God Wants My Sad

What an odd title for a blog post?!  Hopefully, it will make sense shortly.  You see, my birthday is hours away and for several days, prior to today, all I have been able to think about is when my brother, Joe, called me a year ago to tell me that Dad had been involved in an accident–a very serious accident.  Dad and I spent my birthday in the Duke University Medical Center Emergency Room and, after Dad was stable, I drove home in the early hours of February 5th to attend my husband’s retirement luncheon from the North Carolina Department of Corrections.  Following the luncheon, Larry, Adam and I traveled immediately to Duke and in the midst of chaos and stress and frayed nerves and nervous minds, this happened with no prompting:

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Don’t fret.  Be still.  Trust.  Have faith.  Stand by Me.

Dad amazed the doctors at Duke and was discharged four days later and came to live with us for several weeks, where his son-in-law and in-home physical therapist worked with Dad on building up his strength.  It’s a good thing that Larry had experience with Adam’s physical therapy!  Of course, those Loftis men are made of strong stock and just the right amount of stubborn genes!  In record time–roughly five weeks–Dad made a decision to begin a new life at Stratford House Retirement Community and was settled in at his apartment, the Governor’s Suite, and loving it.

October 2016 brought pneumonia for Dad and a temporary goodbye from our family and we’re certain that on October 31st, he smiled when he saw Jesus and Jackie.

And, here I am, mere hours from re-living these events again and I see that God delivered a blog post to my inbox earlier this week that told me it was time to seal the deal–to put my feelings in black and white and to hit the “publish” button to share transparently that God, indeed, wants our sad.

Esther Fleece has written a book that has made its way onto my 2017 list of books to read entitled “No More Faking Fine.”  Check out these gems:

“Not everyone experiences prosperity, but everyone we know will know loss and grief. Each and every one of us will experience setbacks, letdowns, failures, and betrayals. Every one of us will encounter change that is hard, lose loved ones before their time, and see relationships fail with people we counted on.”

“So what do we do when everything is not fine? Why are we shooting for the easy-street, pain-free life anyway? Where did we come up with the idea that we should be happy all the time? We all need do-over days, and sometimes we will wake up, eat a bowl of ice cream for breakfast, and head straight back to bed. This should not surprise us because Scripture tells us that we will go through different seasons—not all of them pleasant.”

“Adam and Eve were banished from the garden, the only home they’d ever known. The Israelites wandered the wilderness for forty years before they entered the Promised Land. The prophets ripped their clothing, grieved in the streets, and warned God’s people to repent and return. Jesus died the most gruesome death the Romans could come up with. And the early church faced persecution of all kinds.”

“I don’t see many easy-street lives in the Bible. And I certainly don’t see God demanding that we keep a stiff upper lip through hard times.”

“In fact, D. A. Carson, a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, writes, ‘There is no attempt in Scripture to whitewash the anguish of God’s people when they undergo suffering. They argue with God, they complain to God, they weep before God. Theirs is not a faith that leads to dry-eyed stoicism, but to a faith so robust it wrestles with God.’”

“So where do all the clichés and false hopes we use to explain suffering come from? Not the Bible, and certainly not from God Himself. My insistence that I have a nice, easy, “fine” life was not only unbiblical; it was also an unrealistic expectation that ended up making me feel disengaged from God and disappointed in Him. I thought I was suffering because I had done something wrong. I had fallen for clichés, which only increased my pain.”

“For so much of my life, I thought sucking it up and faking away the pain showed true strength. But real strength is identifying a wound and asking God to enter it. We are robbing ourselves of a divine mystery and a divine intimacy when we pretend to have it all together. In fact, we lose an entire vocabulary from our prayers when we silence the reality of our pain. If questions and cries and laments are not cleaned up throughout Scripture, then why are we cleaning them up or removing them completely from our language?” (emphasis mine)

“Scripture doesn’t tell us to pretend we’re peaceful when we’re not, act like everything is fine when it’s not, and do everything we can to suppress our sorrow. God doesn’t insist that we go to our “happy place” and ignore our sad, yet so many of our churches preach that we will have peace and prosperity just by virtue of being Christians. Scripture, in contrast, tells us that as followers of Christ, we are called to serve a “man of sorrows” who died a gruesome death. Until we identify ourselves with our Savior and acknowledge, as He did, just how painful life can be, we won’t be able to lament or to overcome. And if we silence our own cries, then we will inevitably silence the cries of those around us. We cannot carefully address the wounds of others if we are carelessly addressing our own.” (emphasis mine)

