Monday, June 6, 2016

Encounters

*Below is a post from 8/20/12...

I have met many people throughout this life of 34 years...Been introduced to quite a few.

But meetings, and introductions are meaningless unless they serve as a forefront to a deeper relationship.  And many of those have become such.  But mere acquaintances laced with quick smiles and friendly hellos are unfortunately too preoccupied with "what's next on the agenda?" instead of true concern with the other party's whole well being.

Or so it has been much of the time, on my behalf...

And how often do I tend to believe that is the will of my Father in Heaven?  And most of the time it is like that when I address Him...

"Hi God, I'm doing great, how are you?   Oh, the universe is all under control?  Great, you have a nice day...and oh yeah, keep us (you know, my family and me) in mind and safe, and forgive me for my sins too!...thanks, luv ya,  bye!"

Sweet, short and to the point, cuz ya know, I'm a busy mom, working mom...mind you...who has a family and a house with dust bunnies and groceries that need bought and bills that need paid and school that is starting and kids that are playing travel sports.....etc....

And God, He just needs to make it all work out for the good...fit it together so it's good for us, for my kids, so they turn out alright...or lets be honest, so they turn out above par... 

And that alone would be fulfilling as a parent.  For everything to look good on the outside...For the kids to turn out "successful" in the eyes of the those around...

And if only I hadn't tasted...

If only I hadn't ENCOUNTERED Him before...

And these experiences aren't to be taken lightly.  

And words really can't explain it either.  But to have tasted and seen, and to take that for granted...to ignore it...

Shame on me.

That's all there is to it- because how easily and quickly I take for granted this living, breathing God who is reaching down to us and offering an unexplainable ENCOUNTER with Him...

Christianity is set apart from mostly all other religions because of the faith in a unique God who reaches down to humanity and holds out His hand for us, offering an unexpected freedom through the sacrifice of His only Son...

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life...For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.."  John 3:16-17

A couple of months ago we took our little family to church on a summer Sunday evening...

Joe prayed silently to God during the service and asked of Him something...

Of which I was unaware....

And we were at church late that night, new members joined and there was cake after, along with a presentation about a church plant in Detroit.  Which was very interesting to me, more than  reminiscent, it was moving...

It reminded me of my younger days and my older sister's heart for the inner city 20 short minutes away from where we grew up.  She lived there in Detroit at a church house doing mission work her third year of college.  She had a calling for the poor, the down and out and outcasts of society which overflowed and convicted anyone close to her.  Immobility was not an option and her passion was contagious.  She introduced us to her friend, Harvey, who was a Mennonite from Canada also doing an internship at the church.  He befriended us and God used him to show us who Jesus was.  Never before had I ENCOUNTERED a person with such humility and love for the unlovely...

So all of this had been brought to the forefront of my mind before we left church that warm summer evening in June.  I had swallowed back many tears before we even got in the minivan.

And as we pulled out of the parking lot onto the usually busy but thankfully vacant road, our eyes couldn't help but look upward because there was a magnificent magenta and orange hued sunset gracing the sky.

And all of a sudden Joe slams on the breaks as I was trying to take it all in...

He points his index finger hard into the glass of the windshield and asks me,

"Is that an eagle?"

I lean forward and gaze above and tell him yes and that I think it is but I also ask him to please continue on driving because I was awfully scared that someone was going to crash into our behind...

And all three of the children caught a glimpse.  You see my husband and my mom are bird freaks...

They constantly are bird watching and the children have picked up on this...They know a turkey buzzard from a hawk...

And we all saw the white head as this eagle flew right over our van...

And Joe could hardly speak...

He told me,

"You don't understand!  It's God!"

Now he had my attention.  My husband is the opposite of dramatic.  (yes my children inherited their theatrics from me, not him)

"What?" I asked.

He went on to tell me that while we were in church, he said a prayer, a prayer that he had forgotten about until this very moment, with the cake and the church-plant and all...

And in that prayer, he told me he asked God...

