Today I'm praying for/about:

Today, (in no particular order) I'm praying for...
- Fresh ideas, inspiration and diligence to post regularly again

- My dad fighting mesothelioma too far away for me to hug him

- Children, parents, and teachers everywhere preparing to return to school

- My single friends as they seek God for His guidance in relationships

- Broken relationships; for grace to abound where grace has been withheld

- You; I'm praying for every single person who views this blog.

Thank you for standing in agreement with me for these precious souls!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

That He came...

I was trying to write a nice Facebook status a few minutes ago wishing everyone in my newsfeed a merry Christmas.  It grew from the size of a tweet, to a status, to too much to contain in a simple box labeled "What's on your mind?"

It grew from "Merry Christmas everyone!" to a prayerful blessing, to a pondering.  I will share it here instead and let God take it where He wills...

May God fill each of you with His light today; the day we celebrate the gift of grace unmerited, unearned, unattainable.  Today we commemorate, remember, celebrate when our Creator Perfect loved us so much, too much, to leave us wallowing in our imperfection.  Too much to set the proverbial bar lower, too much to leave us toiling to reach Him, too much to do any number of other things with us that He could have...  Because He IS love.  Love, beyond comprehension, beyond our fallible, perverse idea of the concept, so far beyond what finite minds can fathom, that He would put on soiled, human skin, breathe our tainted air, put up with our bitter repulse.  Love so fragile and yet so indestructible.  Love as intimate as a fresh babe cuddled between parents and as vast as the infinite universe.  Love that would willingly step down from the throne of eternity, peace, power, perfection so incomprehensible that the smallest blemish can not enter the presence...  The love that invented sacrifice.

Sacrifice.  The latin roots of the word, the properly neutral plural word "sacer" meaning sacred, with the root "facer" meaning "to do or perform".  A holy act, offered from the purest heart.  A heart so broken over our brokenness that He allowed us to break Him just to mend us.

May we be broken and mended all at once today.  May we be so emptied to awe yet so filled with grace.  May we accept today, in all it's fullness, the Gift that cannot be put in a box, that cannot be kept a secret, that cannot be contained by swaddling or a tomb, cannot be traded for anything but sorrow, cannot be kept but must be shared.  May we be blessed today in a measure that spills into every coming day hereafter.  May we praise the Father for our greatest Gift, our Yeshua, our Messiah.

Have a very, merry, Christmas, everyone.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Plank-eye Syndrome

We have a serious problem in our house lately.  We've had an outbreak of "plank eye".  This should not be confused with pink eye; which is much easier to cure and much less irritating.  No, plank eye is a genetic heart condition that can be terminal and fatal.  The symptoms include, but are not limited to:  pointing fingers, whining, yelling, tattling, tourette-like outbursts of phrases like "MO-OMMMMMM!", "No FAIR!", and "I'm telling!", crossed arms, high noses, rolled eyes, accusations and justifications that start with some variation of "But HE (or she) started it!".  It is characterized by an incessant need for one to mind everyone else's proverbial beeswax and make sure that everyone else is being held accountable for their shortcomings while justifying one's own offenses.  The condition is often more well known as "Hypocrisy".

It.  Is.  Excruciating.  There is no medication on the market yet that will dull the pain (well, not that I can recommend as healthy anyway!), curb the symptoms, or cure the condition.  No eye drops for this one...

Thankfully,  however, our Great Physician, knows a way but it is a difficult process.  The therapy can take years to fully develop the muscles needed to bend that pointed finger, open accusing eyes, stretch one's patience,  and strengthen the loving heart.  I'm trying not to be daunted by this, especially since there are four of them that need this therapy.  Thankfully, our insurance will not be billed, nor will we owe a co-pay.

Did you notice though, I did not say the therapy is free.  There are costs and side effects...  Sore knees from time spent in prayer, loss of productivity for time spent mentoring, missed activities and outings when follow-through is called for, sacrifice of one's own rights when grace is prescribed, weary eyes from watching character building movies, and a dry throat from reading scripture and literature aloud.  It should be noted, however, that pharisaical modes of therapy, such as writing sentences, forced acts of kindness, allowing a sibling to return an offense, justifying others actions based on the patient's actions (i.e. tit-for-tat) and other similar treatments are contraindicated.  Not only do they have questionable efficacy, they can often worsen the condition.  It is further vital that one administering the therapy has been through it themselves, if not, this too, can worsen the condition of the subject.

Note also that the therapy is not guaranteed to work.  In some rare cases, due to recessive, free-will genetics or severe stubbornness, the course of therapy may appear ineffective.  In those cases, one is advised to continue the therapy regardless of indication of efficacy since no two cases' results will look the same.  Neither can it be determined how long the therapy will take from one individual to another.  Further, as this is a genetic disorder, there can be potential for a flare-up after extensive periods of remission.

Please pray for us; we have a long road to recovery.  If there is anyone else out there either suffering the condition or administering the therapy, there are local support groups available.  They often have the symbol of a cross somewhere on the building where they meet and meetings are usually held on either Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings.  Some groups offer alternative meeting times, such as Saturdays and some offer smaller groups that meet in homes.  I pray you find a solid group to help you get through this trying time.  From what I've heard it is well worth all the cost, time and effort.  May God give us strength, bring healing, and provide wisdom.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."  Matthew 7:3-5

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

If This is All There Ever is...

I have a dear friend and mentor who has moments with God where she says that the new revelation makes her feel like she needs to duct tape her head to keep her brain from exploding.  We've discussed enough of these that we can now just look at each other and say "duct tape" and nod, knowing that something just crashed into our brains in a major way.  Well, I had one of those recently...

The other night I was having a little pity party and feeling pretty down on myself when my husband shared something convicting.  During a prayer meeting he was talking with someone else about contentment and, I suppose, in a round a bout way, surrender; whether he could be content with God no matter what He ever does or does not do in his life.  This is not a mysterious concept, it's rather quite simple BUT, if I'm not mistaken, we as humans have trouble actually living it out in practicality.  As I pondered the thought, BAM!  The revelation, the duct tape revelation, crashed into my heart.  I felt like the Holy Spirit asked me "What if this is all there ever is?"

See, I struggle deeply with negative self-talk and condemnation and have not ironically recently started a study as part of our ladies group on just that subject.  Jennifer Rothschild is teaching us to clean out our "thought closets" because "what we think is what we wear".  So here in the middle of this endeavor to throw out some long out-grown labels, comes these questions from the still, small voice:
"What if no one EVER approves of (me)?"
"What if (my) struggle with (my) son NEVER improves?"
"What if (I) never succeed at anything, ever?"

