My Funny Friend and Me

August 18, 2020

One year ago today I said goodbye to my best friend. He was my dog. He was mine, and he had been mine since he was just 7 weeks old. He was 16 when he died and he had lived a good, long life. He was an angel from heaven and he taught me how to love. He comforted me when I was sick or sad. Once when I had a terrible fever and was convulsing in chills, he stretched his whole body out on top of me to regulate my body temperature and stop me from shaking. When I would cry he would gently approach me and look into my eyes and lick my tears off my cheeks. When I was stressed about my son in the worst days of his disorders,  I would collapse into bed at the end of a day and just stare at the ceiling in shock from what I had witnessed and all I was feeling. And my dog would lie at the end of my bed, press his paws down on my left foot and he would lick that foot so soothingly that I would begin to calm down and could eventually sleep. Last year, after he died, I had his name tattooed on that spot.

His name was Baby Fish Mouth. He was legendary. He was one of a kind. He was my best friend and my constant companion. I miss him every single day.

After experiencing 9/11 in NYC, a lot of my friends wanted to get married or move out of the city or have a baby…I wanted a dog. I was fairly broken at that time in my life and had become a hardened woman. I lived a rich life, full of friends and adventures, but I was distant and couldn’t seem to feel things very deeply. Baby Fish Mouth changed that. He softened my heart. I had always been one of those people who liked a lot of personal space. But he was one of those dogs that did not. He would spoon with me at night, sit on my lap when I was sitting down, and was at my feet when I was standing up. He would follow me from room to room, and if I got engrossed in something that didn’t involve him, he would sit by me and grumble until I bent down and gave him a hug. Because of him, my heart opened up.  I began to cry at movies. I began to love snuggling with him. At night I would sing him songs as I rubbed his belly, and he would fall asleep. I would hold him like a baby and walk around my room singing. When we would go visit my parents and he would spend the day running around like a maniac, he would collapse on my lap at night, his arms and legs hanging off my body, in a dead sleep. 

He softened my heart. And after a few years with him, I wanted to open my heart more. I adopted my son and our family grew to 3. Rahul called Baby Fish Mouth his “dog-brother”. The first time Rahul walked in my house, he marched up to Baby and patted him on the head. They were friends ever after. The first time I ever heard Rahul say the words “I love you” it was whispered in Baby’s ear. Rahul (now 19) recently told me that the closest friend he ever had was Baby Fish Mouth. 

Of course, I knew Baby Fish Mouth wouldn’t live forever.  I used to whisper in his ear that I needed him to stay with me as long a he could. And that I really wanted him to try to live until Rahul went to college. He died one week before Rahul’s first day of freshman year at City College. He heard me. He listened to me. He taught me. When I had no one, I had him. When I was in pain he soothed me. 

I used to pray for him before I met him. I asked God to create a dog just for me. And when I went to meet this crazy litter of puppies — half pug, half terrier — I prayed that God would show me which one was mine. As I sat on the porch of the shelter in Connecticut where they were living, I reached out and petted each one. They were all tan, with short hair and sweet faces. Then this weirdo oddball came sauntering by, brindle, with long wiry hair. He was so tired that he was stumbling, so I picked him up and put him on my lap. He immediately fell asleep, with his nose tucked comfortably inside my elbow. The woman who ran the shelter looked down at him and said, “I think someone picked you!” That was the moment he became mine.

On the day he died — one year ago today — I wrapped my arms around him as he lay in the cart my friend José had bought for him, cushioned on Rahul’s childhood comforter, and I sang to him and thanked him for all he had given me. As the doctor inserted the needle in his arm that would stop his little heart, I whispered into his ear how much I loved him and my tears wet his head. I wanted him to leave this world knowing he had done what he came here to do. I wanted him to know he was not alone. And that he had changed my life completely.

Many years ago,my friend Winston and I did a small show here in NYC, where we covered the music of Sting. Each night, I ended the show with this song, dedicated to Baby Fish Mouth. My funny friend. My best friend.

