Sunday, June 16, 2013

Moments That Take Our Breath Away ...

There are moments. Moments etched into your very soul. No words ... no mortal words could possibly do justice to the moment. Just your heart feeling absolutely blessed. Absolutely changed. You can't put words to that ... so, you just breath and take it in. Keep it in your heart ... forever. The type of moment when you breath in ... and, you are so caught up in that moment ... you don't breath out. You hold it. Because you know, your life has just changed. It will never be ... the same.

The first time I looked into his eyes ... the eyes of my husband. I held that breath. That moment.

The instant I laid eyes on each of my newborn sons. Knowing they were the best part of me and my husband ... perfection in my arms. That breath was caught in my throat. Nowhere for it to go but ... in my memory. Forever.

The night my grandfather passed from this earth and into the hereafter where he waits for us. Our entire family, circled around the hospital bed ... he took my hand in his and pressed it to his lips. A kiss goodbye. I took that breath and kept it.

Many more. I can't possibly fit them all into this one space. But, one more, I want to share with you today ...

I took another breath and held it. The phone call we had each been waiting for ... came. I sat at work ... at my desk. Trying to concentrate. I couldn't. Stacks of files scattered on my desk ... each with a name that needed my attention but ... only one name had my attention. A name not on my desk ... My niece, Hope, was at Riley Children's Hospital. Waiting for the final word from her physician. My sister's voice on the other end of the line. Hope was coming home ... without the aide of a trache. At that point, Hope had lived with a trache for 10 years 4 months and three weeks. Hope was born without the ability to breath on her own. At birth, Hope held her breath. Not by choice but by force. She could not breath. Her jaw was so small, it choked her air passage. Until the trache was put into place and ... she breathed. On this day, all those years came to a moment when she would undergo a sleep study. Countless surgeries. All to bring her to this ... this moment. Breath without a trache. And, it worked. The doctors all told my sister and her husband ... this might not work. Hope might never live without a trache. The sleep study was a success. Hope came home. Waiting. The sleep study was one step in a walk toward absolute freedom. Hope slept at home without any tubes or machines. If there were no complications during the following weeks, Hope would go through another surgery to close the stoma. The small hole in her neck where the trache had been placed for 10 years. There were no complications. Another trip to Riley and ... home again with no trache and a fully closed stoma.

Last week, Hope did something she has never done before ... she showered on her own. Something we all take for granted. Water running down her head and body. My sister watched Hope and ... held her breath. I'm sure that breath will be etched in her memory ... forever. I know there will be countless other moments as Hope experiences breath without a trache. Each one will be held by her mom, dad and older sister. And, by Hope.

Years ago, my sister placed the following quote in a frame. It's in her home to this day. That frame is surrounded by pictures of her family.

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away."

Passages in Luke tell us that Christ's mother kept moments in her heart. Luke 2:19 "But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." I truly believe moments like this are from Him. Gifts to hold on to ... to keep and ponder. Moments to remind us ... He is there. While this world is not perfect ... He is perfect. Every good and perfect thing is from Him. Keep those moments in your heart. Hold them safely in your memory.
Genesis 2:7 "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."

Shelter From the Storm ...

2:30 a.m. Dark. Our family of five is safely tucked in bed. Four of the five are sleeping. I'm awake. I've been awake for over an hour. Listening to the rain as it pelts against our home. The wind is not as bad as it was three days ago when a massive storm ripped through our area ... but still, it sounds bad to me. I slide out of bed, trying not to wake Jerry. I walk to the patio doors, flip on the outdoor light and watch. The wind isn't that bad. I turn off the light and walk to our back door. I open the door and flip on the outdoor light. I look out the screen door. Frown. Are they safe? The new family living beside our deck, to the right of our side door ... are they safe? Did they move to a dry place before the rain started? I want to go out and check on them, but, the rain is coming down too hard. I would be soaked just stepping outside and taking a quick look.

On Friday night, one of our barn cats decided to move her babies under our deck steps. On Saturday morning, she moved them again ... to the right side of the deck. Totally exposed to the elements. We have a few ornamental shrubs planted there but they aren't big enough to give any shade or protection.

