Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saying Goodbye

I traded in my car 2 weeks ago for another make and model. I have driven a Honda Civic for the past 7 years. After the snow back in December of ’09, I decided to get an SUV. I did some research and settled on a Toyota 4Runner as my next vehicle and then put off getting it for over a year. I had just paid off my Honda and wasn’t in a hurry to go back into debt. It makes less sense that I bought it now that I’ve just run up my school loan debt, but nevertheless I felt this was the time. I wanted a more functional vehicle to haul things and people, something the Civic can only do in limited quantity.

I confess the idea of letting go of my little car was somewhat bittersweet as I headed to Ft. Worth to pick up my 4Runner. After all, it was the first car I had purchased all by myself. That alone makes it special. Also, it has never failed me. Probably the greatest factor in my hesitation to let it go was my dog, Sophie.

If you’re my friend on Facebook, you know that I lost Sophie 6 months ago. She was a beautiful Black Lab mix. Her ebony coat was glistened in the sunlight. Her legs had a dusting of cocoa powder on them, so she looked like she was wearing chaps when the light caught her just right. Sophie and I had many adventures together in that car.

Our first adventure was to Leander to visit Melinda in the summer of ’05. She road in the car very well. Then there was a trip to visit Charles in Ft. Worth of ’06. She accompanied me every holiday we spent at my grandmother’s. She’s been with me to Carlsbad on several occasions to visit “Gangy” & “Pop-Pop”. She threw up in the car a couple of times, but most of the time she did really well. Sometimes, I’d take her with me on short errands around town, particularly those at night. Her presence was calming. She’d sit right on the edge of the seat to look out the windshield and place her left paw on my hand as it rested on the gearshift like she was navigating.

Sophie was an amazing creature. In the house she always wanted to be by my side as long as I didn’t crate her, then she would choose her bed in the corner. She was there when I was sick, watching me as if she were mentally preparing herself to drive me to the ER if it became necessary. She was there for every tear I shed in the throes of a depressive episode, just lying against me, seeing me through. Inside, she couldn’t have been a more loyal dog. Outside, she was a free spirit. Outside, if she wasn’t leashed, she did what she pleased. She didn’t come when she was called, she came when she was ready. Chasing her on foot was an endeavor in futility, but she LOVED the car. She wouldn’t come to me if I attempted to retrieve her on foot, but she would not hesitate if I came for her in the car. Outside, she always ran full-throttle into whatever the world had to offer her, as I’ve no doubt she did on that day the fence could no longer hold her.

Slowly, I began to let go of the things that I associated with her: her collapsible crate and bed, her toys, what was left of her Heartguard and Frontline, and finally vacuuming up her dog hair from the floor and furniture. Sarah gave me the great idea of putting her tag on my keyring and I placed her collar on the gearshift of the car she loved so much. The car was the only thing left where I felt most connected to her. And I felt the wrenching as I drove toward Ft. Worth in the Civic for the last time. I’m choking up just writing about all of it. For me it was the final act of acceptance that she isn’t coming back.

I do love my 4Runner. I have Sophie’s collar hanging over the rearview mirror so that she will be a part of this car. Wherever I go, she’ll always be with me. And somewhere beyond where our eyes can see, a wild, black dog with brown chaps is running full-throttle into whatever that realm has to offer her.

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's Personal

I’ve been taking part in a book study over the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldridge. It was written to encourage women to see themselves the way God sees them. I’ve had the book for several years, but never read it. Lately, I’ve been somewhat of a snob when it comes to popular Christian literature. In our bandwagon world where Christianity can be more of a fad rather than a relationship with Christ, I’m wary. It’s easy to become followers of Max Lucado or Beth Moore over followers of Christ. I’ve got nothing against either Lucado or Moore—I’ve read their books and done their studies. I remember, though, God’s response to Peter in Mark 9:7, when he wanted to honor Moses and Elijah during the transfiguration, “This is My Son . . . Listen to Him!” (Emphasis mine) I know God can teach us through any means He desires, I just want to make sure I don’t end up worshipping the means over the Master. So, I put off reading Captivating, which, incidentally, was a gift.

One of my friends, invited me to join the study and since I’m trying to break out of my hermit habit, I agreed. Once a week for two hours, I’ve been the only single girl in a room full moms discussing the nuances of the feminine heart . . . and enjoying it. It has served as a surprising, yet gentle reminder from God in two ways.

