Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Questions and Answers

My five year old, Micah is absolutely hilarious. Ask anyone who has been around him. My mom says he's quirky. The wheels are always turning and you never know where they are going to. One of the new things he has been doing is asking a question and answering it in the next breath. For some reason, these questions always seem to come up whenever my sister, Elizabeth, is around who Micah does not consider an elder in any way, shape or form. He constantly reminds her, "Auntie, you're not the boss of me." Of course if I am present, I chime in and let him know that he is to respect his aunt! So a couple of weeks ago, Auntie and I were on a walk while the boys were riding their bikes. We passed a huge golden retriever and Micah asks,

"What kind of a dog is that? It's a chihuahua."

Auntie corrected Micah and said,"No Micah, I think that's a golden retriever like Barclay, Papa Mark's dog."

"No, it's a chihuahua."

Let me tell you, when his mind is set on something, it's not going anywhere, even if he knows that he's wrong, it's like he has convinced himself that he's right and he is not budging.

So last week, on our vacation, I took the boys and Ayla to the drive-in. Micah was so excited to sit in the front seat (for the very first time in his whole life, he must have told me a dozen times)! I don't know if he was more thrilled with where he was sitting or "Attack of the Clones," the most anticipated movie in our household this summer.

Jonah almost had a panic attack because the movie was supposed to be a double feature with the new Batman movie playing after and was so worried the whole time that I wasn't going to get us out of the place before it began. I reassured him over and over, but until he heard the speaker announce a fifteen minute intermission, he was in a frenzy. I too, was a little frazzled after occupying a seventeen month old for two hours and making a trip to the bathroom because the empty water bottles we had with us had already gotten filled up with tasty yellow liquid. Not to mention, getting yelled at to turn my lights out while coming back from the bathroom, not only from young children whose parents' did not bother to stop them, but also from the man with the flashlight who let me know that the bright lights were bothering everyone around us. I almost reached in the door for one of the bottles of pee to pour all over his head, but I contained myself and flashed a smile, apologized and told him how I was so sorry but I didn't know how to turn off my lights after unlocking the doors with the key remote. (DIDN'T HE SEE ME TRYING TO MANAGE MY THREE KIDS ALL BY MYSELF?) I reassured him that they would go off in a few seconds. There was no way I was leaving now, we almost made it the whole movie, and I was on a mission to prove that I could do it alone!!

We got back to the condo, all riled up over the whole event! The boys were going on and on about the drive-in to my family (mom, dad, sis and her fiance') and Micah asks,

"So how old do you have to be to get your license? You have to be eleven. I"m going to get my license when I'm eleven."

Auntie lets him know,

"I think you have to be sixteen to get a license."

"No, you have to be eleven."

Micah's mind was already made up and he wasn't budging.

These already answered questions, as cute as they are, got me thinking about my wrong answers to so many questions. I know what the right answers are and really don't have a problem telling people what they are, but when it comes to me answering them, I really tend to make up my own answers, a lot like my Micah. I need to just admit it, I'm in denial. I have many excuses and reasons and answers that in my own mind are justified. I find myself leaning on my own understanding and not listening to the voice of God inside of me, directing me, guiding me and leading me the right way.

Proverbs 3:5-7 (The Message)
Trust God from the bottom of your heart, don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track. Don't assume that you know it all....

...Forgive me Lord for my know-it-all attitude. Open my ears to hear you!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Time Away

We came home yesterday from our annual summer vacation. As I mentioned earlier, my husband has been out of town training for a new job (for the month) so he wasn't going to be able to make it, but he flew in for the weekend (thank you dad for the free miles!). The kids and I were so excited to see him! We had two wonderful days together and the weather couldn't have been more perfect. After we dropped him off at the airport Sunday night, a sinking feeling entered into the pit of my stomach and stayed the rest of the trip. I did enjoy myself, the weather continued to be beautiful, the kids played wiffle ball and we devoured huge ice-cream cones every night. We rode bikes, walked the beach, and yes I saw amazing sunsets (with nothing obstructing my view!). My parents helped a ton and we all got along without any major blow outs and for me that is really an accomplishment or should I say miracle?

But this gnawing, aching, lonely feeling would not go away. Our vacation was not complete without daddy! We all missed him terribly. I kept thinking about others who live everyday without their spouses, whether they've lost them, or they are off serving our country, or they just plain up and left. My heart goes out to single moms (and dads), they are strong, strong people. This little bit of time without Joe has really put my life into perspective for me. I am so spoiled. I am so blessed. I take my husband for granted way too much!! Not just with all of his help which trust me, I am so thankful for, but I take HIM for granted. My favorite place to be in the whole world is in his embrace, not to mention that he is the very best friend that I have ever had. This distance between us has brought my heart closer to his more than I ever thought was possible. I want him to know how much I appreciate him, all of him. We don't know what time we have left here. I want to try to live everyday as if it were our last together. I know that in the throws of life and all of the hustle and bustle, it is easy to forget, but I want to remember these feelings that I have been having this last week. I don't want to forget the sick stomach I have when he is away and I don't want my words to be empty, but filled with action. I want to show him how much I care because we might not have another day here on this earth together.

