Falling In Love

Camp Sham

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9

I fell in love with Jesus at Bible Camp when I was twelve.

I knew Him already. As long as I could remember. A little girl, singing in choirs, sitting next to my Daddy’s pinching fingers in a wooden church pew. He’d lost most of four fingers on his right hand in a factory press, making what was left perfect for getting a pigtailed toddler to quiet down for Pastor’s sermon. Not that he was unkind. My daddy or the pastor. Dad was a gentle man, and quiet, with the nicest blue eyes. My earliest recollection of the robed preacher who stood before us on Sunday mornings, was that he must look a little like God.

I knew what Jesus looked like. His picture hung in a Sunday School classroom, eyes sparkling, hugging children. Today we’d talk about how the artist must not have done his homework, didn’t take into account where those kids grew up, or Jesus either. Skin tones and sparkling eyes all the wrong colors. An unfortunate miss. And yet, what sticks with me is the love.

We were Lutheran. Baptized as infants, confirmed as teens. Vacation Bible school on folding chairs in a cool church basement every summer in between. We’d drink Kool-Aid out of Dixie cups, and watch filmstrips featuring woodland creatures retelling the parables of Jesus. Earthly stories with a heavenly meaning. I memorized liturgy and hymns on Sunday mornings, singing with gusto. My mom likes to tell the story about Amy Paulson standing next to me in Children’s Choir, fingers in her ears, looking at me when the song concluded, “You’z mixed me all up!”

By the time I was a fourth-grader, my legalistic tendencies had started taking some of the joy out of the singing. My public-school teacher was a guitar-playing Christian, and a man, and I loved him. He told us regularly he prayed for us. Taught us gospel tunes and folk ditties, accompanied by his oh-so-cool strings. And then one day Mr. Gilson introduced us innocent scholars to the unthinkable. Rock-and-Roll. Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog. GASP. I know. I’ll never forget. Fighting tears and trying not to think about how my Christian hero was singing the devil’s music. A couple of years later, Miss Amy Paulson, still outspoken, labeled me a Puritan, referencing my religious convictions.

And so the summer after the sixth grade when Mom signed me up to go to Lake Beauty Bible Camp with my Covenant friends—I already knew all about Jesus. I’d been a truly devoted follower from the womb, seemed like. But at camp, I fell in love.

Years later I would attend a Baptist college, and a handful of Evangelical churches. I’d be re-baptized in a lake in Illinois. And eventually I’d work on a church staff, teaching baptism classes myself. Time and again I’d be called on to give account of my own faith story. My Salvation Testimony. And I’d tell it this way. The summer I was twelve, I fell in love. No altar call. No sinner’s prayer. But something significant in the heart of a girl who knew and loved Jesus.

I’ve walked in this love all these years. As a teen, defending my faith in spite of a wee bit of persecution. As a young mom, leading my littles to trust in Jesus. With my husband, pursuing lives devoted to Christ. And then, in my 30’s—a transformation. Something happened. A lifetime of striving replaced by the most breathtaking grace. Which seemed like a mystery, after so many years of loving Him.

I’m in my fifties now, with adult children, learning to love and be loved in another season. This summer, speaking to kids at a Bible camp. Like coming full circle. Sharing my story. “I loved everything about camp that summer. I loved the people and the singing and the games and the crafts and the swimming and the smell of the pine trees. But mostly I loved Jesus.”

I was twelve years old when I fell in love…

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Home: New Chapter

Lake Day

We did it. Last week. Twenty-three years of Orchid Street miscellany packed into a Big Blue Box and stored away. Childhood memories of five boys preserved in Rubbermaid tubs—and imaginations. One boy, once the youngest, now middle, sends a text from Colorado: I honestly can’t even think of a bad memory I had in that house…

And I text back: NO bad memories??!  Because, really. Let’s be honest.

