When You’re Gone

My strongest urge right now is to clam up. This rarely leads to anything good, and so I’m writing.

Today is my daughter Sarah’s sixth birthday. How does one celebrate (commemorate?) the birthday of a dead person? When people have children, they usually spend a decent amount of time planning birthday parties. What you do, you do for the kid. I assume you do what you think your kid will enjoy most. Birthday cake with trucks, cake shaped like a doll, colorful streamers, games, friends. If they are really young, you invite whoever will come and everyone sits and watches this dexterously inept human smear frosting from ear to ear, and from nose to toes.

But does a person who has stopped living continue to age? And what do you do on their birthday every year?

I have been asking those questions on this day for the last six years…

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I’m Only Sleeping

I‘m pretty sure I have jet lag every morning of my life.

I go to bed at night trying to tattoo into my mind the excitement I want to feel when my alarm goes off. In the morning, just a little too early, the cell phone song cuts through a thick fog of dreams, disturbing and addictive dreams. Whatever I thought the night before no longer ever existed. Coming up out of the water of sleep, my eyes sting and I suck in handfuls of air trying to find my phone in the dark. I sit up after turning the noise off and I take breaths that come from somewhere deep, like my body is the earth and some hidden cavern holds life, miles and miles from the surface.

Sometimes I check the media on my phone, little slices of affirmation or conflict that I feel dully, but feel more than understand. If I have enough wisdom, I refrain from looking at my phone because I know that all of those panting dogs will wait.

I blink, blink, close my eyes reminding them what it’s like to be awake. “Be awake!” I try to shout to my insides because they weigh so much more than usual…

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Trauma Brilliance

Some of the best moments of marriage to my ex husband were the weeks following our daughter’s death.

I won’t say that they were the only good moments, because that would just not be true, but they were some of our best.

The day of Sarah’s birth and death, we were both some kind of mighty beings. After all, I pushed a human being out of my body with no drugs and after over 24hrs of not eating or sleeping and undergoing unbelievable amounts of physical pain. I actually had burst blood vessels in my eyes and when she was finally on the outside of me, they laid her gooey, curled up body onto my chest and I thought, “Huh. That’s a baby.”

I guess it was exhaustion induced ambivalence.

It didn’t take long, though before indifference turned to wonder. Drained and bleary wonder.

We were, I think, too tired to do anything that day but obey whatever was happening each moment…

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The Other Cheek

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. – Jesus

This love- the kind of love that allowed Jesus to meekly receive beating and insults, was the same love that allowed him to choose 12 unfit men to be his disciples. He chose them, even knowing how they would fail him.

He did this because his mission was about adopting unworthy beggars into his family. That means you and that means me. It was always about his goodness and love and never about our deserving anything…

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Love the One You’re With

I‘ve been reading a lot of articles lately about singleness, relationships, and marriage. Is it just me?

About a year ago I was in a church service and we were singing this song I’d never heard when one line zapped me right in my… hmmm… gut? Heart? Brain? Whatever. It was this, “My heart will sing no other name, Jesus, Jesus.”
As I sang it, the desire rose up loudly within me that it be true. At the same moment, God spoke something very clearly into my head, “Peggy, I want you to stop having crushes.”

I used to think that having crushes was just a high school problem. After my husband left me several years ago I felt pretty sure that I was done with hope in the area of Romantic Relationships. But I guess I didn’t count on God working the kind of healing that he worked. I didn’t count on so little residual bitterness. That’s good, I know. Without the shield of bitterness, though, I started noticing … well.. men. And just like some silly high school girl, I started having crushes again…

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Failure Loses Its Sting

How was Paul the Apostle so confident? So active, so joyful, so sure of his position in God?
How am I so insecure? So easily discouraged, so doubtful of my position?

As I asked those questions, I heard in my head, “because you make it about you.” I make it about how I feel, what I think, what I’ve done, who I am.

When I woke up Friday morning I felt a kind of inner turmoil- like there was something rotten that needed attending. As I sat down to write in my journal I couldn’t really think of anything to say and I couldn’t figure out what my problem was. Because I’ve been slowly learning this lesson about the fact that my identity is not swayed by whatever my current emotion is, I just asked God in my head, “Is my heart in your hands, Lord?” and he simply responded, “It is.”

