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.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Change of Seasons

The changing of a season can provide comfort or enthusiasm, or a sense of dread and ill-prepared temperament. In some moments, the languid heat of summer is a welcome respite from spring’s fresh awareness, sudden bloom, or muddy and saturated moments. Those summery, heat-filled afternoons are spent lounging in the shade with iced drinks or frozen popsicles, an altered schedule, the ability for childhood dreams to swarm the mind and allure toward outdoor enjoyment. Summers of swimming, dressing as princesses, or snuggling sisters, allowing opportunity for setting aside school books for thrilling adventure novels.
One can feel the next season approaching as God’s hand etches the patterns of the sky with a fresh, new palette, or with a remembered autumn coloring suddenly recalled. Perhaps the manner of fluttering leaves, twirling and spinning, reminds the weary summer traveler of a nearing change of season. The green grasses of summer offer a stark backdrop to the sky, and eventually fade into orange and crimson, golden hues and amber crisps of leaves. These seasons can be welcomed and relished, with thankfulness for God’s boundaries of time and space, heartened to spend summer afternoons with loved ones.
I remember summers ancient in my mind, in my youth, entranced by the Pacific ocean’s fresh salty splashes and predictable, mesmerizing movement, tiny feet hiding, eager faces peering into sandy tide pools, searching for yellow stars, purple urchins or round creamy sand dollars. Some memories offer warmth and innocence, a peace from a cluttered life. 
As autumn gathers near and fog approaches, as darkness increases, or any particular uncertainty, some gather around steaming bowls of soup, comforting fireplaces, knitted sweaters or solitude. Others venture forth into the altered air, breathing deeply, living fully, while gathering remnants of colorful leaves to press between pages in a book. The sunshine will continue to offer a daily reminder of seasons and as light shifts and golden hues intensify, one recognizes the sparkle of the world through each season, even the glittery narrative of snow muffling sounds and concerns, resetting the priorities of the day. The frozen stretch of months will soon arrive, and in that time, the change will be welcomed.

But for this moment, I am taking a leisurely crisp autumn walk around a yellow, leafy park. Nutty scents of acorns and dampened earth, a brisk breeze guides me forward. The sunlight has become golden, light and shadow filtering through fluttering, dancing leaves. With colors of stark yellow ginger, burnt oranges and shrubbery of fiery reds, maroon, burgundy around deep brown earth. Pine trees jet out with rugged, rocky crags for branches, and at the trunks are small crevices, for creatures. The aspen trees are lined up orderly, with their white trunks close together and bunched as a herd. The path is littered with scattered leaves and underbrush, and at the edges of the lane are late summer flowers almost fading in autumn’s chill. Bright, stark blue sky serves as a backdrop for the magnificent yellow quaking aspen leaves, which click and flutter in the delicate fresh breeze, sounding like soft applause. These leaves will also take the brief journey to the rich soil in the season’s first crystal chill of white, puffy snow. Yet for this fleeting moment, the air is comfortable, the sky brilliant, and leaves welcome all those seeking an escape. An intimate veil, a chapel of trees overhead, draws me forward into the unknown. I am set apart from – and connected to – this moment.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Gift of Immigration

