Memorial Day--Six Years Later

Six years ago this weekend I sat inside a chilly intensive care unit, listening to the hiss and beep of a dozen machines that were keeping my daughter alive.
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That time also marks the beginning of a journey of faith for me. As I stared at the lifeless form of my eleven-year-old child, I heard the whisper of God: "Do you trust me?"
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I only had two choices: I could rant and rage, let panic engulf me and doubt beat against my heart like a battering ram. I could allow this tragedy to tear me apart, destroy my faith, and leave me bitter and angry.
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Or...I could give my child to God and let Him decide the outcome. Either way, I knew I would never be the same.
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"My ways are not your ways," I knew He would say and that was an understatement. My ways would never have allowed for this. My ways would never offer the choices we were given: vegetative state, paralyzed, non-functional, crippled...
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"My ways are higher than your ways."
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Do we really believe that?
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We do when it's about other people. We wax eloquent when we peer into the lives of others, but what about when it's YOUR child in a coma? When it's YOUR marriage that's falling apart? When it's YOUR financial crisis, heartache, or failure? Do you believe it then?
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We would never choose many of the paths God chooses for us because our goal is comfort, ease, and happiness. His goal is holiness. His goal for us is that we become more like Him and He chooses specific circumstances for each of us in order to accomplish His goal for our lives.
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I would never have chosen the path He ordained for my daughter, but I'm so glad He did. His purpose is being accomplished in her every day. Her lifelong disabilities are God's mark of ownership on her life and she chooses to honor Him with the life He gave back to her. It wasn't the same life she left. That's gone. But the new one accomplishes God's goals for her far better than any choice we would have made.
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The photo above was taken by Susie. I like it because it's an expression of her spirit that dances free under the protection of God, despite her many challenges.
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You have only two choices about your struggles as well. You can fight them, grow angry, and doubt God's sovereignty. Or...you can give it totally to God, and forfeit your right to approve the outcome.
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Either way, you will never be the same.
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Happy Anniversary, Susie!
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See http://savingsusie.blogspot.com/)
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We're back in the cattle business.
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These aren't them, but we bought a couple of calves last month to keep our acreage grazed down. Actually, we bought three, but...well, it's a long frustrating story involving my poor city-clicker husband, so I won't go into it. Suffice it to say that we have two calves physically present on the place.
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One is already gentling down to the grain bucket, but the other is a spooky little thing. One glimpse of a human being sends him flying to the other side of the pasture. But he does like grain, so as soon as I retreat, here he comes.
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You'd think after watching the daily equation of:
human+bucket=yummy grain
he'd catch on that I'm not the enemy. But so far, he still thinks I'm Godzilla and that somehow the grain magically appears when I do. He has no idea how much more of that grain is available to him if he'd stop fearing me and come closer.
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As I watched him bolt away from the feed today, tipping the bucket and spilling most of it on the ground, it reminded me of how many times we do that to God.
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He is the giver of every good thing in our lives. We don't mind praying and asking for all kinds of things, hoping and believing He'll give them to us. Yet whenever we sense that He's about to draw near and require something of us, we bolt. We cling to the unfounded fear that He might be scary. Might harm us. His will might involve doing something we don't want to do.
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We stand wide-eyed across the pasture, watching and wondering if He's gonna come after us, chase us down, and bring hurtful "lessons" our way. When all he wants to do is gentle us, feed us, and work on our behalf.
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No wonder the Bible so often compares us to animals. You can learn a lot about yourself from watching them.
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Do you bolt when God gets too close to your special holdout? Are you afraid to let him search your heart too closely? Are you tipping over your own feed bucket?
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Are You Willing to Get Dirty?


The photo to the left is symbolic of my destination this week.
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Just looking at it makes my nose turn up. I can almost feel the cold squishy mud between my toes, smell the sour stench of the pigs, feel my stomach tighten at the thought of plunging in with them.
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But that's exactly what I'm about to do.
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Following God's call on your life usually requires getting dirty. His paths rarely lead only through pristine meadows and sparkling castles. The path Jesus took when he became flesh required him to get down in the mud with us, smell our stench, feel our cold revulsion.
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And His call on our lives requires that we be willing to do the same for those He brings across our paths.
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"Do you love Me?" Jesus asked Peter three times.
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When Peter replied that of course he loved the Lord, Jesus' only answer was, "Then feed my sheep."
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But sometimes those sheep act like pigs. They smell like pigs, live like pigs, and have allowed the foul stench of evil to permeate their lives. Feeding them requires that we enter the pigpen, get down in the mud with them, and pull them out.
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As a counselor, I have to hear the yukky details of sin-smeared hearts, ask questions I don't want answers to, listen to details I'd rather ignore, and meditate about how to shine a light into a darkness so black it makes my skin crawl.
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A part of me recoils at the thought. I'd much rather frolic on the mountaintops, worshipping the beauty of the Lord, rejoicing in His wonders, delighting in what is good and pleasant. But true obedience requires that I follow Christ's example. That I "let this mind be in me, which was also in Christ Jesus..."
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His heart is down here in the mud with the sheep that think they are pigs. And that's where He's sending me.
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Feeding some of his sheep is the least I can do after all He's done for me. If He was willing to come after me, who am I to turn up my nose when He asks me to dive in and rescue someone else.
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Okay, smelly sheep. I'm coming for ya.
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Welcome to My Garage Sale!

