Reboot: The Beauty of not being good enough – (Getting “Cut” from the team)

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My daughter got cut from the varsity volleyball team this fall. Having poured herself into that sport for the last four years and with dreams to even play in college, it was a blow of colossal proportions. Yet a virtual stranger who probably doesn’t recognize the power she wields decided, “Nope. You’re not good enough for me.”

“Cuts” are so aptly named, aren’t they? It actually feels like a physical cut: leaving one wounded, bleeding…. in pain. And the injury didn’t just end with Grace – her “cut” deeply wounded me and Paul as well. Maybe even worse. Nothing hurts us more than our children hurting… Grace came home after cuts and while wrapped up in each other’s arms we bled all over the couch together for a while. Eventually she smiled, got up, and said “I have no more tears. I’m tired” and she went to bed.

No matter how hard we parents try to create a justification for this indignation (blaming, shaming, name-calling, conspiracy-theory, etc.) the cold-hard reality of the situation, which we eventually have to come to terms with, is that our child was just told: “You are not worthy. You are not good enough. I did NOT choose you.” That’s the bald truth and it stings.

By morning the sting had dissipated some and I was thankful I hadn’t acted in haste and posted something nasty on Facebook or Twitter.

But on the second day a miracle happened. It was a Saturday, which is a day traditionally OWNED by volleyball. But now, having a totally free Saturday, Grace, Yulisa and I chose to participate in a peaceful protest in Grand Rapids. Afterwards, we went out to a swanky coffee shop for tea and scones. We sat outside in the sunshine and faced the street and pretended we were Europeans. We talked about civil rights, civil duties, religious freedoms, and standing up for what you believe in. We talked about Thoreau, Rosa Parks, and MLK. We talked about making your life count.

Between sips of chai, she gifted me with this: “Mom, I wouldn’t trade this moment, this conversation, this day spent with you guys for anything. Not even volleyball.”

I wanted to say this: “You have no idea what this means to me, baby. No idea. Having a terminal illness, I want to be so selfish with your time. Truthfully, I want it ALL. This sacred time with you girls beats cheering you from the side-lines, which is really no interaction at all, a million to one. Every time.”

Instead, I pondered those thoughts quietly and we three just held hands and wept a little.

And then we came up with an idea. We decided to begin a list of all the things she now COULD do because of the time reclaimed sans volleyball. Every one of us has been given only 24 hours in a day – and no one can say “yes” to everything. And while most people try to deny this, the truth is that whenever we say “yes” to something, it represents something else we are saying “no” to. Grace wanted to call out, and clearly identify what all those “something else’s” were in her life.

On school nights and Saturdays when she would have normally been playing volleyball, she was now able to participate in a variety of incredible things – things not limited to, but including the following:

  • Breakfast with her youth group leader
  • Sprawled out on her bed with Yulisa – sharing earbuds– giggling and listening to hours of music together
  • Dinner with long-time family friends discussing things like Middle-eastern and South-African politics, saving dating until college, and the role of the church with immigration – which required us to stay out way past midnight on a Friday night but not caring because we were going to SLEEP IN on a Saturday for once!
  • A day of boating/tubing with her friends (friends that SHE chose, not whom volleyball chose FOR her)
  • Visiting her grandma at the nursing home
  • A family birthday celebration at a snazzy restaurant where no one was rushed and we gorged ourselves on bottomless sweet potato fries and drank root beer floats till we were dizzy.
  • Took a road trip with her siblings to see Ben Rector in concert in Detroit.
  • Cheered on her HS soccer team, tennis team and swim team – realizing if EVERYONE is a participant, then NO ONE is a spectator. And everyone enjoys playing more with spectators present.
  • Playing her guitar and singing with the praise team for her youth group.
  • Went “thrifting” with a dear friend and she found a $75 sweater for $5.

And this is only a partial list from the first couple of weeks….

Upon reviewing that list, we came to a profound conclusion: It’s as if God had an actual plan for her life all along, so perfectly tailored for Grace and her giftedness, that at this juncture, there simply wasn’t time for volleyball anymore. It’s as if, in God’s brilliantly upside-down kingdom, He was saying, “Grace, you didn’t get cut, you were chosen!”