"If you are real, If all of this is real...make and eagle fly over my head when I leave church tonight!"

And then  he told me that he felt guilty right after he uttered the prayer upward...  He told God that he was sorry...the verse about not putting the Lord thy God to the test sprung into his mind...and Joe took back what he said.

But God chose to send an eagle regardless...

And Joe along with our family ENCOUNTERED God in a big way... a grand way...maybe the most amazing way we ever will in our short lives here on this earth...

And how often I forget and shove Him to the side as if He is just an acquaintance...

And what grace He bestows when the reminders of His very realness are brought to light.

And my prayer tonight is that my children, our family, will long to ENCOUNTER God, and that we would be on a fiery pursuit after Him and His will...


*Since writing this almost 4 years ago, several eagles have flown over Joe's car and even our house.  We have never seen them around here until that night.  Joe called me this morning to tell me one flew right over the front of his hood while in route to work.  What an amazing reminder that God is real.  He knows how fickle we are, how distracted...Right before he called me today, I had been reading

Psalm 103:
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
Bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

...may my faith be childlike...renewed like the eagle's...who God used to open our hearts up...to ENCOUNTER Him....


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Lights in the Tunnel

There's a light at the end of the tunnel...Or so the saying goes. But nobody ever really talks about the tunnel itself.  How cold and slippery the ground is while trekking through.  The depth of despair that permeate the darkness as you feel your way in the dark.  You continue, make your way through and every once in a while a ray of light blazes through into your being, glimpses keep you going.  You trek on and work like crazy doing your part as much possible.  But emotions stir fast and swift, back and forth, up and down like climbing mountains one moment and soaring through valleys the next...and everything is rampant. One minute you have the faith of Abraham and the next, hardly a mustard seed, maybe even a grain of sand but there it is flickering in the darkness of the cave.  And even though you question if your guide is still in front, leading the way through the chaos and unknown, something inside reassures that you are not alone.  There is a resonating pulse, though almost silent at times, that continues... a slow, sure beat in the back of your mind, of your heart. 
Through your weariness and trouble it carries on...as you fix your eyes ahead onto the dull glimmer awaiting at the end of the journey you are on.  Doubt creeps in and you look up,  gazing ahead knowing there are maybe not perfect things in store but good things.  And you take another step that is filled with so many emotions but you go, carry on, journey ahead. 

We have been walking through a tough tunnel of our own the last several weeks.  These words pour out my heart, fear of the unknown, questioning every move, every step.  We had this unknown destination placed in front of us December 11.  Joe was "displaced" from his job and opted out of re-interviewing for a different position in the company.  Knowing this restructure was going to be taking place several weeks in advanced, Joe had prepared.  Multiple job opportunities fell through.  He actually had more than one verbal offer and was prepared to put in his two week resignation when the brakes on the opportunity in place got slammed.  Hiring freezes appeared out of nowhere or promoted employees decided they wanted their former jobs back...And we prayed, and waited and thought maybe it's meant to be that he stays put.  And then the phone rings, he got the call...He called me right after, I was with my Friday Morning Girls (my small group who I love more than words...) when he told me through the phone.  I think my knees buckled as tears rolled and my sweet friends embraced me and told me to go and be with him.  The pause button was hit and everything put on hold.  And nothing can prepare you for the empty hollow feeling that floods when it actually happens...Stress and tension in our home was high...One moment you felt assured and at peace and the next filled with rapid heart beats and anxiety.  The ebb and flow of emotions was countless.  But we could feel the prayers of those loved ones around us in the midst of it all... And looking back now I have to say that I would never wish the lack of a job on anyone.  We were more than blessed and grateful for God's provision through it all.  Countless resumes were sent out and many interviews later...he received a job offer.  I think about my friends and acquaintances who have faced the same fear, only much worse.   The word grateful doesn't seem to sum up our thankfulness to so many people who carried our burden through thoughts and prayers.  And we are eternally thankful to our Father in heaven who is the provider of everything. 