And, the kicker... the one that called for duct tape...

"What if what is, right now, right here, is all there ever is?  BECAUSE it really actually is; you are not promised tomorrow so therefore not promised answers, improvement, escape, rescue, etc. SO, with that line of thinking, not that what is right now will never change BUT, if it doesn't, could you still be content?  Could you still be fulfilled?  Could you still find peace in God's love if that is all you have?  Because, really, that's all you do have..."

Duct tape.

I needed to keep my brain from exploding at that convicting thought.  I had to open my white-knuckle grip on my need for my son's growth, I needed to release my need for approval, and I needed to hand over the desire to accomplish stuff.  I needed to decide that what is, right now, is enough.  After all, God has me right here, today, for His purposes, not my fulfillment and if He has so chosen that, for little 'ol me, specifically, knowingly, purposefully, and personally, then oughtn't I breathe a sigh of thanks make the best of it?

Absolutely.  Immediately.  Permanently.

This was all last Wednesday evening.  I meant to write this post the next day and ran out of time.  Good intentions for Friday were thwarted as well.  Now, here we are the following Tuesday and I'm finally writing it down.  Why?  Because I quickly developed amnesia.  I had already forgotten that mind-blowing moment and found myself, just this morning, setting up another pity party decorated with banners of "inadequacy", "failure", "disillusionment", and "doubt".  Thankfully, my knight in shining armor, my beloved, best pal, prayer warrior husband, rode in to rescue me.  He prayed over the phone with me while on a break with the loving authority of my Redeemer and jogged my memory.

"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" 2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV

"But Godliness with contentment is great gain" 1 Timothy 6:6

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength" Philippians 4:12-13

Here's some duct tape... pass it on!  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Myth of More Than We Can Handle

I heard a song lyric the other day that got me pondering the cliché "God never gives you more than you can handle"... and it struck me what a whopper of a lie that statement is.

God certainly gives us more than we can handle and He does so quite often (At least for me!).  He doesn't want us to handle everything on our own; He wants us to need Him!  What need would we have of a Savior if we were entirely self-sufficient?  What need would we have of faith if humans truly had the capacity to get through every trial as an island??

None.  None what so ever.  Perhaps we have learned to leave off the possible remainder of the statement:  "God never gives you more than you can handle with Him." and, in so doing, what damage have we done ourselves spiritually?  How clever of the enemy to convince us, so sneakily, that if we aren't "handling it" in a manner we consider "well", then perhaps we are broken, faithless, wrong...

I remember a well-meaning piece of advice my mother gave me once, long ago, afflicted with a broken heart after her divorce from my dad and still without the presence of the Holy Spirit.  She told me "Never become dependent on a man.  Ever."

This bit of advice, colored by the pain she was enduring at the time, then afflicted my own life for quite some time.  I worked so hard for so long to be strong and not need my husband.  I felt like there was something wrong with me when I finally, one day, admitted to her, that while I could survive without my husband, I could not live without him.  Her emphatic apology for telling me that, was, I think, the first time she ever told me she was sorry.  It was a beautiful moment of growth for us both.  (Please note: I have such high regard and love for my mom and this illustration is not meant in any way to paint her as anything less than precious to me but rather to show something her and I both went through together for good)

I share that to point out that in the same way, I believe, at least for me, the statement "God never gives us more than we can handle" has afflicted my relationship with God.  Not that I have consciously thought that I oughtn't need my faith to get through trials but that there has been a quiet, underlying feeling at times along those lines.  I have noticed it most at times when, in the middle of a trial, I feel a sort of humiliation when I finally break to the point of crying out to God that I need my Savior to carry me through.  When I finally discover that I need to "cast all my cares on Him", why do I feel like I've failed somehow?  Especially when there are so many places in God's word where He makes us promises that nullify that very thought.  Here are just a few that I've immediately thought of:

If we could do it all ourselves, why would He promise not to leave nor forsake us? (Deuteronomy 31:6,  Hebrews 13:5)

If we were meant to be our own little gods, then why would He call us to cast all our cares on Him? (1 Peter 5:7)

Why would He commit to be with us until the end of the age? (Matthew 28:20)

If we were meant to draw on our own resources and strength then it would not depend on His presence. (Joshua 1:9)

If we were autonomous then He would not catch every tear and account for every step.  (Psalm 56:8)

Our God and Savior knows us so well, and so intimately... counted the hairs on our heads, every step we take, every breath, every smile, every furrowed brow...  And, He does, indeed, give us more than we can handle.  Not because He is vindictive, not because He is sadistic, not because He is cruel, but because He cares so deeply for us that He allows us to realize daily how we need Him.  In addition, He is faithful in everything to show us that when we need Him He will come through.

This is where we need to remember that the ways He comes through may not be when, how, or where we anticipate; His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts...  We will never be able to figure Him out, define Him, or fit Him in the finite box of our mind.  He is not our genie in a bottle or our Santa Claus.  If He fit our expectations or definitions then God would not be God, but, rather a contrivance of our individual imaginations, different for each one of us and, therefore, unreliable and completely contrary to who His word tells us He is.  Instead, He simply is.  He is constant, He is unchanging, He is the same God, with the same promises, the same expectations, the same purposes, and the same love, that He has been since He uttered being into being.

He... IS.

And, thus, this is why we need Him.  Not because we have failed, not because we are wrong, but because that is where our relationship with Him will grow.  It is where we will experience His love for us, where our love for Him will blossom, and where His glory will abound in the victories He attains for us, with us, and in us.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Confession time...  (I have a LOT of these)

I know that I need to read my bible every day so I can get a dose of God BUT on a daily basis, I struggle to know where to open up the Good Book.  By that I don't mean out on the patio or at the kitchen table but rather what book, what chapter.  So, I often just use one of the most simple study tools I've ever found.  Our Daily Bread.  So handy!!  They even have an iphone app so even if I forgot in the morning, if I find a quiet moment (which are albeit mythical in my life!) then I can open it up, read the devo, and it even auto links to Biblegateway for the reference and reading plan passages.  How easy is that??  And yet, I STILL struggle to make it happen daily.

That said, I actually did it the last couple days and was hit hard by the final line of the reading plan passage (which, for yesterday, was Romans 14).  That portion of scripture is basically addressing liberty versus legalism where food (at least as an example) is concerned and being considerate of each other in those respects.  It's one of those passages where I was reading along, minding my own biz, and not really getting much out of it.  Until I read these words:  "... and everything that does not come from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23b)

Now, I realize that we have to be careful not to take portions of scripture out of their context, and, in this particular context, as I said, dietary restrictions/liberties were the topic.  However, food arguments aside, this strikes me as a statement that can (should?) be applied to, well, as it says, everything.  Everything.  Every.  Thing.  