It’s not that volleyball is bad, it’s just not the team Grace was chosen FOR.

  • What if Grace’s youth group leader composed a team? She’d say, “Grace! I choose you!”
  • What if Grandma made a team? She’d day, “Grace! I want you! You’re chosen!”
  • What if her friends made up a team? They’d say, “Grace! We choose you!”
  • What it the community put together a team? A team of young go-getters who epitomize service to others? They’d surely say, “Grace, we want you!”
  • What if our family was a team? (and I do believe we are) – We’d raise our collective voices and say, “Grace! Welcome back to our team!”

Yep – Grace got cut from volleyball. But look at all the teams that DID choose her!

So if you, or anyone you love, has ever been “cut” from a team – or the musical, or the band, or from a university, or the [insert thing that you wanted so badly but didn’t get] – maybe we just need to ask a different question.

Maybe the question isn’t, “Why did I get cut?”

But instead, “For what have I been chosen?”

 

 

The Tale of Two Porches

The Impressive White Wrap-Around Porch:

I was thrilled when I was dreamed into life. Every component of the home knows there are two of us that carry the most weight and significance: the kitchen table – where our people gather to share, grow, and learn to love; and the front porch – where our people interact and love on the world around them.

Being an exceptionally beautiful, deep, wrap-around porch, I had some serious expectations from my family. Since they had four children, I envisioned them using me for playing games on summer evenings, for catching fireflies, for playing guitar and singing songs, and rocking their babies to sleep on my rocking chairs. But they never did any of those things.

The Mrs. decorated me for every season and for every holiday. I was a stunner. She spared no expense. I didn’t mind – but it’s not what I was made for. It was like being all dressed up with nowhere to go. With each passing year, I hoped the family would slow down enough to enjoy me. I hoped they would see how vital it is to be out in the front of the home, to wave to cars passing by, to chat with the neighbors, and to just sit for a spell and enjoy each other. But they never did.

My Mr. and Mrs. were busy people. Their cars flew up and down the driveway many, many times a day. I never understood what they were so busy chasing, but they were chasing something for sure. I thought the kids looked tired, but Mr. and Mrs. kept a fast pace nevertheless. I never knew where the kids were much of the time – but I often saw the Mr. and Mrs. working hard in their yard. They mowed that huge lawn every few days – hours and hours and hours of mowing. They were always vacuuming the pool, tending the landscaping, washing cars, waxing the boat, etc. The kids had four-wheelers, bikes, golf carts, motorcycles – basically anything they asked for. But to me, it just seemed like the more things they bought, the more they had to take care of and the less time they had to relax and enjoy me. I thought they’d eventually exhaust themselves and sit on my rockers for a moment with a cold lemonade or beer. But they never did.

My owners lived in my big white house for nine years and I don’t ever remember them enjoying my beautiful view and just relaxing with me. Not ever. Not once.

One day, an old college friend stopped by to see my Mr. and Mrs. Immediately upon exiting his car, he condescendingly said, “Wow, now that’s an impressive home!” The Mrs., completely oblivious to his patronizing tone, said, “It is pretty, isn’t it?”

Suddenly I knew. She didn’t get it. She never did. The Mrs. never wanted a big wrap-around porch like me for the vital role I’m supposed to play in the home. She wanted me because I’d be impressive. That, I suppose, I did fairly well, too.

 

* * * * * *

 

The Old Rickety Porch:

I am over a hundred years old and I am tired. I am sagging on one end and many of the brick pavers of my floor are missing. The siding around my front door is peeled back and flaps in the wind. But I do not care about any of that and I will not complain – because I am a porch and I am doing the thing I was created for! I am the bridge between the inside of the home and the world outside. My owners LOVE to spend time out on their porch rockers and watch the world – the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic world of the west side of Grand Rapids. It’s like they’ve never had a porch before – they can’t get enough of me! Even though they’re incredibly busy with careers and kids and aging parents and sickness and death, they come out here almost every evening, weather permitting.

