same time…  nothing at all.

Everything and Nothing at All

There is an appropriate response for situations like this which is somehow altogether inappropriate now. I know what I should feel except… I don’t.  Instead, instinct cautions me to stand back detached and observant as it all plays out many miles away in Louisiana. It’s not really my place to do more than this: acknowledge the life of the man who, at least biologically, was my father.

For whatever Ransol James Hebert could have been to me in the span of his 77 years, the fact remains— he largely was not.  Reading back over that last sentence, I realize it sounds a little bitter but no…it’s just a fact and one I happen to have in common with three other souls here on earth. It seems strange to share nothing but a bit of DNA and hazy memories with 3 complete strangers but this is our truth: our common thread was a man who was able to become the father of each of us while remaining a daddy to none. We are simply the “milestones” or deposits  left over the course of his tumultuous lifetime and one by one, we’ve come to realize— that’s OK.

It’s difficult to say when, but at some point, I stopped needing answers.  Ransol James Hebert was simply one half of an equation that never really balanced out as long as I was the one trying to do the figuring. The death of my mother 13 years ago assured that I was going to have to live with the remaining mysteries.  So I have.

I had no idea he existed until I was a 10-year-old trapped in the midst of a bitter divorce and custody battle between my mother and (then assumed) father. The news broke over me and lay crumpled at my feet along with many other shattered expectations. It may sound melodramatic but I was the only kid I knew at the time with divorced parents and then to suddenly find out that one of them wasn’t even real…well, it was a bomb.  That was almost 38 years ago and l today I gladly testify that God heals the broken hearts of 10-year-olds needing a Daddy.

Navy Ransol 1956

They met in Florida. He was a Navy man and she was running from her Indiana past and trying to make a life as far different from the one she’d known as possible. This crazy cajun from “down da bayou” was absolutely different.  “Charisma” was the word to describe him— you couldn’t help but like Ransol. His presence filled the room in a bigger-than-life fashion compounded by the fact that he was always bigger in his own mind. Harmless really— Ransol was a booming bear of a man with a heart fully gilded in 14-karat fools gold.

Baby Lorrie

I entered the picture in 1968.  With a wife and two children back home, let’s just agree– things were  complicated. That never changed . I think he met me a month or two after I was born. I have this picture and her story of how he snatched me from her arms and marched me up and down the deck showing me off to everyone he knew.

After that the story gets hole-pocked and hollow.
Mental illness?
A  changed man.
A “jumped ship” in a North Korean bay.
A.W.O.L and a discharge?

Any more…for certain…. I do not know. My mother would never tell me more.

Me and Ransol

I spent a brief 6 or so months with him during the summer of my 14th year. Quite possibly, I lived more life in those few months than in all the years before.

I met “my people”.
I got on a boat for the first time and trawled for shrimp and crab.
I tasted crawfish, gumbo and jambalaya.
I learned to make a roux.

But by that time I’d already developed a few problems of my own and had my hand on the brush, ready to color the world with a few shades of my own rebellion. All I can say is that God’s hand was bigger than mine and He pushed it away.   I’m so thankful.

That’s mostly all the history there is between me and Ransol James Hebert, aged 77, who departed this earth on May 10, 2016.  As I’ve had the chance to talk to family before and since, there’s this sense of resolution being passed around like a common cup. It is what it is… honestly what it always was no matter which scenario we’re talking about. He was consistent.

Sadly, there’s only a mild, dull ache for this loss here and now simply because it’s an ache  each of us spent a lifetime knowing. We made our peace with it— some of us, at the foot of the cross. In testimony to the healing and resurrection power of God and in spite of the brokenness out of which we were born, grace has allowed us to chose the path of healing and wholeness.   We are OK.

Surely, there is grief.

For my part, I suppose I grieve the loss of so much potential. I can’t grieve a father but I can grieve the void between us that was never overcome and the resulting distance that was necessary. Although, for every moment of grief there is an equal and overflowing amount of grace. Four complete strangers have now stepped into the circle of family.

Let go and Forgive

For whatever Ransol James Hebert was not able to be for each of us over the course of his 77-year life, we can now choose to be for one another in the ways God allows.  That’s grace. Grace enough to keep walking forward in spite of our own fears and failings and now…grace enough to drape loosely over the tragically misspent life of Ransol James Hebert.  Rest in peace.

Able to dance,Lorretta signature