My Funny Friend and Me, written by Sting. Performed by Renée Smith (vocals) and Winston Philip (keys).

ROAR

April 25, 2020

Hosea had always scared me.

Hosea is that man whose calling as a prophet was to marry an unfaithful woman, so he could demonstrate to people what God was feeling. It always seemed unnecessary and cruel to ask this man to suffer so much. It scared me because if God called Hosea to a life of such humiliation and suffering, surely the same fate lay ahead for me if I followed Him wholeheartedly. Of course there’s a lot more to the story, but I never was really able to get past Hosea’s pain and see the bigger picture.

Recently I started thinking about Hosea a lot. When I looked at my life, it seemed as though I had been putting out a lot of love and not getting very much returned. I wondered if perhaps I was already living a Hosea type of life filled with more than my fair share of rejection and humiliation and hadn’t really noticed it. So I braced myself for a painful lesson and settled in to reread the biblical book I so often avoided.

And what I found was a piece of God I had never understood before. A piece of Him you can only understand if you have suffered in the particular way Hosea suffered. Which I guess is why God wove this harrowing story for Hosea to live. God needed–or maybe He just desired–for a man to tell us how it felt to love us. Hopefully you haven’t felt the acute pain of loving someone who didn’t or couldn’t love you back. Or the choking, suffocating feeling of love that cannot be expressed or appreciated. But for those of us who have, we understand a part of God that we can tell you about.

Many years ago God called me to become Rahul’s mom. He was 7 and he had been traumatized, and I was re-traumatizing him by pulling him out of the only life he knew to move him across the earth and become Family with me. I knew we would spend our lives battling his demons and I understood that he might always be angry with me for taking him away from his home. I knew that he might always be broken and that I could potentially spend my whole life trying to mend a heart that could never heal.

The journey with Rahul these last 12 years has been harrowing. Rahul has battled his demons valiantly and worked harder on growing and healing than anyone I’ve ever seen before. He has looked his traumas straight in the eyes over and over and fought with all his strength to overcome every obstacle that has threatened to undo him. As for me, I’ve lost money, friends, sleep, sanity, and health. I have been bruised and bloodied, crushed and broken. It feels like Rahul and I are army buddies. We continue to fight the good fight together and we love each other a lot.

But one thing that has been difficult for me is that Rahul has a disorder that makes him very resistant to attaching to people. Attachment is a foreign language he has had to learn. I have had to teach him how to need me. How to reach out for me when he’s hurting. How to ask for help when he’s stuck. And still, even after 12 years and all these battles later, he can only open his heart so much, he can only trust so much, he can only feel safe loving so much. Rahul fills me with joy and delight, but I am also filled with longing. I long for him to love spending time with me as much I love spending time with him. I long for him to feel whole and complete because of my love the same way I feel whole and complete because of his. Rahul and I were laughing just today about how ironic it is that while we are sheltering in place at home together during this pandemic, he is the only person who is allowed to touch me. I long for a hug–from anyone! And the one person who is allowed to hug me is my boy who prefers to wrap himself up in a blanket cocoon as far away from me as possible. Rahul is very kind to me. He does nice things for me that are really special: sometimes he brushes my hair at night while we talk, sometimes he rubs my feet at the end of a hard day, once he sang me a lullaby and held me while I cried about my car breaking down. I have taught him to do these things. He has trusted me enough to allow me to teach him. These moments are pure gold to me. But I long for more. As I read Hosea’s words about God’s longing for His children to come near to Him and love him with the same ferocity that He loved them, I realized that I knew exactly what that felt like.

It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.” Hosea 11:3-4

 

Unrequited romantic love is the worst pain. I have known it intimately. It is humiliating and demoralizing to fall in love with someone who does not love you. It is exhausting to hold your heart open for a man who does not want it, not because you have chosen to torture yourself, but because God has marched you up to the top of a mountain and shown you the most exquisite vista, the most amazing man you have ever known. Then He has left you there with no seeming plan to carry you to that vista, so you wait and watch and wonder if you should go back down the mountain or if you even can! You wonder if God has forgotton you there on the mountain. Or maybe He’s mad at you and has plans to throw you off the mountain to humiliate you. And the vista is always in view, growing brighter and more attractive with each encounter you have with him. You decide, finally, that God has brought you up this mountain and you’re going to trust Him to get you off of it. You decide to not be consumed with worry or despair, but to trust Him. To wait faithfully for the vista He has led you to. And you decide to believe that one day your love with be returned and you can love the man you love. Freely and safely pouring out your heart to him.