A tunnel of uncertainty may be your surroundings today.  Maybe it's not the loss of unemployment but rather a loved one whose voice you yearn to hear again.  Illness, broken relationships, addiction, hurt, busyness, depression...whatever path you are walking down at this time,  know you are not alone.  As the journey ebbs and flows as you take one step forward and three backward, remember there are glimpses of light reflecting off of the saints in your life who are carrying part of your burden.  When you can't pray, ask someone to intercede for you.  And soon enough you will recall those stones of remembrance, times when God was faithful in your life. Little pokes of light will sharply fill your eyes, your soul with courage to move on.  And the end of the tunnel, where you are headed may not even be close...The finish line may be a ways away but remember, you do not walk in isolation...there are fireflies there in the cave with you flickering light all around, whispering the hope of God's faithfulness into your soul...know they are there with you but mostly know, God is there working all things together for your good. 

"God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all" 1 John 1:5

Monday, September 7, 2015

Glide

(I wrote this 3 years ago when my baby girl was going to Kindergarten. She is now starting 3rd grade tomorrow.  Micah will be in 7th and my oldest is getting ready to experience high school...I'm not ready for this... After dropping him off for his Freshman Orientation last week I had to pull over the mini van so I wouldn't get into a car accident because my eyes were temporarily blinded by pools of salty mother-of-a high-schooler tears...I mean seriously, it is all really just a bit too much.  Today I signed him up for Driver's Ed...if that doesn't bring one to their knees, I honestly don't know what will.  But the fact that this precious child of mine is going to be operating a vehicle really is hard enough let alone the fact that his father and I happened to take this class together just a few years ago...ahem... Back to my point...these words ring true tonight...many of us moms and dads are sending their littles and not-so-littles off to school tomorrow. Some of us are more nervous than they are and most of us are surrounding and uplifting our kids in prayer...)

GLIDE September 3, 2012
 
We picked out a sage green durable fabric for the upholstery and chose white painted wood for the frame.  The first time I sat in the cushions and kicked my legs up on the ottoman I was nine months pregnant with my first.  Anticipation swelled as big as the belly beneath my embrace as the chair glided smoothly beneath me.  This would mark the first night of many spent in that chair. 

Countless nights of three different crying babies held throughout these last eleven and a half years and tonight I find myself there yet again rocking a little girl, my baby girl who can't sleep because she has excited butterflies fluttering in her tummy as she imagines her first day of kindergarten tomorrow.  As we move in the darkened room I see her as a baby lying there in my arms.  Us rocking the same way we did four short years ago.  Her softness is cradled in my arms and her innocence graces her face as memories flash and love flows fierce.

We glide...

I envision the boys, each one of them as babies.

The first time Jonah opened his deep gray eyes and looked up at me, it was in that chair, in his tiny nursery in our first little yellow house.  I remember propping him up, next to his little stuffed "Winnie-the-Pooh" and taking a picture of him there on that green fabric in his first few months of life.

Many a night we took turns consoling our sweet Micah struggling to fill his little lungs with air.  Holding up that mask of medicine humming through the machine to calm his cough.  Many prayers were uttered upward in that seat.   I can still see those chubby cheeks and little upturned nose...I can almost hear the scritch scratch of the flowering dogwood tapping on the window of his bedroom in our second place we called home.

And here I sit gliding with long limbs hanging over the sides of the same padded arms that used to fit her length nicely...

And I am overwhelmed.

Warm pools flood up as we sway back and forth.

Tomorrow marks a significant day.

Ayla takes her first steps as a kinderg√§rtner.

Jonah will be dropped off at middle school and will walk the hallways as a sixth grader for the very first time.

And Micah will march as a fourth grader down the halls of his school.

But tonight I pray that they will-

not only step...

or just walk...

or even manage to march through this new school year.

Tonight I am praying that they will glide through the days, weeks, months of school filled with a peace in knowing that they have a heavenly Father who is cradling each one of them in the palm of his hand and loving them more fiercely than this mama ever could even imagine...