Of course, I can probably relate. Forgetting the pain and remembering the joy—like childbirth, right? LOL. (Have you ever listened in on a group of women telling delivery room stories? Just saying.)

I drove past it yesterday. Our Orchid Street house. There was pink on the porch. A doll buggy, I think. Which made the whole thing seem rather final.

A few minutes later I sat in Cheryl’s three-season doing Bible study with once-neighbor-friends. Laurie and Sandy, Jean and Sharon. Barb, my former across-the-street neighbor, and realtor’s wife. Each of these gals twenty-plus years in the neighborhood, and ten-plus summers sharing stories of family and faith at Cheryl’s house. Jamie and Julie were there, too, brand new to all of it. Delightful women. And I can’t help thinking of the friendship ditty. Make new friends, and keep the old ones…  

I have no intentions of NOT keeping them, and I said as much. The first Monday evening of each month set aside for dinner with the gals, and I won’t be missing out. Laurie and I have a walk scheduled for the week after next, a run at the lakes as soon as Cheryl gets back from vacation.

Maybe I’m in denial, or maybe it’s just that everything seems so RIGHT. Moving in with my in-laws for the next several months while we build our place. Friday morning, last, I drove home from where I’d been speaking at camp while my family wrapped up the final details of the move without me. They’d been sending texts, sentimental, with sad-face emojis. Enough to get my stomach knotted for the drive back home. Home. And that, of course, was the conundrum. Was I going home?

By day’s end Kyle and I had our bed set up downstairs at his parents’ house, a matching chest of drawers, clothes neatly organized in our first ever walk-in closet. Both of us weary, me from hanging out with Trailblazers all week, and him from doing the heavy lifting. Our dog Maple, my father-in-law’s new best friend, curled up on the floor with a sigh. I’d been home for a total of six hours, and I could already say, it was.

Next day we left midmorning to head over to Brian’s to see the boys in their new space. Felipe’s apartment is still under construction. New bathroom finished except for installing a mirror. Kitchenette in need of food and flooring. Kyle tackled jack-hammering the old tile to make way for new faux-wood, while I took the boys and Sidney to Costco and Aldi for some power-shopping. Later I loaded up laundry for washing at Grammy’s, a washer and dryer still TBD at Brian’s, a good excuse for me to Mom these guys a little longer. Jimmy—who’s temporarily apartmenting until the start of college soccer in just a couple of weeks—let me lay on his new double bed, exceedingly more comfortable than the twin currently packed in the storage box. He thanked me for the grocery splurge, told me he loves me. Which of course, is exactly what I needed.

This weekend they’ll all be HOME, driving up from Iowa, flying in from Colorado. Here for a cousin’s wedding. Grammy has a storage room so big and so neat, it fits a double bed and a twin, with room to spare. We’ll be spread out, but together. Gathering around a table at Acapulco, a Twins game, a day at the lake. Green Lake, where Kyle and I have been spending our evenings, moving woodchips, mowing weeds, cutting logs for a firepit circle. A circle for family at our future home.

Crazy Okay

Sold

Inside my head, I’m crazy okay. Ridiculous. How thoughts can be chill in the middle of everything happening all at once. This week, submitting another proposal, prepping my talks for camp next week, packing the last few boxes, ready to load the Big Blue Box on the driveway outside. Every evening I connect Bluetooth, GOAT playlist on shuffle, Nils’ 170+ soul-care songs. Yesterday we chatted on speaker phone while I made dinner, me telling Nils how I’d exhausted his list, Spotify kicking in with one of its own, not nearly as good. “You listened to ALL 170?!” Well, maybe. I’ve packed a lot of boxes.

Twenty-three years on Orchid Street. Five kids and one dog, not counting husband. Making piles of whose-is-whose, and what’s-going-where. And all things considered, I’m crazy okay.

