Friday, May 28, 2010

May Madness

No, I haven't disappeared. But I have been REALLY busy with concerts, concerts, and more concerts, track banquets, senior banquets, scholarship banquets, baccalaureate, getting ready for Luke's open house, hosting Luke's open house, cleaning up from Luke's open house, attending other grad parties, helping with other grad parties, finding an orange tie for Luke for graduation, graduation itself, track meets, making breakfast burritos for the shuttle hurdle team, making cookies for the shuttle hurdle team, buying gummy bears for the shuttle hurdle team, 3 days of state track, mission trip meetings, church camp meetings, Rosebud meetings, excruciatingly hot all-day field trips with Cole, encouraging Luke to write Graduation Thank You's, feeding and watering a friend's very stinky chickens and shredding newspaper to put in their coop, getting Luke immunized for his China trip, helping Luke get ready for his Chicago trip, helping Luke get ready for his "Man Trip" to Colorado to go hiking (this happens less than 12 hours after he returns home from Chicago), watering and trying to save my new landscaping, going on a mother/daughter hike at Ledges with Shay, finishing 5 days of Bible Study in one sitting, doing laundry from guests, doing laundry for my family, washing and hanging out sheets, then re-making the beds--nice and tight, so that my girls can feel like burrito babies when they sleep, moving my niece out of her dorm, attending the neighbor girl's wedding, collecting and purging all the clutter from my house for the church garage sale, cleaning my very messy house every Monday, running multiple miles with Tess to prepare for our upcoming Dam to Dam 20K, de-worming the cat, de-ticking the dog, going on constant grocery shopping trips for my family, trying to prepare creative meals from the leftovers from the meal I prepared last night, going to the eye doctor, going to the chiropracter, going to get a massage :), preparing for our Memorial Day work weekend at the Lake, buying new flip flops for the girls so they will stop stealing mine, and making muffins for family breakfast! (Plus, I have been reading the fiction stories out of the New Yorkers that Luke brought home for me from his school Library. He bought them each for 10 cents. I feel so loved).

I realize that the second sentence of this essay has numerous commas and may be a run-on--just like my life right now. Anyway, that's May Madness. I hope you will excuse my post-less few weeks. I promise I will return with even greater wisdom come June--or maybe just the ability to breath again--which ever comes first.

Now, however, for some reason, I feel exhausted. Good Night!

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

John 14:27

Monday, May 17, 2010

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down

It's just the logical "next step". That's what I have been saying to myself and to everyone else who asks me about Luke's graduation and eventual departure to college. I knew that if I let myself "feel" in this situation--especially as I prepared for his graduation party--that my emotions would bowl me over like a steamroller, so I just conveniently kept them at bay.

But today I woke up and I just didn't feel good; my back hurt, my stomach ached and I just felt "out of sorts". And I was hungry, really hungry (as if I didn't eat enough chocolate revel bars at Luke's party). What was with that? Here's what was with that; I had been holding in all those feelings, those emotions, and those little sorrows too long, and this afternoon, the walls came tumbling down. As I was sort of stumbling through my day, I sat outside on the porch and looked at the swing set in the backyard and saw young Luke swinging on it in my mind. And then the tears flowed...and flowed...and flowed. And I had to give the bowl of raisin bran that I was eating to the dog because I couldn't eat it anymore. As if this wasn't enough for my soul, I went and dug out Luke's baby book and opened the manila file stuck in the very back. I took out a dozen letters written in my handwriting on faded notebook paper. These were letters I had written to baby Luke--passionate letters full of joy and wonder and all-consuming love--letters to a little baby who had transformed my life. And then I cried some more.

Why do we cry when we reminisce and relive happy times? Shouldn't they make us joyful? Shouldn't they fill us up?

I think I cry because I realize that I have already lived that part of my life and I won't ever do it again. I cry when I remember falling in love with Brent and the wonderful fairytale courtship we shared. I cry when I remember the thrill of early marriage and creating a home. I cry when I remember how surprised I was by the enormous, overpowering, protective love I felt for Luke when he was born--and I didn't even know him! Yet, I loved him more than myself because he was MINE. I cry when I think of all of these things because they were wonderful blessings from God and I know I only get to experience them once here on earth.

But Heaven, oh Heaven! Heaven will always be like those moments that we cry about--like those golden, sweet memories we hold so dear. And in Heaven, we won't have to let go of those feelings or adjust our emotions to our continually evolving circumstances. In Heaven, every day will be like the best days we have experienced here on earth. Every day will be falling in love with Brent! Everyday will be being a new bride! Everyday will be setting up my very own home! Everyday will be a beautiful day with my child. And I will be fulfilled--always. But my happy memories will pale in comparison to being in the presence of the Ultimate Joy-Giver. Ultimately fulfilled, ultimately transformed, in Heaven I will truly be HOME...there will be no more tears.