Friday, August 7, 2015

Seasoned Moments

Summer is finally here in Michigan now that it is almost over.  We have finally felt the warmth of golden sunshine bask deep and hot into the pores of our skin as we gaze upward into blue skies adorned with billow white clouds.


...Five lakes of greatness reflect that ozone above us and calloused soles burn dark as we tread the stamped concrete beneath us.  Us Michiganders, we are fierce.  We bear the frigid, stark, hollow forbidden winter stomping through drifts of white snow and making the best of it all.  The buds finally appear after the last of the frost, sometimes not until late May and we inhale Springtime...we really can smell the fragrance of the season and it permeates and renews down into our cores.  That hope of rejuvenation, redemption, renewal... the hope of things to come seems to not only be the light at the end of the tunnel but actually is what gets us through the long, frozen-over, body-numbing winter.  Just the sheer memory of bright green leaves dancing in the wind and dry, clear sidewalks making life easy and ice-free can help set the mind right.  The four seasons of our great mitten state are a draw and a steadfastness that only a Michigander can truly appreciate.  The fall brings crisp, exuberant color along with the orange hue of crackling bonfires and hayrides.  Apples and pumpkins and flannels and boots.  We marvel and take it in, the magnificent beauty of death...the trees turn like chameleons before our very eyes and amaze us as the wind blows each leaf down and bareness takes ahold of naked branches. So the cycle goes, continues.  Season after season, year after year, decade after decade.  We stay. 
 
And when the kids finished up school and summer was staring us in the face on the calendar not on our skin...We packed up and headed north, as most of us do...We went UpNorth.  We do every year.  We go to the same city, same location...We try to recreate memories and capture a few good pictures on the same beautiful beach with sand dunes showing off behind...But this year our plans had to change, just a little...We had to make different arrangements at the last minute and found a rustic rental available...Our plans had to alter for work schedules and already low expectations were validated strong as we laid sleeping bags on top of cobwebbed beds. And in that dirty, soiled up over charged place we made new beautiful memories.  Granted most were outside. We spent our days fishing amongst lime green lily pads and riding tandem into the quaint little town to devour scoops of delicious ice cream.  We stuck our toes into icy cold Lake Michigan and read for hours.  At the end of the day our family stood awestruck as the sun made it's glorious descent painting the sky magnificent indescribable colors.  The kids played hard with their cousins and spent cherished time with grandparents, aunties and uncles...We fried up fresh fish hand caught and gathered around the table and the bonfire later on with stuffed bellies full of smores and fermented grapes.  The katydids joined in our song and everyone glowed from the inside out. 

And even though I usually cling tight to the nostalgic, this time away made me realize I tend to try and recreate the same moments all too often.  And not only physically but spiritually speaking.  Our trip shed a new light into my soul and the lesson is this, to find joy in the current time.  Whatever or wherever that may be.  The surroundings may be filthy and maybe even frightening.  But there is beauty to be found in the midst of the ugly. 

Seasons of life are ever changing.

You may be facing the desolate body-shivering cold of a winter white depression.  Maybe your marriage is falling apart or the doctor made that life-altering call and you have to bravely journey down the C word road. 

Birds could be chirping and Spring buds may be ready to bloom where you are.  An exciting new marriage or precious bundle of sweetness could be adorning your world blooming bright. 

Death could be knocking on your loved ones door and the autumn leaves may be turning many shades fading your green to brown.  The warmth of fire and cider hot may keep you company as you have to say goodbye to a toxic relationship and move on to healthier horizons in your current fall time...

And maybe your summertime of life is finally here.  You have been waiting patiently and golden days keep you barefoot with toes in the sand.  Life has given you some lemons and somehow you're drinking lemonade as you swing high and touch the clouds braving new adventures, maybe a new job now after a long lay off is finally paying the bills.  Or maybe you're in the throws of muggy humidity and sweat is dripping off your brow as you change another diaper, load another dishwasher, fold another towel... You just long for some fresh air-conditioned wind to sweep through and offer some relief. 