“I will be like the dew to Isreal; he will blossom like a lily…His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon…He will blossom like a vine, and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon…I will answer him and care for him. I will heal [his] waywardness and love him freely.” Hosea 14:5-8; 4

 

Living through this pandemic in NYC has been painful in many ways. Friends have been sick, others have lost loved ones. One of my best friends lost both her parents to the virus on Easter weekend. She had given birth to her daughter just two weeks before they died. The pain my friend is feeling is unmeasurable. It is unknowable. It is unendurable. All I want to do is go to her and hug her. I want to sit at her side and hold her hand and let her cry into my hair. I want to be in the same space with her and breathe the same air as her so we can mourn together. But all I can do is bake her bread and hang it on her doorknob, trusting that God will make that bread taste like a hug from me.

“Wait for your God always.” Hosea 12:6

“In You the fatherless find compassion.” Hosea 14:3

 

Last night I went for a walk in the middle of the night. I wrapped a scarf around my face even though I knew I would not encounter anyone else in my neighborhood that I would need to social distance from. I walked and cried and prayed, as I often do. And as I passed my son’s former elementary school I stopped in my tracks. There, staring straight at me, were hundreds of daffodils. There was just enough light from the moon and the streetlights to make them out. They were facing me and I felt overcome. Spring had come and was shouting at me and I couldn’t acknowledge it. I couldn’t appreciate all the beautiful flowers and colors and smells because I have been holding my breath for weeks. I have been wrapped up and closed up and bottled up emotionally, and as I stood there staring at these flowers that had been holding themselves open all day, all week, probably, just waiting for someone to notice them and appreciate the generosity of their beauty. I just said outloud “Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.” My heart broke for them because I know how they feel.

“My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. For I am God , and not man–the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath. They will follow the Lord;

He will roar like a lion.

When He roars his children will come trembling from the west…like birds…I will settle them in their homes, declares the Lord.”  Hosea 11:8-11

So I stand on my mountain and I spread my arms open wide. I turn slowly as I search the entire horizon for those that I love. I can’t see them, but I can feel them. I know they are near. I draw in breath and fill my weary lungs with air. And I release the sound that will make them come running. It will make them know that I love them and that they are free to love me back. It is the sound that contains all my compassion, all my humiliation, all my desperation, all my love.

“ROAAAAAAAARRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!”

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Mountains

September 15, 2019

Jesus taught that even if we have a very small amount of genuine faith, we can move mountains from Here to There. We can even tell a mountain to throw itself into the sea and it will! I take Jesus at his word and believe he meant this literally. He wanted us to understand that we have access to the power that created the universe. That whatever we want, whatever we ask for in prayer, if we believe and do not doubt, will be given to us. That faith is a gift from God because we are special to Him. That our desires and our needs are important to Him. That He wants us to reach out to Him and ask Him for what we want. That in fact, He created our hearts and planted desires in them in order that we might see how much He loves us when those desires are answered.

God created those mountains Jesus talked about. He created them and He planted them exactly where He wanted them to be. And for my part, I don’t have any desire to rearrange the mountains. They seem good right where they are! The mountains I’d like to move are the mountains of bills sitting on my desk. The mountains of chores that pile up in my home on a daily basis. The mountains of projects that have already passed their deadlines.

And to be honest, lately there are mountains sitting on my shoulders that are crushing me. The Mountain of Loss. The Mountain of Parenting Failure. The Mountain of Heartbreak. The Mountain of Financial Strain. The Mountain of Constantly Struggling Because I Never Have Enough. Never enough money. Never enough time. Never enough sleep. Never enough joy.

