Friday, December 14, 2012

Dear God...

When I was a young girl, my two year old cousin passed away. And for several years after that, I found myself confused about God, and what I believed. When I was 16, I went to the cemetery where my cousin is buried and took her flowers, and I sat by her headstone and I wept as I talked to God. I told God that I didn't understand how he could take a baby like my cousin, someone who had never done anything but shine light on those around her with her love and her smiles. And I looked up to the sky, and I told God that from that moment on, I was no longer a believer. That I was turning my back on him, just as I felt he had turned his back on my cousin when, rather than curing her of her affliction, he instead chose to take her from us. And the sky turned dark, the thunder rolled, and the sky opened up and poured rain down on me in a deluge. And I turned to the sky and I screamed at God that I hoped his heart was broken just like mine. And for years, I stopped talking to God because as far as I was concerned, he didn't exist.

On March 17th, 2010, as I was driving down the interstate in Arkansas with my three month old son in the back seat, I swerved to miss a car in front of me that had slammed on their brakes, and lost control of my car. When the loose shoulder of the road grabbed hold of the front tire of the car and flung me end over end three times into the median, crushing the front, top and back of my car, for the first time in 20 years, I called out to God. Every time the car hit the ground and began to flip over again, when I felt my collarbone snap, when my head slammed into the side window, I called out to God to please, please protect my baby. I didn't beg for my own life, but I pleaded to God for my son's. When the car finally stopped flipping and came to a stop, I jumped out into the cold darkness, knee deep in mud, begging God to let Jameson be ok. He wasn't crying, and my glasses had fallen off during all of the flipping of the car. I was finally able to stick my head through a shattered rear window, and Jameson was there, still firmly fastened in his car seat, not a scratch or bruise on him.

My greatest fear used to be that I would die alone. When Jameson was born, and again with Fallon, my greatest fear became that some tragedy might befall my children. And after today, while I was putting my children to bed, weeping silently as I thought about the parents of those 20 small children who will never again rock their children to sleep or hold them in their arms, I found myself praying to God, beseeching him that if he ever saw fit to call my children home before me, that he would let me be there with them. That he would allow me to hold them and comfort them and tell them that they had nothing to fear as they closed their eyes on this world and moved on to a world more wonderful than their innocent minds could ever imagine. I think about those children today, what they must have been thinking when their lives were snuffed out by such a heinous act of violence, how they probably cried out in fear for their mommas and their daddies, and the thought is almost more than I can bear.

But even in the face of such a deplorable tragedy, today I cannot turn my back on God the way I did when I was young. I thank him every day for protecting my son that early morning in Arkansas. I thank him every day for my two beautiful, healthy children. And I know, deep down in my soul, as I hear the thunder and the pouring rain outside, that God wept today for those children in Connecticut, for their parents, for all the children who survived, for the adults who were killed, for the families of all those involved, and for all of the people who responded to the shooting and found themselves witness to such an atrocity.

We must look into our own hearts to heal this world. We must start with ourselves and work out from there, with our children and all of the people that we come in contact with. We must stop trying to withdraw from the world and start caring about our fellow man, and become instruments of change. Otherwise, human kind will continue on it's path of self-destruction until we are empty husks, devoid of love, and hope and kindness.

1 John 4:8 - "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Where has my happy place gone?

About 15 years ago, when I first started thinking about having children, Mom said to me "You don't need to have kids. The world has gone crazy and it's not a good place to raise kids anymore." And I used to roll my eyes at her, and say things along the line of not living life in fear and the only way to make the world a better place is to raise children to be good people. Of course, that was all before I had children.

I've been thinking about this horrific shooting in Aurora, CO, and what keeps exploding in my head is...what would I have done? What would I have done if I had been in a movie theater with my children when a man threw out canisters of tear gas and opened fire into the theater? Would I have frozen in fear? Would I have pulled my children down to the floor and huddled over them while I pleaded to God to make me enough of a human shield to protect them from the bullets flying through the air? Would I have tried to get them to an exit while this man was shooting innocent people like fish in a barrel?

