Another One Slipped Through

I was at the grocery store the other day when I was surprised to be welcomed by a young man sitting by the door. He was a greeter for the store and was surprisingly young and attractive. He looked like he should have been working in a trendy shop at the mall instead of sitting in the corner of a grocery store surrounded by carts and holiday fliers.

But when he opened his mouth, it was clear that he was different. He talked to my son about his dragon toy and how much he liked the movie, “How to Train Your Dragon” and was clearly not just being kind to my young son. There was something less developed about him, less sophisticated than a man his age should have been.

Immediately I felt twinges of fear and sadness for him.

In a world that is always looking out for number one, people like this are often overlooked or ostracized.

Then I thought of how many kids I knew in my teen years that needed a buddy and some that desperately needed professional help. I thought of kids I spend time with every Sunday at church or have met at camps that are clearly struggling but don’t have the skills or support to deal with life and end up repelling the friends they need with their anger and brooding.

And now, I think of the Sandy Hook massacre. From Columbine to now, these tragedies have continued to crash upon us like a relentlessly whipping wave, each rushing wave pulling back only to gather more strength and more fury to sweep away more innocent lives.

Whatever you feel about gun control or mental illness, I think we can all agree that this world is hurting.

While I understand the need for creating laws and procedures to protect our citizens, no law no matter how complete or perfect will heal a hurting soul.

These horrific events should be a wakeup call to people everywhere, especially Christians. To not just surround and protect your own with love, but to be on the lookout for others that need help and encouragement.  As Christians, we must be a safety net for those teetering on the edge and the hand that swiftly grasps those about to fall into the cracks.

We need to tirelessly pursue others with the message of the love of Jesus and His saving grace. We must show that God desires wholeness – body, mind and soul.  And above all we must share our hope: we are not doomed to destruction and defeat because Jesus has conquered it all.

Let us be quick to respond to others with genuine friendship and pray for God to move our hearts with true compassion for those around us. Let our words be saturated in godly love and intention before it’s too late. Let’s not wait until the hurt is so deep that our words can’t be heard over wailing grief.

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Give Me the Dirt

Like a lot of people, I have often wondered what Jesus wrote in the dirt the day that religious leaders brought an adulterous woman before him to be stoned. No one knows what he wrote, it looks like no one in the story reacted to what he wrote and Jesus didn’t call attention to what he wrote. As the scene escalated before him, Jesus calm and in command, wrote; dragging lines in the dirt that could soon bury a woman and her sins.

We all love the part where Jesus tells the self-righteous accusers that the one without sin should throw the first stone. But what really intrigues me is the dirt.

Dirt is malleable, easily washed away and fragile enough to crumble between one’s fingers. In the right hands, dirt can be a source of live-giving beauty and joy. Otherwise it’s just grit to be cleaned.

From the dust of the ground the first man was created. Dirt that coated Jesus’ feet was gently washed away by the tears and hair of a sinful woman. With dirt and saliva a blind man was healed when Jesus covered the man’s eyes with the mud. On a dirt floor Jesus wrote a message.

Who would have ever guessed a handful of mud would change a man’s life? To what glorious end did scrawling in the dirt lead?

Like that dirt canvas Jesus can wipe clean and rewrite our lives, unruffled and in control in the face of our accusers. From the dust that was once our mess, God can mold a new person. Though sins seek to trample us into the ground he steps in to offer hope and a new beginning smoothed by his own hand.

Angie D 6/18/2012 ©

Eight Days and Counting: Mom’s Progress Report

I’ve never really appreciated the Snuggie.

The whole blanket-with-sleeves thing just seemed so goofy and the fact that someone was trying to make money off of it was laughable to me. Then there were the ridiculous commercials of all those excessively frustrated people with their good-for-nothing blankets. To hear the Snuggie people tell it, you’d think the blanket was the most woefully inadequate patch of fabric since the shelf bra.

Imagine my surprise when the Snuggie became a hit. Boy, did the American public get bamboozled, I thought. Didn’t they know all they had to do is wear their robes backwards?

However, I’ve had a change of heart recently. Getting sick can do that to you. I’ve had the flu for five days and there have been several times amid the wretched aches and chills that I wished my blanket would sprout sleeves so I could text easier while bundled.

I have been almost non-stop texting for these past five days. Not because I’ve been stuck on the couch bored and miserable, but because my mom has been in the hospital for eight days now and as my siblings take turns being with mom, I am constantly getting and looking for updates on her condition.

