I had just walked in the door after managing to dodge the heavy rainfall. It felt good to be home, warm and dry. The crazy morning had me on the run, and I was finally ready to sit back, dig into email, and put my painted toes on a chair. The phone rang.
For it was the Lord Himself that rose from the table, removed His robe, then reflecting His impending death through the act of a servant, knelt to wash His desciples feet. We too can reflect His death by becoming one with Him in servanthood, as daily we give our lives one to another.
"And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ." ~ Colossians 3:23, 24
When life gets difficult and darkness sets in like a stain on my soul, I’m reminded of days like these…
Standing between the sun and I, was a wall of darkness, so thick, so intimidating, and so full of beauty it demanded my time.
I stood on the edge of the curb, calling the boys to my side “Look at the rain,” I said, pointing west, “you can see it falling only miles away.”
My other two children were at school learning from books—we were at home learning from God. Together we watched in awe. There was beauty in that moment while the earth was still and dark, we stood in silence with the rest of our world in that calm before the storm.
For a time there was nothing but silence, as though nature itself was hushed in the presence of God. Breaking that silence, a rumble was heard in the distance announcing a power greater than man. We waited and watched until the wind swept through to rush us inside.
Through the tip tap of the rain on the window, I witnessed our tent bobbing along through the grass, banging against the fence and the swing set, trying to find its place in the storm--but finding no rest. Not wanting to waste a minute of the rain, I slid open the glass door.
“Boys, come feel the rain,” I called from the kitchen.
Together we stood at the door with our hands reaching out--feeling the rain, smelling its fragrance, and listening while the tip tap of its rhythm grew stronger. As the rain poured down, I planted seeds and watered their souls with the Word, bringing it down to their level of understanding, and up to their level of faith. Revealing the magnificent power of God revealed in creation.
Soon it was over, the sun had broken through once again, and we were headed outside. Somewhere over our house, I knew that there was a rainbow to find.
Don’t waste the rain in search of a rainbow. When storms blow in, wait in silence--hushed in the presence of God. Listen to the sound of His voice announcing a power greater than man. Feel the rain on your outstretched hands as you breathe in His fragrance, knowing that the sun will break through, once again…“Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof... Be still and know that I am God.” ~ Psalm 46:2,3 & 10
I take after my father in so many ways—we’re fussy, we’re short, we're...well...adorable, and above all, we’re extremely curious people. So when we heard that the vacant cabin in the nearby woods, with the eerie reputation, was "off limits" to campers, we made plans to go out for a walk...
Unaware that this was more than your usual nature walk, my husband tagged along with our daughter Maddy, and the four of us walked up the hill toward the woods. About five minutes into the walk, hints started dropping like cash at a yard sale. “Did you hear about the vacant house, Mike?” I asked veering off the path.
“Yeah, I heard about it.” Michael said, grabbing Maddy’s hand who was trailing behind.
“I wonder where that house is that they were talking about?” my father asked, pushing brush aside.
“It has to be this way,” I said, stepping deeper into the forest, “I wonder what’s beyond the woods over there?”
“I think we should check it out; I see a path through those trees.” Dad said, marking a path in the air with his finger.
Before my husband knew it, he was captured in our trap, surrounded by bush, deep in the woods, still holding the hand of our daughter, “Oh brother, you two are so curious, you’re looking for that house aren’t you?!” He said, “I think we should get back, there’s nothing out here but a bunch of bugs and bushes.”
Adrenaline pumped through my body, like drums in the jungles of Africa--urging and pressing me to go a bit further. My seventy-five-year-old father was scaling rocks climbing steep hills and pulling himself through waist high bush in search of danger. We weren’t about to let Michael slow us down.
We finally reached the top of a steep hill, where, in the midst of nothingness, nailed to a barbed wire fence, was a sign, inviting us in. The words “Enter at Your Own Risk” beckoned me to come forward. So without hesitation, my father and I did. Forcing the barbwire down, we scraped ourselves over while my husband and daughter safely remained on the other side.
I cowered behind Dad every step of the way down the steep hill, wondering what the risk could possibly be. We were sure they just put that sign there to scare away riff-raff. No one would mind if my father and I tiptoed through to sneak just a peek--would they? Nah.
At the bottom of the hill Dad came to an abrupt stop; my jaw dropped. An enourmous tree was swaying before us, and something was making it sway. Frozen in fear for a second, I wondered how something so large could be moving so close. Did it have teeth? Was it angry? Did it gobble up campers and spit out their Nikes?
Before I had time to find out, Dad was running past me like Mom was after his wallet. Jumping and flailing his arms, he hollered, “You’re on your own!”
I didn’t know it was humanly possible for a seventy-five-year-old man to run that fast, jump that high, or abandon his daughter so quickly, but I did know it was time I got out of there too, before it spit out my shoes.
I decided to scale the barbwire fence instead of taking a trek up the hill, so I scraped and scratched my stomach wiggling over the thorny metal edge. My heart was pumping, Dad was jumping; he was flailing, I was scaling, until finally we reached safety.