Single parenting is lonely business. When my son struggles, I bear that pain alone. It’s always up to me to find solutions for his problems, stay ahead of his challenges, protect him, fight for him. I have lots of helpers, but I also have a son with lots of special needs and there is no one who cares for him the way I do. So I carry around his pains, his losses, his trauma, his struggles the way any parent does, but I do it alone. Like only single parents can understand.

I started my own business almost a decade ago, and it has been my family’s only source of income since day one. So when my business struggles, we struggle. There have been times when I couldn’t afford milk. Or tampons. Or toilet paper. There have been times when I appealed and groveled and begged for debt relief or payment plans or reduced rates in ways so humiliating, only someone who has done the same can understand. There is an exhaustion and a shame in struggling financially that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I love my work and I love my customers. But I am a one woman operation. Renee Smith Hair Design. It’s all me. I bear the entire weight of my business on my own.

My heart has been so broken and crushed lately that I don’t think it will ever completely recover. It will always carry around the disappointment and embarrassment of unrequited love and the grief of loss. My dog has died. He was my best friend. The most constant companion of my last 16 years. He cared for me when no one else did and he comforted me when no one else could. I will always have a Baby Fish Mouth sized hole in my heart.

So. The idea that Jesus tells me that I have the power to move all of these mountains is amazing to me! Of course, I realize that no matter how it feels, I am not bearing the weight of all these mountains alone. God is with me. He fights my battles. He comforts me in despair. He has a beautiful plan for my life that includes joy and restoration and comfort. He doesn’t want me to suffer and He doesn’t want me to feel overburdened. What He wants me to do is to move these mountains from Here to There. He wants me to tell them to throw themselves into the sea! He wants me to move them off of my shoulders and into His hands.

And that is what I will do.

 

“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”  Mark 11:23

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Baby Fish Mouth and his person, 2011

 

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Big Hug

August 13, 2019

Last night, for the third night in a row, I dreamt that an ex-boyfriend came to me and comforted me. Each night it has been a different one and I don’t have that many, so at this rate I’ll be done with these visitations by the end of the week. LOL. But this morning I got to wondering if there’s a message in these dreams. Maybe I need a big hug and my subconscious rolodex is sending me people who have been kind and loving to me in the past. It’s been a very emotional summer and I do think I might need some comforting.

Many chapters in my life are closing and it’s getting harder and harder to resist being swept away with waves of sadness. There’s a lot of happiness too, because of course as these chapters are closing, new ones are beginning! But this summer is about the transition and these chapters have meant the world to me.

Rahul graduated from high school, which was what started all this chapter closing. But also there are relationships that are ending; my trusty steed of a car is on it’s last leg (Please make it through one more season, Sally!); and my very best friend in the world, Baby Fish Mouth, is in his last days. I’m hoping he will continue to be comfortable and happy a little while longer, but his beautiful, long life is definitely coming to an end. I get to thinking about these things and I’m overwhelmed with emotion. I keep crying and talking and praying, but there’s still tons more sadness in this ridiculous heart of mine.

God has given me the most helpful gift, though, to help me in this transition. He has given me the most amazing friends. Collectively, they are my strength in weakness. And individually, each one gives me something special that I need. There’s the one who knows all of Rahul’s secrets and struggles and advises me in a way only a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who also accompanied me to India to get Rahul and can read my mind and finish all my sentences can. There’s the couple that sits with me end.less.ly as I pour out my heart and literally refer to a list as I detail all the problems and challenges in my life. There’s the friend that always picks up the phone to talk and pray with me. Like, almost daily. I don’t even know what her outgoing voicemail message sounds like! There’s the friend who before she moved to a different time zone, called me every Wednesday morning at 6am to pray. For years. There were times I would wait up all night with the phone in my hand because of the terrible things that were happening with Rahul that I needed to pray with her about. Now we have marathon catch-up phone calls every couple months where we talk and pray for hours and hours. It’s food to my soul. There’s the friend who is my partner in crime, always down to do fun things together: the ballet, rooftop bars, Broadway shows…it’s always a blast. But she also prays for me and mine more fiercely and specifically and faithfully than anyone. There’s the friend who makes me laugh harder than I have in a really long time with his texts full of ridiculous memes and gifs and who somehow finds something good about my heart even when I’m being rude and sarcastic. And another of my friends hands me a gift almost every time I see her! She heard me say I love tea and gave me a tea set; she saw I love journalling and hands me a new journal every time I turn around. I could go on and on, because God has blessed me incredibly. These people love me so much. I’m surrounded and protected by their love.