Everything that does not come from faith is sin.  Everything Lord?  Really, really?  


As I mediated on that thought I remembered 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ironically, also about dietary arguments) which says "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."  

"Whatever you do"

"Whatever" equals "Everything".

So...  God...  When you say "whatever I do" and "everything"... you mean, like, when it comes to all the major stuff in my life, right?  Not like, the little stuff, like, entertainment choices, how much time I spend online, the jokes I tell, how I spend my time beyond church and my quiet time, right??  Oh... you really meant everything...  Hmmm.  Ok.

Now, I sure hope I'm not seen as a "Sunday morning Christian" who lives in a way that I have to actually tell people outside church that I'm a Christian or else they'd never know.  I try to find ways to bless others, make a loving impact on most people I encounter, serve where I have the capacity, make entertainment choices that are not detrimental to my spirit, I listen to Christian music almost exclusively anymore, and I spend a lot of time chitchatting with God through any given day.  However, I also spend too much time on the web that could be better spent serving my family, I sometimes indulge in "the bread of idleness" in my struggle with laziness, I often find reasons to ignore the still, small voice that says "a trip to the gym would make you feel great!", and my biggest struggle, how I talk to my kids, mostly my oldest son.  I don't honor my husband the way I should in my prayer life or the way I talk to him sometimes.  I exceed the speed limit by about 5 mph over quite often.  You may have noticed above where I stated that I try to "make a loving impact on most people I encounter"... yup, I said "most"...  I have even gone through the "10 items or less" checkout with 12 items before!  I know, I'm quite the rebel but conviction is conviction.  

We silly, fallible, mortals have a propensity to "categorize" sin into degrees of depravity.  I'm sure many will roll their eyes at my 5mph lead foot but the point is not that I'm only a little over the limit and still within safe operating parameters of my vehicle and physical reaction time, I'm still breaking the law.  And, since the Word says we are to obey those in authority and the laws of our land, then I am in sin.  And, even worse, I'm doing it knowingly, willfully.  It's not a question of the degree of any given sin issue, it's a question of will versus conviction.  If the still, small voice tells me that a 5-Hour Energy is unhealthy and I need to quit having them but I ignore it, I'm choosing willful defiance to what I know is a hint of the Holy.  If the Spirit tells me I need to back away, take a time-out, catch my breath, and calm down, but instead I choose to lose my shekinah all over my son, I am in sin.  

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not about to run around making sure everyone else is minding their diet, watching their tone with their kids, or try and police other drivers to follow traffic laws (though I won't lie... THAT desire pops up OFTEN!), I'm just pointing out what God spoke to me yesterday morning with those few little words that basically said "Being mostly devoted is still not devoted".  I'm also having one of those daunting moments of realization that, until I take my last breath, no matter how many sin issues I surrender to God, there will always be one more.  That can either be a very daunting, discouraging thought, or, it can be humbling, and I can allow it to drive me, time after time, day after day, moment after moment, back into the grace shadow of my Glorious Savior.

This all makes me think of a talk I was having with my son one day.  I told him that partial obedience is actually disobedience.  It is, alas, the same with us and I think that's what the passage in Romans is telling me.  A seating at a sporting event or concert ins't "sold out" until every seat is filled, likewise, I cannot consider myself "sold out" to Him if there's any area of my heart where He isn't present.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sand people

Nope... Not that kind... (I live with a Star Wars fan, what can I say!)

Not that kind either...

Wrong again...

I'm talking about the people who come into your life that are less than... enjoyable.  The ones who make your eye twitch.  The ones who "rub you the wrong way"... like sand paper.  They are rough, abrasive, and make things uncomfortable.  But, while being sanded is uncomfortable, it is necessary.  These are the people God uses, if we let Him, to smooth out our own rough edges.  Every now and again, God even sends a chisel to take care of larger impurities in our character.

Maturity begins to happen when we can learn to appreciate the sand people.  When we can thank God for them.  When we can love them.  Not just tolerate.  Not just put up with.  Not just endure.  Really love.

Does this mean you need to be best pals?  No.  Does this mean that if someone has knowingly hurt you more than twice (indicative of a behavior pattern) that you need to keep coming back for more?  No.  It means that you can kneel before God's throne and intercede for them with a genuine heart.  It means that you can give them a genuine smile on a Sunday morning.... or any other morning...

It also means we need to come to a realization that we are also someone else's sandpaper.  We're all sand people.  As such, if we want to be forgiven for rubbing someone the wrong way, even to the point of raw, then we need to forgive those who scrape us.  The best way to make the world more compassionate, more forgiving, less abrasive, less rough, is to become that very thing.  Pointing a finger will seldom produce conviction at the other end; setting the example, however, often will.

We also need to focus not in the now, on the slow, grinding, nagging pain, but rather, on what it will turn us into.  Something smooth, beautiful, like a hand-carved bannister in a historic home; smoothed and polished by generations of hands, some loving, some calloused, but all taking part in the refining and the creation of an heirloom.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I likewise think of the natural, organic masterpieces of driftwood sculpted by waves, storms, stones, sand, salt, wind, and sun (Son?) that can be found along the countless miles of pebbled beaches of the Puget Sound.  You may find a keepsake walking stick, fuel for a memorable beach fire, make-believe weapons for mini warriors, a fishing pole, or, for local artisans, even large pieces that become notable works of art, furniture, jewelry, and decor.

I know I'm smoother than I ever used to be but I'm so far from polished, refined, or beautiful.  However, I long to eventually be so.  How easy it is to forget that prayer and to grumble about the process.  May God help us all to stay focused on the goal so we can submit to the sanding and may we become thankful for those He uses to do so.

"In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls."  I Peter 1:6-9

Fit to Be Tied

Well, here we are all the way into August... of 2013...  Does that baffle anyone else??  I'm not feeling ready for our second year of homeschooling.  To be honest, some of the struggles we dealt with still linger from last year with no solutions yet obvious.    I'm daunted but my husband is being wonderful and supportive so that is helping quell some of my anxiety.  And, on the flip-side, I'm excited about some new (to us) materials and curriculum we're going to try out this year.    How about you?  Whether public, private or homeschool, what are you most excited and anxious about heading into the new school year?

In honor of back to school, this post won't be so much inspirational, but hopefully, helpful in a practical way.  For those with kids who still do not know how to tie their shoes but who have seen a noticeable price difference for shoes with velcro, this post is for you!  Buying shoes for three or four little boys requires that I save the pennies everywhere I can which meant laced shoes instead of velcro.  I knew this would NOT be helpful to their teachers or me so I had to brainstorm a solution.  (Shoe shopping may be in our weekend plans and thankfully, two of my four boys now know how to tie their own shoes!)

