Sunday, April 24, 2011

Come and See!

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!
Luke 24:5b,6a

The Easter morning weather was anything but cheerful. Freshly-manicured toes in beautiful new sandals dodged puddles throughout the parking lot. People scurried toward the door; attempting to protect their flowing floral dresses, khaki pants and pastel-colored ties from the pouring rain. In spite of their cheerful attire, it didn't look (or feel) like Easter. That is, until the doors were opened ...

Once inside the church walls, the smell of Easter Lilies permeates the air. The chapel's cross (which had been covered with a black shroud just two days earlier) is completely covered in flowers. Brilliant white banners with gold lettering read, "He Is Risen, Indeed!" While the world outside seemed to confirm spring going missing (again) in the Pacific Northwest, a joyous celebration of NEW LIFE and HOPE had been found-- not only in my little church, but in churches around the world!

As we snacked on fruit and muffins in the fellowship hall, tales of the journey to church were shared among my fellow moms. With the craziness of preparation behind us, we were able to laugh at the trials of getting to our little "Easter Greenhouse." We had improvised on the spot because of tights with holes, dress shirts that suddenly did not fit and missing shoes. Keeping children focused on leaving the house in a timely manner is always a struggle, but the allure of baskets brimming with sugary goodness adds a whole new dimension of frustration! There had been encounters with red lights, the quest for a parking spot and children who had snuck into the family car with jelly on their faces. And yet, we all agreed, it had been worth the daunting trip! No matter how inviting our warm beds had been on a dreary, soggy morning, No matter how many arguments had occurred in the backseat on the drive to church, no matter what personal battles we had waged throughout the week, we knew that the Hope of the Resurrection would be proclaimed within these walls. We feel comfort here. We come, knowing the final chapters of the Easter story. On that first Easter Morning, however, there were far more trials and far less certainty ...

Two women headed to the tomb that first Easter morning, while it was yet dark, to prepare Jesus' body with burial spices. They were not coming to a pretty church with lilies, fresh fruit and muffins, they were going to a heavily guarded grave, in the dark, to prepare the body of their beloved friend. They were not merely frustrated by traffic, they were wrought with grief. They did not know how they would get the tomb opened, nor did they have a guarantee that they would not be arrested for being a follower of Jesus. There was a great earthquake. They saw a bright-white angel who gave them wonderful, yet puzzling news. If anyone had the right to stay away, these ladies were in the clear! But they did not. They took this news to Jesus' disciples, just as the angel had told them to. Though they had experienced a rather frightening morning, they were also overjoyed by the news of Jesus' resurrection!

There are times when following Jesus can bring us to dark, frightening, unfamiliar places. The question is, will we have the faith of these women, that we might "come and see" what God has planned, or will we hide away, as the disciples did?

Jesus, as we celebrate Your Resurrection today, may we remember that the God we serve is the Victor over sin and death! As you bring us to new, sometimes frightening places, give us the strength we need to face your will in our lives!

Thank you, my Risen Savior, for all that you taught me on this 40 day journey with You. As a new season begins, I know that more lessons will follow. Help me to remember that moments of quiet with You aren't just for Lent; for what Your Word can teach us can not be confined to one lifetime, let alone one season! Bless my readers, LORD, that they might enjoy their own journey with You.

Rejoicing in His Resurrection,

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Life-Changing Choice (Good Friday)

... Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
John 19:30b

This is the day when we remember why Jesus came. He did not come merely to be worshiped, to perform miracles or to be a great teacher. This day was not a surprise to Him; for this plan had been in motion since the beginning of time. With His blameless sacrifice, Jesus closed a chapter that began with Adam's fall. The Holy Lamb of God chose to offer up His life as our sacrifice. He knew some would reject His gift, but He carried their sins anyway. The ripple effect of His act of immesurable love can be felt over two thousand years later. One choice changed everything!

I know that many of you are aware of how our family changed on Good Friday seven years ago. For those of you who are not, I encourage you to read the story of a beautiful young woman who made a choice that tragically ended her life. That beautiful girl was my niece, Heidi. You can read about it Here:!heidi's-story

That day could have destroyed our family. It was a senseless, unexpected and avoidable death. I have no doubt that without our hope in a Savior who has conquered sin and death, my brother-in-law could never find the strength to tell Heidi's story to so many young people. I would have no hope of seeing her again. I could never have moved past the despair, anger and emptiness I felt. But the same God who rescued me by the blood of His Son healed my broken heart.

Jesus, You alone know the number of times I have deleted and re-typed the paragraphs of this post. I cannot find the words to express what Your sacrifice at Calvary has meant to me. Thank You for Dying for me, that I might be forgiven. Thank You for Rising again, that I might have hope! Help me to see that words aren't always what we need to see the depth of Your love for us ... we need only look at the cross.

In Grateful Rememberance,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Committed Love

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13

At five-thirty a.m. this morning, my husband's alarm went off. Every weekday, that is what gets him out of bed. His wife, however, can quite happily sleep through that electronic nuisance. I was awakened as well, but my wake-up call was much nicer to listen to. "Sweetie, I hate to wake you, but I need you to help me with this bandage ..."