From the other side of the barbwire, we looked back to determine what monster lay behind the swaying of trees. What we saw was nothing but a herd of cows standing in the woods staring at us, their tired eyes saying, “Moooooove on.”
On the walk home, we laughed and we laughed. Holding our stomachs, we laughed even more. I remember lying in bed, listening to the sudden bursting of giggles that streamed from my parents bedroom that night.
We never did uncover the mysterious cabin that day, but we did uncover a memory that would warm us forever.
Someone once said "curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning," and I believe that God has given us curiosity to grow mentally, and spiritually. I’ve observed this in my father, over the course of several years. It's had him running from cows a few times, but it's also had him running toword God as he's sought after Him with all of his heart--curious to learn the deeper things of his Lord.
Although the forest before him seemed hopeless at times, he continued to press on in search of the path he knew that God was clearing ahead. Sometimes he couldn’t see the path for the brush beneath his feet, but he walked on in faith, climbing hills and wading through bush.
A few times each year, he'll say, "I just finished reading the Bible again, and you know what I found?..." With each word he reads, He's in search of His Savior and the promise He holds for tomorrow.
I've heard there's a mansion just over the hilltop, and I wonder... Are you curious enough to go looking for it?
"When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed." ~Jeremiah 29:12-13, The Message
Have you ever heard the one about the woman who walked into a restaurant with a priest, a piglet, a rich man, and a child who could out-eat ten sumo wrestlers? You probably haven’t—unless you’ve stepped out for dinner with my family, the party of six.
Our two middle children each received a gift certificate through the book-reading program at school. To qualify for the award, each child had to read twenty books. Maddy read the required twenty and happily claimed her prize, while six-year-old Graham read eight, then held out his hand to the teacher to draw her in with the magnetic force of his charm. His eyes peered out from behind thick lenses, like an orphaned boy begging for one more bowl of porridge. Caught in his snare, the teacher placed the unearned prize in his tiny little hand.
Brown paper covered the tables in place of a fancy tablecloth, while the head of a deer with oversized antlers hung above our table in place of class. In place of a vase sat a cup of broken crayons, which came in handy when sometime after the drinks were served, I scribbled, “Help!” The six of us squeezed shoulder to shoulder into a booth that comfortably sits four. Each time a waiter rushed by, our jackets swung back and forth on the horseshoe from which they hung, like a pendulum thumping the back of my head. Trapped in a coo-coo clock, I waited for the hour to end.
I began reflecting on the days before kids, when tablecloths were white and dinner conversation didn’t consist of, “Oh honey, Nathaniel hasn’t been wiping again, and since he wears his pants inside-out with bum to the front, I think you’ll understand why the neighbor pulled me aside today.”
I also got to thinking about the days before kids, when a flickering candle gently lit up our space. Together we whispered sweet words of undying love. But that was the past, and now four children were present, competing to make their mark on the world.
No child makes his mark quite like our son Graham, who at some point in his six-year career as a boy morphed into a two-foot tall Billy Graham. Billy Boy Graham nearly had the restaurant staff singing "Just As I Am," while the customers walked through the aisle toward our table with all other heads bowed and eyes closed. Our entire time in the restaurant, Graham talked about Jesus and Satan:
“Dad, does Jesus walk the earth?” He asked.
“Is He inside me?”
“Does Satan walk the earth?”
“Is he inside me?”
He thought for a moment, “What do people do in hell?”
“They just burn forever and ever.”
Again, he asked, “Why do we have to do what Jesus said, just ‘cause He died on the cross?”
Dad tried to change the subject, “Can we talk about this later?”
Then very loudly, Graham calls out, “Whoever loves Jesus, put up your hand! Mom, don’t you love Jesus? Put up your hand!”
“Graham, no more of putting up hands in the restaurant OK? Yes, I love Jesus. Brendan how was school today?”
“Whoever doesn’t love Satan, put up your hand!”
“Graham, no more putting up hands, OK?” I yanked down his hand.
“You know who I love best in the world, Dad?”
Meanwhile, four-year-old Nathaniel ate sour cream with his fingers while Maddy picked fries off the floor and Brendan the teenaged eating machine surveyed the dessert menu. When he enters a restaurant, Brendan expects the full meal deal served on a silver platter. “How much is the sky high chocolate pie, Mom?” he asked.
“Seven-fifty I think. It’s expensive.”
“OK, I’ll have that next, and I need a refill on this drink.”
The way he sees it, money is no object until Mom and Dad start to object.
In stark contrast, Maddy sits in her spot and eats whatever is passed down to her: tomatoes, a chili fry, chunks of chicken, even the sour cream from Nathaniel’s fingers, if that’s all she can get her hands on. My daughter will eat until her eyes leak, and still want more. I know better than to ask my husband, “Do you want some of my meatloaf?” Because Maddy will start hopping up and down in her seat yelling, “I’ll have it.” And then a fist fight will breakout with her brothers, and she’ll win.
Ninety minutes and fifty dollars later we dragged the kids out with a crowd of sorrowful eyes watching us leave. Nathaniel became a walking sheet of fly paper—plastered in sour cream, salsa, and ice cream. We were careful not to brush Fly-Boy against anything on the way out, including small children that could have been dragged to the car by his cheek.