As I study Philippians, I’ve been kind of astounded by this statement, “If I am in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” (Philippians 1:22)

Paul knew that his work would accomplish something because he was doing God’s work, following God’s call, living in obedience. He was sure that God would make it fruitful.

He even says later in chapter 3 that he puts no confidence in himself and his abilities – it’s not about what he can or cannot do. He counted all of his former trophies as garbage so that he could cling to the sacrifice and perfection of Jesus. He strained toward identifying with Jesus in love and suffering – looking to position himself firmly in Christ…

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Out of Hiding

About a year and a half ago God totally blew the lid off of my hopes and dreams for the future. At that point he told me I wasn’t dreaming big enough and when I examined what I’d been “dreaming” of, I realized this was absolutely true. Without thinking it through, I was just putting one foot in front of the other and looking for ways to come alongside others in their dreams.
Honestly, a bit of that is good because I really still have a heart to see other people walk in their calling and purpose, but what God was leading me to see was that He had something specifically for me that was way beyond what I’d ever considered.

As last year progressed three things appeared to be a part of that dream, 1. the whole world, 2. every area of discipleship and 3. teaching.

I can guess what you’re thinking, “Peggy, that’s too big. You gotta narrow it down a bit or you’ll do nothing.” Believe me, I said that to God. To be honest, I don’t know all of the specifics. I don’t know how the years ahead will look. What grows and grows and won’t stop is this deep hunger to teach people, show people, walk with people in such a way that they really know who God really is. There are many facets to that, but I am jealous for God’s reputation and His name not only because I love Him, but because I know that when people really know Him, they will be surprised, then saved and transformed. He is so good and so worthy…

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Let Down Your Nets

This weekend I was really wrestling with the feeling that I am not up for the job I’m doing. I had all kinds of questions about how much stress is healthy and leads to growth and how much is unhealthy and leads to deterioration. It’s not as straight forward as setting boundaries for when I work and when I rest because sometimes when it’s time for me to study my brain won’t engage… and sometimes when I feel like I need rest I do actually have to be at that meeting.

Often people will say that if God calls you to do something he will give you the strength to accomplish the job. Thinking along these lines, if I look back at the last school I staffed, I see that it took a while to get the swing of things and until I

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“got it,” I was really wrestling – similarly to how I am wrestling right now.
On one hand it gives me hope that there will be a tipping point when it stops feeling like there’s an ogre sitting on my chest. On the other hand because there is a lot more work with this school, it feels like maybe it’s just more than I would ever be able to handle…

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The Etymology of Identity

I went to the bank the other day to change my name with them. One of the ladies who was helping me asked for the reason I was changing my name and I simply said, “Divorce.” She related with me that she also recently changed her name because of divorce and we talked a little about the joy of returning to our maiden names. As we sat down to go over some other things with my account, she was open and really friendly. A compatriot.

Then somehow it came up that I worked for Youth With A Mission. At this news she ever-so-slightly stiffened, both in her body and in her banter.

When this is brought up with strangers, I look for the most non-threatening way to explain something that is so far from what is normal and also far from its stereotypes. I try to stay focused on things that make sense like how I love to teach and travel.
Sometimes I have to walk people gently through this and often it actually makes me happy to confess that I’m a Christian and proceed to be different than I know they’re expecting.
Telling people I’m a “missionary” is a bit like telling a boyfriend, “we have to talk.” They start to sweat a little and blood rushing through the head causes their hearing to decrease….

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A New Heart ~ A New Name

Today took me by surprise.

Today I changed my name.

It seems impossible to tell this story without mentioning that I used to be married. The only reason I hesitate to tell that part is because it could cast some troubled shadow over what turned out to be a very joyful occasion- reuniting with my maiden name.

The timing seems a little random since I have been divorced now for over two years and separated for over three. It’s just that there were several factors that needed to be present before I could get my old name back. Time and money were two great factors. Being a missionary and needing a current passport tend to go hand in hand, so while it costs somewhere around $100 to change your passport, it also takes up to 6 months from applying to receiving said passport.

But here I am at the beginning of staffing a 9 month school and somehow there is extra money this month. When I prayed about whether I should save, spend or give the extra, my maiden name immediately came to mind….

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