I am so thankful that my hubby is not as accident-prone as I am! On those rare occasions when he does get hurt, however, he seems to posses an amazing knack for awkwardly-placed (usually minor, thank goodness) injuries. If he cuts his hand at work, it will most likely be on a knuckle; testing the stick-ability of any adhesive bandage and taking forever to heal. His latest misfortune happened while training for his second Mt. Rainer summit. When you train to climb a mountain, blisters on your feet are going to happen. In my husband's case, however, they only take place in awkward, painful spots. While he usually tries to tend to all that icky stuff himself (he knows his wife is utterly disgusted by both blood and feet), properly protecting the under-backside of one's pinkie toe would most likely require double-jointed knees and ankles! Seeing as how my husband is not a trained contortionist and I am very skilled at going back to sleep for one more precious hour, I didn't mind helping him for a few minutes. :)

As I carefully wrapped the bandage, I told my hubby I'd just woken up from a dream about him. Knowing that my dreams are often bizarre, he tentatively asked if it was a good dream. I told him yes, it was about back when we were sweethearts. Pulling up his second sock, he replied, "But honey, we're STILL sweethearts!"

Enamoured by his statement, I agreed, but clarified that we weren't just sweethearts anymore-- we were also the best of friends. My hubby and I still hold hands most everywhere we go, but we have a whole lot more in our lives now than movie dates and picnics.

From our first date on, I wanted to marry Alan. That, dear readers, is not even close to committing. A desire to love and care for someone feels wonderful ... but it stops at feelings. I do not doubt that we loved one another before we got married, but with commitment comes a deeper level of love; a love that lasts. You can make googley eyes at a cute boy while sharing a sundae when you're in love, but committed love will touch a yucky toe in lieu of sleeping. A young man can write the girl of his dreams a love poem, but committed love goes beyond words and rocks a colicky baby, so his mother can sleep. A girl in love will spend hours on her hair before a date. A woman with committed love hunts down haircut coupons to stay on the family budget. When I was in love with my sweetheart, he bought me a teddy bear. After he became my husband, he bought me pepper spray to fend off a REAL bear visiting our neighborhood! Lasting love goes beyond words and feelings and ACTS.

Genuine, committed love also remains loyal when it doesn't "feel" wonderful. It wants the best for the other person. Infatuation fades when people don't get what they want out of the situation anymore. When the emotional highs dissipate, there is no payoff. This can happen in many relationships-- not just those of a romantic nature. We see a drastic change of heart from many who were once enthralled with Jesus. My, how things changed from Sunday to Friday ...

On Palm Sunday, they cried out, "Hosanna!" (meaning, "Save us now!") and welcomed him as their King. They saw this great miracle worker feeding thousands of people with a just a kid's lunch, raising the dead and speaking up against those in power. They saw a man who would solve all their problems. Surely, a man with this kind of power and authority could over-throw the Romans, bring them prosperity, peace and a life of comfort. As a hurting people in bondage to the Roman empire, they longed for their messiah to come and make things "right." When Jesus did not fulfill their expectations, they wanted nothing more to do with him. In fact, they wanted him dead.

There were others who truly did love Jesus, but they were not yet committed. Judas usually comes to mind, because he carried out his plan to betray Jesus for money. He was riddled with regret later, because he loved Jesus. But love without commitment will not last. Peter had every intention of standing with Jesus, regardless of the cost. He vehemently pledged his allegiance to Jesus and said he would die for Him. He truly did feel that way. However, when his convictions were tested, Peter crumbled under the pressure three times. All his followers scattered that day, afraid of what was to come. All but Judas would have the opportunity to go beyond affection into commitment after Jesus was resurrected, and there was a special reason why ...

From Sunday to Friday, only One never faltered, doubted or fled-- and He knew more than anyone else why commitment would be so difficult. As He cried out in anguish in the garden, He did not succumb to self-preservation. As the sins of all mankind were heaped upon him, He did not waver. As the people He suffered for mocked him, He forgave them. There is no greater example of committed love than Jesus Christ's sacrifice in our place.

If the story ended there, we would have Jesus' example to teach us how to truly love with commitment and no way to carry it out. But thanks be to God, this story does NOT end on a Friday! We know where the disciples' commitment came from. We know that we share in that same incredible gift, because of what Jesus has done for us!

Father, how I long for the rejoicing of Easter! I want to skip past the pain and suffering of the cross, but I know that without death, there is no resurrection. As I remember Your incredible sacrifice, I thank you for the hope that is to come!

Awaiting Alleluia,

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Puffy Pocket Syndrome

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

I'm not sure how I assumed an average Jane in the twenty-first century would hear from God, but I know I didn't expect to feel inspired by the monotonous chore of laundry! While God has the power, knowledge and ability to give us awe-inspiring signs (such hand writing on the wall [Daniel 5:5] and parting the Red Sea [Exodus 14:21]), He also seems to take great pleasure in using ordinary places and people. I've yet to audibly hear the voice of God, but He constantly puts quirky little reminders of His truth in my path. I don't have a "burning bush" in the pasture, and nothing remotely miraculous has ever happened in my barn! Around here, God speaks to my heart in a little room I like to call "my office." (The rest of the world would most likely refer to it as "the laundry room.")

I have taken this room for my own (since nobody else wants it); decorating it with pale pink walls and sassy {"barbie" pink and espresso-brown} polka dots. My hope is to someday have a laptop and a desk in there, so I can write in peace and quiet. Knowing that quiet is still a ways off, God brought me another life lesson doing something far less riveting: sorting clothes.