As dramatic and extreme as this may sound, part of me has felt like Joe has died. I know that I am ignorant when it comes to death, but my soul has been so downcast and lonely without him and on vacation I kept thinking. "This is what our family vacation would be like if he ever died." God knows how oblivious I am to the reality of death. In all of His grace, He comforts me, even if I am a drama queen. I am His drama queen and he loves me. So I leave you with this,

Psalm 31:11&12
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

Jesus I cast all my cares upon you. Thank you for carrying my burdens no matter how big or small they may seem to others. You are my refuge in all things. I will praise your name forever! Thank you for turning my sadness into joy!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Baby Steps

More stuff- more clothes, new furniture, more toys, new guitars, more money, more, more, more!!! It seems as though our generation is never satisfied, but not just with "stuff," with our careers too. Climb the corporate ladder. Rise to the top. Step on anyone to get there. Feed your ego by becoming the most successful person you can be. Christians even buy into this philosophy. Prosperity theories have infiltrated our churches, preaching about how to have "your best life now" and how we can pray for God to "enlarge our territories." I am not saying that we shouldn't strive to have positive attitudes and hearts full of joy. What I am saying or rather asking, is, "Why?" Why are we running so fast and hard to succeed so much in this life? Why are we consumed with worldly treasures that all will only rot away? Why do we (I) grasp at empty pleasures? When this world and all of it's competition wears on my heart, the words of Paul encourage me and guide me back to the narrow path I long to tread.

Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I want to "continue in the cause..." and run, not walk, heavenward. This life and all it's "stuff" is that exactly, just "stuff." I lose focus, so much of the time, on what is important and what IS important is eternity, not carnality (is that a word?) So again I reflect and am reminded of how I need to continually be renewed and transformed into the likeness of Christ. How am I to do that? The apostle Paul urges us, "...in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will."

I yearn for God's will in my life. Sometimes I obsess over if I am living out His perfect and pleasing will. Am I in it, or out of it? Am I walking on the narrow path right now, or am I skipping down my own road? What am I to do?

I think maybe I could deny myself some and obey Him more. Maybe it isn't going to be this grand, gigantic, life-changing event. Maybe I need to take baby-steps. (Bill Murray, "What About Bob" ...ring a bell?) If I start making little changes, soon I'll start to walk a little faster, then I'll begin a slight jog, and before you know it, I will be sprinting onward toward my goal.

Some little changes:

WAKE UP and get out of bed, before the kids!!!
(I am SO not a morning person!)
...after getting out of bed, PRAY!!!

...after praying, READ MY BIBLE!!!

...after reading my bible, BE NICE, even before coffee!!!

...after being nice, STAY NICE!!!

...CHANGE me, not everyone around me!!!
(oh this is going to be hard. Please pray for me!)

On a side note: I know this is going to sound cheesy, but I really do want to be a champion for Christ! I want to win the gold, but I can't just run in the race, I have to train, endure, work hard! Athletes don't win without sacrifice, determination, dedication...and everyone has to begin somewhere. I mean Michael Phelps had to jump into a pool and learn how to swim, didn't he? Well I am going to take a baby step in the right direction today! Will you join me?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Slice of the Sunset

(August 9)

I love sunsets. My mom has passed this trait down to me. While growing up, our eyes were always fixed on the sky whenever the sun was falling down on the horizon. It didn't matter if we were in our backyard or on the beach, mom would grab our attention, her voice raised to a pitch of great excitement, "Look! Look! Girls look at the BEAUTIFUL sunset!" We would gaze upward and smile. My mom actually had a fetish with the sun in general. She was always singing songs about it to us. "You are my Sunshine" and "Sunshine on my Shoulders" were two of her favorites. (But I never understood how sunshine almost always made John Denver high. Did he have a ladder too?) Like her, I cherish an amazing sunset and as an adult, I've grown to appreciate the beauty of one. There is something so divine when the sky turns all shades of pink, orange and yellow. It makes me melt inside.

Tonight I had to take the kids on a night-night car ride. Ayla, my baby, was refusing to go to sleep. Most every night, my husband gives the children their baths and puts them to bed so I am definitely not up-to-par on the whole bedtime thing. I have come to appreciate this more than you know, now that he has been away. (Almost one week down, three to go!) As I was loading them up in the van, I couldn't help but notice the glorious sunset trying to peak out past the rooftops. A heavy rain had just blown through and the reflection of the sun on the clouds was amazing. I backed out of the driveway and decided to head west so i could take more of it in, but every way I went, trees or houses were blocking my view. (No, I didn't crash!) Turn after turn, only small slices of the sky, could I see. I wanted so desperately to see more of the picture and praise the artist. I didn't want to miss out, but I had to drive my baby to sleep!!

