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Jenne

Jenne

She was the closest I had to a sister. Our families kept the keys to the other family’s house, shot off fireworks, traded watching and/or driving kids as needed, shared Christmas Eve dinners, watched football games, and had nights filled with Nerf Wars (the kids) and card games (the adults). We lived just across the street from one another—our lives were so interwoven that we all knew we had a second set of parents looking out for us—even when we’d prefer we didn’t.

Our brothers were the same age so as soon as her family moved to town, the boys started shooting hoops together, playing backyard baseball, and, in general, terrorizing the kid-free neighbors with the perfect lawns who didn’t appreciate all the balls and Frisbees that flew across property lines.

She was younger than I was by four years but I never really minded playing with her. I remember our post-swim stops at Mahula’s, especially the time she got the cotton candy stuck in her still-wet hair. Wherever our brothers played sports—football, basketball, and baseball—we went along, especially looking forward to the post-game ice creams and other treats. Eventually we found our own sports—she, softball, and me, track—so we didn’t always have to trail around in their always moving footsteps.

When I left for college, the year after our brothers left, I lost track of the near-daily interactions but not of the long distance news and the get-togethers that still happened when I came home on breaks. She grew up, too, leaving for college the year I left home for good to find my way in the adult world. I always thought I would see her again.

I had hoped to make it back for the weekend before the usual Christmas Eve celebration since I would only need that one day off to go home for four days. My boss denied my request, saying I hadn’t been at the company long enough. Instead I watched my co-workers get drunk while they listened to Madonna. I wasn’t in Kansas—OK, Nebraska—any longer, was I?

My father’s phone call woke me the following Saturday. Jenne was dead, killed in a car accident while home from college on Christmas Break.

I didn’t ask to take New Year’s Eve off—I told work I had experienced a death in what was pretty much my family. I wasn’t going to sit at work, watching co-workers get drunk while a father and mother and brother buried our Jenne. I took off in my hardly road-worthy ’62 Rambler, daring the bitter cold to stop me—which it did not. While home, the voluminous trunk served as a stand-in freezer for the outpouring of food a grieving community kept delivering.

At all the gatherings at the home of the heartbroken family, I kept expecting her to walk in and say, “What are you all doing here? I’m not dead.”

But, of course, she was and still is these thirty years later. We’re left to wonder who she would have grown up to be and what kind of a middle-aged woman she would be right now. Over the years I think of her at strange times. When I’m typing—because she was good at typing and I am not. When I started having grownup friends who were born the same year she was. When I see—now rare, of course—a Mustang of the type she drove—the one with the wheel that was knocked away from the force. When a kid with wet hair is eating cotton candy.

After some time had passed, her mom wanted me to take some of her fairly unworn shoes. I did, but I couldn’t really bring myself to wear them after all. I finally realized: I couldn’t fill her shoes. No one could.

Dearest Jenne—sometimes I still can’t believe that’s all you got of life and all we got of you. So much has changed in this world since you left us, but I will never stop remembering what it meant to have you as my little sister from across the street.

(c) Christiana Lambert 2010

(c) Christiana Lambert 2010

Most all was calm, most all was bright. That’s how this Christmas felt after so many years of distress and darkness. I’m not a person who expects a perfect Christmas, but it’s been a long time since our Christmases felt normal-enough in any way.

First there was the Christmas Eve when my mom fell and we couldn’t deny anymore that who she was was slipping away. There would be three more Christmases with her—each one with less and less of her present. But the first Christmas without her here at all, I could hardly imagine “doing” Christmas, knowing she would not be part of the celebrations at all, except in our memories. And so we created new traditions, even down to changing almost everything about the way we decorated.

But my mother was not the only one who had changed in a big way during all these years. The Christmas after Mom’s fall, my daughter—and our whole family, of course—was also freefalling into a developing mental illness—something with which we had no experience. After initial improvements and a couple seemingly reasonable years, her descent accelerated, all while we were trying to figure out what she needed from the distance as she attended college. Last Christmas, though seemingly bleak enough, brought the present of a different diagnosis—which has led to more appropriate treatments—and a renewed sense of hope—for her and for those of us who love her.

