Monday, June 27, 2011

Loving Circle of Time

When I won a seat at the spring writing refresher for Guideposts, Lonny thanked God for my blessing. Then he made plans.

“I’ll get the kids settled,” he said. “Then I’ll join you after the workshop.”

The refresher was in Portland, Oregon. Neither of us had been so far west.

Lonny joined me on a Sunday morning, and we drove from Portland to the coast. We stayed in an oceanfront inn. From our balcony we could feel the pulse of the Pacific.

We put our footprints in the sand. Studied starfish at low tide. Whispered under the stars. Walked miles on the beach. Shared meals in quaint, cozy places with big, warm fires.

We talked very little of our five sons. Of home. Of all the mom-and-dad, his-and-her responsibilities.

We discovered once again, that the more we have, the more we want. The more we want, the more we have.

Of each other.

Of our relationship.

Of time.

Thank you, God...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Boys, Balloons, and Beyond

The Lord is close to all those who call on Him, yes, to all who call on Him in truth. Psalm 146:18 (NLT)

A friend and her two sons tapped on the back door as Lonny and I were getting the boys to bed. Her little guys held tight to the ribbon strings of a balloon bouquet. The balloons were bright, round, and plentiful. One Mylar had a big number six - for Gabe’s sixth birthday.

“We know it’s late,” our friend whispered. “But tomorrow is Gabe’s big day and we want him to have the balloons first thing.”

We didn’t wait until morning to share the surprise, and Gabe was elated. He tied the balloons to the end of his bunk bed so he could look at them while he fell asleep. As soon as the sun was up the next day, he bounded down the stairs with his still-festive balloons.

He held the balloons while he munched Cheerios. While he brushed his teeth. They were tethered to the bathroom doorknob while he showered. Then, without telling me, he removed the weight (a cool canvas strap with his name on it...treasure chest booty) and headed to the back door. He pulled the slider open, and then stopped to grab action figures from the floor. When he did, he let go of the strings.

The balloons were snagged by a morning breeze. They floated out the door.

When Gabe pounded to the kitchen and wrapped his around my legs, I knew something was wrong. He pulled me by the arm. It didn’t take long for me to understand what had happened. From the back patio, we watched the birthday balloons become small, dark flecks on the deep, blue sky.

I felt helpless for him. His six-year-old heart was broken.

“Gabe, I’m so sorry,” I said.

“They were so cool,” he said. “Miss Tammy brought them. Now they’re gone. Just gone.”

Gabe’s round, green eyes were sad. Very sad. My own heart broke, too.

Sometimes being a mama is hard. There are things I can’t change. Losses I can’t recover. Disappointments I can’t deter. Wounds I can’t bind and hurts I can’t heal. One son doesn’t make the team. A friend lets another down. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and balloons are lost to the sky.

At times like this, I am grateful for our personal, attentive God. He knows the boys’ hurts. He knows their needs. He’s faithful.  And he’s close. To hold. To help. To heal.

Balloons and beyond.

Thank you, Lord, for being close to my boys, close to me. Thanks for listening when we call.

Monday, June 20, 2011

It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35

My dad makes things from wood. When a friend gave him a few planks of red, distressed, Iowa barn board, he made plans. “I’ll make some shelves and shadow boxes,” he said.

One day, when Dad came to visit, my eight-year-old son Samuel was making a birdhouse out of a shoebox. “I have an idea,” Dad said. “I’ll help Sam build a birdhouse from the barn board.” Then he went home to make a birdhouse kit from one of the rustic planks.

When I went to visit my parents the next day, there were three white bags hanging above his saw. “I didn’t want Sam’s little brothers to feel left out,” he said. “I made kits for them, too.”

The next week, there were six bags dangling from the rafters. “Can’t forget the other little grandsons,” Dad said.

I was not surprised to find a straight, neat row of nine bags a few days later. “The little granddaughters?” I asked. Dad’s dimples put a smile on my own face.

Dad crafted birdhouses with each of the nine small grandchildren, one child at a time, holding the pre-cut pieces as kids wielded the hammer. He took a few blows to the fingers. “A small price,” Dad said. “Compared to their smiles.”

My three little boys, with help and a sturdy, tall ladder, hung theirs in lofty branches of our old maple. I stop to thank God when the deep red peeks through the thick leaves.

There wasn’t enough barn board left for shelves or shadow boxes. But my dad built something better. He made memories for the children.

