Thursday, July 20, 2017

I'm dressed for the pool when out of nowhere, one of our summer afternoon thunderstorms hits, delaying  my lap session. So I wait, determined to work in my mid-week exercise. I later realize, exercise is not the priority, Jesus is! I finally slip into the water an hour before closing, as a young substitute lifeguard from a distant pool arrives and takes the stand.  Just Qaazi and me... It's clear to me that he wants to tell his story and because I'm the only one in the pool, I'm the obvious audience. I swim a few laps and while resting, he shares details. Qaazi, a bright  Pakistani teen, tells me about his school, his college plans, his secret girlfriend. More laps and rest. He shares about his whole family and BOOM, announces that he's an atheist! And for a second punch, is all for abortion. (But rejects the Big Bang ???) Perhaps, he is testing me for a reaction,  which he does not receive.
I swim a few more laps, praying for an opportunity to share my faith. Qaazi softens. He pours his complicated relationship with his family and religious leaders; He hates the rules, he hates the hypocrisy. There's my opening. So I agree that I too would have to reject his parents'  Allah and the burden of earning my after-life. I speak tenderly about my Jesus who also detested the hypocrisy of Pharisees and who lovingly came from Heaven because following the rules could not get us one inch closer to life with our Creator. Relationship not only message. Qaazi listens without debate. There are no more laps on this day, just love for a young seeker.
Lessons learned:
God ordains our days. An earlier trip to the pool? No conversation!
A new appreciation for immigrant students making sense of two cultures
One must cast off false gods in order to fully embrace the love of the One and Only.
Like my pastor always says, the world has come to our city. We are "foreign" missionaries on our own soil.
I probably will never see Qaazi again on this planet, but I'm praying I'll see him in Paradise. I ask God to reach him whether by ordinary or miraculous. Qaazi is on a journey and I want him to know my wonderful God
Perhaps you will join me in asking.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Credit: Steve Schroeder
      I'm surrounded by growing paper piles this rainy Monday afternoon. New policies need to be compared, supplemental ones concentration wanes. All I can think about is life before cancer, the sweet, easy time when we compared restaurant options and travel destinations...together! 
I took care of my duties and Rob tackled his. Now that I'm responsible for both, I'm deeply grateful for all that he shouldered, especially the business decisions. Rob was a selfless provider who made life better for his family.  I added to our income, but without Rob we would have starved.  Because he fought the Katy Freeway traffic and accumulated frequent flyer miles most every day of his adult life, I was able to enjoy my children's lives without the added exhaustion of another full-time job. It's only now that I realize the length of his list. It was very long and he completed it without a word of complaint. (I can't say the same for myself.) I'm forever thankful for his devotion to his family's needs. Not one child left college with a debt burden, when the economy declined, he worked wherever there was opportunity, and he made sure we would live comfortably if "in the event."  Rob laid down his life for us.  On this rainy day, I'm reminded that his kind of love is rare; I shall not forget.  
Rob, I'm so proud of you!  I love that you are resting from the hard things of life. Thank you for caring so much about us.

Steve's original photo is stunning. My attempt to scan it does not do it justice. Thank you, friend, for this beautiful treasure. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Larksong has been quiet lately. I've never written regularly; it seems silly to write when there's  nothing worthy to record. I'm still keeping a journal of lessons learned, just refraining from making them public.
Four years ago our cancer nightmare began. Ever since I've been fighting to keep going, even as the losses continue to mount. (There's a lot of collateral loss with the death of a dear one.) Currently I find myself flat on my spiritual back; one too many losses.
I hurt...I hurt deeply.
I keep trying to pick myself up, but it's always a futile, temporary fix.
I found myself sitting in an old Catholic Church in the country the other day, staring at a plaster statue of Jesus, asking for this crazy pain to STOP!  Imagine, pleading with a statue. Well, my eyes were opened. Sitting in the silence, I realized  I've been running to the temporary for a very long time.
I've been ashamed, too proud to bare my weakness, my growing grief.  I've wanted others, including Jesus, to see a brave, strong survivor; I've tried to shield myself from pity. But it's been a lie; I've been wearing a huge, crumbling mask. I'm not brave or strong. Not at all!
 There is only one place to really run with my pain. Straight to Jesus, the real Jesus, not a substitute icon or activity or dream.  Is there anyone else out there, struggling with a heap of hurt? If so, I gladly risk embarrassment or disapproval. Join me in disowning it; let's hand it over!
So the real lesson I'm learning this season...
Pain is real.
It might last a lot longer than we want.
Leave it in the hands of Jesus.
We may find ourselves continuously releasing our hurt; it's not a one time thing.
I am not really sure what giving over looks like at this point. I just know that my arms can't hold all of this loss.
But I know the One who wants to carry my pain.
I'll be sitting in the quiet a lot in the days to come, letting this hurt leak, trusting Him as He wipes away every tear.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Friday, May 19, 2017

