Sunday, January 23, 2011

saving home

If you know me very well, you know I am not a Hoosier. I am a Kentuckian. If you hear me complain about Indiana, it's because I say it's ugly. I love the people I know here and I know this is where I am supposed to be, and I love it here for those reasons. But in winter when the snow is melted and all you see is brown mud fields or when it's a beautiful day and I have to drive forever to get to what feels like decent hiking, perhaps this will help you understand why. This is the main street where I am from.
And this is a picture I took two summers ago of the street where I grew up. That was my house on the right. How far do you have to go to be out in nature here? Maybe down the street. Indiana can't top that. I found the rest of these pictures online, but I know these places without needing to read captions. I moved when I was only nine, but this is home to me. Both sides of my family are from the same little wrinkle in the mountains.

This is Black Mountain, the highest point in Kentucky that hugs the town where I lived as a kid. This picture must have been taken from Kingdom Come State Park, which overlooks my Grandma's house. I once climbed this slope with my Grandma and her cocker spaniel to sit and look down on our towns from here.

We would cross Black Mountain either once a week or once a month to go to the "big" grocery store in Virginia. I remember this curve well. It's near the top of the mountain. Whenever I get the chance to visit my Grandma at her house, (which isn't very often since it's 8 hours away) I try to drive at least part of the way up the mountain. This is where I learned the difference between right and left, as my dad navigated the turns. One of the last times I visited, my aunt warned me not to drive all the way to the top to see the Virginia side. (The Kentucky-Virginia border is at the top of the mountain.) She said it would break my heart. So I didn't go. I like remembering it the way I remember it.

Today, one of my cousins posted a link to an article that showed the Virginia side of the mountain.
This is strip mining. It is where they strip the mountain down -- of trees, of rocks, of itself -- to rake out strips of coal. Words that come to mind are: rape, pillage, mar, destroy, greed, and instant gratification. I don't want this to happen to my hometown. If the picture doesn't tell the whole story, just think of what this does to the water that currently filters through the mountain! And how quickly this can be done. And how it can never be undone. Not even if the trees grow back years from now. Mountains don't look like this. At least they shouldn't.

So my aunt made a facebook event to encourage people to write the governor. The State Division of Mining already issued a permit to strip mine here. That has been put on hold pending study by the EPA. The article said the decision would end up on the desk of a man named Leonard K. Peters. If you read this and are outraged at the state's decision to destroy this part of our country (and it truly is a national treasure, even if it is a small one. I can go to the Muncie Public Library and check out videos about this place. PBS has done documentaries on it...) please write to Mr. Peters at the link above and the governor of Kentucky here. I'm doing whatever I can to protect this place. Please join me.

Friday, January 21, 2011

making a difference

So today I realized that the number of kids I know in the youth correctional facility here is up to 6.


Six kids who have been in my house. Six kids who I have prayed for at times. (Not as faithfully as I should.) Six kids who know my kids. Six kids who we've read with, who have loved our dog.

Six is too many; one is too many.

I had a friend ask me today, in light of this news, "Do you think you're making a difference?"

At first, I was insulted. In my mind, I thought, "Of course I am!" But maybe I'm not.

Then, thinking through the reasons that directly caused some of the kids to end up there, I said, "I can't keep kids from fighting. I can't keep kids from stealing." And I can't. Have they heard these things are wrong from us? Yes. Have they heard from us that Jesus doesn't want his children doing these things? Yes. Have they seen that we don't do these things? Yes. Is that enough? No. Is it making a difference? Well, that's the question I was trying to answer.

It was over a year ago when I heard Bart Campolo speak at a CCDA conference. His message shocked me. He was talking about people whose lives seem to be defined by the hard knocks and addictions in many cities. He said of them that their "cards were already punched." They have issues they aren't going to get over. I have a hard time with that message and I'm not sure it's true or the one we should be living by. We should always hold out hope for the aged alcoholics or those caught in the third generation of abuse in their families or whoever the person with the entrenched issue may be. Hope. Always. But I think he was just getting at how it feels from our perspective on our bad days. And I have my bad days (or weeks) just like the rest of you.

He spoke at length about how he gets weary of the burdens people will likely carry with them their entire lives. He gets weary of watching the alcoholic continue to be an alcoholic no matter how many times he dives in to rescue him from emergency situations. Was he making a difference? Was he?

But then he had a realization: It was only his job to LOVE those people. Love them. That's it.

Loving people is something we can do, no matter whether the other person gets "better" or not. It's never our job to make someone "better." Who am I to do that, anyway? I'm not even very good at making myself better! I can't even do the one thing that is contingent only upon me: loving people! If I can't do the thing that only depends on ONE person (me), why should I try to get all fancy and do something that depends on 2 people? Or 3? Or 20, both living and dead? There is way too much I can't change. That is up to God. Only God can change hearts and lives. And how he does that and how it fits in with that person changing themselves or being willing to be changed or whatever is something I'll never know. And I don't have to. I just have to love people. And that's enough work to last my whole life. It's a lesson that doesn't get old.

Am I making a difference? Only God knows. But probably not, because if a difference is being made, I'm sure him and the other person would get a lot more credit than I would. The only question I have to answer to is whether I'm loving the people put in my life. And if I can do that, then a difference has been made, at least in me.

I don't know many people who have lived a long time and still struggle with their issues. (And the one 60-something alcoholic I know has been sober for 4 years and 4 months!) But I do sometimes see situations and choices that threaten to make me hopeless or put-out. And I remember Bart's words. They don't make everything go away. They don't help what we and our neighbors are trying to do look good on paper. I mean, the stats are pretty grim right now under the "percentage of youth in the McCrorys' ministry currently in the juvenille system." But numbers don't tell the whole story. I couldn't even tell you the whole story, because it's not done yet and I don't know everything that's happened up until now. But I do know that lots of us love these kids, because God loves these kids. And I sure hope it doesn't change just me; I hope God's love changes all of us.

