Tag Archives: grace

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

 

The Gaping Mouth of More

Crazy as it sounds, once upon a time, a meal at one of our more “common” fast food restaurants was a pretty big deal; a luxury. If you came from a big family, eating out was an expense reserved for high, family- feast days and a trip to the local burger joint was sometimes as close as you’d get.

So I remember this moment clearly.  A brand-new “Golden Arches” was big news for our little mountain town and all anyone could talk about. If you got to eat there you were certainly going to brag about it.  Seriously, it was a ridiculously big deal when we loaded up to go that evening.The Gaping Mouth

Excitement mounted as the six of us kids sat waited as patiently as possible for the parents to serve up our burger, drink and fries. Unwrapping that crinkly paper, I stared down at what seemed like the most perfect little burger on the face of the planet…all glossy and slick and warm. I felt all kinds of happy looking at that meal. I wanted it to last forever. I’m pretty sure I inhaled.

With the green light to eat, my little brother suddenly slid from his seat to use the bathroom, leaving his sweet little burger and fries untouched— and unattended— right there in front of me. I can’t tell you why, so please don’t ask. In the moments it took for him to step away and slip out of sight, the deed was done: I took a B-I-T-E out of his burger. Yep. With my own still untouched, steamy and glossy in front of me, I stole a bite of his first.

Shame on me.

And shame there was. Caught red-handed with a cheek full of burger and hot tears stinging my eyes, I faced the embarrassment of the loud and exasperated “WHY?!?! What is WRONG with you?!?”   Heck if I knew…..     I just wanted….     more.

More.

As you can imagine, the craving for “More” got me into trouble that day and, in one form or another,  it’s gotten me into quite a bit of trouble since.  God + Maturity + Time has revealed to me how it’s not been so much an issue of unmet needs or expectations. Instead, it’s about learning what it means to be satisfied and how ultimately, it’s God alone who can satisfy. That’s not as easy or as cut-n-dried-Christian-cliche as one might expect.

I am a Christian. I’ve taken the studies and I’ve read the verses teaching the truths and how to apply them. I am a Christian, so of course I’m expected to espouse and emulate always how God is the ultimate source of my ultimate satisfaction. Make no mistake: I know in my gut He is.  But allow me to confess that while I’m much further along than I was back in my “Burger Biting” days, at times it’s difficult to remember and recognize I’ve been drawn off course until I’m a little ways out there.

Search me God

Through my personal Lenten journey this year, God has been gradually revealing another level of “tweaking” He wants to do in this area. I thought I’d been doing pretty good— or at least better. But God wants to do what God always wants to do: Go Deeper. Further. Higher.

It’s this “call to missions” I keep going on about.  I’m justifiably terrified of getting settled into a place of self-satisfaction and somehow missing it.  Factor in how 1000+ personnel from the agency we’d been speaking with were brought back home due to budget adjustments. Now we’re not sure what to do. Continuing to pray and seek the answer,  I fear losing momentum or, as I was telling my dear friend Jane the other day— afraid of unwittingly tripping over the line between contentment into complacency. As if God couldn’t shield, protect and guide my willing and obedient heart. 

Now, you’d think… “Oh, well missions is a “God thing” so it must be OK to be discontent and crave more.”  Yes and no. Maybe…it’s complicated.

Yes to pressing in and on towards that upward calling in Christ Jesus.
Yes to flexibility and teachability.
Yes to all the “yes’s and Amen’s” of now.

That’s  also where the “No” comes in:

No if I can’t wait well.
No, if I can’t learn and be humbled during the waiting.
No, if the “thing” from God starts to take the shape of a God-replacing idol.
No… if I can’t joyfully do whatever where I am as if the mission field is always “someplace else”.

And especially NO if I give in to discouragement, unable to appreciate the good and beautiful gifts he’s placed right in front of me because I’m constantly looking towards something “More-better”.

Here, the craving for “more” gets me in trouble and it’s where God is gently, but firmly convicting me sin in my life— how I keep looking past the good gifts right in front of me, afraid to enjoy them for fear of missing the MORE I, for some reason, sense is out theresomewhere, waiting for me.  I’ve been convicted of impatience and lack of trust…and even, in my spirit, of “despising” His pleasure in small beginnings.

Small Beginnings

Soul-wearied,  I’ve asked the girl in the mirror, “WHY?!? What’s WRONG with you?!?” Heck if I know… I simply crave more.  More God-glorifying unity and diversity. More God-centered teamwork and working hard for Him together.  More of seeing Him move mightily in the lives of others and using me up to do it. I wanna be there, wherever and when it happens….and I forget, painfully forget… it’s happening right here…right now…

  • In paper cups filled with seeds and dirt and harvest promise with plenty to share.
  • Working with a community of women to open God’s grace to 91 of our young ladies.
  • In relationship with neighbors who know about Jesus but nothing yet of His saving grace.

(Sigh)… see what I mean?

So, this is where I am today— humbled, repentant and somewhat embarrassed to make these confessions. But I’m willing to put it all out here because I believe, on some level I’m not alone here. Maybe you’re struggling too? Maybe you’re having a hard time in the waiting place or in knowing how to remain satisfied with what IS even in the light of what MAY (or may not) BE. Maybe it’s a reminder to live the “someday” NOW.

Less than Living

These words shake me. I don’t wanna be “That Girl”… preoccupied with the once was or might be only to find that spent my life doing “something less” instead of the more I’ve always craved.

For the record, although I can’t tell him myself, if my brother was alive today I’d want him to know…”Hey, I’m really sorry about that whole burger thing”.

Trust me, he’d laugh.Lorretta signature

Linking with Jennifer@ Tell His Story