It started about two weeks ago with fever and some cold symptoms, but then things kept getting worse and she was in and out of urgent care all Easter weekend. It was just the flu, she was told, nothing you can do but wait it out.

By Monday mom had stabbing pain throughout her back, an extremely sore throat and shortness of breath. She was back in urgent care, only this time she was told she had pneumonia and was given an antibiotic and some vicodin and then they sent her on her way.

mom's first day in critical care

I went later that afternoon to help take care of her, not really prepared for what I was about to see.

Mom’s face was ashen and puffy, her hands purple and clammy, her eyes drooped and she was hunched over and barely able to speak from the pain she was in. I was stunned and my mind was immediately flooded with memories of when my dad was in his last days of cancer. I wasn’t prepared for this. I expected to see my mom, not the ghost of my father.

I didn’t know what was wrong but she clearly needed medical attention. So I drove her to the ER.

After tens hours of waiting, several X-rays and tests later mom was finally admitted. They placed in Critical Care.

She absolutely hated it. She was on oxygen and had wires dangling from all over her body like tentacles. It was heartbreaking to see her caged in by medical instruments. Her mask distorted her features and rendered her unable to communicate, but the muffled panic that stirred behind her black eyes rang out loud and clear.

Mom’s condition worsened quickly. She became delirious and even weaker. She was poked, prodded and scanned multiple times for an answer. Test after test, and no clear answers. Her body didn’t seem to want to tell us why she was getting so sick. Then depending on which doctor you talked to and what time of day, the guesses would vary.

It was all so confusing and we so desperately wanted an answer.

It was so frustrating and scary to not know what was happening to our mother. Were we preparing for a month in the hospital, would it blow over on its own at the end of the week, should we get ready for her to die? We didn’t know.

Finally on Saturday, after more tests, various scans and samples extracted from her body, it was positively determined that my mother had the flu. Having Lupus made it worse, but it was still just the flu.

That was it. I felt kind of deflated.  We got our answer and it was the same one we started with. And it meant nothing in terms of a cure. I had hoped there was an antibiotic or drug that could nuke the pestilence from her body and rescue her.

Up until I got sick, I was at the hospital all day, every day, waiting for an answer, praying for one. And this is what we got, here was our “answer”. But it still left us helpless.

Answers don’t always equal immediate empowerment.

But nothing empowers like prayer. I know my siblings and I did a lot of good things like taking turns staying with mom, keeping her comfortable and asking the doctor lots of questions. But more important, we have prayed for our mom. We asked others to pray. To my knowledge, she was on at least four separate church prayer chains. Between Facebook, church prayer groups and our own family and friends, there had to be hundreds of people pleading for my mom’s health and safe recovery.

Fortunately, things changed quickly over the weekend. She is no longer delirious or needing an oxygen mask, she is breathing on her own and is no longer laying in a tangle of wires when she sleeps. But she’s not completely well yet either. Fever and chills returned, but so far it’s under control and she is stable enough to be in a regular hospital room.

mom's last day in critical care

She’s getting better, but she’s not 100% yet, so keep praying for Alicia!

Celebrate Loss and Remember Your Roots: 16 Years Without Dad

I was recently pretty offended. And I’m not an easily offended person. I tend to let rude comments and behavior just roll right off so I was kind of surprised at myself.

I mentioned to someone that my husband was frustrated with a contractor that so far hasn’t shown up for their scheduled meetings. Additionally, since no one but the contractor can speak English at this particular site, my husband wasn’t able to do anything while there.

I expected to get some sympathetic commiserating about how inconsiderate some people are with others’ time.

Instead, it set off a whirlwind of venting about the appalling number of people in America who don’t speak English. She then ranted about a time she was at the gym and a couple of women were speaking their foreign “jibber-jabber” in public. Her harsh tone and words made it clear that their foreignness was indecent and should have been hidden away.

Being a first-generation American child of Spanish-speaking parents, this really bothered me. It was hurtful on so many levels; she had no idea how many groups of people she devalued in one fell swoop.

I did my best to be diplomatic and respectfully replied that English is difficult for many to learn. I left it at that and keep my irritation to myself. I have been thinking about this awkward exchange for the last couple of days.

She couldn’t grasp nor did the thought enter her mind how hard it would be to completely uproot from your native country, language and culture to live in a foreign one. They weren’t doing anything rude or suspect. Those women just may have been enjoying a small piece of home when they were speaking their native tongue.