“The fact is, God does not expect us to have it all together, so it is a real disservice when our Christian communities create this expectation. We will be unsuccessful at sitting with hurting people if we have not allowed ourselves to grieve and wail and mourn and go through the lament process ourselves. God understands that life is full of pressures, hurts, stings. He took on flesh so He could relate to us in both our joy and pain. He wants us to feel and express every emotion before Him and not minimize a thing. There is no “fake it till you make it” in Scripture. When we fake fine, we fake our way out of authentic relationship with God, others, and ourselves.” (emphasis mine)

So I’m here to tell you that it’s okay–actually, it’s healing–to lament by laying my head down on my desk at 5:00 earlier this week and cry–no, sob–and then drive home to be greeted by that incredible in-home physical therapist–now full-time beekeeper–and realize that the best birthday gift I could ever receive greets me at the door every day.  Thank you for always standing by me, Larry.

And, thank you, Dad and Mom, for being the instruments that gave me life and that taught me how to stand with courage, faith and a healthy dose of humor on this temporary journey.  God wants my sad . . . God wants your sad . . . No more faking fine!

I’m celebrating this birthday weekend with cherished memories and a peaceful mind that 2017 will be another year where God continues to orchestrate events in my life and I hope to turn them into a song of growth on this audacious adventure.

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Dad’s Retirement from the NC Department of Corrections

 

Words on Waiting

Twenty-seven years ago today, the waiting ended because of a 16 year old girl’s obedience in being still and listening . . . to God.  The culmination of ten years of infertility treatment that Larry and I limped through came to a screeching halt when on December 7th I answered our kitchen telephone–that hung on a wall, no less–and learned about a pregnant teenage girl whose estimated due date was December 25th.  The waiting for a baby ended when the woman on the phone said to me, “My husband and I prayed about adopting this baby and God showed me your face, Martha.”  You see, Gloria and her husband also struggled with infertility and, yet, she also chose obedience over her will and her heart’s desire of this soon-to-be Adam Christopher Hupp.  A pregnant teenage girl whose only desire was to see the man and woman who would raise her son–something that the North Carolina Children’s Home Society was not doing over two decades ago–and a woman with an empty heart and an empty womb–these two women in separate cities separated by a myriad of different desires–they waited, listened and obeyed.

And, Larry and me–well, we’re simply the instruments in a plan that is far bigger than our finite minds can get wrapped around.  And let this sink in way down deep–we’re all instruments in His wilder-than-our-minds-can-imagine plan and, yes, we’re all waiting for something . . .  or someone . . . or some answer . . . or just some hope.  A. Big. Heaping. Dose. Of. Hope.

Twenty-seven years have ticked off the calendar quicker than I would have chosen and I’ve spent quite a bit of that time asking for forgiveness for doubting His plan is, indeed, The Best Plan.  That very plan that catapulted Adam into our home led to Sarah which led Sarah to Thomas which means that Larry and I have immeasurable joy when we think of who will sit around our Christmas tree again this year.  Yes, we have another empty chair and, yet, we reflect on how much Dad enjoyed the first ten months of 2016, as well as the previous 91 years!  Now, he celebrates the Christ-child by spending Eternity with Him and so many loved ones and friends, especially his beautiful “Baby” as he affectionately called Mom in later years.

So, today–December 7th–Larry and I celebrate two women who waited and who both blessed this waiting husband and wife through their own forms of waiting–in His answer to our prayers for a family.

We travel through the season of Advent waiting.  We anticipate the birth of the Christ-child.  We anticipate the excitement and mystery of unopened presents.  We anticipate the arrival of family and friends.  And, this anticipation–this waiting–what are we to do in the midst of it?  In her book, “The Greatest Gift”, Ann Voskamp gives a beautiful picture of Advent:

“And that is the blessing God graced Abram with, the blessing He graces you with this Advent, the gift that makes you a gift.  The greatest gift God graces a soul with is His own presence.  So the whirl can hush and the spin can slow because He will bless, and He will bless with Himself come down.  The present is His presence–looking into someone’s eyes as you listen, refusing the wrong of rushing, lingering long enough to really listen–to everything.  There is no need for more:  the heart is full of gifts that is full of Christ.  It’s strange how that happens–that any place becomes the Promised Land when the blessing of His presence becomes the gift we receive–and give. Advent happening everywhere.”