So you don’t need to visit me anymore, ex-boyfriends! Thanks, I’m good. I mean, anybody who wants to give me a hug, I will not turn you away. LOL. I’m doing my best to keep my head above the waves. But I need my friends right now to help me have the strength to move forward. And in them I’ve got everything I need to make it to the next chapter.

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Baby Fish Mouth

 

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Rare sighting of Single Mom recently out for a drink with some other single parents

A single mom of noble character who can find? She is worth more than she will ever understand or be acknowledged for.

Her child has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

She works with eager hands every single day. She started her own business so she could spend more time with her son, while making enough money to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. She cooks every meal for her son, because she can’t afford take-out, and even though she’s not so fond of cooking, she does love the feeling of taking care of his basic needs. She shops regularly at way more stores than she ever thought would be necessary to find the best deals on toilet paper, milk and Indian spices. Sometimes she stands in front of organic produce wrestling over whether to buy more expensive tomatoes because they don’t have pesticides on them. Almost always she says a prayer that the pesticides will not harm her child and the earth will be saved by richer people then her. And she buys the cheap, toxic tomatoes.

She gets up while it is still dark. Every day. She walks the dog, feeds the cat, gets herself ready for the day, wakes up her son, feeds him and starts working before most people’s alarm clocks have even gone off. She lives by the motto “Sleep is overrated”, much to the chagrin of her friends, who scratch their heads and wonder how much longer she’s really going to be able to live on five hours sleep per night.

She sets about her busy workday, eager to see her clients, who trust her and care about her. She prays every morning to love her customers and asks that God will imbue her with skill and heart so they will be made happy through her. She sets about her work vigorously, parallel parking her car in tiny spaces that no one else would dare atempt, carrying her bags of supplies up to fifth floor walk-up apartments, greeting babies, dogs, cats, gerbils, housekeepers, nannies, husbands and wives with an open heart and a desire to serve. She laughs with her clients, she cries with them, sometimes stopping them mid-story to give them a hug or a kleenex. She longs to connect with each of them in a meaningful way, desiring to be more than a hairdresser, but a friend. A trusted confidant. A refuge. Her arms are super strong from blowdrying hair all day. No, really. They look awesome.

When she walks in her own door at the end of each workday, she is greeted by a mischeivous, needy cat; an elderly dog with a beautiful spirit; and a (usually) cheerful child. Her lamp will not be going out for, like, 8 more hours because she has to cook dinner, clean the house, do the laundry, feed the pets, walk the dog, pay the bills, follow up with her clients, set up appointments for the rest of the week and drive her son to various activities. She has amazing friends, and although she has very little time and energy to take care of them after all her other responsibilities, she really tries to talk them often and do special things for them that let them know she loves them. And after all, sleep is overrated.

When it snows, she gets boots for her kid, little booties for her dog (so he doesn’t hurt his paws walking on the snow and salt) and an awesome variety of coats, boots, scarves and gloves for herself so she can feel stylish even when bundled up to shovel her car out of the snow.

She makes coverings for her parents’ bed! She really does! She quilts them blankets, hand-sewing every stitch with love.

She is clothed with strength and dignity. And also really cute skinny jeans from H&M and  awesome shoes from DSW. Yes, these are discounts stores and these adorable clothes don’t last much more than one season, but she feels awesome trotting around town in clothes that express on the outside what she feels on the inside. And of course her hair is killer. I mean, hello. She’s a hairdresser. That would be a travesty.

