Sunday, June 27, 2010

This Moment

Have you ever had the sense that this moment is slipping away? It is. We are all only allotted a certain amount of moments before our time on earth is done. What are we to do with this moment? Certainly its existance isn't for nothing. One moment leads to the next from the time we are born until the time we die. Soloman writes in Ecclesiastes,

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Beyond any shadow of a doubt, I know that my primary purpose now is the nurturing and raising of my three beautiful children - Caleb, Emet, and Anna Ruth.....loving and serving my wonderful husband and best friend, Jason......honoring and welcoming friends and strangers alike.....making my home a place of refuge and light, hope and friendship.

Yet, what of this very moment, God? This moment when I gaze down at the sleeping faces of my beautiful children, these priceless gifts you have given into my care? I see it fleeting before me. Time has taught me that this moment passes into the next right before my very eyes.

Our boys watched the movie Toy Story at a friend's house tonight and were scared. I hadn't thought anything of letting them watch it but now am reminded just how very tender and fragile their little spirits are. Time will change this, it always does. Their time of innocent childhood is so very short. When we came home, Jason took Caleb and laid down with him on the couch, like he used to do when he was a tiny baby. But, Caleb is so big now. Yet, he was just born, wasn't he?.....several moments ago....

I look at the pictures on my computer in fast forward, and time is literally passing before my very eyes. I wonder, did I make the most of each moment?

So, what did I do with that moment...the one that was this moment several moments ago? I gazed at my babies, I stroked each little forehead and touched each little nose. I prayed to God to protect them and keep them safe, to give us wisdom and strength as we raise them up, and I shed a tear of nostalgia for the inevitable passing of that moment - knowing full well that before too long, I won't be gazing at my small babies any longer......that I would be a woman of advanced age with greying hair and a lined face and would stare with awe and amazement back the youthful pictures of myself , my husband and my babies.

Heavenly Father - help me to follow the road you would have me travel; help me to make those lines on my face lines of laughter and joy and kindness. Help me to guard the hearts and minds of my children until it is time for me to prepare them for the big world ahead of them, then help me to point them in the right direction. Help me to live this moment from now until my last with Your purpose and not mine.....and to make the most of this moment........

Friday, June 25, 2010

Out of the mouth of babes...

The past two days have been rich with sweet moments from my sons, so I thought I'd capture a few:

  • Last night, Caleb asked me to crawl into his bed for a while with him, which is now on the top bunk about 1.5 feet from the ceiling. As we lay cuddled together, he asked, "Mama, when will I be a Papa?" I explained to him that first he would meet a wonderful woman, who first loved God more than anything else in her life, and then loved him next. "You mean like Grandma?" he asked.

  • Today, Caleb was singing upstairs. I thought I heard the melody to "Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord." As he came downstairs still singing, however, I heard the words he was actually signing: "Trouble myself in the sight of the Lord." Quite telling of human nature, I thought. If only we could get that one straight! :-)

  • We were getting out of the car in the gym parking lot today. My hands were full carrying Anna Ruth and Emet started to cry out for my hand. Caleb kindly said, "Here, Emet. You can take my hand. I've got ya." (My heart was melting, as you could imagine.)

  • Later that day, however, Caleb was upstairs going to the bathroom and called out, "Emet! Come up here!" Emet said, "No!" Caleb called down "I won't be mean to you anymore if you come up here! But if you don't come up here, then I'll be really mean to you."

  • As I was feeding Anna Ruth avacados for dinner tonight, Caleb came up and asked if he could have some avacados. "Sure", I told him. I cut him a slice and Emet started to whine and say "I no like adacados!" "Emet," I returned, "You don't have to like 'adacados' but Caleb and I do. You don't have to eat any." He continued to pout and said a sentence that is pretty typical for our little Emet: "I no like tomatoes aaaaann I no like t'adacados."

  • Tonight we went out for Mexican food. Anna Ruth sat in a high chair and ate cheerios for the first time. The boys were so proud of her, wanting to give her tons of cheerios at once. It is so adorable how much they adore their sister....whom they may forever call "Missy."