Though I still miss my mother at Christmas—and always will—I am learning to accept her absence and to find comfort and joy in the new traditions, just as I did in the Christmases after I lost my father. For most of us beyond a certain age, figuring out to how celebrate again after losing our grandparents and parents and other older loved ones is a life passage through which we must live. I am finally coming to terms with what Christmas means now for me without both of my parents.

However, a renewed feeling of calm and hope for my own children—something I took for granted years ago—is the most precious gift I have ever received. I treasure these things and ponder them in my heart.

Of course, this Christmas season, though more normal than it has been in years thanks to our daughter’s improved outlook, has not been perfect. Now my husband’s parents are in decline, even if not so precipitously (mentally) as my mom had been. And our son is suffering lingering effects from a concussion he received mid-month—time will yet tell how well he heals.

So crazy how hard it sometimes is to feel the true joy of the greatest miracle of all time when you have been seeking other more personal miracles in the lives of those whom you love. And yet, in my own dark nights of my soul, I continued to understand the longing for light to come into this world—and have clung to that light even when joy itself has seemed elusive except in the smaller moments. I remain grateful for the miracles—small and large—that have happened in our lives.

I open my arms and heart to receive this gift of a Christmas that has had more laughter than tears—something I haven’t been able to say for many long years. One of the greatest miracles is that I can still believe in a merry-enough Christmas after all.

God bless us one and all—especially if this is one of those Christmases when you are still trying to convince yourself to continue believing that one day, you too, will again celebrate a merry-enough Christmas.

Christmas Lessons, 1969

Christmas Lessons, 1969

Today when you’re running any last minute errands, peace out! Seriously, after driving and walking yesterday I was really wondering if any of those in cars were focused at all on peace and goodwill. Think of the irony of rushing to complete tasks for Christmas while nearly running other cars off the road or running over pedestrians in the parking lots—does this make sense?

Yesterday while I was out to go to an appointment, I couldn’t believe the hyper-awareness I needed to maintain to keep myself safe while on the road. I was singing along to “O Holy Night” when I first almost got sideswiped—after I had checked for an empty lane and used my turn signal—the huge SUV that almost got me kept bouncing among lanes without ever using a signal, but the driver of that vehicle was far from the only one.

This sort of thing kept repeating—I had to keep turning up my music and reminding myself to calm down. And when I could see the drivers’ faces, those faces seemed blank and set in stone. The people did not seem angry or aggressive—it was as if they were not there—perhaps they were running through to-do lists in their heads.

After I almost got hit as I walked into the pedestrian crosswalk outside of Office Max—a crosswalk protected by stop signs on both sides—when a car blew through as if neither the stop signs nor I existed—I decided I was done. My errands could wait if this was how my fellow humans were sharing the holiday cheer. All I had to do was get to my own street—where I was greeted by another large SUV going the wrong way down our one-way street. After that car had passed and as soon as I could turn safely, I was followed by another vehicle that had turned so quickly behind me that it had been visible neither in my rear view mirror nor through my front windshield.

When I parked my car in front of my house, I resolved to stay home the rest of the day—no matter what else I might have wanted to accomplish out and about.

All I can think is that too many people have bought into the myths that our celebrations of Christmas have to be perfect and that everything has to be done by December 24 or all is lost.

Well, long ago my father shattered the myth of perfect Christmas for me and I’m finally starting to think it was one of the better things that happened to me. Believe me, I did not always see my personal story this way. What happened was this: I presented my parents with this huge list which I compiled from poring over the Sears Wishbook. Remember those? Well, Christmas Eve came and the present Santa brought was from that list but was not what I most wanted. I threw a fit and my father threw one back. He said, “Fine—there isn’t any Santa, you know. We do the shopping and that’s what we could find that was on your list.”