I have been pondering the gift of sacrifice that a family can either bestow on the next generation or receive from past generations. I feel incredibly gratitude for my family heritage of faith in the Lord, and I know many trials were encountered along the way, with challenges and doubts. I realize many families are not as fortunate, and there have been little – or no– examples of Godly faith in daily living. Each upcoming Christian has an opportunity to be the heritage they are seeking!
My maternal family immigrated to the United States just one generation ago, when my mother was a fifth-grader, and the family was sponsored by an American company, and they were personally sponsored by friends who'd already made the long journey across the world, settling in Los Angeles. Realizing the love and care my grandparents held for their children and for future generations has been humbling and a blessing, a legacy worth noting.
Many years ago, in early 1942, during the Second World War, my grandmother (who was raised in Jakarta, Indonesia) and her family were enroute to the Netherlands for a season of furlough. Her father was the Police Chief Commissioner of Jakarta and the family had been awarded a routine holiday. They planned to stay for six months, and were forced to remain for six years, through the rigors of war and life away from the land –  and family – they loved. She stayed in the Netherlands through the War, was married by-proxy to my grandfather, who'd already traveled back to Indonesia with the promise of a wonderful career, and journeyed there alone via a boat, into a new life. They had four children together, and eventually, Indonesia went through a war of its own, and my family again moved from that land they loved, to the Netherlands, and finally immigrated and remained in America.
In that season of life, my grandmother undoubtedly faced many trials while raising small children and seeking to support her husband's career and ambitions. I imagine a seasoned, yet calm woman standing at the edge of grace, peering past circumstance of present or any viewable obstacle, to step forward and boldly accept the gifts of: freedom, time, opportunity, faith. What was sacrificed? Extended family, familiar comforts were no longer possible – they could not return to Indonesia, their desire and love. The Netherlands was a familiar place, yet their dreams explored beyond those borders, to distant shores and other promises, where they would be gathered by dear friends, whose embrace they would know for a lifetime. How appropriate, then for their arms to extend to others in time of need, to welcome similar-minded friends amidst a fresh landscape. Los Angeles did not beckon them any more than the general appeal of America – the romantic idealism of a city with opportunity – as simply stated as this. Not even anything save the connections of other friends who’d pioneered the move, also banished from a beloved adopted country, to step into another possibility-loved location.
For any selfish endeavor their relocating may have nurtured, the immense possibilities for their children – and future generations – certainly abounded. If only for those who would benefit, for grandchildren and beyond. The magnitude of the event would be considered immediately. The necessary gratitude might not be expressed until a generation-removed, for those fully benefiting would stand beside, clutch a hand, and with warm tears, feel amazement and inexpressible respect.
Unable to truly fathom such a transfer of one’s affections from one country to another unvisited landscape, I can only relay from experience these last five years of ministry have entailed: moving far from extended family, with three tiny babies, to set forth and support my husband’s career of ministry and love. Much prepared me for such adventure, particularly my own outreach through college, to other countries and within my own time of singleness, as well as other experiences, such as my season of independent outreach while working for Wycliffe in a new-yet-familiar area of the Netherlands, England, and France. While in the Netherlands, I felt welcomed, the language a soothing and seasoned friend. The culture felt vibrant and I wondered at my family’s fortunate chance in America, wondering what their prospects in the Netherlands would have developed or changed. Yet those mysteries will not hold importance, as the land is a heritage, a bloodline, but not a requirement. A place breeding hope, for which I am also thankful to inherit.
I wonder at the lethargy even the most spirited immigrants might sometime experience, usually several generations removed from the initial event. That growing sense of entitlement or fortune; a removed sense of real genuinity of faith – to believe – and sincerely travel in that element. When one has not experienced the ultimate depravity of circumstance or influence, the marvelous grace-filled testimony of parents or grandparents may lose their sense of place, urgency, or extremity.
Even my dear older brother Tim, following his miraculous aortic repair surgery and recovery eight years ago, would note that time and length from the miracle can lessen the efficacy of the miracle. One can truly recall the anxiety, fear, complete dependence upon God’s strength – for daily measure. Yet most of us, following a near-auto accident or medical disaster – can just as easily trample over those we love, in a self-absorbed manner, overcome by unimportant details.
I recently experienced a surreal moment of my car spinning in rain-turned-sudden-slush and nearing a steep drop-off while driving in a mid-May journey through the Colorado Rockies. Just over the Eisenhower Tunnel, on an impossibly steep down slope, the pouring rain turned to snow and ice within the time frame of just a few minutes. What truly amazed me in that moment while driving alone near dusk: was blessing of being alone, blessing of not hitting another vehicle, blessing of my car spinning in circles and – despite the lack of a guardrail – not falling off the cliff.
I was able to pray – and think – in an instant, as though time slowed and my mind focused. My car finally stopped and I facing forward, ahead, inches from a signpost, and I was able to settle my anxiety and drive back on to the Interstate and continue my journey. When I arrived at my dear friend Erin’s house in Denver three hours later, she welcomed me kindly and ushered me to a warm shower and a delicious dinner. I felt the terror of near-death, and then the affection of friendship that provided compassion and encouragement. God’s grace, and a friend’s love, brought great comfort. The next day, Erin drove me to the airport and I flew on a plane to Virginia, where I was able to spend a week celebrating my brother Daryl in his monumental milestone of his PhD. 
Ironically, several weeks later – and even now, three months after this event – I still struggled to remember that gift of life that night. Each time I drive past that steep hill on Interstate 70, I am thankful for the Lord’s goodness, and I strive to not forget: to set a milestone at that marker, of a moment when He gave me another opportunity to serve Him.
By recalling these grace-laden events, recognizing the loving direction of God’s able hands, these forthcoming generations may be set apart, their thankful inheritors may know their lives were purposeful, their intentions were wholesome, and spirit fully devoted to serving the Lord. The ultimate testimony of their expression would offer open hands and eager hearts, forging their dreams by God’s design and in unassuming humility, directing Glory to the Lord.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Holding Pattern