Being a porch, I am privy to many interesting conversations. My Mr. and Mrs. have chatted out here with people from all over the world, discussing everything from immigration to gun violence to Jesus to the best wine. They must have lived in different countries, too, because they also talk about how stubborn they must be that in order to truly understand that people are more important than things God had to yank them half-way around the globe. They talk about how they used to live compared to how they live now and how they’ll never go back, even though they could easily afford it. I’ve overheard their remorseful accounts of all the years they wasted mowing lawns, vacuuming pools, washing cars and cleaning boats. I don’t know what they’re talking about – because they don’t do any of those things now.

Their kids – the marrieds and the singles – love to hang out with me, too. Sometimes, they’ll all reminisce about the “old days” when they had a great big wrap-around porch they never used. They’re able to laugh about it now. I’ve heard the Mr. and Mrs. thank God that their kids didn’t give up on them. I’ve heard them say how grateful they are to have learned before it was too late that spending time with their kids was more important than giving them stuff.

As soon as the snow disappeared, my Mr. and Mrs. were back out on my rocking chairs. Some evenings, the laughter from the high-spirited rugby game in the park across the street beckons them outside (even though they clearly cannot figure out rugby rules to save their lives). They love to talk to ALL the passersby – to pet the dogs, talk to the babies in strollers, or just offer a friendly “Hello – Have a great day!” They’ve befriended the college kids up the street, the older, slower gentleman who collects empty pop cans so he can buy Legos, the politician on the corner, and the homeless guy on his bike. They love to sit out here and talk to other neighbors sitting out on their porches; and because our homes are so close, it’s like we’re one big block-long porch anyway.

I’m thankful my Mr. and Mrs. get it. They understand the two most important parts of any home are the table for gathering the family to teach it how to grow in love; and the front porch, where the family extends that love to the world.

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The Worst Houseguest Ever (and how to get rid of her)

We’ve had the worst houseguest all winter. In fact, I’ve never despised anyone more. It’s bad enough she showed up unannounced – but now she hangs out in the WORST possible places, and REFUSES to leave! I’ve been downright rude to her and I’m always telling everyone how much I hate her, even when she can hear me. She doesn’t care. She won’t leave and her annoying presence aggravates me more and more every day. So I started serving her all the nastiest foods: kale, green smoothies, turmeric tea, brussel sprouts. In fact, all the sprouts. She, however, laughed in my face and propped her feet up on my coffee table as if to say, “I ain’t goin’ anywhere, girlfriend. Get used to it.”

I told her in no uncertain terms that I will never get used to it! I refuse to give in to her obstinate and demoralizing ways. She will never get the best of me and I’ll kill her if I have to – but she is NOT stayin’!

So in yet another attempt to get her to leave, I signed up for a membership at Planet Fitness. This will surely piss her off, I thought. She lugged along with me to my workouts and again, very condescendingly laughed at me when I was sweating after just 15 minutes and struggling to get through a full workout.

This is the MOST unwelcome guest I’ve ever entertained. And I never even meant to host her – she just kind of appeared. Slowly… I noticed her more and more and more. She just latched on – attached to me like a barnacle, a leech, a life-sucking demon.

So now, in an effort to destroy the guest I never wanted, I go to Planet Fitness as much as possible. But the problem is, I hate Planet Fitness, too. It’s so depressing because I feel like everyone’s grandmother. It doesn’t help that I live in a college town and all the perky little college girls wear painted on leggings over their perfect tight butts and strut around with all their trendy tattoos and bras for shirts. And even though this college is my alma mater, I think they now disregard literacy as a criteria for admission. Although I am clearly perched DIRECTLY beneath the words “Judgment Free Zone” – I can still feel their glaring weasel-y eyes on me as they think “I’m never gonna let myself go like that mom. When I’m old, like her, I’ll still wear these tight-ass leggings and turn heads at the gym.”

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College girls at my Planet Fitness look like this. Seriously??? No wonder I feel like poking my eyeballs out whenever I leave.