I used to think he could have been more sensitive, but now I know just how much of a brat I was being. He was running his pharmacy six days a week and then had to rely on my mother—the K-12 music teacher who had the elementary music program, as well as junior high and high school choir and band concerts, to run—to get to the closest town with a store that sold toys so she could buy our presents. No store was open on his day off, which was Sunday. They were busy decorating and providing us with all the trappings of Christmas while doing their jobs that paid for such things—they were exhausted. Too bad you didn’t get the perfect Christmas you wanted, kid. Neither did they, neither did they.

Unfortunately, the Christmas Machine is so much bigger today than it was when I was growing up. We not only have stores that are open on Sundays and late into the evening, we now have stores that stay open 24 hours a day the week before Christmas. We have online shopping and next day shipping. But that doesn’t mean the stores—brick or virtual—have that “perfect” gift you want to buy. That doesn’t mean we have any more hours in the day to live our normal lives while preparing for the holidays—even if we can go shopping at 2:00 a.m. if we choose. And that doesn’t mean no one should ever be disappointed.

What I learned that Christmas—OK, what I later realized I learned that Christmas—is that the real present is what others have done for you with their intent. It’s their love and time that matters more than receiving the perfect material gift.

And, of course, if you believe Christmas is really about a little baby bringing light into this world, how can any of this rushing around without love really be what matters most?

Even if you don’t believe Christmas is about that baby, do you really want to mar your celebrations by damaging your vehicle or by getting charged with careless driving—or by harming someone else’s body and/or property?

In our house, tonight is about going to church and being together. But we also give ourselves the gift of celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas—which means Christmas begins tomorrow for us. We don’t have to be done by the 25th because we’re going to keep celebrating.

While you (and I) are busy completing any necessary tasks today, keep singing “Joy to the World”—at the top of your lungs, if you must, to remind yourself what all this busyness is all about. Give yourself—and others—the gift of having a merry little imperfect Christmas.

Peace—let it begin with me and you today.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

So many seemingly hopeless situations happening these past few weeks around the world and in our country. The slaughtering of children in their classrooms, not by fellow classmates, but by adults who chose to make those deaths the message. The unrest exacerbated by seemingly excessive force. The retaliation against such force by an individual set on revenge.

Those are the “in our face” news stories of the most recent days and, yet, the war against hope pervades so many of our interactions and seems to be celebrated by many, including those in the press. Hope is not just one particular person’s mantra—does it really make sense to drive around with a bumper sticker that states “no hope”, as if that’s a goal for which we should all strive?

It’s time we declared a truce on this war against hope. A collective sense of hope is necessary for all, especially in these particularly dark times.

And for those who are having a hard time finding hope in their personal situations, this collective lack of hope is even more crushing.

I know, because my own family’s dance with hopelessness really began in earnest about the time the economy crashed and the political bickering intensified. My own loss of innocence—so to speak—about hopelessness coincided with this dark period we as a country can’t seem to leave behind.

I sit in church on Sundays and try to believe that others still value kindness and want to treat people well and attempt to listen to one another, even when they hold opposing views, but so much of what I’ve seen over the past several years gets in the way of believing what I used to believe so easily about the essential goodness of people. Man’s inhumanity to man (really, people’s inhumanity to people) overwhelms me so often these days and I grow weary.

I know there are way more good people in this world than bad, but what we hear about more often and those who get the most press are those who take hope away from others or those who do not care about others’ feelings of hope.

I will never stop striving to maintain whatever sense of hope I can and will do my best to keep my actions and words building hope for others as best I can, but it would be so much easier to do if I felt the “no hope” crowd were much smaller.

On my own, maintaining this hope thing isn’t very possible—somehow I just have to trust that God will help me and this world in which we live to keep the faith.

No matter how much my own hope fluctuates, I do still believe God sent light and hope into this world—a world that was as dark or, likely, darker—around 2,000 years ago. Because of that, I fight for hope, not against it.

