Thursday, November 1, 2012

I must have been 7 or 8, although I can't remember the exact yr...nor can I remember the location of where my eyes first beheld it, but I do remember the feeling I had when I laid eyes on the object of my desire. Hope turned into anticipation and as lights went up on the tree and carols floated out of every speaker in our house, my mind was consumed with the FUN I was going to experience as soon as I got my hands on that BARBIE CAMPER. Did you have one of those? My sister and I got matching ones and it sure didn't disappoint! Barbie went on more adventures than you can imagine in that thing and she didn't even have to remove her pink high heels because she rolled into every camp ground in style and got to sleep in her luxurious pink bed rather than a silly sleeping bag outside. ;) This is a fond memory for me as are MANY other Christmas memories I have. However, something about Christmas has nagged at me for years, especially ever since Olivia was born. You see, we as Christians are caught in a bit of a rock and hard place with how to marry the very secular and even selfish magic of Santa with the holiness of the birth of our Savior. Some have decided to throw Santa out the window or tag him with harsh and hateful titles while others embrace all of it and try to celebrate all that the Christmas season has to offer equally. I won't point the finger at anyone...I believe each family makes their own traditions which is totally fine by me, but Brian and I had never found one for us that felt right. I think the moment I was sure I wanted something different for us was when Olivia and I were in our favorite toy store this week. I saw the look on her face when her big brown eyes locked onto the sweetest baby doll we had either one seen. She hugged him (yes a boy baby doll) and looked at me with yearning and expectation. Due to his price and the extravagance of the gift, I told her we would have to wait to get something as special as him for a special occasion to which she replied "maybe I can get him for Christmas?". In that moment all the years of wishing the Christmas season by and counting down days, and asking Jesus to forgive me for not being as excited about His holy birth as that Pink Barbie camper...or new bike...or whatever it was my heart longed for that year came rushing back and my heart sank into my stomach. I put the doll back on the shelf and consoled Olivia by telling her I would talk to daddy about it. I mulled over it and prayed over it for do I help my girls keep the focus of Christmas and enjoy the sanctity of it while still keeping the wonder of that special gift too? Well two days ago, I was driving the girls home from the park and the answer hit me right over the head...of course it's all brand new so I'm not sharing a fool proof idea with you here, but this is our plan for this yr. On Sunday Nov 25th, we are going to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season. We are going to have a big lunch, and decorate the house, and OPEN PRESENTS. It will be a fun and festive day much like December 25th always has been in years past. And then from that day forward, we will celebrate every aspect of the advent season and the wonderful day of our Savior's birth. We will open a part of our manger advent calendar each day, go Christmas caroling, take in as many candle lightings as we can attend, and put as much excitement into the gifts we make and buy for others as we used to into the ones we expected for ourselves. We'll attend the Christmas Eve service with family and friends and drink hot chocolate and stay up way too late as we always have...and then on Christmas morning we will celebrate! I'll make cinnamon rolls and big cups of coffee and we'll all gather together to read the story of Jesus' birth and we will worship. If we are with family on that day, we will eat yet another big meal and exchange gifts with them, but our prayer is that our hearts will be focused differently. I cannot tell you how excited I light my heart feels at the beginning of my favorite time of the year. As adults we know it's not about the presents, but by starting this new tradition, we have a better chance that our daughters will know that too :)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Walk of Remembrance

Stones of Remembrance...these were stones the Israelites used as reminders of God's faithfulness. They served as a visual reminder of the amazing miracles He performed and His unfailing love as He never gave up on them.
I by nature am not sentimental in any way...clean out my house regularly...and can be called anything BUT a hoarder. So keeping something like stones of remembrance has always been totally out of the question, however I was struck this morning by a place that is that for me. I took Olivia and Eden down to the beach early this morning for a long walk (I know I am incredibly blessed :) ). The sun beat down warm rays and we ran the paths the tire tracks left behind, poked at a jellyfish left by the receding tide, and dug our bare feet deep into the cool sand. In one moment when both girls were squealing in delight, I was overcome with gratitude and allowed my mind to review all that I have experienced on this beach. 25 yrs of memories flooded my mind as I remembered the summer when my mom, sister, and I came to the beach everyday for two solid months...yes we experienced a drought that summer, but we sure enjoyed the sunny days! I relived the walk I took where I petitioned God about whether or not I should go on a mission trip to Brazil...ended up being the trip where God caught my heart and gave me a love for people around the globe. There was the walk I took where I cried my eyes out in loneliness because my sister left for college...and the one I took right before I moved to Colorado to attend school myself. This was the first beach my husband had ever seen and the same one that he knelt down in the sand to ask me to marry him. I then allowed my mind to recall all the walks of sorrow...when my marriage crumbled and everything felt so dark...the days after I lost each girl through miscarriage...even the day I found out I was pregnant with Eden and I walked this wellworn path on the beach begging God to let me keep the pregnancy. You see, I have no physical tangible object to remind me of the faithfulness of God, but I do have this place...this beach that I call my home. And as I looked at my marriage that God faithfully restored; and my heart that He faithfully healed; and my two daughters that He is faithfully keeping for me in heaven; and my other two duaghters squealing and laughing on the beach; I am OVERWHELMED by the faithfulness of our God. He is faithful no matter what! I am blessed by my "walk of remembrance" this morning....blessed to be called a daughter of this beloved Savior of mine.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Prayers for the Persecuted

Both my daughters are napping and the silence during the daytime is kind of magical...couple that with the fact that I'm in a hotel room in which I did not have to make the bed or wash the folded towels and I feel even a bit giddy. Being away from the daily duties of life has given me time to enjoy my family, actually talk to my husband, and give clarity to some things that have been foggy. The reason for our trip is to represent our ministry to the persecuted church at a missions conference. I am mainly taking care of the girls while Brian talks with students, but both Brian and I came to an interesting conclusion yesterday. All the other missions vendors here represent ways for students to GO and serve. This is huge...such a NEEDED thing for young people to grasp and get a hold of. Living out the gospel can be done in so many ways and through so many organizations and never before has our world been more reachable and connected than it is today. Our ministry is something alltogether different though. While we have dozens of ways for people to get involved in helping minister to and assist the persecuted through financial giving, our main purpose is to create awareness to their plight and ask Christians to pray....and that's it. I have wrestled with this to be honest...I am such a task oriented person...I want to DO something. Buying a goat for the wife and children of a martyred believer or sending a wife or daughter to a vocational school feels sooooo much more important than getting on my knees and asking God to give them courage and safety. Frankly, people ONLY respond to our ministry once we start talking about what we're doing rather than just how they can pray and so we often find ourselves ignoring this huge aspect alltogether. This is especially true when we're conversing with people about how our personal fundraising is brain asks, "who wants to give each month to us financially when our primary job is to create awareness to this massive issue and then pray?" My thoughts have been challenged this week however by the ever wise Oswald Chambers. He said "We lean to our own understanding or we bank on service and do away with prayer, and consequently by succeeding in the external, we fail in the eternal, because in the eternal we succeed only by prevailing prayer." I was pondering that statement this morning and it just smacked me over the head. Yes, there are so many ways that we American Christians can GO and BE and DO and Make a Difference and those things are vital to the gospel. However, if we are not praying about every step...if we're not praying for every person affected by the things we see and hear...if we're not wearing out our knees by falling on them to petition our God; our work is done in vain. Yes, Brian and I have been called to connect American believers to those being persecuted around the world by giving them something they can do, but shame on us if we ever again see that as being more important than asking people to pray. And it is any wonder that prayer is such a difficult and neglected task??? Surely satan knows this but that blog post will have to come at a later girls are awake ;)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Life is a Gift

I will never forget lying on a cold table, in a dark room, staring at the ultrasound machine. Time stood still in those moments as the nurse nervously moved the wand around my belly and I regretted telling my husband I didn't mind going to my appt alone. It was supposed to be and out with a good word about how healthy both my baby and I were. I was alone...and felt the most alone I had ever felt in my life. What seemed like hours came to a halt as we located a sound...a still small heartbeat. Upon zooming in a tiny little form came into view and my tears began to flow...there she was. Her heartbeat was but a flicker and her size way too small, but in that moment, my heart was irrevocably gone as I fell in love with her. I lost her that night...never saw her face...never nursed her or kissed her or rocked her to sleep. Her ultrasound picture is all I have...and the memory of her flickering heartbeat.

A few days later I went back for a followup ultrasound and I will never forget what the nurse said to me. As I lay on the table crying, she put her hand gently on my arm and said, "Just be thankful God took her for you so that you didn't have to choose." It took me a few minutes to realize the implications of what she was saying. All the sudden I was overwhelmed with rage as I realized she was telling me that I was lucky to not have had to choose to abort my baby since something was wrong with her. My head was already exploding with emotions of sorrow and anguish and dare she indicate that I would have chosen to kill my child???? Thankfully my tears kept me quiet and I left the office without saying anything.

I ended up walking through the valley of the shadow of death again as I lost another baby through miscarriage just three months later. Unless you have experienced it, there is no way to know or understand the pain of losing a child...there are no words. I have thought often of that nurse and what she said. I no longer get angry as I think of it, but rather feel a deep sorrow for her and anyone else that chooses to end life due to it's imperfection. I don't regret having been pregnant with my babies that went to heaven...for they gave me eyes to see God. The months of despair and hopelessness led me to a walk with Jesus that I would never have known otherwise. He reached into my soul and loved me even when I did not love Him. I'm not going to pretend that I would have rejoiced over a life spent caring for a child that would suffer through life due to physical or mental difficulties...that would have led to grief all it's own. But, God delights in bringing beauty out of ashes, turning our mourning into dancing, and bringing hope to the hopeless. For every life that is ended because the road ahead looks grim, God is unable to meet that need and that woman chooses to miss out on the blessings God was going to give her. Life is a gift...not matter what form in come in or how long we possess it. I thank God for my four blessings...those in my arms and those waiting for me in heaven. And I pray for the boldness to reach out to mothers of an unwanted baby to help them see what God sees...the sanctity of LIFE.