I closed the door and went back to bed. Sad. Let nature take its course. If she didn't move them, they'll be dead by morning. They are small and weak. Not big enough to understand ... find shelter. Not big enough to know where to find shelter. I've lived on a farm long enough to know ... don't intrude on nature's cycle. In the past, I've tried and I always end up making things worse. I crawl in to bed. Sleep sneaks in as I think ... sad. Why would that mommy cat put her babies ... there? She knows the elements. She knows her babies are small and weak. Why not the barn? It's big and has lots of safe places to hide her little family. Why not one of our two sheds? There's plenty of space, plenty of choices. But, she chose that place beside our deck... totally exposed.

This morning, I woke up and my first thought was ... are they safe? Did she move them? Quietly, I slid out of bed, pulled on my bathrobe and went to the side door. The deck was still wet from the rain. Puddles gathered in our driveway. I step out and look. She's there. The mommy sees me and leaves her babies. Jumps up onto the deck and looks at me with peaceful eyes. She's expecting food. All our farm cats know ... I go out early in the morning and feed them. I bend down, rub her ears and look to find ... her babies. All three, curled up in a tight ball together. Resting. Peacefully. And, I realize the mommy is soaked from rain. The spot where her babies sleep ... is dry. Everything around them is saturated and holding water. But, they ... they are dry. I look to her and then back to her babies. She jumps down and huddles over them.  She looks up at me and blinks. The rain starts again. Sprinkles cling to her whiskers. She closes her eyes and ... stays, huddled over her most precious possessions. I realize, she spent all night ... through that entire storm ... curled up over her babies. Protecting them from the storm.

I kneel down and watch. Why did I doubt she would take care of them? Why did I think ... she wouldn't know what to do or what was best for them? They are hers and she loves them. She didn't take them out of the storm ... but, she did shelter them during the storm. She didn't leave them.

I go back inside, pour a cup of coffee and ... I feel peace. And, I think ...

In this world, we are exposed to elements. Trials. Temptations. Hurt. We find ourselves right in the middle of storms so violent, we think ... the storm will leave us totally soaked with pain. Unbearable. We want shelter, relief ... but, we don't know where to find the relief. Which way will take us out of the storm. Then ... He comes to us and covers us. Sometimes, He doesn't take us out of the storm ... He covers us during the storm.

Psalm 91:1-6 "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.'  Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler.  And from the perilous pestilence.  He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday."

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My 'Dressy' Clothes ...

It's Saturday morning. Early spring, so the sun isn't quite peaking over the barren Indiana fields. Our house is asleep ... except me. I'm up, getting ready for work. Everyone else is still snuggled under warm blankets. I love this time of morning, just before the house comes alive. Why? I guess it's because I get to watch it ... come alive. Go from sleeping to waking. Watch the process. I love the sleepy look in my children's eyes when they shuffle out of their bedrooms and through the kitchen. 

I'm there, in the kitchen. Dressed for work. Black dress slacks, purple top with silver sequins at the collar. Half empty mug of coffee in one hand. Standing beside the table, looking out the patio doors ... waiting for the sunrise. I hear a door open and close softly, one of the boys is up. Behind me, Kregg wraps his arms around my waist and nuzzles his face against my side. I wrap one arm around him. Right now, he's just the right height for me to pull under one arm and hold him close... how much longer will that last? He looks up at me, big brown eyes. His hair is all out of place.

I want to hold on to this moment ... forever. Because I know it will come and go as quickly as the sunrise.

Kregg moves slightly, a puzzled look comes over his face and I know ... he's getting ready to ask a question. This is how it is with him. Kregg says whatever is on his mind.

"Mama, how come you look so dressy?" He moves farther back and looks me up and down ... taking in what he calls 'dressy'.

"This is how I always look for work, Kregg."  I rough his hair. "Remember, we've talked about this before. I wear 'dress' clothes for work days."

Kregg wrinkles his nose. "That's what I thought, I wish today wasn't a work day. I like you home." He shrugs and heads to the living room for Saturday morning cartoons.

The rest of our family stumbles out of bedrooms and finds comfortable spots to rest. I give kisses and hugs goodbye. Down the back porch steps, to my car ... I sit inside and let it warm up. I forgot to start my car early and the frost still lingers from the cold. I wait for the defrost to work. It gives me time to think ...

My children know where I'm going because they know what I wear when I'm going to work or staying home. They see the difference. It's not that I take more time getting ready for work. I spend time on my hair and make-up just the same when we go out to the movies or to dinner. But, I look different ... those days, I wear different clothes. Jeans. Maybe a T-shirt or a nice sweater.

