Thursday, June 15, 2017

Death Is A Miracle

Sometimes life royally sucks.  Today I had to tell my kids that one of their teachers passed away.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after my mom was and they both ended treatments right around the same time.  I spent quite a bit of time talking with this teacher about her cancer journey because it paralleled my mom's journey so much.  She was so hopeful and cheerful and kept on teaching all through chemo taking only one day a week off for chemo treatments--really, she was a saint in my mind for doing that.  She finished her last round of chemo right before Christmas break and came back to school full time in January.  Three months later she left school in the middle of the day after getting sick and she was never able to come back.

I just helped my kids through their sadness over their grandpa dying last week.  That was much easier for them because it made sense.  He was 96 and steadily declining.  He was ready and praying for heaven.  

This time it doesn't make sense.  Their teacher was young. She was full of life.  She did a cartwheel in the middle of class one day.  She was fun and wonderful and an excellent teacher.  She even managed to teach my son how to write papers and spell!  

I found myself getting angry.  All those kids in the school had been praying for her all school year.  They expected her to get better and to come back in the fall ready to teacher again.  Their faith was strong that she would be healed.  And then she wasn't.  Why didn't God answer all those prayers?

Where was her miracle???

And I felt like God said to me that Death is a miracle.  We pray for miracles all the time.  For people to be healed, relationships restored, money to be provided, etc.  But all of these things are temporal miracles.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  But in death, a Christian is brought to new life with Christ in heaven.  Bodies are restored to perfection.  The broken relationship between God and man is fully restored.  Temporal life is transformed into eternal life with God forever.  

No, this wasn't the miracle that we had all been praying for because we wanted her to stay here with us.  But God did answer our prayers.  He did miraculously restore her body to complete health.  He did make her hair grow back into its spunky blond waves.  He replaced her off-key singing voice with an angelically beautiful one (this was Lizzy's assessment).  She is no longer in pain.  No longer suffering.  No longer tired and broken and sick.  She is at the feet of Jesus singing, doing cartwheels and miraculously healed.

It still hurts the living.  Hearts are a bit broken right now in my house.  But we can rest assured that God is at work even in the midst of our grief and sorrow.  There is life after death.  And death in Christ is a miracle.

Now we do not want you to be uniformed, believers, about those who are asleep [in death], so that you will not grieve [for them] as the others do who have no hope [beyond this present life].  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again [as in fact He did], even so God [in this same way--by raising them from the dead] will bring with Him those [believers] who have fallen asleep in Jesus.  
~1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Monday, June 5, 2017

You Will Receive Power--Come Holy Spirit

Pentecost Sunday. The day that we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the early followers of Jesus. This is what the liturgical Church celebrated this past Sunday. And it got me thinking about my own experience with the Holy Spirit.

I was 8 years old and went to a week long summer camp hosted by the prayer group I am a member of.  This is no ordinary summer camp.  While the kids do all the normal "camp stuff," the main purpose of the camp is to help the kids grow in their relationship with the Lord.  On Wednesday night every year, there is a prayer meeting where the kids are prayed over for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit or for gifts of the Holy Spirit.  So, my first experience with the Holy Spirit was on a Wednesday night when I was 8.  I was prayed over for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and I remember being so overwhelmed by the Lord that I cried and laughed at the same time.  

Since that day almost 30 years ago, I have never regretted that decision I made as a child.  Yes, every believer has the Holy Spirit at work in them already and that is a good thing.  But what I asked for was to experience Him in new and powerful ways.  To more fully experience the life, the work, the fruit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The charismatic experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit is one of coming into a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, to become open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in one's life, and to begin worshiping the Lord in a particularly charismatic way: loud praise and worship with room given to exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  

Of course all of this didn't happen in one fell swoop when I was 8.  As a child, I had only a child's understanding of what any of this meant.  I knew that I wanted God to be more fully at work in my life and that being baptized in the Holy Spirit would help me get there.  

It was while I was in college that I made an adult decision to live my life fully for the Lord.  My first two years of college, I talked the talk, but I didn't always walk the walk.  The Holy Spirit would knock on my heart and convict me, and I would tell the Holy Spirit to leave me alone.  But the Holy Spirit just kept coming back over and over until finally I listened and set my heart back on the right path.