So, without further ado...  one solution to laced shoes for kids who can't tie:

Take the laces completely out and tie a single knot in the very center of the lace.  Repeat two more times on either side of the knot so there are five knots centered in the lace.  (Depending on your child's shoe, you may have to modify this to four knots OR may be able to fit a sixth knot in there)

Lace the shoes as normal with the knots going across between the first two holes (see below).

Once the shoes are laced you will have shorter ends sticking out.  Taking one cord stop bead (I found them in two-packs at my local Joann, they look like the ones in the picture but any style similar will work) criss-cross the laces (one in each direction) through the center of the cord stop bead while pinching it.  

Once the laces are through the bead, tie a figure-8 knot in each end of the laces to keep them from getting back out of the bead. 
Now you're done!  Almost any child should now be able to loosen his or her shoes by pinching the bead and pulling it to the knots then tighten them again by pulling on the knots.  If the laces are still too long at this point, you can always cut them just a little shorter, tie a knot in the ends, then gently melt the frayed bits with a lighter or candle.  

I hope this helps with busy mornings or busy teachers and I pray the new school year is a blessing for you and your kids!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Of Coffee and Passion

As we progress through what should be our most spiritually-focused time of year, Christ's Passion Week, I'm troubled.  There was a statement made by the CEO of Starbucks last week that has been, in my opinion, taken out of context and misconstrued.  It was a statement he made very diplomatically to one individual answering one question.  His response hasn't troubled me as much as the spin some conservative reporters have put on that statement, there is sadly a lynch-mob mentality "brewing" (pun intended) in the Christian community with a bandwagon boarding for Boycottville.

We cannot expect to hold accountable those who make NO remote claim to believe what we believe.  Stirring up a frenzy to exert fiscal power and lord over any who do not share our beliefs will do no more to bring them to a saving knowledge of Christ than it would do to shove a horse's head in a tub to convince him that he's thirsty.  We, as a body, are in the process of taking the bait that will allow a negative image of our faith community to be solidified.  Jesus sat down and dined with the likes of hookers, swindlers, and outcasts... How would He handle this situation?  We He repost the articles spinning Shultz's words into a lie?  Would He join the boycott?  Would He pat us on the back for standing our "holy grounds"? (yes, another coffee pun...)  Would He congratulate us for justifying our boycott by coming up with more righteous uses for $5?  (Which, let's be honest, many of us speak of but probably won't follow through on...)

This week should be the week we most deeply focus on WHY Christ submitted to the events that took place more than 2000 years ago.  It was to change us.  It was to show us, tangibly, what love looks like.  It was to show us what forgiveness and grace looks like.  If we join this angry mob then we missed it.  Further, we will be just the same as those who twisted and spun Dan Cathy's words out of context last year.  Do we want to be the same?  Do we want to play tit-for-tat?  Or, do we want to be different?  Do we want to be salt and light?  (Or, if we decide to take this stand, are we willing to face the hard truth that probably very few companies we patronize anymore share any shred of our convictions??  I think we will quickly run out of places to shop and eat if we do... )

If individuals feel Spirit-led to no longer patronize a particular company for moral reasons, so be it!  We must follow our convictions, however, we must not allow someone else to tell us what someone else said, take it at full face-value, then pass it on and get others to join us based on a lie.  That is bearing false witness and no matter the intentions, it is wrong.  We need to do our own research into what was actually said, in what manner and for what purpose before we grab our torches and pitchforks on the way to burning someone at the stake.  Discernment is something you can't borrow from someone else; you must find your own because each of us will ultimately be held accountable.   Once that day comes, we cannot pass responsibility off to whomever told us what we should believe, what we should (or shouldn't) do, or how to interact with this world we are passing through.

Please do not misunderstand, this is NOT to defend Starbucks, Mr. Shultz, or even liberal politics of the day.  It IS to encourage us all to be shrewd as vipers (as we make our decisions) and gentle as doves (as we carry them out and take our stand).    Hopefully our choices on where we put our passion this week will amount to more than a hill of (over-roasted) beans.  If Jesus was physically here today, I have the feeling He'd happily enjoy a whole-milk latte with honey and sit down to visit with anyone who cared to join Him, no matter who they were holding hands with, how big the gauge in their ear, or how much ink is in their skin.  Let us look past politics, policies, and propaganda...  Let us see with Christ's eyes how He would have us reach our lost world as effectively as possible.  Only then will we turn mere coffee into Holy Grounds...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What Comes Before Blessings?

As I've mentioned in posts past we sometimes have some issues with our eldest son.  We've been discussing, almost ad nauseum lately, the fact that in the bible blessings typically only come after obedience.  Blessings cannot be stolen, pilfered, scammed, borrowed on credit, or bought with anything but the price tag of sacrifice that is obedience.  Today's issue:  In the course of five minutes I told him to put an X on the numbers of his math page that were the wrong numbers to use... He put a circle with a line through it.  (My reason for the X's on his math page?  To make the wrong answers very visually different than the correct answers that the directions said to circle...)  I then told him he could not put his iPod on the portable speaker because I was on the phone...  He told me he'd just put it on quietly (as he was turning it on).  Now, neither of these instances, in and of themselves, are big issues (and many of you are so far reading this probably thinking "wow mommy, lighten up!").  However, these are two examples of a very regular behavior pattern in our home that I hope to curb before our young men have their future families depending on them living a spirit of obedience.  Most everyone knows what a blessing it is to have someone complete a work order exactly rather than most of the way...  This applies in every area of customer service, big or small, and depending on the line of work, can mean as little as happy, repeat customers or as much as life and death.  Spiritually, it can mean a whole lot more so despite today's issue being "small stuff", it's symptomatic of a deeper, far-reaching heart condition.

Today I asked him to tell me what God told Moses to do in the desert to get water for His people... He said "touch the rock with his hand".  I asked him what Moses did instead and he answered "Hit the rock with his staff".  I asked him what the consequence was for Moses' choice and he replied "He died on the mountain and never got to see the Promised Land".  As he was answering all my questions I remembered several more stories including Saul, David, and others, who chose to obey God most of the way but not fully.  In every case of only partial obedience, there was severe consequences (Saul's reign ended with him, David's son died, etc.) and was able to explain to him that as far as God is concerned, partial obedience equals disobedience.  There is no half-way with God.  In fact, there is not even a 99% with God.  He wants our all.  He reminds us that we cannot serve two masters, not even a tiny bit, because then we become divided in our thoughts and allow ourselves to become confused.

