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Friday, November 23, 2012

Turn Around Slowly

I want to begin by dedicating with post to a dear friend of our family who passed away last Tuesday morning into glory, the presence of his dear and beloved Savior.

As I go through life I tend to catch myself in discontentment.  Not major, down-in-the-dumps, miserable depression, but moments of "If things were this way...."   These snapshot thoughts of mine go against my hopeful romance.  They are my fleshly reaction when things aren't the way I want things to be.

When my sister, Abigail, was born, I remember holding her, delighting in her new life.  I stroked her tiny, soft hands, kissed her tender cheeks, stroked the silky head, but yet there was a fleeting thought, "I wish she could smile at me..." 

 My little brother, John-David.  I was almost 7 when he was born.  For the longest time, I filled the "firstborn son" role.  Yep, if Daddy was away I took out the garbage, I killed any unwanted pests that came into the house, I did any heavy lifting, etc, etc, etc.  As I looked at the happy, giggling 2-year-old with a pack of fruit snacks in one hand, sippy cup in the other, I longed, sometimes even laughingly, "Can you grow up a little faster?"

I always wanted an older brother.  My mom miscarried hers and my dad's first baby, the one right before me.  He would have been 20 now.  All my life, "Lord, why?  Didn't You know how much I wanted an older sibling?"  Even though I knew that it couldn't be undone.

God has a distinct and specific purpose for everything.

These thoughts, though they seemed fleeting and innocent at the time, are deadly.  They wreak havoc in the mind, open the door for major discontentment, which ultimately leads to depression.  But it's a slow, steady process of allowing those tiny thoughts to perpetrate my mind.

This is a video that I made for my dad as a father's day gift 3.5 years ago.

This song, Turn Around Slowly teaches a simple truth.  The truth of that hopeful romance that I was talking so much about in my last post.

Live in this moment.

Love in this moment.

Thank God for this moment.

  It's so easy for me to get caught up in how things could be.  "What would my life be like if...?"  Or to dream about what might be coming next.   "When I get married...", "When I have kids...", "When we record a CD..."  

Where is my gratitude?  Where is my contentment?  Where is my perspective

  God has given me each of these moments as a gift.  Every breath that I take is ordained by Him.  He knows me, knows my heart, knows what's best for me.  When I am living in this truth, it helps me to "see" like a child again.

"She said, 'Look at me, Daddy, and love me this moment
this moment is all that we have...'"

 Abigail is almost 6 years old now.  She no longer has those tiny baby hands and silky baby fuzz on her head.  That moment went by so quickly!  But what do I have in this moment?  Her smile. Is nearly contagious, revealing that adorable tiny dimple on one side.  

John-David is 12 now.  No longer a giggly toddler, toting snacks and juice, but a boy quickly maturing to manhood before my very eyes.  Where did the time go?

My older brother, in heaven.  I later realized that if he had been born, I wouldn't have been.  Our pregnancies were too close together for it to have been possible for both of us to have been born.  He died, I lived.

"Turn around slowly, treasure your days here.
These precious moments may come to be rare..."

  I would like to take a moment to tell you about the man to whom I dedicated this post.

  About a year ago, a family in our church bought a piece of property that had a house on it with an attached apartment for the reasons of having the father's parents living with them.  The grandfather had Alzheimer's, and it was difficult for him to do anything for himself. He could barely communicate verbally.  
  This grandfather was a godly man.  He and his wife loved each other dearly.  They invested heavily into their children, the grandfather taught his son amazing wood-working skills, work ethic, and most importantly, a love for God.  It was this love for God that kindled within the son the obedience to honor his father and mother, by caring for them in their old age-- even though it was difficult.  

Every week at church, we would watch the father and son interact.  It was hard to watch the decline in the father's health.  But he always had a smile on his face-- almost every time I saw him, he had a huge grin on his face that just lit up the room.  When I would greet him on Sunday mornings, the love that spilled from his face touched my heart.  

When we pray for someone with Alzheimer's, what do we hope will happen?  That they will be healed and back to their "normal" selves?

Don't despise the moment.  Don't despise that beautiful smile.  I know his son longed to hear his father's voice, at least say his name, once more.  But as he watched his father tap his foot to the rhythm of the music that he and his children played one night, he knew he couldn't look back and miss this precious moment.  We all smiled and laughed when the grandfather noticed that one of the dads in the church had missed a belt loop.  The way he would waved and smile at my baby brother warmed my heart.  These moments were precious, and they have now come to be rare.  Yes, how we would have praised God for his healing, but now we praise God for those precious memories.  Those beautiful, smiling eyes, "Love me this moment..."

Don't live for what could be.  Don't spend your life allowing those seemingly innocent thoughts of "what if" to flit about your heart.  Live in this moment.  Love in this moment.  It is a gift from the Lord-- cherish it.  These precious moments may come to be rare...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hopeless Romance?

I have been accused of being... shall we say, a bit dramatic.
When I love something, I love it and want everyone else to love it too.  When I see something beautiful, I want all to see it and enjoy it with me.  When I experience something amazing, I want the whole world to share in my joy.

