Wait? Did I Sign Up For This Mission????


We have now fully entered the dreaded “teen zone” here at home….chock-full of eye-rolling, dismissive, “you-were-never-a-kid-were-you?” kind of action. Only six months in and we find ourselves scratching our heads.
What happened to the fifteen-year-old’s awkward attempts at socializing with girls his own age? That’s turned into “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE TRULY IN LOVE!” and then stomping off to his room, which – although clean and organized – smells dangerous – a combination of his reptile tanks and hormones leaking out of the top of his head.
What happened to our twelve-year-old’s bookish and charming exchanges with her friends, all of whom are obsessed with The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, or the Twilight movies?
They turned sixteen and thirteen. And suddenly, suddenly everything is so much more complicated. My son has decided that his long-distance girlfriend is the new authority on what he should do next. My daughter has started to ramp up in the temper department, probably not helped by the constant proximity of her two younger sisters; she has also taken to saying things that dance around – without actually stating – “you are the worst mother ever!”
I think I’m psychic or something. I predicted that turn of events way back in December, when I started this blog. Ha.
I know I’m not alone in this: the anti-miraculous, almost-overnight, shift of formerly calm and beloved children into teens who practically foam at the mouth to cut the umbilical cord and break loose from their parents.
Which leaves us bewildered, impatient, and feeling isolated. Which in turn, makes us want to walk away and quietly shut a door and give up on the mission.
When you become a parent, you agree to this. You agree to all the good stuff, and the bad stuff. You agree to not become Parent Behaving Badly. You agree to not join your kid (bad, good, or indifferent) on the same plane: stomping feet, screaming, breaking relationship rules, disrespecting each other, swearing. Yelling things like “you never!” or “you always!”
When tempted to call a priest, throw holy water at them, or wear garlic around my neck, I remember that didn’t work with my parents; and that by the age of 25, they may start to calm down and rethink this whole “I’m right and my parents are wrong” mentality. If not, by the age of 30. If not….oh, dang. Let’s just deal with today and the surly man-boy who stinks and can’t find a summer job; and the pretty girl who I may have to lock in a tall tower in the next twelve months.
Let’s just deal with NOW.


The Best Promise


     Recently I was talking with friends about what I consider to be the “worst day of my life.”  I was 19 years old and had gotten a call that morning about a very young relative who had been diagnosed with advanced leukemia; I was waiting for the results of a medical test, and THAT was haunting my moments; and I was in a car accident which scared me half to death, and my knee was throbbing from being slammed into the back of the seat in front of me.  I was reflecting on the day and was thinking, “O Lord, thank you for bringing me through it”, but I was also thinking, “O Lord, what a horrible day, I feel like I want to throw up!”

     And then I envisioned Joan of Arc.  Not the popular image of her (the one I also love!), armored to the hilt, sword unsheathed, rushing into battle – no, the Joan of Arc burning at the stake, at the age of 19.  Burned for heresy and for not renouncing her belief that she had heard the voice of God and the voices of saints, she was basically burned for the sake of fear.  An influential bishop took it upon himself to take her out in order to silence her.   He could not let her live and risk that she would influence the soldiers – and the common people – any longer. 

     Funny, how “poor me!” moments turn into “oh my” revelations about our (my) inherent self-centeredness.  And recognition of the promises made to us in scripture, that if we are faithful to our call to Live the Word, we will be redeemed by our Heavenly Father. The perfect scripture passage for this is in 1 Peter 5:6-11:

    “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you.

     Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares about you.

     Be sober, be watchful.

     Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

     Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world.

     And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself

         restore, establish, and strengthen you.

     To Him be the dominion forever and ever.  Amen.”

     Isn’t that the best promise?  Not that you WON’T suffer, but that when you do, it will only be for a little while, and then you will be restored and strengthened.  Not that you will be spared from pain, but that God will be there to relieve you and take your suffering from you. 