These seasons can never be recreated or replicated.  They will live on in the memory of our lives but duplicate free.  Tonight I am telling myself to let my moments, each sacred one, make it's mark.  I am praying that I will not forget but always remember and never compare certain times in my life to other times...And hopefully I will soak up and learn to dance with grace relishing the present as God continues to redeem these moments blowing His Spirit into my flesh turning them into something significant.  This heart is filled with yearning to share in other's seasons, lend a hand or an ear, or bear some of a burden for them.  To gather around a table and listen to other's tell their stories of seasons past. I pray for hope to fill you and me up to overflowing pouring over into those around us.   Season after season, time after time always changing never the same but always significant. 



 







Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Dreary Light

I woke up and felt a chill in the air. The window let no light in except a dull gray haze. I arose and walked through the tiny, dingy cabin and looked out the window to see rain drops sprinkling over our bikes as clouds hung thick and fog spread wide across the greatest of the lakes, Michigan. Stepping outside my face was immediately splattered with slushy droplets...How could this be the first day of July? Just two days ago it was 80 degrees and the sand was so hot we feared blisters on the soles of our feet. And today winter hits me in the face and all my hope is drowned. My gut wrings and the wind in my sails vanishes. My joy is covered up by the clouds and I can't seem to feel the warmth of any light at all. Why does the weather dictate my mood? Why do I have such a hard time finding blessing in the mundane dreariness of the tough times in life? As the sun finally appears in the sky as the day is almost done and warmth fills my whole physical and spiritual being, I am reminded that to appreciate the goodness, the sunshine and true joys in life, I must make my way through the darkness. Always searching for glimpses of His light...and as my favorite lake sparkles turquoise blue and reflects the sun so radiantly, I am inspired to do the same. I sink my toes in the sun-laden sand and pick up my husband's old baseball mitt...my middle boy has been begging to play catch...We warm up, I tell him to take it easy on me and true, deep contentment resonates everywhere as the sun sinks into my whole being. I wind up and throw a softball fast pitch with a small hardball, something I've never done. (And I left the wind up pitch on the field with the softball, the end of my 8th grade year..) It lands in the strike zone and I feel like I've just won the World Series because I saw that heart melting smile shine across the sand-field. I think to myself, it doesn't get much better than this...These little grace moments turning my messed up self into something better. And I carry on, contemplating this mixed up cold to hot day and utter a prayer to the One who is always listening, The God who hears me...May my beautiful yet broken life reflect pieces of the one who works together ALL things, shadows and light, joy and pain, ALL things together for my good...

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Hum-bled

A familiar melody graces my ears.  That Micah in the middle of mine loves to hum and tends to soothe himself with it much of the time, especially before bed.  Tonight as I climbed the wooden stairs to tuck them in, I hear that sweet, still-little boy voice of his adorning the second level.  My first stop was in Ayla's room and she had already crashed.  I made my way to the boys' room and Joe joined me just as I climbed the bunk ladder...we both recognized the song simultaneously.  Together we put words to the tune for him and he joined in:

"Praise, Praise the Father, Praise the Son...And Praise the Spirit, Three-In-One...Oh Praise Him, Hallelujah..."

We sang some more together.  That little almost teenager of mine laying there so vulnerable, he faces many fears and right then and there it hits me hard...how he is understanding and taking in the gospel.  Application of teaching is so very present and right beneath my very nose as I witness this boy of mine seeking refuge in the only true refuge there is, my faith is strengthened.  We have faced tough times together, this family of ours.  Tempers have turned hot and life isn't always a bowl of cherries.  Let's face it, most of the time it can be very trying.  With three growing kids and two grown adults trying to grow up...we can sometimes mess it all up pretty badly.  But what hope I have tonight being reminded of the sweet solace granted to us through the Holy Spirit of God. 

As I scratched his back he switched the tune...

"Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be the name..." 

And I sing quietly into his ear,

 "...when the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say...Blessed be the name of the Lord..."

