Friday, July 1, 2011

Lessons from a Momma Raccoon

By Kelli Combs

“Maybe one day you will have a daughter and will get a taste of your own medicine.” These words from my mom, from many years ago, have echoed in my head recently. This is one of those times when I wish she had not been right. But, as it turns out, my mom was right most of the time.

Let’s just say I am now “there,” and one of my three children, who will remain unnamed, seems to be on a mission to challenge me daily. There is always that “one” who God uses to grow and stretch us. And my “one” just happens to be the most like me.

Yes, Lord, I get the picture.

It had not been a good week. One afternoon, I was on my way home from work and was consumed with prayer, begging God to show me how to protect my daughter. I’m so thankful He knows our kids even better than we do.

On this particular day I was specifically asking the Lord for wisdom as to how to love her through the struggles we currently found ourselves in. As I was driving, I noticed a small animal crossing the road ahead, so I began to slow my car down. As I eased closer, I was able to make out what the small, fuzzy figure was. It was the cutest little baby raccoon I have ever seen.

As I inched a little closer, the baby’s momma came out of nowhere and it was obvious that she was aware of my presence, which, for her baby, equaled danger. As she frantically looked from me to her little one, I could see the desperation in her eyes. What came next was so precious that I will never forget it.

This sweet little momma ran over and placed her body on top of her baby’s and gently tried to guide him off of the street and away from danger. Everywhere her baby went, she went. This went on for about a minute, until it became apparent that her offspring had no intention of leaving the road. It was then that our momma raccoon decided it was time for a little more aggressive “Plan B.”

Glancing nervously in my direction one last time, she picked her unassuming little rebel up by the neck and proceeded to carry him off the street and out of harm’s way. I think I laughed out loud as I watched this little one flailing and fighting to break free. I could tell it was a waste of energy because this resolved little momma wasn’t letting go until her child was a safe distance from danger. I had to wonder what was going through his little raccoon mind as momma literally dragged him off the road.

As I watched the spectacle, it occurred to me that this was a beautiful and loving answer to my prayer. I had prayed and asked the Lord if I was being too hard on my daughter. He faithfully gave me a real-life illustration in His response to my question.

What did I learn that day? There are times when we, as mothers, can gently lead our kids away from danger. Then there are those times when we have to yank them up by the nape of the neck and literally drag them to safety. Will there be times when they don’t understand and maybe even accuse us of not loving them? Will they often resist and accuse us of being mean? Yes, but it’s all worth it and it’s our job to make sure they don’t end up as road kill on the road of life.

Tears began to flow as I started to see myself as the baby raccoon, looking back on all the times that, just like that sweet momma raccoon, the Lord had to drag me, kicking and screaming, away from danger, all while I resisted and accused Him of being unfair. I now see that He was showing me love as much then as He ever had in my life. Sometimes a little tough love is in order, especially with us particularly stubborn children.

I drove away from that scene knowing I had been with Jesus. I was fully aware that these raccoons had been sent on a mission by their Creator just for me. All I could do the rest of the way home was thank the Lord for being such a personal God. I guess if He can speak through a donkey, He can surely speak through a raccoon. It’s one of the things I love most about Him.

Psalm 91:4

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Kelli Combs is married to her pastor, Michael, and they are the parents of three teenagers. She is the director of a ministry that helps women in the aftermath of abortion. Her greatest passion is studying and teaching the Word of God and helping women to overcome the lies of the enemy regarding their pasts.

Coping with Alcoholism: A Mother's Perspective

By: Debbie Karis Graham

Dealing with my 25-year-old alcoholic son, Will, is a bit like a game of Candy Land. Sometimes I feel like I am coping with his disease fine, and am close to reaching the Candy Castle. Other times I feel like I am stuck in the Molasses Swamp.

The drinking hasn’t changed, but my reaction changes frequently. God has been the one constant in my life.

Alcoholism, like any other disease, has its ebbs and flows. On days when Will is not drinking, he is my fun-loving son, always armed with a joke. Usually, they are directed toward 1960’s rock icons, as that seems to be the era of music on my radio dial. We banter back and forth about Keith Richards and his latest death defying incident and laugh until we are both in tears. At that moment, I feel as I have just picked the card that will take me up the Gum Drop Mountain Pass.

Then, there are those days when Will comes home from work bathed in the stench of beer, flops in a chair, and blankly stares at the television. He usually watches the History Channel and marvels at the lives of others, while his slowly slips away into the abyss of alcoholism. These nights, I reach for my Bible, and cry.

Sometimes I can’t even open it because I am in such emotional pain. I don’t believe there are words in there to help me through the night or even the next five minutes. I hold the thick black book tightly to my chest and run my fingers along the indentation of the gold cross on the cover. Then a sense of peace comes over me. God is there waiting.

