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....

Sunday, May 09, 2010

No.. not exactly. But thanks for ruining the moment.

My kids are awesome.
As we walked together tonight, we pointed out a duck gathering her 12 chicks under her for the night. It was really an amazing sight to see all these little ones eagerly following her and listening to her. God's design for nature is simply amazing... so much to learn from.
Jason pointed this out to the kids, and referenced the passage when Jesus said he longed to gather Jerusalem under his wings like a hen gathers her chicks. I just commented that its so neat to have a picture right in front of us about how God feels about us.

Eli said, "Jesus wants to put his behind on top of us?"

I love my kids. :-)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What's the Password?

As children often love to do, Julia put a scarf up across the doorway to the room we do school in this morning, and declared that I couldn't pass.

"What's the password?" she said, standing her ground.

"I love you?" I guessed.


"You love me?" I tried again.

"No. It starts with 'sch'....", she offered.

"School is awesome? School is great?"


"School is going to go really long if you don't let me through?" I tried.


"Okay. I give up. What is it?" I say. "

"SCHOOL!" Julia says, as if it were just so obvious.

I never would have thought of that.

THEN she tells me,
"You know, you could have just done the limbo." :-)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rules of Engagement....:-)

So often my son, when being corrected, will say “You’re right, you’re right.” He genuinely means this as a signal of submission, but in the middle of a frustrating moment, it can be tempting to assume he’s being arrogant. More than once, “I know I’m right!” has slipped out of my mouth.

So he said it again today, and I gently tried to explain to him the confusing reactions he gets from people when he says this.

“Eli, I know you mean well, but when you say this, it sounds as if there were some doubt originally that the person was right. Just say ‘I’m sorry’ and be done with the discussion, okay?”

He looks at a magnet with a little saying that is posted on my refrigerator.

“But Mom,” he says, quoting the magnet that my sweet husband bought me recently, “I thought ‘All women like to hear the three little words ‘you were right?’"

I laugh, looking at the magnet and realizing how confusing the world is to him at time.

As if on cue, he says “This is the problem all of us men have. You give a woman what she wants, and then she asks for something different.”

Friday, January 15, 2010

I hate Homeschooling! & Why is homeschooling so hard?!!

So, occasionally, when I'm having a really emotional moment, I will just "google" the phrase of frustration running through my head. It's really funny what you can find sometimes!

Twice recently, I've googled the phrases "I hate Homeschooling" and "Why is homeschooling so hard?!" just to see if anyone in a desperate moment has felt the same way. I was really shocked to not find much out there. Oh... there are people who hate homeschoolers - they have plenty to say. But as for finding committed homeschoolers just ranting while having a bad day... they seem to be few and far between. That's a good thing, I guess. Nevertheless, I titled my blog today those two phrases so that if I ever google them least I'll find myself. :-)

I did find one blogger who said: "Homeschooling isn't hard. Parenting is."

And when I thought about it, I realized they were right. And I guess I'd add that my own self transformation is the hard part too. Homeschooling is a personal workout for me. I'm having to let go of perfectionism, and yet remain disciplined. I'm having to learn how to have fun. (It doesn't come naturally.) I'd rather be boring and nerdish. I'm having to listen, not just talk. I'm having to be patient. I have to let my kids make messes. I want to be one of those free-spirited moms. But that freaks me out a little bit, too.

Today was a winner of a day. (Not.)

After telling my kids one more time that I needed them to pay attention while I tried to do their science experiment of building a telescope for them, I finally gave up and told them to read it and finish it on their own. (Now some of you experienced moms are thinking I should have made that move from the start!)
After 15 minutes of genuinely trying, I hear a lens fall to the ground and crack.
"Mom, it broke. What do we do now?"
Frustrated, I tell them to go ahead and write their report on their experiment. They are supposed to tell what they learned. I admit, I'd expected this, and feel justified in having them write about it.
My goal of having everyone feel as miserable as me is working.
10 minutes later, Julia brings her report over to me:

What I did: I broke it.

What I learned: A picture of a sad face & tears & the words "I can't do it without Mom. I love you Mom!"

Amazingly, everything is capitalized and punctuated appropriately. For the first time today.

It's the saddest thing I've seen in a long time. This is not a pretty moment for me. I'd like to take this page out, but I think it will need to stay. A little humble pie I'm sure I'll need to snack on again.

But I guess, in the end, we all learned more. We learned we do need each other. And I learned they can do a lot more without me that I realize. I realized I don't want to be in control..and I don't want things to always be neat, if the result is kids who are scared to learn apart from me.. kids who are afraid to make mistakes...

I learned that my kids actually want me to keep doing this. (I tried to tell them that I don't know that I'm cut out to teach them, at which point they both broke into tears. Another winner moment.)

Most of all, I'm again learning to trust God. This whole path is so unfamiliar to me. I don't seem like a good fit for this thing. And yet, here I am, convicted more than ever that it's right. Convicted that it's harder than I ever imagined it would be. Convicted that there will be more days I want to quit.

And convicted that it is all worth it.

My seven year old encouraged me with these words:
"Mom, remember Mrs. Mudroch? She had days like this when she began... but now she's one of the best teachers. Probably every teacher has these days. But you'll get better and better. "

Who needs telescopes, anyway.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Did I ever mention I'm not very flexible?

So a crazy year of job changing, house hunting, traveling, house buying, moving, and Christmas. Oh, and our first semester of our first year of homeschooling, too. (I was the only mom who thought it was exciting for my kids to start kindergarten! How did this happen!?) ;-)

This is a year that will be marked in the history books for me personally. If this were a roller coaster, I'd have thrown up a few times already.
The highs and lows have been pretty significant.... but then, it's usually in those moments that we grow the most.

I think this is the year that God has allowed me to run to the end of my chain.

Not pretty.

Every time I think I've gotten to the end of myself... along comes one more piece of me who thinks she can control everything better than all the previous attempts. It's funny what pesky little friends come along with her, though.
Anxiety. Perfectionism. Insecurity.
Little miss control freak, as I call her, doesn't do quite the job she claims she will of keeping everything in my life calm.

So, it's been one of the hardest years for me in a long time. And yet, like previous years that have been equally hard, it's been one of the best:

God has confirmed that He is indeed, in charge.
My best attempts to control have again only resulted in proving how desperately I need Him.
He's showed me that I can change, and it's not as terrifying as it seems.
He continues to reveal that I still need to change. And that yes, to change will still seem scarier than it really is .

And He's rewarded some of the scariest leaps of faith I've taken. New relationships from my job, new levels of trust in Him as I leave it. New burdens for purity and obedience in my life. New desire for freedom in Him from my old habits and flesh. Maybe one of the most treasured to me today is a new relationship with my children.

I'm certain I'm not the only one who's made scary decisions this year, and has some more sitting out there to make. If you do, I'm prayerful tonight that you'll not look for how God will help you do the hard, right thing, but that you will just know that He will, and move on what He has called you to.
He's growing us all up, one step of faith at a time, each morning with new mercy for that day.
Little miss control freak just doesn't get that kind of peace. :-)