A lot of people don't see things the same way I do.

Something that I love, that I have found to be beautiful, doesn't always excite the person I am trying to desperately to share with.

I am a hopeless romantic.

I remember the last autumn that we spent living up north, we had a huge maple tree in our back yard.  This tree was massive, the trunk probably had a circumference of 9 feet.  In the fall, the leaves would turn all shades of yellow, orange, and red-- a canopy over the entirety of our picket-fenced backyard.  I remember, I believe I was 10 at the time, standing in our driveway staring at the tree which rose up a good 5-6 stories tall.  I remember reverence, awe, and utter enjoyment.  What majesty! I had lived in that house for 5 years, I had seen autumn, I had seen the tree turn colors before-- but my breath (not to mention my heart) was stolen away in that singular moment.  I just pointed it out to my mom and dad, "Look, isn't it pretty?"  

I've always been this way, and generally my parents attributed my drama and hopeless romance it to my reading too many books. I can see this-- it's probably true.  Over the years I have gotten more and more practical, and less and less romantic.  Why?  Because I felt dumb when I would get excited over the smell of the crisp spring air, or seeing the intricacies of snowflakes for the first time, trying to get everyone else to "see", but being disappointed when they shrug and act as if it's all normal.

Sure, it's all normal.
I know that, I was just in an imaginary world for a second.  Pardon my drama... again.

I think that this apathy, this nonchalance is a direct attack from the enemy, satan.  He hates hopeless romantics, why?

 I believe that there is true value in being a hopeless romantic.... actually I would change that term, I'm going to now call myself a hopeful romantic.  This is the epitome of what satan hates so much. And I'll tell you why.

Hopeful romance is the essence of the child-like faith that Jesus alluded to in Luke 18:
15 And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. 16 But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

What are some of the attributes of children?  Excitement.  Creativity.  Simplicity.  Wonder.  Carefree.

My little 3-year-old sister will bound into the kitchen while I'm doing dishes and thrust a weed, little yellow flower on one end, dirt shaking onto the floor from the roots left on the other end, into my face, "Look, Amy!  This is for you!"  I gasp, smile, "Oh, thank you!  You're so sweet!" I take the weed and carefully place it in a little teacup of water as a vase.  My sister's grin widens, her eyes disappear into her rosy cheeks as she struts out of the kitchen feeling like a million bucks.

"From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength..."
~Psalm 8:2a

A hopeless cynic sees that weed as nothing but what it is, a weed.  A hopeful romantic sees that weed for what it really is, a gesture of love.  Being able to "see" like a child, to see the beauty of a weed as a flower, to take it as a token of affection from another child, is the epitome of hopeful romance.

So, what makes this romance hopeful instead of hopeless, and how can one see any sort of romance in a world so saturated with sin?  Asks the cynic.

My romance goes back to the cross. (Eph 5:25)  Jesus loves me, I was bought with a price. (1 Cor. 6:20)  He died that I might live. (John 3:16)  I once was dead in my sin, naked, squirming in my blood. He came along, "Live!" He breathed. (Eze 16:4-6) He picked me up, washed me, clothed me, adorned me.

I was once dead, I am now alive.
I was lost, now I'm found.

I was blind, now I see.

I've been reading a book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  In this book, she writes about her journey in how she learned to go from blindness to sight, how she learned to live in the moment, to enjoy it as a gift from God, instead of merely a transition into the next moment.  She began numbering her blessings, gifts from God, some that only she could see.  Like the way that the sun poured in through her kitchen window on a mound of grated cheese.  Who sees beauty in that?  She did, because the Lord knew her, that she would appreciate it.  He loves her, and gifts her according to what he knows that she will love.

 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!"
~Matthew 7:11

God loves me, and I love Him.  Ours is a relationship of hopeful romance.  I have hope in Jesus, that I will have eternal life.  I am His Bride, He woos me and showers me with blessings of His love, if only I have eyes to see them.

It comes in the forms of breathtaking color on the black arms of a gigantic maple.
The intricacies of snowflakes.
The sound of baby feet on the hardwood.
The smell of coffee early in the morning.
The yeasty smell of bread dough on Famer's Market day.
That blissful feeling of that singular peace, that surpasses all understanding.

That, my friend, is why satan hates hopeless romantics.  Because they see the beauty in the tiny gifts that God gives, they enjoy them as gifts.  They revel in the joy and excitement of their Maker.  They are intoxicated by His love, it is displayed everywhere around them.  They can't help but want to praise Him for what He has done.  He loves them, and they see it everywhere.

May we ever live our lives looking for the gifts of God.  Yes, sin permeates the world.  It is grieving, and there is a time for that.  But as a general rule, the Lord has done so much for us, it is ours to thank Him, to enjoy Him, and to ultimately glorify Him and make His name known.

"When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
 What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?"
~Psalm 8:3-4

"How precious are your thoughts to me, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!"
~Psalm 139:17

"Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name."
~Hebrews 13:15

"That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving
And declare all Your wonders."
~Psalm 26:7