In our house, separating clothes from whites, linens and towels is just round one of the sorting process. All clothing must go through a series of pocket emptying; lest we have bubble gum, paychecks, seashells, nerf darts, rocks, doggie treats, Swedish fish, chapstick, drill bits, dead batteries, ink pens or expensive electronic devices swimming with our clothes. Sadly, every single object on that list has gone through my washing machine. Sadder still, it was MOMMY who washed the cell phone ... and the swedish fish! While cleaning up the red globs of goo of the dryer was not my idea of a fun time, the loss of my brand new cell phone was definitely the biggest bummer. Certainly, I would have learned to empty my pockets before throwing them into the hamper after that oopsie, right? Well, unless gremlins raided my hamper, sought out my blue jacket and stuffed the pockets with dental floss, chapstick and a pair of nail clippers, I'm afraid I have yet to conquer that habit!

The good news, however, is that I caught these little gems before they went into the washing machine! While the floss wouldn't have done much damage, getting melted petroleum jelly out of daddy's work shirt is not what I consider grand recreation! Those sharp little clippers surely would hare reeked havoc on my beloved argyle tights; causing me to bust out the "sackcloth and ashes" ensemble, for sure! Since I caught those pesky pocket invaders in time, my clothes headed to the dryer refreshed and ready to samba with the dryer sheet.

In spite of being thankful that my laundry was saved from petroleum peril, I felt a little silly for keeping that stuff in my pockets for several days. I had clipped the kids' nails while getting them ready for school, but it's not like they needed to be trimmed again once they came back home! Just what was I going to do with nail clippers all day, head to the neighbor's house and ask them to remove their socks? The floss really didn't need to stick around, either. There's one pack in the car and one in my purse. Emergencies in my house rarely involve tartar, and last time I checked, there was no unsightly build-up of plaque lining my coat pocket. The chapstick explanation was particularly embarrassing; I had found it lying around the house, lectured my wayward children about not putting it back in the bathroom and stuck it in my pocket for safe keeping amidst the morning race to the bus. I carried those three items to the grocery store, church, Cutters Point (my beloved coffee house) and many other places during the week. All the while, I had been completely oblivious to the pointless clutter nestled behind the zipper of my coat pocket.

If I don't empty my pockets regularly, I'm stuck with clutter in my clothes, junk in the hamper and a possible disaster in the washing machine. When I put off giving my burdens to God, my week is a disaster! I trudge through the week, carrying the dead weight of sin, worry, anger and pain. If I took a moment each day to really examine my heart (as I know I should), I know my burden would be much lighter. Sometimes I simply forget to "come clean" about a sin I'm struggling with, other times I keep useless grudges and worries around, "just in case." When that pointless bulk affects my ability to commune with God before bed, I should sense that something is wrong. A heavy heart, however, can make it difficult to discern such a warning. In my worn out state (lugging all that weight around can sure make a gal tired!), I chalk it up to fatigue and drift off to sleep. My family gets stuck with "Supernag" 24-7, my patience and grace have a negative balance and I wonder why everyone ELSE is so annoying! The tail end of this charming week is sent plummeting into the depths of despair ... until Sunday arrives.

As I prepare to hear The Word, worship my creator and come to The LORD's Table (my "spiritual washing machine," if you will), I finally inventory the contents of my heart. I know the renewal, reassurance and peace I so desperately crave requires dumping all my junk. The clutter of one morning is humbling, but the heavy heap from a week gone awry would be something I could never reveal to a Holy God without the boundless grace of my Heavenly Father! He is never shocked by what I reveal. He never says I've stretched the saving work of Jesus' sacrifice too far. Instead, He offers the same "fresh start" I could have had all week, along with the renewal and strengthening of my faith that comes from Hearing The Word, receiving Communion and worshiping Him with my family of believers. Without a single "I told you so," I am given a new beginning and the fortification I need to face another week. :)

If you feel disconnected from God (and, most likely, your loved ones!), perhaps it's time to check the nooks and crannies of your heart for baggage! The sooner you dump your junk, the sooner God can fill those empty pockets with His love, grace and divine instruction. Put on the rubber gloves if you have to, but get that garbage GONE! :)

Gracious LORD, help me to remember that my heart is only as heavy as I insist on making it. Thank You for your endless supply of fresh starts, no matter how much garbage I have to unload, or how old my stains are! Help me to remember that your saving grace is not confined to a building or Sunday morning, because you reside in me!

With Easter Anticipation,

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A loss for words

And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weaknesses; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

I know a lot of people say they "love" their jobs, but I really do! Along with my non-paying (well, not in money, anyway) duties as CEO of the home, Superwife to my sweet hubby (she also has an alter-ego named "Supernag"-- but we won't worry about her today) and Mama to all other living inhabitants (be they fleshly, furry or feathered), I have a "real" job a few days a week. My work comes to me just shy of 5:45 a.m. in the sleepy, snuggly form of my "rental baby," Kaelin.

He's a big two year old now, but when we first met, he wasn't even on solids yet. Through the wonders of facebook, I met up with Katie, an old chum from the church I grew up in. Our families were friends and we had several friends in common, but we'd lost touch while she was in college. I discovered that she was married, about to have a little boy and less than fifteen minutes from me! We talked from time to time about the wonder and weirdness that is pregnancy, one of my favorite subjects. :) Once Kaelin was born, we talked more often. I was dying to see both of them, but life seemed to keep getting in the way of a visit.