It hasn't been until the past 5 years or so that I have really started to embrace the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given me.  I used to think that when I tried praying in tongues that I was just making the words up.  But the Lord has taught me that praying in tongues is a powerful prayer.  When I pray for people to be healed, when I pray for people to be freed from the ever-harassing devil, when I don't know what to pray, I pray in tongues.

I practice discernment when I pray for people.  Sometimes they only tell you a little bit of what's going on, but the Holy Spirit puts thoughts in your mind of what might also be going on, and when I share that with the person, it is spot on.  I use wisdom in parenting.  When one of my kids comes to me with a problem or a question, or if I have a discipline issue that I don't know what to do about, I pray for wisdom and wait for the Holy Spirit to lead me so that I can address the situation to His glory.

I even have a gift that I have asked for and am still working on--the gift of healing.  This is one of those gifts where the more you use it, the more it grows.  But you really do have to use it for it to work.  And I am not usually quick to offer to pray for people I don't know well.  Hence why it is a gift in progress.

As an adult, having grown up in an environment where people pray and worship with gusto, where they raise their hands and prophesy, where they ask for and receive spiritual gifts to be used to build up others, where they pray over people for healing and they receive healing?  It is like getting a small glimpse of heaven on earth.

Pentecost serves as a reminder to all believers that God is a Trinity.  He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  May all believers pray for a further outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  And Jesus promised that He would send His Spirit to be our Helper and Guide and source of Power.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you: and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  Acts 1:8

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Cavalry Arrives (The Day We Came Close To Losing Our House--Part 2)

You know how when you are watching an epic battle scene where the good guys are completely outnumbered and it looks like they are about to lose and die?  That is how it felt when I looked at my yard after the tree fell down.  Complete regret at having hired these people and wondering if all was lost on getting a real backyard.

We sat down to dinner that night and no tree crew.  I cleaned up the kitchen, still no tree crew.  Just before 7:00pm, I see a bucket truck drive past my house.  I see a truck pulling a wood chipper.  I see a third truck.  And I am excited!  The cavalry had arrived!

So fun to watch that even Kitty got in on the action

Five guys hop out of their respective vehicles, the new Boss Man talks to me for a few minutes about what needs to get done, I ask him who is paying for this (I just want to be clear that it is not me), and he laughs and says, "I am going to charge the other guy whatever I want."  He turns to his crew and says, "Let's go, boys."

It was amazing.  Watching them haul back the wood chipper, power up their chainsaws, and the Boss Man drive around the side of the house on "The Claw."  I felt like I was watching The Lord of the Rings when the reinforcements arrived and turned the whole tide of the battle.

The Claw--I'm sure it has a real name, but I like mine better

The guys cut down the rest of the trees, turned all the branches into wood chips, and essentially clear cut our entire property leaving a big, open, usable space.  It was pretty impressive to watch.

A panoramic view of our now cleared out backyard

Joy checking out The Claw in our newly cleared backyard

The Dead-To-Me landscaping company came back to finish the job I'd hired them to do.  Except they sent all new guys because I think the original guys may have been afraid of me.  Oops.  They rototilled up the pool area, raked out all the weeds, hauled in dirt, seeded it and covered it with straw.  Now we are waiting for the tree people to come back and grind the stumps (gotta have MISS DIG come out first of course), then we will clear out the rest of the backyard and seed it so we will have one big yard for years to come.  My once ugly, overgrown backyard is going to be beautiful.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Day We Came Close To Losing Our House-Part 1

Eight years ago we had an above ground pool removed from our backyard.  We had every intention of turning the now blank space into yard, but life and time got away from us.  Which means for the past eight years I have looked out my back windows and seen this.

We tried several times to tame the beast of weeds, my mother-in-law took a crack at it and ended up with a wicked case of poison ivy (sorry Mom!).  But every year the beast just kept getting worse and worse.  And every time I looked out my windows, it just made sad and stressed because it was ugly and meant I had this big project hanging over my shoulder.

This spring I'd had enough.  I informed Hubby that I was calling a landscaping service and paying to get it turned into lawn.  I had two companies come out, and when I was standing outside with the second guy, I started looking at the five nearly dead pine trees and asked if he also did tree removal.  Thus was born a much bigger project.

The landscapers came out last week and started cutting down the trees.  I watched from the window as the two guys attempted to cut down tree number one.  I was horrified.  Their methods were completely wrong even to this lady who has never cut down a tree.  But I assure you their methods looked nothing like in the movies or on YouTube.  I asked Hubby what I should do.  He asked me if they were bonded and insured.  Yes, I did check before hiring them.  He said to sit back and enjoy the show.  I watched their chainsaw break three times, get stuck twice, and one of the guys get nearly crushed when the tree started falling and he was in the way.