The Light of the World is coming—stay hopeful.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Mention you go to yoga and many people will say, “I can’t do yoga. I don’t bend well.” Me neither—that’s exactly why I started doing yoga. I’m coming up on ten years of practicing yoga and I’m still not that “bendy” person people believe every yogi is. But that’s OK because becoming “bendy” is really not what doing yoga is about.

Well, then what is it about?

My yoga guru/instructor, Dr. Dennie Dorall, is always reminding us that the purpose of doing yoga is to experience joy.

In yoga class we work on joy, pose by pose, breath by breath. So often that whole notion seems counter-intuitive, especially when not all yoga poses feel joyful and certainly some breaths seem to keep us focused on pain for far too long. In many ways the joy received from yoga is something you can only develop with conditioning: the conditioning of your body, mind, and spirit over time to better receive that joy.

But joy is not a cheap emotion—so often it must be earned by going through sorrow or pain. That’s the sort of resilience that practicing yoga helps build. Breathing into and holding onto a difficult pose when your mind is saying you can’t teaches you that you are possibly capable of so much more than you imagined. At the same time, your emphasis on your body in that challenging moment teaches your mind to tune out the extraneous noise or that which has nothing to do with the present and join to struggle and rest with that body.

By learning to fully be in moments you would not choose for yourself, you gain strength to get through so much of what life throws at you. You celebrate when you discover you can do what you formerly could not—and you keep believing that someday you will be able to do that which today you cannot do. Nonetheless, whether or not you ultimately can or cannot do something, you learn to be fully present in the attempt.

As much as yoga has taught me to how to be more present in the present, it has also taught me not to hold on to the past so much that I miss the new “present” offered to me. For me, being more open to receiving joy has taught me to put aside a focus on regrets on certain losses outside my control.

In this past Wednesday’s yoga class, Dr. Dennie asked us for a word for that day and then challenged us—each in his or her way—to share that word with others. My assignment? To tell you all about joy.

That day I could have felt frustrated or even a little angry about the time lost to my recent illness, but instead I woke up happy that I got to do all the ordinary activities I had to miss last week—and that I wasn’t too tired to enjoy them either.

On an unseasonably warm December day, complete with blue skies and snow-capped mountain views, I could hardly wait to get out for a post-yoga run. I knew it really didn’t matter that I was going to have to take it easy after my hiatus—but I got to go—I just had to tell my number-cruncher side to take a hike and let me enjoy a leisurely jog on a gorgeous day—which it (the number-cruncher side) did and I did, too.

That’s the kind of joy I used to miss out on before I began practicing yoga.

You may associate joy with something seasonal, but I like to think joy is something I can carry out into the world with me throughout the year. However, this time of the year the concept of joy seems to have been misapplied to concepts such as getting or noisiness or busyness—or at the very minimum to some sort of grand emotion we are “supposed” to feel.

True joy is more the sort of thing that allows a young unwed mother to give birth in a barn amongst animals and yet to call herself blessed and to treasure and ponder in her heart all the commotion surrounding this humble birth.

As for me, bending my mind and spirit in yoga has helped me to be more willing to receive that in which I already believed, allowing me to be more open to giving—as well as to receiving.

Practice feeling authentic joy in each moment during this season of waiting for hope to come into this world. Your practice of joy has the power to light up a world desperate to receive both hope and joy.

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

For the last few months before I gave birth to my children—twins who would arrive in the beginning of June—our weather was unseasonably warm here in Colorado. But in California the world was on fire, but not due to wildfires or droughts. Los Angeles had erupted over the news that four white cops had been acquitted of beating Rodney King—a beating that had been videotaped and released to the media—in the previous year. In many ways, the King video was the introduction to a whole new populist way of promoting social justice even as it also promoted social unrest. People no longer needed to rely on journalists witnessing events for news to be shared all over the world.

