Sunday, April 07, 2013

Revisiting old writing & reserving the right to change my mind.

So I haven't written here in almost two years.  As I wander back, I have found myself wondering if I should start writing again. Looking back through the years is a great reminder of how much a person changes, and grows.  On one hand, it's the very reason to not put thoughts in writing!  On the other hand, it's the very witness I wish to leave to my children and grandchildren: to experience it all... to be challenged... to be wrong... to change your mind... to seek.... question, and to grow.  To realize life never stops being a magical, painful, joyful,  rich journey with eternal  purpose, and to walk through it with an eternal God Who patiently and wisely infuses meaning into each phase...each moment. Maybe in the end, the writing will be a whole lot less about me &  my thoughts, and much more a testimony to His graciousness towards us all.   I like a story like that ends like that. :-)  

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Changing Plans

“ The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her. “ ~ Sarai,
Genesis 16:2

Most of us are familiar with God’s promise to Abram of innumerable offspring - and we know how Sarah tried to “help” the process along. In fact, I felt so familiar with this story that when I was reading it recently, I was tempted to skim through it just because I ‘knew’ the story already. But, because I felt that prideful ‘been there, read that’ moment, I purposefully slowed down to read it again. And God faithfully revealed a fresh new detail that I’d never noticed previously.

God had decided long ago that Sarai wasn’t going to have children. I feel certain she prayed for children. But somewhere in her journey, she settled with the reality that God had closed her womb and that possibility. I kind of found it curious that she hadn’t tried to build a family earlier through her maidservants – but instead it seems she had just resigned to the state of being childless. When Abram shares God’s revelation with her, she doesn’t seem to lament this change of plans – but shifts into “planning” mode following her belief in his encounter. She simply states what she’d seen all along – that if God’s plan was for Abram to have children, it wasn’t going to be through her. How did she know that? Because that’s how it had always been. The Lord had already closed her womb.

“The Lord has kept me from having children.”

Here’s what I want us to catch. Sarai’s mistake wasn’t solely a lack of faith in God’s ability to keep His word or make His plan happen. Her ‘faith mistake’ was interpreting God’s future plan for her by her past with Him.

Pretty reasonable assumption, don’t you think?

In fact, I’d go so far as to say for most of us, God is only as big as we’ve experienced Him personally at that moment. I mean, we read the stories and know in ‘theory’ that God can do a whole lot, but often we assume that power is for everyone else… for another time and place, and a story better than ours is at the moment.

Think about your own life. Is there anything that you’re eager for God’s involvement in, but you find yourself limiting the possible outcomes to only the realities you’ve experienced so far with Him? Maybe you’ve returned home from the field to a church that you feel will never change. Maybe you start down a path towards a new mission field, only to have God put on the brakes. Maybe your marriage, which seemed so full of life at the beginning, feels increasingly dead as time goes by.

The call to let God work in our lives free from the assumptions of His work in the past is a tough one. Joseph is a fascinating example. When Pharaoh’s dream needs interpreting, and Joseph is called up out of his cell, we assume he reveled in the fact that he was finally vindicated. But I wonder if Joseph was really all that excited? I’m sure being out of prison was a relief, but when Pharaoh says he will give Joseph one of the highest positions in all of Egypt, does Joseph struggle with a little flashback? I mean, in Joseph’s life, interpreting dreams and being raised to positions of power were always followed by dark valleys of injustice and loneliness. Was he tempted to just ask for freedom and walk away from the leadership?

The more life God gives us, the more tempted we are to think we’ve seen Him work as much as He’s going to work. It’s easy to be a ‘fan’ of God and still bind ourselves and our faith up to only what we’ve experienced firsthand. I encourage you to anchor yourself to the truth that God doesn’t say that He can only do what we ask or imagine. He doesn’t even say He can do a little more that we can ask or imagine. He says he can do exceedingly, abundantly more than we ask or imagine. That’s a big invitation to imagine beyond what you’ve experienced so far. Keep seeking!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A happy New Year...