The guys did manage to take down the first tree without killing anyone or destroying my house.  But when they got to the second tree, things went a little.....crazy.  First, they tried to straight cut the tree.  No notching.  I watched them struggle for a while to get the tree down with more cutting, pushing, and even using chains to pull it over.  Not sure how safe that option was.  The boss showed up and looked over the tree.  I then watched them strap the nearly cut down tree to another tree.  I assumed so it would fall in the right direction.  Next thing I know the three guys are in my driveway getting in their trucks about to drive away.  I ran out the door in my socks to flag down the boss to see what the heck they were doing just leaving the tree like that.  Turns out they decided the project was too much for them and were calling in someone else with the right equipment.  They should be to my house in under two hours.  O-kaaaaay.

This is NOT how you cut down a tree

This is NOT how you keep a tree upright

They left around 1pm.  I left to run errands and get the kids from school.  We got home around 4pm and no tree crew.  I took pictures of the tree and their tow rope hack job.  I looked at the tree some more and realized it was leaning toward my house.  I decided it was in my best interest to take videos of the contents of the rooms on the backside of my house.  Just in case the tree fell on the house.  I then called Boss Man and asked when the tree crew was coming.  He said he would call them and call me right back.

In the ten minute interim, David went into the backyard to examine the tree and then get the lawn mower out of the shed.  He had just made it to the front yard and I went outside to talk to him when I heard a loud crack.  It took a second for the sound to register and then I went running.  Oh my gosh!  The tree just fell down!  What did it hit?!?!?!  

The tree fell down

This shows how much of the tree was not when they
decided it was safe to just leave it

Thankfully, God blessedly, it fell into the woods and hurt nothing.  But my heart was racing and Boss Man chose that moment to call me back.  Some words that were not the nicest flew out of my mouth.  "The tree just fell down!  It could have killed my kids who were just back here!  It could have taken out my house!  What were you guys thinking???  Those guys who were over here cutting down the trees are idiots and have no business being around a chainsaw until they are properly trained on how to cut down a tree.  Even I know that their methods were wrong and I only know what I've seen on TV and YouTube!"  And so on and so on.  I was mad, I was pumped up on adrenaline, and he caught me right in the moment.  

Boss Man kind of apologized, said that wasn't good, but that a tree crew would be at my house as soon as they finished up their current project.  No real apology, no remorse for leaving a big, hulking, nearly cut down tree just standing there where it could have fallen down on anyone or anything.  I hung up the phone disgusted and vowed never to use that landscape company again.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Life As A Track Mom

I spent seven years as a soccer mom and two years as a cross country mom, but nothing about either of those roles prepared me for being a track mom.  I've watched soccer games in the snow, in the rain, in the blazing heat, and in the middle of mosquito swarming season.  I have watched cross country meets in the rain and in the heat, slapping off mosquitoes.

Watching David's soccer game in a sleet storm

I found soccer to be fun, mostly because my kids were part of the homeschool soccer league and many of their friends were also on their teams.  Meaning I got to hang out with the parents and catch up.

Soccer on a really hot day

Cross country I found to be a little less than...thrilling.  They run on courses that take them through fields and woods, most of which are out of sight, so you stand around for twenty or so minutes while your child is running, and you catch maybe three glimpses of them between the start and finish lines.  But the good thing about cross country is that the meets are short.

This spring I became a track mom.  Nothing I have ever done as a mother adequately prepared me for what it means to be a track mom.  The meets are not local.  Local meets are for weaklings.  No, David's meets require waking up early on a Saturday morning and driving a minimum of an hour and a half across the state to parts of Michigan that we have never seen before.

You must pack food, large quantities of food, because track meets are long.  Not a few hours long, but a few hundred hours long.  At a track meet, time literally stands still.  Or at least that is how it feels.  After you think that you have already been there for an eternity, you look at your phone and realize that it's only been five minutes.  You think about crying.  You sit there on a hard bleacher for hours and hours, waiting in between the various races that your child is competing in.  Which means that depending on the events your child is in, you could sit there for 4-8 hours, just to see your child run for a total of 1-2 minutes.