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Waffle House Wonderment

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines wonderment as “a feeling of being surprised or amazed”.  All of us have many occasions where wonderment has been poured over our lives.  At this time of year, it could be something as simple as gazing at the brilliant fall colors bursting out in nature.

Larry and I rolled out of our driveway early this morning bound for Albemarle, NC to bring Adam back to visit his Caswell County roots for a few days.  As we were driving out of Albemarle, we decided to stop and grab breakfast and, on a whim, I pulled into a Waffle House.  We have not eaten at a WH in years–Larry was craving a waffle, I wanted scrambled eggs and Adam was craving his signature drink–chocolate milk.

We were greeted by Summer, our waitress, who struck up a conversation with Adam right away.  Summer “gets” Adam because her family has been touched by autism.  Adam and Summer began an in-depth discussion of the fabulous Waffle House name tag she is wearing.  Soon, Arn, the WH Manager on Duty, joins in on the conversation and retreats to his office and emerges with a personalized Waffle House name tag for our Name Tag Collector (who, if you look in the picture below is already an honorary Sam’s Club Member!)  Arn tells us that his family also shares this common thread of autism.

Pulling in a Waffle House on a whim and leaving in wonderment–God is in the wonderment business.  Keep your eyes open for the Summers and Arns in your neighborhoods that just may be there to spread joy and compassion.  Planting wonderful wonderment is such a worthwhile daily goal.

“If you celebrate your differentness, the world will, too. It believes exactly what you tell it—through the words you use to describe yourself, the actions you take to care for yourself, and the choices you make to express yourself. Tell the world you are one-of-a-kind creation who came here to experience wonder and spread joy.” (Victoria Moran)

Waffle House Wonderment

Waffle House Wonderment

So Be It

Our family first met Pastor Jacob Breeze on a warm June day three years ago.  My Mom had passed away just three months earlier and we could not bear the thought that Dad would walk through the doors of Shady Grove United Methodist Church without her.  So, we traveled full circle and came back to the church I had attended as a child and where Larry and I were married.  Little did we know that this was all part of God’s plan.

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Inclusion is a buzzword that has been used in the disability community for many years, but over the last three years Jacob showed our family that inclusion is how Jesus intended for all believers to live out their faith.  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

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Dad and I accompanied Jacob on a Sunday afternoon in 2012 to deliver Holy Communion to homebound members.  As we were driving, I explained to Jacob that due to autism, Adam was orally defensive and did not eat food that had to be chewed.  Immediately, Jacob asked if Adam would drink the juice representing the blood of Christ from a cup and I replied that he would.  The very next Sunday there was Adam’s cup, and from that point forward, Adam participated in Holy Communion each Sunday.

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In the fall of 2013, Jacob asked Larry and me if Adam had ever been baptized and God began orchestrating another milestone for Adam.  Jacob met with us and discussed with Adam what baptism was and the different methods that Adam could choose to follow Jesus in this act of obedience.  After viewing different baptism methods on YouTube, Adam called me in the bathroom one evening while he was taking a bath.  He held his nose and “immersed” himself.  We had our answer as to how Adam wanted to be baptized!  On December 22, 2013, Adam made his profession of faith public and the baptismal font was in the very place where Larry and I stood on December 30, 1978 and said our wedding vows.

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When Adam stood up after being baptized, he turned to the mural of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to His Crucifixion and Adam clearly said “Amen”.  I Googled “amen” and it means “so be it”.

Tomorrow, June 14, 2015, our congregation will bid Jacob and his wonderful family Godspeed as they move to Houston, Texas to plant a new church–Holy Family United Methodist Church.

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We will all miss this family, but want them to know that the impact they have had on our family, at Shady Grove and in our community will live on forever.

Breeze Family, the Nation of Texas awaits you and a community in need of understanding inclusion into Holy Family United Methodist Church is being raised up as God prepares you all for the next chapter.  Blessings to you all.

SGUMC - Stained Glass

This entry was posted on June 13, 2015. 2 Comments

LOL! (Lots of Lovely!)

Earlier this week, I mentioned to Larry since he was scheduled to work this weekend that I would take a lovely jaunt to Albemarle and take Adam to Pine Grove United Methodist Church where he visits.   As the week progressed, events began to unfold that made me wonder if this trip was being orchestrated by someone other than me.

