I Bathed in Poo Water

Roun’ here yard waste pickup is the second and fourth Monday of the month. I miss this consistently so the black trashcan full of garden clippings, weeds, twigs, vines, several months of rainwater and mosquito larvae sits against the back fence of my jungle-like garden elevated from the ground by a couple of cinder blocks.  Yesterday morning after I kicked my children out the do… I mean, lovingly sent my kiddos to school I went for a walk around the neighborhood. I noticed some neighbors had their yard waste out. I did a quick calculation and thought, FOURTH MONDAY, and hustled home.

When I reached my yard I glanced up and down the street and saw my neighbors had some twigs by the curb. Good, the truck hadn’t come yet. We still had time to drag the can to the corner.

photo 2I knew it would be heavy, it certainly had several months of rain water and rotting yard refuse inside as well as a couple feet of sunflower stalks on top. I just had to get the dang thing down off the cinder blocks and  drag the can a hundred or so feet to the curb. This was the moment, the hideous can of stinky dead stuff needed to go.

I grabbed the handle and gave the can a soft tug and… it didn’t move. The climbing creeper vines from the fence behind it had begun to assimilate the can of yard crap into itself like the Borg. With a determined yank I pulled it off the cinder blocks and with a great kerplunk it plopped onto the grass at my feet.

In an unexpected turn of events a large tidal wave of black, poo scented rain water rose up from the depths of the can, through the tangle of  sunflower stalks and cobwebs and landed on top of my head, all over my right arm and bathed both feet.

After a stunned moment I reluctantly looked down at my body. Black chunks of grossness covered my arm. The black toxic waste-like substance pooled at my feet, squishing between my toes. And the smell, oh, Lord have mercy. I smelled like poo.

And mosquito larvae.

Bring. It. On.

In that moment it was all about me and the poo can of yard waste. It against me. Me against It. And It was not going to defeat me. This was the moment. That was the day. The yard waste was going out. We would never wait for, and forget about, another second or fourth Monday again.

I knew before I could go any further I had to dump the rest of the black, poo water out. The can was heavy and sloshy, and well, it was just plain cruel to leave that for the yard waste pickup guys. The water had to go. I took a deep breath and tipped it over. Gallons and gallons of black water poured into my garden. You can’t defeat me, I thought as I watched it flow, I lived in India for over a decade – I had Typhoid* for goodness sake.

Poo water, you’ve got nothing on me, I thought as I dragged the, now much lighter, can of yard waste to the curb. And that’s the moment I felt it. That’s when the water that had sloshed up on my head began to flow from my scalp in rivulets behind my ear and drip onto my shoulder before trickling down my bosom.

Lt dan 2Is that all you got? IS THAT ALL YOU GOT! I shouted in my head like Lieutenant Dan hanging from the mast and screaming at the storm.

We made it to the curb. I bathed, for real, and scrubbed a lot. In fact, I scrubbed places I may have never scrubbed before. When I walked clean and sparkly (well, at least clean) back into my bedroom I heard the telltale noises of the yard waste truck. It was like heaven in my ears; I feared they would have skipped my house or had already come, but no, here they were. They took it. They took it all! And I photographed them as evidence.

photo 1

Until next time, toxic poo water.

*Typhoid is spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the feces of an infected person. (Super gross, I know)

I Am Not My Children’s Father

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I am a single parent and the sole caretaker for my four children. But I am not their father.

There are some who would wish me, or other single mothers, Happy Father’s Day on the third Sunday in June. I want to be clear, I do not take that adversely, in fact, I take it as a compliment. But I am not my children’s father.

I am a mother. I am the lone parent. I am the only name on the Emergency Contact line. I alone put to bed, provide, comfort and guide my children. But I am not their father.

But my children are not fatherless.

For over three years I prayed everyday that God would be a father to my children. And He has.

gpopFor over three years my father, my children’s grandfather, has been in my daughters’ lives every single day. He has never stopped being a parent to me and through him, my children see what a father should be.

This post was originally published on June 16, 2014. (Still true, though…) 

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LIFE: Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

BR

It’s always a little exciting when someone you know writes a book AND gets it published. A longtime friend of mine, Steve Lange, is that person. I was given the amazing privilege of getting to read his novel, Breathing Room, even before it was released. Ultimately, when the Breathing Room Three-Part E-book Series was released on Amazon Kindle last year, all three became #1 bestsellers!

