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-heated 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

 

The Fading Signs of Motherhood

Oh these times… they are a’changin.  The signs are everywhere….

Fading Signs

Not long ago, while cleaning an overgrown area in the yard, I spotted them: two pool noodle and pvc-pipe “swords”. Each was wrapped soundly in what had to be an entire roll of duct tape and lay hidden beneath a few seasons of vines and leaves— likely captured in the midst of a neighborhood skirmish or dropped in place at the sound of the dinner bell. Four years? Five? Surely, they had no idea it was their last battle.

IMG_3487.JPG

Later, while prepping the bathroom for a long overdue paint job, I was forced to remove this little sign from the shower wall. No longer important but once upon a very real time, it was all a mother could do in this house to ensure she had at least one washcloth with which to wash her face. One that hadn’t been used to wipe mud from a shoe— or worse!

Mom's face cloth

Then… there’s this charming memento of a former time when this gesture only made me feel a little bit better about the situation since it was largely ignored and at least once a week I’d find myself nearly “bottomed out and shrieking” in the wee hours of the dimly lit night.   #word

Toilet Seat

There are no more army men in the refrigerator.
I haven’t stepped on a Lego in ages.
The potted plants haven’t seen a Matchbox car or dinosaur in quite a while.
AirSoft BB’s still haunt the corners only  because I kicked the box  while cleaning the closet.

The  bunker-style holes in the back yard have been filled in and the old tires used for camouflage have recently been stacked and turned into a bird bath. The honeybees like it too.

The American Girl doll is wrapped and safely tucked away along with many dog-eared and well-loved lap books waiting on the next generation of readers to come along. Pointe shoes hang here and there testifying to the countless lessons and lost bobby pins of a chiffon-and-lace girl — now happily married and continuing the legacy many hours of driving away.

A page is turned.
These are the fading signs of Motherhood.

Home schooling only factored in more gravity to the massive responsibility I’ve felt attempting to mother these past 24 years. Twenty-four. Whew. Depending on where you find yourself in the equation, 24 years may or may not seem like a long time. If you’re currently up to your elbows and eyeballs in chaos and bodily fluids, well then it seems near-about eternal!  

However, if you’re like me— who just this very moment heard “number last” call “I love you” while driving off (in YOUR car) to get a haircut he’ll pay for with his own money, well. There is hardly a way to define that tender mix of pleasure and pain — both necessary ingredients in this beautiful recipe of life.

“This is good.” I tell myself.
This is how it’s supposed to be.

With equal amounts of fear and trembling, joy and imagination…you raise them up and hold them close with the goal of somedayletting them go.

I blinked and BAM! My “baby” son is now a senior in high school. In all fairness, it wasn’t really a blink but I’ll straight up tell you:  it’s a bit stunning to think about it now that it’s here. Sometimes sadness, or at the very least melancholy threatens to creep up around the edges of my heart. It’s the feeling that something is flat over and done and I’ll never have it again. With a strange longing, I look back at these memories sweetly colored and draped with nostalgia and it almost overwhelms me.

Until I stop.
Because I must.

Because nostalgia can be a slow, killing disease. Nostalgia can rob you blind of the wonderful here and now and well, let’s be honest— those days were good, but they were equally hard and now this— even the hard stuff– really good too. I’d be a fool to insult the truth by attempting to paint a picture of perfection that really doesn’t exist in any situation. FACT: none of us has it all together. Although together, it’s nice that we try.

It’s one of the first things I noticed when I first started writing: how much support the common Mommy can find out here. Honestly, it floored me. I was drowning in personal crisis back then so it also grieved my heart terribly to find so much affirmation and advice, camaraderie and consolation given and shared so freely.   I didn’t have that.   My heart ached at first because OH!! I wished I could turn back the hands of time and live my Mommy years again in the company of others who might understand that I was an ignorant pioneer in this experience.    I needed mothering myself.

I didn’t stay there long.
Sure, I have my regrets.
There are things I’d do more better.
There are some things I’d do less…..  or not at all.

I’m not going to preach or pronounce over which is which because there are some things we each must learn in order to fully rely on and freely fall into the arms of Jesus. In this way, we are forever children too.  Besides, how can I regret anything that keeps me on my knees before him?

Letting Go

It was the words of a friend that comforted me most reminding me that God is sovereign especially in this regard: He knows. I was born for such a time as this, no mistake. 

It’s all grace.  Abundantly received and now more to be given beyond those years.

To my today Self.
To you.
To my adult children and future grandchildren .
To my neighbor with a herd of young’uns running around the yard.
To the unwed mother down the street.

Grace:    It’s the most necessary ingredient of motherhood.

Like a well-loved lap book in the hands of God, grace has rubbed smooth most of the sharp edges of my life. He knows my heart so time and again when I stood perched on the edges of making a huge mess of it all and about to topple over into some Mom-crazy abyss, God bridged the gap with Himself and somehow allowed us all to cross safely over, through and beyond to today.   How kind.

How kind that He has given me today. I can almost laugh at my former ignorances because I have the gift and the memories today:

We lived and loved together under this roof out loud.
Clenched fists, hot tears, slammed doors and angry voices.
Many, many precious “I’m-sorry-I-love-you” moments on both sides of the equation.
Kitchen dancing and hide-n-seek.
Night terrors, bad dreams, potty training and puke buckets.
The ebb and flow of motherhood balanced out with forehead kisses of God’s grace.

What a precious, precious gift.   It’s been good.

Dancing into the next season,Lorretta signature