Isn't this an exciting pile of junk?

I'll bet you have some just like it.

Yep, I'm having my annual garage sale this weekend. I always dread it. I'm always glad when it's over every year. And every year, I wonder if I'll really go through with it again next May.


But I do, because I'm cheap and greedy and I know how much money is invested in all that junk and I can't bear to part with it without at least some token of reimbursement.


Isn't it amazing how much clutter we accumulate? Then we have to build bigger houses to hold it all and work extra hard to afford that bigger house so that we're never home to enjoy any of it.

And most of it we told ourselves we really needed. Probably paid more for it than it was worth and now, there it sits--used, broken junk in a dusty garage, on sale for pennies.

I think this is what God had in mind when he warns us not to store up for ourselves treasures on earth. It looks like a treasure when it's all bright and shiny and smells new. But more quickly than we can imagine, it joins the rest of the junk cluttering up our lives and stealing our affections.

When it comes time to weigh your treasures, will they be nothing but a pile of dusty junk? Have you invested more of your life than you should chasing breakables?

God's investment plan can begin the moment you want it to. "Store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven" by "seeking first the Kingdom of God." God doesn't have garage sales because his treasure continues to grow in value throughout eternity.

But, if you insist on accumulating more breakables, then come on over tomorrow! I've got some deals for ya!
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Would You Please Be Still!



Do you have a spot like this?

Do have a place where you can escape the clamour of your life for a few moments and just BE.

When did the desire for solitude become a sin? Who decided that this generation must go at breakneck speed day and night to be considered worthwhile?



When did "busy" become a virtue?

And most importantly: When did God's people start to believe the lie?

Psalm 46 is a command from God: "Be still, and know that I am God..."

If we must be still to know that He is God, it stands to reason that we must forget that when we are too busy.

"But what I'm doing is important!" you argue. "I'm in full-time Christian work! I don't have time to sit still!"

"...my kids keep me on the go constantly..."

"...I don't have time to eat, much less sit still for any length of time..."

We have all kinds of rationalizations for why that verse does not apply to us, but no one is exempt. It's not a nice thought; it's a direct command from God.

The simple truth is, busyness and constant activity shove our awareness of the greatness of God to the background of our minds while we race from point to point on our mad missions.

I find the second half of the verse explains the first half, but we rarely read past the colon. God goes on to say, "I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth."

Notice how God doesn't seem concerned about getting His job done? He can be exalted all over the earth whether you stop or not. In fact, He will be more greatly glorified when you stop every day, take a long breath, and just be STILL. Center your thoughts, realign your priorities, remember Who you're working for and how short the time is.

Are your frenzied activities having any eternal significance? Will what you're stressed about today matter in ten years?

God is glorified every moment of every day for all eternity. It's an ongoing celebration--and you're missing it!

Be still. Listen. Pray. Think. Offer thanks. And a little taste of that glory will fill your senses, flood your soul and give you strength to carry on, reminded that you're not really so vital after all. God doesn't need your frantic pace to accomplish his work here on earth, but He would like you to join Him in a quiet cup of tea every day and stay acquainted.

Be still. Know that He is God.

Was it Enough?

She did it! WE did it! Congratulations, Susie!

Another high school graduation is over. Three down, one to go.


High school graduation means something entirely different for a homeschooling mom than it does for other moms. It's OUR graduation too, although our little darlings will not understand for years exactly what we mean. They'll never know the hours of preparation, study, worry, frustration, prayer and more prayer that got them to this moment. But was it enough?
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They will never know the years of second-guessing every decision: Did I choose the best curriculum? Would she have done better in another school environment? Did we cover history well enough? Would she have...Did she...Did I...Was it enough?
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Every mother has those doubts about her parenting, but when you've been led to homeschool, the total responsibility falls on your shoulders alone. There is no one else to blame if Little Precious can't do math, can't conjugate a verb, or can't find the United States on a globe. There's no teacher to berate, no school system to snub, no principal to sue. It's only YOU.
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So when you walk across that stage and hand that black leather folder to your child, it's the end of a journey for you as well. You've spent eighteen years hacking through a jungle in which you held the only machete, whacking away at ignorance, tearing through the tangles of red tape, making the tough choices, financial sacrifices. You deny yourself the privilege of being NICE MOM and choose instead the role of TOUGH TEACHER to ensure that this child gets the best start in life you can provide.
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You know it will be years, maybe never, before they understand what they've been given. You watch them chatter excitedly in their black caps and gowns, see the excitement in their eyes as they talk about following God, hear the sincere innocence as they learn to follow His voice for themselves.