The crazy comes out in physical manifestations of involuntary responses. I’ve become a horrible passenger, backseat driver. Startling and gasping at minor infractions, perceived or otherwise. Knee-jerk reacting, hands flailing, husband claiming injury by fingernails to forearm flesh. Borderline madness, and I make it a matter of prayer one morning, ask God for healing. Which is when it hits me. This might be a warning-light on the proverbial dashboard. Perhaps I’m not as chill as I think.

The Jeep is back, parked on the street, after round-two of post-deer maintenance. A month or so ago, coming home from the lake at dusk, we knew to watch out. Previous trips successfully skirting the occasional herd. Unpredictable creatures. Hard to say who hit whom, Jeep faring better than Doe. Two weeks on a body-shop wait list, one week haggling insurance, mending seeable damage. Two days back in our possession, me saying from the start, something’s not quite right. A trip to the airport, Luke barely making it back to Andover, back into garage, the old girl’s steaming like mad, hissing something awful. Next day Kyle’s halfway back to the body shop, calling a for a tow. Radiator, of course. Back home again now.

Flashing lights on a dashboard. A previous pastor liked to remind us at staff meetings. Heed the warnings. A nerve in my neck, seizing up for the second time this week, debilitating for a few seconds, but I shake it off, get back to work. A jaw achy from nighttime clenching. But inside my head, I’m crazy okay.

The dog knows something’s up. You can see the skepticism in her body language, head down, tail drooping, watching her people scramble about, filling boxes. Man’s best friend is savvy enough to know changes are brewing. That, and she’s somehow managed to mangle her paw just this week, no idea how it happened. Jimmy’s scheduled today for his required doctor’s visit—pre-college/pre-soccer. Might as well throw in a trip to the vet, load up the Jeep for a swing through Goodwill.

But I’m crazy okay. We’re almost there; we’re going to make it. Just a few more boxes, and some heavy lifting. And then, Sunday, I’ll pack my own bags into the Rogue, leaving Jeep behind for hauling trailer loads of everything we’re taking with us to Grammy’s and Brian’s and the shed at the lake. The guys will finish out their final days on Orchid Street minus Mom. Crazy timing, to be sure, for my week at camp. But I’m feeling ready. Excited even.

I put finishing touches on a week’s worth of camp talks, telling nine- to eleven-year-olds God is the Hero of Your Story—and there’s no doubt I’d be sunk if He wasn’t. No other way to explain this crazy feeling that all of this is perfect timing, a perfect plan, His perfect provision, and when it’s all said and done this whole family, including the dog–will be CRAZY OKAY.

Like Mom

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It’s my mom’s birthday today. She’s turning 75, but you’d never know it. According to my brother, Micah, “Mom doesn’t look old enough to be 65.” True enough. And—I must add—it’s one of the many nice benefits of being her daughter—this not looking old enough.

Last Sunday we got to see firsthand Luke pastoring at his church in Colorado Springs. He’s the youth pastor for a small congregation, so he gets to do a bit of everything—responsive reading, communion, and helping a special needs student recite a prayer. Blessed to be a blessing, and there’s nothing like seeing your grownup kids passing on faith. After the service two older ladies shook my hand saying, “You don’t look old enough to be Luke’s mom.” And also, “We really like your son.” I thanked them for the compliments, both.

Monday afternoon Kyle and I drove the last leg of our road trip back from Colorado, via Des Moines. I traveled with laptop open, listening to audio of four sessions of a writer’s class from a recent conference. Typing notes into a Word document, I caught a glimpse of hands, eerily familiar, but not my own. Narrow wrists, tan and weathered, veins slightly bulging, fingers long, and it’s not a keyboard, but garden produce scrubbed over running water in the kitchen sink. Small red scratches, nicks of whiteish scars, hers earned strawberry-picking, mine a miscellany of the week’s hiking.

I’m already thinking about Mom when Kyle says it. “You like being outdoors more than anyone I know.” A week spent staying at my daughter-in-law’s parents’ house in the Springs, and every chance I get I grab laptop or book for a quiet escape to their woodsy backyard. Twice during our visit the Fullers spotted black bear meandering through, but not on my watch, and thank goodness. Though plenty of deer.

