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Saturday, March 27, 2010

I am yours Lord...

     What began as God's gentle prompting seems clear and perfect in the stillness before dawn but when the rest of the world wakes up the clouds roll in and its get dark and foggy.       I try to walk it out but my feet are unsteady. I am vulnerable, ill-equipped, unsure, it's too hard.  I don't know what I'm doing and I read and pray and think, "Why as I doing this?" and  so I stop.   
     When I am empty, I draw near, God pours in and I push through.  I cut and paste. I write and learn and read and learn and write and learn and re-write.   
     My heart is full of desire to bring glory to God and I know He knows this but I am terrible at it and I grumble and I fail.
      But He holds my hand as we walk back to the beginning where I read in my own words how this whole thing started and I know it is my journey so I take a deep breath and sigh and take another tiny step.   
     Here I stand.  Feet planted on the Glory Road but confessing that the last several miles was uphill and rocky and I am not strong and I am tired and I really just want to find a different road. 
     But this road is mine because God placed me here and I trust him so I walk. I want to run and dance and jump and sing and climb while full of great worship because He is worthy of all my praise forever and ever and ever!  That's want I want to do. 
     So I put one foot in front of the other and then I do it again because I it becomes my worship. Blisters or not I will look at Jesus as I trudge over hills, pluck out thorns, and pull my feet from tar because I know what Jesus took to the cross for me and I want it all to be my joy. 
     So when my feet land on sharp rocks, when it gets hard and I cry out and I'm out of breath and need living water I will remember that my Father loves this Psalmists heart and will hold me in his lap and let me drink from his well.   
     He will put my feet back on the path refreshed and I will have a joyful spring in my step like a child because of the hope and promise of the cool green valley that waits for me.  A place where the fragrance of flowers I've never seen take my breath away, where babbling brooks sing, where mountains will bow down and a baby Orangutan will jump into my arms.  
     I am yours, Lord. May you be glorified in me...

Reflections of a life...

     June 20th 2009

     I woke up this morning very early...not quite 3am...flooded with memories of my life with Paul.  Like watching old movies, the play-by-play of my husband and children at certain moments flashed before me. I don't know what triggered the memories. A day spent with darling new Moms experiencing their own lifetime of firsts? Maybe?  The upcoming celebration of another year of my marriage to Paul?  Perhaps God just wants to remind me of the journey.
     Our life started with dark stuff...Paul with his own before me, and then together we had more. His older brother Charles died right before our wedding and then I found David dead in our apartment just a few months later. Thats when Fear moved it and stayed too long. Those first few years were hard. We were simply existing on a thread of grace.
    Then God began to restore our hearts and joy came.  Paul cried tears of happiness for the first time as he held our baby, a little girl, in his arms.

     I still remember the smell of her. Paul was a natural Dad. Changing diapers, singing songs, taking her on tractor rides. I remember her at one, already precocious, on the floor in red panties and blue knee socks eating a plate Cheetos. I saw myself lying on the sofa, Paul rubbing my huge brown belly as we wondered what the baby boy inside me would be like. 
     Tears of joy came again as he held his baby son, our Michael. I remember watching ReAnnon hit a ball off a tee and dance around in her Michael Jackson t-shirt to La Bamba while her baby brother bounced and laughed from the jumpy in the doorway beside her. 
     I remember ReAnnon running  across two acres with her Dad's ice teas after he whistled at her from the tractor. Paul mowed our 2 neighbors yards, (3 acres total) every weekend for an extra forty dollars and he would take us out for hamburgers and root beer floats.
     I saw Michael on the soccer field picking grass, chasing bugs, and  then jumping to his feet so serious when the ball came his way. 

     A little Madonna, a little Teen Wolf, our drama queen and bug catcher, our lives full as it took on new purpose.
     Michael barely four, eyes filled with excitement as he carried a bullfrog by the back legs that was almost as big as he was and he couldn't wait to show me.  (To catch a bullfrog you must canoe around a pond at midnight and stab them with a spear after paralyzing them first by shining a flashlight in their eyes. Paul had taken Michael with him the day before and I had not slept.)

     Then I remember ReAnnon, barely six, so eager and excited to leave me as she placed her suitcase by the door. She was going to visit her Mimi. Flying from Oklahoma to California with my Grandmother, a woman she barely knew, and I remember thinking, how can she do it? How can she leave me so easily?
     Life got hard again after that. Paul lost his job, couldn't find work, and depression set in.  I got pregnant and the timing was lousy, so very very lousy and I cried alone at night in a pillow on the couch so no one would hear me.    

     I got a key to the food closet at our church and I stood in lines with other pregnant mother's for food stamps and vouchers and it was so very humbling and hard.
     Our precious gift of a baby girl came with hair the color of an orangutan and as I my husband wept once more I knew that it came from a deeper place than ever before. God gave my broken man the greatest gift of love when he needed it the most, and as the nurses fought over her I begged to stay just one more night in the hospital so I could have her to myself one more day.  I knew what I was going home to. 