Notice the hate, 2 hoodies, and blanket--track meet--still cold

Track meets can be cold.  Bone-numbingly cold.  David's first track meet lasted more than seven hours (and that does not count the field events that happened earlier in the morning that David mercifully did not choose to participate in).  I had on a shirt, two hoodies, a winter hat, gloves, wool socks, and wrapped myself in two blankets.  I was still cold.  I lost feeling in my legs and feet.  My nose nearly froze off.  I contemplated strangling the people running the track meet for being so inefficient.  But I made it through the event and decided this would be the last season David was allowed to do track.

The second meet was overcast but warmer and mercifully, shorter.  We were only there for a little under four hours.  By the time the track meet was over, I still had feeling in all my extremities so I considered it a success.

The third meet was a lot like the second.  Except this time the sun came out.  Of course I did not factor in the need for sunscreen.  After four hours of sitting in on and off again sun, my face looked like a tomato.  Lesson learned.  But at this meet, David actually made the cut to run in the 100 meter dash final.  First there are the prelims where all the kids competing in the 100m event race in heats.  The top 8 runners move on to the final race.  David ultimately fell in the final, but it was exciting to see him do well.

Which brings me to his final meet.  David's relay team made the cut to go to the State finals for the 4x100m relay.  The meet is an hour and a half away.  As we were driving home from his meet this past weekend, it dawned on me.  We will be spending three hours in the car to go to a track meet where we will sit and wait just to see David run in a race that lasts about 1 minute, his part being about 15 seconds.  Yes, we will be driving three hours to see David run for 15 seconds.

Thus is the life of a track mom.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

When Life Doesn't Feel Worth It

A teacher in my area committed suicide recently.  He wasn't a teacher at my kids' school, but was a favorite teacher at their friend's school.  For various reasons, it came up in conversation in my house.  We have talked about suicide in the past, but only in very simple terms.  

Today on the way to school, Lizzy asked about this man and why he would decide to end his life.  The news hasn't indicated his motivation.  I could only speculate--I said that there are many reasons why people feel their only option is to end it.  Financial stress, relationship issues, mental illness, physical ailments, addiction, abuse, feeling hopeless.  For teenagers, the most common reason I read about is from being bullied.  My kids were shocked.  

"I want you to hear me very clearly:  If you ever find yourself in a place where you think that it would be better to be dead, you come to me.  If you are being bullied, we will pull you right out of that school.  If you have made choices that leave you feeling trapped, you talk to me and I will help you.  I don't ever want you to think that there is no other choice.  Because that just isn't true."

When you are in the thick of things, it can be hard to remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I have been there.  Five years ago I found myself at a busy intersection wondering what would happen if I just drove on through when it wasn't my turn.  As a middle school kid, I thought about suicide on more than one occasion.  I couldn't even tell you what was going on in my life when I was 13 that made me feel that way.  

As an adult, as I sat at that red light, I knew that it was time to get help.  I hadn't realized I was that bad off until that moment.  And it scared me.  I made an appointment with my doctor and got put on effective meds.  Best decision ever.  

Again, just a few months ago, I found myself understanding why people with chronic pain/illnesses/disabilities would feel suicide was the answer.  After months of dealing with chronic muscle/joint/nerve pain with no diagnosis or end in sight, I started to see how it could get to be too much for someone.  Living life in pain sucks.  Without God sustaining me, I could see myself falling into depression and feeling hopeless.  

So I get it.  I get that life is hard and painful and scary and ugly.  That people can be mean and nasty.  That jobs can be lost, finances gone.  That addictions can leave people feeling trapped.  These things are real issues.  The struggles are real and difficult.  

Which is why I am real with my kids.  I can hope that they never feel this way, but the reality is that they probably will find themselves at least once wondering if life is worth living.  I need them to know that it is.  That there is nothing that we can't work through.  That in the moment they may feel hopeless, but God, Hubby and I will see them through to the other side.  

Friday, May 12, 2017

Life In The Sweet Spot

Parenting used to be a lot harder when my kids were younger.  Midnight feedings, inconvenient and stinky diaper changes, teaching little children about impulse control...  Of course I loved my kids, but  the end of the day usually found me burned out and just wanting them to go to bed.

As time has gone by, and as my kids have gotten more capable, things are shifting in my house.  The burden of care has shifted from me doing everything to them doing almost everything for themselves.  And they are now helpful members of the family.  They do yard work, dishes, cleaning, some cooking.  Basically, my kids now pull their own weight.