Take, as a physical illustration, the building of a railway...  If two teams begin at opposite ends and work towards each other, their calculations must be exact.  (We are currently watching a similar project take place in the Tampa area as a section of an expressway is being constructed to connect two other, parallel highways)  If either team is off by even minor calculations then entire project could be a disaster and not align the way its meant to.  Over a long project, just a single, half-inch miscalculation can offset the ultimate alignment by feet or even miles.  So too with our actions.  Whether it's a school assignment, an employer's instructions, or God's directives for us, if we veer off by just a little, we will miss the ultimate goal.  Very few parents I know ever give their children instructions or a task that does not have a reason; so too with God.  He always directs us in ways that will refine us, use us in the lives of others, lead us to blessing.    Occasionally, blessing is given out of complete grace but is also generally withheld from those who choose a regular pattern of disobedience.

Now the tough part of all this...  How many of us struggle with the exact same issue??  Partial obedience...  How often do we rationalize that our sacrifice is "good enough" rather than our best?  How often have we been prompted by the Holy Spirit to do something out of our comfort zone, thrown a bit of ourselves at the situation, then backed away slowly (or even turned and full-out ran!)?  It's like feeling the prompting to sit down with a cup of coffee next to a beggar and find out their story but instead handing them a $5 and going on your way.  It's like finding out there's a need, whether local or collective, within the body of the church and just adding a little to your tithe check assuming someone else will step up.  It's like knowing someone has a problem but instead of coming along side and helping, you offer to pray for someone else to.

God is calling us all to a greater level of obedience and sacrifice.  It involves hard work, getting our hands dirty, answering up EVERY time.  Because, if all of us answer up every time all the time, we will emulate the early church.  We will be a family that thrives and grows.  We will be tired but in a blessed contentment sort of way, not a burned-out-from-obligation sort of way.  I'll be honest, I struggle deeply with this myself.  I'm blessed with a home that, by American standards is modest, but by world standards, is nothing short of opulent!  Do I feel motivated to keep it clean and beautiful?  No.  Do I want to iron my husband's shirts and make his lunch as a quiet blessing to send him off to work with?  No.  Do I want to change diapers in the nursery at church?  No.  Is it what God is telling me to do?  Yes.  Will I?  Ah... that's where the rubber meets the road...  Will we choose the momentary comfort of selfishness?  Or, will we choose blessings immeasurable and unknown that follow obedience?

We recently got to meet a young family who are preparing to join a team in Scotland and launch a church.  They have sold much of their belongings and are packing up what remains to venture across the Atlantic and do what most of us would never dare.  We would find good reasons for it too... "We can't afford to", "It would traumatize our kids", "I'm needed here (whether work, family, church, etc.)", "We can't afford to", and "We can't afford to" are very often the main reason we all think of when we're backing up the thought popping into our heads that says either "I wish we could do that but..." or "That would be exciting but...".  That same young pastor, however, convicted me today with this Facebook status update:  "The more I observe others lives, and my own heart I have come to believe that one of the greatest enemies to the mission of God is our own entitlement. #denyself".

Now... if you will excuse me, I have a floor to clean, shirts to iron, and some seeds to plant... because I also know that my sons will learn a little from my words, but a lot from my actions.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Don't Fret, Pet

I've felt led to post something the last couple days but was at a loss what to write.  I went digging into some "e-votionals" that I wrote a couple years ago for a group of us who were praying and fasting corporately.  The following has been slightly modified but it's a topic that's been on my heart recently.  I pray it ministers to your heart...

We've all heard it said that "money is the root of all evil" (though it's actually "all kinds" rather than "all").  However, I suggest that fear is the greatest culprit for evil.  Every issue we face that I can think of can be traced back to fear or a variation thereof.  Anger, rage, lust, jealousy, coveting, thievery, murder, extortion, complacency, over-acheiving, neglect, you name it, they all come back to a fear of something.  Fear, on its own is a sin but opens the door to propagate a myriad of others.  However, God says: "I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you.  I said, 'You are my servant'; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.  So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  "All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish.  Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them.  Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all.  For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." (Isaiah 41:9-13)  Let God know what you struggle with and together He can help you find and address the root fear, repent of it, and forgive anyone whose offense planted it there.  

Last year my husband had the opportunity to fill in on a Sunday morning for our pastor to deliver the message.  His topic was "Fear Not" and during his sermon he shared that in the Word, God reiterates over and over, with varying terminology ("fear not", "be not afraid", "be anxious for nothing", etc).  In fact, it must be vitally important because He tells us that 366 times!  That's enough for every, single day of the year... including leap year!  Another beautiful thing is, that no matter what we fear, God has already made us promises to the contrary.  There is absolutely nothing we face that God has not already dealt with and promised you He would take care of.  Not job loss, not death, not terminal illness, not natural disasters, not family feuds, not crime, not tragedy of any sort, is outside God's reach and thus, you have no reason to feel anything but peace day in and day out.  I know, I know... it's the application that's tricky.  For the average one of us, living in complete peace is something of a biblical fairy tale that only legends lived, long ago and far away.  But that's not what God wants for us.  He wants us to "go in peace" and "sin no more".  In fact, I wonder, if we're at complete and total peace, is it possible to sin?  If we trust Him completely for everything then will we, theoretically, not be susceptible (or at least way less susceptible) to the temptation of sin?  As I was searching on the topic, with plans to use a small, simple scripture reference, I came across this passage and I had to include the whole thing...
"But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him.  He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.  He bestows rain on the earth; he sends water upon the countryside.   The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.  He thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success.  He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away.  Darkness comes upon them in the daytime; at noon they grope as in the night.  He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth; he saves them from the clutches of the powerful.  So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth.  "Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.  For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.  From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will befall you.  In famine he will ransom you from death, and in battle from the stroke of the sword.  You will be protected from the lash of the tongue, and need not fear when destruction comes. You will laugh at destruction and famine, and need not fear the beasts of the earth.  For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field, and the wild animals will be at peace with you.  You will know that your tent is secure; you will take stock of your property and find nothing missing.  You will know that your children will be many, and your descendants like the grass of the earth.  You will come to the grave in full vigor, like sheaves gathered in season.  "We have examined this, and it is true.  So hear it and apply it to yourself." (Job 5:8-27)  It's a much longer passage than usual, I know, but what a promise!  What blessed assurance!  My mom tells me that my great-grandmother used to tell her "Don't fret, pet."  What an excellent summation of the above passages!  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Change the World

I posted some time ago entitled "Butterfly: Affect"; about what an impact small actions, choices, words, etc. can have on our world.  It was inspired by a small book written by Andy Andrews; quick, easy, and extremely empowering read... I highly recommend it.  I reference it now because I want to tag onto my most recent post regarding our fifth baby who is waiting for us in the arms of Christ.