She can laugh at the days to come. OK, yes, she is facing an empty nest situation, but come on. She has noble character! She’s got so many plans it would make your head spin. Just. You. Watch. Act 1 may be coming to an end, but you’re not going to believe Act 2. Seriously.

She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue. Almost every night her son sits with her and unloads his feelings from the day. Sometimes she’s folding laundry when this happens, sometimes she’s giving him a facial, sometimes he’s brushing her hair. He often sighs deeply in between topics to signal to her that he is done talking about this and is now moving on to that. She listens attentively and tries to only speak when she has something helpful to say, which let’s face it, is most of the time. Sometimes she wishes there were cameras in her house broadcasting her amazing insights and repsonses so other people could truly appreciate her cleverness, patience and love for her son.

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. She does really love bread, but not that kind.

Beauty is fleeting, but when she looks at herself in the mirror at the end of the day she notes that she is pretty sure she looks better at her age than she did when she was 25. She was never a beauty, but there’s something about her health and joy and gratitude and mischievousness that seems to catch people’s eye, because there have been lots of times lately when people have stopped her to tell her how lovely or stylish or luminous or even beautiful she looks, which is super weird, since people used to go out of their way to tell her how ugly and awkward and unattractive she was. Go figure.

She is grateful when she finally goes to bed in the middle of the night that she is super exhausted so she doesn’t have the energy to think too much about who she wishes was in bed with her. Just when she entertains that thought a bit too long, her dog rests his head on her feet and her cat sits on her face.

Her child arises and calls her blessed. So does everyone who knows her. Even though she has no money, no husband, no fame, no great success, people can see that she is blessed.

Honor her. She might be invisible to you, but notice her. She doesn’t need much attention, but she does feel like God is doing so many great things in her life that she doesn’t want you to miss out. She definitely doesn’t want praise, but a hug every once in a while might be nice. Or maybe you could take her out for a drink. She’s really appreciate that.

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The Bible contains this famous poem about “A Wife of Noble Character”…

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

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July 3rd, 2018 I woke with a start. In that moment right before I woke up I had a vision. And it startled me so much that I sat straight up in bed with my eyes wide open. The vision was one image: God showed me a screen, like a smartphone with a message on it that looked like a text. It said, “Help is on the way.”

As I sat there in bed, relief and gratitude washed over me. God saw me. He saw my struggle and He was sending me help. Relief was on its way and His message gave me the strength to hold on.

I have been walking with God for a few decades now, and over the years He has spoken to me in lots of different ways. My relationship with Him is very noisy; we talk to each other a lot! But until that day a year ago I had never heard Him so clearly.

June 2018 was a really hard month. Bad news, heartbreak, but worst of all, confusion. All year I had been hearing God’s voice so clearly, directing me and encouraging me to open up. To be faithful. To trust Him. To hope. I would often be praying, asking Him questions and walking, and I would stop in my tracks when I heard His answer. It felt like lots of lightbulbs going off in my head, in my heart. Anxiety would settle immediately and I could breathe easy again, because God had comforted me and shown me what to do. I followed His direction and sought His guidance in everything.

But in June I suddenly couldn’t hear Him anymore. I would pray and ask Him why He was being so silent.  I would cry and ask Him to please let me hear Him again. He did send me comfort and communication, indirectly. Friends rushed to my side, music gave me a way to express my feelings, scriptures gave me life and direction. But even with all of that I was still confused and couldn’t understand what was happening or why.

So on July 3rd, when He told me, “Help is on the way” I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. I told my friends about His message and we all wondered what it would be. And the very next day, help began to arrive. God brought the most incredible people into my life all summer long. They brought excitement and romance and encouragement with them. They made me feel more special than I have ever felt and showed me that living life with an open heart didn’t only mean that it would be sure to be broken. It also meant that other open, worthy hearts would be drawn to me. God knew exactly what I needed and He provided healing and comfort and joy in ways I never would have expected. And as the summer drew to a close I found my footing again. I heard God speaking to me again.

