Saturday, June 20, 2015

To follow

We were coming home from a golf tournament the other day; our family had converged on the course in two separate vehicles but took the RV as to provide shelter for the golfer who finished first ( and the mom and sis) to rest up while the second brother played his round.  Of course everyone wanted to ride back home with Dad because 1) he is just cooler and 2) the RV rocks way more than the Traverse!
As I was following this view (taken while moving slowly; wasn't sure if got pic bc eyes on road), I realized how relaxed I was following my 4 favorite people in one of my favorite things.  This led me to a confession that I had never said aloud before, "I am a follower; and I am GOOD at it!"  If I couldn't be in the passenger seat of that RV, my next favorite, most comfortable place was right here, in the driver's seat of the following vehicle. I really am good at following; I rarely lose the vehicle that I am supposed to follow. Thanks to my earthly dads, I learned very early how to follow a man's lead through a dance, and I enjoy following assembly instructions.  As my prayerful thoughts dove into this concept, I realized that following is not as negative as the culture would have us believe.  Growing up "following the crowd" was discussed ominously as the thing that would lead to one's doom!!!!! There are no conferences on how to be a good follower but a plethora on how to be a good leader. I have read one book on following but the spin was learning to follow in order to be a good leader.
So what do you do if you are a good follower?  Personally it was good for me to acknowledge it and own it. It was also good for me to realize that God gave me an abundance of discernment; I remember using it even as a small child.  It has been a great protection and has made me extremely choosy about whom I follow; also helped me in choosing HIM.  As I have pondered this I have realized something about the times I find myself in leadership.  It has happened; I have turned around and panicked at the thought of people behind me.  I am most comfortable at the back or on the backstage crew, unseen.  In my past (and maybe in my present with my biological children), God highlighted how I have become engrossed with their paths, their steps, their safety-attempting to shoulder the burden of their well-being, growth, and even their salvation . Those are all His to carry. When I try to pick all of that up, I can lose my own way. It is best for me to remain focused on the following. Because it is the all too familiar dichotomy of pride and insecurity in my life for me to think that I play a role in their journey.  These blind me from realizing that they are really following Him; in relationship with Him- they just started at a different moment and it is no matter how I do it.
So I am going to live in the freedom of being created to follow and begin to encourage other gifted followers to do the same!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Servant Messenger

As I stare at next month's calendar and read the words "Middle School New Parents Night" I am swimming in bowlful of emotion mix! I am so excited for my oldest, the son whom You used first to make me a "mom",  to enter this time of his life! It can be filled with so much fun, so much growth, so much awkwardness, so much perspective, and so much other stuff.  At the same time I am scared to death! Several of my friends and some of my fellow "middle school new parents" attempt to encourage me by referring to those 11 years of me hanging around Student Ministry saying I am wise to all this.  I wish I had their confidence! I think maybe I saw too much while "hanging around" that long!

My kids know me so much! They have seen me at my angriest, at my most afraid, at my ugliest (in the middle of the night), at my sickest, at my absolute worst, at my most sinful.  They have not covenanted to love me through all that like David has;  they are just physically forced to be there because they can't drive away yet.  But middle school means they are closer to the license to do so. (Can you hear that horror music or is that just me?:)

Anyway since their births You have heard me pray that I would be Christ-connected and wise enough always to parent them to You. You have seen me study over mounds of parenting information. You have watched my "dirt for brains" pontificate profusely. You've also heard my prayers that they would have closer relationships to You and know You more at each phase of life than I ever have. I want more of You for them! Of late I have been realizing that those two prayers may not so easily co-mingle.  Because for them to be closer and know You more intimately means they will eventually outgrow me spiritually and outgrow my wisdom. Oh for that dream to actually happen!!! ...So maybe I don't really want to be wise?...maybe I want more...maybe I want something different altogether ...[So thankful that You provide intercession for me because I am indecisive over gum purchases much less stuff as crucial as this.]

Upon coming across these words from Isaiah 44:24-26, my heart began leaping and dancing! "This is what the LORD says - your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: 'I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretches out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense, who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers." The connected dots from this for me are: 1) He is going to foil those prophets and make fools of those diviners! Yes!! 2) He is going to nonsense up the education! Rock on! 3) The best occupation for me is be His servant messenger! Then hopefully these kiddos with whom I currently reside- these gifts from You-  will be co-servant messengers alongside me! [Awestruck and Speechless!!!!!]

