Monday, December 26, 2016

To the shore

        The trees are thick and knobby this side of the forested thicket, sway to the side in terrific sighs, and lurch back after a gust of wind. Birds gather in upper branches to chatter and plot, as the sun filters through greenery. The forest floor remains thick with pine needles, slippery; seemingly undisturbed old withering tree trunks – hollowed out – hum with small furry rumblings and insect buzzings. The air wafts thick with leaves and haze, with webs falling down and delicately constructed, and nests tightly woven, brown dots in upper tree realms. The sky shines a cerulean and clear this afternoon with shadows stretching longer inside shaded forests. 
        Emerging to the shoreline offers a fresh breath, a sandy repose, the soothing lulls of waves delivering crashes to the sea grass with timed precision. Water recedes, pulled back toward the center, toward boats coursing and jet skis racing across the horizon. As the sun grazes onward to the western hills, a noisy gathering of gulls line the sand, webbed feet warmed and teetering from water to shore, feathers ruffling to flight, searching food sources. Green kelp has churned forward onto shore, scooped up from aggressive late-day waves, a premonition of a storm-filled night ahead. Sandy dunes are soaked with fresh hot drops of a summer shower, and grey clouds cover the sun, dulling light, muting colors to a neutral slate. As the wind increases, the gulls retreat, toward shafts of light farther on the lake. 
        A trail through woods and thickets brings momentary shelter until even woodland furry creatures are caught in the downpour’s momentum. White puffy clouds chase the rain to the lake, allowing the sun a hued filter for setting. The evening approaches slowly, then all at once, a darkening proved subtle and sinewy, beauty arrayed upon a canvas of the sky. Only the clouds offer prime sunsets, a place for which the paintbrush to whisk upon, for the wind to whisper color across the once-blue sky. The clouds are filters for the sun’s rays, which beam boldly as though a proclamation were announced. As black sky advances on the pink and purple strains, the gulls further retreat, the green becomes darkness, the wood and stones all incomprehensible in darkness. Stars find a quiet audience in the depth of night. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Our choice in joy and grief

And this is our ragged, fleshly life – tragedy and grief bookended at both sides by delightful joy and visions of felicity. We encounter the deepest delight, followed by profound tragedy, and then later, if we have adequately leaned into the grief, we might discover divinely appointed hope, for those of us who are in Christ. Of course, without the depth of pain surrounding the magnitude of defeat and pain, we could never experience the most glorious joy. And we balance upon a great divide, never far from either spectrum of emotion, and within a brief moment, may become the proprietor of joy or grief, or the subject thereof. If we seek to strip beyond the fleshly hold and rattle our emotions down to the core, perhaps we can withhold emotion; yet as Jesus encountered tremendous pain and joy, He appropriately lived and celebrated those current emotions. He was brave for those who were fearful, and other times, He paused in grief while others stood aside in disbelief. Likewise, we cannot step beyond the veil, observing the details of life with some kind of objective and stoic effort. When we lean into grief or celebrate joyfully, we can invite God into that place of emotion, thanking Him while maintaining an attitude of thanksgiving, asking Him to provide healing; but ultimately, to bring glory to His name, no matter the situation or cause. Truly, our choice will be whether or not to allow those challenges and blessings to shape our character, refine our vision, and usher us into deeper communion with Christ:  trusting Him, living purposefully, loving others with a clear view of Godly hope, and with a glorious vision for Heaven.
Acts 20:24 – However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Embracing 35

