Saturday, July 21, 2012

Happy Anniversary

Before I got married, 20 year, 30 year, 40 year anniversaries failed to move me.  Fifty years married got my attention, but only because I was amazed that two people had stayed alive long enough to be married 50 years.  The marriage part seemed easy.  The staying alive part impressed me. 
Of course people should stay married until death do they part. 
What could possibly be so difficult? 
Ahhh, the naivete' of the inexperienced. 
The judgment of the clueless. 

Getting through our first year of marriage was a breeze.  Piece of cake.  Walk in the park.   
In fact, we followed tradition and choked down a piece of our "freezer burned" wedding cake to celebrate our first anniversary. 
What's so hard about this?  We probably gloated in our smooth sailing.  Puffed ourselves up a little at those struggling.  Little did we know...

Five years...that required more effort to celebrate.  We had finally realized that all of that emotional mumbo jumbo that we had felt during our three-second courtship wasn't going to sustain us through some rough times.  It seems we didn't have this love thing as worked out as we thought. 

Eight years...we weren't even sure we wanted to make it to our eight year anniversary.  Is it too late to change our minds?    To admit that we don't know anything about love and it's going to take an ACT OF GOD to make it through this year?   Is it too late to redo some of that pre-marital counseling that we barely listened to because we knew we weren't going to have any of these problems?

Twelve years...forget thinking about the twenty year anniversary.  Our goal was to just stay married for twenty more minutes.   Perhaps if we decided that enough times it would add up to a year.

Twenty years of marriage now earned a new level of respect from us. 
Tell us how you persevered. 
Thirty years of marriage evoked our admiration. 
Tell us you are stronger. 
Forty years of marriage implanted hope.
Tell us how, how, how you got here? 
Fifty years of marriage humbled us to tears.  
Tell us, oh please tell us, you are enjoying your legacy of commitment.  

Forty years ago. 
June 25, 1972, a little farm girl from Eastern Colorado and a barely older farm boy from the neighboring town married and began their life together.  A new family created.  A legacy to continue or begin depending on how you look at it.     A baby girl came first to this young couple.  An energetic boy added four years later.  The four of us would be asked by our Heavenly Father to live life together.  To walk through dark days together, to enjoy blessings side by side, and to learn the cost of loving one another unconditionally.    The journey would take us through military life, medical life, family life, and a newly found Christian life.   My parents  married as non-Christians and each came to know the Lord in different ways at different points along the path.  It would be this grace---this hope---this forgiveness---that would be of utmost importance for them to pass on to their two little ones.

Forty years of marriage has softened their hearts, not hardened them.  Oh, that we could all say that about our own lives---that years of marriage have softened us and made us more tender instead of hardening us and sprouting plants of bitterness. 
They made a choice. 
Bitterness was earned. 
They chose to love.  
And that would be one of the greatest lessons they would pass on to us kids. 
You can choose to love.    
Forty years being married is a decision, not a given. 
Somewhere along the way both of them decided to stay.  
Fully stay.

My parents reaching their forty year anniversary means so much to the kids they raised and to the grandchildren they enjoy. 
It means my parents sat together on my wedding day. 
It means when I go "home," I don't have to pick which home. 
It means my children can ask both Grammy and Papa what their mama was like when she was a kid.  They both were there.  (Although my mom would argue that you better ask her because my dad won't remember.)
It means my mom talks about my dad with love and not hate. 
It means my dad has a partner who knows all about him from the beginning and loves him anyway. 

The other great lesson that I've learned from their marriage comes from what they didn't teach me. 
To focus on what they didn't teach magnifies the pessimistic part of my personality, but at its core this lesson has truly been life-giving. 
They never showed me how to walk away.  They never showed me how to give up. 
It's foreign to me how two separate homes can share one set of kids harmoniously. 
Quitting on my marriage would have been a trail blazed by me alone.  They certainly weren't going to pave the way for me.   Anyone married longer than six months knows that's a gift.  
Don't point us toward the way out.
Don't tell us it might be easier to leave.
Don't show us how to split children between two homes. 
Instead, show us there is a way to stay.  
And show us what life can look like when you do. 
What a gift. 

