Gracious Interventions

Papa Don’t Preach

Don’t laugh, but one of my favorite Madonna songs is Papa Don’t Preach (my absolute favorite is Borderline). I was driving to work this morning and Papa Don’t Preach comes on the radio (yes, I still listen to radio). All of a sudden, my mind goes back to the summer before my freshman year in high school, when I first heard the song and saw the video – you know, the one where Madonna has a pixie cut, her boyfriend is an adorably cute mechanic, and her dad is played by Danny Aiello. I remember watching the video and thinking that I would never have to face the predicament of telling my dad that I was pregnant. First of all, I was pretty much convinced I would never have a boyfriend, and at the time I would try to do everything in my power to please my parents and live up to the standards of being a “good” Catholic girl.

The Call

Fast forward about 11 years to August of 1997, and this terrified Catholic girl was sitting in a friend’s bedroom making a call to Planned Parenthood. I made the appointment. It seemed way too easy. The operator on the other end of the line seemed rather nonchalant about the whole thing. I won’t tell you about the conversations that occurred before this phone call took place, but my mind was convinced I couldn’t keep this baby. My heart, though, told a different story.

The Test

My friend bought me the pregnancy test a few days before the call. She was there with me when I found out the news. She consoled me as I sobbed uncontrollably on my bed in the fetal position. “Why?” (well, I knew why), and “what am I going to do?” questions chaotically wove through my mind for days. Another thought that I wouldn’t admit to the few friends I shared the news with also entered my heart and mind – what if this is God’s divine intervention? This thought seemed to be wrapped in a blanket of peace.

I had been living a self-destructive existence for years and this relationship (3 month fling) I had gotten myself into was just another link in the chain. I had been running away from God for a long time. My life was all about partying and living it up.

The Devastating News

My dad had been having health problems for awhile before I got the news of my pregnancy. Dad had been walking on crutches because he was having severe back and hip pain. He was misdiagnosed for months and then four days after my positive pregnancy test, mom called with the news that dad had cancer. To say I was devastated is an understatement. Surely this was a nightmare.

The Trip

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Dad and I had taken a trip to Michigan a month before the nightmare. I worked as an American Airlines reservation agent, and was able to get us cheap tickets to go see family and friends up there (mom and Dad met in Michigan). Even though Dad had mobility problems due to his crutches, it was a wonderful vacation. We had some great conversations and the few days we spent on the 100 year old farm, where dad worked as a migrant worker as a kid, were rest for my weary soul (despite my fear of ghosts..I’m still convinced they roamed the halls of that house).

I was already suspecting that there was a chance I was pregnant (um, that of course didn’t come up in our conversations), but decided I was going to enjoy this time with dad. I threw up on the flight back from Dallas to San Antonio (dad was on a different flight back to McAllen), and in that moment I knew I was pregnant.

The Decision

I didn’t keep the appointment. As soon as I hung up the phone that day on my friend’s bed, I knew in my heart that I wouldn’t follow through with it. I would like to say it was for godly reasons, that I had accepted that it was God’s divine intervention. Although I think that was part of it, I think it was mostly fear – fear of what my life would become if I ended my baby’s life and resumed life on the rocky path.

Mama I’m Coming Home

My life in San Antonio was pretty much falling apart in every possible way. So, a few weeks into my pregnancy I moved back home. At this point my pregnant state was still unbeknownst to my parents, and I didn’t plan to let them know for awhile. In a lot of ways I was still in denial, and I feared telling my parents the news because they were dealing with so much already – dad had a hip replacement, had completed radiation treatments, and was now starting chemotherapy. How could I hurt them like this?

Dad got me a job at the administration office at the school district as a clerk for the language arts department. I knew my first day that in a few weeks my new coworkers would be finding out the truth about me. I wondered what kind of treatment I would receive. Dad was still trying to work part-time. He was a Phys Ed teacher and track/cross country coach, but it was hard. As you can imagine, chemotherapy was brutal. Mom was a wonderful caregiver to my dad, but I knew it was taking a toll on her. She had taken a leave of absence from her job at the middle school and was caring for him full-time.

Papa Didn’t Preach

I was pretty sick those first few months of the pregnancy. I don’t know how I managed to keep it from my parents…I was living in the same house with them. I was sick every day. I also wasn’t seeing a doctor or getting pre-natal care. Foolish, I know. The denial was thick. I was going home for lunch nearly every day to eat with them. My heart yearned to tell them the truth. How could I hide this for so long? But how could I not hide it with everything they were already having to battle?