Months later, Katie and Kaelin arrived at my front door. Sitting on the couch with my BFF Jillian (one of the many friends we shared), the years of separation seemed to melt away. While the "man of the hour" had his breakfast, his mommy mentioned their need for a nanny when summer ended. When she'd finished feeding him, she asked a silly question: "Would you like to hold him?"

As I softly embraced the precious blue bundle, he nuzzled his head into the crook of my neck, pulled his knees up to his tummy and wrapped his chubby little arms around me. Well, that did it. There was no way I could go months between Kaelin visits! I turned to Katie and said, "If you don't let me take care of this baby, I'm going to have to take it personally!"

With that, I became "Tante" Amy. When his "summer nanny" went on vacation or had appointments, we had the pleasure of K-bug's company. By fall, he was a twice-weekly visitor. :) His milestones all came on-time or early, something you tend to watch for when you are the parent of a child with special needs. He walked well before his first birthday, ate every kind of food imaginable, had wonderful eye contact and loved interacting with all of us. As the months flew by, my "rental baby" was suddenly a running, cracker-eating, dog-harassing toddler! He spent his mornings "shaving" with Uncle Alan, playing with the boys and "Helping" me in the kitchen. By eighteen months, he didn't say very many words, but I wasn't worried. Mama, Dada, Tante, Nana (Alan), Yaya (Wyatt) and "yeah" were used so frequently, I assumed he was just a "typical boy," embracing activity more than conversing. Physical, social and reasoning skills came easily for him and words would come later. He also had learned several signs (more, please, all done, bye, dog, chicken, eat, drink, cracker, help), which helped him communicate with us. If this continued past age two, his doctor would bring it up and his mommy could decide what was best for him. He was doing so much for a boy his age, there was no need to worry about what he wasn't doing.

As he inched towards his second birthday, the words began to disappear. He could throw and kick a ball, put away silverware (properly!) from the dishwasher, follow three and four-step instructions, and pick up his toys. He loved being read to, continued to eat well and seemed to be happy wherever I took him (except his bed, of course!). Every part of Kaelin was blossoming, except speech. He stopped saying the boys' names and Tante, then Dada, then mama. Every person became "mom." The answer to every question was usually "yeah," or occasionally a shaking of his head "no." He grunted, pointed and signed, but there were no more words. I was becoming concerned; but how would I tell Katie? I remembered how I shut out the urging from my sister to get Wyatt evaluated, and he had multiple symptoms. Was it my place? I prayed for wisdom.

When I finally got up the courage to talk to her, Katie told me she had the same concerns and would be talking to his doctor about it. (I was so thankful that God had blessed this little guy with a mama who wasn't as thick-headed as his Tante had been!) When Kaelin was evaluated, he charmed the socks off every therapist in the room (no surprise there!), while wowing them with his coordination, ability to follow instruction and repertoire of ASL. The verbal portion of his test showed where he was struggling, and why. It's amazing what a trained specialist can learn about your child by using seemingly unrelated methods-- such as asking him to say "aah" and click his tongue!

Much to his mama's relief, they had reached a diagnosis. He was not autistic. He was not socially delayed. He was not "just plain stubborn." Kaelin's words were being held captive by a disorder known as Speech Apraxia, or Dyspraxia.

K-bug's words were being stifled by a combination of poor motor planning with his tongue (he could move his tongue all sorts of silly ways on a whim, but intentional movement was difficult), the words being "scrambled" before he spoke them and sheer frustration of not being able to speak "properly." Kaelin knew he wasn't being understood, and he didn't know why. Signing provided the positive response he craved, he remembered the signs easily and had dexterous little hands. When your tongue and language receptors aren't going to clearly express your desire for a cookie, what toddler wouldn't find another way? Clearly, this only meant one thing: my little rental baby is even more brillant than I had previously thought! :)

I had the privilege of sitting in on Kaelin's very first speech therapy visit this week. His therapist spent over thirty minutes engaging him in the best method for little ones: through play. She instructed us to not pressure Kaelin to "say" words, as this would raise the anxiety level of a little guy who is very eager to please. We are starting with simple acts, such as blowing bubbles, playing horns and putting toys up near your mouth during play, so Kaelin would pay attention to how you form the sounds.

With the blessing of early detection, I have no doubt in my mind that Kaelin's Apraxia will be accomodatable, or disappear completely. In the mean time, we have the gift of ASL. Until he finds his words, his hands will give him a voice.

While goodness knows I am not known for a lack of speech, there are times when the words simply won't come to me. Sometimes I'm too frustrated to talk, other times I don't know how to even put into words what I'm thinking. This is rarely the case with people I interact with, but it often happens when I'm speaking to God. In times of anger, confusion or sheer exhaustion, I don't know how or what to pray. I can't even "think" the right prayer. I am so blessed to have an Intercessor for those moments. The Holy Spirit interprets the groans and cries of our hearts to The Father, because He intimately knows and understands us. I am so thankful for a God who doesn't expect me to wait to come to him with a proper thesis, eloquent petition or a perfectly inventoried confession. There are times when all you can do is look heavenward and shout, "HELP!" And because we are His children, that is enough.