Along with this, my kids have matured as people.  My kids are funny, intelligent, creative, fun to be around.  They are pursuing things they are interested in.  They're becoming young adults.  And it is so fun to watch them grow.  I am fully aware that right now we are living in the sweet spot between "young kids" and "hormones."  And I fully plan to enjoy every blessed moment of it.

Over the past year, each of my kids have discovered new interests that they are excited about.  David took up cross country and track last year, but this year he has really gotten into it.  He enjoys practice, he enjoys the meets.  He even runs at home outside of practice.

Lizzy has found a love of kayaking.  Her grandma got a kayak that she keeps at the lake house.  My kids have all taken turns trying it, but Lizzy LOVES it.  So much so that she asked for her own kayak for her birthday.

Joy started in cross country and track this year.  She really looks forward to practice, but has chosen to forgo the meets until next year.  Which is just fine with me.  But something new that she has taken to is the guitar.  Hubby had his guitar out the other night, Joy expressed interest in learning how to play, and the next thing I know Joy has her own guitar (Hubby's old one) and is practicing the four chords Hubby taught her.

Time really does fly by when it comes to raising kids.  Yesterday they were all still in car seats and diapers.  Today my oldest is about to graduate from middle school and my youngest is telling me that she will make me breakfast because I am too busy getting stuff ready for the Confirmation party to make my own.  We've transitioned from Thomas the Train discussions to having in depth conversations about things like North Korea and birth control because my kids asked.

It is so much fun watching my kids grow into who God has made them to be.  To see them become their own people.  To encourage them as they discover new interests and passions.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Confirmation: What's The Point?

I grew up in a very small Evangelical church that had some traditions, but not many.  Yes, I was baptized and went through "classes" to learn the Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Ten Commandments, and other pillars of the Christian faith.  My church was definitely Bible believing, but it was very much not a "traditional" church.

Fast forward to my adulthood and married life.  The church was disbanded, so the Hubs and I were tasked with finding a new church home.  As a Protestant, finding a church isn't as easy as it would seem.  We spent two years at a larger Evangelical church, but it was over a half hour away and was hard on the family to get there.  We then attended an Anglican church for two years, had our kids baptized, and were about to join the church when the Pastor announced he was moving away.  The church floundered at that point, and we decided that we were ready to try something else.  We visited many churches--Baptist, Presbyterian, nondenominational, Lutheran.  I didn't like any of them.  We stopped going almost all together for about a year.

It was at this point that I had to wrestle with my faith as an adult, to decide what doctrine I actually believed apart from my upbringing.  I had to decide what aspects of church life were essential to my faith, and what aspects just got in the way.

One day I remember Hubs laying on the couch, I was sitting on the floor, and we were talking about church and my wanting to stop homeschooling.  I jokingly told Hubby that we needed to join the Lutheran church so we could get the school discount and then send our kids there.  He said, "Yes we should.  I liked that church."  I gave him a funny look because we had visited that church several times over two years, but he hadn't ever expressed an opinion of it either way.

But it was that conversation that changed the course of our family church and school life.  The next Sunday we started going to our church, went through the church membership class, dropped out of the membership class halfway through after I encountered aspects of the faith that I didn't agree with.  Hubs and I worked through it, I decided to agree to disagree on a few issues and go with it anyway, we joined up with the next membership class,finished it and then joined the church.  Our kids started at the school the next fall.

David began the two-year-long Confirmation process at school.  As David was going through all the work involved--prayer journals, writing weekly family devotionals, service hours, required family service projects, sermon reports, etc, I started to wonder if it was even worth it.  What was the big deal about being Confirmed?  I was never Confirmed and I turned out alright.  Yes, it meant he would be able to officially take Communion, which was about the only benefit I saw in actually finishing the process.  The education aspect was a good thing, learning the Creeds, the Bible, the Salvation story, so that was good.  But I didn't see the point of the actual act of Confirming kids.

On Sunday David was Confirmed.  It wasn't until the 8th graders all stood up and stated their beliefs in God, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Faith, that it really made sense to me.  These teenagers stand there in white robes, publicly proclaim their decision to follow God, are blessed by the Pastor, prayed over, and receive their first Communion.  It reminded me of a wedding.  Which I am sure is actually the point.  It is a believer's decision to join in Holy union with God.  They say, "I do" and God says, "Eat my Body which was broken for you, Drink my Blood which was poured out for you."  The entire thing is actually completely right and beautiful.  And it really is a big deal.  