And as I wind down and ready for sleep, I have this reassurance...provoked and spurred on by my 12 year old oblivious middle child...that God, in His almighty divinity, Father, Son and Spirit...Three-In-One...God, is blessed...through the trials and through the joy...In darkness and in light...Blessed be the name of the Lord...

Praise His Holy Name!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sweet Ayla

I posted this 6 years ago today....



Today my precious baby girl turned 2 years old! (yesterday we had her little party and she was definitely the little "belle of the ball") Memories of her birth flooded my mind all day as I played with her and held her and just stared into her beautiful blue eyes. I am so thankful to God for my darling girl.

When I found out that I was pregnant with her, Joe was convinced that we would be having twin boys. I didn't believe the ultrasound technician when she told me it was a girl. We actually had five confirmations through ultrasound and I still didn't believe it until moments after her birth in the delivery room. My pregnancy was very similar to the other two except that I was more nauseous with her than I was with the boys. After going for my 20 week ultrasound appointment my doctor informed me that the radiologist detected that her brain ventricles were "mildly prominent" and that she had a choroid plexus cyst. He told me not to worry but to schedule a level three ultrasound and to make sure my appointment had the genetic counselor there as well. The hospital could not get me in for three weeks. I was in agony. I was so worried about my baby and could do nothing but wait and pray. Of course I googled and looked up everything I could on the internet about this condition which only scared me all the more. Everything from developmental delays to hydrocephalus popped up. I remember specifically one evening when I was crying to Joe about how upset and worried I was and he looked at me with a wisdom that I never before had seen in his eyes and said,

"If God chooses to give us a special needs child, He will. He has a reason for everything and if it's His will, it's His will and it won't change the love I have for her already, as a matter of fact I'll probably love her even more!"

He had this reassuring peace and strength that I did not have. I remembering blaming myself for wanting a girl so badly and thinking this is what I get for wishing for her.

Before I got pregnant with Ayla, a friend from church came up to me and asked me when I was having my little girl. I was like What? How do you know I'll have a girl? She told me that she had envisioned my Joe, the boys and me with a little girl standing in front of a church and she had a feeling that I was going to have a girl one day. ...a couple of months later, Ayla was conceived... So after finding out about Ayla's condition, I ran up to her at church and in between sobs managed to explain what was wrong. She laid hands on me and prayed with me and as soon as she did, I felt this peace just come over me. That sick feeling in my stomach disappeared and I was at ease. At that moment, my faith grew more than it ever had before. I knew there was a God. The "God who sees me" saw me right then and there! So many people were praying for my baby. They were praying for God's healing and for His will at the same time.

So the weeks past and I went to my appointment. The genetic counselor wanted to be in the room and the technician scanned me and looked me straight in the face and said ,

"Her brain ventricles are completely normal and there is no cyst."

I started bawling my eyes out! I was so relieved! The doctor came in and scanned me and said it was probably an error. He said that they probably measured the wrong area of the brain. I thought, maybe...or maybe, just maybe...God performed a miracle and healed my baby. Why? I don't know why. All I know is that my God, "El Elyon": the Name, is the God who sees me. He hears my cries and calms my fears. He is Jehovah, God and through His precious son chose to give me life and I will forever praise his most holy name!

Lord, today as I celebrate the birth of my sweet Ayla, I thank you for hearing my cries and calming my fears. Thank you for my precious girl. May her life continue to be a testimony of your grace to an unbelieving world.

*And today she turned 8...our sweet girl has blessed us more than words can say. She is passionate, kind and determined. I love watching her grow in God's love and grace...She truly is our little miracle.. My friend, Deb, who prayed over her that Sunday so many years ago has now gone to be with Jesus. She's not with us anymore but her prayer of faith lives on in my precious girl. I think of her often but remember her especially on Ayla's birthday.  I am still encouraged by her boldness to step out in faith even when it wasn't natural. She listened to God's voice in her life and obeyed. May I be 
able to trust and obey Him in that same way, even when it's out of my comfort 
zone. 

I pray the same for my darling girl...