Wow... it's a new year. Already!

When I think about what to write here, I'm a little unsure. Reflecting back, if I were to be totally honest, the last couple of months have been a roller coaster in my head and heart.

First, a few months ago my family and I headed to Walt Disney World... a bucket item list for me that a year ago I wouldn't have dreamed was possible anytime soon. Good friends blessed us with an amazing place to stay, and we had a ball. Jason had never been, and it was fun to be so delightfully exhausted all together. I'm SO grateful we had the chance to go!

The last couple of months have been a real spiritual battle in my own heart and mind. I've not struggled with depression before... but considering I'm not one who cries often, and I've cried more in the last few months than I have in the last few years, I'm thinking that's what might be going on. I've always valued facts over emotions. But I'm learning that when the accuser takes 'facts' and twists them in your mind, that can create a lot of emotion. :-)

I'm recognizing that the last two years, specifically with homeschooling, have held immense change for me, and walked me into an area where I'm most uncomfortable. So I've retreated. Isolated myself. Been afraid to fail, and sure I wasn't going to succeed. I took every possible sign to prove myself right in those thoughts, and been nervous at any point in which my suspicions might be exposed to anyone else with out me stating it first.

It's miserable. Downright miserable. Did I say miserable?

Terry had a quote recently that struck me: "As long as self has the stage, fear has an audience."

I'll be honest. I keep asking God to take away this struggle. Either show me another way to school my children that will meet the needs homeschooling HAS met, or make me good enough to keep schooling them without stress and worry all the time that affects them. And He clearly has given me signs that He CAN do either one... I couldn't miss it! Nor could I miss the sign that He isn't offering the changes right now. I'm guessing He has a reason for that. :-)

What He is offering... is Himself.
I haven't wanted that, though.

I've wanted a new, improved, me. A me that can ________________. A me that doesn't _______________. And if along the way, I could also______, and __________, and not ____________, that would be great too. Oh and could I also have back some opportunities do to things that make me feel good about myself? And that other people would commend me for? If facebook were to summarize my year in prayer, I'm afraid it might have ME all over the picture. Hmmm.... guessing there's a connection between that and the depression, too.

Last night, my sweet husband gave me 7 hours to myself while he and the kids when and played. The house was clean, all chores done... no to do list or distractions to keep me from just relaxing. So I spent some time reading and listening to some messages that God had arranged for my heart to be ready to hear. It takes so little of His word and work to bring such renewal...and reminds me why He calls me to prioritize time for this!

New Year's resolutions are fresh on everyone's minds. There are lots of plans to do things differently this year, and I'm no exception. But I want to take the "me list" out of the equation.
I want be watching for God's plans... and to respond with a trusting heart that focuses on His power to accomplish whatever He calls me to, and a thankful heart that knows He will not remove my weaknesses just because I beg Him too. It may be that "My grace is sufficient for you" is His answer, and my thoughts and prayers need to refocus on the power He has always had to be God over the world and over my life.... and my sin.

It's my hope that confessing the self-centered nature of my heart will be the first step out of the pit, and back into the world where God is working all the time and inviting me to participate in His amazing work. It will be a happy new year because the Gospel still exists for all, including me, and THAT is the GOOD NEWS that I'm invited to start each day with.

So I think I will. :-)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Just a few things I loved about AIMstock....

So… our first AIMstock just ended. (Why the red underline, MS Word? This will be in your dictionary soon enough…)

And to be honest, I hate camping. I hate sweat and bugs and outdoors when they are all at the same time. But for good people… I will do it. And so this was a weekend I would do it for. I had no clue how appreciative I would be by the end of it.

So here are some of the reasons why I loved this weekend, and what I loved about it:

*When Jason called me to tell me that the place hadn’t been cleaned as expected and they had to bug bomb it on arrival, I knew immediately that this was a group of friends who could handle it and wouldn’t freak out. They’d already been taught to be flexible. And besides… most of us lived in less than Hilton conditions on the field.