Their marriage, their choice to persevere was not easy. 
Each marriage knows its own joys and sorrows.  
And I've had my own choices to make. 
My husband too. 
Both of our parents staying married for all of these years has not guaranteed an easy road or an automatic fulfillment of our own personal vows.  We have to do that on our own. 
There was no riding the coattails of their choices...although that would have been nice and less painful.  
But I'm so, so, so thankful to live in the afterglow of my parents daily choices to remain committed through the trials of life. 
Their legacy continues thus far.  By God's grace will they have many more years to fully enjoy the blessings of their choice to stay.   
And may that be the path they have paved for generations to come.  
Happy Anniversary to my mama and dad!

July 21, 1995
Seventeen years ago today.
Happy Anniversary to my favorite person.  
That God would give us joy in walking along side each other all these years later brings me to my knees in amazement.  May He get any glory there is to be found in our family's preservation.  
"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him." (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
Remember the day we found that verse?  
Two roads were set before us---the difference between life and death for our family.  
As we sat in the fork in our road, that verse cried out to both of us.  
And somehow on that day we both actually listened. 
Only you and I know what those years have held. 
So glad we stayed.   

Friday, July 20, 2012


The longer I parent the less I know.  It seems I had all the answers before I was pregnant.   
Even having little ones didn't scare me too much.
The answers seemed clear.  I'd read all the books.    
Feed them. Nap them. Change their diapers.
Read them books.  Sing them songs.  Pray with them. 
Almost easy.      
Physically exhausting, but definitely "controllable."
Countless times, I'd piously tell my mom the answers to raising children.
Somehow being a parent of little ones for under 3 years had elevated me to expert status.
She always held her tongue.   I thought it was because she knew I was right.  I did have all the answers. 
Sneaky Mom.  Now I know it was because she was letting me gloat in my fantasy world knowing that it was just a matter of time before the realization would hit me that I REALLY KNOW NOTHING. 
Children grow.  They change.  It seems to be their job.
There's a new stage around every corner.  
The discipline that worked for one child barely moves another. 
I can't find a "self-help" book written that clearly lays out how to put my husband first while setting boundaries for a teenager's email activity while tempering fighting sisters as I'm rocking a baby.
Would someone just give me a step by step manual on how to do this? 

I'm fighting for peace as a new stage of parenting enters.
Letting go.    
It's pushing through the door completely unwelcome.   
Go away.   Come back in a couple years when I'm more mature and I can deal with teenagers and their independence.  
It enters anyway.   Whether I'm ready or not.   
My first-born son is a teenager.   My second son nearing the title.  
This is not easy.   
Fear is perched on the doorstep of my heart threatening to replace any sense of peace. 
I'm afraid I have no idea how to be a mom right now.    No clue.   
They no longer simply need food and sleep and wiping. 
They need guidance.  Yet they don't really want it.  They need listening ears, yet they never want to talk when I'm in the mood.  It's all on their time.  They recognize my hypocrisy and point it out.   They question the unquestionable.  They reason eloquently for certain privileges and I resort to saying the dreaded line, "No, because I said so."
I see the look in their eyes that says, "Really?  That's the best reason you can give me?"  
They need pointed to the Heavenly Father...without words.          
Their choices have become no longer mine to control.  Perhaps that's my biggest struggle today.
Oh, how deciding if they had enough vegetables for the day sounds like a blissful discussion.

I recently heard a friend say to her teenage daughter, "You know...this is our first time raising kids so you are going to have to give us some grace here." 
This is our first time doing this parenting thing and God's really going to have to pull out a miraculous intervention. 
Some days it seems we are doing everything in our power to ruin our children.
Lord, have mercy on my kids.  

My prayers used to be coherent in regards to my children.  
Well, not always coherent, but longer, heartfelt, complete.  
Now, they are primitive.  Simple. 
Help, Jesus, help.  
Save, Jesus, save. 
Wisdom, Jesus, wisdom. 
Some days, I can't even pray with words, but just groan in my spirit.  
Romans 8:26 "We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." 
Take my groans, Lord, and turn them into something.

And then I'm surprised.  
Surprised when I get my I-tunes bill and my teenager has bought "Jesus, Friend of Sinners."
Surprised to see him searching for a particular scripture to give some encouragement to a friend. 
Surprised when I check his email and find a hint of goodness woven into his writing.
Surprised when the pre-teen is helping his little siblings act out a Bible story.    
Surprised that somehow God isn't completely dependent on me to raise these children.  