“Facebook Land” connected me with Kathy, the Stanly County Special Olympics Director, who is a member of Pine Grove UMC.  She was with a group of Special Olympic athletes competing in the 2015 Summer Games in Raleigh for the weekend and would not be there Sunday.  Amid everything that Kathy was doing in Raleigh, she texted Jay Belk, Pine Grove’s Pastor, to let him know that Adam and I would be there Sunday.  Kathy also coordinated with Kim, another member of Pine Grove, for Adam to play the piano since this Sunday would be the church’s Fifth Sunday Song Service.

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I had no idea what was about to unfold as Adam and I sat in this lovely sanctuary.

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Kim, a lovely-spirited soloist sang “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” and these words resonated in my heart and mind:  “You are the One that we praise, You are the One we adore, You give the healing and grace our hearts always hunger for, our hearts always hunger for.”  Over 26 years ago, I prayed “God, if it’s meant for us to have a child with special needs, you’ll give us the grace”.  But there were many times through the years I felt like these words penned by Sandra McCracken were a lifeline to my doubts, fears and questions:  “Like a flashlight in a dark room, God’s faithfulness is the illumination that comes in and brings a mysterious relief when I am brave enough to say my fears out loud.”  His faithfulness is the lovely in the unlovely moments of my life.

I had asked Kathy to be praying with me that Adam and I would choose the song that he was to play.  All I could think of was “Holy, Holy, Holy” and Adam gave that hymn a thumbs-up during our Saturday FaceTime session.  When it was announced at the beginning of the service that today was Trinity Sunday, I thought of the words in the last verse of this timeless hymn:  “Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty! All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.  Holy! Holy! Holy! Merciful and mighty! God in three persons, blessed Trinity.” Lovely words.

Prior to Adam’s part in the service, I shared a very brief overview of our journey stating that Adam’s voice–the piano–is one way that God affirms to our family that He is in control of the universe.  Adam played with the same heartfelt confidence that he always plays with and God got a standing ovation.  I expect the founder of this church was rejoicing that the legacy of transforming lovely lives continues today.

PGUMC Founder

As we exited the church, we were stopped by a husband and wife who asked if Adam had ever attended Camp Royall, the camp in North Carolina for children and adults with autism.  “He sure has”, I replied.  “Did he ever attend Camp New Hope?”, the gentleman asked.  Camp New Hope is located in Chapel Hill, NC and the Autism Society of North Carolina utilized these facilities prior to building Camp Royall.  “Wow”, I replied.  “That was the first camp for children with autism that Adam attended.  “I worked with him at Camp New Hope”, the man replied, “and that is where I met my wife.”  Lovely, just lovely, God.  

A trip to Albemarle to visit Adam is not complete without a visit to either Office Max or Dollar Tree.  If he’s running low on name badge supplies, the former store wins out.  Since he was sporting two name tags when I arrived this morning and his supply looked good, Dollar Tree was the winner today.  After getting some pool toys for a scheduled jaunt later this afternoon to the YMCA pool, Adam picked up a magnet that he wanted to purchase.  The magnet read:

“LOL! LOTS OF LOVELY!”

It wasn’t until I was driving home in silence admiring the billowing clouds in the sky that my sermon for the day came through the quietness.  It is so easy to allow the to-do list, the mundane tasks and the deadlines to scream at me, but every day also has some “LOL! Lots of lovely!” and as Adam looks at that magnet every day on the shelf about his piano, I, too, need to seek out the daily dose of lots of lovely waiting for me.

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Pastor Jay Belk

Pastor Jay Belk

Steadfast Love

Remarkable Race!

Providence to Albemarle.  Albemarle to Providence.  Providence to Wilmington.  Wilmington to Providence. Providence to Albemarle.  Albemarle to Cary.  Cary to Wilmington.  Wilmington to Cary.  Cary to Providence.

That was the Hupp travel itinerary from Wednesday, May 6th through Monday, May 11th.  We covered over 1,200 miles splitting the mileage between two different vehicles.  It just didn’t seem right to let just one of our vehicles have all the fun!

Adam and PawPaw joined us in celebrating Sarah Hupp Williamson, who graduated summa cum laude with her Master’s Degree in Criminology, from UNC-Wilmington on May 9th.  Tropical Storm Ana stayed home in the Atlantic Ocean!

Along with some real muscle from the Williamson family, Larry and I participated in the most organized move of the Willlamson household that we’ve ever witnessed!

