Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Life ... Unexpected

He was only 27 years old...

An inspiring man of God who dedicated his life and gave every bit of his heart to the youth he was so drawn to. He had a smile that seemed to start in his heart before it reached his mouth. And he had a demeanor that let you know there was nothing about him that was guarded. Every kid I knew loved him. Every adult admired him. He gave of his time freely. He purposely sought out the alone ones and made them feel welcome and "un-alone". He worshiped passionately and exuberantly. He was the person I first talked to [representing Amped] when I called Gateway three years ago to find out how their Jr. High Ministry worked. He was the first person we met the first night we took Teighlor and Alec to their first night of Amped. We got to know him as Chris The Nintern [a youth ministry intern who loved Ninjas] and quickly understood his heart that burned to minister to kids. He was endearing. He was infectious. And he was loved by so many ... our family included.

In a tragic car accident yesterday, Chris' life was ended. Even as I write this 10 hours after hearing the shocking news, tears still run down my face. My heart aches because even though I know he's right there in heaven at Jesus' side, there are so many left here that will greatly miss his presence. My heart aches for his parents who lost a son. My heart aches for his brother who lost his brother. My heart aches for his beautiful girlfriend who never got the chance to become Mrs. Kuykendall. My heart aches for the score of youth who have been robbed of the life Chris poured into all he came in contact with. My heart aches for the kids at the Ranch he just started working at over 2 months ago [a home for misplaced boys]; especially the one he tweeted about just recently who had decided he wanted to start calling him "Daddy Chris".

And my heart aches over the moments in life he never got to experience: asking the love of his life to become his wife, seeing her walk down the aisle to become his bride, sharing a home of their own, holding their own child, or seeing his dreams of becoming a youth pastor fulfilled ... just to name a few.

I know that tomorrow is promised to no one and that our life is but a vapor. And I know that the One who spoke those words is the One Chris is now spending eternity with. But all to often we forget the impact those words have when they meet you face-to-face, unexpectedly. Death has a way of waking up those parts of our hearts that have settled into complacency.

Chris left behind a legacy that was bigger than his 27 years because he spent his time pouring out the love of Jesus to everyone around him. As many have already posted, He will hear the words "Well done".

Last night I posted my heart for him on his Facebook page that was already quickly filling up with words from those he had touched with his life. As I scrolled through the posts I came across the last few updates he had posted himself. One of them read: "Is so looking forward to Tuesday." Oh, the irony of those words...

Monday, May 10, 2010

For What Purpose?

At 43 I find it discombobulating to feel as if I'm stuck in the middle of something because you've decided to make it something. You know exactly what you're doing with your words and even though I have learned a huge lesson in not judging intent and the heart behind the matter, I am strongly putting a title to this: PURPOSE. There is a purpose to what you're doing and it sucks that you've decided to you US to fulfill that purpose ... whatever it is.

I was bothered this weekend by the lack of respect [you publicized] for this relationship of family and friendship; a relationship outside of your domain and broken, yet that has nothing to do with US.

I'm really bothered how, in my opinion, you somehow felt it was "right" to use US to get to THEM; that you somehow saw it as okay to use your freedom of speech to publicly spar with an opponent you know is listening but isn't going to step into the ring with you. That's a low blow ... in my opinion.

You contacted him for help before the last straw was the last straw, yet you felt no need to publicize that because things were still okay on the other end. No harm, no foul.

You were given an opportunity to earn some quick cash to help out until something solid came along, yet you felt no need to publicize that because things were still okay on the other end. No harm, no foul.

He was a business man with some possible business contacts and that's how it was treated, yet you felt no need to publicize that because we all knew that there wouldn't have been ANY contact had there not been a need.

YET, when a mind-boggling opportunity arises from a seemingly insignificant one-off opportunity, now you feel the need to present a public presence that's twisted enough to read one way when those involved know the "real" way. And I ask ... for what PURPOSE?

I struggled with your PURPOSE on Friday night, and I woke up this morning to be presented with another opportunity to struggle with it today. Is your purpose to jab or to create a riff? Either way, it's not OK!

You've used the medium to create a false reality and you've used US as the prime characters in that false reality show. You may have only had the PURPOSE to say, "Na, na, na, na, na", which I tend to want to laugh off as ridiculous, but even high school antics can dredge up wounds and cause harm that you'll never see.

Again, I can't judge intent ... I can only believe there was a PURPOSE.

But there is a consequence to your PURPOSE that I don't know if you even considered. You knew they would hear your words but did you ever stop to consider that you would cause loyalty to be questioned? You see, I take loyalty very seriously and I don't like it - not even a wee bit - when the actions of one can cause a thought path to be taken that shouldn't have ever been in the first place. Toying with people's emotions is immature, and more importantly, dangerous.

Thinking Differently is a big lesson God is just at the tip of the iceberg of teaching me and, thereby, teaching the ones I love. But before we can Think Differently, we have to think first.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

16 Years Ago...

...give or take a few weeks, I was sitting against the kitchen wall in my two-bedroom home located in Long Beach, CA, holding a home pregnancy test in one hand and a phone in the other. The little blue lines that told me I was pregnant were such a surprise to me that I couldn't remember the number to my (then) husband's cell phone. Pregnant? But I'm on birth control. That's really all that ran through my head for about the first 5 minutes.