     None of us is spared.  But let’s get some perspective; when you are having a hard time at work, think of Joan of Arc, burning at the stake for her faith in what she had been told by God.  When you are struggling with making ends meet, remember the Christians who are being persecuted and killed in Syria, Iraq, and Turkey – for their faith.  When you miss your bus to work, think of agonizing parents sitting in rooms up in Children’s Hospital, listening to beeping machines that are keeping pace with their child’s vital signs.  When your grown child makes the ten thousandth questionable decision and you are not sure that you can keep vigil – one more day – while they struggle and scrape to find their way in the world – remember that God Himself is with you, and He already knows what is going to happen, and that He has always held them in His hands –

     and that He is capable, beyond all human belief or speculation, of taking care of His own.


Movie Review: “Gimme Shelter”


     (“Gimme Shelter” is an indie movie that was released in 2013; it was on my list last year but I just never got around to it until I noticed it in my hometown Redbox kiosk…)

     Gimme Shelter is based on the true story of “Apple” (Agnes), a young girl who lives with June, her abusive, drug-addicted mother.  They live in a series of motels and run-down apartments; eventually Apple is taken by social services because of her mom’s ongoing issues.  She is then passed through ten or more foster homes (some good, some nightmarish) until her mom regains custody.  Apple runs away at the age of sixteen when she realizes things are only going to get worse, and that her mom’s decisions will eventually ruin any chance of Apple having a normal life; this is where the movie really takes off.

     As her only clue, Apple uses the letter she received from her biological father, Tom, to find him in New Jersey.  He is now a married, successful broker with two young children.  She just wants a place to stay until she gets on her feet and becomes independent, but when the stepmother deduces that Apple is newly pregnant, she persuades Tom to talk Apple into an abortion.  Apple leaves the clinic by the back door when she realizes that abortion is not her choice, but that she can’t go back to Tom’s house.  She goes back to her old neighborhood, ends up in a vehicle accident, and connects with a priest who is a chaplain at the hospital. 

     This priest introduces her to the director of a shelter for homeless and pregnant teens, which is where June eventually tracks her down.  Their violent confrontations eventually culminate in June being arrested, and Apple settles in to life at the shelter.  For the first time in her life, Apple experiences unconditional love and acceptance, and a family who will help her to forge a careful and successful path to adulthood.  Apple’s father Tom finds her through the social services system, but Apple decides to stay at the shelter, in the embrace of the only true family that she has ever known. 

     I was very skeptical of this movie; certain reviewers had raved about it, others had lampooned it.  I was impressed by the acting lineup (Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, James Earl Jones), and I decided to go in with an open mind.  By the end of the movie, I was definitely won over.  This is not some saccharine, princess-happy-ending kind of movie; the grit and grime of homelessness and drug addiction – and their tolls – are not glamorized at all.  Apple is not a shimmery girl who rises above it all and pulls herself up by her boot straps, she is a flawed, angry girl who just wants two things: a safe place to stay, and the ability to make her own decisions.  She stubbornly pushes away anyone who wants to help her or get close to her, and that strength serves her when it comes time for her to start sticking up for herself. 

     One of the critiques of the movie is that it is “preachy.”  I didn’t sense that, but I suppose that it looks radical, stupid and reckless for a homeless 16-year-old to make these very large decisions for herself.  I suppose that if you had preferred for Apple to have an abortion and “get on with her life,” that opinion makes sense.  But as you watch the transformation in Apple as her pregnancy progresses, as she reaches out and learns how to cooperate with the other girls in the shelter, and accepts the love of people around her – you realize that taking control of her life and forging her own path BEGAN with the adult decision to keep her baby.  The baby gives her a sense of self, an identity, and creates a purpose that helps her to see her own self-worth. 

     I would rate this movie “two thumbs up” for giving a real, clear and stark peek into the life of a child of a drug addict, and no one is coddled or glossed-up for viewers: June, Tom, the shelter director, and Apple – none are made out to be the hero nor the villain of this film.  It is just:  life.