One friend, the one who had given me the most strength through his encouragement, sat down with me at the end of the summer. He thanked me for something God had shown him through my friendship. And through tears I told him about the vision I had received. And I thanked him for being the promised help that I had desperately needed.

And today as I look back over the past year, and over my whole life, and recall all the ways God has spoken to me I am filled with gratitude. And I am perking up my ears to hear What’s Next.

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Why Things Happen

July 1, 2019

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That’s the top math award in his hand. And that’s the look of being exasperated at me in his eyes:)

You could look at my son’s life and say he has terrible luck. You could spend lifetimes trying to wrap your mind around why his young life was filled with trauma. You could shake your fist at God for allowing this innocent child to suffer abuse, abandonment, neglect, ridicule, desolation, hunger, disease and shame with no adult in his life to protect him or love him. You could really get stuck. Questioning. Blaming. Doubting.

When Rahul began to develop a faith in God as a young teenager, he reached an impasse when he started to think about why all these terrible things happened to him. He and I would talk about it, and I advised him to search out the answer to that question on his own. I could tell him my conviction about it, but I knew he had to have his own rock solid belief in God’s Providence and Love if he was going to have a genuine faith. I could guide him, but I couldn’t give him the answer. There is an answer, I told him, and you will  find it. But you are going to have to find it for yourself. I can’t give you mine. His Bible teacher, Marc, provided him with lots of food for thought from the scriptures and also introduced him to several adults he knew who had also suffered trauma as children and had made peace with God and found genuine faith. They generously shared their stories with him and Rahul guards their identities and testimonies to this day. He also talked to other kids his age who were wrestling with similar questions and together they would puzzle out what they were thinking and support each other.

Finally, Rahul reached conclusions and convictions about this question and others that didn’t just satisfy him, they gave him life. He is passionate about asking these questions and discussing them and they are the cornerstone of his faith in God. He understands things about life and pain that most seasoned Christians don’t fully grasp. Feel free to ask him about it, he loves discussing these topics.

But while he understands the long range Providence of God more deeply than most, sometimes he loses sight of the short range reason for Why Things Happen.

He was recently accepted to City College (yay!), but for a whole bunch of reasons, he won’t be admitted to their Grove School of Engineering until he completes a math class at the college this summer. It’s a long story and really not that interesting. But it’s one of those things that can feel tedious at best, maddening at worst. Wondering, Why Me? Why did other students get admitted without having to take this course? Why do I have to take it when I have already taken it–and also higher level math courses–in high school and received accolades and awards for my performances in these classes? What did I do to deserve this?

Why Do I Have Such Bad Luck?

This is what Rahul was asking me the other day. I stopped what I was doing and looked him in the eye and told him the following:

I can understand why you are feeling disappointed and discouraged, but you need to stop thinking about your life as though everything that happens to you is either based on your merit or your luck. That. Is. Not. Why. Things. Happen. People may think they do, people may say they do, but they don’t. You have an amazing brain. You know that, your teachers know that, your college will soon know that. You don’t have to feel like a failure because you got put in this class. It was not meant to be a message to you that you are undeserving or that you have to prove anything. You are God’s Man. If you can believe that you will be saved from so much unnecessary pain. The reason things happen is because He needs you to be exactly where He puts you. Take this class, for instance. I don’t know why you’re there, but there is a reason that you can’t see yet. Maybe you will meet your wife there! Or the professor teaching it may become your mentor! Or another student in the class may need a friend who has experienced the things that you have! Or the homeless person riding the subway with you may need the lunch you buy them! Do you see? You have to expand your thinking. There is a reason, you just can’t get stuck feeling punished or discouraged or frustrated because then you’ll miss it. 

He seemed to understand, as much as he can for now. It’s one of those lessons that doesn’t really make sense until you see it played out. But I feel it’s important that he not get stuck.

This morning, as he was leaving for what is essentially his first day of college he asked me to pray for him. He was feeling too nervous and emotional to do it himself. Of course I’ll pray for you, Honey, I said.

And as he walked out the door,

I will pray that you meet your wife in this class!

 

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