As my panic attack at raising teenage children grows, God surprises me with periodic reminders that He really is in charge.   He saves.  I don't.  He's the giver of wisdom.  I'm not.   He's not afraid.   I am.  He's sees all.  I can't.  He will have His way. 
No mistake I make, no ignorance I display, no uncertainty I feel can interfere with the plan God has for them.
They are His.
His Will will be accomplished.
Why would I be surprised that God could be working in the heart of my teenager when He changed the heart of the apostle Paul?  
Why am I completely shocked to see some fruit growing in his life in spite of his membership to this sinful family when every person used in the Bible came from a similar sinful family?
My children are children of God first.  
And He has a plan.        

I don't know which lessons they need to learn the hard way in order to understand God's grace. 
I don't know what heartaches they must see in order to believe God's love for them. 
I don't know which part of their road needs to be broken in order to prepare them for a future ministry. 
God knows though and I can already see Him starting to weave. 

If my mom had had her way, I would have been sheltered from all of life's failures, heartaches, rejections, disappointments.  But even the most vigilant parents cannot shield their children from everything painful.  The reality is that given the choice to redo life without those mistakes---those disappointments---those failures---I'd never take it because it was in those moments that I really met my Lord.  
And there's nothing I desire more on this earth than for my children to meet their Lord. 

So why am I so afraid for my children? 
Am I afraid that the God who was big enough to carry me isn't big enough to carry them? 
Am I afraid of watching where He might take them? 
Am I afraid their faith won't sustain them?
Yes, yes, and yes.  Yes to all of the above.
God is not afraid.   And my fearful heart is having to lean into my Savior who knows what the future holds and has no fear for my children.   

I'm slowly, painfully, having to practice this faith-cling everyday.  
Yesterday, my pre-teen walked by me as I whispered, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." 
"Are you swearing, Mom, or praying?"
Are you serious, Child? 
"Praying.  Praying that even though you have parents who are unsure of how to raise you that God will save you, grow you, heal you, and use you."   

Does it get easier?   Will we be professionals by the time we get to Noah?  
Or will we be so tired that we just won't care?  
Jesus.  Jesus.  Jesus.  
When I'm too weak to even recall a verse, there's power and peace just in speaking His name.  I sense we'll be whispering "Jesus" for the sake of our children for the rest of our lives. 
Hopefully my children will know me well enough by then to know I'm crying out to God and not cussing. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Alaska--Take 1

I'm not a fan of wildlife, danger, adventure, or cold. 
I'm afraid of darkness, grizzly bears, ice-cold water, and isolation.
I'm the child that loves fences because I feel safe.
The riskiest thing I've ever done is marry my husband which I'm pretty sure qualifies me for a lifetime membership to the "living dangerously" club.  That's how I classify adventure.   
I had very little hope of being won over by Alaska's wilderness, but my husband asked me to come and like I always do, I submitted.  Ha.
My man assured me that he would not let a bear eat me unless...unless there was NO chance of my survival and then he'd save himself for the sake of our children.  Such comfort. 
I'll go...but I won't be moved.  I'm too cynical.  Too hard of a sell.  Too afraid.        
In fact, my stomach ached with anxiety the entire flight. 
I distracted myself by asking my Louisianan seat partners questions that I really didn't care about just so I could lose myself in their beautiful Southern drawl.  If I could have only forgotten for a moment that I was thousands of feet above ground in a steel bathtub then I could have really rested. 
My eyes drifted closed while my spirit protested that I needed to stay awake in case of what, I will not admit, but just in phone rested on my case...
The thrill of entering this great Northern frontier was completely lost on me as my plane forged through the darkness.

And then light began to appear in the distant horizon.  I checked my watch. 
It was nearing midnight and the light pierced it's way through the black sky. 
It seemed we were chasing the sun. 
My fretful heart grew quiet. 
I watched the sunset---not rise, but set---30,000 feet above this strange, tundra-laced ground in the wee hours of the morning. 
My hardened heart melted in anticipation of exploring this desolate land too far to the north for my liking. 
Dusk at 1:00 a.m.  This might be pretty cool. 
I got out my sunglasses.

Interior Alaska.   No coast, no whale-watching, no salmon fishing, no Arctic Circle, no nothing.  
What could we possibly see here?  Where's the touristy things?   I want the t-shirt. 
Enter Denali National Park.  Six million acres of protected land.
The home to the "Great One"--Mt. McKinley.  The highest peak in North America. 
There's only a 16% chance of seeing the whole mountain on any given day.  We weren't in that percent that got to see it.  In fact, we weren't even in the 30% that got to see part of the mountain.  Rich, dense clouds hid this majestic creation from our view.  We verbally begged the sun to push away the fog.  It would have been so incredibly easy for the sun to just do its job and show us the mountain.  Reveal, Sun, reveal.  Not on that day.  Mt. McKinley remained hidden. 
But God opened up His world to us in other ways. 