Apparently, she has forgotten her own roots; maybe doesn’t even know them. In any case, those insensitive words made me think of how easy it can be to dismiss someone when you don’t relate to them.

As I sorted out my feelings about why this really got to me, my thoughts kept leading me back to my dad.

Maybe it’s because today marks sixteen years since he died of cancer – I’ve lived half of my life without him now. Among the many cherished memories I repeat in my mind, I also replay the difficult ones. Even the ones that make me cry; these too are savored in their own way.

I don’t believe in clinging to the past and refusing to heal. But I don’t want to ever forget where I come from or where I’ve been and put so much distance between me and my past that I forget what it’s like to hurt, be an outsider, and in need.

I don’t want to forget what it was like to listen to my dad tell us crazy stories in Spanish about his dogs “Rebelde” and “Sin Calzones” and become impatient with the store clerk that is struggling to help me because English isn’t his first language.

I don’t want to forget how thin and weak cancer left him. How hard it was for my dad to be carried and dressed by his own children and know that after the baby was fed and tucked in for the night, he would be wrapped and swaddled next. I pray I never dishonor these memories by responding to need as simply giving to charity rather than contributing to dignity.

And I hope to never block out the wild-haired, tear-stained mess that was my four-year-old sister the day our dad died. Sitting alone on her bed, her agonizing cries for daddy pierced the air. Over and over she screamed for him, voice breaking from the screeches that scraped her throat.

She screamed for all of us – it was like hearing the full-throated wail of my own heart.

It tears me up even now, but I don’t want to forget how fierce pain and loss can be and neglect to show compassion when someone is hurting.

I go back to the day my dad died many times. It might seem odd or macabre to post the anniversary of someone’s death on Facebook, or take some time to settle into the grief again after so long, but for me, it’s to keep his memory close and my touch soft. Remembering my roots, both physical and spiritual is not just about being in tune with the people around me but to be ready for whatever God has for me.

Angie D 1/28/12 ©

For This I Am Thankful

Not many would knowingly walk into heartbreak. There are a few exceptions, but I think most of us would keep walking if we knew that the situation we were about to step into would completely mess us up.

I’ve had my heart broken a few times. It’s terrible. The ache that grips your heart feels like being caught in a clenched fist. And then there is this moment when the hand lifelessly falls open…..and you drop. The endless freefall where your mind scrambles to understand what is happening.

At least, that’s I how I remember it.

Though I have never gone looking for it, some of the most tangible moments I’ve ever had in God’s presence were during times of heartbreak. That beautiful ache that comes from having all the ugliness cut away, leaving you with his peace that assures you it’s just the beginning of better things.

While I would selfishly spare myself, God created a world that he knew would break his heart many times. He even loves children that may never love him back.

This absolutely floors me. Whatever I think I know about heartache, God knows much deeper.

God understands us. He feels our pain and knows our struggles yet he doesn’t shy away. He pursues us even though we are riddled with sin and gnarled by dysfunction. He heals and redeems us, even though we deserve to be left broken.

For this I am so very thankful.

 

Angie Derrick 11/21/2011 ©

Modern-Day Leper

My mother has a form of an autoimmune disease called Lupus that affects her skin in a very public way. When she is exposed to sunlight she breaks out into sores all over her body that look like large scabs. Then when her breakouts heal, she is left with tan patches on her fair skin, especially on her arms and hands that have the spacing and pattern of a giraffe’s hide. So far only her face has been spared.

She has dealt with it like a real trooper. She often jokes that she is a “leper” and takes it very well when little kids ask why her skin looks weird and when tactless adults bluntly ask what’s wrong with her.  

I know she has days that her condition can be very painful and has serious symptoms that are steadily encroaching on her daily comfort. But she is more bubbly and happy than anyone I know, sick or not. You would never know that her prognosis is not good: doctors tell her to expect further deterioration of her immune system, arthritis, possible kidney failure and more and more discomfort. Worst of all there is no cure and many of her prescriptions border on experimental.

I try not to think about it too much. I lost my dad to cancer when I was sixteen and I don’t want to think about losing my mom. And it’s not so much the number of years left that worries me; it’s the quality of her life. How much longer can she stand being a freak?

In church we’ve been talking about the leper in Luke chapter five that against biblical rules and tradition, Jesus touched before he was healed. In that account there was very little time that passed between when he was touched and when he was healed.