Still, people only see what they want to see. Some people saw a person who broke the law and thus really didn’t have the right to complain while others saw a man who had broken the law but who in no way had done anything to bring on the type of violence he received. And in the aftermath, some people could only see the black men who beat the white truck driver—for no particular reason—at the same time they could not see the white men in positions of authority who had severely beaten a black man—for no particular reason.

Look, I personally am going to claim my own white privilege here because throughout my life I have discovered more and more situations I never had to experience, simply based upon the color of my skin. And growing up where I did, first in rural Nebraska and later in a larger town still fairly removed from the race relations found in urban centers, everything about race was pretty theoretical to me. However, as my awareness grew, I tried to root out more of my own inherent racism, especially as I was shocked to discover it in more blatant forms in others whom I generally respected.

Then I went off to my seemingly ivory tower college in Ohio where one of my first actions was to fall in love with an incredible man who happened to be black and not of any privileged background at all—lest you count his close-knit family and his faith tradition, which he did. So many of the things he told me of race relations were new to me, yet he was a peacemaker who got along with all types of people, even most of his roughest (white) football teammates. Still, at that ivory tower, we didn’t really experience any pushback from our being together.

If my life had followed the course I had wanted at that time I would be the mother of biracial children and the spouse of someone outside my race, so I can never really view race relations as theoretical anymore. And though he has long been dead, I tend to think of how certain racial situations would affect him—not as the minor lawbreaker some of these young men have been, but as a law-abiding citizen under suspicion for no other reason than because of his race.

A few years after the riots in California, another law-abiding citizen we know experienced what I see all sorts of people (white) on Facebook denouncing as either a myth or inconsequential: racial profiling by law enforcement. The young man who was my husband’s assistant came from Chicago but I think even he was lulled into thinking these sorts of things didn’t really happen that often in Denver. One day he received his paycheck and—clothed in dress pants and a good shirt with no tie—went straight to the grocery store to cash his whole paycheck. Then, with all that money in his pocket, he stopped off at the liquor store before heading home. As he drove away on a major street, flashing lights appeared behind him. He pulled over and was dragged out of his vehicle and thrown roughly to the ground in the broad daylight of an early summer’s evening. The fact he matched some vague description of someone they were seeking and the fact he had a large sum of money on his body meant he was treated with great suspicion—and when I say suspicion, I think most of the questioning was meted out with brute force and intimidation. Somehow he finally convinced them to listen but not before he was reminded that he was indeed a black man and that his education and intent and actions really didn’t matter first in his dealings with law enforcement.

Little by little the veneer of believing that my experience is no different than that of someone of another race has been stripped from me—and my knowledge of what’s on the Internet has undone my initial beliefs even faster. I have to acknowledge that racism is much greater than I knew if even white, suburban, privileged high school boys can feel comfortable saying what they said the night President Obama was first elected.

See, part of the point is my white privilege really has allowed me not to know or experience certain things. But once we see and hear those things with our own eyes and ears, how can we still not believe?

Since when do we in the United States say it’s OK to kill people for shoplifting or selling illegal cigarettes or being disrespectful to authority? We have a justice system where people should be charged for the crimes of which they are accused, and only after the proper following of procedures and once those people are determined guilty of those charges can they be convicted. These truths should be true whether or not you are rich or poor or connected or not or black or white or a general scumbag or not. In this country none of us is supposed to be judge, jury, and executioner—not even law enforcement officials. Let justice roll down like water—not fire.

I don’t condone looting and burning, but can you understand just a little bit of the rage of never, ever being seen for who you are and what you do, no matter what? No, in some ways I can’t at all understand it because that shoe is usually not on my foot.

