Faith

How Young are You?

I used to want more stuff. I kept a mental list of things to make my home cozier, make me look more stylish, or up my game as I drove down the road.

And I spent hours striving to achieve my goals.

But today, I want more moments. The ones you savor when you wake in the middle of the night. The ones that usually come at no cost. Moments like:

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  • Sneaking in as my babies slept to hear their gentle breathing.
  • Grandkids dressed for bed in their Papa’s T-shirt. Because spending the night was a last minute decision.
  • The sound of the kids trying to be quiet on Christmas morning.
  • Finding my child, in a sea of faces, as their choir sang, “Jesus loves me this I know…”
  • Waking before dawn, stepping over sleeping children, in a tent, at the beach, so Tim and I could watch the sunrise.

So many moments filtered through my fingers. And now I wonder, did I pause enough and soak them in?

Maybe the true blessing of eternity is time. Time to savor the insignificant without thinking it mundane. To sit still until the sun rises fully in the sky. To never rush the moment. To fully appreciate the presence of a God who longs for my attention. Who decorates this world in His glory.

GK Chesterdon describes it beautifully:

Sunset“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again;” and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

Maybe, our goal is to learn how to exult in monotony. To never tire of the simple things. To savor a moment until it floods us in His glory, keeping us forever in His infancy.

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Hey, Can We Get Some Peace Over Here?

1My brain hurts after weeks of the incessant badgering by both sides of the cultural debate going on in our country. Most of the dialogue I ignored. Especially from my more outspoken friends and followers on social media.

I don’t have answers. And I’m tired of trying to win arguments. Now, what bothers me, is probably not what you think.

I have a large family. And within that family we all share a broad range of views on every subject. And that’s always been the case. And none of the incessant streams of pro’s and con’s on facebook has ever changed any of our minds. But we’re still family, and I love the whole bunch.

But, to me, what has changed most in our country is the intolerant divide that seems to be growing between good people who simply believe different things.

I’ve spent years working under many different types of leadership. And the leaders who stand out the most are the ones who were able to unite a diverse group of people for a common goal.

I was privileged to work under African Americans who, to my amazement, garnered the respect of the most ardent racists on their teams. I also worked under women, who blew me away with their ability to get male chauvinist pigs on board with their ideas.

One of the greatest accomplishments of our great nation has been its ability to unite its people. And great leadership pulls that off in a way that makes everyone feel as though they gain something in the process.

No group of people is ever right all the time. And I understand debate is necessary in order to get all views on the table. But the goal must always be to find the best solution that keeps the people united. And when the unity begins to dissolve, great leadership adjusts and pulls everyone back together.

So this 4th of July, my prayer is for God to rise up leadership devoted to unity. Who will put aside their desire to win the argument, in favor of building a team. Who’s passion will be to settle us down, and give us some peace.

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We Were Her Monsters

She told me the story years ago. And to the best of my recollection it went something like this:

IMG_2779She was young, and very much in love. It led to an engagement that eventually fell apart. And in despair, she thought her life was over. Until she heard the gentle whisper of God. He asked her to give Him her life, so she did.

Against her parent’s wishes, she left the security of their Texas home, and started seminary miles away in San Francisco. “If I were catholic,” she told me, “I’d have become a nun.”

Having given up on love, she was surprised to find it there when she fell head over heels for my Uncle Eugene. They married in a small ceremony in August of 1950.

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Aunt Jeanne Marie & Uncle Eugene on their wedding day

They graduated and the young couple, not yet fluent in Spanish, left to serve the people of a country village in Venezuela.

In those early years, she longed for nothing more than to have a baby. Month after month led to disappointment. One day, she thought her dream had finally come true. And desiring not to disturb nature, she sat still and busied herself sewing a quilt. Something to cover her future infant. When the sun set, her blanket was done.

But by morning her dream was shattered. A doctor told her it would never happen. Her body didn’t seem to have what it took to carry a child.

She could no longer bear to look at that quilt. So she sold it at a bazaar to raise funds for the village church her husband pastored.

A little old lady bought it as her burial cloth. She called it her, colcha de un día, her quilt of a day. And she cherished it until it fulfilled its purpose.

Aunt Jeanne Marie would never have a baby of her own. But that would not stop her from mothering. And to me and my five brother’s and sisters, she’s as much our mother, as the one who gave us birth.

You see, she came one May in the midst of our violent storm. I was ten that day.

Years later, I tried to get her to admit we were monsters. But she couldn’t bring herself to say the words. I chided her, “Come on Aunt Jeanne Marie, we were out of control.”

Final63c64-2802_1142623879990_1291601_nly she sighed, “Alright Ellen, you were monsters, but you were MY monsters.”

Over the years, I’ve often thought of that quilt. I’ve imagined my aunt meticulously sewing its seams. I’ve imagined her hope, and I’ve imagined her brokenness.

To this day she insists loving us filled that void. That she’s never looked back and wondered, what if?

So this Mother’s Day, I will raise my glass to my other mother, the one I proudly call, my Aunt Jeanne Marie. So indulge me as I honor this woman who taught me how to love. Because that love saw past the monster in me, and it embraced my potential. And it powerfully nudged me along, all the way to adulthood.

Now you tell me, where can you find a better Mother than that??

He was Always There

I was ten, but I saw everything she did. How she took care of my four siblings and me. How she turned back my mother’s bed at night. How she cleaned our tiny home. She didn’t have to do it; after all we were her nieces and nephews. My Mother, her devoted sister. But at the moment she heard of my father’s death, she came.How to get Mojo

For days I’d watched her every move, waiting for the perfect time to tell her how I felt. Then one night after she’d tucked us in, I got my chance.