Deut 31:8: The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
The in-between moment can feel full of implausibility; an unlikelihood down a particular path. Yet we can remain calm while assuredly stepping forth, knowing that God’s direction is always best – that the progression forward, onward, toward a challenge will stretch our faith, while requiring complete reliance upon His insight. Many decisions and choices deliver us to that space of real certainty: to the reality of complete dependence upon God. Circumstance occupied with suffering and loss can thrust the soul toward Him, and eventually, perhaps toward ministry, aiming at refurbishing one’s priorities.
Even providential gifts – such as a benevolent word spoken in a moment of grief, some unexpected financial support, or an extraordinary opportunity offered – all can direct and guide. We must remain vigilant to investigate each condition, to measure toward the litmus test of the Bible, to view a situation in light of His general Biblical promise: to sustain and provide for each need. Maturity – experiential and age and emotions – grows and develops as our relationship with God flourishes and deepens, and we can view each new challenge with spiritual eyes as well; to realize the eternal impact and significance instead of the temporal or fleshly.
To offer ourselves “as living sacrifices” and to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12) are life-long pursuits, which require enormous self-control, starting with a daily discipline of thoughts and actions and reach further into surrendering our ideas of particular paths for life, while submitting our entire wellbeing and will to the Lord, alongside an openness with which He can move and perform in our lives – all while remembering that He goes with us!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Awaiting the bloom

On this hot July day, I'm dreaming of a cooler day's embrace... Here's a narrative I wrote in March about my girls, and enjoyed the moment so much I forgot to post on the blog!...

Cloudy air, deep blue expanse above, sun’s brightening rays yearn for a debut. Three little girls seek the garden to dance among the blushing blossoms and whisper childhood secrets, sisterly notions. The ground is not yet ready in this early March endeavor, yet the small girls jump enthusiastically, enjoying an emerging sun. Swirls and spins of movement and motion arching and curving away and back toward, the center, the beginning, a hopeful journey turning, returning. Toward pretending and starched whites in the sky, the sun long ago receding, waiting for spring’s presence, with green buds approaching the tops of dank soil. Twisted soft petals push up toward free air, in time finally blooming.
Now we watch from a patio's protection as whispering rains nourish the soaked flat landscape, anticipating the explosion of verdant expressions. Yellow daffodils and blue irises finish their game of hiding. Soon burnt orange parrot tulips and tender, shy crocuses will emerge victoriously. The rain quiets and we examine the rivers of water in the soil. Tiny hands wait impatiently above the awakening earth, bright minds eager for transforming visions of springtime’s gentle blooms.
Winter’s rage has howled fiercely through cracks and trees and optimism for months, spreading icy dispositions with frozen snow, drifts, across the mind with generous disdain. The pale, white landscape froze nature in time, delaying animals and flights and important plans. All petrified weather seems a distant recollection now with new rains, clearing skies, brightening dispositions. All seems a colorful palate of promise, opportunity, lengthening light and shadows, and easiness of heart.
The three girls sprawl on large blankets carefully placed on the golden grass and share, snuggle, chat, discuss life playfully, until the sun has lowered and shadows stretch, the moist air begins to form a chill, and the warmth of home beckons us inside.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Peace in Christ

As I sat on an airplane last week, pondering the previous week, I felt refreshed and encouraged by a step away from the ordinary to celebrate my younger brother's PhD. The holiday in Richmond, VA was a delightful celebration of this amazing accomplishment. I appreciated time away without children (even though my heart remained near to my husband and girls!), relished in-depth conversations and activities; and felt engaged into the world that encompasses my brother and sister-in-law's daily life. To truly see where they live, minister, and love others felt like an incredible gift. We admired my brother's doctoral distinction and his friends and professors spoke well of him, as many family gathered to congratulate him and provide an honorable celebration.

During the flight back to Colorado, I undoubtedly felt the disappointment of the miles between our homes, space that stretched along like clouds. When I observe a distance on the map between Colorado and Virginia, those numbers feel desolate and far: nearly 2,000 miles and a long horizontal line across the nation. And then in an airplane, alone for a day, I became painfully aware of the scope of genuine distance, from my home to the home of loved ones. And yet as we individually set forth, surrounded by our lives in community, participating in important work, we can remain connected. Sometimes that urging of God moves us away from the location of those we love, and that always involves great risk and faith, to fully embrace the Lord's direction in life, trusting Him to provide friendships, support, and encouragement in a new place.