My mom says paranoia runs in our family – but I think she just tells me that to get in my head and watch me self-destruct so she can tell the rest of the family and all her condominium friends what a nut-job I am when they admit me to the psychiatric hospital where I work…

And on this one particular day, with my stupid guest latched heavily to me, my soul was especially downcast. I was feeling so burdened with my health issues, a body that felt like it was failing me, and just overall feeling “less than”. What I really wanted to do was stay in bed til Memorial Day, but somehow I’d found a modicum of strength to drag my sorry ass to Planet Fitness.

I found my favorite treadmill right underneath the sign “Judgment Free Zone” just in case any college Barbie dolls forgot the rules. I walked/ran for as long as my compromised lungs would let me.

I wanted to cry. My lungs said, “Stop! We’re hurting!” My unwanted guest said, “I told you I’d never leave! You are stuck with me forever strapped to you!” My feet said, “Will you ever break down and buy some orthopedic tennis shoes???” My head said, “Face it, Cindy, you are old, fat, and irrelevant.”

My heart said, “I’m broken. Let’s get out of here.”

So I bolted for the door.

And then….

HOLY OF HOLIES….

A beautiful college-aged brunette who was working the Planet Fitness desk – her Chemistry book open on her lap – looked up at me, smiled, and said, “I like your hair.”

I looked over my shoulder convinced she must be addressing someone else. There was no one else there.

I pointed to myself as if to say, “Who me??? This old lady here with enough extra weight I’ve even personified it as an unwanted guest??? This embarrassment to the Planet Fitness establishment who couldn’t even exercise a full hour? You mean me???”

She said, “Yeah. It’s cool. I like the color and the cut.”

Flabbergasted. I’m pretty sure I forgot to say, “Thank-you.” or even a meager, “And I like your tight leggings”.

As soon as I was in my car I sheepishly checked my hair, “You know, your hair really ain’t too bad. It’s not grey yet. And with just a little highlighting help in the winter, the color’s not disgusting. Maybe you’re not a total loser…”

And I literally felt my head lift a little. I felt the unwanted guest shrivel up a bit as I decided to face her head on, admit she was all my fault, and commit to eliminating her entirely. I felt the sun peak through the clouds. I felt like God himself was saying to me, “I love you. I don’t care about a few extra pounds. I don’t care about what others say or think about you. You are special to me and I’m especially fond of you.”

And that, my friends, is the power of ONE COMPLIMENT. My whole view of the world shifted in that moment with one simple remark. And I stepped out of Planet Fitness that day having learned some priceless things:

  • We absolutely CAN change the world one smile, one kind word at a time.
  • WE get to choose the narrative of our lives. There’s much we can’t edit (disease, death, loss, trauma, broken relationships, etc.) but we CAN choose the direction of the story based on our response to those things.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of our words – both for the good and the bad. Use them wisely!
  • Listen to God. His words are always best.
  • Go to the gym. It doesn’t totally suck.
  • Don’t eat the tootsie rolls on the way out of Planet Fitness! Can you say, “Saboteur”???

Go get ‘em friends! Show those unwanted guests the door! Anything in your life that you didn’t want and didn’t ask to take up residence – maybe it’s jealousy or anger or fear or drinking or extra weight or working too much – whatever it is, tell it to take a hike and  get back the life you know is yours!

(And if you’ve ever worked at Planet Fitness and you tell me that employees are instructed to compliment patrons who look like they’re on the verge of tears, I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR IT AND I WILL UNFRIEND YOU FASTER THAN YOU CAN SAY “LEGGINGS”!)

 

 

 

Why Chip and Joanna are BIG, FAT, LIARS (But we should all be watching their show anyway…)

 

I speak from experience. We just moved into our first (and last) fixer-upper. We chose the house because of the neighborhood – interesting social, religious, and economic diversity in a walkable neighborhood close to downtown Grand Rapids. We never once thought it’d be “fun” to do a fixer-upper. In fact, because we don’t have cable, we had never even heard of Chip and Joanna or seen their show before we were already knee deep in sheet rock.

But, curiosity got the best of me – and when our spring break hotel had cable, I binge-watched like 28 episodes of “Fixer Upper.” And now, like the rest of the world, I have a huge fan crush on the duo. This fact pisses me off, because I really want to hate them for making fixing-upping look “fun”.