And then "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."- Galatians 5:25 comes to my mind and heart. For to be a servant messenger, I must be connected and in step.  [Deeply in all of me - mind, heart, soul- I am now the smiling little girl stepping my tiny foot into Your gigantic footprint, my Father, with carefree abandon and not a thought as to where we are going, if we will make it, or how, because there is no question.]

Sometimes I dream of things I can touch, feel, hold, and are physical. These are what comprise my dreams tonight. May they become my primary and may You increase and transform them as You Will!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Value Conversations

We have entered a new phase where I feel constantly hurried or waiting.  I haven't mastered graciousness in the hurried scenario or patience in the waiting.  Both are necessary for me to be a Christ follower and lead my kids to follow Him as well in the coming and going of our days, the impressing, the talking while sitting and walking, lying down and getting up.  Many days' conversations with my kids feel like I would be understood better by the wall if I just talked to it.

And then there are days like yesterday.

I was so chill all day from sheer exhaustion - sleepy tired- would say yes to most anything they requested because zero energy to say no.  The positive side: they were also worn out from standardized testing happening at school.  The boys still had their standing golf lesson with Coach V, which is usually pretty relaxing.  Cole was with Coach, and having finished his lesson, Dax joined K and I up on the balcony feeling the breeze, drinking a Coke, and eating some Skittles.  We were lined up near the edge looking out over the putting green and driving range through the bars of the rail.  From below an older couple walked across the green toward the range.  He was loaded down with his clubs, a large basket of range balls, and a folded chair. She was laden with a pink tote that would normally carry the small dog in her arms along with two large Sonic cups.  He first unloaded his clubs and balls and then proceeded to unfold her chair and secured it safely out of swing circle but nearby and waited; she set one drink near his things and sat down while simultaneously thanking him and sharing a sweet smile.  He walked to his mat and began to hit ball after ball while she settled pup in its bag bed and pulled out a book.

Dax commented on how nice they were to each other; I agreed and asked what he thought they valued.  He suggested 'each other', supporting his synopsis with how they served each other and how they seemed to just want to be near. We discussed how they seemed to respect the others' interests. He added how it was neat that he didn't just leave her at home to read and how she made the effort to come with him to the driving range.  He also humored me with an opposing recollection of that "weird fishing song where the wife leaves just because he wants to go fishing and he doesn't go after her."  I scooped a little more to see if he thought that the people in that song valued marriage or each other.  He offered a negative and summed that it was more like fishing was his value and marriage was his hobby, but that she didn't have to say she would leave just because he wanted to fish...

The wind brushed my hair and I smiled at the fact that some stuff may actually be taking root in his heart.

Later in the day, after a sibling squabble, I separated them from each other and stepped in my room to pray for help.  I called in Dax and  I asked what he could have done differently.  He immediately offered a very mature answer.  We went on to discuss his role and perspectives as the oldest brother and Cole's role and perspectives as the younger. He was able to put his brother's proverbial "shoes" on for a bit and process some HUGE things relationally and spiritually.  It was all clicking and he said, "Mom, my mind is blown. (doing the hands exploding from head thing)  I know you have said some of this before and it just never made sense, but right now it is. What is difference? " I answered that sometimes I am so desperate to teach him that I jump right in of my own will and effort and sometimes I am wise enough to ask for the Holy Spirit to help him understand. This particular time was one of the latter.  Only God can help him grasp some things because they are so abstract.We went on to discuss a daily life example of grace in our life that had just happened earlier in the day.  It was such a minuscule reflection of true Grace, but reflection it was and he understood the imagery. Vaguely put (to value him and not share it with internet) it would have been impossible without first a standard existing.  He had not met that standard but because the standard was there, it opened the door for  my opportunity to extend him grace. We observed how without the standard's existence there was no grace opportunity...he repeatedly exploded fingers from his head :) with smiles and thankfulness.