In exactly three months, I will turn 35. I am often reminded, in my own mind and wanderings, that my older brother did not reach this milestone. Tim will always linger at the cusp of 35, with six weeks remaining in the age 34. He realized the Lord had spared him, and was gracious in the miracle, and as a result, Tim assembled a list of events he would have missed had he died during his first aortic dissection event in 2003, at the age of 27. The list included Jeni’s graduation from PA school, Daryl’s BA graduation, Daryl & Sara’s wedding, the birth of his three children, the birth of his three nieces (my daughters), extended family weddings, his best friend Brian’s wedding to Stephanie, and Tim and Daryl receiving their Master’s Degree in the same graduation ceremony.
I know Tim felt incredibly blessed to have witnessed these tremendous events in his life, and in a real sense, his presence at each offered the culmination of God’s blessing and grace, coupled with the ability of a reward: these events were the result of many years of prayers, wise counsel, and effort toward a beginning, of marriage, children, or a degree, all of which his attendance brought sparkle and comfort. Tim was indeed the one who planned family events, brought wisdom and humor to those gatherings, and remained a steady presence.
The age that is approaching is not an age which I fear, although I realized – and hoped – this moment would be upon me, of turning 35, I doubt anyone anticipates outliving an older sibling. In the early days of grieving, I suspected there were probably unattained dreams and accomplishments which lingered in Tim’s mind and idealism, which he seemed to never accomplish, and later I have realized that perhaps while those dreams were valid and honorable, they were not intended for Tim’s life. This has been a difficult reality to accept.
Additionally, I cannot expect that my own journey or experiences will mirror Tim’s own life journey, nor do I imagine that I will undergo the exact surgery or challenges that he faced at this time. Tim stepped into each difficulty – even the death of a friend just months before his own – with a peace and security in the Lord rarely witnessed from a man of his age. The spiritual depth and study with which he lived was a genuine example, one which I would be wise to follow and seek to emulate. In a sense, Tim’s life at 34 was different from my own life at 34. His children were quite young, ages 5, 3, almost 1, and Tim's family were in the midst of early years of establishing a family and home life, of developing tiny characters. Those early years are especially exhausting physically and emotionally.
When I turn 35, my daughters will be ages 8, 6, and 6, with my eldest in 3rd grade and twins in Kindergarten, and all three will attend elementary school all day, altering the established schoolyear routine I had previously grown fond of: quality time with my younger daughters during the school day, and special after school moments with my oldest, of snacktime and homework and snuggles.
However, this summer has afforded much opportunity for quality time, with evening walks as a family when daddy returns home from church, board game nights, exploring our local mountain zoo, mornings working through educational workbooks, afternoons filled with backyard playtime of swimming in the mini paddling pool (which barely fits 3 little girls!), blowing bubbles, chasing butterflies, library reading programs, park adventures, free evenings at museums, and other exciting summer blessings.
A majority of our greatest moments together – of cuddling on the couch, watching “Anne of Green Gables” or reading the Little House on the Prairie series, among other great times – involves our complete devotion toward time, toward offering our energy and playful enthusiasm toward whatever interests our daughters. Even daddy has grown fond of the Strawberry Shortcakes game box, with four “berry fun” games. Sometimes we allow them to pace our day, with their desire to stay home and play house, animals, dollhouse, or other imaginative games, and other times we challenge them, with outings that stretch their abilities and encourage them toward loving others, offering a helping hug, stepping out in new friendship.
And, most of our favorite moments do not involve money, computers, or the television, and without fear of sounding archaic or outdated, I have purposefully rejected the notion of the Internet on my cell phone. While at the park, my cell phone is in my pocket, only utilized for emergency telephone calls, and instead, my intention is for playing enthusiastically at the park with my daughters. Perhaps in a few years, they will desire other activities, with friends, or at church youth group, surrounded with activities like summer camp, or sports or music or art which may occupy much of their time.
Yet these current fleeting moments will not settle into my mind as regrets. Even now, while writing about my experiences, my girls are settling into their evening routines, with last-minute princess-doll-baby-tea-animal games, of which they request I do not participate, unless I provide my own dolls and animals. They are assembling their rooms for bedtime, and in a few short moments will be sleeping peacefully. Earlier in the day, our couches, tables, and chairs were covered with books they are reading, fake bottles with disappearing milk, feeding sets for their babies, blankets covering beloved stuffed animals, girly toys, beaded jewelry they made at Oma & Opa’s house, and other pink, purple or sparkly, glittery, items.
In those moments, I have no place to sit, and even our kitchen chairs are filled with items, yet we laugh at their excitement for playtime. In those moments, the house looks like a small unique toy store, with items displayed for purchase, or some museum for little girls. Later, our girls found proper places for their items, and our living room returned to the simple setup of a couch, a loveseat, and a chair, which are now seemingly boring in light of the previous display!
Now, they have gathering the tea set into the box for another day, assembled books on their shelves, are tightly tucking their dolls into corners of their beds, in case those dolls are wild sleepers and fall out of bed, and placing knitted miniature blankets on their animals, to keep them warm. Many items, like the twenty books my eldest daughter insists on reading each morning, lay scattered in happy piles around their rooms, and I cannot bear to scoop everything into one efficient giant pile of everything, since they are organized in their own way. I am learning to watch them carefully, to examine their personalities and styles, and help them toward their best self, with particular ways of achieving those character traits. Tonight is not for organizing, but for acceptance, and we will teach additional lessons in the days ahead.
In remaining open to all the delightful adventures the Lord has for us, I am stepping into another season of life, involving work, of finding a part-time job to supplement our meager income, to offer us an edge of breathing room in life.
I sincerely hope that as we progress into this next adventure, of three daughters in elementary school and me working again, we can all journey together in grace, sensitivity, love, and willingness. I know I will miss the cuddles, helpful spirits, and generally cute noise of little girls singing and playing and loving in my home every day, and will always eagerly anticipate the 2:30pm school pickup time. Our afternoons will be filled with laughter, catching up on our days, snack times, homework, and a general sense of togetherness, as we welcome daddy back home in the evening and share together at the dinner table.
I am fully aware that as a mother, these seasons of change are sweet and provide ample opportunities for growth and blessing. Our summer days are truly filled with wonderful memories, yet are also intermixed with arguments, battling siblings, tears, frustrations, and the need for personal space away from nosy sisters. Perhaps these are all normal happenings, with their growth at interpersonal relationships, expressing their feelings, achieving success in sharing and giving.
And, those seasons of early parenting did not always feel especially warm or cozy in the midst of trials and difficulties, yet were sprinkled together with blessings and challenges, of those earliest years of childbirth, three girls in diapers, the silly twin who refused a bottle, always, and pushed me toward breastfeeding my twins for an entire year (for which I was later thankful), moving 300 miles away from family when our daughters were tiny babies (our eldest being only 2 years old and twins 3 months old), potty training, the general idea of cleaning and wiping again and again, the overall zany and exhausting and perplexing, yet happy life of a pastoral family, the busyness of three tiny girls; along with many positive moments, marvelous experiences of friendships developed in MOPS group and at church and school, and the love our girls have provided to us. All of these adventures are not lost moments, yet remain as generous memories, coupled with opportunities to reach other mothers in their early years of raising children, which I hope to remain involved in over this next season of mentoring new, young mothers in our church.
My surprising and brief emotional tears this summer, in unexpected moments, will transform to beaming smiles of readiness, as we welcome in the new schoolyear in three weeks. My three daughters are ready for their next step of adventure, and J.P. and I are eager to unveil all the wonderful opportunities of this new era. We all journey together, beyond 35.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Life Well-Lived