However, as a REAL LIFE fixer-upper, AS WELL AS an expert on all things “Chip and Joanna”, I feel compelled to share our experience and contrast it to their show to expose them for the liars they are (or, to be fair, could it be they just have some incredibly crafty film editors??? It’s just not possible they are so perfect, is it???):

 

  • THEM:  Chip and Joanna generally run into one “minor snag” per renovation where they have to call the owner and ask for additional funds.
    • US:  With REAL LIFE fixing-upping, the shocking discovery that you have blown your budget to crap happens daily. (In fact, if you’re seriously contemplating a fixer-upper, you might want to ask yourself if you’re okay with selling your plasma, hair, AND sperm – because the good Lord knows it’s gonna cost you EVERYTHING else…)

 

  • THEM:  The Gaines’ kids are always polite, excited for their parents’ latest project, and eager to lend a hand.
    • US:  In REAL LIFE fixing-upping, your kids grow deaf to your endless requests for “help”.   Our kids needed to take muscle relaxers to alleviate facial tension from all their eye-rolling.

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna (I’m just going to call them that from now on, because they do life together so nauseatingly unified, they might as well be one…) don’t have to wait three weeks for the dry-wall guy to show up, four weeks for the plumber, and an eternity for the carpenter who promised every day for a month he’d be there tomorrow….
    • US:  In the REAL WORLD, you might as well get your Pokemon Go up and going – because you will be killing ALL KINDS of time waiting for MR. NEVER-GONNA-HAPPEN to show up.

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna never accidentally rips out a support beam, or blindly drives a nail into a water pipe, or gets impatient putting polyurethane on the wood floors causing it all to bubble and have to be redone.
    • US:  Just sayin’…..

 

  • THEM:  I’ve never seen Chipanna break a pane of stained glass window in a fixer-upper where the stained glass window was THE ONLY redeeming quality of the piece of crap house they were renovating…..
    • US:  Again, just sayin’…..

 

  • THEM:  Joanna never swears at Chip.
    • US:  In REAL LIFE fixing-upping, well…… no comment.

 

  • THEM:  Chip has all kinds of sweet pet names for Joanna – like Jo, Jojo, Mama and Buttercup.
    • US:  During our renovation, my husband had some choice names for me, too – but nothing like those…

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna never accidentally purchase a crack house.
    • US:  Yes, in fact, we did.

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna never seem to have to deal with probation officers who show up at the door looking for the previous tenants.
    • US:  Yes, in fact, they’ve been at our door more than once.

 

  • THEM:  Joanna always looks so darn cute. Whether it’s at the work site, antique shopping, or during the big reveal, she’s invariably stunning.
    • US:  Me? I showed up at the work site every day with bed head, bags under my eyes, my shirt on inside-out (to save on washing my paint clothes so often) and wearing an old pair of too-small running shorts which gave me a not-too-attractive constant wedgie.

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna always seem to throw together a hearty and healthy meal at the end of their long, hard work days.
    • US:  In REAL-LIFE fixing-upping, your evening meals look like this: McDonalds, Subway, Subway, Subway, and then every fifth day you “cook” and make everyone a tuna-fish sandwich that tastes like paint because of all the paint-brushes you have “saved for later” in your refrigerator.

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna always gets the house done on time. Who are these freakin’ demi-gods that they always meet their deadlines? How on God’s green earth do they do it???
    • US:  Even though we gave ourselves SEVEN FREAKING MONTHS for our renovation, we weren’t even CLOSE to being finished when we moved in. Our house looked like a crack house and the worst-ever-KOA-campground had a baby. For our “big reveal”, our house looked like this:
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      Living Room – still awaiting paint
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      Solarium – aka our temporary kitchen. And yes, that’s a random toilet waiting to be installed
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      Family room – no freakin’ idea what we’re gonna do with this mess
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      Back stair-way – complete with protruding nails that impale you if you get too close!

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      Upstairs hall – and yes, that’s right, there’s no door to the bathroom because we can’t find it.