Some prayers that have gone before this: Praying Colossians 4:2-6 over my parenting.  Prayed it over many a mission trip but took way too long for my "dirt for brains" to pray it over my parenting; "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us too that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

Praying he will soften and open their hearts as well as mine and set eternity in them: 2Cor 6:13; Ezekiel 36:26 ; Ecclesiastes 3:1


Keeping it real: Before bed as the day was closing, hours after my prayer and our conversation, I wanted it not to end.  The boys asked a question about Heaven.  I jumped in! I did not pray! I began a gush of how amazing and no pain, and no tears, and how family relationships would change but how I often dreamed lately of us all being there, how I hoped of course that dad and I would go first and who knows what else I was babbling...No filter, no Holy Spirit, and no concern for my audience...
When I took a breath, all I saw were precious little "dirt for brains" with bugging eyes and my sweet faced daughter's baby blues drowning in a sea that she was attempting to hold back because evidently I had communicated that I would be happy when she was not my daughter and we were sisters and she passionately clarified that she doesn't want to be my sister or for me and dad to leave and go to Heaven because she will not have any parents and she doesn't want any other parents.... Oh Father! Help! What have I just done!!! Foot in mouth! Scars for life! No sleep tonight because she will have nightmares from separation anxiety!! Geesh! I am so greedy and hard headed and independent and 'dirt for brains'! Pray and Praise! He will pursue them and they can be His in spite of me!



Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Hymnal

I attended a funeral today... in a sanctuary... where I sat in a pew... and held a hymnal. It has been so long since I sat in a pew, not because I haven't been at church, just because my churches have been in trailers during the week and "unfolded" on Sunday morning or in an open room with chairs "set up first and then torn down"- pews don't travel well and neither do hymnals.

Today's was one of the funerals that is a celebration of one's life and that "another soldier got to go HOME". I remember funerals as a child-residing with such elderly grandparents meant I attended many of their friends' funerals and then I attended theirs' at a very young age. Although most of these were similar to the one I attended today because these people had great faith in Christ, death still scared my little child mind!

As I held that hymnal today,  my mind wandered through all the memories of being a teen in a church service and feeling so out of place - believing myself to be the only one dependent on that book- the only one who didn't know the words. I remembered being ecstatic about the day projectors became the new "fad" so others wouldn't  have my same experience and "stand out" as not knowing the words.

Today as I held that hymnal- He astounded me that without flipping a page I could now sing so many of those words out as MY own sincere testimony to His faithfulness.  As I sat at a funeral- "because He lives, all fear is gone! Because I know He holds (my ) future, life is worth the living just because He lives!" ..  That "amazing grace that saved a wretch like me" allows Him "to walk with me and to talk with me and to tell me I am His own!"  "What a friend I have in Jesus!" "whatever my lot, He has taught me to know,'It is well with my soul!'" "(He) paid it all; all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow." And because of  this "blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! oh, what a foretaste of Glory Divine!" It is amazing how when I "turn my eyes upon Jesus and look full in his wonderful face, the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His Glory and Grace"!

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Lamb

As we enter into this Easter, I have been aware of God's Spirit stirring in me and opening me, my eyes, and my heart up to more. I can't speak decisively about what I see as of yet but the glimpses keep me at attention.

Looking back over the years, I realize I have taken different approaches in relating to the cross.  Some years I have been much like Pilate- washing my hands of it.  Other years I have been more like Peter- distant and ashamed. Unfortunately there were years I know I have been blinded by my own ambition and fake image- probably similarly to the priests.

When I first acknowledged Him as my Savior, I was young. Though I am grateful that I had His guidance in so much of my life, it was during the egocentric days of my development physically, mentally, and emotionally so I believed and was thankful that he had gone to the Cross for me and taken away the sting of death.  But I think it stopped there.

Through knowing Him more and more over the years as Father, Friend, Provider, Adventurer, Comforter, and so much more, I have come back to a place this Easter season to see His sacrifice from a different perspective.

My love for him now is so different from the "love" I had for Him in the beginning of our relationship. I don't want Him to have taken the beatings, torture, shame, disgrace, spits in the face, the agony of those He loved acting out of ignorance and causing so much pain especially on my account.  I realize there is nothing I can do to change it; my mind knows that it had to happen for me to even be with him in the seconds of this earthly life much less go Home with Him.  But my heart cries out against it! It lashes against Him taking that because I don't want to see Him hurt.