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." - Psalm 91:1-2
Tim was my amazing older brother, and always found an appropriate way to weave humor and insight into every aspect of life. He had such a bright, sharp mind, full of ideas and dreams, with great wisdom. Sometimes I would wonder about him, being a young guy with an “old soul,” being able have perspective past the moment and look at the overall situation. I truly miss his compassionate approach to parenting, his generosity in giving of his time and encouragement, his contagious, genuine love for people.
Tim and Jeni were such strong supporters when we moved to western CO for a pastorate job five years ago. That required sacrificing fun family times, a chance for cousins to grow up around the block from each other. Yet I think he saw the larger scope of nearly everything in life, and in an instant. What a gift!
His witty tendencies could soften a situation. I miss the strong, peaceful presence he would provide, the balanced approach to a stressful moment in parenting, the solutions he offered, his readiness to listen and help shift my perspective. Sometimes he’d initiate a debate…and take the other side…just to mess with my mind. And then we’d be friends again. But he was a great critical thinker!
How interesting to see the Lord had prepared Tim all along, and the evidence was realizing his readiness. He had prepared Tim’s relationships and soul. Certainly he knew the sweetness of God’s miracle 7 years before his death; and he absolutely lived a tremendous legacy.
I think Tim would urge us to live in wisdom and with fervor; to be changed. To care for those who remain – to bless, love, and provide for Jeni, Blake, Logan and Dekker. Tim would encourage us toward purposeful life, to remain on a course of outreach and intentional love, keeping Christ in the center of everything.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A poem about Fall, by my 7-yr-old daughter

In the fall, I like looking at silly costumes,
And taking a bike ride really far on the sidewalk.
I enjoy jumping in a pile of colorful leaves,
And tasting turkey on Thanksgiving,
And watching Charlie Brown Halloween.
I love the cool nights, with nice, warm blankets.
Oma brings taco soup, and juicy red apples.
I smell crispy apples and Thanksgiving dinner.
Yellow and orange leaves fall from the trees,
And cottonball trees are dropping their leaves.
Most of all, I enjoy spending time with my family,
And giving them love.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lessons from a Kite Flyer