We had a beautiful memorial for him.  Part of me, honestly, wonders why... The logical side of my brain says that was kind of an unnecessary use of our time and resources... No one knew him, he never even took a breath...  However, the emotional and spiritual side of me says that every (and I mean EVERY) life matters and we chose to celebrate that.  As Dr. Seuss taught us, "a person's a person, no matter how small".  God says He has a purpose and a destiny for every life He creates.  We knew, even in the moments of our deepest ache of loss, that God had destined for Tobias to "accomplish" something in only 32 weeks worth of heartbeats.  Because of the impression Andrews' book made on me, because of the peace that God-given frame of mind brought us, we chose to use butterflies as a theme for the memorial.  I used the example of the chaos theory of the butterfly effect in what I shared that day and we finished the memorial with a release of monarchs outside the church.  Sadly, one butterfly remained in the box after we opened it but even that was a little "kiss" from God... I took it home, and carefully glued it to a piece of paper that says "You flapped your wings in secret... And changed the world".  It's in a small frame on my dresser now.

God is showing us the impact that Toby, our little "butterfly" is already making on the world.  The care team at the hospital sent us cards thanking us for the privilege of helping deliver him, friends have shared our story with others to bring them comfort and encouragement amidst their loss, I have people coming to me who need someone to talk to about their own experience, the link for the previous post is being passed, reposted, and shared, and the stats show me that Toby's story has reached as far as Poland, England, China, and Romania.

God is using a tiny baby, who never took a breath of air, to change the world.

He wants to use your tragedy too.  He doesn't want us to stay victims; He wants us to be victors.  He wants us to see our tragedy through Him, not try to see Him through our tragedy.  He wants us to see an opportunity to praise Him, honor Him, glorify Him, and serve Him in that ordeal.  Tragedy needs not be tragic.  You have purpose.  Your pain has purpose.  You have a destiny to reach into someone else's life and let them know they are not alone.  I can reach out to a woman who just lost a baby.  Maybe you can reach someone who lost a spouse.  Maybe you're battling a disease or other physical malady.  Maybe you survived a violent attack.  Maybe you're just... surviving.  Whatever you're going through, wherever you are, He has dropped you, like a pebble into a calm pond, with a plan to use those ripples to reach shores you may never see.

There's a family we got to know while part of a church up in Washington for a time.  Their 15 year old daughter, Jacoby, is a level 9 gymnast (for those that don't know much about gymnastics, this is just a level or two shy of the "elite" level where the Olympians compete).  Almost three months ago she was practicing her bar routine and, in the middle of the double-back dismount she's practiced countless times, she "got lost" mid-air... She opened up at the wrong time in her rotation and landed on her neck. She immediately lost feeling from the chest down.  Already she has been through surgeries, a long hospital stay, a lot of rehab, and adjusting to life in a chair.  We have followed the family's ordeal via their blog, Get Well Jacoby, prayed for them, and praised God for how He is using their story to reach people.  In the first week after her injury her dad said in a radio interview that they can now empathize with a group of people they never could before.  They do not know how much motion, feeling, or function Jacoby will ever regain (though she is working as hard as she can to get back on her feet!) but they do know that God has a plan for this and they have, the entire time, continued to praise Him for it.

I cannot remember the exact passage but during a study of Revelation I remember us discussing that there will be two different "judgments" before Christ (we were cross referencing between several books as we studied so I'm not sure the passage was even in Revelation); one being the judgment where Christ determines whose names are in the books of Life and Death; the other is the "bema" judgement.  "Bema" was the platform where an official presided over a contest and where victors were presented awards for their accomplishments.  I remember us discussing that this particular judgment will not take place at the end of our individual lives but rather at the end of everyone's lives.  One reason we pondered for this is because of our "ripples"...  Your story won't be complete until everyone else's story is complete whose life you touched.  Whether directly or indirectly, your life will affect other lives for generations.  You don't need to win a Nobel prize to change the world.  God can use you to change the world with even the smallest, seemingly mundane, actions (or, even, INactions if He calls you to not do something).

I know that praising God in the storms of our life runs counterintuitive to our nature.  It doesn't make sense to thank God for trials, does it?  That's like thanking a cop for a speeding ticket, a patient thanking a dentist for a root canal, an athlete thanking their coach for a brutal workout, or an employee thanking their boss for a heavy work load!  However, the testimony we bear beyond our trials correlates directly to how deeply we cling to and trust Him as those storms rage.  God wants to use you to change the world... will you let Him?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Surviving Death

*** NOTE:  The following is an account of something very emotional I went through; please be warned if you have a tender heart.  You may need tissues.  I pray God will guard your heart with a spirit of peace as you read. ***

Sometimes you know it's coming; like the rumble of a distant train.  The far-off whistle.  It gets closer.  It passes.  The noise, the enormity, the power, it's still overwhelming but you had a chance to brace your senses.  Sometimes, though, there's no warning...

Like heading down a main thoroughfare and all is well until life hits you like a Mac truck from a side street at 70 mph.  No way to brace yourself, you just have time to look before you're hit.

Life's trials.  Some you see coming; some you don't.

I realized in August of 2011 I was pregnant.  I was troubled because I really didn't want to be pregnant but found I was also upset with myself for not being joyful.  After all, God says children are a reward and a blessing.  There's so many people who WANT to be pregnant, and here I am, grumbling because I AM. I have to admit, I'm not sure I ever completely surrendered joyfully to this pregnancy and in some ways, I think I am still wrestling with it (but more on that later).

We found out in time to put it on our 2011 Christmas cards that we were looking forward to welcoming Tobias (our fifth boy) to our family in May of 2012.  So many friends and family had been praying we'd finally add a girl to the mix but I had resigned myself ahead of time, to avoid disappointment, that it was another boy.  We were content and spent the next couple months trying to convince our other boys not to be disappointed he wasn't a she!  (One of them, despite several reiterations, continued to tell anyone who would listen, that he was having a sister).  We had boy clothes, boy bedding, boy toys... we know boys so life would continue with familiar rhythm.

My fifth pregnancy was going nearly as text-book as the previous four.  The only exceptions were that I'd had the most severe morning sickness in the first trimester I'd ever had and a varicose vein that was throbbing if I didn't have my leg elevated or full-length support hose on (note: full-length maternity graduated support hose are an ordeal to get into, way too warm for Florida weather, and are by no means any kind of sexy... but they make a huge difference if you have circulation problems!)  Besides that, my weight gain was minimal, baby was growing, we were both healthy, and all was going normal.