I’ve gotten very cynical when it comes to people. Especially, people who call themselves Christians. I see people who claim Christ in the media and their actions are anything but Christ-like. I react them to them the way I did to obnoxious American tourists when I was living overseas: I kept my distance and did everything I could to avoid being associated with them. It’s not really fair. I see that. I have been amazed by these women each week. They have reminded me that the Kingdom is bigger than the circles I tend to navigate. There are people out there living by faith that I’ve not even met yet. I want to be more open to knowing those people. I want to give God’s people a chance, to give God a chance to reveal Himself to me through His own.

The other way God got my attention is through the book Captivating itself. I’m only a few chapters in, but something struck me this week: Satan is still on the offensive. I know that. I’ve always known that. He’s the reason God admonishes us, “Guard your heart above all else” Proverbs 4:23. Somehow, I’ve managed to not give Satan much thought as the enemy lately. I know better, yet I’ve been living like I don’t, as if none of the bad things happening in and around my life is personal. That’s what he wants me to think. That’s how he wants me to live, like he’s not here. Baudelaire said, “that the devil's best trick is to persuade you that he doesn't exist!" It’s personal alright. He may not be omniscient or omnipresent, but he is still dangerous. I know that God has sealed his fate and that of his minions: “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.” Colossians 2:15 However, He’s also warned us to remain vigilant against the devil: He “prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8) and is looking to “take advantage of us” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
It makes a difference in how I view my life.

I am thankful for the ways God works in my life, that He makes a point of getting my attention. I know that His wisdom “is supreme” (Proverbs 4:7) and the best way to get it is through His word. I also know that He will reveal Himself to me in other ways if I only keep my spiritual eyes open. He is for me (Psalm 56:9). Because He is for me, He reminds me that His people are everywhere. Because He is for me, He reminds me that I have an enemy. Because He is for me, my life matters and is precious to Him. It’s personal.

Friday, May 6, 2011


I had one of those days today. One of those days when it hits me how much I love teaching. It has been an insane year. I have sat head in hands wondering if this year was ever going to end. But not today. Today I basked in the wonder that is my class of nine unique children. Through no fault of their own, they bear conditions and needs that make it necessary for them to be in a self-contained Special Education classroom. I know, I know, I make jokes about tranquilizer guns and tazers because they can really test the limits of human endurance. Sometimes, though, I think I’m the only one who gets to see how perfect they are. It’s my gift. On a daily basis, I get to see unfettered joy over the little things in life, like a poorly rendered paper shark. I get to see unbridled imagination that not only exists on another level, but a few dimensions over in a galaxy far, far away. I see true loyalty that would fight to the death and chivalry so pure it outstrips any a poet could compose. I see compassion, tenderness, and affection uncomplicated and knows nothing of labels or impairment or disorder. It is my gift from God. He gives me the privilege of witnessing true perfection. So many times I ask myself, “Why do I do this?” And then I have one of those days.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Not Forsaken

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.” Psalm 22:1-2

I love this Psalm. It exemplifies frustration with personal suffering and the human struggle with persevering when God seems far away. I have had a terrible week that, so far, has been the worst part of a terrible 7 months. My dog died a week ago. I had some hard truths laid on me about things I knew deep down but haven’t wanted to acknowledge. On top of my job and grad school and the grind of daily living, I’m feeling defeated. Mostly I feel like God is far away. Why else would all these awful things be happening, right? Yeah, I know better than that. In fact, I believe God is working on me at present. Likely answering a prayer to grow me into who He wants me to be. I know what I’m asking for when I pray those prayers, but sometimes I don’t consider the cost.

I used to believe like many who claim to be Christians that I could never get mad at God. I could never question Him. That I just had to smile, shrug and say, “He knows best!” The problem with that is that it is not natural. It is not even what is evidenced in Scripture, however, as this Psalm demonstrates. Clearly, David is going through a rough patch and he’s waiting for God to rescue him from his calamity. He’s not the only one. Moses often brought complaints before God when he was frustrated as the leader of Israel. Habakkuk stood on the ramparts, even as the Babylonians were preparing to march on the Kingdom of Judah, protesting the coming judgment on God’s people. And Christ on the cross cried out once more the words uttered by David long before Him, “Why have You forsaken me?”

We can cry out to God. We can ask Him why. In the movie Shadowlands, Anthony Hopkins as C.S. Lewis tells his students, “Fight me! I can take it.” I believe God wants us to bring our frustrations to Him, even if they are about Him. 1 Peter 5:7 says to “cast ALL your anxieties on Him” because He cares for us. Not just the big things. Not just the little things. All the things. He can take it. I think He even prefers it as He so desires relationship with us. I think people don’t express their frustration with God because of the lessons of Job, but notice what David, Habakkuk, and Christ did. Instead of demanding a response from God, they remembered Who He was:

“From birth I was cast on You; from my mother’s womb You have been my God . . . You are my strength; come quickly to help me . . . I will declare Your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise You . . . For He has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; He has not hidden His face from him but has listened to his cry for help . . . for dominion belongs to the LORD and He rules over the nations.” Psalm 22:10, 19, 22, 24, 28.

“LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, you[c] will never die . . . LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” Habukkuk 1;12; 3:2

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46

I have wept for my sweet dog, Sophie. I have asked why a constant and a comfort in my life had to leave me so soon. I have lamented the truth because it means that things have to change and I don’t take change well. I have asked God why everything seems so hard right now and couldn’t He have found another way to work in my life. But I know why. He has a plan and a purpose for me and He causes all things to work together for good to those that love Him (Romans 8:28). I also know that sometimes, unfortunately, He has to rock my world to get my attention and get me back on course. Even more than that He is my God—Master, Creator, Almighty One. And on a summer’s day long ago I committed my life to Him and all that came with it. So I thank Him for the few years I had my wild pup; and I thank Him for the change even if I don’t know where my journey will take me next. I even thank Him for the hard because I know “that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4). I also remember His words for Moses to relay to Joshua, “the LORD your God is the one who goes with you (J)He will not fail you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6). It takes a while, though. I know these things, know them in my head. My heart just needs a little time to catch up.

Friday, January 28, 2011

All That You Can't Leave Behind

“When I was a younger, my teen years, I used to think 35 was the epitome of adulthood. It was a magic number, a magic age when I would assume the role of a true adult and have all wisdom and knowledge about what to do in any and all situations. I would be confident, fearless even. I turned 35 a few months ago and I have to say, I don’t know jack and I’m scared often. A lot of things are happening in my life that I don’t think I should be facing yet.”

That was how I had initially intended to start this post nearly a year ago. Now, as 36 is days away, what follows that paragraph has altered somewhat along with my perspective. One of my favorite songs is Walk On by U2, particularly the opening stanza: “Love is not the easy thing. The only baggage that you can bring is all that you can’t leave behind.” Letting go is something I’ve wrestled with all my life. I don’t do it well, if I do it at all. In fact, “all that you can’t leave behind” pretty much sums up my 20’s. I held on to everything: the past, every heartache, every wound, everything I loved and everything that I could not change, take back, or return to. I wanted my experiences to be more like the universal experiences: first dates, first kisses, first loves, AIM, college, marriage and kids somewhere in the mix, so that by now I’d be more prepared to deal with my parents aging. By now I’d be established and really good at being a grown-up. However, my experiences are quite unique to me. There were some first dates and first loves, AIM and college, and there was a lot of drifting.

The fact is I don’t feel grown-up. At all. I feel very much like a child. A child stuck in an adult’s body hoping no one notices that I don’t belong among the grown-ups. I still long for things, which I always believed would stop around this age because I would have everything I ever longed for. When I started this post a year ago, Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:11 were tumbling around in my head: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man (adult), I put the ways of childhood behind me.” I know what that verse means, but I still really struggle with my childish ways. I still want to call my Daddy when things need fixing or when I’ve not been wise with my funds. As much as I love teaching, I prefer being the student. I want my parents to not be so well into their senior citizenship.

I’ve learned a lot this past year about what it means to be a grown-up, though. Probably the biggest thing I have learned is that no matter what age anyone is, he or she never feels prepared enough or wise enough for where they are in life. Being a grown-up isn’t about having all the answers all the time. It’s about getting out of bed and facing the people you’re in conflict with when you’d rather not see them again. It’s about acknowledging the things that need to change in you when you find you’re in the wrong, and then working on those changes. It’s about accepting that some relationships change and you have to let them go, or at least let them be and trust that the love is still there and always will be. It’s about being frightened by the inevitable, but facing it because One greater has come and taken the real fear out of the equation. It’s about letting go of all that you can’t leave behind, straining for what lies ahead, and knowing that even if you don’t get the things you most long for His way is best. It’s about knowing He will never leave or forsake you. (Joshua 1:5)

I don’t believe Paul was saying we should never act like children. Christ said in Matthew 18:3-4 that we should become like children before Him. God wants our faith to be like that of children—pure and wholehearted. I believe Paul was talking about letting the grown-up prevail when it comes to the response to the hardships that come into our lives, knowing that a childlike faith the Father would see us through. As I enter this next year in my life, I don’t feel the anxiety I felt this time last year. I know there will be challenges, mistakes, disappointment, and I will handle each one as it comes by His grace. I will love the ones He’s blessed me with, even when it is not the easy thing. And when I look back, it will be to acknowledge what was and be thankful for what is.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Letters from the Bottom Bunk