Showing off his Confirmation present stash--
a Bible and devotional were not pictured

Friday, March 10, 2017

Why Should We Pray

The first time I have ever seen a sun dog (or even heard of it)

As we drove home from youth group last night, I asked David and Lizzy what they talked about in their respective groups (junior high boys or girls groups).  Lizzy said that they talked about having prayer times.  I asked her why we should have daily prayer times.  "I don't know."  Hmmm.

I thought about that for a minute and had an idea:

I have two friends.  You only have two friends?  No, I have lots of friends, but this story is only about two of them.  One friend I met in junior high.  We were great friends, spent lots of time together.  Then she left my school and moved to another town about a half hour away.  I saw her less, but we still got together for sleepovers and talked on the phone (this was in the stone age before texting and email).  We kept this up until college when life got busier.  We still saw each other on occasion and were even in each other's weddings.  Then we started having kids and she moved even further away and we lost touch.  Now we are friends only on facebook.

And then there is my other friend.  We talk on the phone regularly, text, and meet up to hang out.  Sometimes we get together as families and sometimes I meet her for coffee just to talk.  Most of the time our conversations aren't really profound or important.  They are just about life.  But every now and then we will talk about things going on in our lives and she will say something that changes how I see something, or vice versa.  Or if one of us has a problem, she will help me or I will help her.

I want you to think about this as it relates to God.  Most of your prayer times won't be profound.  They will just be shooting the breeze with God and building a relationship.  But sometimes God will speak to you in a powerful way, give you direction, help you with something, or even give you a new perspective that will change your entire life's course.  

If one in ten prayer times are profound, and you only pray once a week, you will only have that moment 5 times in a year.  But if you pray every day, you will have that 36 times!

And on those normal, un-profound days, they aren't wasted.  You are building intimacy with God.  You are getting to know Him, His real character.  Over time it will shape your character to be more like Him.  It will keep your ears open for when He speaks to you.  It will help you to see the world through His eyes and not yours."

All three of us left the car with a whole new perspective on daily prayer.  As I shared this with my kids, a light bulb went on in my own heart.  For years I have approached daily prayer expecting God to speak to me in a big way every day.  And getting mad or feeling hurt when God didn't.  I have been brushing aside the day-to-day relationship as insignificant.  I have been viewing reading the Bible and uneventful prayer as boring.  No words from the Lord, no profound inspiration, no mountain tops every day.  But these types of days are the ones that build the intimacy and the relationship which set us up for God to be able to speak into our lives when the time is right.  And the more I pray, the more I get to know God and His character, and the more His character can form my character and make me more like Him.

I will approach prayer in a whole new light.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Winning Her Heart

I thought all of my kids were finally tucked in bed last night.  I turned on my latest Netflix binge-show, settled in with my fuzzy blanket, and 3 minutes into the show I hear footsteps coming my way.  One of my kids were not in bed.  (Insert eye roll)  I nearly unleashed "exasperated mom" on said kid, until I looked at her eyes.  They were sad and a little red.  Hmm.

"Mom, I need to tell you something.  Lately I've been wondering if God is even real."

She went on to mirror many of my own thoughts that I have been wrestling with over the past 6 months.  Which is how I could look at her with absolute love and say, "I understand.  A few weeks ago I said the exact same thing to Dad because I was mad at God for not taking away my pain.  I started to wonder if He existed or if He was just man made.  Sometimes when we are struggling, or busy, or when God isn't answering us in the way we want, we can find ourselves wrestling with God being real."

I continued, "I will tell you what Dad told me.  If you have a friend that you stop talking to for weeks, months, or years, what happens to the relationship?  It fades.  If you want to feel closer to God, you need to start praying and talking to Him.  You need to tell Him how you feel and what is really going on.  None of it is a surprise to God, and even if you tell Him you're questioning His existence, He will never stop loving you."

She told me that she wanted a relationship with God like her teacher has.  Her teacher who, like my mom, just finished chemotherapy for breast cancer.  Through the experience, her teacher shared about how much closer she grew to God, how God was right there with her through it all.  (How awesome that my child's teacher shared that with the class.  All these kids who will remember that for years to come and when they hit their own "big struggles" down the road, I pray they remember that and emulate their teacher.)