Then, I start thinking beyond the physical ... to the spiritual. Do my children know Where I'm going? Do my works and deeds ... the things I do daily ... do those things witness my Destination to the boys God has given me and my husband to raise? I know ... sometimes they don't. Sometimes I don't do or say the things I should. There are days when I fail. Miserably. I pray those days are outnumbered by the days I am 'dressy'.

I'm thankful for Kregg's observation. Thankful for the reminder ... My children are watching. I want to be sure they see Where I am going ... and, I want to be sure they know how to get There. I want them to know ... It's ok to fail. It's what you do after failure that matters. You pick yourself up and put on your 'dressy' clothes.

John 13:35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Safe in His Love ...

I stood still. I think shock held me in place. Or, maybe He knew I needed to stand still. Keep still.

My son had made a mistake. One I was ready to forgive. No ... one I had already forgiven. Now, we were left to walk down the path from this mistake to a place of peace.

I won't share the mistake with you ... out of respect for him and respect for other people who were involved. I will only share what I saw that day. What that day taught me.

It's been several months since the day I stood still. But, it was one of those moments ... one where you can close your eyes and feel each breath, each word. Each tear. Clay was beside me. Jerry on the other side of Clay. Cold wind went straight through my jeans and sweat shirt. Clay stood there. Shivering. Cold from the early spring air and cold from the words that another person let fly out of their mouth. The words were directed toward Clay and ... toward the three of us. There was name calling and blame thrown at Clay. It wasn't necessary. He had already admitted fault and accepted blame. I was so proud in that moment. Proud of the man my boy had become. Proud of his strength when faced with incredible hurt. Clay stood still. He did not do what many young men his age would have done. Clay did not even show acknowledgement of  the words thrown at him. We were surrounded by both acceptance from some people and absolute judgement and condemnation from others. Those words, once spoken, became fiery arrows ... they met their intended mark. In my heart. It is one thing to have other people call you names and belittle you ... one thing to have other people condemn you. It is a totally different feeling to have them do those same things to your child.

Don't misunderstand me. I saw their side of the situation. I put myself in their position and asked ... "What would I have done if those tables were turned?". I understood their anger and where that anger came from ... fear.

I'm not sure how long we stood their listening to those words. It felt like a long time. The cold wind was seeping into my bones and making it feel like forever. Then, my husband stepped between me, Clay and the words being shot. He said several things to try and snuff the anger. Trying to reason with the words and to help the person throwing them ... see ... peace. It didn't work. The words got louder and more hurtful. Then, Jerry did something I will never forget ... He slowly walked between us. Between the place where Clay and I stood and the person these words were coming from. Jerry didn't say words of hate or bitterness. He calmly walked in a way that made this person ... back down.

And, I felt safe in his love. Just as I always have ... for over 23 years. Jerry knew I was near my breaking point. The point where I couldn't take anymore. He knew Clay had heard enough hate. Felt enough pain. In my heart, I felt he was saying ... "Enough, they are mine. I won't let you do this to them."

That day is in the past. But, what I saw carries me still. I saw my husband love his family the way God loves His Family. God will allow a certain amount of pain, hurt and trials to come into our lives. To shape us. Mold us. And, He will only tolerate so much hurt amed at His children. He knows when we can't take anymore. It is then that He steps between us and the hurt. And, He says, "Enough. They are Mine. No more."

And we are Safe in His Love.

Psalm 34:7 "The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Welcome at My Table ...

It's hard to believe it's been over 12 years. Jerry and I spent long nights and weekends visiting mobile home dealers.Then, we considered building our own home. This added to our nights and weekends. Researching. Talking. Talking more. Disagreeing. Agreeing. Big decisions. We were ready to buy our first home. Making a decision that would last for years to come ... that was difficult. But, exciting. All that time finally ended with us picking a 'lot model' double wide. This saved us money. The lot model was being discontinued. The dealer needed to sell it to make room for new models. And, it was exactly what we wanted. We signed the dotted lines and ... started picking furniture. Making more decisions. These were big decisions too. These pieces of furniture would be a part of our new home. We wanted to make good choices. Purchase furniture that would withstand time and wear.

Among other things, I remember shopping for the kitchen table and chairs. Jerry and I picked something with 4 chairs. At that time, our family was a family of 3 and 4 chairs would be sufficient. We brought the boxes of unassembled pieces home. My dad and I spent several hours constructing the table and then 4 chairs.