After a 17-year hiatus, I have finally returned to camp . . . as a –gulp- counselor. It’s what I always dreamed of being as a camper. However, I didn’t dream of being one quite so old. I know that I’m not old. I don’t feel older than my co-counselors, not on the inside anyway. As it goes with my 90-to-nothing brain, I had a lot of anxiety about coming up here and being so much older than my, er, peers. The greatest anxiety being how I’d be perceived and received: “What’s the creepy old lady doing up here?” My fellow counselors have been AMAZING. So kind, so gracious, accepting and welcoming. I find myself among kindred spirits for certain and I did not expect that. God is good.

That said, being among those so young has brought other things to the surface. Questions, mostly. Questions I thought I’d put to rest. I am at a place in my life where I don’t have a lot of nagging regret about the past. I can look back and know that I did the best I could, given all variables. And because I know that God causes all things to work together for good, and because I am old enough to see what He has done with my wrongs, I am thankful for the path I’ve walked however bumpy it has been.

But . . .

Watching my new young friends just at the beginning of their lives has made me long for my younger youth once more. To be back at the beginning armed with the knowledge I have now (and by “knowledge” I mean what I know about myself). I know I would have made some different choices, but would I have been happier? Would my journey have been smoother? Where would I be at this particular moment in time? Would depression have taken the hold that it did? Would I be sitting in front of my computer asking these same questions from a different perspective? That has been the only true hard part about being here. Just when I think I’m past my tendencies of hyper-sentimentality and juvenile foolishness, they both sneak up and bite me on the butt.

It doesn’t really matter and I don’t spend time looking back anymore. My journey to this point was what it was. Kind of like this post, it is the musings of a momentarily wistful heart that remembers what life was like before it learned the lessons that only experience can teach. I chose my road, but God brought and continues to bring me where he wants me—thankfully, in spite of me.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

On January 31, 1934, Gary O’neil Robertson was born in Newcastle, TX. He was the firstborn son of a staunch Baptist barber/musician and an equally staunch Church of Christ homemaker. He was his father’s best birthday present and the doting big brother to two sisters. Gary lived with his parents in Newcastle through first grade. When the United States entered the second World War, his father uprooted the family to go where a barber’s services were in high demand: the U.S. Military. Gary got to experience life on various military bases in Texas and New Mexico, including Alamogordo Army Air Base (now Holloman AFB), where he was living when the first atomic bomb was living in 1945.

After the war, the Robertson family settled in Roswell, NM. Gary graduated from Roswell High School. He pursued a degree in engineering of and on over the years, supporting himself as a land surveyor. He enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed in Japan during the Korean War. He settled in Albuquerque, NM, in the 1960’s where he first saw a young teacher in who lived in his apartment complex. She was involved in a door-knocking campaign for a local political race in the autumn of ’68. Her name was Ina Rea Bittner and when he saw her go into the house of a friend of his, he made his move. They were married June 21, 1969. They had a son in ’72 and on January 31, 1975, Gary received his best birthday present: a baby girl.

My dad got a job in Carlsbad, NM, in 1981 and moved us there to continue his work as a land surveyor. In 1983, Dad gave his life to Christ and sought to raise his family in the Lord. He moved into a position for the City of Carlsbad after a brush with skin cancer. He worked there for 17 years. When he retired, he continued to do survey work around Carlsbad as an independent contractor for real estate title companies, which he does to this day. In 2007, he was named New Mexico Surveyor of the Year.

My dad is one of the most interesting people I know. I believe that I got his sense of adventure and his sense of humor. The thing that I’m most proud to have received from him is his generosity. I don’t know another person as generous as my father. He wants so much to honor God with his money and frequently blesses others who need a little extra help. When my brother and I went in the AIM Program, my dad became a constant supporter of young people seeking to serve God as apprentice missionaries. He also likes to bless people with confections. He’s an awesome baker and confectioner, thanking the title companies that give him work with cookies, cakes and homemade-handmade candy. I got that from him, too, although I’ve never attempted his well-known candy.

Daddy, thank you so much for your love and support all my life. Thank you for our adventures on the roof from collecting honey from the bees we used to keep to the sunrises with our cats. Thank you for always taking care of me and pushing me to go as far as I can in whatever I do. Thank you for spoiling me rotten. Thank you for the example you set for me as a follower of Christ. Thank you for disciplining me when I got out of line. I love telling people that we share a birthday. You are my best birthday present. I love you so! Happy Father’s Day!