* Arriving late to a campfire and familiar faces I don’t get to see nearly enough. Waves and smiles from people I dearly love… realizing we’re about to pick up where we last left off… no matter how long ago it was.

*Sitting under the stars and talking about how big God is… And seeing it at the same time.

* Our kids… playing together like no time has passed.

*Hannah falling asleep in my arms.

*Singing around the campfire. Singing. Singing. Singing.

* Singing Alabare, and No Hay Dios, and Solamente in Cristo. Then someone asking if we could sing something in Russian or Thai. Nope… can’t.

* Smores. Glowsticks. More Stars.

* Walking up to the cabin in the dark and overhearing the kids have this conversation with each other.

“Won’t it be so cool when we grow up and we’re all missionaries together?”

* And hearing the rest of that conversation:

Her: “When I grow up, I’m going to go to AIM, and then do whatever God wants me to do.”

Him: “Yeah. Or you could be a wrestler.”

* Seeing the little girls set up their bunks. Together. And Tonya gets mom of the year for sleeping on the top so the girls could be together.

* Walking out the cabin door to see all the tents neatly lined up. Knowing those tents are filled with more people I love. Every single one.

*Early morning mist.

* “A cow woke me up.”

*”There were wild animals. And I think I heard three gunshots.”

*Seriously yummy sausage gravy.

* Walking in and seeing friends reading their Bible, getting up early to go pray, alone or together. And no one’s making them.

*Remembering why I have such deep love for these people. Even the ones I don’t know well…yet.

* Discussing how AIM, for many of us, was our spiritual parent…the first real experience of discipleship, by which we judged all other experiences, good and bad. Appreciating more that simple but profound reality, and it’s place in my walk with Christ.

* Seeing Kris and Barb walk in. Then learning they’d taken a motorcycle 8+ hours to see us over lunch, and then head back another 8 hours.

* Knowing in this crowd… even if a job isn’t delegated…everyone pitches in till whatever is done. Serving is ingrained. It’s fruit of a life lived loving Christ.

* Listening to mountains and valleys...

* Talking. About stuff that matters.

* Watching friends relax. Watching my friends hang out with my kids. Realizing this really is more like family.

*Getting to know people I knew I’d love… and loving them.

* Watching a second generation of kids learn to “be flexible”. Little Piper and Michael could take a nap on a concrete floor with the best of them.

* Being out on a beautiful lake with my husband and kids in a rowboat.

*Hearing, (while in that rowboat…) “Mom, go right! Go right!” Now left. Left. LEFT!!!” Realizing they’re too freaked out and we have to do this more. THEN realizing the last time I said those same words, I was in a dugout canoe in the rain forest with a 12 year old Ecuadorian boy leading us to find caiman… in AIM.

* A huge slip and slide. Smiles all over kids faces.

*Seeing Cory dump his kids off in the middle of the lake.

*Tigger getting back in the lake just to help Eli and Allison get on the floating dock… jumping back through memories from years ago that I never knew would lead up to moments today that I appreciate so deeply.

*Being especially content and more relaxed than I’ve been in a long time. Coming to a mutual realization that in AIM, we learned to have very deep, intimate, friendships…. and that most of us have a hard time ever finding that quality of friendship again.

* Steak and Chicken for dinner. Cajun Shrimp boil for lunch. Seriously? Who EVER gets that while camping?!?! De.Lic.ious.

* Sunday worship… a meal together. Hearing our children ask questions about our relationship with Christ. Sitting around the tables… a family of almost 40… and yet every bit intimate.

* Breaking bread and communion within our families. Explaining… to my kids, as my friends explained to theirs. Knowing they’ll remember.

*“Time for a drawing!” It’s the FORD family. It’s the FORD family. And again… it’s the FORD family!

* Nerts. I still liked the loser table.

* “It’s the end of the world as we know it. It’s the end of the world as we know it… It’s the end…”

* Taboo.

Cory… thanks for ruining this game for me forever.

Chris… playing so well... After it’s over. “Stupid.” You were the best part of the game, friend.