 I know my own weakness; I would have gone down at the first punch; I know my own ugliness; I would have spit back. I know my own bitterness; I would have counted every single wrong.  He overwhelms me! And when I can't fathom anymore He defeats death and takes away the horror of it!!!!

I can't help but think about those present and watching who loved Him so:  John, the Marys, mostly His mother.  As a mom, what did she feel?  After experiencing all she had in raising Him, did she expect the whole time for Him to come down? How did she feel as her tears mingled with his blood?  Did she question her own sanity? When they taunted Him to save himself, was her mind pleading the same words but from an encouraging mother's heart that didn't want Him to do this for her either?  If I don't want to see Him harmed for my sake, I can't fathom what she must have felt. All along, after all she had experienced, knowing, just as she had 33 years earlier, that above all else she submitted, "May it be to me as you have said."

 I long to follow Mary's example of desiring His ways above my own and I see that I sympathize with so many reactions to the cross and resurrection. But there is MUCH beauty in the fact that I LIVE eternally Farah's response alone to all that He has done for me from Creation to my creation, from Passover to my pardon, from the First Easter Weekend to this Easter weekend 2015 and on and on.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Building a Temple

I have been married to a college student, a hardware store worker, a project manager, and a student pastor - all in the same man.  David has included me in his work since before we were married. He has invited me to come on lunch breaks; he has introduced me to those with whom he works; he has shared with me thoughts on what he was processing; and he has walked me through many stages of the job sites on which he has worked.

I do not have full understanding of what it takes to build a building but I do understand it takes time, there are setbacks, and there are successes. Lately I have been processing the description of our bodies as temples parallelled with memories of watching buildings go from breaking ground to grand openings.  It is interesting how this life so closely resembles this building process. I used to believe that the grand opening occurred closer to baptism than death, but as I age and as I see in my own life, perfection is not yet here.  He has been building on me for some 28 years and continues.  I rest that He is not merely Author but Perfecter as well.

Investing in My Children's Relationships with Each Other

Yesterday, the kids had a snow day from school.  It was the third day off in a row...my routine was already shot as was the idea of a clean house...so I chose one target for the day: Invest in their relationships with each other.  Our recent schedule has begun to separate us with birthday parties etc. so I wanted to undergird and strengthen their esteem of one other.

I prayed but I didn't have a clear plan . The morning was more of an observation to recognize it when it happened because I wanted it to come naturally and not be my manipulation or fabrication. (Yes, I have come to terms with the fact that I can do both and unfortunately I do them well if I am not careful.)  I wanted to notice their mutual appreciations and then I was urged to just comment on them, not throw a party, just comment (because I am a gifted exaggerator as well).

What happened this day I want to always remember!  I loved my firstborn, Dax, with some affirming words before we went outside.  We all played in the snow; I chased my secondborn, Cole and loved him in his ways: Wrestling (in the snow).  I loved my third, Korwyn, with some snuggles when we came back in for breakfast and let her play with my wedding ring on my finger (she chose that finger at a few months old and has been attached to it since).  Then I waited....

My boys began to work together solving a video game situation that my younger had trouble with a couple days prior.  He had lost several things in a to a "glitch" and it was the end of his world! (literally and figuratively - pun intended)  My eldest offered to work on it with him and they retrieved it! The process took about 45 minutes and at the end there was a celebration of jumping and hugging and whooping! They were kind enough to include me. I commented on their teamwork and we reenacted it for these pictures:


Later, Dax wanted to go back out in the snow and invited Korwyn to go along.  I was about to go too  because I usually go to be responsible for her, but I followed a nudge to use self-restraint in order for them to share this experience.  (He had already showed great care and protection of her when we were out earlier).  So I released them to the moment and watched from the window to ensure safety and get pictures - diminishing any need for more reenactments.  I saw this: him leading her through the snow, folding her in his embrace at the top of the hill, them giggling together all the way down, him gently securing his arms and leaning them both over to avoid sliding into any twigs or getting hit with falling snow from branches above.  He protected, she trusted, he led, she followed, she dropped one of her gloves, he picked it up and put it in his pocket, they both laughed and shared the experience, and I stood taking it all in (husband would probably call it "stalking":)
putting her glove in his pocket


While they did this, Cole was into his salvaged video game and I interrupted him with a hug.  He randomly pondered aloud about he and Dax "never getting along".  I was once again caught in the war between reaction and self-control.  I wanted to argue but instead asked if he couldn't think of anytime lately that they had gotten along.  In less than a second he recalled the morning's team effort and overturned his own conviction of their relationship deciding that they get along more than they disagree.  