Breathing Room follows Jack and Patricia Christopher and their six sons over the course of two decades. It is the tale of a family searching for a haven that will provide relief from the seemingly unending struggles that oppress them. Intermixed with the tragedies, their story is woven together with moments of humor and tenderness. This novel is loosely based on the author’s own experiences growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

By the second chapter I was hooked and found myself in a perpetual state of wondering what would happen next. This book is real and raw and the experience of reading it leaves you feeling sympathetic toward each and every character. Whereas most stories tend to have a clear distinction between those who are “good” and those who are “evil,” Breathing Room portrays a family of flawed, yet utterly human individuals that the reader easily identifies with. I came to care for the Christopher family as I joined them in their quest for a place to breathe, an end to the tragedies that seemed to wash over them with the predictability of the ocean tides.

There are certain books that, as you read them, you can envision the film version. Breathing Room is one of those books, not an action packed blockbuster, but a slow moving, family drama that draws you in and leaves you with a sense of loss when it is over.

At times while I was reading Breathing Room I gasped as I remembered my own eleven year ordeal searching for a place to breathe, waiting for the feeling of imminent disaster to pass. I recall experiencing something akin to a feeling of relief when disaster did occur because the stress of wondering when it would come was finally over. For anyone who has experienced that longing for a place of shelter from the storms raging around them, or who has ever hoped for something more than limping cautiously through every day, Breathing Room is for you.

Breathing Room reminds us even in our darkest moments, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that  Hope is not dead.

Hope is never dead.

Breathing Room is releasing today (June 20, 2015) in print. I hope you will take a moment to explore whether Breathing Room is a book you might enjoy. Here are all the Breathing Room links you will ever need.

Links to Breathing Room the Book/Ebook

Facebook Page

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Email: Stevenlangebooks@gmail.com

Mailing Address: PO Box 3254 Harvey Cedars NJ, 08008

I was in no way, shape or form compensated for this review. All opinions are most assuredly my own.:)

This post was originally posted in April 2014. I have updated it with the news of the release of the print book.

Turn It Up!

One of my greatest delights is standing between my children in church and hearing their sweet voices join mine in worship. Now before you get the wrong idea, my two little ones are experts at disturbing these idyllic moments.

The truth is, it’s not unusual for me to lose a child during the worship time. Eventually, I notice one is missing and start glancing around; someone behind me usually catches my searching eye and points under a seat somewhere down the row. I smile my thanks and bend over to remove my child from under the seat and return to singing only to get tapped on the arm by the seven year old asking what does that or this word mean, you know, weird words like “hosanna” and “worthy.” It’s delightful that she wants to know, but this is like the seventh time she’s asked. I once again return to singing and soon realize the five year old is now lying in the middle of the aisle, I whisper loudly to her, “someone’s going to step on your head.” I silently blame myself for forgetting to bring a coloring page and crayon packet once again. At last I hand the little one the pen and “welcome card” from the pocket in the seat in front of her to entertain her.

I wouldn’t change it.

singingNo, mine are most definitely not the perfectly dressed in their Sunday best little girls with white tights and bows in their hair. Mine are the children who look like they dressed themselves (they did) and I am the mom licking my thumb to remove dried icing from the little one’s cheek before she exits for Sunday School – and yes she got it on there by clandestinely licking the icing off her big sister’s cinnamon roll before church. This child seriously needs Jesus.

But it is those brief moments of unified voices in praise with my girls beside me that I cherish. A combined 120 seconds of that? I’ll take it. Joyfully.

Three years ago my daughters and I stepped onto a plane with nothing but the clothes on our backs. We flew across oceans and continents from one country to another. The first six months in the US are still a blur. The girls were not yet in school. The younger two children did not even speak English and the older two were barely bi-lingual. They could not read. They could not write.

But they could listen.

Almost from our first day in the US we listened to a Christian radio station and we learned every song. I consider it the number one most healing influence in our life at that time. Even today, it is all we listen to in the car.

The other day I borrowed my dad’s car to drive my daughter to the dentist. His car’s dial is set to Sports Radio. That, of course, was unacceptable. As I was driving I scanned through the channels, trying to find something a ten year old might like. After about ten minutes of skipping from song to song she said, “Mom, can we put on our regular station?” Gladly.

We might not have a wide variety of songs in our repertoire but there are few things in this life that give me as much pleasure as listening to the sound of my children singing worship songs in the car and hearing them say,

“Turn it up, Mom, this is my favorite one.”

Copyright © Rebecca Onkar, Moms of Faith®, All Rights Reserved

This post was originally written for Moms of Faith®.