     Her sister and brother fell in love with the tiny new redhead, and I cleaned a Montessori pre-school and so ReAnnon and Michael could attend. I watched my niece Tiffany after school for my sister and she soon moved into my family and into our hearts. Paul got a job at an Art Gallery.
     Shortly after this, God opened a door for us to begin again in California, and Paul left us for 4 months to begin a new job while ReAnnon finished 2nd grade.
     This next section of time  is imprinted forever in my heart when our little family piled into Paul's Mother's Thunderbird and crossed the country headed for a brand new life. We started an adventure and sang our way to a place called Mammoth Lakes. 

    A California life...a new beginning. A cold triplex we couldn't afford to heat. Campouts on the living room floor in front of the fire. A bear in the parking lot. Waterfalls, mountains, sunsets, more stars than I had ever seen and snow. Moments full of awe and wonder.  
     Laughter, hardships, Chandler's first words. Her Na. Her Va. Her amazing and crazy red hair.  Kids hiding food under the table and Michaels first real soccer game.  A little boy who could hit a baseball the way a baseball should be hit. A natural athelete. A gift.
     ReAnnon's first dance recital. Her first musical. We watched her come alive on the stage. She glowed.  Another gift. And my best little shadow...
     The snow didn't come and we had to move our little family into one of the motels we managed. We were now on-site and on-call and I hated it. I grieved for what we had given up, but yet I knew at the same time that we were not going back.
     We got a fluffy white puppy and we were a family of love as a five-year old boy with a towel for a cape and tighty- whitey underwear dove off the check-in desk onto the lobby sofa. "Welcome to the Wildwood Inn", I would say to the guests, "I hope you like children."
     Swim parties at the motel pool, Chan in her Barbie car that we could not afford but bought anyway, Michael and ReAnnon roller blading in the parking lot. Michael skates three sizes too big but he still skated better than his sister. New bikes and Michael so good at everything but always pushing the limits. Always... pushing.

     Chan's first day of pre-school. Her first song. Her first dance recital. Her first musical. In the shadow of a sister as our little family celebrated it all. 
     We dug in deep. A friend’s teenage son, a high school baseball player, moved in with us and we weren't prepared. We made mistakes. 
     There were first communions, a little altar boy, a wedding on a boat, an adorable ring-bearer, years trying to fit into a church that didn't fit. We struggled through too little money, too many years behind a desk and broken promises. We did what we had to do and found the blessings.  I wrote letters to my kids with a dream in my heart that I could one day turn them into books and give them as a gift. I told snippets of life and I wrote inspirational stories for the local paper.…laug
hter...compromise...discontent...broken promises…but yet choosing joy ...finding joy...and always...always...believing God and having faith for more.

     ReAnnon began to drive...went to her first dance…had her first boyfriend.
     Then our partners sold the Motels we managed, and we were out of jobs. With no plans or prospects, I got scared again.  Then God gave Paul a vision for something great so when He opened the door, we stepped through it. 

     I walked into the Sierra Nevada ski lodge that first time and prayed that Paul could see what I could not.  My husband the visionary. I will never doubt him again.
     Paul keeping promises, working hard, and planting dreams deep in his heart. Fast and furious years of crazy busy as investors were paid and life went on. We bought a house and our family adjusted to a busy new life. 

     A new kind of stress came too, a kind I had never known before, a responsibility with employees, partners, and many years of hard work followed. Too much togetherness when my husband became my boss.  I didn't like it and I had to smile with hospitality when there was nothing hospitable in me anywhere. 
     We struggled around every corner with things, always things, things with guests, things with partners, things with employees, things with children. Always more and more things.
     We fought hard the good fight with integrity and truth and sometimes we lost and sometimes we got beat to a pulp. I no longer had holidays with my family because in the tourism business holidays are busy times and so...they disappeared in business.
     Athletic successes for Michael, more dances, musicals, plays. School and church and friends and an angry husband and an angry boss and a wife who did not want to do it anymore. And yet always, always in the center to help me see and fight a little harder was my little red-head.
     Everything started to swirl together into a giant vortex of busy that became our life. But we found a new church, took a family mission trip to Ecuador, made new friends. God filled us with new perspectives. He began to change our hearts, our spirits being made new with Jesus. I had faith for the first time in years. I learned how to pray.  Really pray.
     A daughter in Ywam wanting to serve, a championship football season for Michael his senior year, worries over college, more prayer, a season of understanding faith and learning to trust God.
    A proposal, wedding plans, and a gift from God of a son-in-law. Our family grew.