One day though, after eating lunch, I got so sick and ended up throwing up in the kitchen sink. Somehow they missed my little excursion to the sink and I managed to clean up the mess rather quickly, but I knew it was confession time. I walked into the living room, where dad was already sitting in the rocking chair about to watch one of his shows. Mom went to go do something in her bedroom. My mind was screaming “Don’t tell!” but my heart was crying out “Don’t hide anymore!” So, I mumbled, “Mom, Dad I have to tell you something.” Somehow my mom managed to hear me from her room and walked back into the living room. She sat down and I cried out, with crocodile tears streaming down my face, “I’m pregnant!” They stared at me for a moment, then Dad immediately got up from his chair, walked over to me and sobbing, held me for the longest time. Mom joined him. They told me they loved me, that would be there for me, and that this baby would be a blessing. Of course there were some hard discussions after my confession, but they loved me through them. They didn’t disown me. How could I have possibly thought they’d disown me? Read some of my other posts, and you’ll see why…I had caused them such heartache, so much pain.

Briana

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Briana and Papa

Briana Nicole was born April 6, 1998. She is the youngest of four grandchildren. In just a few short weeks, she will be starting her senior year in high school. She has been the most tremendous gift God could ever have given me in addition to Jesus and my family. I’m convinced that she has taught me more than I could ever have taught her.

Papa

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Dad was endearingly called “Papa” by the grandkids. Dad died June 7, 1999, just a few months after Briana’s first birthday. I’m grateful dad was able to see and spend a little time with my only child while he was still on this earth. Dad was loved by so many and impacted many lives.

Gracious Intervention

I won’t know until Heaven what in the world God was doing. I don’t think I’ll care by then – I hope I’ll be running to Jesus, embracing my loved ones, and dancing. All I know is that God captured me with his abundant mercy and grace, and turned my trial into a gracious intervention.

Our trials are God’s platform to capture us with his grace…trials come as gracious interventions.

-Tullian Tchividjian

The Deep Thinker & Free Spirit

As I was driving through the Texas hill country yesterday in an attempt clear some chaos from my mind, a memory surfaced. I think I was either in high school or college. My dad shared some things about his baby brother, who died of a heroin overdose at 25, when I was just a toddler. Dad told me that Uncle Robert had participated in the Woodstock Music Festival. I immediately assumed he was a hippie and this intrigued me. Dad also told me that his little brother was always a deep thinker and free spirit. Then, to my surprise, he said that I reminded him of Robert. I remember being unsure how I felt about being reminded of someone who died of a drug overdose, but then I looked straight into my dad’s eyes and he was beaming. I could see the love in his eyes for the baby brother he probably missed beyond belief but had never spoken of much at all…at least not to me.

My Grandma Lola had a few portraits of Uncle Robert hanging in her living room. I remember staring at them, thinking he looked so angelic. I remember looking deep into his eyes, wondering what pain had caused him to follow that path.  I know there were family issues that I can’t elaborate on here. Then I thought about Grandma Lola and how hard it must have been for her to lose a son at such a young age. But I never really thought of how it affected my dad. I guess I just assumed he moved on.

It wasn’t until yesterday when I was hiking that I started thinking about my dad and his relationship with Uncle Robert. I wondered if they were close. I wondered if my dad, being the responsible one, was hard on him. Then, out of nowhere, these deep cries came rushing out of my body as I was walking the trail. I mean I was in complete ugly cry mode. I only ran into a dad with his two kids and a dog, so it wasn’t too embarrassing. I don’t know what hit me. Then, another memory…

One night, when my dad was in the final stages of cancer, I walked into my old bedroom where his hospice bed was set up. He was sitting in the rocking chair in the corner as my mom was preparing his dinner or something. His mind was pretty much gone, he was hallucinating, and we couldn’t communicate with him much anymore. He was still talking though…and he was talking to Uncle Robert. He said his name a few times, and I knew. I don’t remember the conversation, but I remember daddy having a look of complete love and joy on his face…he was beaming, just like he was that day he was telling me about his free spirit brother.

I’ve been struggling lately. Something about these memories and tears has been consoling. My mind has gone in so many different directions though, and I don’t really know where they are taking me…where the Lord is taking me with this information, but there have been lots of tears and I’m going to listen to the tears.

Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next. -Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark

Friday Night Quote

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St. Francis of Assisi Chapel, Omega Center, Boerne, Texas

“There are peculiar circumstances in the believer’s experience when Christ becomes especially precious to the soul. For example: in the deeper ploughings of the heart’s hidden sinfulness – when the Holy Spirit reveals more of the innate corruption of our nature, and gives a more spiritual perception of sin’s exceeding sinfulness, oh, how precious does the finished work of Christ then become! How precious the blood that cleanses from all sin! If God is leading you through this stage of Christian experience, beloved, be not alarmed; it is but to build up His dear Son upon the wreck and ruin of your own merit, strength, and sufficiency. He will have us love His Son with a love like His own – a love of divine, supreme, ineffable affection – and this can only be felt in the region of our own nothingness!” Octavius Winslow, The Precious Things of God

Know That You Are Welcome (Nouwen)

Excerpt from Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book, The Inner Voice of Love

Not being welcome is your greatest fear. It connects with your birth fear, your fear of not being welcome in this life, and your death fear, your fear of not being welcome in the life after this. It is the deep-seated fear that it would have been better if you had not lived.