Shoulda Been Criminals

lockLast week I was at my parents’ house picking up some things to sell at a yard sale later this month. I thought there might be some things in the basement to sell but when I asked for the key we discovered it was with my dad at his work. We were locked out.

I had my eight year old daughter with me and as we walked back toward the front of the house she asked me for a bobby pin. I happened to have a couple in my hair, so I pulled one out and gave it to her and went inside to talk with my mom.

A few minutes later G. returned and handed me back the bobby pin.

“I couldn’t get it open.” She said.

By this time I started to have an inkling of what she wanted the bobby pin for – the lock on the cellar door. She had tried to pick it and failed.

“Here, you do it.” She said as she handed me the bobby pin.

I don’t know about you, but picking locks with bobby pins is not an experience we were exposed to growing up. Heck, we weren’t even allowed to have our elbows on the table at meals. Suffice to say, we just weren’t a “lock picking” family.

Recently, at 75, my mother was required to get an updated driver’s license photo. One day soon after getting the new picture, I overheard my mom talking to my brother and she said, “I wish I were a criminal, mugshots look better than this. I look like a little old lady in this picture.”

They made her take off her glasses for the photo.

Apparently by living a crime-free lifestyle we’ve missed out. I lack lock-picking skills and may never  again see my 1980s Smurf figurine collection hidden in the bowels of my parents’ basement, and my poor, 75 year old mother is stuck looking like a “little old lady” on her driver’s license.

smurfShoulda been criminals.

 

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What I Found At The End

I have a confession to make. For years I avoided reading the Psalms in my personal devotion time. I think that somewhere in my prideful heart I assumed that the Psalms were for people who couldn’t handle the rest of the Bible. In my mind they had become a kind of “Bible Lite.”

This attitude was full of pride, obviously, and since I’m confessing this to you, you’ve probably guessed that at some point I must have had a change of heart – and you’d be right. It wasn’t many years ago that I reached the end of myself.

Have you been there? The uttermost, absolute end of yourself?

While I stood there at the end–the end of me, the end of me knowing where my life was heading, what my purpose was, what to do and not to do, say and not to say, it was there, in that place of utter desperation and brokenness that I discovered The Psalms.

Oh where had they been all my life? How could I have possibly disdained them? Why did I never devour them before? What a prideful fool I had been.

So there at the end I opened the psalms and I read.

I read one after another and each spoke volumes to my shattered heart. When my prayers had dried and my pain was too deep to find the words to speak I read the Psalms aloud to God, my Savior. The Psalms themselves became my very own words spoken from my heart and through my tears. They were my cries for help. They were my cries of pain. They were my cries of confession. And at last, they were my cries of Hope.

ps

It saddens me that I had to reach the end of myself to discover the beauty and significance of the Psalms. I love the entire Word of God and every verse is precious to me, but no matter what else I read each day in the Word, I always first open to the Psalms.

If you have not yet discovered the joy of reading the Psalms or if your heart is hard, or broken or maybe you’ve run out of words to cry out to God, there is hope. It’s not too late. I encourage you to take the Bible in your hands, open up to Psalm 1 and start reading.

Read day after day until you reach the last one, and when the final verse of Psalm 150 is read, flip back and begin again.

Copyright © Rebecca Onkar, Moms of Faith®, All Rights Reserved

This post was originally written for Moms of Faith®

Quit Striving

‘As I was standing on the median looking at the crushed minivan that belonged to a friend, I asked God “why?” Not in an accusing way, but I want to learn this lesson the first time kind of way.’

This is profound…

…and written by a dear friend.

A Living Flame

It’s been 7 years ago today. 7 years since I quit striving. Beginning young in ministry things just grew and I had to grow with them. There was never a time someone sat me down and said, “This is how you should do this.” I just had to learn. In the earliest days we did not even have internet, so if I didn’t already own a book on a topic, there was no learning beyond what I already knew. It’s not surprising I got myself into this season.

As the ministry grew so did the financial need. Our family grew as well. 7 years ago we were in the US for our furlough to have our youngest son. We also had great financial need and had a fundraising campaign of sorts to work on. Our last 2 babies were scheduled C-section boys. The middle child was born on a Monday…

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Not Awesome

Everything is not always awesome. If you’ve been a mother for any amount of time you’ve probably experienced your child being hurt. Not physically hurt, although that happens often enough, but hurt emotionally. Recently my teenage daughter texted me and asked to be picked up early from a school event. Once home she asked me for a hug and cried in my arms for a while.

Feelings were hurt. Kids were mean. My heart breaks.