I said, "Child, lets work on getting to that place without having to go through cancer.  Your teacher is an awesome example of a woman who loves God, and you would do well to want to be like her.  And your starting point is to start talking to God again.  If you spend 10 minutes praying and reading your Bible every morning when you usually read a book, that will get things moving in the right direction."

We prayed together, I asked God to speak to her heart and to remind her that He loves her.  She thanked me and went off to bed.

A half hour later, I hear footsteps again and there is said child holding a notebook, eyes red, but this time with a huge smile on her face.

"Mom, isn't it awesome when God tells us exactly what we need to hear?"  She read the words that she heard from the Lord to me, about how He loves her, that He knows her, to trust Him, that He holds her in His hands and will never let her go.  "Mom, I'm so happy."  And then she skipped off to bed.

There are days when my children act almost feral and I wonder what will become of them when they are all grown up and out of my home.  Will they remember what their Dad and I have taught them over the years?  Will they continue to love Jesus and serve Him all the days of their lives?  Will they at least stay out of jail?

Thankfully, there are also moments like last night where you get to witness God working in your child's life in awesome and powerful ways.  Where God reminds you once again that He loves your children even more than you do.  To trust Him to win their hearts.  Just like He seeks to win your own heart.

Monday, February 27, 2017

It Is Well With My Soul

I saw this in the clearance section at the store today.  It came home with me.

Horatio G. Spafford was a successful, blessed man.  He had a wife named Anna, 4 daughters, 1 son, and owned a business.  In the space of 2 years, much of his business burned down in the Chicago Fire, his son died from pneumonia, and his 4 daughters drowned when their ship collided with another ship while crossing the Atlantic.  His wife, who was also on the ship, was rescued.  Here is a man who has literally lost everything except his wife.  He had 2 really, really awful years.

Any normal man would rail at God and ask, Why?  Why did You take away everything?  Any normal woman would rail at God and say the same thing.  Yet, somehow, Horatio and Anna were different.  As Anna waited for Horatio to cross the Atlantic to comfort her in her grief, she clung to God's unfailing goodness.  Another of the ship's survivors, Pastor Weiss, later recalled Anna saying, "God gave me four daughters.  Now they have been taken from me.  Someday I will understand why."

As Horatio journeyed across the Atlantic to be at his wife's side, he wrote the words to the hymn,

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul

Thou Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

For the past week I have been meditating on the words of this hymn.  As my body hurts and my energy fades, it is well with my soul.  As I look around at my messy house, it is well with my soul.  As I have a bunch of things to get done today, it is well with my soul.

Why can I, as a Christian, say with absolute certainty that it is well with my soul regardless of my circumstances?  Because I know that my body, this life, my troubles, and afflictions are all temporary.  The only thing that matters is that my sin is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more.  Today I cannot understand why God has allowed me to walk through the journey of chronic pain.  But I know that one day I will understand why.  And I can rest secure in knowing that in Christ, whatever my lot, it is well with my soul.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

He Will Give You Immeasurably More Than You Ask

Now to Him Who is able to do immeasurably more, 
far over and above all that we dark ask or think 
[infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams] ---
To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus 
throughout all generations forever and ever.  Amen.
~Ephesians 3:20-21 
(blended NIV and AMP version)

My kids had their mid-winter break this past weekend, so no school on Friday and Monday.  The Hubby was at a men's retreat for the weekend.  So of course my first thought was that I had to take the kids to the lake house.  I asked the in-laws if we could use it, but someone else had already reserved it.  The kids and I were bummed.  We all love the lake house (though if you asked David, he would say he'd rather stay home because he's lame, so we never ask for his opinion on trips up north).

As luck would have it, my sister and brother-in-law were going on a marriage retreat the same weekend, so my mom agreed to watch their kids.  So I knew that my kids would at least have some cousin time to look forward to.

Now, let's talk about Michigan weather for a few minutes.  I grew up learning that my part of Michigan is the third cloudiest area in the country.  The month of January we actually ended up being the cloudiest area on earth.  I glimpsed the sun for about 15 minutes one day in January.  I'm not sure if you live in a place where all you see is gloom and dreary skies for days on end.  But by the end of the eternal gloom, my household was starting to go bonkers.

Enter mid-winter break weekend.  Where the SUN came out and it was WARM--the temperature was in the 60s all break long.  A real mid-February miracle.