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna will once and a while make a joke about mice – but you never see any – or remnants of any other vermin for that matter.
    • US:  Our house had a horrific mice infestation. There was mice crap in every single cupboard and drawer. Oh – and the previous tenants left multiple piles of petrified dog crap dispersed throughout the entire house as little “welcome” gifts. Just lovely.

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna always find shiplap in their reno-houses.
    • US:  What is it with WACO and shiplap???? A hundred years ago, people in Grand Rapids had very different ideas of what was “beautiful”. As we removed a hundred years of “decorating” layer by painstaking layer, we found: 8 (yes, EIGHT) layers of crispy wallpaper, ugly faux brick paneling, 6 layers of disgusting, asbestos-laden linoleum and 1 layer of tile that looked like an 8-yr-old installed it. Then – wait for it….. wait for it….. Lo and Behold! We finally discovered some shiplap! However, it was on the walls to the FREAKIN’ BASEMENT – the cold, dark, cinderblock Michigan basement that no one besides myself and spiders will ever see. How poetic.IMG_2200

 

 

HOWEVER – and this is why I will love Chipanna forever and ever a-men – it’s the reason we should all be watching more of their show: “Fixer-Upper” is far LESS about fixing up houses, and far MORE a beautiful tribute to marriage.

-Chip and Joanna tackle the notorious marriage-breaking endeavor of home renovation week after week and exemplify how we can love, honor, and respect our marriage partners even in challenging circumstances.  I can’t get enough of them.  They inspire me to be a better wife, person, and Christian.

– I love how they genuinely enjoy each other and laugh at each other.

– I love how Joanna laughs when Chip bloats his stomach (why do all men think this is funny?) Joanna seems to really, genuinely find Chip charming no matter how ridiculous his antics. And soon, I started to find Chip charming, too. But then I realized this: my husband does these silly little things, too. I had just had grown so cold and calloused – I was choosing to roll my eyes at him instead of seeing it’s just my prince trying to impress his princess.   He needs to see me impressed.

– Joanna looks at Chip likes he’s just the most handsome, strong, wise and powerful man she’s ever met. Wives – listen up – I think if we all looked at our husbands the way Joanna ogles Chip, we could probably save a lot of our marriages – because I really believe this is something all men are starving for.

– I love how they listen to each other before speaking.

– I love watching Chip watch Joanna. He looks like he wants to just lick her all-over.

– I love how they share hard news with one another – acknowledging the news stinks, but then, collaborating to find a way to “deal with it”. Ahhhhh – that’s beautiful marriage communication right there.

unknownI think this is genuine Chip and Joanna – that they’re not just “putting on a show.” They are the real deal – and we’d all do well to try to emulate them in our marriages. I pray for Paul and I to have a love for each other that’s a fraction as strong as Chipanna. And THAT, my friends, is the REAL reason I will keep watching Fixer-Upper. We might even have to get cable…

 

But we will NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER to INFINITY, tackle another Fixer-Upper ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

Must We Suffer?

images-1The pit in my stomach grew with each pound of the hammer as my husband drove the “For Sale” sign into the ground of our front yard. I wasn’t handling this well – yet he seemed to be strong. But when he stood up and wiped a tear away from his eyes, I became unhinged.

What in the world were we thinking? Why, oh why, are we doing this again? Nobody knows the voice of God for sure anyway, do they? Afterall, it’s not like we HAVE to move to the inner-city – we can afford this beautiful house on this perfect cul-de-sac,  in this highly-desirable neighborhood, in this exemplary school district. So why should we move? Nobody does this. Are we just crazy?

Hoping to outsmart my tears, I ran inside and sat down to write through the pain. Writing’s my jam. My catharsis. But there were no words. I was hollow, empty, hurting, and mad at God.

For no particular reason, I opened up an unfamiliar file on my computer. I didn’t recall writing this piece entitled, “Must we suffer?” – but there it was. I had completely forgotten that about 4 or 5 months ago I had a dream that shook me to the core. I totally believe God sometimes speaks to us in dreams. It’s only happened to me a couple of times before. Only this time it took 5 months for me to receive the application.