Thank You, LORD, for Your willingness to draw from my heart when words won't come. I wish there was a more fitting phrase than "thank you"-- but then, you knew that. ;)

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Monday, April 11, 2011

Polka Dot Peril

I have become like broken pottery.
Psalm 31:12b

I still remember the day I brought her home, itching to place her on the edge of my kitchen counter. I had found it; something practical, affordable and with red polka dots to boot! She was no ordinary iced tea jug-- she was special! For eight glorious days, her cheery little red spout kept my glass full of iced tea, fruit punch or flavored water of my choice. Then, it happened ...


With a crack of the handle, one gallon of red liquid slipped through my fingers and fell to the floor. Shards of plastic flew; rivers of fruit punch threatened to encroach the carpet. Oy, what a mess! Conflicting thoughts flooded my head as my pink feet ran to the laundry room for towels. Yes, part of me cared about the carpet, but most of me thought keeping little feet (and paws) away from the broken pieces while I cleaned up the demise of my spotted friend. With my oldest helping (from a safe distance) bring supplies to sop up the aftermath, I was able to save the carpet from the infiltration of red dye number 40 (or whatever it was). Armed with my trusty brown paper bag from Trader Joe's, I gathered up the visible remains of my dear little jug. Ever the helper, Alan went around the other side of the house to get my broom and dust pan from the laundry room; making sure his tootsies did not inch into the kitchen until I had finished sweeping. With a final mopping and one more sweeping of the floor, it was done. Letting out a melancholy sigh, I reached for a plastic pitcher and made some iced tea.

I'm not gonna lie, I'm still slightly bummed a day later about my little jug and her Humpty Dumpty-esque ending. While paying the cashier six dollars, I was picturing a summer's worth of use. I am terrible about drinking water alone, but with the help of low calorie flavoring packets to enhance my water, I would keep my body properly hydrated with raspberry green tea, pink lemonade and pomegranate splash-- all in a cheerful, convenient container. But alas, it was not meant to be. The jug is but a memory, as are the six dollars I had spent on something I owned for a mere eight days. If I'm out the cash with nothing to show for it, what's left? Quite a bit, actually ...

Whenever something breaks in this house (which is at least once a month), there is usually a lesson learned and a blessing found amidst the clean-up. I am happy to say that this little mishap is no exception. :)

This experience has certainly taught me a thing or two about plastic jugs-- don't expect too much of those little handles! Had I brought a pitcher of water to the container instead, I wouldn't have three very pink bath towels sitting in Oxyclean right now. When it comes to our daily lives, the same rule applies. Overloading causes disaster wherever it resides. If we have too much on our calendars, unrealistic expectations (for yourself or someone else) or we try to handle life's problems in our own strength, something's going to give way. If we let God guide our decisions, he will fill our lives with exactly what we need, preventing a mess later!

The blessing in my kitchen is, ironically, a clean floor. The threat of a sticky, red mess being tracked all over the house is great motivation for breaking out the mop and cleaning like you mean it! Preventing shards of plastic from poking dear little feet (or paws) is reason enough to sweep thoroughly; complete with moving the garbage can and carefully checking every corner. With a little time and care, the floor ends up looking spick and span-- better than it did before the incident!

When situations in our lives fall apart, we are undoubtedly in need of a good cleaning. God is most certainly in the "cleaning-up" business, but He doesn't stop there. While a shattered jug in my hands is fodder for the landfill, shattered people are never cast aside by God. Broken vessels who place their trust in him become lanterns; sharing His Light with the world!

While I don't always (okay, EVER) enjoy the refining process, being used by God is a privilege that blows my mind on a regular basis! I will continue to crack from time to time, but I know that He has a beautiful plan for me. As I share His light with the world, I am certain to stumble at times; spilling oil all over the place. Cleaning that up is a grueling and tedious task, but praise God, I don't have to do it alone! No matter how many times I break, no matter how many messes I make, He never sees me as beyond repair or snuffs out His Light.

If your life has just hit the floor, know that it has not ended. God loves every jagged little part of you! Wherever you are, however big your mess, it isn't too daunting to Him! If you so much as ask, He will raise you up from the rubble and mold you into something beautiful!

Thank you, LORD, for saving a cracked up container like me! :)

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Memorable Moments with Alan & Wyatt

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:11

While spending last week in Grandma and Papas' log cabin, the dear little mouths of my sons were certainly NOT on vacation! At least once a day, they said something that caused my parents to tightly cover their mouths; their shoulders shaking with laughter. My mother kept mumbling something about apples not falling far from the tree, whatever that meant! Here are just a few choice words uttered by my offspring ...

Community Center Conversations:
Alan: Mommy, when are we going to go to the pool?
Me: Alan, I told you NOT to ask that again, didn't I?
Alan: Oh yeah, I forgot. I am so sorry I won't ask you again!
*stated to no one in particular* Hmmmm ... I wonder what time it will be when we will be going to the pool ...

{While waiting in line at the community center}
Alan: I wonder if I'm old enough to get into the hot tub yet ...
Me: I think you need to be twelve, sweetie.
Wyatt: No, you need to be an old man! ONLY OLD MEN SIT IN THE HOT TUB HERE!"
Me: *looks for a bench to hide under*

Wyatt's Words:
"My feet are nauseous! Does anyone else have nauseous feet? Swimming in the pool always makes this happen to me ..."