Little did we know, God would soon bless us with 2 more children. At the time, I didn't really consider how we would all fit around that table. There were highchairs around our table for several years after. And, then ... the highchairs were gone and we needed more seats for our growing family and friends. With three children and a struggling economy, we made the choice not to replace the table and not to purchase more chairs. We simply pulled several of our dining room chairs in to the kitchen table. They weren't the same and were old. Antiques in fact. My home is filled with both ... new pieces and antiques. I love the character in nostalgic pieces. I see the beauty in their age. Those dining room chairs were a gift. My dad refinished them and gave the set to us along with a table and buffet. Not long after those chairs became a part of my kitchen, I pulled another chair out of my bedroom. A chair I had used to sit at my desk. Soon, all our chairs started to show their age and wear. Again, my dad came to the rescue and took each chair to his garage. He brought them back, restored. They were still different, but you could sit on them without the fear of falling to the floor.

This weekend, I was cleaning my kitchen and started thinking over my oldest son's approaching graduation. I thought of all the people that will come in and out of our home for his open house. As I put dishes away and wiped down the table, I looked at those chairs the way I feared some of our guests might look at them ... old, mismatched, worn. This is one of my faults, I think too much about outward appearances. This is an area I struggle to handle. I whispered a prayer ... "God, please forgive me for my ungrateful attitude and for my concern over appearances. Thank You for a table and chairs where my family can sit and share meals."

I finished cleaning my kitchen. Still talking to Him about this flaw in my character and asking Him to help me through it ... keep working on me. Don't give up on me. Restore me. I turned to find a brilliant sunshine spilling across that table and six very different chairs. The sun hit each piece from a different angle, enhancing the differences. Showing the grain and color in each chair. None of them look the same and only 3 of them come close to matching my table. When family, friends and new people sit in those chairs, it's no different. Each person, each face ... each life is very different. Some are older, a little worn. They show their age and ... they show character. Some are smaller than others. Some look newer. Others ... they might be falling apart. Some may feel like they've been pulled from one spot to another ... never feeling like they are part of where they've been placed. But, they are each welcome at my table.

My prayer has always been that each person who takes a seat at my kitchen table will feel welcome. That they would feel free to share and show their differences. That they would know ... I accept them just as they are ... young or old. Spiritually whole or falling apart. In need of Restoration. I want to sit at that table and pray with them. Share a meal with them. A meal I've prepared with those special people in mind.

And, after seeing my table in a different Light ... I pray the people who sit in those mismatched chairs will be touched by The Son. I won't be replacing those chairs any time soon. I like the reminder they give me. The reminder that He made each of us exactly as we are ... He puts us through trials and then He repairs our hearts. He doesn't replace us when we start to show our flaws. Our need of Restoration. He puts us in a place where our differences are needed. And, He sees those differences as ... beauty. Welcome at His table.

1st Peter 3:3 "Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Value of Position ...

Late afternoon. The sun is hiding behind threatening rain clouds. A few sprinkles spot the bleachers. I'm standing by the fence, watching my son and his teammates' baseball practice. James has improved since last year. His arm is stronger. He's moving faster. This is his third year in Little League and I can see the difference between those three years. I see the smile on Jame's face.  He loves this game. He feels ... accepted here. An important part of this team.

My husband is coaching the team. Two other fathers from the team are helping coach. Each of them has taken up a spot on the field, guiding the players ... teaching them the fundamentals of this game. I listen to their instructions and watch as the players respond to their coaches guidance.

Other parents stand outside the fence ... watching ... encouraging. The kids are practicing plays. Where does the ball need to be thrown if it goes ... right field ... left field ... ground ball infield? How many players are on the bases ... that's what makes the difference as to where they need to throw the ball. I hear the players laugther. They're enjoying the practice.

My husband switches out the first base player and sends him to left field. He brings the left fielder in to first base. It's important to him that each player knows what to do in each situation and from each spot on the field. He sees their strengths and knows where each player will benefit their team the most.

I see something else ... I see the face of the left fielder as he runs up to first base. He's smiling. Excited. He gets to be infield. For most of the players, infield is better than outfield. If you have a spot infield, you're a better player. More valuable. This is that players first year in this league. By the end of this season, my husband will have shown this boy how important each player and position is to the team. This player will have confidence and will know his worth. Infield ... outfield ... no matter where he is placed by the coach, he'll be important. Value does not come from position. It comes from your character. I don't find fault in this little boy or his excitement in playing first base instead of outfield. I smile because he is beautiful. He is someones extraordinary child. He has something to learn but that does not change his value or his beauty.