I'm not a difference-maker; on my best days, I'm just a lover.

Friday, January 14, 2011

not granted, not for granted

For this post to make much sense, you will first need to Meet Waverly and Oliver.

I have been glued to my computer since watching this, doing strange research on a disorder my children don't have. I first read about this family in Taylor magazine. I think I cried then. Then a friend posted this video on facebook and I realized this is a friend of a friend. People who attended my small university. People who are likely similar to me. Two young kids. But this crazy difference.

I watched the video again so I could go ahead and really cry about it. And I had Pat watch it with me. It's like waking from a nightmare and wanting to go back to sleep to see how it plays out, in hopes that there is a happy ending -- even though it's not your reality.

I have had several brushes with not-my-reality. I have a friend whose totally-cute daughter is just between my kids in age. She has a genetic disorder that seems mild now, but the possibility of it becoming severe looms over her. I watch our kids play together hope it just stays that way. I have a friend who gave birth to a beautiful girl while I was pregnant with Eden. Her daughter faces many physical and potentially neurological difficulties. When I was up nights nursing Eden, I was glued to the website where I could find progress postings of her time in the NICU. I am still glued to her life that runs parallel to my daughter's. During the time between my two births, two of my friends gave birth to babies who lived only a day. In quiet moments, I remember the babies who could have been my kids' friends.

It's a nagging question for me: How do I have it so easy? Not that my life doesn't have difficulties, as each of these friends would so graciously point out. We all have our struggles to go through. And part of mine, I guess, is struggling with "Why them?" and "Why not me?" I've encountered it in different ways since high school, with varying degrees of questioning God involved each time. At this point, there's not a bone in me that expects an answer this side of though I'll be the one human being to finally know. I'm holding out hope that when I get to the other side, the question will seem absurd and lost in a sea of joy where we all swim.

Until then, I'll appreciate knowing these dear ones in whatever capacity I can. I will let their determination to live their best lives possible be an ongoing reminder to live my best life and to make the best life for my kids. I'll remember not to take "normal" life for granted, because it isn't always. And I'll hug my kids until past their bedtime.

In the meantime, click here to vote to help fund finding a treatment or cure for these kids. You can do this once a day during January. I plan to do it...both for them and as a reminder to myself.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Israel: Wrestles with God

Israel asked out of the blue today if we know anyone who died while we were alive. I told him I didn't think he knew anyone like that, but he kept pressing, so I told him his Grandma's daddy died not long ago. He then had a string of questions that lasted for a good 5 minutes. I can't remember them all, but this is the gist of it.
"Well, why did he die?"
"Everyone dies sometime."
"But why does everyone die?"
"Because this world is not perfect, so we don't live here forever."
"So sometimes, if people eat food that is yucky, they die?"
"Well, I guess so, but everyone dies. People who eat yucky food die and people who don't eat yucky food die, too. Everyone dies."
"But why?"
"Because our bodies aren't perfect. They wear out and we die." (I realize this overlooks death by other means, but I was trying to be concise.)
"Why do they wear out?"
"Well, these bodies don't last forever. But when we die, Jesus gives us new bodies that last forever."
[long pause] "When I get a new body, can it talk?"
"Yes, it can talk." (I think it's funny that talking in his new body was his first concern.)
"But why will I get a new body?"
"Because this one will wear out. But your new one won't wear out and it won't get sick or be sad."
"Oh. Well, I got sick one time and I puked. But I didn't die."
"Well, you don't usually die from just puking."
"But if you puke a lot and a lot and a lot, then you die?"
"Well, maybe...but probably not."

The conversation ended strangely when we arrived at the grocery store. But Israel picked it up in the evening when Pat asked him if he wanted to pray before going to sleep. Israel said he wanted to pray for the man that died, that he would get a new body.
"Um, Jesus, I pray for the man that died and that you would give him a new body."
Pat said, "Well, usually when people die, that's it. They're either with Jesus if they want to be with Jesus or they're not with Jesus if they don't want to be with Jesus."
Pat then asked Israel if he wanted to spend time listening to Jesus. (Pat did this with the elementary school students at church this week and was somewhat surprised to find that, when they spent 30 seconds of silence listening for Jesus, about 1/3 came back and told him specific things they had heard.) Israel agreed. But I guess he didn't hear anything. I accidentally interrupted the time and Israel had more questions.
"Mom, can you make Jesus talk?"
"No. I can't make Jesus talk. I can ask Jesus to talk, but I can't tell him what to do. I'm not His boss; he's my boss."
"But Daddy is his boss."
[snicker] "No, Daddy's not his boss, either. No one can make Jesus talk, but if you listen really well, sometimes you can hear Him talk. He sounds like a voice in your head and you know it's Him because of how He loves you when He talks to you."
"But why won't he talk?"
"I don't know. You'll just have to keep listening. Listen really well and you might hear Him."
"When we get our new bodies, then we will be able to hear Him?"
"Yes, that's when we will hear Him the best."

I can tell my child the right answers about God, but I can't make good on God's promises. Only God can do that. It's hard when your three year old asks about death and not hearing God. I can't show him anyone's new body. I can't make God talk to him. I can only give the correct response. Many times, that correct response is, "I don't know," and Israel nearly always replies, "But, Mom, just tell me," as though I'm holding out on him. But it's not that easy. While its tough to watch a three year old already wrestling with questions that don't have easy answers, we chose the name "wrestles with God" for a reason. All we can do is point him to the One who asks us to wrestle it out with Him.