Not Here But There

February 10, 2010

part 3

I’ve got a few ingredients in my DNA that make life…uhm…interesting…for others around me.

I’m German by heritage. American by birth. There’s a grit that’s woven into the fabric of a German woman…a resolve and boot-strap work ethic that matches the oversized muscle and bone structure many of us have. My husband, God help him, calls it bull-headed obstinence. Staunch independence and an unparalleled will to innovate and “win” bleeds from being American. Kneed all those traits together with a Fieldmarshal, ENTJ, Myers-Briggs and Strengthsfinder that includes command, strategy, focus, self-assurance and achiever and you have a perfect storm of personality that would make Patton run. If I see something that I know should be fixed or improved, get out of my way. Sleeves rolled, mounted up, strategy in hand, troops riding hard to follow. I ride to make it right. Blazing saddles…

There’s nothing better than that first warm, sunny Spring day. Coffee in hand, toes bared. I embark on a tour of my gardening domain. Snowdrops and crocuses blooming, others rising, new leaves uncoiling. Moss growing between the stepping-stones to places I planted to feel enchanted. Wait. What’s this?! The various shrubbery has changed since the Fall. The lines and textures and sizes were no longer complementary. My husband returned later that day to find every shrub unearthed and scattered across the lawn. His face said it all. Jaw dropped, mouth agape. Disbelief in his eyes. Speechless. My response? “What?! They weren’t right. So, I’m moving them”, I said as I cast my full body weight backwards to dislodge a 3-4 foot ball of roots. Of course. Doesn’t everybody regularly reshrub their land?

A’s have been the only acceptable grade, systems and structures that make sense need to be put into place, high functioning teams built, wrongs need to be righted, justice pursued and improvements always found. Oh, but I’m not a perfectionist. Really. I just want to strive to do things better. God has seen fit to give me the ability to learn so I’m not afraid to take anything on and being creative, if I’m locked and loaded on something I want to accomplish and one way doesn’t work, I can rapidly adapt and overcome until the tribe reaches the goal.

But when I sat on my deck with my mom and had to convey the reality of her diagnosis to her. All that confidence and skill crumbled. It blew away like dust. I was brought completely to my knees. Immobilized. Incapacitated. Emotionally and intellectually hog-tied. The feeling of helplessness was as overwhelming and devastating as a tidal wave.

When I could feel my jaw set again and my teeth bared down on each other, I went to work. I was going to find a way to fight this disease and win. I kicked into research mode and learned all I could about traditional medicine, innovations being done in trials, holistic and ancient Eastern methods. Healing rooms. I learned more about cancer and treatments than I ever wanted to know. I was riding to conquer this for her.

But I couldn’t command everything. I couldn’t command my mom. She wouldn’t give up Breyers vanilla bean. I couldn’t command the cancer. Growth slowed after she drank the deep green concoction the Chinese doctor gave her to drink, but after awhile it grew. It grew and spread. And all the Breyers Vanilla Bean in the world couldn’t help her gain weight or strength.

I was back on the pitch-dark road. Crying helplessly. Crying because I couldn’t fix this. I couldn’t make it better. I couldn’t do anything to make it all go away. I had done everything I knew, adapted, but couldn’t overcome.

When I would hear that mom would go out to her woods to scream until she’d collapse in sobs, I didn’t have enough comfort to give her. When she felt abandoned and scared at the process before her, I couldn’t alter the plans. When she lost her hair, as all her teeth fell out from the chemo, when she could no longer eat, when she struggled to breath, when the pain became great, I could do nothing. Nothing.

So I cried to the only One who could.

I begged Him to fix things. I pleaded for a miracle.

But what He gave me, what He gave her, was far from what we asked for. It was far from what we wanted.

He gave us a view. A picture that was above what we saw directly in front of us.

What we saw was that He is fixing everything. He’s fixing all that’s broken and wrong. Pain. Disease. Death. Separation. Sadness. Suffering. All of it.

But He’s not fixing it here. He’s not fixing it now.

We were given a picture of the past, a view of what was happening now, and glimpse into what the future holds. We came to understand that God’s story and our part in it includes more than just here and now.

There. Not here but there. Not now but then.

While here we’re in the middle. A blend of good and bad. Glimmers of both.
There it’ll be clear. One or the other.

God is fixing it there. All that we long for. All that we seek. There.

Note to self:
Our story is longer than what happens here. It includes continuing to there. All that we long for. All that we seek we will find in part here, but ultimately there.

He will wipe away every tear. There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. Revelation 21:4


Part 2

I’d never been so shook.
What followed the next weeks could best be described as a full out adult temper tantrum.

The words were, “stage 4, lung cancer”. I stood with her as the doctor told us with a smile, then shuttled her to sign off on her treatment so he could tell me that I should do what I needed to do since she only had weeks.

My momma. The one who had always been there for me, wasn’t going to be with me much longer and the doctor wasn’t shy about rolling out the upcoming festivities with a smile. Sort of twisted if you ask me. The whole thing was a big twisted joke.

There it was. The fog. Disoriention. Fear. Nausea. Everything went gray as I took the step into that murky, unfamiliar place between life and death.