Oh how I love my little boys!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In the shadow of Your wings

...but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary... Isaiah 40:31

There are those moments in life you will never forget...moments you return to when you are doubting, hurting, or afraid....those times when it is undeniable that God is speaking to you in a way that goes beyond rational explanation. I write the below as a reminder, so that when I am in a dry place someday, feeling far removed from God, I can remember that HE IS. It may not seem miraculous or special to anyone else, but I truly believe that if we seek Him, God will oftentimes meet us where we are, speaking to us in a way that allows us to see and believe.

Saturday morning I woke up at my parents' home in Port Orchard. My plan was to go for a run that day, but nothing in me wanted to go. Nothing. I got up and dressed in my workout clothes, and extended my breakfast as long as possible. I complained to Jason that my knees already hurt and I had no energy. It was chilly and drizzling outside. Finally, I determined that if I didn't leave soon, my window of opportunity would pass.

Up until this past December, 6 short months ago, I would have claimed that I had never run more than 2 miles in my entire life....and that was back in high school. I would get knee pain, shin splints, and feel like my chest was going to explode. I'm sure these are normal things for people who don't run, but to me the thought of running was torture. After Anna Ruth was born, however, I found that getting my daily 3 mile walk in with the three children was next to impossible. My entire exercise plan was undone. A friend suggested we train for a 5K run, and I laughed. However, several other friends were doing it, so I decided I had to give it a try. I quickly found that, though it wasn't my favorite activity, I soon pushed past the 2 mile mark to run 3, 4 and 5 miles. One time in late March, I ran 7.2 miles on flat ground. However, my legs felt ready to collapse and I had fairly severe IT band pain and overuse syndrome after this. I had to stop running for a while then start over at 2 miles and slowly build back up. Even now, after 6 months of running, I often loathe the first 3-4 miles. To put it plainly, it's not a sport I choose to do because I love it. I run because it is the most expedient and effective way for me to keep in physical and cardiovascular shape.

I had been struggling for a few days, being in a place of mental turmoil....feeling hurt, lonely and broken. I wanted desperately to feel God's presense, to be comforted. But, this seemed a remote and unattainable goal. It didn't seem possible. Yet, I put on my Hymns playlist. (I typically don't do this while running, as it would have me going slower than a snail.)

About 20 minutes into my run, the song "Lay em Down" started to play. I felt like God was beginning to speak to me in the way He always does for me. For me, it's never an audible voice, but the strongest sense that overtakes me....almost like a pressure on my chest. Sometimes I hear words in my head...sometimes I don't. However, I'm beginning to recognize a pattern in how He communicates with me. I heard Him tell me to listen to the words of this song. I started the song again.....and again......and again.....and again. Each time I would start it, my mind would almost instantly wander away. It was crazy! I kept hearing Him tell me to LISTEN.....So - that is how we rolled - He told me to listen, I restarted the mind wandered - He told me to listen, I restarted the mind wandered...over and over and over again. Finally (this must have been a miracle in and of itself) I was able to get through the entire song entirely focused on each word. Here they are:

Come down to the river
Come and let yourself in
Make good on a promise
To never hurt again
If you're lost and lonely
You're Broken down
Bring all of your troubles
come lay 'em down

All you sinners
And the weak at heart
All you helpless
On the boulevards
Wherever you are now
Whatever evil you've found
Bring all of your troubles
And come lay 'em down

We're all tied to the same old failings
Finding shelter in things we know
We're all dirty like corrupted small towns
We'll bring our troubles
We'll bring our troubles lay 'em down

All you rich men
And the high above
All those with
And without love
All you burdened
Broken down
Bring all of your troubles
Come lay 'em down

The playlist kept on rolling, and I began to notice something. I was about 30 minutes into my run and wasn't the least bit tired and had no aches at all. As I headed back to the end of the road I had planned to take, I decided to take a different route and go a little farther. Then the song "Your love, oh Lord" by Third Day came on, from Psalm 36.