But I’m trying—and will continue to do so the rest of my days. I had expected to bring my own children into a better world than the one that turned out to be burning in the weeks before their births. Nonetheless, I am so proud they have grown to be people who really do judge others by the color of their characters, not by the color of their faces. Those of us who do “see” must join together in that ever-flowing stream of mighty righteousness, workers for justice striving to quench these fires. Let justice roll down—indeed.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

I never thought about the size of my jaw or my ear before, but let me tell you, when those items are swollen out of proportion you really start to realize just how lovely a fairly symmetrical head is and how often you’ve taken for granted that your head will remain that way. I also discovered that I’m much more vain than I believed: not only did I change my hair’s part in order to cover the most obvious results of my infection, but also I used the word “hideous” almost every time I described the swelling. Thankfully, by now I’m not certain a stranger can see any difference in me and even I can only see the slightest discrepancies.

I don’t read much science fiction and/or fantasy but last Tuesday I suddenly felt I’d been thrust into some plot involving some sort of weird science. The initial medical conjecture is that it was cellulitis attacking me and various parts of my head. My Internet research—through respected websites, mind you—told me way more than I wanted to know. I decided not to ponder the possibilities too much and stick to the doctor’s suggestions for treatment, including going to see a dentist to rule out any underlying dental troubles.

I wasn’t too certain all that was necessary, but scheduled the appointment anyway. My friend validated that decision Friday night when I went to her party—hair parted over the offending side and ear covered by a stocking cap as part of my costume—and she asked how I was. After my giving her a short explanation, she said, “You do know why I had surgery in June, don’t you?”

Not the particulars, but I had known it was something extremely odd as so much of her health difficulties have been.

Then she proceeded to explain about a year of misdiagnoses and the near-miss averted when her dentist discovered evidence of bone-eating (!) bacteria after his looking at her facial X-ray. She had to have diseased portions removed and replaced, as well replacement for areas that had already disappeared—and have four front teeth removed and replaced as well. She could have developed brain damage or even died without proper diagnosis.

Now that story should be science fiction—only it isn’t. While her experience is very, very rare, I agreed with her that maybe my going to the dentist wasn’t so silly after all.

Today my dentist saw nothing out of the ordinary. He described to me various parts of my panoramic X-ray—a procedure scheduled anyway as part of my general dental health and wellness maintenance—and showed where he would expect to see trouble if my infection were related to some dental root. He pointed out signs that my previously overblown lymph node was back to its unremarkable and fully functioning state. Then he used the opportunity to—once again—work on scaring me into being more proactive about protecting my mouth from infection through adding Waterpik treatments and more regular flossing to my routines.

Perhaps I’m scared enough on my own to take better precautions.

Despite my family thinking that I’m some sort of hypochondriac because I always research medical possibilities, I didn’t really expect this sort of thing to happen to me. Now, I admit I first thought about ruling out some weird sort of Hantavirus response—which is an infection for which there is no cure except for the possibility that medical supervision along with hydration can provide the best environment to give you a chance to recover. And, while the few mice we trapped in our home were not deer mice, the CDC does advise people to use the recommended precautions for cleaning since other mice may carry the disease—and we did not always follow those cleaning precautions, plus a local man really did lose his fight to that disease a couple weeks ago.

However, infection is a much broader threat than something specific with specific risks such as Hantavirus—which actually makes it easier not to think about. Even with my father-in-law’s more than yearlong battle with staph as well as the healthy respect I gained from his experience as to the power of infections to run rampant, I really haven’t thought about getting such an infection myself. In my own mind I realize I associate that with people who have been way more antibiotic-happy than I have been—and, yet, who is on a serious antibiotic right now?

Just over a day’s worth of meds to take, plus I plan to follow-up with probiotics, but boy am I counting those not-so-little bright blue pills.

So hard to tell whether it’s the naturally occurring science or the science that we have created that is the bigger danger in many situations. Do you dance with the devil you know or the one you don’t know? Isn’t an out-of-whack balance between the sides of science a requirement for any good science fiction story? All I know is I’m tired of being the protagonist in this science fiction story.

Maybe, with the right balance of science and just a little luck, all this will pass—and then I’ll just be left with a really good “can you believe it?” story to tell.

“You should have seen my ear—it looked as if it were going to give birth to an alien—or maybe to Rosemary’s baby. One night I went to sleep and the next morning it was just there. Whatever it was, it didn’t care if this host survived its birth or not. It was alive, I tell you—alive!”