Donovan and Brandon’s faces… caught in pained silent laughter and tears as Katie tried so hard : “It’s when you’re in a car accident, and you don’t wake up , and your uh, …. and you don’t remember anybody…. “ “COMA!” “Yeah! “Oh wait…. it’s’comma’.”

*Our poor kids actually putting themselves to bed…whether going to the cabin by themselves, or bringing up sleeping bags to sleep on the floor in the dining hall while we played and laughed and played.

* Realizing it felt so late… and it was only 9:30.

*Cheese crack. Twinkies. Guacamole.

*Morning on the lake.

* Small groups. Question #8: “Is anything keeping you from sharing the difficult parts of your experience like Paul did?” and sitting there, choked up, wiping tears from my eyes, praying that God will help me figure out how to say ‘pride’ and ‘judgment’, and it make sense, and not make a fool of myself…and not being able to do it. Then Alisha says “Pride and judgment. Does that make any sense?” Ummm..yeah. Thanks.

* Mountain and Valley notebooks. Okay. Who didn’t rip into those like a 3 year old at Christmas? God knew us when He said to encourage one another….

I could go on and want to… but I’ll wait for next year. It’s on my calendar. :-)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Closets of the heart...

This morning I had camped in my prayers before God about some areas in my heart in which I just continue to remain at arm's length from people... reluctant to accept help or just in general prefer to be independent... and what God might need to heal in me to be more open and relational. I prayed, and 'ended' my portion of prayer, and then decided to pick up in my reading where I had left off yesterday. That's where God picked up and responded to me.

"By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us- set us right with Him, make us fit for Him, we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that He has already thrown open His door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand - out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise." Romans 5: 1-3ish. (The Message)

As I listened, I realized God was showing me a picture in my mind. In certain pockets of my heart, for any myriad of reasons well rationalized out by my enemy, I only slowly inch open a creaky door.. because I fear what I imagine on the other side. And because I picture the wrong response, because I believed the lies... I take this slow, agonizing journey to open up to this beautiful scene that could have been mine minutes ago. (Or years ago.)

I share this because I figure, once again, it's probably not just me. Somewhere, someone else is wondering what would happen if they really just flung that door open fearlessly.

Here's to the praiseworthy grace and glory on the other side.... and to choosing to walk right through and live in the freedom of it. :-)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

She would be 14 today...

She would be 14 today. It's hard to imagine having a teenager. We would have passed that threshold last year, though, and this year would be one of those less-eventful celebrations as birthday parties go.

But we haven't celebrated birthdays. In fact, most years, this is just a quiet, lightly mentioned day between Jason and I. We talk about going and feeding ducks, as we'd vowed to do that in remembrance each year. A lake sat outside the hospital while she lay inside, and we convinced ourselves while in one of those moments of forcing yourself to have hope that we would "one day, bring her out here to feed the ducks."

That day didn't come. When I think about going and doing it now, it just makes me sad. Maybe because it feels like a broken promise. Ironically, like in the days following her death, going about some ritual that she 'should have' been a part of feels like a betrayal. But those, indeed, are words of sadness, not words of reality.

I've got a long way to go in the way of learning to be flexible, but I am at least learning that the "should haves" can be so overbearing in our lives that they can shut out completely the beauty of "what is" if we let them. If we let the "should haves" consume us, they will oblige.

So what "is" our reality?

God is faithful.
Beautifully, amazingly faithful.

The NICU nurses, who became like family, gave us a book at Jessica's death called "Big George". It is a precious little novel, about the life of a little boy who never leaves the NICU.

It was signed by the author. And filled with messages from the nurses. And the doctors. And the RTs. And Jessica. Her sweet, tiny little footprints mark the bottom right hand corner inside the front cover. How I love the nurses who gave us this gift!
And at the end of the story, as the Beep! Beep! Beep! of the alarms around George alert those tending to him of his little life slipping away, he thinks:

My human suffering is gone. The Light is my life, my greater happiness, the salvation of me and all souls, and I am of the Spirit. Michael's hand takes mine.
"Am I a full-fledged angel now, my brother?"
Michael smiles and lights Earth's morning clouds with golden rays, then releases my hand but does not speak. No matter. Entering Heaven... I am fully aware of who I am.'