But what about when a lifetime passes between when Jesus touches and when Jesus heals a person? What about the awkwardness in between?

I know Jesus has touched my mother. I know without a doubt that he gave her all the faith, energy and strength she needed to get through the heartache of being a young widow and the challenges of being a single mother of five. I know she wants to be healed and still believes, even though she stood in faith for my father’s healing and watched him die, that Jesus can heal her. Jesus has given her so much proof of his love and character that despite her losses, she still waits for her own healing.

My mom isn’t the only life Jesus has touched that is still waiting for healing and change. I know people marked by severe acne, disease, depression, loneliness and many other conditions that could threaten to become our identity when we become weary of waiting for a cure. It would be very easy to take on the identity of an outcast rather than a child of God.

I believe what’s kept my mother from giving up and walking away is that she’s not concerned about when her healing happens; whether it’s in this life or the life to come. She is not occupying her time with self-pity or anger she is enjoying her status as a child of God. She knows even though the world sees a “leper” and she has pain and scars that could cause deep embarrassment, she gladly worships the one that was bruised and crushed for her sins and shame. Unlike the lepers of the past, she is free to receive Jesus’ touch, worship him and fellowship with him uncovered and unashamed. She will let nothing, not even her skin, be a barrier.

Angie Derrick 11/11/11 ©

Who Can Stop a Trainwreck?

Have you ever wished that someone would stop you from doing something really stupid? I think that every time I look at any pictures of me from age two to twenty two.  

When I was a little kid, my mother let me dress myself and do my own hair. But instead of taking my fashion cues from Punky Brewster, I looked like I was hanging out with the Golden Girls. Apparently, my mother let me do my shopping at the lost and found of our local retirement center. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I was a hefty girl with a unibrow and big pink glasses that would make Sally Jesse Raphael jealous.

Being a portly child, my wardrobe included a lot of knit pants and t-shirts. But these soon became too bland for my artistic sensibilities, so in fourth grade I started to add some flair to them with my own hand-drawn puffy paint designs.

The pièce de résistance of my stretchy attire was from a collection I like to call my “Antarctic Period” featuring lumpy penguins with birthday hats and squiggles that were supposed to be confetti but looked more like Cheetos. I’m not sure what possessed me to fixate on penguins, but their melted smiles and lazy eyes seemed good to me so I wore my designs like I was working the catwalk.

As I got older my fashion sense didn’t improve much and neither did common sense. I got pregnant with my daughter when I was nineteen and spurred on by friends, relatives and my grandfatherly doctor, I was encouraged to eat whatever and whenever I pleased because I was “eating for two”. They insisted that whatever calories my youth couldn’t handle, nursing would fix, so I ate like there was no tomorrow. I ate California chicken burgers like they were the building blocks of my fetus’ nervous system and with every pound of nachos I stuffed into my face, I toasted her health.

Consequently, I was the size of a planet by the time I was nine months pregnant. And when it came to losing the “baby weight” (like any of it was the baby’s fault), youth was definitely not on my side and nursing did nothing but make me feel even more like a big cow.

There have been so many times in my life that I wished that someone would have knocked some sense into me; that they would have stopped me from humiliating myself and acting like a moron. But I don’t know for sure that my mom could have convinced me that penguins weren’t “in” or that anyone could have stopped me from eating like a lumberjack when I was pregnant. I don’t know if anyone could have talked me out of many stupid things I’ve done, even the things I knew violated my faith.

I think sometimes God lets us continue on our path of idiotic behavior so that when we finally hit bottom, the stark contrast between our stupidity and his wisdom and love is undeniable. The difference is so palpable that we appreciate God’s goodness in a deeper way. I also think he allows us to learn the hard way sometimes so that we have more compassion towards the lost and those that have turned away from God. When we are faced with our own wretchedness and have experienced God’s redeeming love, no one seems like a lost cause and you are compelled to share that hope.

Every time I write, I can’t help sharing how God has changed my life and blessed me even if it means exploiting my less brilliant moments. While I definitely don’t celebrate my bad decisions, and many still make me cringe, I share them anyway because I want others to know how good God is. No matter how shameful your background or how many stupid things you have done, there is nothing so terrible that God’s love can’t cover it or would make him embarrassed to call you his child.


  • I believe in Jesus, loving people, living fully and creating good things. Whether it's art, food or finding solutions, I am always in "creative mode". With this blog I hope to encourage and help others to live in whatever "mode" God has called them to.

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