I remember that He has offered His children purpose and calls us to persevere. When the path ahead feels treacherous as we step forward in faith, we can be reminded of God’s generous grace, and provision for each moment. Living unto Christ certainly requires being present and intentional, while remaining aware of His lead, open to an unexpected sacrifice, and honestly striving toward encouraging and spurring others forward. When God invites His loved ones toward His purpose, He will create an awakening in the soul – and urging to follow – a sometimes-singular mission. Responding with obedience often requires listening carefully, casting aside judgment and doubt, and advancing forward in faith. And sometimes that will necessitate moving away from those we love.

Sometimes His delays are simply His not-yets, and a true measure of grit and determination. How long can we trust, even when the road remains unmarked? The anxious distractions may certainly hinder growth, progress, and freedom. And when lacking self-control, one can misunderstand the lesson. His adventures for each of us are wildly unpredictable and His calling and purpose unique. When we cannot understand His next step, we can wait for His peace, and remain unwavering, settling into a rhythm of time spent with Him and time in ministry to others. Sometimes the most effective outreach requires consistency, dependability, with an open heart, ready to listen.

The call for sincerity and passion with integrity remains the same, for all who are of the Lord, regardless of each calling. The challenge remains of how to eloquently – and decidedly – step into a place of peace, drawing from His source of comfort and grace. Amidst life’s distractions and necessities, we are urged to become fully established in His loving guidance, each moment not always knowing His intended design, yet certain of our intimacy with our Creator, the One who will lead at appropriate measures, calm our endless inquiries, and turn us toward His able being.

"I am progressing along the path of life in my ordinary contentedly fallen and godless condition, absorbed in a merry meeting with my friends for the morrow or a bit of work that tickles my vanity today, a holiday or a new book, when suddenly a stab of abdominal pain that threatens serious disease, or a headline in the newspapers that threatens us all with destruction, sends this whole pack of cards tumbling down. At first I am overwhelmed, and all my little happinesses look like broken toys. Then, slowly and reluctantly, bit by bit, I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in at all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to possess my heart, that my true good is in another world and my only real treasure is Christ." ~ C.S. Lewis, from "The Problem of Pain"

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Miracle in the Moments of Today

Mother's Day Reflections, Looking Back (from May 13, 2007)...
So this is Mother’s Day, and in a sweeping desire to be loved and needed, my three girls are all together – sobbing, congested with a cold, teething, weepy, clingy, and generally needy. Sounds like daughters taking after their mother? They are never aware of special days like this, although the miracles in moments of today create that magic. However, those ordinary adventures of daily routine signify their dependence and love. My first-born can easily verbalize and gently strokes my arm, ending the moment with a soft pat. “Hi, Mama,” she whispers, and offers her newest smile, kind of fake, but just as cute. She tries to be genuine with snot running down her nose. 
Meanwhile, I am fixing her a quesadilla with grapes and oranges, while alternating between a crying second-born, who is suddenly only content in my arms or in the bouncy seat, yet that bouncy seat is now where my third-born wails, pulling at her uncomfortable, cutting gums. I realize even as children are seemingly pooping and unhappy – intermixed with hilarious moments of beautiful expressions of love – they will not always need me in such a physical way, so dependent and entirely desiring.
Even as this Mother’s Day consists of arduous care for my children, along with love and genuine appreciation from my sweet husband, with cards and flowers and dinner, I realize that someday I will be sending warm mothering congratulations to my daughters, when they are surrounded by families of their own.
For now, I revel in the moment, in today’s gift. I notice my daughters watching, adoring, and admiring, as I cuddle, enjoy, and feed them; and as they play contentedly in moments of real delight. And I stroke their faces, and inhale their fresh, authentic, innocent scent, and thank the Lord for this gift of mothering, for His entrusting me with their lives. They can be immersed in a game, then suddenly gaze at me, and beam. They break my fortresses of pain, guilt, and fear; simply with a huge, toothy grin. I smile back. I am homeC.M.