With my OB's blessing, two of my boys, and my support stockings, I had to take a cross-country trip to Seattle in February.  My dad's wife had gone into hospice care, nearing the end of her battle with cancer; I wanted to see her before she passed and try to comfort my dad as he faced what was coming.  It was a nice trip, despite the reason, and the boys and I got some wonderful time with family and friends.  I was honored to be a vessel for God and pray peace and encouragement into my dad's sweet wife as she prepared to meet Jesus.  We flew home and back to life as usual...

A couple weeks after I had got back, my husband settled into bed, wrapped his arm around my round belly, and asked if "Toby" (as we were already calling him) was moving.  Not thinking much of it, I said no and assumed he was comfy and resting (most likely waiting for me to be nearly asleep before he started his nightly acrobatics!).  I didn't ponder it further, went to sleep, then had a pretty typical day following.

It was a Wednesday night.  There was youth group and then my husband had to attend a meeting with the church leadership.  There were a lot of problems going on, stress levels were high, and a lot of things were coming to a head.  I went home to put our kids to bed and one of the youth, my best friend's daughter, came to help.  After we got the boys settled and sat down on the couch, my young friend asked if the baby was moving and could she feel him.  I told her he wasn't and our conversation moved to other things.  My mind, however, did not.  It was in that moment the memory banks began to spin backward...

How long had it been since he'd moved??  I remembered the night before... Had it really been THAT long since he moved?  What kind of mother was I that I couldn't remember WHEN I last felt him!  The embers of panic began to smolder but I kept myself calm.  I went through checklists in my head of where I was when he last kicked me, what things I could do to get him to move, reassurances that he was probably fine and I was overreacting.

The panic wouldn't go away.

I can't remember if I asked my best friend when she came to pick up her daughter or if I texted her later,  sharing my concern, but I went and called my mom and poured a bath immediately.  I texted my husband.  No matter which way I lay on our bed, he wouldn't move.  I texted my husband again.  In the bath, he wouldn't move.  I sobbed prayer upon prayer as I went through my bath.  I dried off, dressed, and called my mom again.  She said call the hospital.  They said I was probably fine but go ahead and come get checked.  I called my best friend.  She came immediately.  My last resort... a cold pack from the freezer against the corner of my belly where I could feel him laying.  Nothing.  I called my husband.  He had finally gotten the texts and now my call and was heading home immediately while the pastor prayed.

I already knew.

I put on some comfortable clothes.  I couldn't decide whether to pack a bag; it was early enough in the pregnancy I hadn't done one yet.  The tears came in waves.  My husband rushed in and changed his clothes.  My friend arrived to stay with the children.  She had been crying already as she prayed.  We all hoped I was wrong.

As we got on the freeway to the hospital all that came to mind were hymns.  I did not grow up in church and I had only started learning any of the old hymns over the previous few years.  But, the words came.  When I didn't even know what to pray, words of praise and faith came in singing sobs all the way there.  I knew what was looming.  I knew Christ had felt what I felt... dread of what I was about to have to experience with no way around it but with an odd peace that I cannot describe.

We arrived at the hospital and had to tearfully explain to the check-in desk why I needed to get to the maternity wing.  (It seemed like every staff person from the door to the discharge had to ask what was going on... I felt like I explained it a hundred times).  Every one of them reassured me that all was probably ok and we'd be heading home, just fine, in no time.  Comforting smiles.  Attempts to hide their own concern that I might be right...  I felt sorry for them.

The poor little triage nurse in labor & delivery who had to do the initial ultrasound.  I actually apologized to her.  I know things like this are the hardest part of their job.  She tried to find the heartbeat.  Said the equipment must not be working right.  I knew.  I've been dopplered so many times.  I know that echoing sound as the sensor searches my belly.  I also knew how easy it had always been before this to find every baby's heartbeat.  I knew.  I prayed for God to rescue me.  He spoke into my heart "My beloved, I cannot... but I will be WITH you through it."  It was like the Holy Spirit squeezed my hand...

One of the midwives came in to do a confirmation scan.  I felt bad for her to be the one to say "I'm so sorry."  I felt bad for them now having to prepare themselves emotionally for my delivery.  They were all so kind.  Gentle.  Loving.  Patient.  The care team was a blessing.

It was all so surreal; so vivid and yet such a blur.  They said I had already begun to dilate, an indication my body already knew before I did.  They got me a room, an IV, a drip of pitocin to bring on labor.  They promised to do it slowly.  They offered to add something to my IV so I could rest while it progressed.  I couldn't decide.  I wish now I hadn't.  Or, at least asked for only half the dose.  While it was nice to let my brain go numb and doze off for a while, the drug left me foggy long after that.  Somehow I knew I should avoid the drugs but I didn't.  I would have liked to be more cognizant and aware than I was after delivering.

I don't remember what time it was but the contractions wouldn't let me sleep.  I didn't take long before it was time to push.  Then, it was all done.  They said his cord was attached to the placenta at the bottom, not in the center as is normal.  They said he probably got big enough that at one point he got comfy on his own cord, went to sleep, and never woke up.  They said when it happens it only takes about two minutes.  No way to foresee it.  No way to prevent it.  No way to undo it.

We held him.

We cried.

The nurses cried with us.

He would have looked just like the others.  Dark hair.  Cupid's bow lips.  Same nose.  So tiny.

They put a little gown on him with a hat so we could hold him a while.  Even more surreal; a very odd mix of emotional thoughts dancing with the analytical and logical.  Thoughts of what might have been and now would not be along side thoughts that this is not him, he is with Christ.

The care staff was wonderful and we were given a beautiful memory box, his footprint, a little flannel heart of the same material as his gown.  The nurses took pictures and even put them on a disc for us.

I was discharged less than 24 hours after arriving and we were home before dinner.  I would be thankful for my own bed and my husband's cuddles.  As soon as we got home we gathered our boys and shared, in words they would understand, what had happened.  They cried with us and asked a lot of questions that we did our best to answer.  This process repeated itself several times over the course of a couple weeks and tapered off.  Save for one aspect... Our eldest.  At almost 8 years old he "regressed" in some behaviors in the week following our loss.  We were befuddled at what was going on.  Thankfully my mom had flown in to visit for a week and got him to open up.  He was convinced his baby brother had died because he'd been praying for a sister.  He felt a deep guilt because he believed he was to blame.  We all took some time to love on and pray with him, reassuring him that there was nothing he could have done to make this happen nor prevent it.  It was a tender opportunity to share God's mercy and sovereignty as best we could to such a sweet, tender heart.  Not surprisingly, the behavior issues were remedied at the same time.