That was sometime in July of 1994 and once the shock wore off and my hands stopped shaking, the realization that I was going to become a Mom the following year settled in, along with the joy that started as a heartbeat but quickly grew into an excitement that I could barely contain.

I remember almost every detail of every significant and not so significant moment of my Teighlor pregnancy: the joy of sharing the news with my Mom, the first trip to the Ob-Gyn to confirm what I already knew, the sound of her heartbeat coming from the ultrasound machine, learning she'd be a "she", the first flutters of her in my belly, watching my belly expand beyond reason, feeling that first really strong contraction and thinking the pain was way worse than I ever imagined, watching the miracle of birth via a mirror placed over the shoulder of my doctor, hearing her first cry and experiencing the immediate rush of love I'd never known when I got to nurse her for the first time.

And then I got to do all it again, one more time, with Alec. All of the situations weren't quite the same, and I didn't have the same amount of free time to enjoy each step because I was already Mom to a very active toddler, but it was just as miraculous and awesome to me.

To think that path of my life started just under 16 years ago. Wow! I've been a Mom for 16 years?!?!? That's kind of a crazy thought for me.

What a journey and a half Motherhood has been and continues to be. I shake my head when I look backwards on the time that has passed because it has gone so quickly, in retrospect. I think of the few remaining years I have to really "mother" Teighlor and Alec and I can't help but start to feel melancholy.

Because of the twists and unexpected turns of my life, I have not been able to wear the title of Wife as long as I've been wearing the title of Mom. I started out as wife, became mom, became ex-wife, continued on as mom, and became wife again. But throughout these past 16 years, Mom has been the outfit I've put on each morning and taken off each ... heck, who I am kidding ... it never comes off.

I've been a Mom for 16 years and I've loved every minute of it. Well, okay, if I'm being honest there have been plenty of moments that have not been my favorites, but the messy ones simply make the pretty ones that much brighter!

As I lay here in bed, it's just after 1am, and my Mother's Day will be celebrated after I go to sleep and wake up. I'm smiling because I have the simple pleasure of having Teighlor and Alec in the same room with me as I go to sleep tonight. With Anthony out of town on a business trip, I asked them to drag the twin mattresses into my room so we could camp out together. And now, as I write this, I realize what a sweet memory this will become for me.

And I wonder if my Mom sits in bed now, with all of her kids grown and with children of their own, and takes a walk down Memory Lane reliving her own simple moments with us.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I Can Only Imagine

Driving home from taking Anthony to work on Friday morning, this song came on the radio. It had been a [LONG] time since I'd actually listened to it all the way through; and that's because at it's HeyDay, this song was the most overplayed song on Christian and Secular radio stations alike. It went from being the song everyone requested, to the song that made everyone switch stations when they heard its familiar piano intro.

I remember exactly where I was and who I was with the very first time I heard this song sung by Mercy Me. Coli and I were both living at my Mom and Dad's house - she was preparing for marriage and I was in the beginning stages of losing mine - and she was watching the Dove Awards on the small TV in her bedroom. I had gone in to her room to talk to her and Mercy Me was just in the throws of performing this song. Immediately the melody caught my ear and the lyrics soon grabbed my heart. I was enraptured by this song and it quickly spread through our family as everyone was introduced to it.

It wasn't long before I had a copy of the CD in my car and it so moved me that I found myself listening to it over and over and over again. Within a week or so, Teighlor and Alec, being only 5 & 4 at the time, had learned the lyrics (yes, that's how often I played it) and, in their little voices, were singing at the top of their lungs ... even asking me to play it again when I'd dare play a different song.

One of the sweetest memories I have of this song is when I had Teighlor, Sierra, Alec and Kobe (all between the ages of 2 and 5) in the backseat of my car and this song come on the radio. As soon as Bart Millard began singing, four little voices joined in and my heart stopped inside me. It didn't take more than a second for me to understand - in the smallest of ways - what it must have been like for God to listen to the sweetest, most innocent worship. All four kids were lifting their voices high without a care for how loud they were or without thought for how in tune they were.

What shocked me - and I remember this like it was yesterday - was how I didn't hear "pitchiness" or "off key voices". I simply heard the littlest of these singing their hearts out to their Daddy. They knew every single word and sang them with a conviction that sounded as if they understood them better than most adults (and probably did!).

When I came "back to reality", I realized all of this had run through my head and heart as I listened to the musical introduction of this song. It was one of those moments when time seemed to run slower than normal because I had relived those memories in record time. When the lyrics began to be sung, I instantly understood that God was asking me to see an old song with fresh eyes; to not be sucked into the "But I've heard this song a thousand times before" mentality and just relive the majesty and awesome wonder of the truth of this song, as if hearing it for the first time.

Amazingly (said with tongue in cheek), my spirit fluttered as I "lived" this song again, with a fresh word from God that settled into my heart:

"I wrote that song to give you a twinkle of the delight and AWEsomeness of Heaven; to align your spirit to mine; to cause your heart to yearn deeper for me and the time that's coming when we'll never be apart. My Words are always fresh and new. It's the enemy who desires to make them appear stale and boring." [WOW!]

Whether a song written through a musician He's gifted; or a book He penned through the ready writer; or the Word He breathed into the 40 authors of the Bible ... God used that [seemingly insignificant] morning when I was driving East on 114 to sweetly remind me that stale, boring, old & overplayed are not adjectives He uses to describe His Words...they are the enemy's.