And he couldn’t have been more pleased.

Thanks, Lord, for my dad, who lives out the joy of giving.

Happy Father’s Day to my dear, dear Dad, and to Lonny, the amazing father of my five sons. I love you both.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Brothers in Christ

“I feel nervous,” Samuel said. His eyes locked on mine, searching for reassurance. We were sitting on the porch swing, taking a sweet breath. A fifteen-minute slice of time, separated out, because God knew that Samuel needed encouragement. We were just about to drive to church to meet three young boys from Uganda. They were traveling with Africa Renewal Ministries, as members of Mwaganza Children’s Choir, and they would be staying with us for Memorial weekend. For weeks, Sam had been over-the-top excited. But now he had cold feet.

“What if I don’t know what to say or how to make the boys feel welcome?” Samuel asked.

“Sam, you’ll be fine,” I said. “You're good at taking care of people. And when we love people, we're serving Jesus.”

“I know. But my tummy is still twisted,” he said.

“I understand,” I said. I could relate. Truth was, this was new for me, too. Sam’s concerns resonated in my own heart.

A half-hour later, when we greeted three beautiful, strong, friendly little boys, all of our worries were washed away. The bevy of boys, eight in all, blended like they’d been friends for years. They laughed. Played. Ran. Made up games. Shot hoops. Kicked the soccer ball. Later in the evening, we sang praises, shared devotions (two boys from two continents snuggled in one chair), hugged one another goodnight, then fell asleep, anticipating the blessing of seeing one another the next day.

And two days swept past like a gentle wind.

Our family learned a lot over Memorial weekend. We learned more about our big, big God. We learned about another culture. A different country. We learned new and different ways to worship and praise.

And we also learned a few things about little boys.

Boys are boys, no matter where they’re from.

Especially when they're brothers in Christ.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Personal Encounter with Jesus

I sat in the pew and listened to Dr. Sauer teach on a passage from Matthew – A Dead Girl and A Sick Woman (Matthew 9:18-26). I was familiar with the Scripture, but that morning, our interim pastor pushed through the words, looking deeper, and allowed me to see something I hadn’t seen before.
In this passage, a ruler visited Jesus because his daughter had died. “But come and put your hand on her, and she will live,” was his plea.

Jesus got up and went with him. On the way, he healed a woman who had been bleeding for many years. But then Jesus pressed on and entered the ruler’s home, where the flutes were already playing and the mourners were already mourning.

Jesus spoke to the crowd, telling them that the girl wasn’t dead, she was just asleep. Then he went inside, took her by the hand, and restored her life.

This is where Dr. Sauer unpacked the message: Jesus went inside and took her by the hand. The girl had a personal encounter with Jesus.

The power and truth made my heart beat faster.

Jesus was Lord. Miracle Maker. Fully man but fully God. He could’ve spoken a word and the girl would’ve lived again. He didn’t have to travel to the ruler’s home, work through the crowd, make that personal visit.

But He did.

And the life application brings hope.

If Jesus made made that effort to give that girl a personal, hands-on encounter, why wouldn’t He be that personal with my children today? He knows their needs. He knows their hearts and struggles and conditions and lives. And He knows just where they are.

Dr. Sauer gave me, that morning, insight and a new way to pray for my boys.

Father, let my boys have personal encounters with your Son. With Jesus.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fleeting Feathers

I poked my vacuum under the boys’ worktable and frowned.

Feathers. Feathers. Feathers.

The boys were in to making birds. Styrofoam ball birds with google-eyes and shish-kabob beaks.

Birds that rest in the fruit bowl and protrude from plants.

Birds that shed feathers, blue, red, and gold, in every nook and cranny. Birds that create a mess while being created.

Birds that were about to send me to mother madness.

I was hot on the trail of a purple feather when my Hoover fell silent. Logan. Six-foot-something Logan. Age nineteen Logan. Heading-out-the-door-for-first-day-of-summer-work Logan. The vacuum cord dangled in his hands.

“Bye, Mom,” he said. “I love you. Have a good day.”

Swift kiss on the cheek and he was gone.

The days whisper past. Most of the time, I don’t even realize how fast they’re moving. But little boys grow into young men and messy, wispy Styrofoam birds don’t stay around forever, either.

I gave Logan a hug and went back to chasing the feathers.

This time with a smile.

Lord, Your Word tells us that our lives are like a mist. Help me to love every single day.