"Mommy, I named the free (three) deers that came to see us; their names are Becky, Arnold and "Wiat"- like my name, but with no Y and only one T."

More Adventures with Alan:

{Alan the salesman, pitching mommy once again at the Anchor Avenue Thrift Store}
Alan: Mommy, you have to buy this meat grinder!
Me: Honey, I already have one. I don't need that one.
Alan: *pointing to the box* But mom, it's MADE IN THE USA!

Our week was filled with more unexpected comments than I could possibly remember! I could have recorded them all, but I would have missed out on living those moments. Sure, there were embarrassing and awkward moments, but those make for wonderful stories later! ;)

Now that we've bid farewell to the beach, our lives are returning to normal (or at least our version of it). As I chip away at the last of the laundry, my little men are easing back into the routine of school, chores (something nearly unheard of at "Grandma's House of Spoiling") and their Lenten sticker devotional. Studying the book of Exodus is an interesting subject in general, but the boys are especially enjoying it. Nothing captures a boy's attention like a plague! Rivers of blood, frogs, locusts, hail ... a plethora of disgusting details for my sons to ponder. Amidst the gruesome dialogue of boils and flies, I was pleased to see my kids dig deeper into the story.

Alan mentioned how Pharaoh allowed everyone to suffer, just so he could get his way. Wyatt was highly annoyed by his broken promises to Moses. They both agreed he was a very bad man who deserved to be punished. I was so thankful for the devotional guide, which chose not to focus solely on our need to be "rescued." While that is a very important part of the story, we also need to look at how we resemble the villain of Exodus. With a little help from my trusty guide, we talked about how we can make selfish choices that hurt ourselves, as well as others, and fail to keep our promises from time to time. The lesson seemed to sink in, in spite of the giddy excitement remaining from visions of sticks that turn into snakes and frog-covered floors.

Tonight, however, is when the story gets hard to explain to little ones. The final plague is coming. I've always skated over this part, because Alan sobbed when he saw this scene played out in the movie, "Prince of Egypt" a few years back. I know he's gotten older, but this story is hard for me, much less a nine-year-old. I don't know what Wyatt will think about it at all. One thing is clear, before I dive into the saddest day of the Egyptian empire, I had better spend some serious time with God first. Without His help, the balancing act of speaking the truth in an age-appropriate way is awfully daunting! My buddy Pris was right, older children are VERY good for your prayer life!

Looking back to my last Lenten Journey, I'm sure this "kid chapter" (and the blog in general) feels very different to you. I know it does to me! A year has brought quite a few changes to our household. Wyatt is in school all day, both boys are in Cub Scouts and both have homework! We still have plenty to laugh about in this house, but I'm already noticing that we have less time together. As the boys grow, they don't always let mama share as much, either. There have been many times this year when Alan has said adorable things, realized he'd said something unintentionally amusing and pleaded, "Mom, please don't put that on facebook!" He's caring about his hair, no longer takes attachment objects of any kind to sleep-overs and wants his own room for the first time in years. I was certain this would crush Wyatt. Instead, he responded with, "When can Awan move out so I can put what I want on my walls?

That being said, they still continue to teach me lessons on a regular basis. Yesterday, I was struck by the continuous bond they share, in spite of their quest for more privacy and individual expression.

Wyatt was crying at five in the morning, awakened by worries that he couldn't shake. As usual, the first person in the house who responded to his cries was good ol' "brudder." Since the day I brought Wyatt home, Alan has had very sensitive "sibling radar." Regardless of the hour, if Wyatt is crying, sick or needs help, Before my feet can touch the carpet, I hear the thud-thud-thud (we passed pitter-patter several sizes back!) of a running nine-year-old, usually coupled with shuffling, slightly smaller feet. Alan will pop his head in the doorway, give a brief synopsis of the situation at hand, and usually guide Wyatt to my side of the bed. Monday morning was no exception. I was awakened by muffled sobs and plodding feet. Unable to reach my glasses, I tried to focus on the Alan-shaped blur who appeared in my doorway. With a loud whisper, me reported, "Mom, Wyatt really needs you. He's very scared, I think he had a nightmare. I brought him in to snuggle you, so he will feel better." Having done his duty, the fuzzy blob with blond hair scurried back to bed.

While I had mentally prepared for a squirmy six-year-old with Popsicle toes to join us until the alarm went off, Wyatt was feeling rather brave. Equipped with reassuring cuddles, a short pep talk and a prayer, he announced that he was headed back to bed. Hand in hand, we returned to the room the boys still share (for the time being). As I tucked him in, Wyatt apologized for waking Alan up. Considering how often Wyatt wakes Alan up and how hard I have to insist on apologizing to his big brother, I was caught off guard by this unexpected act of empathy.

Being considerate of the thoughts, feelings, needs and preferences of others is a real struggle for children with Autism. When Wyatt is overwhelmed, bothering Alan (who is a VERY light sleeper) seems to be one of his favorite pastimes (hence Alan wanting his own room)! Wyatt also snores like his daddy and occasionally talks in his sleep. When slumber has been hindered by his little brother, I usually receive an elaborate report (including what time the interruptions took place) in the morning! Nightmares or illness, however, are a definite exception to that rule. Alan has never once complained about Wyatt waking him up because he needed comfort. The caring exchange that took place between my boys touched me deeply:

Wyatt: Awan, I'm sorry I waked you up when I was crying.
Alan: Aw, buddy, that's okay! You had a nightmare. You can always wake me up if you're scared, okay?