Today Joy’s class came bounding out of their school exit several minutes early, holding paper kites on strings, and sharing happy smiles. Her teacher Mrs. C ran toward the field and students followed, like a ribbon of excitement. They left their backpacks on the basketball courts and chased each other on the grass, straining to hold their strings high so the attached kites could fly and swing around. A sunny day welcomed them, offering great opportunity for such an occasion to be outside and run. But sadly, there was no wind, and these sweet children all appeared as though they were toting around an old, deflated balloon.
Joy’s teacher ran over to tell me that the class labored over these paper kites for almost an hour, and she was sincerely hoping for some wind. The weather report warned against high winds, so where was that breeze? We laughed at the stillness of the moment, at the lack of wind, and her enthusiastic teacher shrugged her shoulders and mentioned her gladness at the fun they were still having. Mrs. C ran back into the chaos of her delightfully screaming second graders, and in that instant, the wind picked up and blew onto the grassy field. Two dozen children erupted in thankful cheers, and their little paper kites flew high into the air.
I was amazed at such a display! Parents gathered by the field, even though the end-of-day bell rang and crowds of families were heading home. Joy was leaping in the air, dancing in her own little adventure of the moment, and singing in the middle of those crowded, swirling, sweaty children. Eventually we all needed to go home, and she carried that paper kite to the car.
Once we were home, the girls rode their bicycles in the neighborhood, admiring the yellow aspen leaves and serene temperatures. While riding her bicycle, Joy continued to share stories about her kite, and smiled every time. Later, in the house, she happened to rip that sweet little kite, which brought tears, and tape. And at bedtime, she placed the kite on a chair in her room, for another adventure, on another day.
Tomorrow will bring colder weather, with wind (of course), and snow. But what a beloved experience from a simple craft, and what great delight Joy held in joining her friends in dancing uninhibitedly! If only we could retain such delicate innocence, such carefree, surrendered enjoyment in living in that very moment. My girls continue to re-teach me such important lessons, even while unknowing their significance. What blessings this motherhood brings!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Living in Anticipation

So much of my walk with the Lord involves some type of anticipation, of waiting, wondering, or a patient silence. Times of lengthy prayer sometimes require a specific response, and these supplications may seem too extensive or personal to share with another, except God hears, and loves, and offers a solution.
There are moments I am convinced that my own actions will garnish a result, and that the Lord has asked me to labor toward a goal, to work to accomplish a vision until the task has been finished.
Other moments, He delights in blessing the unobserved circumstance, and perhaps I have barely whispered the specific need for assistance:  healing, finances, guidance, intervention – and His reply seems like a bold, enthusiastic announcement. A rescue, and a complete participation into my life. At times, I am called to await His reply, lean into the silence, solitude, and prayer which calms my spirit and realigns my directives.
Many long days have involved complete submission to His will, to the path He has offered to trod beside me, perhaps into a hot, dry desert, with little relief, without streams of waters or visible fruit. These times are riddled with weeping, uncertainty, and frustration. Does my faith waver, or doubt His master plan? Have I finally realized that I am a piece of God’s impermeable narrative, and feel honored to join in His love?
I remember that the Lord can sometimes provide healing through a physical touch, so majestic and marvelous, that even the skilled physicians surrounding the case could not comprehend such a miracle. Other circumstances have involved a pain so long-suffering, so deep, that the one who is in distress is constantly drawn back into the loving, tender arms of Jesus, to lay in a hospital bed and rest one’s head into His lap, knowing that only His strength could provide energy for the next moment.
And this is the life that some lead, and one’s faith seems significantly challenged. Those who endure such trials and offer a loving attitude, a steady faith, and positive spirit, can be a testimony to God’s grace and providence throughout a life such as this. I am honored to know some who have displayed such grace and courage as they have experienced such tragedy and ultimate disappointment, with seemingly-unanswered-prayers-for-healing. I am not able to comprehend their accommodating resolve to persevere, their intuitive fighter’s nature, except to relate my own journeys of grief or alienation or pain.
I know the God who calls my name in the night, who rescues me in the dawn, who turns mourning into dancing, with great joy. He promises to wipe every tear away and redeem loss and pain and suffering. I am confident that for some, healing is through death, and the Lord acts mercifully in that instant, even though family is left bewildered, staggering in their anguish, questioning the sanity of such a judgment. I call out to Him, and ask, what are we to learn from such events? How can we step through the situation, into a new understanding? How do we draw closer to Him, and remain, in such a state of difficulty?
Whether what I faced over the last several years, living in a harsh spiritual atmosphere, with difficult career adjustments, far from home and support, observing loved ones suffering in pain, losing dear ones to death; or something severe and urgent, like living in a climate that challenges the Gospel, where some are living in danger of losing their lives for their belief; we are called toward Christ, and into His realm of wisdom and remember His ultimate suffering for our salvation. He knew enormous pain, carrying the burden of our sins, so we could live freely. I live in anticipation that He who knew the greatest grief, will one day wipe away our tears!
Some of our greatest answers to prayers are questions carried into Eternity, into the moment when the veil of darkness is removed, and death will be destroyed. Our challenges and inquiries will find a new light, and all we have anticipated cannot describe the supreme joy of meeting Jesus, of the embrace. His silences and gentle leading through life will then have explanation, and in some instances, I know the answer will be: to continue relying solely on Christ for everything in my earthly existence. For soul, spirit, breath, real life.