Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Something My Mom Never Said

We grow up to say a lot of the same things our mothers said:
     "Close that door! We're not heating the whole neighborhood!"
          "If all of your friends jump off a cliff are you going to jump too?"
               "Because I'm the mom...that's why!"

One of my favorites of Mom and I
I realized this week that my mom deserves a shout out for something she DIDN'T say:
         "I'm so fat!" or "I need to lose some weight."

I NEVER heard my mom say these words growing up.  In fact, she never really commented on her size, her height, her weight, her hair, her teeth, her skin, or her cloths (unless she just bought something for a steal-of-a-deal!)  Until recently, I hadn't given this much thought. But now that I am the mom of a high school age daughter who's learning where to find her identity, I realize how valuable it is for her to see that I'm content with how God's designed me.

I'm comfortable with who I am.  I like my hair.  I like my eyes.  I like my height.  I even like my crooked teeth and my girly curves.  Why?  I think it's because I had a mom who taught me to be content by BEING content. Profound, huh? Honestly, my mom's weight and fashion were not subjects of conversation. Actually, we didn't even own a scale growing up. The only reason my mom has a scale now is to weigh her luggage so she can maximize her suitcase when she flies out to visit us kids. Numbers like weight and age do not matter in the VanDyken household.

After reading a thought-provoking article this week about moms refraining from getting into family photos because they don't like to look at pictures of themselves, I was reminded how much we can battle self-image and identity problems if we aren't careful. If we want to bring up daughters with healthy self-images, then WE must have healthy views, too! We can't teach what we don't know.

Our culture is obsessed with beauty, "artificial" beauty. Think I'm exaggerating?  Why else do women feel the need to lie about their age?  Dye hair to hide the grey?  Bleach teeth white?  Botox?  Spanx? Miracle creams? The list goes on... Please understand, I'm not saying these things are wrong, but maybe we should be asking ourselves what our daughters are thinking when we spend a small fortune on these things.  I'm only going on my own experience in this area in order to come to my conclusion, but I've determined that having a mom who isn't ashamed of her age, takes good care of herself by living with everything in moderation, is immeasurably influential. My mom still uses the occasional support hose and self-dyes her hair, but doesn't obsesses about her "roots". Because comparing is human nature, I'm positive my mom has compared herself to others, but she didn't ever say it out loud. I've benefited from that.  I hope I can pass that on to my daughter.

My mom is a beautiful woman who now gets to order discounted senior meals. She loves that. How do I know? She's bragged about it! I love that!!!

So, fellow moms, next time we get our family pics back, let's be careful we don't point out all of the things we hate about the way we look.  Instead, comment on the fun you were all having at that moment. That's what your kids see when they look at the pictures. Their eyes don't even see our double chins, rolls around the tummy, or our hair out of place. Our daughters especially need to hear us adore each other regardless of whether we had make-up on for the picture.

One last thought.
                   Live. Laugh. Love.

People hang these words on their walls and print them on photo albums.  No one ever hangs the words:
                 Pose. Suck in your tummy. Fake it.

Be yourself.  Fall in love with how God made you. You're delightful...just the way you are! And Mom, thanks for the lesson...your actions spoke much louder than your words.  P.S. You are one beautiful mama!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Security - A "Snipe" Hunt

Ever been "snipe" hunting? It's a practical joke played on unsuspecting, gullible victims where they are taken into the woods under the cover of nighttime to hunt for mysteriously illusive birds called snipes, armed only with a flashlight and sack. Unknowingly, they follow conspirators on a "wild goose chase" of sorts. As they're repeatedly asked, "Did you see that one?" the flashlights sporadically illuminate the ground. They stare, expecting to see a tiny bird run through the underbrush. The unsuspecting victims have been told if they're quick enough they may just catch one of these rare birds in a sack. Actually, they haven't been led on a hunting expedition at all! Instead, they're only the newest suckers to be laughed at by smug conspirators who were probably once victims themselves.

Ever been "security" hunting? It's very similar to snipe hunting. We will hunt aimlessly in the darkest times of our lives, looking to capture that illusive unattainable thing called security. We've been told by others that it can be found... if we'd just know where to look. We even trust that if we act quickly enough, we'll be able to snag it!  Unfortunately, security here on earth is as much a tall tale as the snipe hunt. No security will ever be found here. It can not be found in stockpiling money or food or even gold, as some would have us believe. You can not find it in relationships since people, too, are imperfect and broken. It isn't found in a free nation nor a strong military. No fall-out shelter or nuclear weapon can guarantee safety. No gun. No job. No miracle cure.* Nothing can give us the ultimate security we longingly hope for. Governments will crumble; jobs will fail; money is fleeting; food doesn't sustain long; shelters are vulnerable. And lastly, but most importantly, our bodies will die no matter what we do to attain safety in the end. (Whew...aren't you glad you're reading this blog today?!?)

I know you didn't come to this page to be depressed out of your mind. So, why all this doom and gloom? Because there is GOOD NEWS!!! And after a week filled with stories of government shutdowns, stage four cancer discovered, adoptions put on hold yet again, death of loved ones, missing children, marriages broken, corrupt leaders, wars and talk of more wars and even just the daily onslaught of ugly world news, I've had to be reminded that there is no security in anything! But, instead, in someONE!

God, and God alone.

For His Word tells us these things:
(Psalm 46:1,2) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the middle of the sea.

(Hebrews 13:5b,6) For He has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” So that we may boldly say, “The Lord is my Helper,” and I will not fear what man shall do to me.

(Psalm 18:2) The Lord is my rock, and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in Whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

In Hebrews, I love how it talks of men and women who had faith to believe God in the midst of their crumbling lives.  Hebrews 11 starts out saying, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." SURE of what we hope for! Not wish-upon-a-star faith but faith on the truth God tells us about himself and heaven. Now that's a hope worth counting on!  I especially love how it says about Abraham that he was "looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." And later Hebrews 11 summarizes the faith of these people by saying in verse 13, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.  And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one."

Do you see it?  They still died!  But it didn't rob them of their hope in God and what he'd promised and that promise wasn't heaven on earth.  It was Heaven!  Eternity with Him. There is nothing certain on earth but death. But the AMAZING answer to that devastating news is that there is a God in Heaven who offers nothing but Life to those who repent of following the gods of this world and follow him exclusively.  Like I wrote earlier, no "god" in the form of  money, nor person, nor government, nor disease cure, nor form of false safety and security can give you hope. They are false gods. False security. Only God is the everlasting Rock, the same yesterday, today and forever.  I, too, want to be counted among those in Hebrews 11 who "were longing for a better country--a heavenly one," while still living in this one with purpose and impact.

Let's not be lured into a "wild goose chase" offered by the Deceiver to go "security" hunting where there is none. To be fooled into snipe hunting is one thing, but to be fooled into thinking we can find safety in anything or anyone but God alone is no game, but dangerous to our souls.

*  I'd just like to add that we own and live in a home, fill our pantry, own guns, save money, take medicine and have lots of meaningful relationships. These things aren't wrong...they're just not where real security is found. I felt like I needed to add my "Christian Disclaimer".  Old habits die hard!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

You named him WHAT?!?

Apple. Robin Graves. Sparrow. Pilot Inspecktor. And brothers, Stan Still and Sid Still.

What do these all have in common?  They are names.  Strange names.

One of my sons recently asked, "Do you think people basically become who they are named?" As I sat there pondering the question he added, "If you would have named me something other than Trey, do you think I would be someone else?"

After a few examples ran through my mind I answered best I could. "Well, I guess our names can affect us to some extent because they are words spoken over us, day in and day out. So, if your name causes you great ridicule at school, it would shape your perception of yourself. If you're named Bubba you probably wouldn't grow up to be a wimp. Actually, I've got to tell you a story my mom once told me about a man whose mother already had several sons and was hoping for a daughter...REALLY BAD! When yet another son was born to her, with some resentment she still named her son, Gwyndolin, her prized girl-name. Evidently, he went by Sam. Needless to say though, he was a bit of an odd duck. Furthermore, the Bible has gobs of examples of people whose names were significant. I suppose I'd conclude that, yes, your name does affect you."

To this Trey replied, "Why couldn't you have named me Awesome Dunking Guy then?!" Coming from a 6' 2" teenager who loves to play basketball, it was a really funny moment.* Trey tends to come up with strange and unusual thoughts often, but this one has stuck with me.  What we hear ourselves called, day in and day out, matters.

If you hear affectionate words such as Sweetheart, Honey, and Babe, you can't help but feel loved. If you continually absorb words such as Jerk, Idiot, and well, let's just say "worse", they will also penetrate your heart, but in a devastating manner. Our words matter...significantly! What we call each other is enduring.

Parenting Confession #27 - I have called my kids names I wish I could take back. The Pharisee-half of my parenting tries to justify that it was alright because I didn't call them the forbidden "cuss words". But the Grace-half knows that it was the tone that I used that did the damage. Whether I'm half whispering, "You little TURKEY," through gritted teeth or silently rolling my eyes at them, they get the message loud and clear.

          "The tongue has the power of life and death..." (Prov. 18:21a)
                 "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul
                     and healing to the bones." (Prov. 16:24)

What we call one another will ricochet in our minds for years to come. Therefore, speaking life-giving words is pinnacle! Names. They mean so much!  Just as Marion Robert Morrison upgraded his name to John Wayne and Ethel Gumm morphed into Judy Garland, name changes are only golden if they are an improvement. This is why my phone says Daryl-Your Hot Husband when he rings not Daryl-Your Loser Husband. One word makes all the difference. (And "HOT" is true so that makes that one easy!)

And by the way, Dad and Mom, thanks for naming me Candi. I've always loved it. But I especially can't wait until my kids have kids of their own and I'm upgraded to GRANDMA CANDI!  Best. Name. EVER!  I'll have to have Smarties and Lifesavers in my pockets at all times just to live up to the name!
       *Right away after Trey read this he said, "Mom! You forgot to mention that I CAN dunk the ball!" So, just to clear this up, he IS THE AWESOME DUNKING GUY even without the official name.  :)  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

So...What do you do?

I'm guessing you've been here before...
        You go to a birthday party for a friend. Throughout the evening you meet a few new people and this type of conversation happens:

"Hi. I'm Candi." (An awkward handshake transpires)

"Nice to meet you.  I'm Jane." (A courtesy smile is exchanged)

"How do you know the birthday girl?" 

"We went to school together.  How about you?"

"The hospital.  We work together." (And then it happens... the default question asked thousands of times a day around the globe) "So, what do you do?"

It's a typical question asked when two people meet.  But today I had a funny thought. 
      What would happen if we just came right out and asked "Who are you?" 

Isn't that what we are REALLY asking? Maybe it's because we have confused what we DO with who we ARE. But what we "do" changes as life changes. Jobs shift. Positions are fleeting. Careers take u-turns. Children grow up. But who we are remains the same through all this. Whether I'm single or married, mothering or working, I'm still me. It's easiest to answer with something like "I'm a nurse; a stay home mom; a teacher; a truck driver; a secretary; a mechanic." But none of these answers the WHO question. These are all what I do, but not who I am.

How would you answer the who-are-you question if someone had the guts to come right out and ask? For me, I think I would be in such shock at the directness of the question, it would take me a while to answer and even then I don't know what I'd say. Though indirect waltzing conversations are the norm, I believe each person longs to be known. Really known.  I believe there is a deeper question we wrestle with here: Where does my identity come from?

I'm going to pick on the queen of England here for a minute.  I wonder what she would say if asked, "So tell me, who are you?" Would she furrow her brow in surprise and come back, "Why, I'm the queen of England!?"  Outside of this royal position though, who is she really? What makes her happy, sad, giddy, angry. What's her favorite book and why? What's something she wishes her family understood about her? What makes her smile in satisfaction? Does her heart ache with longings unfulfilled?

I would argue that we aren't much different than a queen.  We are most often identified by what we do and who we are associated with.  But ultimately, our identity doesn't come from who we are married to, where we went to college, what our father's name was, what our occupation is, or who calls us "mama", "Mrs." or "Your Majesty." Might I suggest the best place to anchor our identity is in the One who never changes. In Jesus.

I'm not suggesting that the next birthday party I attend I'm going to answer the "What do you do" question with an "I'm not what I do! I'm a daughter of God, joint heir with Jesus. I know who I am. Who are you?" No way!  But if I am content and satisfied with who I am in God's eyes, I won't feel as though I need to get the approval of the asker of that notorious "What do you do" question.  Perhaps I will even go as far as to share a bit more of who I really am because I'm not scrapping for my identity and significance in the "doings" of my life or the title of my name.

I'll still share that I am a musician, artist, dish-washer, wife, mother, sister, house cleaner, teacher and cook. But silently inside, I can feel content because I am also a child of the King of Kings. So, feel free to call me "Your Majesty." Haha!  I'm just kidding about the "Your Majesty" part, but there is a quiet contentment that comes from knowing my identity is in Christ first and foremost and that He tells me he loves me very much.

After pondering this for the day, I think I may even try something new by asking, "So, tell me a bit about yourself.  Who are you?" instead of just "So, what do you do?" I'm curious to see what will happen. Aren't you a little bit curious how people will respond, too? Try it. Let's be curious together!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

To Write or Not To Write...This is a Really Good Question

Letters from the early 1900's written by Bess
I LOVE WORDS!  I'm not talking about the game everyone plays now a days. I mean words written in a letter, thoughts printed in a book, poetry and hymns, stories and conversations. Recently I was reading some old letters from Daryl's great-great-grandmother Bess' courting days in the early 1900's. Though I never met this woman, I felt as each page turned that I was getting to know bits of  her, almost as if she was personally sitting in the room, sharing her inner most thoughts. Carefully, I've placed these treasured letters into chronological order. Pieces of a love story emerged with each postmark.

Bess can't wait to get married and have a life all her own for she's grown weary of watching her brother's child. She longs to be with her "Fritz" out on the prairies of Montana, riding horses at his side. At one point she boldly asks him to shave his mustache off before their wedding because she's just not sure she'll like it. A couple years into their long distance courtship, she asks him to share his feelings and affections more openly with her, promising to keep the letters well hidden for she is sure no one will ever read them! (I laughed out loud as I read that last part. If she only knew that we'd be reading them 100 years later!)

I had an epiphany that day.I'd seen pictures of Grandma Bess before but that was where it'd ended...until the letters. Written words preserve the thoughts, the heart, the struggles and inner longings of an individual. A picture shows us what a person looked like, but only on the outside. More importantly though, a diary or stack of letters, like Bess', show us who they were in the inside.  This must be part of why God chose to put his story, his heart, in the written word, the Bible. To have it written perpetuates his message and keeps it from fading away, forgotten.

Anything worth learning is worth writing about.  I keep a journal...actually I keep a library of journals now.  I started my first one in junior high using a left-over spiral notebook from school. Actually, it was more of a crazy diary about boys that I had crushes on. As the years went by though, my journals turned into written out prayers that reflected the desires of a young woman who wanted to know what it looked like to love Jesus wholeheartedly. After kids, my journals recorded a wild ride of ups and downs, questions and joys, prayers for babies in womb and toddlers underfoot.  Some days, I'd draw little pictures to go with my thoughts. Other days, I'd end up tearing out and burning what I'd written! Yes, true,  there were some very dark journal entries when my heart despaired and grew hopeless about my so-called life. But the most beautiful thing now is looking back and seeing God's faithfulness through it all! When I look at my journals, it's like looking at a pile of rocks like the Israelites used to stack up to cause them to remember what God had done.

Some of the journals from these past years.  Not my "junior high journal" since I told my kids...not 'til I'm dead and gone!
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to pull these "rocks" out and share with my youngest son some of the prayers I had written out about him over the years. We both enjoyed reading and laughing over them. From pregnancy to junior high we could see how God had answered my prayers for him. It was this day that I realized that there are parts of me I haven't revealed to my children... out loud. It was only when we looked at what I'd written that I even remembered certain things. This day at the counter, rereading through old entries reminded me of the importance of continually telling my children of God's faithfulness through life. Who knows, though I may not ever meet my great-great-grandchildren, someday they, too, may read through my journals. I guess I hope they might possibly get to know a very ordinary woman who left an account of a very extraordinary God!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rip Snortin' Mad Mama - What do you do with anger?

I wish I could say kids have brought out the best in me. Actually, they've brought out the worst.  Before I had children, I was a patient, soft spoken person.  But then came the toddler years, and siblings and fighting, nit-picking and whining.  Somewhere deep inside, the sweet mama morphed into a wild eyed crazy woman, who (*sigh* I confess) YELLED. Not all the time.  I had mastered the art of Jekyll and Hyde mothering. Maybe you're familiar with it.  I could be hollering through clenched teeth, "How many times do I have to come down here and tell you to finish picking up your toys!!!" when the phone would ring and I'd answer in my sweetest Donna Reed voice, "Hello."  All the while I would be giving my kids THE LOOK while silently shaking the finger that was suppose to let them know they better listen or else!  These episodes were often followed by waves of guilt because I felt like such a hypocrite.  I didn't know what to do or how to act when angry.

Anger.  I knew that bible verse that said, "In your anger, do not sin."  It doesn't say, "Don't be angry."  Just do not sin.  How in the world was that accomplished?  For years, I struggled with thinking that anger was sinning.

One day, while reading the story of Moses and the Israelites wandering in the desert, I realized God really hated whining.  There were consequences to their unbelief and complaining. Numbers 11 starts out saying, "And now the people complained about their hardships, and when he heard them his anger was aroused."  This was my favorite part...God tells Moses to answer for him like this:

"The Lord heard you when you wailed, 'If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!' Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’

That sounded like something a frustrated mother might say!  "If you don't quit yer bellyaching and eat those peas, I'm gonna feed 'em to ya until ya love 'em and your eyes turn green!"  I'm quite certain it wasn't said with the tone of Donna Reed either.  So, how does one go about being angry and not sinning because it is possible.  God was pretty snortin' mad and we know he didn't sin.  

I think I found the answer the other day.  It's in the story of Jesus driving out those who were selling sacrificial animals inside the temple courts.  The verse says, "So, he made a whip out of chords and drove them from the temple courts..."  

It didn't say "he was so filled with anger that he grabbed the nearest whip he could find from that guy walking his donkey down the street near him".  Nor did it say, "he started punching the salesmen until they got them message."  I think this is the key...
           HE MADE A WHIP.  
That takes time.  It means his anger wasn't a fly-off-the-handle kind of anger.  He had time to think about what he would say.  How he would go about it.  He knew that what he was upset about was legit.  

I'm not suggesting you go whittle at stick off the apple tree to make a switch to discipline each time your kids get you riled up.  But I think time is what keeps us from overreacting and saying and doing things we'd regret later.  

So, when your kids have whined you into a tizzy, it's alright if you're sick of it.  Hey! If God got fed up with constant  complaining and whining, I can too.  And boy, can kids whine!  But then go that next step, take time to ponder how you can teach them.  You're not a bad mama if you get angry.  You're normal.  Just learn to deal with it without over reacting.  And from what we've seen in scripture, being angry and telling them "You're gonna eat that til it come out your nose!"  is still on the table :)  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Guilt-Free Mothering

The middle age mom.  That's me.  There've been no newborn cries from the crib for many years.  No toddlers screaming through the halls for a decade.  Not even any talk of recess for the last few years. Now that I'm firmly settled into this new chapter, I find young moms looking to me, the "old" mom, for advice. I certainly don't have all the answers but I can offer one thing with certainty...


After a couple of conversations this past week with young moms who are trying to navigate early motherhood, I decided I was going to write a few things that I find myself repeating often since the challenges of motherhood seem to change little from generation to generation.  Some of these are things I learned by trial and error as a mom myself.  Others are words of wisdom passed on to me by "older" moms during the years when I was the inquisitive one.

1.    You will get  to sleep through the night again. Promise. Yet, sleep deprivation will make you feel like you're going crazy some days.  You're not.  But lack of sleep is so powerful that Prisoners Of War were often subjected to it in order to wear them down and get info during times of war.  So, if you have those moments where you break down and cry from sheer tiredness... it's ok!  Remember that even the strongest of soldiers couldn't stand it some days.  Rest is important.  So never feel guilty taking that nap with your little one in the middle of the day.

2.   There is not a book out there with a formula to raise perfect kids. You may have joked with fellow mamas that you wished this kid of yours had come with an instruction manual.  There isn't a fool-proof method for raising kids.  I'll take this one step further...be wary of anyone who tells you that "if you just read this book and practice it" your kids will eat, sleep, talk, think and behave properly.  Many great ideas can come from reading parenting books, but if you find yourself questioning whether something is wrong with your baby because she want to nurse more often that every three hours, throw that book in the trash!  Help books are suppose to equip you to walk forward in confidence, not question everything you've been doing, making you wallow in fear and indecision.  One of the most dangerous places to allow legalism to creep in is parenting.  Allow grace to lead you.  God gives you the grace to choose what's best for your little one...that's why He entrusted them to you.  Use God's Word and the rest is all grace

Notice that even "Christian" books have human authors, so there are no divine guarantees that everything written in it is God's will for you and your child.  That's where the Holy Spirit comes in.  I've gotten to know the Spirit more through my mothering than anything else because I'm often praying (sometimes pleading) to know his direction in parenting.  He is faithful!  He will lead you. 

3.   Some things seem like HUGE decisions now, but they really won't matter in the long run.  (This is part of that grace stuff in the everyday.)  Maybe you've been caught up in one of these dilemmas before, feeling paralyzed you'd make the "wrong" choice.
          Nursing vs. Formula
          Cloth diapers vs. Disposable
          Sleeping schedule vs. Naptimes when needed
          Potty trained by 2 vs. "It'll happen when they're ready"
          Organic homemade food vs.Quick and convenient meals
          T.V. and movies vs. No electronics for entertainment
          Pacifier vs. Thumb sucking vs. Nothing

When you look at the adults around you, can you tell as children, whether or not they were nursed or bottle fed?  Potty trained early or wet the bed through elementary school?  Whether they ate organic fruit or fruity pebbles for breakfast?  Yeah, I can't either.  None of these things will matter at 20!  Live and be free! And let the majors be major and the minors stay minor. 

4.   When you look back at these early years it will seem as though they flew by... even though, this moment, you think you may not make it 15 more minutes.  "Old" mothers, like myself, will look at you with a bit of longing in our eyes because it is easy to remember only the sweet things from those years.  They were thee toughest years, too!  It's just that every mama whose children are grown wish they would have cuddled their kids more, kissed more boo boos, read more bedtime stories, savored more moments and hurried less.  When another mother says this to you, don't feel guilty that earlier you were longing for a break and hid in the bathroom for a moments peace!  Today, you're in the middle of the toughest job ever, but someday, you'll romantically recall only the blessings, too.

5.   Finally, you are still in there.  What I mean by that is your identity may feel a bit skewed during these child rearing years.  You are a mother, but you are still a woman, a friend, a lover.  You're still funny, beautiful, inspiring.  You may have cheerios stuck to your kitchen floor, spit up on your shirt, and very hairy unshaved legs, but you are still in there... and you're wonderful! 

I asked my husband one day if he would do me a favor.  I said, "Would you sometimes just say my name?"  Confused, he waited for the explanation.  I told him I heard my name as "Mom, Honey, Gorgeous, Mrs. H," but rarely did I just simply hear my name... "Candi".  I love being a mom.  I love being a wife.  But sometimes, during those early years,  I needed to know I was still just me

You are valuable.  You are loved!  God still sees you as the beautiful girl he made you to be.  Don't feel bad if some days you just miss the old you.  She'll come back.  Actually, thanks to what you learn as a mom, she'll return new and improved!  Stronger and wiser than ever!

Monday, June 17, 2013

But in THAT Moment...

                             Daryl fell from a cliff and plummeted to his death
                                                                                                     ... IN MY MIND!

It began as we went on a hiking excursion with some good friends. We visited a spot along the Boulder River called the Natural Bridge. This time of year, the water was forcefully churning at the base of the cliffs.  As we shimmied through a crevasse in the rock, the ground gave way from under Phil's feet.  Oh, the terror in his eyes!  He had his small son, Sam, in a backpack as he started sliding and I knew Daryl was right below him, out of view.  A couple of kids screamed, but what haunts me the most was the curdle in Phil's voice. I can still hear it...

Because I'm a "move-to-action-person" when scared, I booked it back up the rocks to find the next closest venue to get down to the bottom of the cliff.  Certain there was a chance I'd find Daryl crushed under that landslide of rocks I'd just heard cascade down the hillside or see him drowning in the thunderous waters below, I ran.  I prayed.  I cried.  I trusted...with every ounce my soul could muster. 

All this happened within a few short minutes, yet to me it felt like life was moving  in          s  l  o  w     m  o  t  i  o  n.

How is this part of my story about grace and peace?  Well, in that moment, they both showed up.  Grace.  Peace.  As I approached the area below, I quoted every bible verse I could remember about trusting God to be my shelter, my comfort, my Rock. Saying these things aloud had nothing to do with showing off my bible memorization skills or trying to impress those around me with a stellar response in the face of adversity.  Raw fear pumped through my veins and God's truths were all I had!  Not knowing what I'd find at the bottom, I knew I needed to rely on God's strength to handle it because I could feel the panic, the terror, beating on my chest and yelling in my ears.  "This is it!  Your worst fear!  Watching someone you love die right in front of you!"

I remembered something else in that moment. I needed to speak truth right out loud so I coul hear it.  Drown out lies and fear with the very name of Jesus!  Just the sound of His name had never been sweeter than in that moment. "Jesus!" I called.  He answered.  It started as He wrapped peace around my shoulders like a shawl so that I could breath, for I felt as though I would faint before I ever got to the bottom.  He strengthened my legs, assuring me that I could bear whatever condition I found Daryl in because I understood He would walk through it with me...I wasn't alone.  He poured out his grace in divine doses because there is no way I could have trusted Him in my own power... and yet I was trusting Him with all my heart, with every step I took.   When God promised that he'd deliver peace beyond understanding, he meant it!  No matter what things looked like at the bottom of this cliff, God would be there with me!  "Even if the worst has happened, Jesus, I still trust you.  You are good, all the time."  I needed to say this out loud.  That moment of surrender was one of the toughest in my life.

"Thank you, Jesus!  Oh, thank you!" was all I could think when I saw Daryl and Phil walking around.  Both the guys were scraped up and a bit bloody, dusty, but they looked TERRIFIC!  The baby backpack showed the scars of what happened, and little Sam didn't have a scratch on him...just dirt.

To me, the beauty of this moment wasn't only that everyone was alright, but that God had used this moment in time to show me His presence in the midst of it all.  I don't think it can get much more frightening than thinking your husband just fell off a cliff!

I'm not sharing this story to say God is good because he saved.  He's just...good.  Regardless of the outcome that day, He was good. His grace and peace didn't arrive AFTER I saw all was well.  His grace appeared when I thought Daryl could be lying at the bottom, dead.  His peace showed up when fear wanted to consume me.  I was so weak, but in that moment, I realized how strong my God really was!

Hardship. Death. Pain.  These things will all appear sometime in our lives.  If we believe God is only good when things go our way, then our faith is in our circumstances, not in Him.

When we got back to our campsite that afternoon, I needed some time alone to think, to feel.  I cried for a long time... Relief washed over me.  Thankfulness.  Joy.  A new found Peace and Trust.  Though my God has the power to move mountains, the power he has to deliver my heart from fear in the midst of tragedy is even more amazing!

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
     He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.
 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;

    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
Steve and Karren
There is more to the story than just what I wrote, but this was what God was doing in my heart in that moment.  We are going camping this weekend with these friends.  I'm hoping it'll be VERY uneventful!

Workin' our way down



Thursday, June 13, 2013

You've Come a Long Way, Baby!

"When you wake up, do you feel ready to attack the day?" 
I do.
"Do you like your energy level?"
"You like your life, don't you?"
Yes, I do!
"Your eyes are lively. You appear very healthy."
I feel really good.

I went to the doctor this week.  Maybe this doesn't sound "blog worthy" but I came away with two very profound realizations. 

Number ONE:

I WAS SITTING WITH A BUNCH OF OLD PEOPLE in the waiting room!!!  Evidently, I must be old.  When did I go from sitting in a doctor's office with young pregnant ladies to a waiting room full of silver-haired people trying to prolong life with blood pressure medication?  I realized this week I have joined the ranks of people trying to extend their lives rather than birthing life. I turned 40 last month (Yeah!  Something I am actually very pleased about.  Strange, but true!)  And my doctor wanted answers to more than just my family medical history.  He asked about my cholesterol numbers, joint aches, night sweats and bowel movements.  He even seemed surprised I took no regular medications for anything.  Ha!  What a new experience to answer questions connected with aging. I learned I'm officially getting OLD-er.  But I love what I realized next...

Number TWO:

I LOVE MY LIFE!  I love the stage of life I'm in!  I wouldn't exchange all the fun and excitement in my 20's and 30's, for the peace and contentment God has grown in me at this stage. I'm more comfortable in my skin than ever (and that's amazing considering it's trying very hard to travel toward the ground.) A few things come with age, I think.  I've decided being in style is optional.  I don't' feel like I need to say "yes" to everything anymore and I don't battle with guilt as often when the word "no" comes from my lips. I worry much less about being the perfect mom to my kids because I've seen God work in their lives despite me. I don't secretly argue with Daryl in my head when he tells me I'm beautiful.  Instead, I drink it up! 

When did this happen in me?

I think all of these contented views of life could find their root in one fact.  I believe God more now than ever before.  I believe these things: My value doesn't come from my external appearance - I am His workmanship.  My worth doesn't come from how much I'm doing - but in Whose I am.  My joy isn't dependent on the approval of mankind - I seek to follow Jesus, alone.  So, when the doctor paused and said, "You like your life, don't you,"  there wasn't even a moments hesitation to boldly answer "Yes, I do!"  The Lord and I have traveled a lot of life together.  It feels great to look back and see... progress.  Growth.  Peace.  

As I departed the doctor's office with my newfound revelation, I wanted to strut through the waiting room and shout the old slogan, "You've come a long way, Baby!"  But, then I remembered, everyone there was old enough to remember that the slogan was actually for Virginia Slims cigarettes and somehow, that just didn't seem appropriate for a doctor's office.  So, I just smiled at the white-haired lady sitting near the exit and kept my mouth shut.  Hmm... Another sign that maybe I am growing wiser in my "old age".