It still makes me sad that my sweet first-born is growing up, but it truly is the logical next step in his life--and mine. Now God can show Luke all of those wonderful, life-giving, breath-taking moments of time as He creates another beautiful legacy of love.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Revelation 21:1-4

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gospel, Outcasts, Lost People

Have I ever told you how proud I am of my soon-to-be graduate, Luke? Well, I am. And here's why; Luke is chasing after God and people and he is not only influencing Ames High, but he's building the Kingdom. I could have no greater joy than seeing my son living for--and thriving in--Christ our Lord! To God be the glory!

Last week, Luke and a few friends were in charge of youth group senior night at Escape 22. For his part, Luke decided to write the underclassmen a letter. Here is what he said:

"Sharing the Gospel, Outcasts and Lost People"

Dear Escape,
Looking back on the last four years I have learned so much, it has been jam-packed with things that are so obviously God. One thing in my life that has been transformed is my understanding of the gospel. I always knew it per se, could recite the words and the right verses and everything, but it had no power to me. One of the things that has been instrumental to this shift has been my understanding of missions. Missions are a lot more like James Bond or Rambo than like a geometric proof. The gospel is a war over the souls of people. There are eternal consequences. God has a part for every person to play in his plan to have all peoples come to know him.

All of that is exciting and great, but I thought, “I am only a high school student, what can I do now?” I looked around my high school and saw lost people, happy on the outside, but desperate on the inside. I saw outcasts that no one else would even have a conversation with. I will never forget the response I got from one kid I reluctantly and awkwardly just sat down and talked with, “Thanks, no one has ever done that for me before.” I think of the countless stories of desperation and hopelessness I have heard and how perfectly the gospel could break into those lives. One thing I’ve learned is that people are most receptive to the gospel when they see daily the consequences of their sin.

Up until about a year ago I had never really shared the gospel. It made me feel guilty and sad and I wondered if my faith was even real. In this last year I have shared the gospel many times and I have seen people come to know Christ. I have felt the Holy Spirit come down and have experienced joy and elation that can come only from God.

In everything, Escape, don’t forget love. This year I applied to go to China, and one of the parts of the interview was sharing the gospel. I shared it the best I knew how and thought I did a pretty good job. Stan said I did fine, but that I didn’t really mention God as a creator or explain the deeply caring relationship between God and his Son. In short,"love". I said alright and went on my way. A couple of weeks later I was meeting with a friend over lunch. He was very eloquent in his words and shared with me what he believed and how he couldn’t accept Christianity. What puzzled me was that it sounded like he was sharing the gospel with me! Everything he was saying was so close to the truth. Not knowing what else to say I said in parting. “Well, you keep on looking for truth, but don’t be surprised if what you find is God and he is madly in love with you” It wasn’t until after the conversation I realized all my friend was missing was love.

I had a vision to reach my high school, to create a revival to have many people come to know Christ. I wanted people to tell stories of what God had done at Ames High. Of this vision, I saw very little come to be. I’m pretty much done with high school; it’s up to you now. Escape, don’t live your life with regrets.

" The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"
Matthew 25:40

Friday, May 7, 2010

Choose Life

Oh, how I wish I had been on that hill so many years ago, when Jesus shared his wisdom and spoke what we now call, "The Beattitudes." As I read Matthew 5 today, I tried to picture myself on that grassy knoll, shading my eyes from the sun, shifting positions to see my Lord more clearly. I tried to listen for his voice--booming across the plain so powerfully that everyone present could hear. I tried to soak in the words He spoke to me--and to all the others--because I wanted to understand what it meant to live by a higher law--to think on a higher plane. I wanted to understand how I, too, could be like Jesus. As I tried to do all these things, His words became real, and this is what He said to me:
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Tori, you must be a peacemaker when you feel like being a troublemaker even if you are the one who has been wronged. I will bless you when you choose to make peace and not war. I will open your eyes to more of me. People will say things about you that are not true, but I know the truth about you. People will do mean things to you and say mean things about you--and these will hurt your heart. But keep doing the right thing and saying peaceful words--even when you feel like hurting back--and I will bless you for this. Please don't get bitter. Bitterness eats your soul. You need to rejoice in these difficult times, Tori--in the times where you feel like you can't control your hate. I will control these feelings for you if you let me, but you have to give up control. You CANNOT sting when you have been stung. I forbid it and I want you to obey. Keep thinking of me and everything I went through for you. I am God and I have spoken.

And gently, but clearly, my Lord also spoke these words:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. ...if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? ...And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

My precious daughter, I want you to listen even more carefully now. What am I saying is contrary to your nature. It will be very difficult for you. That's why you have Me. You can't do it by yourself--you are too swayed by your love of yourself and your emotions. You are too swayed by what you perceive as "justice." But I am the one who avenges, remember? Here is what you need to know (take notes because I know that once you leave this chair, the clearness of my words will become fuzzy in your mind): When I said "Love your enemies", I meant it. It's not just a suggestion or a really good idea, it is my COMMAND. I want you to look like my child, and if you only love when it comes naturally, Tori, you are not giving a clear reflection of my character. I love ALL THE TIME. Even when you are unlovable--even when you reject me. If you only extend my grace to those who treat you well, are you any different than the rest of society? I want you to be set apart, Tori. I want your ways to shine above the ways of the world. I want you to walk the high road and never bow to un-Godlike emotions or words. And when I said, "Do everything in love", I meant EVERYTHING.

Tori, I say "Be perfect" because my Spirit resides in you. This is not an impossibility. This is a matter of faith--faith in a perfect God. And faith in the promises I give. If I say you "can do all things through Christ", then you can. You can even be a peacemaker and a lover when you feel like being a rabble-rouser and a fighter. If I say that "all things work together for good for those who love God", then they do. Your situation may look bad to you and you may think that you have to take control, but I am still there, working it all out and making you better in the process--IF you will yield.

Are you still listening, my child? I am still speaking. It's all about choices. You can choose God's ways which give life, or man's ways which lead to death. I say choose Life. I love you.

" And this is my prayer; that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God."
Philippians 1:9-11

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Laundering Love

I had a little epiphany today as I sometimes do; God faithfully continues to renew my old-self mind with his transforming new-to-me truths. Here is the "Aaha!" He showed me today:

So...I don't normally do my 18 year old's laundry, but sometimes when he is super busy with track, AP exams, end of the year projects, and Senior night at youth group and his clothes (and his brother's clothes--which he also launders) are emptied out of his hamper all over the apartment floor...then I step in and help him out.

Today was one of those times.

As I was busily folding the clothes I found laying on the table and had determined to be clean (I did this by smelling them) and sorting others into the washing machine, I thought, " I am happy to be doing this." And then I thought again, "Why do I not feel the same way about doing my own laundry as I feel about doing my son's?"

The reason that doing Luke's laundry was not a burden is this: I love him so much and it gives me joy to serve him. I don't love the process of doing laundry for Luke, I love the goal. The goal of my service to him is to show undying love for my firstborn. The goal of my committment is LOVE.

Now, here is my epiphany; I don't act like that for God.

Shouldn't my work for the Kingdom, for my family, for my friends give me joy because I am doing it for my Lord? Shouldn't my satisfaction stem from doing my very best for my Father? I must realize that doing the work God gives me is one way I can love Him. The process might not always be pleasant, but if I realize I am showing my Father love by serving Him, then I will have JOY. TRUE JOY.

And then, I will be showing my Father (and Luke) TRUE LOVE.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."

Colossians 3:23

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Let's Walk

"When I was little, my nurse Dibby's cousin had a dog, just a mutt, and the dog was pregnant. I don't know how long dogs are pregnant, but she was due to have her puppies in about a week. She was out in the yard one day and got in the way of the lawn mower and her two hind legs got cut off. They rushed her to the vet and he said, "I can sew her up, or you can put her to sleep if you want, but the puppies are okay. She'll be able to deliver the puppies."

Dibby's cousin said, "Keep her alive."

So the vet sewed up her backside, and over the next week the dog learned to walk. She didn't spend any time worrying, she just learned to walk by taking two steps in the front and flipping up her backside, and then taking two steps and flipping her backside again. She gave birth to six little puppies, all in perfect health. She nursed them and then weaned them. And when they learned to walk, they all walked like her."

As I read this excerpt from the late Gilda Radner's book, It's Always Something, it scared me. Yeah, I know it's funny and all, but it really scared me and made me take a good look at the way I "walk". Am I walking in a way that shows that I know Who is in charge, or do I constantly have to take control of the situation so that we all stay "safe"? Does my walk show my children humility, or does my pride prohibit me from being authentic? Do I promote attitudes of gratitude in my offspring but forget to be thankful myself? Do I talk the talk, but not walk the walk? Because if I do these things, my children may be just like me--doing the stepping/flipping/stepping thing--but not really walking "rightly".

But...if I walk like I am supposed to walk--the way that God designed me to walk--then they may be like me too--and more importantly--they will be like Christ, who walked in unison with his Father. Jesus says in John 8, "...I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him."

Lord, help me get in your stride so that I may do what pleases you. I want to walk like you so my children will run to you. May it be so! Amen.

" Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it'."
Isaiah 30:21