 

My Lice Dream

In my dream, we had already made to move to Grand Rapids, the city our family has been preparing to relocate to for the last year. There was some kind of huge community event taking place in our new neighborhood. It was like a rock concert-meets-carnival-meets-church-picnic event. Everyone was happy, roaming around, eating and socializing. There was a young Hispanic girl – maybe 3 or 4 years old – who had taken to me after I smiled at her and offered her a sucker. She didn’t speak any English. And since I only know 10 words of Spanish, we bonded through smiles. Hand-in-hand, we took in music, kiddie rides, and wonderful ethnic food. After a while, she grew weary and I picked her up and carried her. She nestled her head into my shoulder.

A white woman came up to me and whispered in my ear, “You might want to keep a little more distance from that girl. Their family has a chronic problem with head-lice and with your long-hair on your shoulders, you’re just asking for it!”

I looked down at the little girl.  She didn’t understand what had just been said about her. She just looked up into my eyes, smiled, and pointed towards a cotton-candy machine. She was so happy. And she was happiest when I was enjoying her happiness.

HOWEVER, I inwardly cringed. In our six years of life overseas both of our daughters had had several bouts with head lice. I had spent countless nights painstakingly removing those repulsive insects and their nits from the girls’ long hair. It is disgusting and a total pain in the ass. I really did NOT want to get head lice. But even more – I didn’t want to let go of this sweet little girl or disappoint her in any way.

 

I continued to let her cling to me.

 

The next scene in my dream I am standing in front of a mirror and I pull back some of my hair to see the scalp and hopefully discover the source of my itching. And there they were – four or five little bugs, about the size of a sesame seed, scurrying off to find another hiding place on my scalp. I almost gagged.

I went to find the head-lice treatment kit. Since we had just moved into our new-to-us very old home in Grand Rapids, there were boxes everywhere, piles of crap in every corner, and mounds of clothing that would never find a home with these diminutive ancient closets. I went to the hall cupboard hoping to find some lice shampoo and the door fell off the hinges when I opened it. I tried to open the drawers below but one did not have runners and was jammed in a cock-eyed position; the other was painted shut. I felt the bugs running around on my scalp.

I went downstairs to the kitchen because I read somewhere that covering your head in mayonnaise can drown the lice. I had to skip over steps 4 and 9 because they were missing. In the kitchen, I was horrified to discover we hadn’t purchased a refrigerator yet. Apparently, in my dream, we had run out of money before we could finish the renovations. I looked into the family room where strips of 100 yr-old- wall-paper were still hanging from the walls and the ceiling (yes, the idiot owners before us had wall-papered THE CEILING!) I saw several windows that were still broken, huge cracks in the plastered walls, and the front door that didn’t shut properly had let rain seep in all night long. A large pile of rain-worms were soaking in a puddle two feet in front of me.

“This is squalor!” I ranted to myself. “I didn’t agree to live in squalor! I told Jesus we would follow Him to the inner-city and we would just love on people who are different from us. We just wanted diversity in a challenged neighborhood. That’s all! I told Jesus we were willing to leave Hudsonville and family and friends and just do our best to try to live like him in the city. So why does our house have to be nearly condemned and why do I have to have HEAD LICE???”

THEN I KIND OF WOKE UP, AND KIND OF KEPT DREAMING…. I WISH I KNEW FOR SURE IF I WAS AWAKE OR ASLEEP – BECAUSE I HEARD A MESSAGE FROM GOD AND KNEW FOR CERTAIN IT WAS HE WHO SPOKE TO ME. HE SAID:

 

CINDY. DID YOU SERIOUSLY THINK YOU COULD FOLLOW ME AND NOT SUFFER? DID YOU SERIOUSLY THINK YOU COULD PRAY TO ME AND ASK TO LIVE LIKE ME AND BE LIKE ME, THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB, YET NEVER HAVE TO SACRIFICE ANYTHING YOURSELF? IT DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT, CINDY. WHEN YOU COME AND FOLLOW ME AND JOIN ME IN MY WORK, YOU COME TO THE PLACE OF SUFFERING. I NEVER PROMISED ANYTHING DIFFERENT. YET, THE BEAUTY OF FOLLOWING ME IS THAT I WILL CARRY THE BURDEN.”