It started with a sleepover for Joy and the 3 girls in her class (that's right, she is in a class with 12 boys and 4 girls).  Joy and her friends had been begging for a sleepover for months.  I finally agreed that they could come over Thursday after school and stay through dinner time Friday (since the parents all work).  My girls (because Lizzy had to get in on the fun) had a blast!  Friday the weather was gorgeous.  SUNNY and WARM and DRY!  The kids were in and out of the house all day long playing.

Watching the Meerkats

Friday night the cousins arrived.  Saturday we all went to the zoo, along with friends and more family, and it was like a major holiday weekend at the zoo it was so crowded.  Everyone wanted to be outside.  After dinner my kids and the cousins were outside playing flashlight tag.  I heard a lot of yelling, laughing, and fun going on.  Sunday was more of the same except the kids played hide-and-seek outside.  Monday, friends came over while Joy went sledding with her church girls' group.  Those girls were SO excited to go sledding in t-shirts and snow pants in 60 degree weather!  (The park makes their own snow)

I told the Hubby that it must have been a fantastic weekend because my kitchen floor was a muddy mess from all the kids running in-and-out.  I happily washed the floor and vacuumed the rugs because it meant that everyone was enjoying the unusual sun and heat.

Tuesday morning I was reflecting on the weekend and how it was one of the funnest long weekends we've had in ages.  I entered the break disappointed about not being able to go up north, but God had immeasurably more than I asked for or imagined.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Even If You Don't My Hope Is You Alone

The first glimpse of the sun after a month of gloomy skies

It's easy to sing
When there's nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I'm held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't my hope is You alone
~Even If by MercyMe

Last month I realized that I was mad at God.  I contracted lyme disease this past July, and ever since I have been in physical pain about eighty percent of the time.  I have a few good days where my pain is minimal and I can get things done.  And then the rest of the time my muscles feel like I ran a marathon in my sleep.  It is a deep ache that doesn't go away.  My joints hurt, but it shifts around what joints bother me.  Some days I limp around because my foot hurts.  Other days I can barely grasp my hair brush or a pencil because my hands are so sore.  Some times it's hard for me to bend down or stand up for any length of time because my back is so stiff and sore.

I have been to the doctor numerous times.  I have seen a specialist.  I have two more appointments on the schedule with two different specialists.  I have had blood tests, ultrasounds, nerve and muscle conduction tests.  More blood tests that I requested the doctor run.  My doctor joked that I was like a person with a quiver full of arrows that I am shooting into the air hoping that one will find its target.

I have prayed.  I have been prayed for.  Prayed over.  Prayed some more.  And after months of nothing changing, I started to sympathize with the people you read about who just give up on life because the pain is too much, the struggle is too hard.  How could I live like this for the rest of my life if this is what it is going to be like for the rest of my life?  This isn't living.  This sucks!  So I stopped praying.  I set my Bible on a shelf.  And on the rare day when I did try praying, it was empty and fruitless.  One night I laid in bed next to Hubby and confessed that I no longer had hope for a healing.  It was time for me to accept that and learn to live life with my new normal.

Last week I had this overwhelming desire to ask Hubby to pray for me.  Once again, I laid down in the bed next to Hubby (all our deep discussions seem to happen there for some reason) and told him that I needed him to put on his pastoral hat and help me.  I confessed that I was mad at God for not healing me.  That I was starting to wonder if He was even real.  That all my attempts to pray felt empty and left me feeling even worse off than when I started.  I told him that I didn't need him to fix me, I just needed him to pray for me.  So he did.

Quite honestly, I didn't expect anything to change.  My hope was pretty much in the toilet.  The next day I came across a blog post that was like a complete slap to the face.  It is titled Even if He Doesn't.  Even if God doesn't rescue me, He is still good.  He is still able.  Even if I never live another pain-free day in my life, God is still able to heal me.  He is still good.  My hope must be in Him alone.  No matter what.  A little spark lit up in me.

A new song just started playing on the radio.  Even If by MercyMe.  I have been playing it on repeat.  Because my soul needs to hear it.  Over and over.  Even if You don't (heal me, rescue me, save me) My hope is You alone.  It is well with my soul.

I dusted off my Bible and started praying again.  God must have broken through a wall because praying no longer feels empty but is life-giving.  I'm not healed.  I'm actually sitting here with aching legs because it's an aching muscle sort of day.  God hasn't changed my physical body at all.  So it is a good thing that my hope is once again in God-for Who He Is-and not only in what He will do for me.