Your love, oh Lord
Reaches to the heavens
Your faithfulness stretches to the sky
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains
Your justice flows like the ocean's tide

I will lift my voice
To worship You, my King
I will find my strength
In the shadow of your wings

I began to have an energy I could not explain. I felt as if a balm was being poured over my soul. I kept running. As I ran on, my senses became accutely aware of my surroundings, and I became more and more aware of how abnormal this run was. By this point, I was running hills - up and down I went, and my pulse didn't seem any more than if I were sitting in a chair at home. My knee didn't hurt, I didn't feel like I was sweating, my chest wasn't burning, I wasn't thirsty or weak. At one point, I remember literally looking down at my body to make sure I was running and not walking. It just didn't make sense. I ran on. As the words of the song coursed through my veins, I felt God speaking them to me and I experienced an indescribable peace.

God began to show me that it was Him sustaining me through this run. This was not me. He will help me to do many incredible and mighty things, but there is no room for pride or boasting, because my purpose is to glorify Him. There is unlimited potential to what He can do through me, but I must give Him the glory so that through me others may find Him.

As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world's interest in me has also died. Galatians 6:14

I asked God to keep speaking to me. I ran past the spot where shortly after I turned 16, I drove off the road going about 100mph and landed in the only patch of blackberries in a road entirely lined with trees. Once again, I felt humbled that my life had been spared, despite my foolish actions.

I ran past the former home of a dear Christian woman, Nancy, who now lives in Heaven. She is the mother of one of my dearest friends. I felt her cheering me on, and nostalgia swept over me. My eyes were full of tears.

As I neared the bottom of Harper Hill, I decided to turn left and run to the Harper Dock. I ran out to the end of the dock. It was amazing to be out there - surrounded by water on both sides. I lifted my arms to Heaven and looked out at the beauty around me. My eyes were drawn to movement in the water nearby, and I thought I might be about to see a whale or sea lion. I asked God to show me what beautiful creation He had for me to see. I continued jogging in place and had decided to move on when I felt God telling me to wait. This happened twice. I excitedly awaited seeing the creature up close. Surely it would be amazing if God had wanted me to see it. The bubbles came closer. Finally, I saw it......two scuba divers passed beneath me. "This is my most beautiful and precious creation," God said to me. I can't really describe the awe I felt in this moment. It was definitely what some might call a moment of truth.

I ran on, now an hour into my run....still not tired, hurting, or thirsty...full of energy. I ran around the waterfront, up and down hills. I turned off my iPod so I could hear oncoming cars on the narrow winding road, and I began to feel God's presense a little less closely. I began to wonder how far I had run. I began to plan the rest of my run, capitalizing on this amazing situation. I would run down to the ferry dock, then up to the top of Southworth via a long steep hill, up a few sideroads, then back home. I was starting to think how awesome it was that I had been running for so long and so far without even breathing hard or hurting at all. I remembered Jason telling me only a small percentage of the population could run for more than an hour.

I was 3/4 the way up the steep part of the big hill when I heard God's voice again....telling me to stop and turn around. WHAT? This defied every aspect of my personality.....I don't start up any big hill I have planned to conquer and stop, not in this or any area of life...especially if there is nothing wrong. Surely He didn't really mean to stop and turn around...not when I've been going for so long....when I haven't had any pains?! I had come this far! Surely this wasn't God's voice I was hearing. Besides, would it really matter if I went the rest of the way? I was almost there! This was crazy! I stopped to stretch, fully intending to keep going. I did. I rounded the corner and continued to progress toward the top. Certainly it wouldn't really matter, right? I mean, why would He carry me on this long journey just to have me stop right before the pinacle...the very top of the biggest hill? (I guess in my heart, I probably knew the answer to this question.)

There He was again....complete with the pressure on my chest...."Turn around now.....Turn around now....Turn around now.....It's time to go home" I heard. Ok, God. Yes, I'll obey......I turned around and headed back. He began to show me my need to listen closely to discern His voice and then to obey it, even when it seems to go against everything in me....when it's not convenient to my nature. A muscle in my leg started to hurt. I've never had pain there before, so I dubbed it my "disobedience muscle".

I'm still amazed that despite God having just given me such a beautiful gift, one that I was even still in the midst of experiencing, I still wanted to own nature wanted to triumph and receive even the small glory of setting my route and goal....even though I knew the entire run I was riding on the wings of eagles. I just couldn't obey when I first heard His voice.

Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!" Matthew 26:41

I arrived home 1hr and 41 minutes after I left....not tired, not weak, not thirsty or hungry, a normal pulse - my sore "disobedience muscle" my only indication I had been running for so long. I think I could have run for hours on end. I'm sure I could have had God willed it.

I drank a glass of water, fed my baby girl, and took a shower. A few hours later as it neared dinner, I realized I had forgotten to eat lunch. All of these things are very abnormal for me, for I typically need to drink and eat very soon after running much shorter distances. It's as if God was telling me, "I am sufficient. I will sustain you."

In the two days since the big run, I have been reminded of how very miraculous that day was. Tonight, I was at the gym and chose to do the stationary bicycle in order to give my body a rest. 15 minutes into my workout, I was sweating and my heart was pounding. I was reminded that it is like this but worse most every time I run.

I wish I could say that that 1 hr and 41 minutes took hold of my heart and mind, never to return to my former struggles. I think part of human nature simply prevents that. However, I do have that experience to remind me that I can do everything through him who gives me strength...Phillipians 4:13

Friday, June 11, 2010

In case you ever wanted to be a GLADIATOR.... I have the shoe for you! Having been shopping several times recently, I'm struck by the fact that I have apparently fallen behind in the ins and outs of fashion.

For those of you who have a closet full of shoes you know and love, can rest and relax in the amusement of the season's latest fashions. If you are in desperate need of shoes, might have a bit of a hard time finding them
....unless of course, you're looking to be a GLADIATOR!!!

Gladiators have options these days!!! From the
simple and the heavily
bejeweled....There is a shoe for everyone!

and in case you are ever in intense gladiatorial
combat, caught up by your very own shoe,
these shoes have a zipper release for
quick escape.... here are shoes with
both form AND function! They
come complete with a lead (or harness).
You can "pull yourself up by the bootstraps," so
to speak. Just make sure the other gladiator
doesn't get ahold of the strap!

These are the post event shoes...
(for the winner, that is)......soft, comfortable,
breathable ....what more could you ask for?
"Listen to me. Learn from me. I was not the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd and you will win your freedom."
Proximo, Gladiator
"It's easier to win a crowd with GREAT SHOES!!!" Ann Ordway

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Two Geppettos

Recently, we purchased a Veggie Tale DVD entitled "Pistachio" (obviously, a twist on the classic Pinocchio). The boys adore this new movie and have watched it many times.....(perhaps for the last time given its untimely demise with Emet using the DVD as a skate to slide across the room...but that's a story for another time...)

Yesterday morning, the boys were playing outside and I was in the living room doing my Bible study. I had given strict instructions for them not to come in unless someone was dying. However, I heard the door creak open. I asked Caleb what he was doing and he told me he needed a hat for Pistachio. The door slammed shut, and off he went.

I followed outside a few minutes later and heard the boys in the garage. As I entered the garage, each of my sons eagerly showed me the toy he was making. Caleb said, "We're making toys for sick kids - kids that are in the hospital, and kids that don't have any toys."..."Making toys for sick kids!", Emet returned, as is his custom these repeat everything Caleb says.

Before me sat two pieces of firewood, one with a stocking hat. Each boy showed me the face he had hammered into the firewood. (I couldn't really see any, but I trust they were there - at least in their vivid imaginations!) A proud Mama I was.

Lest you think my children are saints, however, today's story was a bit different. Emet came in screaming from outside telling me Caleb had hit him in the head with Papa's framing hammer! I comforted my youngest, then went outside to talk to Caleb. I explained how hitting someone with a hammer is very dangerous and if you hit them hard enough, you could kill them. (We have to use extremes sometimes to get our point across.) I told him that he had lost privilege of using tools for a long while and would have to discuss the situation with Papa when he got home.