On those less than awesome days I’ve found that the best thing is to just hug, be there for her, and not try to fix. Can I be real honest here? My flesh urges me to tell her to go upstairs, get a bowl of ice cream and relax in front of the TV, as if that would make it all better. But that is the response of my flesh and the ice cream will provide no real comfort. In these moments, a bowl of ice cream teaches my daughter to find her comfort in something other than the True Comforter.

So while we hug, I pray.

God knows, He saw, His heart breaks too.

I was recently reading the passage in Luke 18 where Jesus told His disciples to let the little children come to Him. How many times have I read that, seen it, heard it? Yet on this particular day I understood something new about our Heavenly Father. Honestly, who among us doesn’t melt at the sight of a newborn or enjoy making a nine month old laugh? Whose heart doesn’t fill with joy while watching the freedom a four year old feels to pirouette through a parking lot or at a ten year old’s excitement and anticipation over the one line she gets to say in the school play?

Our hearts swell with love, often for no other reason than because these precious creatures are children. I forget that God looks at our children and that He also experiences that same warmness and joy that we feel in their presence – but He experiences it in perfection – even better. Then, even so, when our hearts break with our children, it is only natural that we turn to the One whose heart is breaking with us. He is the True Comforter, not just for me in my sorrow, but my child’s Comforter in her own sorrow.

Her sadness is not too insignificant for Him to care.

I must constantly remind myself that my children’s faith journeys are their own to traverse and I am here to guide. The God who comforts the downcast is as much their Father as He is mine. And as I have personally experienced His comfort time and time again, the greatest response I can give to my daughter in her own moment of sorrow is to lead her to The Source of all comfort and The Healer of all wounds, so that when the day comes that I am no longer with her, she can find her way to Him.

Then after a little while, when the tears subside, she and I can share another hug, and maybe a bowl of ice cream.

not awesome

Copyright © Rebecca Onkar, Moms of Faith®, All Rights Reserved

This post was originally written for Moms of Faith®

Call Me Homeless

I spent part of my Friday night with the homeless.

homeless-

Don’t get me wrong, the purpose of this post is not to toot my own horn, but rather, to toot the horn of the men and women I met on this cold and snowy night who just happen to not know where they will be sleeping in a few hours.

Let me back up; when there have been several severely cold (read: below freezing) nights in a row, a local ministry I volunteer with fills a van with a large thermal dispenser of hot chocolate, packets of peanut butter crackers and some bins of hats, gloves, scarves and blankets and drives to the transportation center downtown.

There were three of us tonight who bundled ourselves up and stepped out of the van into the swirling whiteness of an unforeseen snow storm. While we unloaded the van men and women already covered in a dusting of snow gathered and asked us for gloves, or hats or blankets. Two of us took the hot chocolate a little ways away and offered steaming cups and crackers and conversation to passersby.

The first time someone thought I was homeless, they saw me walking toward the van and got my attention to inform me that there was free hot chocolate behind me. The second time was when I asked our van volunteer for another bulk pack of crackers by saying, “Do you have anymore crackers?” and a man standing in line for some gloves overheard me and immediately reached into his pocket and handed me his very own packet of crackers that he had received with his hot chocolate.

I was stunned into silence.

I am still stunned into silence.

The third time I was mistaken for homeless (sad to say this is not the first time in my life this has happened, surely it won’t be the last) a man standing in line by the van started advocating to the other volunteer on my behalf because he was certain my coat wasn’t warm enough. He insisted I ask for a coat and warm weather clothes and stand in line before him.

Stranger caring for stranger. Friend caring for friend. I’ve heard of the compassion and generosity of the destitute and downtrodden; the gentleness of the hearts of those laying down this very night wrapped in sheets of plastic and newspaper, and covering their tired feet with four pairs of socks that they got from a red van and some random people handing out hot chocolate on a snowy winter’s night.

Call me homeless. I’ll take it as a compliment.

For more follow me on Bloglovin and find more thoughts on this topic here and here.

The Story Behind Makes the Song So Good

It’s no secret that I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, a poem written during the Civil War by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is my favorite Christmas carol.

The history and background of the poem/song can be found all over the internet, but there is a nice description here.

In light of current events and the climate in the US, and around the world today, the words to this poem still resonate strongly.


I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!


“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,…”

True words written by a man who knew true sorrow.Henry_Wadsworth_Longfellow,_photographed_by_Julia_Margaret_Cameron_in_1868

I offer you words of HOPE this Christmas.

God is not dead.