Monday, April 25, 2011

On Being Pursued

Chirping young birds emerge from bushes like cautious, playful children seeking delight. These red-winged black birds swirl and flutter around the playground equipment at our local park, appealing to my daughter as some springtime butterfly, drawing the attention of my two squealing girls. My daughters are amazed at these tiny creatures. B chases one little bird in a dance of sillyness, proclaiming, “Slow down, birdie! I’m going to pet you!” and she darts around in the verdant grass, flying into the wind beside the bird, never quite catching the energetic bird. But not seeming to mind, B, contains such renewed enthusiasm in chasing.
She is usually the sister who gets pursued – whether by our own inquiries of an emotion behind her ever-present smile; or every morning when H climbs into B’s bed, to snuggle and sweetly wake together; or when J is seeking a sister to dance around the home. B can seem all giggles and sweetness, yet I hope as her determined personality continues to develop, she can allow herself to continue to sparkle; to utilize her God-given kindness and compassion to bless others.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Balancing Act

I am living this in-between season, as my adorable young daughters urge me to provide them space in their tiny lives, to allow them choices of meals and clothing and activities; and as they weep for my love before bedtime while I’m away on a mother’s night out, I wonder about that delicate balance of faith and grace, of offering freedoms and adventures at every turn, while at the same moment – and sometimes in the same breath – of remaining close and available for a rescue or important conversation.

My daughters deeply desire a sense of freewill, and I reciprocate by dreaming they can become caring, loving, balanced women who are independent, while depending upon the Lord. That same notion of our complete and perfect need for Christ, for salvation, for forgiveness and reconciliation, and of our choices and responses becomes more clear. I recognize God’s design for relationship with Him, and also marvel at God's restraint as He provides us opportunity to grow and mature in varied ways.

Many days with my daughters include much encouragement, love, snuggles, high-fives, and happy dances. Yet as we are all humanly flawed, those same days can involve disappointment and discipline. Some instances of constructive discipline conclude with a surprising thought in my mind:
Just as I have asked my daughter to do something multiple times; as I have warned another daughter of the dangers of certain adventures; or as I have reminded my other daughter that my answer remains, “not now, darling;” as I hear my voice, the words speak truths that God can use as real and complete knowledge for my life as well. And sometimes I laugh at myself, because the Lord has answered a prayer with a real-life circumstance!

How many times have I asked the Lord to reveal Himself, provide an answer, and I remain near to Him, believing God for His guidance? Yet I sometimes sense silence, or absence, or delay? So my children, in their lively experiences, can offer me reminders in general ideas and theories as I respond to their questions and concerns (which often mirror my own problems!) –
Do not worry, my child…
I am with you…
I have promised to walk with you through every instance of pain…
Do not be afraid of telling me your stories…
There is no shame in being yourself....
I love you...

Every moment that I can learn and grow from my encounters with my daughters through what God is revealing, I am also reminded that my deep, passionate, intense love for them cannot even describe the perfect, whole love they experience from God.
Psalm 138:8 reminds us, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.” What a beautiful promise to remember!

As my daughters mature and falter, some nights they will still call for me, reaching out in the dark as I run through the hallway to their room, with a hug and kiss ready for them. They long for the familiar warmth of mother. How comfortable and similar I am with that notion, and I struggle to find the length of space they need and desire, while remaining relevant and influential. 

God sends children… to enlarge our hearts, to make us unselfish, and full of kindly sympathies and affections; to give our souls higher aims, to call out all our faculties and to extend enterprise and exertion; to bring round our fireside bright faces and happy smiles, and loving, tender hearts.”
~ Mary Howitt

Friday, February 18, 2011

Great Spiritual Tasks...

The great spiritual task facing me is to so fully trust that I belong to God that I can be free in the world – free to speak even when my words are not received; free to act even when my actions are criticized, ridiculed, or considered useless.... I am convinced that I will truly be able to love the world when I fully believe that I am loved far beyond its boundaries. ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