Later that evening, I asked Caleb if he had told Papa about what happened with the hammer. He returned, "You mean when I tried to kill Emet?" :-)

Monday, June 7, 2010

My treasure in jars of clay

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2 Corinthians 4:7

I have noticed over time, that part of the great mercy of God is that He doesn't show us all of our weaknesses all at once but one at a time. During the past months, a struggle I have had in my faith has been pressed upon my heart over and over and over - fear of loss. There are some things in life that mean more to us than anything.....more than life itself. For me, that has been my husband and children. I've always had what some may consider to be a strange prayer.......that I would never, ever be separated from my Jason....that we would be together until our very last breaths deep into our old age....and that we might die in our sleep, if the Lord didn't come first.

Many may consider this silly, a childish hope of a weak and simple faith...unrealistic perhaps....unlikely. My great grandmother, whom I never met, found herself facing the loss of her dear husband of many years as he had cancer. She prayed fervently that God would take her too, because she didn't want to live without her husband. And, you know? He did. As his cancer was in the final stages, they were headed to the hospital - perhaps for the last time and were both killed in a car accident on the way there. In a way, this is tragic. It was a tragic, beautiful love story. It is something I have clung to my whole life. I didn't know I would have this great fear until I met my Jason nearly 14 years ago, but as our relationship progressed, I grew more and more fearful of losing him someday. It was a thought I couldn't bear and so began my prayer to God.

Over time, this prayer has come to encompass my children too, and of course - their children as well. I have begun to fear tragedy or loss of any sort in my life. In 2006, I nearly lost Jason when he broke his back in a mountain biking accident. I can still hear the neurosurgeon telling me he hadn't ever seen anything like it and that it was a miracle that he wasn't paralyzed, and had he not been wearing a full face helmet, he likely would have been killed. However, here we are....Jason is healthy and well, having run a marathon and become father to two more beautiful children since then.

However, all around me I see tragedy, I witness despair in the lives of those I know and love. My friend lost her 4 month baby girl to SIDS, another to a rare heart defect; one of my very best friends lost her mother to dear friend Julie died unexpectedly at the age of 34, leaving behind 4 young children and a husband....a 9 year old boy died of leukemia after a 2 year battle....a healthy husband and father dies unexpectedly of a heart attack.

My heart soul cries out. Why God? Why? And, what's more....who am I that you would honor my prayer when all of these people suffer such tragedy in their lives? You love them no less than me. During their sufferings though, I have seen such great evidence of your presence. I have seen your strong hand upholding them. I see your faithfulness to your children to get them through. It is clear.

Yet, I become paralyzed with fear. I want to cling to my loved ones with every ounce of strength I have. I want to wrap them up and protect them. I want to hold them in the palm of my hand and not let go - ever. I AM AFRAID. GOD HELP ME. If the sheer force of my love and hope and prayer could determine anything......I would have the strength to move mountains. No earthly power could overcome me.

And yet.....the gentle voice of my Father calls to me. "Take my hand. Trust me. They are my children and I love them. You are my child and I love you. Open your tightly clenched fist and place them in My hands. Allow Me to move freely in your life. Trust me. Trust me. Trust me."

Ah, Father....that I could trust and obey! You see? I so fear that me taking that step to trust will require me giving up those things which I hold most dear. I fear that my very biggest fear will be what needs to be tested and I don't want to be tested. I am not strong enough. I can't bear it. I know you say that you are sufficient, but I can't wrap my mind around that. I'm even afraid to reach out my hand and ask for help lest you need to prove it to me. I can barely write through the stream of tears blurring my vision. My soul is anguished.

Each night, I pray over my sleeping children and husband - I lay my hands on their little foreheads and watch them sleep. I touch their little noses and say, "God bless you, dear bug." They are beautiful.....healthy.....whole....spiritually, mentally, and physically. It seems my life is perfect in all the ways that really matter and in my own limited, human perspective, it can only get worse from here. How could it be any better than what I have? And, people are always saying...."Trouble happens to us all" and "If you're not experiencing trials now, then you will". Everyone has trials. Everyone dies sometime.

Pam, a dear family friend and a wonderful mentor to me, has experienced more tragedy than most could fathom. She has lost two husbands, her brother, and most recently her adult daughter, and my friend, Julie. She recently wrote me an e-mail that once again reminded me that God hears my pain, that he knows my hurts, and that He wants to help me. She wrote:

"During my time of just waiting in God’s presence, you came to mind regarding both your eye appointment and the Jensen family. Reading Steve and Vicki’s poignant emails has been emotional for me, both for what they are going through and because of my memories of the final days and weeks of Jim’s life.

