Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sheep and Streets

I awoke, not to the call of an alarm clock, but to the bleating of lambs.  They were what my sister-in-law called 'bums', lambs being weaned from milk to grain.  The cry was pathetic, urgent, authentic.  And in that moment my heart surrendered to what lay ahead.

It was like God was saying to me, "Stop begging for milk.  Accept what I bring and just chew the grain, because it will cause you to grow.  Where is your faith?" 

Only the day before, I had ventured out on a journey to my brother's wedding having a vacation mentality.  Surely, after the events of the past month, I deserved a break.  With only my college daughter for company, I expected to do whatever we wanted.  This would be a trip bathed in comfort. 

So when we received a phone call only minutes away from Boise, I did not receive it well.  My daughter's best friend from college was flying to Alaska and had a 24 hour layover in Seattle.  It happened to be on the very day we planned to be there.  Could we meet for lunch?

Normally, I would jump at the chance, but I had already planned my route in order to avoid driving through the city.  Truth be told, I was terrified of city driving and now I would be required to drive smack dab through the middle of it.  Furthermore, I would need to find a parking place downtown in the city center. 

All the way from Boise to eastern Oregon, I resisted and fussed.  Why did our trip have to be sabotaged with this stress and discomfort?  While I wanted to meet her friend, I didn't want the sacrifice to make it happen.  Finally, I told my daughter no, justifying my decision on the basis of not  needing to please people.  It was okay to have boundaries.  But whenever our playlist arrived at this song, I felt God's conviction.

Let my life be the proof,
The proof of your love
Let my love look like You and what You're made of
How you lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice...

If I sing but don't have love...
I leave a bitter taste with every word I say... 
 (Lyrics by For King and Country)

I had made my decision on my own comfort and on what was easiest for me.  As I pondered these things, God began to unmask my total selfishness.  This trip was not about me, but about ministering to others.  Here was an opportunity to live by faith rather than fear, to know God's sufficiency in my weakness, to demonstrate love for my daughter, and to practice what I preach.

Enter . . . the lamb's cry.  Okay, God, I surrender to Your way, but I'm desperate for Your enabling.  I cannot do this on my own.  Prepare the way.  Go before me. 

The day was beautiful.  (And that's saying something for Seattle!) We were wowed and awed by the grandeur of the city, but most of all by God's sufficiency.  There was no long wait in traffic, but rather, we sailed right through, taking only one wrong turn.  But with Heather's friend and her mom both in the car with us, it was a silly girlfriend adventure and we got right back on track.

God showed Himself strong on my behalf, providing more than I had asked for in friendship and fun.

After a delicious lunch in a French bakery we said goodbye to our friends and I faced my next challenge--riding on a ferry across the bay.  Though excited, I was also afraid, for it was something I had never done before.  Again, God came through and wowed us with His glory.

Of course, we had to ride at the front with the wind in our faces and the view spectacular, ranking the day right up there with some of the best in my life!   I was so glad that I did not let fear determine the course of the day!  Yes, there were times I was afraid, but faith moves forward, even with trembling, and as a result, Seattle became "our new favorite city".

God used this experience to make me stronger, for when it was time to return home, we left later than planned and hit Portland in the middle of evening rush hour.  Normally this would cause great panic, but I had "the peace that passes all understanding."  I knew that all I had to do was follow the road (and the signs) and God would bring me to the other side.  I figured if He could get me through Seattle, surely, He could handle Portland as well. 

I recently received a marker which I keep in my Bible.  It has lambs lined up eating grass in the pasture.  Somehow, after all of this, it holds deeper meaning for me.  I treasure its significance as a reminder that when I am afraid, I can cry out to Jesus.  He never fails to come through for me and is my constant companion.

Next challenge?  Chicago!  I can't wait! 

p.s.  Thank you, Heather's friend and friend's mom, for providing such a day for me!  Loved it!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Holy Ground

We awoke to a typical, misty, socked in Oregon morning, to begin our drive north to Seattle.  But as we came over the crest of a hill, there was all this glory breaking through the fog.  Though we could not see where the road started or ended, the bridge remained clear.  We could not let this moment escape, and so we pulled over to the side of the road in amazement and wonder. 

Three years ago my extended family underwent a crisis.  When our sister-in-law and unborn baby passed away, our sight was blinded by fog.  Yet, each of us sought refuge under the mighty shelter of God, choosing to believe that God is still good, choosing to believe that God had a purpose.  The road ahead was clouded, yet we knew it had to be there. 

We were approaching the bridge, my brother's marriage to his new bride.   We do not know what lies on the other side, but we do know this.   If ever there was testimony to God's power to heal and restore, it was at my brother's recent wedding. The sun was breaking through.

 It seemed a hushed awe, a reverent whisper lingered in each of our hearts, for we knew the wedding we were about to witness was holy ground.  Surely, the presence of the Lord was in this place!

Weathering does not come quickly, but rather has been tested through wear and tear.  Each piece uniquely crafted, a delight to the artist, precise details noticed.  How much like our lives, (and this wedding in particular), that God would give such depth of love through the pain of the past.  Surely, love is sweet, very sweet indeed! 

Weepy eyes spoke from the heart, emotions in conflict . . . yet not, because really, they went together.  Ecstatic joy for the new couple, but also grief in remembering.  April is perfect after the storm . . . beautiful, refreshing, and most of all, hope.

As sands poured together, two lives intertwined in God's purpose and grace.  Surely, God makes beautiful what is crushed!  He forms us into a work of art for the display of His glory. . . a beauty which would not be achieved except by a gathering together of the broken.

I cannot yet see everything on the other side, but with each passing year, its becoming more clear.   By faith I know it to be true.  The road goes on into eternity and "every mountain will be brought low, every valley raised up as a highway for our God." (Isa. 40:3-5) Surely, He makes the way straight before us.  He makes all things new . . . yet, vintage.  For in our eternal home we will recognize loved ones and our right responses to life's experiences will last, creating this depth of testimony unique to each life. 

Only by the Spirit of God dwelling within us can we always protect, always endure, always trust, always display patience, and . . . always hope.  No longer desolate, we "will be called 'The Holy People' and 'The People Redeemed by the LORD.' "  (Isa. 62:12) I am so grateful for these two families represented, actually three, redeemed by the Lord, permeating the darkness with light.  A wedding drenched with the presence of God.  A marriage, begun not by selfish desires or prideful ambitions, but by God's terms. 

Congratulations Jasper and April, for being a "splendid crown in the hand of God,"  for He has "held you in His hand for all to see"  (Isa. 62:3)  God has been faithful to give the "crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair."  (Isa. 61:3)  Thank you for painting such a beautiful work of art, inspired by the Spirit of God.  We look and are amazed, gripped with a hushed awe of our Maker, for this is, no doubt, holy ground.   

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On Hold

In this season I can scarcely catch my breath.  Life has been full and writing slim.  In the meantime, here is a bit of family news and a few pictures to catch up. 

Most recently, my oldest daughter returned home from college.  We are thrilled to spend a few short weeks together before she returns.  Praise the Lord with us for answered prayer to a summer job at a children's hospital.   Homemade enchaladas along with all the fixings were the order for her 21st birthday party. 

Jeff and I just completed a season of coaching volleyball for our youngest daughter's team.  It was such a joy to coach together as a couple and impact the lives of our team members.  At our last volleyball party, we played until dark and then enjoyed the fireworks display from the baseball field next door. 

 My flowers are in full bloom, but I have not begun to plant a garden.  I missed all the early season crops, but maybe I can still manage some tomato plants before too late. 

Last, but not least, my brother is getting married!  All of my siblings will be there and that is saying something since there are 10 of us ranging from the east coast to the west, with some in between.   The last time we were all together was for a funeral . . . his wife of six months.  I find it a "God thing" that April brings such joy in May.  April was the month Sheri died and his new bride is named April.  Coincidence?  I don't think so.  I believe God has great things in store for this union.

I do not always understand how God can turn an awful situation into something good, but as I look back on my life I catch glimpses of it in the most peculiar places.  My heart is warmed and encouraged.  Surely, God is interested in the lives of His people and holds them close to His heart.