And as you hear their passion for reaching the world with God's beauty and truth, you know you did your job, but wonder if they'll ever really understand.
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But as you sit there, listening for your child's name to be called, you hear another voice--the Still Small One who called you to do this in the first place: "Well done. You did everything I asked you to. I'm proud of you. I'll take it from here."
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And it doesn't matter if they ever understand. HE does. He is pleased with your obedience. And that's enough.

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Nobody's This Ugly


This is the ugliest tree I've ever seen.




It used to be beautiful, full and heavy, a fifteen-year-old Virginia Pine I planted as a seedling. But the last two winters of heavy snow and ice took their toll and bent the poor thing in half. There was no standing it up again, so I took my chainsaw and sorrowfully chopped it off. I thought about sawing it all off and pulling up the stump, but I hated to. After all, it wasn't dead.

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Maybe it would come out of it. Maybe there was something worth saving.

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I left one straggly branch as a goodwill token, hoping it wouldn't hate me so much and give up entirely. Secretly, I planned to wait until it officially died and then go about the gruesome task of digging it out with an appeased conscience. (Yes, I get attached to my trees. I've had some of them longer than some of my children.)

It shouldn't live. Whacking it off like that should have put it into shock too great to recover. But take a look...

That's healthy new growth sprouting on those twisted branches! There's new life inside that twisted tree. It hasn't given up.

Life can be vicious and ugly, robbing us of vitality and a will to live. The world gives us a thousand reasons to give up and die, and too often we believe it. But new life can thrive in the most unlikely places, when we let God do it through us.

Has life dealt you a tough blow? Do you feel as ugly and twisted as that tree? Don't give up on yourself too soon.

God loves to coax new life from deadwood. What you call defeat, God might call pruning. Hang in there and see what beauty he can bring from your ruins. With God, it's never too late.
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Will I Ever Get it Right?


Well, Babe was at it again.
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Just when we thought we could trust her to stay within our fenced 2 1/2 acres while we were outside with her, she vanished. Like a puff of smoke--one minute we see her romping through the tall grass and the next, she is gone.
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After calling in vain for 15 minutes, I was ready to find a recipe for Irish Setter stew.
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She made her appearance a couple of hours later, on the front porch, tongue lolling, smelling of pond water, sticker burrs embedded in her fur, and refusing to make eye contact. She's not the brightest bulb on the string, but she knew she was in trouble.
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She took her scolding and banishment to the backyard without the usual indignant bark and sulked under the trampoline until we had calmed down.
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I found her escape hole in the fence and fixed it, muttering uncomplimentary dog insults all the while.
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"We can't trust her anymore," Micah announced. "She doesn't get to go out the front door ever again."
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I agreed. For a while.
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Then those saggy, pleading eyes got to me. "We'll try it," I said. "I'll watch her like a hawk."
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We did. She never ventured near the escape hole. She watched us with eager eyes as though hoping she was doing right this time. Every few minutes, she would interrupt her romp to come charging back to us, eager for praise--which she got.
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She could disappoint us again, we're aware of that. But as long as she's trying, she deserves another chance to get it right.
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Do you owe someone in your life a second chance? Or a third, fourth or fifth chance? Babe's just a dimwitted dog, but even in her, I sense an eagerness to earn our forgiveness. She wants a chance to prove she can do it and be praised and loved for it.
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People are the same way. How quickly we give up on them, turn our heads and shrug: "Well, if that's how you are, forget it. You don't deserve my attention. You've blown it."
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I'm thankful God never says that to me. I mess up over and over, sometimes on the same things, but he's always there to pick me up, point me in the right direction, and offer complete confidence that this time I can do it.
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Babe's still getting her daily romps as long as she stays within the guidelines. And as long as we're seeking to please God, he offers us as many chances as it takes to succeed.
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Have you given up on yourself in some area? Decided you'll never get it right, so why try? Is there someone in your life who needs another chance from you?
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God hasn't given up on any of us, so we don't have the right to give up either. If Babe can do it, anyone can!
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