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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Choosing to Walk into the Danger Zone

Hurricane Gale destruction... Terrorist standoff... Avalanche and Flood aftermath... shocking School Shootings... horrific Fiery Infernos...

When everyone else is running the other way... the bravest of the brave choose to stand and face the nightmare and walk straight into the Danger Zone.

Firefighters and Danger.  We know a thing or two about these.  Our Number #1 son wears the gear proudly and has shared stories of fearsome fires that sorely tests the faith of this faint-hearted mother...

My heart spills with love and deep gratitude for the willing sacrifice that Travis and so many of these brave men and women make to protect us from the most grievous of dangers. 
And as our family gathered together this Easter past, a realization bloomed slow and sure as I watched our lovely daughter and her husband walk out the call God has placed on their lives... the Danger Zone is not reserved alone for the spectacularly dramatic explosions in our lives.   As Katie and Jordan sweetly tended to the needs of a child that is not their own... I saw a willing sacrifice to walk straight into the Danger Zone, wrecking the heart, quietly and completely, with a powerful love brave enough to face whatever nightmares might come ...
Katie and Jordan's Fostering Journey has been filled with moments of great hilarity, sincere gratitude and on-your-knees-pleading-for-strength to get through...  They could start their own blog if they had but time!  I have found great delight in watching  the children placed in their care bloom with life and trust and laughter and love... the brothers that arrived last November, burned and hurting, both physically and emotionally, have begun the healing process and were recently placed with a trusted family member...  in their wake a small, but feisty little 9-month old girl took up residence in their homes and hearts, her craving love and attention all but drowning out the missing of those precious boys....
... and so it goes in the fostering world, the loving and the leaving... a bittersweet parting that is the sacrifice Katie and Jordan have signed up for... the heartache of falling in love and letting go... to protect these little ones, it is a safe-keeping of the most fragile kind in a very real Danger Zone.
Danger Zones.  Be it a very physical wounding or a deeply carved emotional grieving ... I've learned that we are all stronger than we think we are. 
When mom was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, she fell head-first into the most dangerous of Danger Zones.  In the beginning she questioned her ability to walk the road laid out before her.   For her, the Danger was both physical and emotional.  There was fear.  There were so many tears.  There was pain.  There was sickness.  Her prayers were for the strength to maneuver the journey with Grace and Dignity.  God answered completely.  Mom learned to her own amazement that she was much, much stronger than she ever thought she was...  And she would tell you that you are too... Don't ever give up on living your life's story... you are so much stronger than you think you are... 
I've also been on the other side of the life-lens and felt the searing pain of watching my mom consumed by the nightmare of this terminal cancer.   Perhaps you are there right now... it is a special kind of agony caring for a loved one that cannot be healed... so many times I wanted to do nothing more than run as far from the pain and hopelessness as I could... it simply hurt too much....
And yet, I've learned that what applied to mom, applied equally to me... and to Dad... and our friends and family... we are so much stronger than we think we are.  When every instinct in us urged distance from the pain, a wall against the heartache... we were able to stand together, face the foe and run straight into the Danger Zone for mom... we were all so much stronger than we ever thought we were...
all because of Love. 
It is a sacrificial gift to stand in the gap for those we love... to wade into the muck and mayhem of cancer treatment... to clean up the vomit... wipe the brow... shoulder the despair when the crown of hair falls loose to the pillow... wipe the tears...  prepare the meals to tempt the listless... drive to appointments and wait endless hours in cold, sterile rooms so they won't have to wait alone... apply balm to throbbing mouth sores and lotion to swollen feet... to smile into the fear... to offer grace... to just be there...
Choosing to Walk Straight into the Danger Zone.  For Love.
This is what the bravest of the brave can do. 
"The Lord God is my Strength,
my personal bravery, and my invincible army;
He makes my feet like hinds' feet
and will make me to walk (not to stand still in terror, but to walk)
and make (spiritual) progress upon my high places
(of trouble, suffering or responsibility)!"
                                        ~ Habakkuk 3:18-19 (the Amplified Bible)

Friday, April 18, 2014

When God Doesn't Answer Our Prayers...