We met with a local funeral director who took care of everything that the church did not.  Paperwork.  Cremation.  An urn.  A memorial.  Music.  Words to say.  Scriptures to share.  All of it, so surreal.


The most profound thing I experienced through the entire thing was "peace that surpasses all understanding".  It was inexplicable.  I'm not sure I've felt God's presence so tangibly at any other stage of my life.  I could almost feel Him holding me up when I didn't think I could do it myself.  I don't think the question of "why?" ever entered my mind.  I had (have) such an absolute belief that the first thing my boy ever saw was the face of Christ.  I believe unshakably that he never experienced pain, fear, hunger, or sorrow but instead only knew God's love, peace and joy beyond the warmth, safety and love we tried to convey to him as he grew.

I learned through this that tragedy will, at some point, strike every one of us BUT tragedy does not need to be tragic.  While Tobias' life was cut short according to our expectations, God showed us that even in just 32 weeks, his little life had purpose.  I have a new testimony, a new purpose, I have discovered a new depth of faith, and I have experienced God's peace, all in ways I would have missed if all had gone according to our idea of "normal".  I can reach out to an entirely new group of people that I couldn't before.  (And, incidentally, have been embraced into a group I never knew before... I found out that stillbirths actually happen to about 1 in 200 women; when Toby passed I was shocked at the number of women I knew coming out of the woodwork to share their own story and offer comfort)

God has taught me a lot in the last several years about surrender.  This was the most intense test yet.  Through it though, He showed me that we must never hold on to anything (or anyone) so tightly that losing it (them) would shake our faith.  This is another post for another time, but we nearly lost our fourth boy at birth due to a completely different issue and in the year following God allowed me to ponder long and hard on life, death, His absolute sovereignty, and how much control we do not have.  In the moments leading up to my fourth son's birth the Holy Spirit reminded me "You talk about how your days are numbered; remember his are as well.  Some people get 30 minutes, some 30 years, some more, some less.  I am in control."  It was that experience, that, while nothing can prepare someone for a stillbirth, that was as much a preparation I could have had.  By the time I was in the car heading to the hospital I already felt the still, small voice, whispering "surrender" in the most comforting way.

I cannot fathom how I (or anyone else) could survive life's tragedies without faith that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28, paraphrased).  There have been some other, less epic, trials over the last year but this has brought such perspective.  It has given me a plumb line of sorts, a keel, a genuine depth of peace, that every trial is part of His plans for our lives.  That's not to say that God wanted me to lose my son; but rather He knew it was coming and had a plan to use it for glory, not despair.  He wants to do the same in your tragedy.  Nothing surprises Him, nothing catches Him off guard.  Your prayers will never find Him sleeping.  He is with you through it, holding you, even when you don't realize it.  He will always win with the cards you've been dealt, no matter how bad the hand looks.  No matter how impossible it looks, trust Him to use it.  Don't try to figure out how or decide what the best thing is for Him to do.  His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts.  All that matters is that He promised.  He didn't say how or when.  Life's tragedies will come.  If we try to hide from them, prevent them, or just wring our hands while we mourn what hasn't even taken place, then we'll miss out on blessings beyond measure.

Like the lyrics to the children's song "Going on a Bear Hunt" that say "Can't go over it, can't go under it, can't go around it, gotta go through it!", such is life.  It is a bittersweet adventure but He is inviting us to even survive death.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

It's Been a While

It's been more than a year now since my keyboard and I spent much time together.  For any who I may have upset by my hiatus, I apologize.  I had a whole lot of "life"bombard me in the last year and while writing would have been very therapeutic, I was too raw to put much of it down in uplifting eloquence.

When I first stopped writing in November of '11 I was struggling with the worst morning sickness five pregnancies ever produced.  Having four boys prior and many friends and family hoping for a girl, I tried to keep it to myself how terribly ill I felt so they wouldn't take it as a sure sign of our family finally getting a baby girl.  After the Christmas season we prayerfully made the choice to homeschool our oldest boy (watch for a post about God changing my heart in that area!), which then of course required more of my daytime focus and caused more night time exhaustion.  February brought a trip to the west coast to try and comfort my dad and say our farewells to his wife as she neared the end of her battle with colon cancer.  Two weeks after my return would begin the real roller coaster ride that defined our 2012...

March 22, 2012, our fifth baby, Tobias, was stillborn at 32 weeks.  The cause is unknown but speculated to have been where his cord was attached to the placenta (marginal insertion, for all you medical types out there).  I'm still crafting the post for this one because it was so painful but so profoundly spiritual at the same time.

Two weeks later my dad's wife passed.  Two more weeks, a friend from church passed.  Two more weeks, our church was divided and split.  Two more weeks, another friend from church passed as well as some friendships suffered with the division.  Somewhere in all that God called my husband to resign his position within the church and for us to move to a new church home.  (There will probably be posts about all that as well...)

About two months brought four deaths, one church split, and many broken hearts.  Our world was upside down.  Thankfully we knew right where God was leading us for a new "home" but there was time that we needed to breathe, recover, heal, find our footing and process the hard lessons in surrender, boldness, humility, grace, forgiveness, and perspective.  Several months later, my husband in a new position with our new church family, a new school year (where we are now homeschooling all the boys), a visit from my mom and step-dad in December, and now, a new calendar year...  I believe we are getting settled in our new normal.  I can't fathom how we could have got through all we did without the "peace that surpasses all understanding".

Where I grew up west of the Cascade mountains, it rains.  A lot.  Not like the kind of rain here in Florida... as if God just up-ended a bucket over our heads... No, it drizzles.  For days.  Weeks.  Even a month or more solid of gray, gloomy, drizzle.  However, the summers are absolutely PERFECT!  Low humidity, comfortable temps, light breezes, breathtaking sunsets, life in full-bloom...

I know a lot of people outside the Northwest don't understand why anyone would want to live there.  (In fact, there are people IN the Northwest who don't understand why they themselves choose to live there!)  Ministry, parenthood, homeschooling, they're all similar...  So many tough days that it's easy to question why you do it.  It's the beauty.  Even though the ratio of beauty to gloom, numerically speaking, is at a significant deficit, the beauty is so beautiful that the gloom is worth it.  The promise of sunshine is enough to get you through the rain storm and the rain storms often intensify the brilliance of the beauty on the other side.

Glimpses of Heaven to get you through the trials of life.

Rays of SONshine between clouds of tribulation.

God has held me in my storm, He has set my feet on dry, solid ground, He has made me promises.  He will do the same for you, dear one.