But, hey—thank goodness for a truly boring and pretty much happy ending.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:16-17, NIV

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

The week before I got sick, I was just too busy to write. My brother Scott was coming with his family: his wife Lori, his son and his wife, and another son’s children (four boys eight and under!) whom Scott and Lori are raising. To say that we had a lot of preparation to do before Thanksgiving was an understatement— we have enough trouble keeping the house orderly enough to be guest-friendly for adults, let alone for children.

Nonetheless, when all the busyness was said and done, we were really thankful to see our relatives for Thanksgiving. Scott and Lori have taken on the everyday care of these boys and do a great job with them despite the challenges of raising such young children when they themselves are in their fifth decades.

During the week of their visit to our house, we also wanted to bring the family to see our daughter who had to cut out early from her college break to go back to work Black Friday—oh, let’s just call it Black Thanksgiving since she had to start working at 5:00 p.m. that day. Plus, the boys were quite excited to visit her at her workplace, which is still a magical place for them. So it was that we all found ourselves dodging shopping carts at ToysRUs on the real Black Friday—and four little boys found themselves enjoying the outing even if the adults in the party were a little less excited.

Afterwards we all went out for a meal—no small task with eight adults and four boys. Since the weather was unseasonably warm, next we were able to take a post-dinner stroll through the nearby pedestrian mall, decorated with its twinkling holiday lights.

That’s when we saw him, standing on his soapbox outside a bar. His sign read: You deserve to go to Hell.

I wanted to call out to him, “Exactly—we all do. That’s why Jesus came—to take away all our sins.”

However, as Lori said later, it’s often pointless to get into a debate with people who think that way. Still, there he was talking deep into his belief that he had to scare people to Jesus—that the people inside drinking on a Friday night were obviously sinners who were just plain lost. Of course the smokers who came outside from the bar were having a good time needling him, unaware that they really did need Jesus’ love—for all their sins. But they weren’t hearing anything about love. In college towns, evangelists like this man tend to focus on sins surrounding sex and drunkenness, but not on sins about treating others unkindly.

In the Bible, who is most often at the receiving end of Jesus’ angry outbursts? The uptight “rules people” who do not show kindness in their dealings with people. Yes, Jesus hung out with the sinners—maybe also outside the watering holes of the day—but based on everything else I’ve read about Him, I have to believe He showed them why they should want to change through giving his love.

As our large family group walked by on our way elsewhere, the man shouted out and pointed at one of the children saying, “You see that young child there—he’s as innocent as the day he was born.”

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but though my sister-in-law loves and serves God, she muttered, “You don’t know him.” This is not because this child or any other of the children “deserves to go to Hell” on his own merits—it is because we are all born wanting to do our own thing versus wanting to do God’s—or other authority figures’—things.

It’s not just guys drinking at a bar or men and women looking for a quick hook-up. It’s also the three-year-old who throws the fit because he isn’t in the mood for bed yet or the four-year-old who keeps touching everything he has been told not to touch or the five-year-old “innocent” child who would just rather not do what his family (that old “honor your mother or father” thing—or honor those who are raising you) asks him to do or the eight-year-old who pulls out the game he was told to put away. But it’s also you and I when we speed up to cut off other drivers or when we speak rudely to customer service people.

There are so many sins—big and little—we all do throughout our lives. I’m sinning by not even wanting to debate this man who loves God because I don’t seem to think God is big enough to make it a worthwhile conversation. Even when we’re mostly doing the right things in God’s eyes, there are still sins we commit. To ignore God’s will—even if His will is simply for us to respect people, both those we love and those whose actions have not earned our respect—is to deserve to go to Hell.