In the midst of family hugs and baby kisses...

Our week-long visit with our Illinois kin went much too fast!
And right in between games of Rummikub and Springtime Grilling...
Sacred conversations mingled low and hushed.
Grandpa Don, family patriarch, giver of peppermint candies and piggy-back rides, Sunday morning bus runs and fish stories, has been grappling with the hard things.  The questions of faith and prayers and the promises of God...
Over quiet morning cups of coffee and afternoon strolls down sterile corridors... the struggles emerged.  This journey thru life weighing heavy.   Diabetes and prostate cancer can ravage a body.  And this man of faith prays hard for healing, for the pain to ease, for comfort...
For with God all things are possible... Yes?   He told us to Ask and it shall be Given... True.  We nod.  It is a promise we hold fast...  and yet he shakes his head in defeat... then why has He not answered my prayers?   In a fit of frustration, Don gestures to a body betraying him, tired legs that refuse him the independence of walking free, burning lungs starved for the oxygen whistling thru the infernal plastic tubes and brittle bones aching long into the night.  Why has the God I have served, and believed in and trusted with my very life, turned a deaf ear to my cries?
We listen to his heart.
Cry deep inside for the pain we know he feels, the loss we feel as he ages before our eyes.
And we search the Word for life, for hope... for Grace in the midst of the hurt.
We pray.  Yes, even still.  Pray for faith to grow, for answers, for peace...
And God is there.  In the most unlikely of places.  In a nursing home, filled with the frail and dying.  A minister dares to speak scripture that made us cringe...
"And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that
comes the judgement, so Christ, having been offered once to
bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal
with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him."
                                                               ~   Hebrews 9:27-28
To speak of death to those staring it in the face?  And yet the minister continued, as if he could read Don's mind... God could easily answer all our prayers.  Prayers for healing, for remission of cancer, for wholeness in the flesh.  And if He did... why, no one would ever die!  For who doesn't pray for healing when they are sick?
I blinked at the logic.
And something clicked for Don.  A light shone bright.  After the worship service he was different, more content.  His focus had changed.  His faith found solid ground.
As Don worked thru the message that day, he admitted that he never really thought about how he would die, never expecting to suffer at such length.  Maybe, he said, I thought I would fall asleep one night, healthy and whole and wake up in heaven, completely skipping the "dying" part. 
Sometimes it's hard to accept that God's plan, His journey for us, will at some point take us through the death valley.  He will never turn a deaf ear to our cries and is there every step of the way... longing for our faith to be made whole and complete as we walk at last into eternity.  Complete and whole and more loved than we could ever imagine. 
"Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work
within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask
or even dream of, infinitely beyond our highest prayers,
desires, thoughts, or hopes."
                                ~Ephesians 3:20
Later that afternoon, as we gathered together in a boisterous family circle, Don blessed the fellowship, the food, and encouraged our faith in the Grace of a Mighty God...

God delights in answering our prayers...if we only open our hearts and receive.
In Grace, Always,

Thursday, April 10, 2014

McDonalds, the Internet and Another Road Trip

So... I just might be having Internet withdrawal...

Wow.  It's been 10 days since I last had a connection (I think... it might be longer... I have lost track of days in my social media white-out).  How did the Pioneers ever survive?

We have been on a Road Trip to the North to visit Farmer Husband's family, most especially the sweetest in-laws a girl could ask for...

Over the past year, as their health has teetered, they have made some hard decisions... home is now the Marigold Assisted Re-hab Center.  And yet, they haven't been quite able to part with their brick-and-mortar home filled with memories and antiques and treasures.  It has been closed up (no internet!) and winterized these past months, just waiting for visitors from afar :-)  
The fellowship and time together has been marvelous... so much to share in days to come... however, it will have to wait until we get home or find another McDonalds (who knew they had free wi-fi? Order another chocolate shake please!)
Pictures and stories and hope mingle right along with miles and miles of interstate.  We're headed home...
Love and Grace,