    Then one last horrible season of winter came and brought with it the worse snowfall in our Mammoth history. A local mother and her daughter who we worshipped with on Sundays got lost in a snowstorm and the whole community looked for them for 3 days. The daughter got out of the car to get help and died trying. We had people snowed in, sleeping in lobby chairs and I was so tired and full of saddness I cried and I cried and I cried. 
     God ended the season as only he could and as our baby was preparing to graduate high school, our business sold at the top of the market.
     The season that followed, God's gift of rest and blessing, surpassed anything we could have hoped for or imagined. I was given the home of my dreams and I have been given a garden where I meet with God. 

     Our first grandchild blossomed a new love in me like no other love before it and it takes my breath away.
      I don't know what the rest of my life with Paul holds. I don't know what the future for us or my children looks like, but I know without a doubt that many more trials will come. But I also know that God's promises and faithfulness are real and true and he is soverign and sufficent for anything that comes our way. 

     So I am humbled and thankful for my journey, with its darkness and its light because I am who I am today because of it all.

New Life...

      I experienced something this week that made me realize I can never remember not being in love with spring.
     I grew up Catholic, so in our home preparing for Easter was a big deal and signaled the beginning of Spring for me. In the weeks before, Mother would take my sisters and I to the fabric store. We would sit at high tables and look through McCalls, Simplicity, and Butterick pattern books for dresses. We'd choose fabric then watch the ladies roll it off the bolts and just it just so. When we walked out, the bags were full of rickrack, buttons, thread, zippers and ribbon. And I knew on Easter morning, we'd have matching hats and purses to go with our new dresses.
     Around the table at dinnertime, we would learn about Lent, hear the story of Jesus dying on the cross, and talk about what sacrifice each of us thought we could make.
     As it drew closer, Mother would begin the dress fittings. She'd slip the pinned fabric patterns over our heads carefully and make small adjustments. I can still see her behind the sewing machine feeding the fabric right up to the foot of the needle where she would then pull the pin at just the right moment and place it between her lips. I can see her tight-lipped smile and her mouthful of pins as she noticed me watching.
     The week before was marked by Palm Sunday. I remember quiet moments as a little girl brushing soft fronds of the palm against my face, and picture Jesus riding the donkey into the town as people threw them at his feet. On Ash Wednesday the Priest would use his thumb and make a cross on our forehead from ashes, and at night, Mom would be up late sewing lace and buttons on her three daughters dresses. On Good Friday, the night Jesus died, we watched the “Stations of the Cross,” acted out in an extra long Mass.
     Even as a very little girl, my spirit sensed the seriousness of all of this. Beyond the pretty dresses, Easter baskets, and egg hunts, something much deeper, much more powerful was alive and at work in and around me and I knew it. I can remember waiting for the daffodils and tulips to pop out from the dirt, and running outside in the weeks before Easter eager to report to anyone who would listen that they finally opened their faces. My heart would flutter at the sound of the first chirping birds, and the sight of the first Monarch butterfly.
     One Easter, when I was about eight, I had a Sunday school assignment. I sat at the kitchen table for a long time struggling. I just couldn’t get my idea onto the fabric. After awhile, my Mother came and sat beside me. My assignment was to portray what Easter meant to me on the piece of white linen. I told Mom what I was thinking and feeling, but didn’t know how to convey it on the material.
     I remember Mom’s smile, her suggestion, and knowing happily, that it was perfect. It was exactly what I’d wanted to say. And when it was finished, I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. She helped me paint in the Monarch’s wings, and she helped me shape the tulips and daffodils just right. When dad got home from work, he attached a wooden stick under the top corner of the fabric and tied a string onto the rod so I could hang it on the wall. “Alleluia, Alleluia.” It said, “He has Risen.”
     What I knew even then, is that it is not a coincidence that the Resurrection of Jesus, and the new life of Spring happen simultaneously. It is a deliberate sign from God about who his son is, and what he did for us. Christ’s resurrection immediately follows the Passover and the Feast of First Fruits. As Jesus took all our sin to the cross that day to save us, his gift to us was our new life. Our eternal life. And it is that gift of His Grace that we celebrate in the glory of every new spring bud and butterfly.
     So earlier this week I found myself in my garden in tears. I was sure that the two berry bushes I had planted the last summer for Jude, (my precious grandson) had frozen and died. I prepared for the worst as I began my first day of spring garden clean up. My tears, however, came from the joy in finding new growth on both the bushes. As I stood there, so in love with Spring and praising God that Jude’s little bushes survived their first winter, I realized how ridicules I must look and how dumb is was to be that happy about berry bushes.
   But it was then that God spoke to my heart by reminding me that I have understood the significance of Spring and been in love with the glory of His creation all of my life. “And that, my precious daughter,” He said, “Is why I gave you this garden.”
     So I encourage all of you to look around and see what I see. The significance of Jesus gift of Grace is blooming all around us. See it and be Blessed. Happy Easter.