I don’t know how to convey in an email what is on my heart that I desire to share with you. I wish we could get together over a long lunch and talk, but alas distance—and the fact that you are a busy wife and mom—prohibit that. So I am just going to write a few thoughts, share a couple of Scriptures and pray that God will do the work in your heart. After all, He is God and He is more than capable.

Knowing how deeply you love your family—your immediate family, including your parents—and just a bit about the fears that you have regarding losing any of them (even though we know that any separation in this life is only temporary), I somehow want to communicate to you how much God longs for your security to be firmly established in Him. He wants that to be in your heart. You have it in your head. That is apparent in how you write about the Jensen family and your admiration for what they are going through. You see them facing one of the hardest things parents must go through with a confidence and trust that can only come from the presence of God. That is giving you great hope that God will see you through anything. And yes, He will. But He wants you to know that on a heart level as well. Because then and only then will you be able to face the challenges of each day with an assurance that “God is enough”. And that God can be trusted.

God is trustworthy and therefore without reservation we can pray, “thy will be done in my life”. You and I both know this is not a one-time prayer, but one that
we must reaffirm each day. We are not to worry about the tomorrows. They have enough trouble. Every morning, God wants us to run to Him, believing that He is “more than enough” for whatever that day holds.

The heart of what I want to communicate with you is something that I heard Andy Stanley say in a series from last year called, “He’s Still Got the Whole World in His Hands.” In part two of that three-part series, he shared an insight in Philippians 4:4-7 that was revelatory to me. So often we tell people not to worry but to pray with thanksgiving and God’s peace will come. Andy pointed out something really interesting about a word that often gets overlooked, the word “present”. We won’t break through to “peace” until we’ve come to God with what our deep needs and requests are. Begin with the topic (your eye appointment, Jason’s job etc) but don’t stop there. What are you really praying for? What are the deep needs/fears that are really represented. Those are what we must present to God in order to get lasting peace. When I pray for finances, am I really praying just about the money to pay the bills—or does it go beyond the worry that I won’t have enough money to pay the bills to a fear that no one will take care of me. When I desire to pray “not my will but yours” but feel I’m holding back a little part of me, I need to pray until I get to the real need. Do I really trust God? Or if I pray that way, He might require someone or something that I can’t imagine living without. Is a man’s prayer about a job just about the job—or the need to have respect among his peers. The examples are endless, but my timer just went off, so I need to get ready for an appointment.

I will close with a couple of Scriptures and the encouragement to you that I experientially know that God is enough to see me through each trial that comes. I know that—and yet I am still learning it (a lesson I will likely keep learning every day of my life). I have a few of those underlying needs and fears of my own, that God is helping me learn to present to Him—and to pray until the peace comes.

I love you Annie—and God loves you so much more. Come to Him in honesty. Ask Him to reveal what is underlying every fear and concern you have—and then pray until the peace comes. Because it will. Because God is faithful. Because God is trustworthy.

Psalm 62:8 Trust in, lean on, rely on, and have confidence in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is a refuge for us (a fortress and a high tower). Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! AMP

Isaiah 54:10 For though the mountains should depart and the hills be shaken or removed, yet My love and kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace and completeness be removed, says the Lord, Who has compassion on you. AMP "

Heavenly Father,
Please help me to be able to believe these words in my deepest heart. Help me to trust matter what. I wish I could say I have hands open to you....that I fully trust you with my heart. I want to, but I am so afraid.

God, I tentatively lay these treasures before you, but know that I'm still holding on. I know that in the big picture, my tiny little grip doesn't have too much to do with the outcome of anything. However, the heart of this wife and mother just can't seem to let go yet. I know your arms are a safer and better place than my weak hands. I'm trying to believe this in my heart. Please be patient with me.

I am a jar of clay, weak and chipped...easily broken.

Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping.
Psalm 39:12

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Psalm 71:3