One Breath

On December 26, 2015 my husband and I arrived home in the early evening after a Christmas party. I glanced at my Facebook and saw a post concerning a tornado near Dallas. We turned on the TV, to The Weather Channel, and saw footage of the massive, monster tornado moving toward Garland, Texas–where my son and his family live. My heart fluttered as my husband sent a text message to my son asking if they were okay. My son replied: “We’re in the bathtub in the bathroom right now.” There was nothing I could do but pray, in that moment, for God’s protection over my family. Minutes ticked by as we watched the devastating tornado live on television knowing my grandbabies with their parents were huddled together waiting for the storm to pass.

About five minutes later I received a text from my son: “We’re okay!” Over the next hour the story unfolded. They had heard the deafening roar of the tornado ripping and tearing things up outside their home but they were untouched. Just down the street, the story was different. Complete destruction and death was left in the wake of the storm. One breath and life was taken for granted and one breath later it became the most precious gift.

This past Saturday, on January 2, 2016, I received a text message from my sister alerting me to the fact her 9 month old grandson in Colorado was in a medical emergency. A half hour later my mother called to tell me my niece’s baby son was gone, he had passed away. The ensuing hours were filled with heartbreaking phone calls from my sister and mother. Why? What had happened? I don’t understand this God. I stood outside, looking up into the sky, crying and asking God for an explanation. One breath and life was taken for granted and one breath later it became the most precious gift.

We aren’t promised another day, another hour, another minute, or another breath. Life can change abruptly in just one second. Yet, we squander our minutes and worry and fret about trivial matters and fight over childish, ridiculous things and we don’t appreciate what we have or who we have or where we are. With one breath we can fill a lonely, desperate heart with hope or we can damage irreparably. With one breath we can reach out and help the struggling neighbor or child or family member or with one breath we can condemn and judge. With one breath life is a passing thought and in the next breath it is a treasure.

As the next days, weeks and months pass by consider the value of one breath. Think about the effect you are having in another life. Remember the God who has given you life and honor the gift by living nobly, honorably and honestly. Just one breath.

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What If?

Way back in 1958, I was conceived by two teenage kids. My mother was 16 and my father was 17. Society didn’t accept teen pregnancy the way it does today by having reality TV shows and glamorizing the fact. To have a child, out of wedlock, was shameful and carried a terrible stigma. My grandmother was mortified and as she and my mother walked out of the doctor’s office she told my mother, “You’re getting an abortion.” This was prior to Roe v. Wade when abortions were still illegal and performed in dark, dirty, secret places. Although my 16 year old mother was terrified of everything her pregnancy meant–losing friends, being pointed at and whispered about and being shamed by others–she had the audacity to tell my grandmother, “No”. She was not having an abortion and she was going to have her child.

What if she had made the decision to end her pregnancy? I was pondering this the other night. The person I am today would not exist. That particular union of egg and sperm, with the specific combination of DNA, was designed to be ME. My soul and spirit, my thoughts, my emotions, my experiences, and my contributions would never had been if my mother said, “Yes”. The world would never have known “Lynne Stamm” because who I am, who I was born to be, never existed. Of course, I almost didn’t survive my birth due to a rare defect. There were instances in my life when I should have died–a freak car accident, drinking white gasoline, losing several pints of blood after a miscarriage. Yet, here I am looking back at my life and looking forward to another year.

Let’s get a little metaphysical here. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;”. God says he knew ME. The Hebrew word for “know” is yada and means we are dedicating ourselves to a person so we can engage them with our love and affection. God didn’t know of me as a cluster of molecules floating around the universe waiting to find a home. God knew me, the very essence of who I am with my personality, my feelings, my thoughts, before I was even formed. And, if God knew me, then by definition I knew him.

When people talk about a relationship with God–not religion or denominations or spirituality–they are talking about finding their way back to the moment in time when they remember they engaged with him and felt his love and affection. They are seeking to rekindle the intimacy they once had with their Creator, and to rediscover his divine intention for them on this earth–to love, to be kind, to show compassion, to help others remember when they knew God.

My mother didn’t know this but at the very precise moment of my conception God set me apart for a distinct purpose in my life. When I was born I entered the world with a divine mandate. I’m not alone. Everyone breathing knew God, and he knew them, and gave them each a unique objective. But, as we grow and experience life and we become hardened and jaded by our knowledge and encounters with the temporal world we lose our vision of God. We forget we knew him. We forget how precious our lives are.

My life’s journey began precariously and has been filled with obstacles and difficulties and tragedies. I have forgotten and doubted God along the way but he has never forgotten me. I am at this very place in my life where he intended me to be since before my birth in 1958–sharing my life, my lessons and my losses so maybe one person can recall a moment in time when they knew God and his design for their life. What if people remembered? What if they forgot their fear, their uncertainty, their prejudices about God? What if their remembrance of him changed them and made this life better for themselves or for someone else? What if?