Every time I leave the house with my children, I take my ridiculously large diaper bag full of everything I can possibly think of that I might need. Diapers, wipes, bottles and formula, changes of clothes, bibs and cutlery for little hands. But what do you put in a diaper bag that could protect your children from a bullet? What kind of contingency plan can you carry with you everywhere? We strap them into carseats to protect them from injuries in an accident. We put helmets on their heads and padding on their little limbs to keep them safe on bikes and when they're playing sports. But what in God's name can you do to protect them from someone who has no regard for their innocent life?

I honestly struggle everyday, trying to wrap my brain around the world we live in and trying to figure out how best to protect my children from it. Should I build a house in the middle of nowhere and hope that some lunatic never happens upon our little sanctuary? Is there anywhere left in the world that hasn't become a place that has to be survived? I love my children. And I wouldn't change the fact that they are here for anything in the world. But honestly, I know now why Mom was always telling me that I shouldn't have children. Because she was like me, always worrying, afraid that some horrible thing that she had seen on the news might one day befall one of her own children.

I guess all I can do is love them. Wrap my arms around them and tell them I love them every chance I get. While I would like nothing more than to hide them away from the world and from anyone who might hurt them, I guess it's simply not possible. What kind of life would they have if I never let them out of the house? If they were never allowed to make friends and explore their surroundings and do simple things like go to the movies, how happy would they be? So what do we, as parents and as a society, do to protect our children?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I can see clearly now...

Yesterday, while shopping for something for my two year old son to wear to my Mom's funeral (which we believe will be taking place in the near future), I was reminded of a story that my Mom used to tell about one of our own shopping trips. I was little, maybe four years old, and we were in a department store. Mom said that one second I was there, and the next second I had vanished. She looked around but couldn't see me. She looked under the clothes racks but I wasn't there. She called out my name, but I didn't respond. And suddenly she found herself standing there, paralyzed with fear, until after what felt like an eternity (but in actuality was only a few minutes), I came skipping out of the dressing rooms where I had gone to sit and tie my shoe. I remember that day. I remember how pale she was, how she couldn't speak, and how still she was as she took my hand and led me out of the store and to the car, where she just sat for several minutes with her hands on the steering wheel. I used to laugh when she told that story. And she used to tell me that one day I would understand.

Yesterday while I was trying to sift through the racks of children's clothes at a department store, with my purse on one arm, Jameson's new dress shoes in one hand and his hand in the other, he broke free from my grip and took off running. I hung the article of clothing I was trying to look at back on the rack and walked in the direction that he had run off to. He was gone. I looked all around me and couldn't see him. I couldn't hear his feet padding around on the carpet. I couldn't hear his laugh. I squatted down to look under the hanging clothes and called his name. And that's when it happened. All of the air in the room was gone. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. Every horror story that I had ever read about children vanishing in an instant, never to be seen alive again, exploded in my brain. I somehow managed to force myself to call out his name again, loudly and in as stern a tone as I could muster, and he came running out from behind a distant rack smiling and laughing. The whole ordeal had lasted maybe a minute, but I felt traumatized.

I used to look at parents who walked around the mall with those harness things on their kids and think to myself "Wow, you have to put your kid on a leash? How sad are you?" This morning I found myself looking on for one of those harnesses for Jameson. Because the truth is, he's not a bad baby. And it's not that he's trying to be disobedient when he wants to walk around a store on his own two feet. He's two, he's asserting his own independence and trying to explore his environment, which is completely natural for his age. I can't be angry at him for what happened yesterday, and I can't be angry at myself for the fact that I only have two hands. However, the world today isn't how it was when our parents were children. It's not even what it was when I was a child. But if anything ever happened to Jameson, if someone was ever able to seize the opportunity to take him from me in the split second that he was out of my sight, I'm not sure I would survive it. So maybe the next time I'm at the mall and Jameson is wandering around in his leash, some non-parent will judge me for my choice the way that I used to do. But frankly I don't give a damn, because just like my mother always said I would, yesterday I finally understood.