After leaning into our bunk beds and kissing us good night, she touched the foot of our beds and said,

“God, put angels on their bedposts.”

Lying on my stomach I rested my chin in the palms of my hands and watched my Aunt Jeanne Marie shut off our bedroom light. Then she turned in the doorway and said goodnight. Long streams from the hall light fell around her and the raglan sleeves of her robe flowed when she moved. She looked angelic.

Overcome with emotion, my mind searched for something to say. I longed to tell her that I knew how much she loved us.

Finally I blurted out, “I got it Aunt Jeanne Marie. You’re our fairy godmother.”

She laughed softly and said, “Good night darlings.”

Then she turned off the hall light and I listened to her gentle footsteps fade away as she walked down the stairs.

In the dark, I rolled over on my back and tucked my hands underneath my head. I stretched out my legs and crossed my ankles and stared up at the ceiling.

Yeah, that’s it. She’s our fairy godmother. Just for me and my brothers and sisters.

I didn’t really believe there were angels on my bedpost. But, Aunt Jeanne Marie was real. And she was there and she belonged to us. I didn’t have to wonder if she loved me. I just knew she did. IHow to get Mojo didn’t have to wonder if she’d take care of us. I just knew she would.

Sometimes we must grow up before we realize, that from the beginning, God was orchestrating our lives. That in this crazy mess of a fallen world, brokenness invades, but God delivers.

I don’t think it’s by chance, who shows up or when they arrive. I now think it’s all part of His master plan.

My Prodigal Heart

Fourteen years ago, Daniel walked out of this prison a new man. In honor of all he’s accomplished I’m re-posting this.
66309-dsc00209The fog had not yet lifted the morning our van climbed the hill to the Staunton Correctional Center to pick up our son Daniel. His five and a half-year sentence for foolish crimes he’d committed were over and we could finally take him home. To keep Daniel from spending one hour more incarcerated than necessary, we made the 2-½ hour journey the night before. At 6:30 that chilly March morning, he was free and we were there to greet him.

It felt strange pulling up that long road in the dark dawn. A thick fog made the prison seem eerie. Inside the car, silence fell as none of us quite knew what to say. Our daughter Kelly and her husband Dan had spent the first five years of their marriage making sacrifices to visit Daniel. Tim and I couldn’t quite grasp the reality of not spending our week-ends driving to a prison. None of us knew what to expect.

Tim, ever the prankster, went to the guardhouse with a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, but the guard didn’t seem amused. Then we sat in the van and waited. The sunrise began to burn off the fog, but a thin grey mist still made it difficult to see across the yard.

It was strange to think Daniel would just walk out the gate we had entered so many times. It seemed an odd process when so much effort had been exerted to keep him inside.

Suddenly, someone in the van said, “there he is!” But we all seemed frozen.

Carrying a large cardboard box, Daniel stood just on the other side of the sally-port gate. A guard stood by his side. Daniel didn’t move as the first of the two gates opened. There was a brief exchange between the guard escorting Daniel and the guard at the hut, and then the second gate opened and Daniel walked to freedom.

At the same time, the vans doors opened and we all leaped out. Daniel’s blaze orange baseball cap covered his curly hair and his old prison issue denim jacket was unzipped. Underneath he wore a tan shirt that still had the creases from having been just removed from its package.

Without speaking, Daniel stood next to the car as if unsure of what to do next

Even though we had new clothes for him back at the hotel, I could no longer stand seeing Daniel in prison garb. I removed his cap and asked him to take off his jacket. As soon I spoke, the words of the Father of the Prodigal Son echoed in my mind. “Hurry, bring the royal robe…” Tim took the box from Daniel as I shoved him his father’s jacket that was laying on the front seat. He pushed his arms in the sleeves and climbed into the front seat.

On the ride back to our hotel I marveled at why I didn’t love our obedient daughter more than our prodigal son. In so many ways it seems prodigals get to eat their cake and have it too. It’s always seemed unfair in a logical sense, yet emotionally, it’s crystal clear. But I sometimes struggle with putting the two together.

Perhaps it’s because I too have the heart of a prodigal. In my own frustrations over the direction God is leading me, I too have run away, taking with me God’s inheritance. I seldom hesitate to shake my fists and stomp my feet because God didn’t do something I thought He should. After hours anguishing over my foolish tantrums, I marvel at a God who loves me in spite of them.

Too often, I measure myself against folks who seem to do the right thing no matter what. I cringe as family members tell how they never complain. Or how they press on with a positive outlook. Words that could never be said about me. When I get angry, I want to run away from God. But, when I’m out in the world, I’m always shocked by how big the wake of my rebellion grows.

More than once, the overwhelming responsibility to be a “good” Christian has driven me away from my relationship with Christ. I don’t feel like going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, or holding my tongue. Not that I’ve ever been successful at any of those, but the burden of trying weighs heavily on my heart. And in those dark moments, well meaning folks say, “Let go and let God.” But I don’t want to.

Daniel a Pia

Daniel and his daughter Sophia

Fortunately, in the midst of my pity party, I run out of steam. Then I start to remember the blessings I have enjoyed because of Him. I remember how much I matter to my God. And the moment I acknowledge the error of my ways, the realization that He proclaims, “quick, get the royal robe…” amazes me every time.

Having a prodigal of my own has made me aware of the anguish my prodigal journeys cause our heavenly Father. It has made the power of grace very real to me. For it is His grace that makes us all loved equally and unconditionally by God. It’s grace that is the great mystery of our faith. The very thing that never ceases to amaze me. And the thing that calms this prodigal’s heart.