I know the separation to different rooms is just the beginning; someday they will live in different houses, perhaps even on different sides of the world. Just the same, I know they will always be there for one another.

Thank you, Father, for the awesome (albeit overwhelming at times) responsibility of teaching, training and loving my boys. Help me look past their love of belching and arguments over who has to shower first, that I might see the seeds of compassion, loyalty and affirmation growing in their hearts. Guide my words and actions, that I might nurture these gifts from you.

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

The Remote Log Cabin

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

Today I am typing far (well, two hours, anyway) from the land of chickens, doggies, Captain K-bug and my little espresso machine; I am once more in the blissful log cabin my parents call home. I drank one little cup of drip coffee, haven't cared for any rambunctious animals (except for the children, of course) and haven't so much as chopped an onion in over twenty-four hours. Watching deer romp through the backyard, I sit at my mother's table, drinking pot after pot of tea. I love spending time with my parents here in their post-retirement life. I am still taken aback by how calm their house is now. Mama is no longer the hustling waitress, putting her apron on as I pull into the driveway to pick up my kids. Dad no longer feels the constant strain of an unstable job market. Their schedule is still busy, but it is dictated by social calendars, not an employer's watch. Their lives are run much like dad's favorite new "toy."

Anyone who knows my dad is fully aware that he needs precious little to make him happy; my mother's cooking, a comfy recliner and authority over the remote control. This works wonderfully until my father takes one of his "power naps" with the remote in hand, forcing my mother to watch the news. To conquer this little issue, my parents both have their own remote. Mom (usually) only uses hers when dad is sleeping, so this works out wonderfully. I didn't expect anything more than the occasional "volume war," but a little exhaustion on my poor mother's part caused a "blog-able moment."

My sweet mama got up early to get daddy off to Wednesday morning Bible study, then cared for my little ones, while I slept. Having done a speaking engagement the day before, she was understandably tired! While dad mumbled something from the bedroom, she yelled, "What was that, dear?" as she proceeded to mute the T.V. (which was off) and point the remote in the direction of my father, attempting to turn up his volume! Giggling, my mother and I began to discuss how handy it would be if life as a mommy had a remote.

Naturally, I mentioned how handy any volume control whatsoever would be heavenly when two little boys are stuck inside on rainy days, and mother said there were times during the teenage rants of my youth when she really could have used the "mute" button! There are some events when changing the channel would be wonderful! Department of Licensing? Blech. I don't like this show. *click!* Ah, Cutters Point coffee house. Much better! In the event of a toddler tantrum, it's time for the fast forward button! Ooh, my spouse has admitted that I am right! REWIND! The possibilities would be endless ...

Now that my parents set their own schedules, their life is run similar to their DVR setting. They can change their schedules like never before to suit their needs and desires. They have travel options they have waited over forty years to experience. There is no more rushing little girls out the door while shouting, "Good-bye, God Bless you, I love you, don't forget your lunch!" (which rolled off my mother's tongue as though it were one word) We have leisurely moments; which are so precious to me. Even the freedom of retirement has it's limits, however ...

I watch my mother moving slower, with aching joints and a back that simply will not cooperate with all that mama's used to doing. She rests against her will, wishing her tired body would allow just one more outlet store. I hear the clicking of dad's pill holders at the breakfast table and know that his body doesn't always follow his plans, either. I know my parents both worked their bodies very hard to provide for we three girls, pay off their mortgage and care for their aging parents until they went to be with Jesus. I see the price they both have paid for their DVR life, it didn't come without a hefty price tag!

My parents, however, don't seem to have the least bit of regret about the arthritic joints and high blood pressure that have come from their "working" years. As we sit at the table, "rewinding" to my early years, we laugh until tears fall. They don't dwell on how much money I cost them, how it hurt their hearts to watch me struggle at times or how my unpredictable little mouth caused more than one public embarrassment. They look back with fondness, enjoy the present with us and look forward to great-grandchildren. Hindsight brings to light so many important pieces of their lives that would have been much easier to breeze by with a fast forward button.

As much as I love my little vacation here, I know that my darling husband will have to bring me home eventually (possibly kicking and screaming). I know the healthy joints and free-flowing arteries of my thirties serve a purpose-- to build up our family. Thirty years from now, when I have time on my side, instead of youth, will I be able to say that my aches and pains have come from the labor of love, as my parents can? I truly hope so. As much as my inner brat wants a remote to control everything, perhaps it's best to simply "pause" to thank God for wherever I am today, push "play" and enjoy the show! :)

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Return of Ida

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky ...
Phil 2:14-15

There is an un-wanted guest in our household; her name is Ida. Ida Wanna, that is. She always seems to show up when my to-do list is long, my patience is short and my sleep was less-than stellar. Into the household she creeps, pulling me to the couch, the refrigerator or my computer-- anywhere I can hide from what I should be doing. She does her best to convince me that any and all tasks are too hard, will take too long or are simply a waste of time. Oh, how I suffer when I listen to her! I end up forcing myself into hyper-drive to barely get my tasks done-- often at the expense of sleep, time with my kids and the potential of a good mood. Why do I ever let her in my front door?