How much of my life has consisted of avoiding those risks, even a journey worth taking, to preserve my self or some sense of accomplishment? Instead of stepping out in faith, of retreating in fear. Even the fearful unknown, that sense of disappointment when venturing down the wrong track, or heavy burdens in the darkest night. The striving for perfection instead of compassion and action. In the past, I wondered the worth of such careful practices, of purity, morals, integrity. Most of those actions as a young girl were out of fear and duty and responsibility; fear of breaking a rule, and duty to my parents, and responsibility to God. In high school I developed more depth toward my relationship with the Lord, and striving to follow His heart and His word flourished from my changed attitude and character. That same struggle seems to follow us as we mature in Christ, as Matthew 6:33 reminds us, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." This true litmus test of my faith and character is constantly reminding me of where He has challenged me and the experiences still ahead.
If I were to calculate my life at age 15 and plan out the realm of my life, that very existence would have been incomplete and underdeveloped. My dreams at the time were of going to college and working in the field of teaching. At age 21, I had realized those ambitions and pressed forward toward more multi-dimensional ideas, which included foreign travel and long-term missionary work.
A year after completing my degree in education and English, I relished the opportunity to spend 3 months abroad, working for Wycliffe Bible Translators. Again, my paradigm framework shifted; now toward a global perspective, and the challenges I encountered stretched me from Christian education and a dream of being a missionary teacher toward public school education. I had conquered one of my greatest fears, and understood the tremendous privilege of traveling thousands of miles alone, of being on my own in 6 different countries but never feeling lonely. Of becoming comfortable in my own element, living independently, and developing peace in solitude, and strength in prayer, while taking faith risks for God.
I often think about that season in my life as my most extravagant faith walk, a deep chat with God, the quintessential journey away that inevitably leads us home, back to the beginning. Observing familiar landscape with fresh eyes. My passion for teaching was renewed, and the irony of that desire was my opportunity to step into full-time writing for 5 years.
And then another unexpected – but lovely – turn in the road was meeting my wonderful husband J.P., a loving man who was studying to become a pastor. All of my prior experiences – of quality, challenging Christian education, leadership opportunities throughout college, and even difficult lessons nurtured during my time abroad – prepared me for this monumental task of becoming a wife.
As we dance into our tenth year of marriage this August and consider all the marvelous blessings God has provided, my dreams and expectations could not have imagined such wonders. If the Lord had provided all I requested of Him in my youthful ambition, my life would not have been flavored the same way, or have the multiple layers of depth, of difficult lessons learned along the way. The blessings He's given has been a refreshing and encouraging promise, a reminder of His presence and affection.
Those dark seasons, the humbling and realistic work of my husband's calling as a pastor, and of my outreach alongside his; of stripping away myself to be clothed in Christ’s fragrance, the often noisy and exhausting ministry of mothering three precious daughters (amidst obvious blessings!); every instance of struggle in this desert-like place of ministry has been prepared beforehand in life and heart. God paved the way. Isaiah 43:19 encourages me, "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."
The reality of Christ's immense love has freed me to become myself, to follow Him because of our relationship, to capture His love in my life and seek to provide opportunity for others to experience the same. There are moments of reflection when I realize how struggles in the past – moments of seeming despair, times of personal disappointment and great pain – have given me greater freedom to reach out to others facing similar hurts. If only I am brave enough to step out in love.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Listening for God's voice

Philippians 3:14, "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Releasing all the anxiety and fear surrounding a calling, silencing doubts and boldly pursuing the dreams God has firmly fixed upon the mind; expressing self in an effort to bless others with a gifting aiming to live within that 5% margin of specified gifts, of particular purpose and not becoming mired down in details or eloquence. Not hesitating or procrastinating out of some bizarre control ideology and not apologizing for the vision or message God has offered: to reach the lost, to serve others, to step forward humbly and willingly seek to be a light, a fragrant and gracious beacon of God's love and hope. Most sincerely, the call of God will rise above the cluttered background noise and either hypnotize or paralyze or motivate us toward action. One can very easily glide through a comfortable existence, a life of easy expectations and a limited view of miracles.

What matters most when we are not so bold to ask the Lord? Are those prayers so puny that human effort could accomplish? God just whispered in someone's ear and we were given a van, from a wonderful couple in our church. A truly simple task for God, but a fleece and gigantic reminder of His love for us. He has not abandoned us to journey alone! What insurmountable odds are looming ahead? God works delicately, and at times exclaims to us, takes the impossible and flips the perspective.

Do we live for some jovial moments in between work and chores and sleep? Or can our lives become so closely intertwined with Christ that upon waking up, our prayer is for God to love us deeply and let His love radiate to others? Can we spend our days seeking His heart? I can set a standard to discipline my mind to think of Him as much as I can throughout my day. Certainly, actions, and attitudes would be affected and my countenance could be more loving, gracious, joyful, and my priorities would be in line with His, with Truth. To live in a constant state of awareness of His grace, affection for me, of His desire for me to trust, to submit my whole life to His will.

Perhaps even if there was minimal support of one's calling, God could fill the soul so completely that one could huddle bravely agains the masses and press forward, so certain of His voice. To have such disciplined ears, attuned to His whispers, is indeed a marvelous goal. Time spent in prayer, listening instead of doing, and developing a clear vision of God's love and grace can shape those ministry dreams and mature my outlook. Much of my distraction, many obstacles, are from not remaining focused on Who leads me, even while not knowing where. He is kind and will remain along the way. He has us all, I am reminded. Ahh, such peace!