Upon Dax and Korwyn's return from outside, we had lunch. After lunch Korwyn requested Cole play with her and he through some dice, counting dots with her before she went to take a nap.  
Camera Flash would have blown"Mamarazzi's" cover

The kiddos have all become very interested in the TV show "Psych" on Netflix. David and I have seen them all and can filter the episodes they can't watch as well as Korwyn filtering scenes throughout. They were recommended for boys' on a website and we have begun to like watching them as a family.  All three of them had been hoping to watch one when Dad got home from work, but Dax had to finish up a project first.  In an effort to expedite the process, Cole stepped forward and volunteered to contribute assistance to his brother.  So he took over the cutting out of pictures before his brother glued them down and wrote about them.  I had no response but shock and awe and praise to God because that was WAY above my skill or ability or pay grade.  

While Dax finished up, Cole curled up to entertain himself with one more quick technology moment to get him through the night. Korwyn came to snuggle with him and began encouraging him with "Go Cole!" and "Don't give up!" and "You're so great at this!" etc.  
Once again shock and awe invaded but I did gather myself together enough to praise them all for the day of loving and valuing each other - from working together, to laughing together, to serving each other, and encouraging each other.  They processed back through our day and I think I saw shock and awe on each of their faces as well:)


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Endangered Anticipation

After dropping off the fellas at school, the girl and I had 30 minutes or more to pass before her drop-off line.  It was cold and I don't like the car to idle for quite that long.  This particular morning the boys were pressed to get to school early and so here we were left with this space in the time continuum...

We ventured into a store near her school to "dream shop" (A.K.A. keep warm while not wasting gas).  She saw M&Ms and she is my daughter, so this was becoming less of a "dream" shopping experience and more of an actual trip to the store.  However, it was 8:00 a.m.  I am not a big fan of the kiddos having food completely void of nutritional value prior to lunch; 10 a.m. is my maximum budge line.  But being an image of my God, I love " to give good gifts to my children".  I told her I would buy them but we had to wait until after school.  She is 2 months shy of 4! There are those who would say that this rarely works with this age group and I concur that it can be challenging if not made to be a way of life.  She was agreeable to the conditions, we made our purchase, and headed to her carline.  All of this got me thinking about waiting...and anticipation... and receiving...and enjoyment of the gifts from our Heavenly Father.  I began to strategize about how to engage her anticipation.

When I picked her up at noon, she greeted me with excitement and as we buckled, she requested her little bits of chocolate goodness.  I asked her if she had thought about how good they were going to taste.  Were they going to be fruity or chocolatey?  Could she guess which color she would get first out of the bag?  She grinned and giggled and we savored the anticipation all the way home where she indulged in her portion ( 2 for every year of her life) with her lunch.  It was a glorious lesson as He reminded me to anticipate!  I am currently in a place where He has not given a clear direction.  Because of that I want to wait on His timing instead of forge ahead.  I want what He is anticipating for me not what I have dreamed up.

  Our culture is stripping so much of the anticipation from life.  Microwaves, internet search engines, apps, and constant entertainment at our fingertips take away from active, engaged waiting.   Our children (and ourselves) rarely ACTIVELY wait in a line; we DISTRACTEDLY wait in line with some device.  They usually don't wait for classmates to finish an assignment. They find something else to DO. So when do we think about what is coming? When do we anticipate?  When do we engage in the act of dreaming about what is to come? Does this detract from the experience once it arrives?  What can we do to build anticipation into our own lives and the lives of those who imitate us?  How can we hinder anticipation from becoming extinct?

"The creation waits in eager expectation..." Romans 8:19a  LORD, please, please help me to wait "in eager expectation..." both for what You have for me this side of heaven and even more so, for the day you fulfill all you have said.