Ida's main influence (procrastination) is a problem in itself, but occasionally, she brings a friend along. Nothing sabotages my day like a visit from the life-draining duo of Ida Wanna and Dewey Hafta! Once I finally put myself to work, I do so with a sour attitude. Today, I'm afraid, I've been visiting with both of them all morning. Somehow, they can make any activity seem like a hardship. With deep, Sicilian sighs, I plodded about the house, pouring gallons of "whine" everywhere I went. Oh, how I suffer, cleaning this (spacious, warm) house! I practically do everything myself, it's the only way I'll get it done (to my liking)!It's so exhausting getting all these clothes folded and packed up (to go on vacation)! Oh poor, poor, pitiful me! Where is my violin?

I can see the ridiculous lack of gratitude once it's typed out, but I must admit, I felt so bad for me earlier, I scarcely stopped short of sending myself a card! There are times when I forget that work, even when one is not monetarily paid, is a privilege. I am certain that people who have lost their homes in natural disasters would not see it as "beneath them" to vacuum up dog hair. I know there are childless couples who wouldn't mind cleaning bubble gum flavored toothpaste out of a sink. Instead, they are on waiting lists to adopt a child. Every scraping of the chicken coop should remind me of how blessed I am to live out here and have fresh eggs to feed my family. If Paul and Silas can sing in prison, I should probably be able to scrub toilets without lamenting!

Phil. 2:14 is a verse I commonly quote to my kids; proof that Biblical truths aren't something you ever outgrow! Thanks be to God, it's never too late to turn a rotten day around! Now that my mind is headed in the right direction, it's time to turn off the computer, crank up some good music, grab a latte and get a move on! Beware the influence of Ida and Dewey, lest you throw an embarrassing pity party of your own! ;)

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Elective Blindness

Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains. John 9:39-41

As a girl who grew up in church, the story of Jesus healing the blind man was certainly not new to me. Our worship director had the music planned today s music around it, the little ones colored pictures of the gospel lesson in Sunday school, it was the theme of the chldrens' sermonette ... let's just say that even without peeking at my program, I saw the theme of today's sermon coming. Being so well versed in the story, I presumed that I would be reminded of truths I already knew. Oh, foolish little me, thinking I'm going to know what God has in store to teach me yet again!

There are a lot of odd parts to this particular miracle, some of which I had hoped pastor would be speaking about. First of all, there's that whole "spitting on the ground, making mud and putting it on a blind person's eyes" part. Wow, that's a little weird! I was wondering if Pastor was going to explain why he chose mud. Um, not really. He explained why the washing took place, but not the mud. Okay, no biggie, there's always next year.

There's the fact that the blind man's parents passed the buck when they were questioned about his healing. That always bothered me. Why didn't they go looking for Jesus to thank him instead of saving face with the religious leaders? Pastor did mention it, but it wasn't a main point. Wrong again.

Then Pastor began to speak about how people said that he wasn't really the blind man who used to beg, it only looked like him. (Having filed this away as a possibility in my little memory bank, I felt certain that Pastor would say that people were simply in denial about Jesus' miracle. Yep, this was going to be a sermon about being blind in denial. Except that I was wrong yet AGAIN-- and his answer hit me between the eyes ...)

Pastor mentioned that people probably couldn't say they were positive it was him, because they had never truly looked at him. They most likely averted their eyes while passing him ... just as we often do while passing those who beg along our city streets. OUCH. I thought of all the times I'd been "stuck" at an intersection where a homeless person walked up and down the sidewalks, hoping for an act of charity. Oh, how I avoided eye contact with those faceless people as I waited for the light to turn green! I gave money to the Salvation Army, donated food to food banks and made meals for our church's homeless ministry, so clearly I had no reason to feel guilty, right? And certainly, giving them money would possibly fund their drug habits, making them worse off. Yes, I certainly had my justifications in order. There's just one problem with that; it doesn't explain why I (who reasoned that I had no reason to feel guilty) couldn't even look that person in the face.

I think about the many ways we can avoid contact with unpleasant realities in our lives. We can screen our calls, drive alternate routes to avoid certain parts of town, turn the channel when we see devastation on the news ... there are so many ways to be voluntarily blind to the needs around us. Overwhelmed by our lack of ability to help everyone in need, we simply look the other way. What else can we do?

I was deeply humbled by a close friend of mine recently, with regards to this very subject. While shopping with her children, there was a man holding a sign, indicating that he was homeless. Instead of averting her eyes, she listened to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and offered to buy the man dinner from a nearby restaurant. When her daughter asked why they did that, my friend explained that Jesus said to take care of people who did not have houses or enough food. Instead of deciding that she could not help his living situation or give him money, she used something she did have- a restaurant gift card she'd received for her birthday. That meal, while not a long term solution, could have helped that man keep warm until morning, or give him the strength to walk to a nearby shelter for the night. All because she took the time to look his way, asked God for guidance and reached out as she was able.

I know that my resources and abilities are limited, but my God is not. There may be times when I am called to act, but I know that I am always called to pray. If I am going to lift up another suffering person to the Father of us all, the least I can do is look into their eyes.

Father, I know in my own strength I become overwhelmed by human suffering. On my own, I simply fall into despair or avoid acknowledging the existence of Your children in need. Show me how to extend compassion to those whom You place in my path. Do not let me live in elective blindness. Open my eyes, LORD ...

In Lenten Love and Friendship,