That's our reality. She is now, more fully aware of who she is, than I probably am of myself.

And I embrace wholly the reality that our God is faithful.
He gives.
He takes away.
Blessed be His name in all of it.
He brings beauty, from ashes.
Life, from death.
Hope where there shouldn't be.
Hope where there once wasn't.
This is a reality that far, far surpasses any "should have" I would have wished for myself.

Thank you, Holy One, for your faithfulness.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Forgive and Remember?

So I'm reading an book by Catherine Claire Larson called "as we forgive". It's a compilation of life stories of those caught in the Rwandan genocide that killed over 800,000 in April of 1994. It's a shame that it was on the $3 shelf at Mardels, but if it weren't, I likely wouldn't have picked it up. And I've been turning pages at every free moment today.

In 2003, Rwandan president Paul Kagame chose to release some of the Hutu prisoners who had been jailed since the genocide. Intensely overcrowded prisons, and a fledgling remnant of society that could not have processed every prisoner's case in 200 years necessitated a move that would be unthinkable to many of us: release of some 60,000 prisoners... back into the villages where their victims were still trying to rebuild their lives. Even though they were labeled "lower level" offenders by comparison, many were still killers, and the atrocities were unbelievable.

So as I read some of their stories...victims and criminals alike, learning to live side by side, I'm fascinated. I won't share the stories.... but I will say you should hurry to Mardel's get your own copy. Although I will warn that it is not for those with a weak stomach. The sin and horror is told as it happened. For truly, you can't understand the depth of forgiveness if you can't grasp the gravity of the trespass...

These side by side daily life encounters of neighbor who killed neighbor brought me to an interesting thought. Many of us struggle with the phrase "forgive and forget". Some of us know that "forgetting" wasn't actually a biblical partner to the mandate of forgiving...yet we desperately wrestle within ourselves as if forgiveness isn't truly achieved if forgetting it all still alludes us. All of us ask the question, "But how could I forget?"

I sat tonight and thought about someone who was my biggest challenge to forgive. I remember struggling to forget for years and thinking I must not have forgiven. Now I know I can't forget. In fact, I can remember better every moment of that particular betrayal than most other memories...everything in the room, every word said, the temperature, the lighting, sights, sounds, all of it. And yet, I have forgiven, fully, wholeheartedly forgiven. I realize now that my desperate desire to forget was really a desperate desire to escape the pain of memories...sort of a wishing for the restoration of naivety...a mental escape from the reality of the potential evil in every human being, even those we think are trustworthy. (Or the fear of that same potential in ourselves.)

But, had I been granted that wish of forgetting... I would have lost the greater power connected to forgiving. What if forgiving really was connected to forgetting? Would we learn? Would we be changed? What WOULD we remember?

Thankfully, my God needs no such lessons..His love is and always was greater than my own... as far as the east is from the west, my sins are removed from me. There is no need for Him to learn something greater...but for me, oh the grace that exists in remembering! The overcoming confidence that with every memory or pain, there now exists something greater that can occlude & overshadow even that evil which was unimaginable to me, and that its potential, because of Christ, can actually live in me.

I've not taken any steps to live beside the one I've forgiven. I haven't had to like many of the Rwandan people. As I read some of their stories, I realize that those who have gone to that unimaginable reality with hearts seeking and offering forgiveness also have a character I can't imagine having. And if we didn't have their stories...if they forgot, or we forgot...

If that one Ultimate offering of forgiveness that covered us all were allowed to be forgotten because of all the pain it carried... would we really be able to fully rejoice in our restoration?

So if remembering can tie us not to our pain but instead to our redemption... and if our pain can become not our identity, but our marker for the point at which we were introduced to something even greater... maybe forgetting is a worthwhile goal to discard....