After a very bumpy week....
Things I have learned this week: Wisdom is trusting God even when most of the puzzle pieces go missing,* God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves,* and after yesterday's scary brush with a disturbed woman breaking into my car, now I can breathe and I feel Grace rush over me!**
*Joni Eareckson Tada, **vintage Plumb

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Things I've learned this week: faith is really a lifetime of deliberate, sometimes scary steps of trust, I'm learning to resize my giants*, and on a lighter note, I'm hopelessly untrendy and okay with it. 
"Your giant may be big, but your giant is not bigger than Jesus." Louie Giglio

Monday, May 8, 2017

Things I've learned this week: the struggle between "what if" and "what is" continues, my failure is not fatal *, I never want to be in a single generational fellowship!
* from a Duane Brooks's Sunday sermon
Struggling with failure is really an issue of pride, an area of my life I've lately asked Him to reveal to me. He's doing a pretty good job. What if I look like a total idiot? Pride!
 I've been pondering about the blessings of serving with multiple generations. Littles have a lot of hugs to give, their parents crave encouragement, seniors (oh that's me!) need to be wanted...and hugged by littles!

Monday, April 3, 2017

It's the word I borrow from Chris Martin to describe that mixture of sadness and joy that comes from having something (or someone) really wonderful in your life, but now that it's over, you move forward filled with the sweetness that ever glows.
Today, I'm left with the everglow of my favorite weekend of the year, my church's annual family retreat. I wish I could recapture the weekend through photos, but family privacy is always a priority. 
Every year, I pause at the chapel and relive a thousand memories of past camps, retreats, July 4th weekends, thanking God for so many wonderful times with family and church friends. I always laugh at the time I sat on one of the old concrete benches and it broke in half.  It took a long time to live that one down! I smile at the thought of sweet Autumn babysitting our littles in one of the old musty motel rooms while we laughed until we hurt with our precious group of young marrieds. And like an old family movie running through my mind, I can almost see Rob leading our kids on horses around the corral, teaching them to jump into the lake from a rigged up rope, and playing the piano in the little white chapel during our Sunday morning worship time. 
Camp Tejas 
Each year I have the privilege of teaching the pre-K/Kindergarten class during breakout sessions for the adults. It's always so fun and a lot crazy. This year they loved making their own expression of Love.
My favorite activity was a sensory walk to help them understand how "dirty, stinky, smelly, yucky" the disciples' feet would have been after traveling dusty roads by foot and just how beautiful it was for Jesus to kneel before each of his closest friends, washing their battered and repulsive feet before eating their last supper together. Oh yes, you guessed it; we knelt before each little eager learner, called them by name while wiping their pint-sized feet, and by example, taught them this extraordinary love story.
This is Love
The weekend was full of fun: kids ziplining with their moms, friends romping in the mud pit, lathering shaving cream on each other, eating picnic style, and most importantly, families of all ages drawing closer and making lasting memories.
I'll admit, it was hard to come home to a quiet, empty house after such a lively time, but I packed all those priceless memories to keep me company.
Do you ever have one of those moments when you know without a doubt that God created it just for you? Saturday night was one of those gifts.
We were enjoying family movie night, featuring the animated version of Beauty and the Beast on the big screen, complete with ice cream floats. I had not watched this classic in years, but found myself singing along. 
Lights raised, credits rolling, I was caught! Tears just streaming down my cheeks. My dear friend, Mark B.,  locked eyes with me and smiled, and in that beautiful pause, he affirmed that tears after a love story are a gift to treasure. We both knew; the message of transformation and sacrificial love brings deep gratitude. 
But he didn't know of the many nights we gathered around Rob's piano to sing our assigned parts as Rob played the score he so loved. I didn't realize the power of those family memories.  

So if you have stuck with me this far, here's my weekly list of lessons.
Things I've learned this week(end):
Family is not always blood, sometimes the best worship is climbing tall towers with two little boys, and always model kindness.

Family Retreat 2018
Save me a place!