Here you are facing the core of the spiritual battle. Are you going to give in to the forces of darkness that say you are not welcome in this life, or can you trust the voice of the One who came not to condemn you but to set you free from fear? You have to choose for life. At every moment you have to decide to trust the voice that says, “I love you. I knit you together in your mother’s womb”(Psalm 139: 13).

Everything Jesus is saying to you can be summarized in the words “Know that you are welcome.” Jesus offers you his own most intimate life with the Father. He wants you to know all he knows and to do all he does. He wants his home to be yours. Yes, he wants to prepare a place for you in his Father’s house.

Keep reminding yourself that your feelings of being unwelcome do not come from God and do not tell the truth. The Prince of Darkness wants you to believe that your life is a mistake and that there is no home for you. But every time you allow these thoughts to affect you, you set out on the road to self-destruction. So you have to keep unmasking the lie and think, speak, and act according to the truth that you are very, very welcome.

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Crash and Burn

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In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus wants to set us free by showing us our need for a rightness we can never attain on our own–an impossible righteousness that’s always out of our reach. The purpose of the Sermon on the Mount is to demolish all notions that we can reach the righteousness required by God–it’s about exterminating all attempts at self-sufficient moral endeavor.

So, in the deepest sense, the Sermon on the Mount is not a goal, but a wall we crash into so that we finally cry out “I can’t do it!” Tullian Tchividjian

I CRASHED and BURNED – physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, relationally. I came so close..way too close, to ending my life…so close to leaving my beautiful daughter to live life without me, so close to leaving my mom to face the heartache of losing her only daughter.

Although the pain of crashing and burning was extremely intense and debilitating, I thank God for it. Hitting rock-bottom and finding out that Jesus was holding tightly to me, not because of any shred of righteousness on my part, restored my hope and saved my life. Failure helped me to realize that all of my efforts to be “good” could never succeed at earning God’s love. God LOVES me – Jesus lived perfectly for me and his righteous blood covers me.

I can’t do this thing called life on my own – I need Jesus DESPERATELY. His arms are wide open. He sees me – so imperfect, so broken, and oh how He loves me. I hit a wall..and found truth, life, and a love that can never be extinguished.

Psalm 40 MSG

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Psalm 40The Message (MSG)

A David Psalm

40 1-3 I waited and waited and waited for God.
    At last he looked; finally he listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch,
    pulled me from deep mud.
He stood me up on a solid rock
    to make sure I wouldn’t slip.
He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,
    a praise-song to our God.
More and more people are seeing this:
    they enter the mystery,
    abandoning themselves to God.

4-5 Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God,
    turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing,”
    ignore what the world worships;
The world’s a huge stockpile
    of God-wonders and God-thoughts.
Nothing and no one
    comes close to you!
I start talking about you, telling what I know,
    and quickly run out of words.
Neither numbers nor words
    account for you.

Doing something for you, bringing something to you—
    that’s not what you’re after.
Being religious, acting pious—
    that’s not what you’re asking for.
You’ve opened my ears
    so I can listen.

7-8 So I answered, “I’m coming.
    I read in your letter what you wrote about me,
And I’m coming to the party
    you’re throwing for me.”
That’s when God’s Word entered my life,
    became part of my very being.

9-10 I’ve preached you to the whole congregation,
    I’ve kept back nothing, God—you know that.
I didn’t keep the news of your ways
    a secret, didn’t keep it to myself.
I told it all, how dependable you are, how thorough.
    I didn’t hold back pieces of love and truth
For myself alone. I told it all,
    let the congregation know the whole story.

11-12 Now God, don’t hold out on me,
    don’t hold back your passion.
Your love and truth
    are all that keeps me together.
When troubles ganged up on me,
    a mob of sins past counting,
I was so swamped by guilt
    I couldn’t see my way clear.
More guilt in my heart than hair on my head,
    so heavy the guilt that my heart gave out.

13-15 Soften up, God, and intervene;
    hurry and get me some help,
So those who are trying to kidnap my soul
    will be embarrassed and lose face,
So anyone who gets a kick out of making me miserable
    will be heckled and disgraced,
So those who pray for my ruin
    will be booed and jeered without mercy.

16-17 But all who are hunting for you—
    oh, let them sing and be happy.
Let those who know what you’re all about
    tell the world you’re great and not quitting.
And me? I’m a mess. I’m nothing and have nothing:
    make something of me.
You can do it; you’ve got what it takes—
    but God, don’t put it off.