As I stand there, listening while my husband encourages the players and guides them in each play ... I think of 1st Corinthians 12. The body needs many parts in order to be a whole body. The eyes, the hands, the feet ... they are nothing without the other parts. This is compared to the body of Christ and the church. Each member is given qualities that make them who they are and what their purpose is in the Kingdom here on earth. Verse 18 reminds us that " ... God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased." The entire 12th chapter is an encouragement that each of us is valuable ... no matter what position we play in God's plan.

Sometimes, our humanness gets in the way of that plan. We see what someone else can do or is doing. We see how much they accomplish and think ... I want that. I want to be that part of the Plan. Somehow, we've decided that our spot is outfield and their spot is infield. Just like so many players on a sports team, we've decided which position is the best ... the most important. When really ... each position is important ... valuable. We don't see that we are extraordinary children of an amazing God ... a God who made us exactly as we are ... to fit in to His plan. We may have things to learn, but ... He sees our beauty regardless of where we are in the path to finding His position for us. He sends other people into our lives to help us ... guide us.

No matter where you are today. No matter what you are doing ... do it for Him. You are an important player in this incredible game of life. You are of great value to a Great King.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Banana Bread and Spiritual Gifts ...

"Mom, the bananas are getting brown!" James points as he walks past the table and toward the fridge.

"Oh Yeah!" Kregg smiles at me. Yes, he's smiling( ... and you'll understand why soon).

We're all in our morning routine. Jerry's already gone for work. Now the rest of us are getting ready for school and work. take the dog out, eat breakfast. Grab back packs, lap tops ... the lunch box James almost forgot. Kregg runs to his room and gets a small stuffed animal to 'sneak' into his bag. He thinks I don't see him, but I do.

Kregg grabs the bananas, "Can we take 'em now, Mama?"

"No, Kregg." I'm grabbing my purse and car keys. "We don't have time this morning."

He slumps his shoulders and pouts. He's good at this. Big brown eyes and down turned mouth. "It'll only take a minute. You can take 'em to Hanker's while Grandma takes us to school." Hanker is the nickname my boys have for my sister, Mary. But, that's a story for another day.

"No, I'm sorry. I don't have time." I kiss his forehead. "I'll take them later."

This conversation would make no sense to anyone outside our family. But, for anyone close to us ... you know Hanker makes the best banana bread. If you've got bananas that are beyond the stage of enjoying as a simple snack ... take them to Hanker. She turns them into something yummy. Sometimes, she adds chocolate chips. For our family, she leaves out the nuts (because I really don't like them much, I'll eat them ... but if I get the choice, I'll have it without). The loaves are just the right size, slice it ... put a little butter on it and give me a cup of coffee or a glass of milk ... good snack. In fact, my kids fight over it. Yes, it's that good.

I've offered to make it for my boys. That always turns into looks of ... "How do we tell Mom we would rather have Hanker make it without hurting her feelings?" You see, all the men in my house have tasted my attempts at baking (and there have been many) and they know, it's just not my area of expertise. I have tried, because I want to be the one who does that well ... who puts the smiles on my boys faces when they eat that snack. I have always been the type of person/mom who wants to do it all and be it all for everyone under my roof.

That's the human in me ... in a lot of us. We want to be gifted in all areas of life. But, that's not how it works. God gives each of us talents or gifts. I'm talking about spiritual gifts. We don't get to pick our gifts. He picks them. They are part of us from the moment of conception. From the time of our birth, God puts us through events (whether those events be trials or triumphs) to strengthen those gifts ... to bring those gifts out of our soul where He planted them and into the world. For us to share. That's why He gave us those gifts ... to share them and minister to others. The problem is, sometimes we aren't content with the gifts He gave us. We decide there are much better gifts out there and we want them. So, we set out on a mission to get those gifts. All the while, we're depriving others the joy of being blessed by our real gifts. Our God given gifts. And, we're depriving God of the pleasure He has in seeing us use our gifts to further His kingdom.

Just like my attempts at baking banana bread. In all the effort I put into trying to do what my sister can do ... I took time away from what I already do well. And, at the same time, I totally depressed myself. Because I failed. I just need to be ... me ... the me God created. Not the me I somehow feel would be better.

Take time today to be you. Because you were made exactly how God wanted you.

If you've never taken a journey through scripture to find out what your spiritual gifts are ... Take time to read through 1 Corinthians and Ephesians. These books of the bible are filled with insights on Spiritual Gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:11 "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills."

1 Corinthians 12:18 "But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased."