Friday, January 2, 2015

What blessing?

I’ve been thinking a lot about blessings lately. “Blessed.” I hear it all the time. “Johnny got a new bike? He’s blessed! You have a couple of kids? You’re blessed! Promotion? Marriage? Great friends? Blessed, blessed, blessed!  Are we all blessed? Why? What makes us blessed? If someone doesn’t have those things, are they not as blessed? These are the things I was pondering while making tacos for dinner. I even stopped to wipe my hands with the kitchen towel to look up the definition on my phone. It read, “highly favored or fortunate (as by divine grace). I let that definition sink in as I chopped my tomatoes and grated the cheese. “Blessed.” I think to myself how blessed I am when I see my boys piled high in hugs and love. Then there are other times when I’m cleaning poop off remote control car controllers and breaking up fights… I don’t feel so blessed then. So, which is it? Are blessings only for good times and good attitudes? Is life a light switch of blessings and curses?

Every New Year’s Day, no matter the year, I always relive 2010. Receiving that terrible phone call, looking into Brandon’s deer-in-headlights-eyes. Feeling numb and helpless I hear him tell me in no good way, “Your brother Mike, died.” I heard it, but I didn’t hear it. I couldn’t process those words. I just took it in and mentally went to another place where I wouldn’t let myself feel. It was supposed to be a new year. It was supposed to be full of potential, energy, high hopes… not tragedy. He left behind four young kids, a wife, family and friends that loved and adored him. It was the saddest thing to think about.

A month later, my mother got diagnosed with breast cancer. She would need to have a mastectomy. The following month I had a miscarriage. To say the least, it was a rough start to 2010. That year I wrestled with a lot. The hardest was watching my mom and dad deal with the grief of losing their son. How they would sit around reliving his childhood, breaking out the old pictures, remembering all the stories: funny, ridiculous, scary. Raw unfiltered emotions flying… it was a year of tears, change, new normals, and rolling with the punches.

I had to know, what was considered a blessing in God’s perspective? Are we still blessed when we go through hard times? When I came across Matthew 5, it hit me like a ton of bricks… 

He is our blessing and if He lives in us, we will always be blessed no matter what happens in this life.

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Were we blessed back in 2010? We were and have always been blessed. Circumstances don’t dictate that. Why the tragedies? Why the heartaches? I don’t know. What I do know is that God knows the whole picture. I have to ask myself, “Which way am I going to look at this?” Through my eyes? Through his children’s eyes? How about through Mike’s eyes? Well, Mike is in heaven. I’m certain his life now is infinitely better than the life he had here on earth. All of a sudden depending on which way I looked at the same situation, there it was… a blessing peeking through. Choosing to look at it through God’s eyes it’s clear that there’s always a blessing. What about the rest of us? God blesses us too. He promises to comfort us but most of all He promises us eternal life. Hope, faith, trust, assurance. This is our blessing.

This life that we live now is just a blink of an eye compared to eternity. He’s created us to live a life of blessing; to help us remember we’re blessed and to empower us to bless others. He created us to seek the truth and put it into practice to stand for what’s right. He blesses us in so many ways we couldn’t number them if we tried. There’s the blessing of children, great job, clean running water, warm clothes, nutritious food… the list is endless. But like Luke 11:28 says in reference to someone blessing Jesus’ mother Mary, He responds,“…More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” So, in light of Jesus’ words urging us to hear the word of God and keep it, let’s live in the light of His blessing no matter what may come our way this year.

The times when life is terribly sad. When the grief is too much to bear. Even in moments like these, the blessing is not the tragedy… the blessing is in the perspective, in our hope in Christ. Believing that He is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good. He is our hero and rescuer. Our love. He is the only One who can take the ashes we experience and somehow turn it into beauty.

Today is the first day of a new year, a year filled with mystery to us. God holds this year in the palm of His hands. Whatever may happen there is nothing that can occur that will take away the blessing we have always and forever. No one can snatch us out of our Father’s hand. What greater promise is there?

Lord, help us to look at life the way you look at life. Help us to be the salt, the light, the change. When others see the way we handle life, let them see your wisdom, grace, mercy and truth. Amen.

Have a BLESSED New Year my friends.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thanks Mom and Dad

I know recently you’ve been apologizing for the way you’ve raised us. Little comments here and there rolling your eyes at yourselves about how you can’t believe you forbade us to celebrate Halloween and how you both were ‘so ridiculous’ because you never did let us believe in an imaginary Santa Claus. I know you feel you’ve deprived me. Through the years it seems you are acquiring something the enemy loves to have us drag along with us- guilt. I have something so important I need to share with you. Please believe me when I say

you did well.

Now more than ever I can see a little more clearly the tough decisions you both made in raising us kids. I realize no one handed you a manual to answer all the tough questions. As far as I know, there were no glowing examples either of you could look up to, to emulate. This raising four kids in the ways of the Lord thing was uncharted territory- I get that. In light of that, I am truly amazed at the ways your extremely strong convictions held strong against the crashing tidal wave of consumerism, culture and disapproving pressure from others- including us!

This letter is not to say that the way you did everything was right and ‘look at me now!’ It’s a letter of gratitude to let you know that I so appreciate my upbringing. I have no regrets about my non-participation in Halloween activities, my non-existent lack of imagination due to never believing in Santa Claus or my thinking of Easter in terms of an empty tomb while others only knew about a big scary bunny. Not only do I not have any regrets, but dealing and wrestling with the ‘whys’ and ‘why not’s’ of each holiday solidified the side I chose to be on.

You presented the ‘narrow way’ and I willingly walked counter culturally. It was never easy to be different but that’s no reason to regret the choice you made. I realized back then that following Christ is never the easy way. It was uncomfortable to be the only one not celebrating Halloween or the only one not believing in an imaginary character. But looking back on it now, what an important lesson I learned.  To stand up for what I believed in, even if it was unpopular.

I grew up knowing, feeling and seeing the ways I was so very different than the majority of my classmates. You know what, mom and dad? That set the stage to forming who I was and who I was to become as an adult. I remember Brandon looking me dead in the eyes and telling me that he had never met anyone with such strong convictions in his life. Not to say I’m always right in my convictions, BUT it’s a little easier for me because you set the stage for me to walk counter culturally on many occasions during my growing up years. Don’t ever apologize for this. This was a blessing for me. If you’re ever proud of us kids for our perspective or pleased with the various ways we are going counter culturally- know that you built that in us. All those hard years and tough decisions created something beautiful and powerful in our core. It built our character even if it wasn’t done perfectly. I’m here to tell you that in the imperfections, my character was being refined. My values were being tested, and your convictions became mine as I sought to honor God the way you always sought to. As a kid, who has convictions? Who knows anything about values and following what’s right even when it’s unpopular?

I did.

So, thank you mom and dad for instilling in me a different way to go. You molded an independent thinker, someone who cares more about what God thinks than about what my neighbor thinks. You carved out the narrow way for me to walk and I am grateful for it. So, I didn’t get to dress up in costumes as a kid. I learned valuable lessons- spiritual battles and spiritual warfare are real. Don't give the enemy a foothold, remember to keep separate the ways of sin and fun and be careful to discern between the two. Be aware that the devil is real and is the author of confusion and deception. When friends and teachers would feel sorry for me and ask me ‘Why?’ all I could hear were your voices saying, “Sweet daughter, Jesus is worthy, choose the narrow way.”

How many little kids can say their parents taught them that?

I can.

Thanks mom and dad for fighting the world on our behalf. I probably complained and had a hard time settling the ways of the world with the ways of God. How separate they were! I’m sure I felt deprived, envious, like I was missing out, alone. I needed to work through those feelings to work out my own salvation. I needed to choose the narrow way for myself. 

I did.

Thanks for showing me the way mom and dad. What I lacked in feeling accepted, God provided for me through His overwhelming love. No need to beat yourselves up. Instead pat yourselves on the back for caring enough to teach the hard lessons even when it was unpopular. I can only hope to do the same for my boys. It’s not easy but anything worth having is worth fighting for, right? You both are exactly what I needed to be the woman I am today. I love you!!!!!!!!!!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Dearest Reeve on your 2nd birthday,

Today you are two years old!! I’m mixed with all types of emotions as I think back to the day you were born


 and see how much you’ve grown these last two years…

I’m thinking about the ways you’ve been exactly the same and the ways you’re changing. How you were the snuggliest, sweetest, most contented baby that ever lived

  and how now you are the same exact way but on your own terms.

How you were quiet and now you’re loud. How before you were always sleeping and now you’re always awake trying desperately to keep up with those two nutty brothers of yours.

You are beyond busy. You are beginning to want mommy a little less and brothers a little more. You are asserting yourself as your own person instead of always being conjoined with me. You are learning that speaking up has its advantages instead of relying on others to speak for you. You move furniture all around the house, you dump little pieces of organized things in a big heaping pile on the floor, you lose sippy cups and hide all of our shoes in various boxes, drawers and compartments. You stand on the edge of extremely high edges and when you see my panicked face, you move closer to the edge to watch in delight as my expression goes from panicked to frantic.

According to you, you don’t need help anymore with things like eating yogurt, climbing up and down stairs, getting dressed and getting in your car seat.  You think you are so much bigger than you are. Even though this drives me absolutely bonkers, I have to admit, I’m not that much different than you. There are times when I go through life thinking I can do everything on my own too. I don’t need anyone’s help. I can climb this mountain, I can jump this ocean, I can chew more than I can swallow- all on my own. All the while, there is my Father guiding me, helping me in ways I’ll never know and desiring my full reliance on Him. In just the same way you are running away from my help. I know why. I know it’s hard to admit you still need my help. I understand a little too well my son. When you get tired and weary, when you can’t finish what you thought you could finish, I’ll never leave you in your desperation because my Father never leaves me either. You will one day learn that it’s better to trust me instead of always towing the line; just like it’s better for me to trust my Father instead of being weighed down with fear and anxiety. I can’t get frustrated with you because looking at you is like looking at myself. Whether in the physical or spiritual realm, trust is hard but necessary. It might seem like a weak position to hold but in truth it is the strongest people who have enough wisdom to recognize their own inadequacies while at the same time relying on the promise that His strength is their strength. Trouble comes when we think of strength and power independent of the true source. Having faith is boldly admitting we need more of God and less of ourselves pretending we are greater than we are.

Whether running away or running toward me, happy or sad, pushing the line or complying, snuggly or independent, temper tantrum or delightful squeals, I will love you the same. The same gigantic immeasurable love I've always and will always have for you, my precious son. I would say this is the same love my Father has for me, but it’s not even close. As much as I love you, His love for you is greater, and deeper and sweeter than mine could ever be in an eternity. As much as I want you to trust me, trust Him more. As much as I want you to snuggle with me, rest in His unfailing love more. As much as I want you to respect me, listen and fear Him with every fiber of your being. He is more than you can imagine Him to be. A rescuer in times of trouble and a friend in times of joy. He is the lover of your soul, baby.

Even though you are so small, your presence is larger than life. Everywhere we go you bring a smile to strangers’ faces. They look at you and you wave and say, HI!” and give them the smile of a lifetime. Young and old, strangers of all walks of life just beam and have a better day because of you sharing the love you have inside. You came to us as a surprise, a time when we were struggling. You were a blessing in disguise and through you we could hear God shouting clear as day, “Trust me! This is perfect! This is what joy looks like! Trust my perfect timing!” We are learning to listen to our Father and here you are, the love of our lives, teaching us, challenging us to be better, motivating us to trust the unseen, to be more content, and to be thankful no matter what.

My birthday wish for you is that wherever you go you would bring happiness and joy to others, just by being the joy-filled person God made you to be. I hope that your inner peace would bring others the same kind of contentment you were born with. I’m convinced this is your gift, among many others. I’m so excited to see your many gifts develop and blossom throughout the years. Never ever, in a million years, lose this gift of joy. You are, by far, the best undreamt dream come true. Sweeter than I could have ever dreamed. Messy, snuggly, wild, tiny-tornado, dirty, drooly, perfect. I love you Reeve Michael. Happy 2nd Birthday!!