I felt like I had been diagnosed with her. I cried. Hard. The only way to describe it was like waking up on a completely unfamiliar road, covered with large irregular rocks, in the pitch dark, where I had no bearings. I remember the temper tantrum I had on that road. So real. I demanded that I be put back where I was, the way things were, where I knew how to navigate the road I was on the day before. But day after day I woke up on that dark road. Every day I kicked and screamed. I threw rocks. Like Forrest said, “Sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks”.

I wondered what life was all about. You’re born, you live, you die. What’s the point? What are we doing here? What matters? The stuff people fight hard to keep and do seemed futile when given a terminal sentence. Everything so important suddenly seemed ridiculous and stupid. Nothing made sense anymore.

So I did what’s typical in crisis. I started asking God “why?”. I started asking Him a lot of questions. Those questions came from what my brother called, “a religious nutjob” and better yet a full-time ministry leader. I knew what the right words were, but they weren’t feeling very real and solid.

One thing was for sure. I had no intention of going anywhere until I got answers. So, each day I cried. Each day I demanded answers from God Almighty.

God didn’t take issue with me asking. He didn’t get disgusted or impatient. He didn’t judge my ignorance or strike me down.

He helped me see.

Maybe, I was relentless or maybe pitiful. Whatever…. He helped me see.

What He helped me see is that He mourns with me; with all of us when the most tragic, difficult times happen. He mourns over the disease and pain; the death and heartbreak we feel. Jesus mourned with the people He cared about. He mourned when one of His best friends died. He mourns because these things were never in His original plan. It was never supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be perfect.

Note to Self:
It’s good to know the God of the Universe will stay with me through my tantrums. It’s good to know I’m not alone in mourning. It’s good to know it was never supposed to be like this.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I won’t be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Psalm 23:4

But it also created so many more questions….

What are the questions you ask God?
Share with a comment.


January 27, 2010

Stuck in the middle, between a rock and a hard place, neither here nor there, in no man’s land, on the fence.

There’s something very…wrong…with all things murky or unclear. Muddiness needs clarity. Fuzziness needs tidied. If we can’t make sense of things and give it some sort of order, we feel on edge, a little disoriented, awkward, scared, confused and maybe even a tad nauseated. We’re not settled because it’s just….wrong.

We prefer neat and orderly. Black and white. Certain. Defined.

Taylor came home for Christmas break. Our family couldn’t have been happier. Team Runge was complete again with all five together. His first day home, we woke to “the storm of the century”. The mid-Atlantic was experiencing a beautiful pre-Christmas snowstorm. It couldn’t get any better. A white Christmas. We put on the woolies, packed into the car, had Wonka, our chocolate lab, in tow, laughed while quoting the Griswold’s and headed to track down the perfect tree. Life was perfect.

Jeff, one of Taylor’s high school “posse” friends, raced to his second family when he woke to the snow. He uncovered the sleds for a rare day of snowmobiling through the surrounding farm fields. Two on two loaded up. The snow was deep and it couldn’t have been any better. Four kids cheered as they took off for a great ride. Life was perfect.

We got a call just a few hours later. Jeff was gone.

Visibility was low. He was the second sled so visibility for him was worse. They slowed, but came up over a hill catching, of all things, an Amish buggy. The first sled swerved. Jeff’s didn’t soon enough. His front blade clipped the back wheel catapulting the riders and that was that. A one-inch wheel. He was gone. Just like that.

The next days, we cut paper snowflakes and baked cookies. Jeff’s family had other things to do. Taylor had to figure out what to wear to the funeral. So did all of his friends. We were quiet. I suspect they were too. The funeral was December 23rd. It doesn’t get any worse. Life wasn’t perfect. Not even close.

He was just 20. His parents. And Kelly….his fiance…there are still presents wrapped and waiting. This isn’t okay. It’s wrong. Very, very wrong.

Then, there’s what happened in Haiti. All those people. Americans. Haitians. Babies. The horror is not even over. In some ways it has just begun for so many. It doesn’t get any worse. How can this be?

It’s just not right. It’s not fair. It’s tragic. It’s horrible. It’s painful. How can these things happen? How can life go from being so perfect to so horrible in a matter of hours? From exhilarating to sorrowful? From perfect to devastated?


A fog falls over us. We’re confused and the knot in our stomach tightens. There’s intense pain. We want answers. Explanations. None of it is okay. So, we ask God, Why? Why? If you’re so good…then why?

We go to Him with questions, anger, blame…
We go to Him for answers, peace, and comfort…

Our expectation is that life shouldn’t be this way. Our expectation is that life ought to be full of joy, love, contentment, wholeness, peace to all good will toward men. Really, anything less is unacceptable, right?!

Pain, suffering, disease, destruction, death is all….wrong. We don’t want it. We fight against it. It shouldn’t exist. But it does.

Good and bad, joy and sorrow, light and dark, laughter and tears, ease and struggle, pure and evil. It’s all here.

And it’s muddy.
Life can be good. Life can be bad. We experience both. It’s a blend.
We’re caught in the middle. And it causes tension.

Is it supposed to?

Note to self: We’re living in a sort of limbo. Life is a mix of good and bad. Being caught in the middle will be uncomfortable, even painful, awkward, scary, complicated, confusing and at times leave us nauseated. While here, we’re going to be discontented and unsettled. We’ll experience tension. Life will be good. Will it ever be perfect?

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 1 Corinthians 13:12

Are you caught in the middle too?
Share by writing a comment.

Coming….LIfe on a Broken Planet: It Wasn’t Supposed to Be Like This