For mere humans it is impossible ever to deserve to go to Heaven—and that’s why God gave us Jesus. I personally can’t say if those guys from the bar or the street preacher or those precious (though still imperfect) children nor you nor I will ever make it to Heaven, but it’s also not up to me to say. All know is sometimes we don’t get what we deserve and sometimes we get way more than we deserve—and when it comes to Heaven and Hell, that’s called mercy—the mercy that comes through Christ.

Not a one of us walking by the sign-hoisting man deserved perfect love, not even the three-year-old, and, yet, I believe Jesus gives it to us anyway. Because of that kind of love, people do really tough things—such as raising someone else’s children or walking away when someone’s behavior deserves a wrathful response or even by making a decision to treat their bodies more like the temples God created. You can wave your signs in the air and condemn everyone who walks by but I choose to see the Christ within.

This Thanksgiving I was very much grateful for good times with family and friends—but even more grateful for the kind of mercy Jesus bought for me for which I am not prepared and that which I most definitely do not deserve.

Thank God—really.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Just call me Big Head Trina. Yup, I have an ear infection and swollen gland that are distorting half my face, stretching out my jaw-line and my ear. It’s sort of like a boxer’s ear without the bruises. I am not a pretty site.

At least today I can think from time to time. Yesterday all that infection and swelling seemed to have outstretched my brain’s ability to think. I couldn’t even get myself to read at all unless the ibuprofen was kicking in and, even then, I could hardly follow what was on the page or screen.

I barely was capable of getting out in the morning to the doctor’s office and navigating all the busyness around the medical center where that office is located. So what I know is that the nurse practitioner agreed to give me blood tests, but I also believe she told me to leave without waiting for those tests. I checked out at the front desk where I scheduled a follow-up appointment. Not until I was almost back to my car did I realize those tests hadn’t happened. However, in my fever-induced haze I couldn’t get myself to care enough to turn around. I just headed straight home to take some ibuprofen and sleep.

Though the office had ordered an antibiotic for me, I definitely hadn’t felt capable of going to the pharmacy. After my nap, though, I thought I was well enough to handle the light traffic of early afternoon as well as the pharmacy drive-though. Of course, once I got there I had to wait in line for several minutes behind someone whose cigarette smoke was heading my way out his open car window. Then when I reached the window, the pharmacy tech told me it would still be another 10 minutes for my prescription to be ready. That was 10 minutes I couldn’t really give, so I went home.

That’s when it hit me—all these years I have been the one who has been negotiating all the health care snafus for my kids, sometimes for my husband, and even for my mother in her last years. If a prescription wasn’t ready on time, if there was a mix-up at the doctor’s office, if someone had to be on hold—all that involved me working to fix matters.

And here it was me again but I didn’t have the energy and good health in order to push through the ordeal. I was on hold for over nine minutes with my doctor’s office before I could ever begin explaining how the blood tests had not happened. The remaining conversation took about six minutes—the whole 15 minutes exhausted me. I was certain I could not safely drive myself back to the doctor’s office for those blood tests.

I hadn’t felt so alone since I had when I was first working here as a fairly new college graduate and needed to get myself to my first doctor’s appointment out in the real world. I needed to trudge on foot to the doctor on snowy roads while temperatures hovered around ten degrees even though I was dealing with a flu that was skating close to walking pneumonia—which it likely became since I developed spots on my lungs from the illness.

Thinking of that, I finally decided to call my son to come home early to take me back for the blood tests and the medicine.

Here I am a day later, feeling somewhat more functional, thanks to the effects of a whole lot of doing nothing mixed with sleeping while taking my antibiotics and ibuprofen on schedule.

Never mind that I got a call from the doctor’s office saying my dehydrated, feverish body had produced blood too thick to test—I had to go back. Ugh. So before I went I tried to hydrate myself enough so that the next blood tests work. The good news is I didn’t have to trudge out on a frigid day—the sun was shining and these December temperatures have been moderate and I felt capable of driving short distances.

And, maybe soon I’ll no longer have this misshapen, lopsided head. Until then you can find me napping and otherwise conserving energy with my dogs on this comfy couch of mine.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert