Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Treasures for the Senses and Soul

 Last summer Kraig and I got to take our kids to one of our favorite places on earth, Michigan's Upper Peninsula Pictured Rocks Lakeshore. It was a glorious week, to say the least. But one thing that added to the joy was we were able to connect with Mike and Suzanne who live in that neck of the woods. Suzanne and I had "met" in The Rabbit Room, and were both headed to the Room's conference, Hutchmoot, at the end of September.

It was going to be both of our first conference, and while we were excited, we were nervous about the unknown aspects of the adventure. After all, we only knew everyone digitally. How helpful it was to meet each other in person ahead of time, knowing that there would be at least one familiar face when we got to Nashville. In fact, God in His perfect timing arranged it so that Suzanne was outside when I arrived at the conference, and so made my entrance that much less stressful! Not only that, but Mike was available to pick my sister up at the airport when her flight was delayed. Thanks to him, I didn't have to miss dinner to go get her (And considering the food at Hutchmoot, it was something I was selfishly not wanting to miss!). Since the conference, we've had to follow each other online again, but the friendship has been formed, and we're looking forward to seeing them once more in person.

This year, The Rabbit Room proprietors hosted a Secret Santa, where names could be entered and then handed out randomly. We could reveal ourselves or not as desired, but the fun was in sending a gift to one perhaps not well-known, but very likely of similar tastes due to the nature of the group. I put together my gift and sent it off with a little fear and trembling, then waited excitedly for what might appear on my doorstep.

And then the box came...and amazingly my Secret Santa lived in Michigan! Not only that, the address was surprisingly close to--wait--Pictured Rocks!? I couldn't believe it! Suzanne realized, too, that her identity wouldn't be hidden, and while she didn't technically give me her name, her gift had the UP written all over it. I love the way God wove the pieces. Check out the gifts on the left. The "stone" soap brings back memories of our families tossing and skipping rocks in and on Lake Superior (you never run out of rocks there). The pottery and bracelet (the latter made of local stones) reflect the colors found in that beautiful part of the world.

It is truly a gift from a friend, one like so many I have met now online and in person through the Rabbit Room. God keeps bringing our lives together, and I can't wait to see what the future holds.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Magic Life

I spent the last four days in a place of magic. It was a place where song and laughter flowed as freely as spring rain, where words and wit flipped and tripped and eyes sparkled, where food was art that enriched all the senses. It was a place where the Spirit of the Great Magician hovered, warming us with His presence.

It was a place I entered with trepidation. The dark magic of fear and self-focus taunted me with lies: "You won't fit in like you think you will. That anticipation you feel now? It's just headed for a crash." I had to draw the Sword of Truth to fight off this darkness and to remember that I was loved by the Great Magician no matter what I discovered in this place. I knew that most of all I wanted to experience the magic the He had for me, not concoct some mediocre potion of my own dreams. And Truth won, and dark magic was defeated, and joy reigned.

And then it was time to come home.

But the magic did not disappear.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Why do I think the Great Magician only holds sway in one lovely corner of the world? There is magic wherever I go. There was magic in the conversation I had with a college student on the plane ride home—a fellow Truth-follower who saw with clarity the joy of trusting the Great Magician. There was magic in the simple joy of opening the back of our minivan and seeing the glowing smiles and golden hair of my daughters, in the thrill of my son’s squeal of delight, and in the richness of my husband’s kiss. There was magic when I learned that though my sister’s flight home was delayed she dined with new friends, and didn't sit alone for all of those hours.

This morning I still saw the magic. I could see the Magician’s touch in my response to a cranky son who didn’t know what to do with Mommy now that she had come home. I relished the beauty of our walk to school with the windswept sky that stretched wide over a green field, and I reveled in the brisk air that tickled my nose. The magic of a tractor mower enchanted my son, while my girls and I breathed deep the scent of mown grass. There were friends to greet, and the world was overflowing.

It was harder to find the magic this evening. Tempers flared—including mine—but I was still able to step back and remember. The Great Magician hadn’t left. I could still see His work if I looked. I held out my hand to my kids and asked, “What is this made of?” Distraction, wonder. The Magician was still speaking and we lived and breathed.

I am sure that in the days to come I will have many moments when I forget that I live amidst this good, good magic. I hope that in those moments I will take the time to step back and look and really see.

And if all else fails, my children will remind me that a dinosaur named Henley lives in the creek by the school, the evil giant Chompchucks lurks in our neighborhood, and if I’m not careful, the lava between the sidewalk cracks may explode on me.

After the magic I saw last weekend I wouldn’t be surprised if even this were true.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Problems, Solutions...Or Something New?

Early this summer I picked up a book that I'd seen recommended a number of times: The Mind of the Maker, by Dorothy L. Sayers. I'm an old fan of Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mystery novels, but I hadn't forged past those to read her other writings, many that highlight her insights into living for Christ. The Mind of the Maker seemed a good place to start, and when a blog friend of mine started an online discussion of the book within weeks of my venture, it proved to be the perfect summer read. Not to mention, having a group discussion helped me pace it and push on through the heavier bits.

And what a journey it has been! I can definitely say that I loved Sayers' writing as much in this book as I always have in her novels. I wish I could think like her; she lays ideas out, elaborates, focuses in, and zings with her final points. She's a master of logical arguments. Kraig could probably keep pace with her, but for me it's a slow process. But her work is as beautiful as a perfect geometry theorem (and from a non-math-person like me, that's a huge complement). My favorite part of the book was chapter seven, "Maker of All Things--Maker of Ill Things," in which Sayers lays out an argument for why evil exists and the part God plays in it. I won't even attempt to detail it here because I would completely botch her argument, so you'll just have to go read it yourself. There is this point with which she concludes the chapter, though, that goes with what I'm getting to:
"The Fall had taken place and Evil had been called into active existence; the only way to transmute Evil into Good was to redeem it by creation. But, the Evil having been experienced, it could be redeemed only within the medium of experience--that is, by an incarnation in which experience was fully and freely in accordance with the Idea [God]." (p. 107)
So the Creator God gave us Christ, and through Christ, we (and all of His creation) can be redeemed, bought back, rescued.

In the final chapter, Chapter 11, "Problem Picture," Sayers fleshes out this concept of redemption. She targets a cultural tendency that thinks of everything in terms of problems and solutions. Think of how we approach everything: Here is the problem (e.g. "I am sick") and here is the solution ("I will follow such-and-such procedure and I will be cured."). Unfortunately, reality is not that cut and dry. We don't have neat little problems, Sayers points out, like a detective novel that can be solved with all the pieces tied up.

For many people, the fact that the problems of life can't be neatly solved is horrible. What kind of God would make a world that can't be fixed? But the whole point is, that isn't how God works! He doesn't "solve" the "problem" by what we think of as "fixing it". If that were the case, when Adam and Eve admitted to eating the fruit, He would have simply restored Eden to its innocence, knocked Satan out of the picture forever, and that would have been that. Nice idea, but within the construct of His creation it doesn't work. Innocence was lost, Evil was active, and the knowledge of good and evil had entered into the human soul. The only true solution was redemption. A price had to be paid in order to buy us back. All things could only be made new through Christ's sacrifice.

Sayers takes this concept of making things new into our human realm, for her theory is that as God is the Creator, his creation reflects Him; therefore, humans have a desire to create--we have the mind of a maker :) . Humans desire to make something new out of what we have. Obviously we reflect God dimly, particularly because of sin, but the image is there and now and then shines out (more so as we let Christ live through us). So with that perspective, how do we deal with the problems of life? We don't try to "solve" them and restore things to what they were before the problem existed; that's impossible. The person who successfully fights off cancer will never be restored to the same state of health he was in previous to the illness. He will never be that same person mentally or spiritually, either. He has been made new. His life is now a new creation.
"If, therefore, we are to deal with our 'problems' in 'a creative way,' we must deal with them along the artist's lines: not expecting to 'solve' them by a detective trick, but to 'make something of them,' even when they are, strictly speaking, insoluble." (p. 193)
 I realized that this has been how I've looked at problems for a long time. When Keren died, what put my feelings into words for me was Steve Saint's article, "God's Purpose In Our Suffering." I believed God was in control and that Keren's death wasn't some pointless tragedy. But when I read how this man came to see that God had purposed a tragedy in his family's life to bring others to Christ and bring God glory I saw hope. Keren's life and death was not in vain. Even our grief in losing her wasn't pointless. There was no need to try to "solve" our "problem" of grief. God could take it all, would take it all, and make it something more beautiful than I could ever imagine. And in the past three-and-a-half years I've seen flashes of that truth, and I have no doubt I will continue to see it. Kraig and I are still figuring out what all this means for our future.

Our pastor recently started a series on Nehemiah, and has been focusing on how the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem is similar to ways our church is trying to rebuild after a number of years of upheaval. Sunday he spoke on chapter four and "Dealing with the Inevitable." In other words, when you are in the midst of doing something big for God, it is inevitable that obstacles will arise. It is easy to get discouraged and sidetracked: "It will never be the way it was! There are too many problems, we can't fix them!" The truth is that of course things won't be the way they were, and that there are problems. But that's not the whole truth. God's truth is that He can use us, and work through us to create something new and mighty and beautiful, and that we will be strengthened through the problems we face, and the world will see His glory.

It hit me this morning that another area where this applies for me is with our mom's group at church, REAL moms, of which I'm the coordinator. In the past number of years we have watched our numbers and resources shrink considerably. There are many factors as to why this is, but I've often fought discouragement concerning this. After all, we were such a great outreach program for the church, and we still have many amazing resources for moms of young kids. Why can't we still be that? What can we do to go back to that? Thankfully I've had a mentor and a team who have encouraged me to see what God is doing now in a new way. Last year, though our group was small, it became a place where women could come and share things that were going on in their lives, things they may not have been comfortable to share in a bigger group. Our team saw that our role was one of equipping and challenging each mom to go out into her own community and live Christ daily. It became a place of discipleship more than evangelism, which is awesome, particularly if each person is then becoming a light in her own neighborhood. I'm excited to see how God will continue to use each of us in the group.

I realized that I've got to act on this perspective of making things "new creations". I'm not going to look for simple 1-2-3 solutions to restore things to how they were. I won't expect to see things wrapped up in a nice little package with a bow on top. No, I will look to see how God is making things new, and I will strive to work in God's creation to make something of what He has given me. And to Him be the glory, forever!

Friday, June 15, 2012


This morning our friends the Heathcocks moved away. It's been coming for the past few months, but today was IT, and they are off to new worlds and new adventures. Those whom they've left behind are thrilled for them, because it's a great move, but today there is a big hole. We've been friends for a long time, and in the past four years we've been neighbors. It's not like we hung out a lot; in fact, usually our schedules were so different that we'd only manage brief greetings at church. But I knew they were there. More than that, I knew we could depend on them, trust them, connect with them on deep levels. There was history. There was faith. There was family. Time together wasn't a requirement.

I know I've said before that I hate change. And I hate goodbyes. Yesterday we said goodbye, and it was the same day we said goodbye to Clare's teacher who will probably be moved to a different school in the fall, and to classmates who may or may not be in Clare's class next year. Too many goodbyes for one day. This morning it hit me like a flood when I walked over to Heathcocks' house and saw the door and garage shut, and listened to the moving truck purring in the driveway. "This chapter is done," it droned. It's not just that this goodbye is hard; it's that truth that this is not the first or the last goodbye in my life. It is a goodbye in an ever-increasing list.

Yesterday morning at breakfast Clare and Ev asked again, rather pragmatically, "Why do the Heathcocks have to move?" They are losing a playmate; the Heathcocks' youngest son fit nicely between our Clare and Ev, and often popped over to play, or the girls would ask to go see "if Matthew was available." Jon was starting to refer to him by name, starting to look up to him as an older brother. He was an extra kid, as fun and frustrating as my own. Despite this loss, my kids aren't heartbroken. In some ways it's because the reality that Matthew will not be available hasn't sunk in. However, it's also because they live in the now and so far change hasn't bothered them much.

We talked about why Heathcocks were moving, and how it was such a great thing for their family. "I don't ever want to move," Clare said. "Yeh," I answered, "but if God wants you to move then it's so much better to go than to stay. You'll only be unhappy if you aren't doing what God wants you to do." And I knew as I spoke that I was reminding myself of this as much as telling my daughter. "If we do what God wants us to do, then He can use us to touch the most people possible so they might come to know Him. And that's the best thing of all, really, isn't it?" Clare nodded, though at almost seven she's not grasping the full weight of all of that. For that matter, I'm still trying to grasp this truth.

And so, today I am saying goodbye with a heavy heart. I know in my head that there will be new hellos tomorrow, and new adventures for our own family. But I can't help but look forward to my Heaven-home when there will be no more goodbyes.

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Basic" Chili

A couple months ago I decided it was time to branch out in my cooking and try a new red chili recipe. Up to this point, when I wanted to do a red one I threw a few cans of beans into the crock pot along with sauteed ground beef (or turkey) and onion, a can of diced tomatoes, taco seasoning and maybe some garlic. It was good, and it worked, particularly with babies on hand. But the babies are growing, and I have a little extra time to try more elaborate recipes. In addition to that, a friend of mine keeps including amazing crock pot recipes in our REAL moms newsletter, all of which originate at the blog A Year of Slow Cooking, by Stephanie O'Dea. Another friend handed me one of O'Dea's cookbooks, and I fell completely in love and have been trying recipes right and left since. Of all of them, though, I think the supreme find has been her "Basic Chili," which, while easy, is anything but basic when it comes to flavor.

I'd say that if you wanted to try this you could just go to O'Dea's site and follow her recipe (and it would be amazing), but since I did a little tweaking, I decided to post the whole recipe here, the way I made it. I'll leave you to determine your own results!

1 lb. ground turkey
1 diced onion
4 15 oz. cans beans, rinsed & drained (I usually use dark red kidney beans & some black beans)
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes (these can be drained)
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
3 T chili powder*
2 t cumin
1 t black pepper
salt to taste
1 T Frank's Hot Sauce
jalepeno pepper slices (you decide how much!)

Saute the onion and ground turkey till the turkey is browned. Dump into a large crock pot with all other ingredients. Stir contents and set to cook: Low heat for a good six hours (you can go longer--it doesn't hurt) or high for four.

* The second time I went to make this I realized I was all out of chili powder. I've been wondering what goes into chili powder, and had a suspicion I had all of the necessary spices. So I googled "chili powder" and came up with a lovely assortment of recipes, ranging from a simple mix of spices to ones made completely from scratch. Someday when the kids are grown I might try it from scratch. For now, I'll stick with mixing store-bought spices!

All that to say, though, I love the homemade chili powder. I think it adds great taste to the chili. The whole this is what Kraig describes as "bright." Here's the chili powder mix if you'd like to try it:

Mix the following:
2 T smoked paprika
2 t oregano
1 1/4 t cumin
1 1/4 t garlic powder
1 1/4 t cayenne pepper
3/4 t onion powder

This makes a little over the 3 tablespoons needed for the chili. You could probably dump the whole batch into the chili and it would just improve it. I think I might try that next time!

So there you have it. Basic chili at its finest. And to be even more basic, I have no photo to go along with this. I obviously am not used to food-blogging :) .

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Hardest Choice

My dear daughter Clare is a little--um--strong-willed. In many ways this is a blessing. I know where she stands on things, and she knows what she believes and isn't interested in following the latest trends. She's bright and boisterous, golden-haired and glorious. I never dreamed how she would so truly live up to the meaning of her name: "Brilliant light." There are many times I'm blinded by her (or sideswiped, befuddled, flabbergasted--those are other good descriptors).

So, yes, strong-willed. Unfortunately, a strong will out of control can be like a bolt of lightning, burning everything it touches. And while Clare has rained down her bolts off and on over the years, we've lately had an increase in them, and as a result she makes herself and everyone around her miserable. We think we've hit on a way to work with this, but it's one of those tricky discipline things. On the one hand, the behavior must stop--it's not acceptable--and Clare needs to be given the tools and structure to help it stop. On the other hand, we don't want a behavior change to be merely external. If her heart hasn't changed, no outward appearance is going to be worth beans down the road. We don't want our daughter to appear to be a "good little Christian" who has a heart full of rebellion. So that change is not something we can force on her. It has to be a decision made between her and the God she loves with all of her fiery heart.

That's what makes our ongoing conversations so frustrating every time we see a potential lightning storm. They often sound like this: 
"Clare, you have a choice. You can choose to throw a tantrum about this, or you can choose to accept it." 
"Urggh!!! You're making me angry!" 
"No Clare, you're choosing to be angry. I don't have control over that, you do." 
(Groan, mumble, complain.) 
"Clare, you can ask Jesus to help you make the right choice. He wants to help you, but he can't unless you ask him." 
(More stomping of feet and gnashing of teeth.)
To tell the truth, I just want to shake her or hold her tightly or something and yell, "Why are you making this so difficult??? Don't you know you would be so much happier if you would just accept this with grace and move on? Why are you trying to be miserable and drag everyone down with you?"

Inevitably at this point, though, a still small Voice nudges me and asks kindly, but wryly, "Sounds kind of familiar, huh?"

In John 14:15 Jesus says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." He's not laying down the law in a high-and-mighty "I'm God and you had better obey me" way. He's stating a simple fact that is one of the hardest of all things for me to internalize. When you truly love someone who is put in authority over you (like God, or parents) you want to be like them. The way to be like them is to do what they instruct as the way to live.

I want to be like Christ. Really. I can't imagine anything more amazing than loving like him, having his wisdom, and kindness, and compassion. I want to live in complete obedience to God like Christ did, to the point where he was willing to lay down his own life because he knew it was the only way to save us. He faced the biggest fears anyone could face, the fears of persecution and death, with grace and humility. And God was glorified. I want my life to be like that!!!

But when I dive into my daily routine I find that I'm not faced with dramatic choices of life or death. I don't have opportunities to exhibit epic heroism for Christ. Instead, I have to get three children out the door so we get to school on time. I have to make sure that they are fed and hopefully dressed by then, and that their hair is at least brushed (forget fancy hairdos). I need to be sure that my family is fed, so there are grocery runs and meals to make. I want my husband to feel somewhat relaxed when he arrives home from an exhausting work day, so it's helpful if the house looks slightly picked-up. These are just a few parts of the routine. Add to that the non-stop interactions with the kids which range from the joyful and hilarious to the grating, frustrating and angering.

When the frustration starts to boil I know I'm walking a line and I have a choice to make. I can go my way and let the temper overflow. Doesn't it feel great to blow up now and then? And after all, the kids have deliberately pushed my buttons. They made me angry, right? So in a way they deserve my anger that can spew and roll over them like lava. We'll all just wash it off later. No lingering effects. Right....
My other choice is to step back and pray. To take my hands off and say, "Lord, I can't do this. My attitude sucks right now and any love, patience, kindness, and self-control here is going to have to come from you. I choose to obey you and let you work."

How does this play out? The few times when I've truly done this, the results have been shocking, but not because they were supernaturally miraculous. Rather, they seemed completely natural. I was still in the midst of the situation with my kids, but my perspective changed and I wasn't boiling with anger any more. I hadn't done anything to change my attitude, and so it wasn't till later that I realized there had been a change...and that change could only have happened supernaturally.

It seems so simple and obvious that the best choice is to obey. And yet over and over again I am fighting it. And the reason I am is because if I step back and let God take the reins I am giving up control and I don't know what the result will be. If I hold onto my anger, I can guarantee the result: the kids will be upset and I'll be kicking myself for the day with my guilty conscience. But hey! I got to keep control over that situation!

So as we talk with Clare about making the right choice, I find I'm talking to myself over and over again. And I'm praying more that my words will not just be for show, and that my desire for her obedience won't be so that I'll be the great Mom-in-control. I'm praying that she'll learn how to make this difficult choice now when she's young so she isn't fighting it so hard when she gets to be my age. Who knows how many marvelous things God will be able to do in her life as a result!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Since Valentine's Day Was Last Week....

Valentine's Day is not a big deal at our house for a few reasons, but in recent years, this year particularly, it brought little to no pleasure for me. I'm not a Valentine's Day hater or anything; in fact, I give it more weight than most "Hallmark Holidays" because it actually has a history that dates back to Roman times and the early Christians. For this reason, I'm letting it stand on our calendar.

But there a few reasons why we don't make it a big deal. I could blame it on my Dearly Beloved, who is not a romantic. I'm not being sarcastic when I call him "Dearly Beloved," because Kraig really is that. I am blessed with a husband who I can trust with my life, who loves me despite all my foibles, and who does everything he can to support our family and be a great dad. More than that, he deeply desires to do God's will in everything, which gives him first place in my view. But romance and special occasions are not his forte. Once in a long while he blows me away with something amazing, but after almost seventeen years of marriage, and three years of dating prior to that, I've come to expect that as the exception, not the rule.

Really, though, that's not the only factor. As much as I'd like to think I'm a romantic, I'm not. Practicality always wins out. Yes, Kraig could by me flowers, or chocolate, or a lovely card, but then what? I'd like the flowers, but they'll wilt and have to be thrown away. The chocolate would be yummy (and he'd know to get good, dark chocolate, too). But do I really want more candy kicking around the house? And the card would be a lovely sentiment, but do I keep it forever to add to my ever-growing pile of papers, or do I toss it? I won't even mention a costly dinner out with a babysitter and what that would do to the budget.... Yep, don't like that thought.

But then this year there was one more thing that just about put me over the edge: the valentines needed for my kids and their programs. We had five occasions that required valentines this year, and two of those also required a covered shoebox, one fully-decorated. Clare and Ev, for educational purposes, had to address and sign their valentines. This is good practice, but it meant a week of little stickers and valentines that had to be brought out and then put away until all were done and put in little bags to be sent to school. Then, once the class parties were over, there was the question of what to do with all those not-so-dear valentines brought home that, heaven forbid, we throw out! I won't even go into the fact that this also meant more candy coming home which then has to be dealt with.

Sigh! Cynical, aren't I?

To say the least, I knew when February 14 rolled around this past week, I'd better come up with something special for us to do or I'd wallow in self-pity and loathing for the whole day.

So Evie, Jon and I made a cake. Cake-making, in this house, is a special treat. I like to make cakes that taste good, and I think those who have had them would agree I typically succeed. Ev loves to help (and Jon thinks he does), so it's a great chance to help them learn things like mixing and measuring. There's also the added benefit of licking spoons and bowls afterward, which Clare got home in time to take part in :) .

While I can make a truly delicious cake, decorating is not my strength. We started with a delicious buttercream frosting, so no problems there. Color and design, though, always are a problem. Ev and I first thought we'd work with a palate of pink, red, and white, but then we saw raspberry on the back of our food coloring box and decided to try that. The result was rather more purple than we expected, which put a damper on creating red hearts for decoration. So we made our red into a darker purple...with limited success. The bright green helped a bit, but you'll have to judge the results:

I can assure you, though, that it tasted marvelous. The fact that I added an extra ounce of chocolate to the batter didn't hurt either.

The kids approved the whole process, and my Dearly Beloved and I have enjoyed the results this week, too.

So while I'm still a Valentine's Day cynic, at least we had something that made this week a treat.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Butterfly Effect

There is a part of me that never forgets this day of the year and always dreads it. A part of me that would rather it didn't sit there on the calendar, waiting, reminding. And yet this morning it was only as an afterthought I realized that the time during which I made breakfast and ate it with my family was the same time of day my eldest daughter died three years ago.

Oh such great significance her life and death that it's only as an afterthought I think of those final moments, right?

Oddly enough this is a thought that's been niggling at me for a while. How does Keren's life and death play out in the grand scheme of things?

Clarification: I have no doubt that her existence was fully planned and intended by God. I also have no question that she was a gift to us, and not only us, but many around us. Her life shaped Kraig and me in ways we never expected, and God grew us in ways I would never exchange. I know, too, that her death was in God's hand, and it happened exactly when it was supposed to. I was reminded of this twice this past week with Jesus' words in Revelation 1:16, "'I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.'" Death has no power without Christ's permission. All these are truths I know, and I rejoice in them.

And yet, six-and-a-half years of life. What are those in the vast timeline of mankind? I've almost hit forty, my grandmother is 93 and I've got a great-aunt who's a cracking 97. And yet even our lives are so short on the line. So 6 1/2 years? What is that?

 I suppose if I sat down and started listing things out I would see how much her short life has changed mine and my family's. I would see the myriad ways God has taught me more about unconditional love, the value of all lives no matter how fragile, His sovereignty and centrality of every part of my life. I know these are effects of having known Keren. But on the other hand, nothing huge has shifted. While she lived, Kraig and my world included multiple doctors, therapists, special education teachers, fellow parents. In the three years since then our tie to this world has grown thin. We still know some and stay connected in a way, but that is no longer our world. I regret that at times, but at the same time, I don't feel that God is calling us to try to keep close to this world. We will never forget it, and we value it much more than we ever could have without Keren, but it is not our world now. I don't know exactly where and what He is taking us into, but at the moment, I know it's not back into that world. Does that lessen the significance of Keren's life? Obviously no, but I can't see the big picture and so I wonder.

I suppose that one thing I have realized through Keren's brief life is how important every life is, no matter how short. Every life impacts another...and another...and so on. The ripples continue. My grandmother, for instance, has six sons, fourteen grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren who have watched her for years and have been blessed by her humble, godly spirit. That doesn't even begin to touch the hundreds of other lives she has touched. On the other hand, a life snuffed out deliberately, even before birth, affects others by its very absence. I've read some interesting discussions recently as to how the world would be different if Steve Jobs' biological mother had aborted him. Makes one think! The two miscarriages Kraig and I had before Keren deeply affected us. For one, if either had continued full-term, Keren would not have been conceived. For another, the very loss of them vastly changed our perspective on Keren's life when we knew prenatally she might have Trisomy 18. We knew we wanted her, longed for her, no matter what. We wanted her to live! And she did, longer than we had dared to hope. And the lives she touched go on to touch other lives, and so on. The individual timeline might be brief, but each life impacts a life.

A butterfly flaps its wings, clouds collide, tempests rage, floods rise, rainbows of promise appear.
"How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures." ~Psalm 104:24
I just wish I could see it all from God's perspective. But as I am not able to, I will continue to live here through the storms and floods and wait in confidence for His rainbows.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Learning to Love Round Tables

I hate change.

I've said it before. I'll probably say it again.

I have always hated it, though now that I'm "grown up" I hate it differently than when I was, say, four and threw a temper tantrum when my parents exchanged our rectangular dinner table for a round one. I have matured greatly, and I know now that fits over table changes is pretty juvenile, particularly when the rectangular one was a cheap temporary table my parents got when they were married, while the round one was an heirloom that still graces my parents' dining room and will be passed through generations. How silly I was!

No, now I just hate change with bursts of internal self-pity and outbursts of woe directed toward patient ears of trusted family and friends. There are also extended railings that go on toward God. See how much more mature I am?

Okay, enough sarcasm. In reality, I know God has helped me grow a lot regarding change. I've gotten much better at accepting it, and even my railing and venting is part of my processing, the moving of my heart to the same place of acceptance that my head is. Because I do know that God is so much bigger, and has a much better grasp on all of my circumstances than I ever could. It is He who will make everything beautiful in its time, and when I willingly let Him do that work, my heart changes and I see that the round table is ten times better than the rectangular one.

Still, I try not to be a proponent of change. I will accept it passively, but I tend to avoid doing things that will change my routine or life. As Christmas approached this past year I contemplated Mary and her circumstances in those nine months before Jesus' birth. She was faced with change immeasurably more than any I could imagine, but it was all external. She didn't cause it to happen. And she accepted it with grace, faith, and obedience. I want to be like that. But I don't want to start the ball rolling. Of course, that's sort of silly to think, too, because it's always God who is going to roll the ball (that lovely antinomy of sovereignty vs. free will). I guess what I'm saying is I don't initiate risks to my routine...unless I know that God wants me to.

And there's the rub. About four months ago it became very clear that I had to give Kraig the freedom to start looking into something that could lead to a major change in our family. Hopefully brief overview: When Kraig and I got married, we fully intended to head into work overseas, whether missions or otherwise. Kraig wanted to teach, and with that in mind he pursued a PhD in Civil Engineering. I got a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. On September 27, 2002, our lives took a huge, amazing detour when Keren was born. Suddenly overseas work was put on the back burner, and we learned a whole new world of special needs. And our hearts grew in ways we could never have imagined. On January 28, 2009, Keren died, and in an instant we were left with a huge question: Are we back to where we were before our detour? Obviously life had changed for us, and at that point we weren't considering any drastic shifts other than adjusting to our new world without Keren. That was enough. And God used even that to show us grace and beauty. But over the past few years, God has been teaching me more and more about surrendering to Him, and letting Him work through me in whatever way. I want Him to shine, and the only way I can do that is to give up my little whims, because really, they don't make me happy anyway. I had to give Kraig the opportunity to look.

All that to say no change is occurring in our family at the moment. There is absolutely nothing definite except the fact that the possibility is there. That's the funny thing, too. What I'm dreading is the change that may come. I have no idea what form it will take, or even if it will occur, but I am dreading it. That in and of itself actually frustrates me because I know from experience that God can and will work out the details, including the state of my heart. I just don't want to let Him do it because it means change.

In the meantime, I'm watching as He's shifting some things around me that mean inevitable change in the lives of some close friends, and as a result in Kraig's and mine and our kids' lives. It makes me wonder if God is shifting those pieces first to get my heart in shape. On the one hand, it strikes me as perfect because it's not me triggering the change; I'm the passive recipient. Just what I prefer. However, once again I dread these changes. I want my rectangular table!

My fears make me want to scream sometimes. I hate being bound by them. I hate fearing change, because I know it's one more thing that separates me from the full joy and peace of a relationship with Christ. And yet there is something in this that is apparently a part of my make-up. God made me with this bent. It doesn't mean I should wallow in it and take it as it is, though. Rather, I need to seek Him, and continually give my fear and frustration to Him--over and over again. And perhaps when I am old and gray I will have grown to the point where I can immediately rejoice in the round table. And perhaps it will take till I get to heaven. In any case, it keeps me leaning on Him, and that, when it all boils down to it, is the best position to be in.