Six million acres.  And that's just Denali.   That's not counting the millions of acres of Alaska's lands that remain untouched simply because the conditions make human expansion difficult.  It's as if the Lord created such magnificent beauty in an arena that He knew our human hands wouldn't be able to easily touch.  Because if we could touch it, we would.  If we could build on it, we would.  If we somehow could be comfortable here, we would settle.   And we would forget that it was the beauty of the creation itself that had brought us here in the first place.

There's nothing here.  Nothing, but everything. 
Creation holds the conversation. 
Moose drink carelessly by ponds.  Rivers and streams wind their way aimlessly, braiding the land with glistening ripples of water.  White-capped mountains appear and disappear as the clouds rise and fall. 
The language of the silent places.  The quote was on the wall in the Denali Visitors Center.
Unaltered by man, Alaska's creation speaks---no shouts!--to all privileged enough to drink of its beauty.  
God's creation on display for all to see. 
It seems obvious---glaringly clear that some Mighty Hand was at work in the formation of this wondrous sight. 
A guide slipped in the words "adaptation," "tens of thousands of years old," and "Mother Nature."
Absent was the mention of God or Creator.    
I fought the explosion of protests that came bursting from my heart at the mere implication that somehow, someway, this magnificence was without a Master Designer.  
How can everyone not see?
God is shouting from every brilliant flower, wild animal, mountainous rock, and soaring bird and some don't hear Him? 
Animals play in the most fantastic playground ever created and we can't acknowledge a Creator?  
A 20,000 ft. mountain arises in this Alaskan front yard and somehow that's a product of chance?  
Mother bears fight for the protection of their babies and that's just an evolved instinct? 
How can anyone not see God here?
He's everywhere.  Everywhere. 
He whispers in the bubbling, glacier-fed stream.  He roars in the growl of the grizzly.  He sings from the mountains that rise up all around.  He smiles in the bright purple and yellow wildflowers painted on the tundra. 
The Rocks Cry Out. 
How could I not see my Creator here?  And how could I not believe in His great goodness and His great love. 
That's the conversation I heard in Denali National Park.  

And that's what we did.  We enjoyed a walk through time with God the Creator.  Our hearts drank as much beauty as our sinful hearts could hold.  We ran our hands through the silt-filled rivers.  We paused and gazed on a mama bear protecting her babies.  We squealed with excitement as moose trotted back and forth before us.  And we stopped.  We stopped hurrying, planning, and worrying long enough to just enjoy being with our Maker.  Look how I've spun the flowers of the fields.   And we studied the petals of a flower.   See how the wisps of clouds obey Me and decorate the sky.  And we saw a mountain-top peek from above the fog.  Watch how the caribou trust that I will feed them.  And we pondered the caribou feeding lazily on a bush.
Come Enjoy Me.     
The twenty-one hour days in an Alaskan summer open up the great frontier to all of us novice creation seekers.   God draws open the curtains and throws the light upon this spectacular land for a few short months before He slowly closes the curtains and turns out the lights.   Soon, this soul-stirring frontier will be blanketed with darkness and snow and only the determined will pursue its isolation.   

I argued for a brief moment with my husband that we should move up here.
Let's do something totally crazy and move to Alaska.
Apparently he doesn't really think I'm Alaskan material.  
Bitter cold winters.   Cars that need to be plugged in to keep the engine warm. 
Wind chill that freezes fingers instantly.
Barely lit days.   The sun hardly rises before it begins to set.  
Activities like snowmobiling and dogsledding. 
Okay.  Okay.   He knows me well and knows that with every mention of cold, darkness, and dogs that my excitement about moving up North would be completely extinguished.
I guess I'm really an Alaska in July sort of a girl. 

But God has used His creation to move me.  To stretch me.  To silence me.  To make me smaller and show me His grandeur.  To refresh me.  For one instant, I forgot my name and just longed for Him.  For that, I am deeply, soulfully, thankful. 

The plane is nearing my home.  My phone rests on my lap just in case.  My kids await and I'm so excited to see them.   And I can't wait to tell them about their God, the Creator.  His creation surrounds us and proclaims His existence every day.  It shouldn't have taken a trip to Alaska for me to love that part of my Lord.  But I'm very thankful that I got to see...
That I got to see the rocks cry out...