We have traveled this road for three years and his drinking has taken its toll on every aspect of life, including my faith, my marriage, my job and my health. Many sleepless nights have left me terribly unproductive at work and not the wife described in Proverbs. I don’t “laugh at the days to come (Proverbs 31:25).” Instead, I fear them. When is the next call from the police saying, “We have your son in custody for drunken driving?” Or, I wait for an officer to knock on my door with the sad news, “I am sorry to tell you ma’am, but…”

I have come to the harsh realization that I can not do anything about his drinking. A shopping trip to the mall, a favorite dinner, bribes (although I like to call it the incentive program), and even now AA has not and will not stop him until he chooses to change. But, I can do something about the way I respond to it.

I have decided to get serious about taking control over my own life and doing a spiritual inventory. I have often read, “If you can worry, you can pray.” Sometimes my prayers are scarcely nothing more than, “God, please help us.” But, that is a start.

Lately, Psalm 91 comes to mind: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Lord most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Rest. I like the sound of that word. It evokes many good feelings. Then a sense of peace comes over me. God is there waiting. All I have to do is draw the right card to get unstuck and I can proceed on my journey. Maybe one day I’ll make it to the Candy Castle.

Debbie Karis Graham is both a secular and Christian writer of personal essays, mainly for and about women. She has been published in newspapers throughout New Hampshire and also in the Washington Post. Her goal is to raise awareness on personal topics that are sometimes otherwise not discussed and empower women who might be struggling with these issues.

The Middle of a Miracle

by Joy Brown

“I’m sorry. You must have the wrong number.” I wish I could force those words out of my mouth. It’s the way I longed to respond to the voice on the other end of the phone. She must have dialed incorrectly. This call couldn’t possibly be for me. My name in the same sentence as “cancer” was inconceivable. This wasn’t part of my plan.

Months earlier I had found myself sitting with my family doctor as he explained some urgent and worrisome findings. Still, my mind remained positive. Yes, there was a mass on my left ovary, but it would be surgically removed and life would carry on. During this same time, a routine mammogram showed areas of concern and a biopsy was scheduled. Suddenly my safe and quiet life was plunged into a whirlwind of appointments, hospital visits, ultrasounds and a world of unknowns. Doctors and technicians whispered quietly in my presence, pointing at images on screens and using terms I didn’t understand.

My life is defined right now by instability. The wind is blowing. It's not a gentle wind that lifts wisps of hair and caresses my face. It's a billow, desiring to force me off my feet. A current from an area of high pressure air to an area of low pressure petitions to move joy to despair. A gale of doubt longs to bend my attitude and carry away all strength in its movement.

The big bad wolf is huffing and puffing and threatening to blow my house down. Is my faith made of wood, hay, straw or brick? As I watch the flag outside being whipped in the wind’s embrace, my life feels so beaten and defeated. How can one stand against such unrelenting power?

A call to the surgeon's office brings winds of change. Uncertainty collides with faith.

Test results return. Surgery dates are changed.

A violent storm of impending danger is on the horizon.

I pray for the weather to change and the forecast to be kind.

Yet, there are whispers in the wind. Whispers rise up to stay the blast of feelings and emotions which aspire to knock the life out of me and isolate me inside for fear of such flurry. I'm carried away, not aimlessly, but deliberately. Wind’s path has a purpose. Contrary to appearances, there is direction in the seeming chaos. It is not an arbitrary impulse, but an intentional appointment.

Listening, I giggle and rub my ear from sounds as soft as a feather's touch.

Amidst the howling, God and I share a secret.

He speaks tranquility in the turmoil.

The wind shifts my focus and God keeps me occupied with gladness of heart (Ecclesiastes 5:20, NIV).

With the wind, the seasons change. Spring is budding growth. God is moving me to a new place and a deeper faith. Although at times feeling forgotten and abandoned, God reminds me that He sees me.

He speaks words of encouragement from His Word. “I am your strength, joy, your personal bravery and invincible army. I make your feet like hind’s feet and will make you to walk [not stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon your high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]” (Habakkuk 3:19, amplified).

I lose my breath as a rush of thankfulness lifts me off my feet and I am carried to heights not experienced prior, choosing to make that sacrifice from a tender heart.

I let go.

Surrendering to soaring.

The letting go of what was to what is ahead has not been easy. As I write this, I am in a place of waiting. I am standing in the middle. The middle of a miracle.

Waves crashing all around.

The sound of the wind whirling.

I'm standing in the middle of my miracle. My feet are planted in the center of my impossibility, but God's possibility.

Firmly planted? Not always. Waves of doubt, despair and discouragement threaten to drown my heart. I ask the Lord to fix my feet on the Solid Rock.

Leaning in, I listen to the swirling flow of nature’s energy. I have a loving, powerful God who can produce vineyards and fruit in places of wilderness. There is growth to be born and birthed in this current climate. He will come to me like the spring rain, bringing a downpour of peace and joy. Fear wants to leave the soil barren, but hope issues an invitation, whispering that God is creating a fresh faith in me, one whose season it is to bloom in the middle of a miracle.

Joy Brown is a homemaker who lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband Gord and 19 year old son, Chris. Having being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she is now receiving chemotherapy treatment and is trusting God from the "middle of a miracle". She believes that God has purpose in allowing this "storm" to touch her life and refuses to settle in this season. Believing God, she's listening for His whispers.