And hands down, this was one of the best Mother’s Day weekends ever!  Fun IS good and Larry and I both had a blast making memories with our family on this most remarkable race!

Dr. Christina Lanier, Director of the UNCW Department of Sociology and Criminology, hooding Sarah

Dr. Christina Lanier, Director of the UNCW Department of Sociology and Criminology, hooding Sarah

Thomas and Sarah

Thomas and Sarah

Sarah and PawPaw

Sarah and PawPaw

We love this man!

We love this man!

Adam and the Atlantic

Adam and the Atlantic

We know how to keep it fun and real!

We know how to keep it fun and real!

Sarah Hupp Williamson, Louise Tate Hupp and Jacqueline Blalock Loftis--these women taught and continue to teach this mother how to

Sarah Hupp Williamson, Louise Tate Hupp and Jacqueline Blalock Loftis – These women taught and continue to teach this mother how to “do life”.

Lifesavers for a 1,200 mile journey!

Lifesavers for a 1,200 mile journey!

A Myriad of Gifts

This year is quickly drawing to a close and, in the quiet solitude of this day set aside for celebrations of gratitude, I find myself turning inward to search for the life gifts–some old and some new–born into my life journey in 2014.

Embracing the gift of family is such a natural thing for many of us to do on this day.  We slow down and gather around a table and enjoy the gifts of food and fun and fellowship.  This year I soaked in the moments of a young married couple with their dreams and their hopes all wrapped up in the beauty of believing in each other and I whispered a quiet thanks.  My eyes fell on a young man as he ate his Thanksgiving meal of yogurt and I saw the gift of independence at his new home and his belief in himself–that he, too, can fulfill his desires–his dreams.

And then my eyes fell on the man at the head of our table–that man who may have a little less hair, a few more wrinkles and tons more wisdom due to the past 36 years of this journey.  The lessons learned from watching him live a quiet life loving on his family and believing in the individual uniqueness of this crew residing under this roof affectionately labeled the Hupp Kingdom fills my heart to overflowing.

The new lessons of 2014 have steamrolled into my life with God’s handprints all over them.  Earlier this year, a friend of mine contacted me about an opportunity to be a part of Give Her Wings, an agency that provides hope and healing to mothers and children who have removed themselves from abusive relationships.  What I didn’t know at the time I accepted this opportunity is that the team members and the mothers that we have the privilege of serving would be teaching me a few things about having that mustard seed faith.

The church full of love that I was raised in and where Larry and I were married is yet another instrument that God used to stretch me.  Once a month at the Food Pantry, love and acceptance and smiles are placed into grocery bags–yes, there’s physical sustenance in those bags, but there’s so much more–the emotional sustenance that every human being needs that walks into that church basement.

God wasn’t quite finished with my life assignments just yet.  In August, we started walking the final steps of  a journey began three years earlier.  GHA Autism Supports extended its invitation for Adam to become part of their family and our family grew exponentially!  From the Administrative Office personnel to the warm and loving ladies in Adam’s home and the five young men who live in the same home with Adam–we have been reminded that for everything there is a season and a time for every matter under Heaven.

This morning I received a text from a gentleman whom I have the privilege of serving with on the Consumer and Family Advisory Council for Cardinal Innovations, a North Carolina agency that serves the population of those affected by mental illness, substance abuse and intellectual and developmental disabilities.  This gentleman is, in fact, a consumer and he is an accomplished poet.  “For it’s not the things that we possess that signify our wealth, but the blessings that are priceless like our family, friends and health.”  Such a lovely reminder from a gentle spirit.

The laying open of myself, my dreams, my desires, my goals continues to be an ongoing journey that God and I work on together.  This year He has allowed me to see His works in my life and in the lives of those I love and cherish.  The myriad of gifts brought into my life this year have grown my patience and my faith as I continue to learn to lie empty and open to joys, sorrows, triumphs, failures, suffering, comfort and certainly, always, change.

“Lord, help me now to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity.  Lord, teach me to listen to my heart; teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it.  Lord, I give you these stirrings inside me.  I give you my discontent.  I give you my restlessness.  I give you my doubt.  I give you my despair.  I give you all the longings I hold inside.  Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth; help me to listen seriously and follow where they lead through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.”  (from “Common Prayer:  A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals”)

Welcome Change

This entry was posted on November 27, 2014. 1 Comment