Twenty seconds passed and then a little voice from the back seat started up again, “Dad, why is Satan inside me?”
“Satan is not inside you, I told you that. Jesus is inside you.”
“No, you said Satan is inside us.”
“No, I didn’t.”
With that, Graham started again, “Whoever believes Dad, put up your hand!”
We arrived at home late, and before long, it was time to wash each messy face and tuck each little soul into bed. After tenderly kissing their foreheads good night, I reflected on the days before kids, when tablecloths were white and flickering candles lit up our space...Small hands never reached up for mine in the market, little lips didn’t press a kiss on my cheek, but most importantly, the day didn’t end with a tug on my heart and a child whispering, “I love you, Mommy; good night.”
I look at my children in awe of the gifts God sent my way, and how much He has abundantly blessed me today. I don’t want to look back on what was, or focus on what is to come. God has set my feet upon the path of motherhood, and with each step I take, I see a little more of His blessings unfurled. It’s when I discover that I’m right where He wants me to be; I see how He’s blessing me with messy faces in divine places.
I agree with Solomon’s wisdom when he wrote:
"Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
I tiptoed my way toward the teddy bear crib hoping to steal one last look before going to sleep. Crumpled up in his bed like a kitten slept the little man who was placed in my care. This baby, though only a few months old had already been through the valley of the shadow of death, but by the grace of God he lives—by the stripes of our Savior he’s healed. With such a marvelous glory before me I couldn’t help but to brush his cheek with my hand before leaving.
Newton’s famous law of “inertia” states that an object at rest will stay at rest and an object in motion will stay in motion unless an outside force is brought to bear upon it.
Gathered with friends around a game of Scrabble, I silently waited for my turn, rocking the letter ‘K’ under my forefinger, as my heart filled with lust for the triple word score.
Getting pregnant is like being proposed to, and having a miscarriage is like being dumped at the altar. I have been dumped five times. Just when all of the invitations have been sent out and you plan to spend the rest of your life with this little person you're left standing alone, without presents, without an excuse to pig out on cake or ice cream and pickles. Everyone sits in their pews waiting to know, is it on or is it off?
A wise Dr. Seuss once said, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” He may not be ‘The Great Physician’ but I do agree with the doc on that one. I believe that each one of those little people that lived and grew inside me were a reason to celebrate. In my case, some stayed for weeks, some stayed for several months, and one is still hanging around after 15 years looking for something to eat in the fridge.
We never know how long we will have them—hopefully forever. And yet if we do lose them—was their existence any less significant? Was something wrong with them? Was I a fool for thinking it would last? No. I am glad that I shared their existence each time.
After five miscarriages, we finally had our daughter. For that short moment in time, I was a vessel that carried a fragile, growing little being, who was soon to be my child. And like a mother ship, I proudly set sail on yet another voyage of anticipation.
Six months in, I began to wonder who the weirdo was that ever came up with the notion that a pregnant woman glows, and I wondered what ever inspired friends to tell me that. I concluded that either it was the sun reflecting off my "wide load", the sweat pouring over my face, or the fact that my skin was stretched out tighter than a girdle on a semi. One wrong move and my face could have snapped off and went sailing across the room. I suppose that saying someone glows is just a kinder way of saying, “Wow, you really look bloated today, are you sure your face can handle all that extra fluid?”
Like so many mothers who are expecting, I experienced things that I wasn’t expecting--and things my husband wasn’t expecting, as hormones took over our house. I’d run from a room sobbing, “Nobody loves me!” But unfortunately, I couldn’t run too fast or too far as my legs would cramp up. All I could do was fall into a chair and wait for someone to pull me back up. Even if my husband called some guys over to help pull me out of the chair, it wouldn’t be long until I was dizzy and faint and needed to sit again.
It was all fun and games until I started throwing up everywhere I went. My appetite was a vicious circle. I would be sick ‘till I ate then I would eat ‘till I got sick, and within minutes, I would be back in the kitchen with a craving for something else.
Although I ate everything I laid my eyes on, the one thing I couldn’t stand when I was pregnant is tea, and the one thing that made me sit when I was pregnant was pee—gallons and gallons of pee...
Pregnancy is the storm before the calm. It whips through your body like a whirlwind—rapidly spinning through your life. Then, after what seems like a thousand and one years, it’s over.
When I finally looked at her tiny little hands that may one day wear a ring and the tiny little feet that would one day walk in heels, I felt a longing compassion to hold this new life close to my heart.
The pain and suffering of pregnancy, childbirth, and the unborn children I had never met faded into the distant past like the setting sun. And, like the beginning of a brand new day, her future lay before us.
It warms me to know that God sees me that way—a new beginning, precious in His sight. He doesn’t see the old me who rebelled against His will, or the old me who tried to cover sin by hiding from Him. Old things are passed away, and with forgiveness and life, all things are become new. When I put my faith in Him, the old life fades into the distant past like the setting sun, and like the beginning of a brand new day, my future lies before me.
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17