In this busy life of mine, sometimes all I can catch are small glimpses of the big picture. God reveals glorious pieces of it to me every day. The question is, do I take time to look for more, or are the things of this world, my responsibilities and my obligations blocking my view?

Psalm 50:1&2 The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.

(...and yes, my kids went to sleep and praise God, they slept all night!)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

God's Forecast

(Aug. 4th)

This evening when I left for a walk, the sky in front of me was bright with scattered white clouds reflecting the sun. It was quite the pretty picture. I took a mental snapshot as I continued on, enjoying my semi-alone time while pushing my half-asleep, baby with a bubba, in her stroller down the sidewalk. Just as I was mapping out my walk in my head and thinking about how I could probably sneak in a nice long one, a huge drop of water hit me in the back of my head. I turned around and the sky was dark gray. Pound, pound, pound, down they continued. So much for my plan, I thought as I turned the stroller around and started home. (I kept checking on the baby. She slept right through, THANK GOD!!)

I am a planner, especially when it comes to life-changing events. I planned my wedding. I planned all three of my pregnancies. I have planned all of my vacations, including a two week long European vacation that put National Lampoons' to shame. When a damper is put on my plan, I don't like it. Now that I have children, I have all kinds of new plans. Plans for them to be academically inclined, wonderful musicians, and great athletes to name just a few. I even have "spiritual" plans for them, envisioning what influence they will have on others for the kingdom of God. All of these aren't necessarily wrong ideas, I understand. God places vision in us for His purpose sometimes but that isn't what I'm talking about here. What I'm talking about is; My plan vs. God's plan.

Sometimes God's plan comes splattering down on me out of nowhere even when there are signs all around and I'm too busy looking ahead toward my plan to notice. Had I taken my eyes off of my path and looked up behind me I would have seen the gigantic, dark clouds that were rolling in. Thankfully God, so full of mercy, knows I'm the type of person who needs a huge globule of rain to smack the back of my head to get me to look up. He knows something major has to happen in my life for me to seek out His plan. He must laugh at me sometimes when He looks at my life running in all of the circles that I have mapped out. I want to surrender to His plan. I do long to yield-daily. I'm working on that. For now my gracious God keeps throwing down sweet humongous drops of rain right on my head. I hear Him kindly whisper, "Turn around, look up, look to me and I will direct your path."

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Sunday, August 3, 2008

My Treasure

(Written on Jul.20th)
My husband started a new job two weeks ago. He has been home studying and preparing for his training that will take place in August, for the whole month. Four weeks. Did I mention that he will be away in another state, unable to come home for approximately one third of our summer? I am not bitter. He is missing our family vacation. I look so forward to our time up north every year. Literally in the dead cold, waste deep snow of Michigan winter, I dream of walking on the beach with the sun basking on my shoulders, hearing the crashing waves of Lake Michigan with my husband's hand in mine and our little ones at our feet. It helps me get through the cold. I am not kidding. Our time at the beach every year was my focal point while giving birth to all three children, no joke! I am not bitter. I paid for the condo in full months ago, before the new job. I reserved the only week available. I keep telling myself that I am not bitter, I am thankful. We are so fortunate that my husband has a job and even a better opportunity for our family. It's much closer to home (after training, that is).

I look so forward to it. I plan out what outfits the kids will wear for pictures together on the beach, weeks in advance. Every year when we drive up over that hill, under the lighthouse sign welcoming us to our cherished vacation town, we all are filled with such anticipation and hope, so excited about the next several days.

Oh, how I put my hope in earthly things. Can storing up treasures on earth mean more than material items? Can it mean any type of enjoyment that we cherish more than heaven itself? Even loving time with our family more than time with Jesus? Do I yearn for heaven like I yearn for our vacation?

Forgive me Jesus for not putting you first in my life. Thank you for molding me a bit with this situation. You Oh Lord know exactly how to shape my stubborn ways. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Matthew 6:19-21
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Bathie Time

Ayla was playing with her toys, having such a great time in the basement. It was getting late. Bathie time. I told her and she was not happy. I picked her up as she fought me off. Kicking, stretching, tears, the works. I cradled her in my arms gently and had a thought/question enter into my mind. Is that how I am with my God? Does He pick me up and carefully hold me even when I'm unwilling? I took crocodile-teary eyes up into the bathroom and ran the water. As soon as she realized it was one of her favorite times of the day, she got a big smile on her face, "baffy?" As I poured the warm water out of the cup over her head, I had thoughts of God dipping me in His streams of living water, cleansing my selfishness, my laziness, my sin.

Sometimes I feel our Sovereign God takes us, pulls us up out of our miry pit, wherever that may be, and grabs onto us (even when we are fighting Him) and dips us right back into our waters of baptism. Cleansing every inch of rotten stain and blemish, He casts it all off as far as the east is from the west.

John 3:11
"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire..."