And then, at the end of the week, two overnights with Nils at Glen Eyrie. Garden of the Gods meets private castle, sprawling estate. The first night at the Glen it thunder-stormed, and we ate our pizza under the old carriage house shelter with Nils’ new friend, Kurt, telling stories about boys growing up. Warm wind blew our napkins across the cobblestone pavement, and for a brief time we listened to hail ping on the metal roof above, but we were out of harm’s way, and cozy, in red-cushioned patio chairs.

The next day’s rain held out for Anderson boys to golf, while Ali joined Micah and me for a day of hiking. Beatrice, too, our newest grand-dog, who’d hiked her first ever (we think) 14er on the 4th of July. Now, two days later, we’re climbing the red rocks of the Glen, Micah trying to capture the breathtaking views on his iPhone, knowing it’ll never do it justice. Which it doesn’t, and which is why, next morning, I linger long as possible on the castle patio, one last outdoor breakfast before leaving for church. Long drive away from mountains to follow.

You like being outdoors more than anyone I know. I’m holding my husband’s hand and we’re making our way slowly, back up the hill from breakfast. And my very first thought is “Just like my mom…” This soul-deep love of mountain air, and a good hard hike. My mother’s daughter, all the way.

Our last night at the Glen, Nils pulled out his guitar and sang songs he’d written about Minnesota, being a kid, and growing up. Memory songs, meant to make a mom weepy. My heart was full. Is full. And this is her song, too. My mom’s song of finding faith, loving God, rewriting the story, passing it down.

And today is her birthday. Back home in Minnesota, we’ll spend her special day riding bikes down in Canon Falls, the day’s forecast 70’s and sunny. God’s throwing a party. My sister will join us, and Gina’s every bit her mother’s daughter, too. Twenty birthdays ago I doubt we would have seen it this way, but the years define us, and make us grateful.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

The Author

Thank you

There were four of us crowded around the sinks in the dormitory restroom when I said it. “I feel like a scared little girl, and God has been holding my hand the whole time.”

We arrived Tuesday, in time for dinner, Heather and me, and a handful of others, eager to settle in and get our bearings before full immersion the following day. The conference was Write-to-Publish, and I wasn’t certain I had either the right or the margin to be in attendance. Eventually realizing this was a common emotion for a-hundred-plus other unpublished writers sprawling sleepless in dorm room beds on the Wheaton campus.

But He was there, like always, faithful. And He was holding my hand.

It’s the only way to describe it. The first morning, sitting with Starbucks and Bible on a quiet bench, awake at first light with time to linger. I chose a Psalm with plenty of markings, underlined phrases, pencil heart drawn in a margin. Familiarity the very best balm for a time like this.

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me (Psalm 16:7).

And He had. I remembered. I’d dreamed His counsel the night before, when He showed me how to pitch my first proposal. Two weeks earlier I’d found Cynthia Ruchti’s books in our church library, reading two, cover to cover. My first appointment with an agent, and I may as well have been meeting a friend.

By the end of day one I’d pitched two books and nearly drowned in the firehose of too much information, but I’d never been more sure of Jesus. His presence, and my need for Him.

Day two felt like two weeks, and people I met yesterday seemed like old friends. We gathered to worship, overwhelmed by the sweetest sense of the Spirit. Humility and love, and if this is what it’s like to be utterly dependent, I’ll take it. I penned my name on appointment sheets, but He’d already scheduled divine meetings over cafeteria meals and bathroom conversation. Later I’d sort through my stack of business cards and remember, fondly, stories of friends.

Friday dawned with sun and birdsong. And coffee. Every morning Heather drove the short distance to Starbucks for my latte and her hot chocolate. By day three I’d found my voice. Practiced my pitch a couple dozen times, officially and not. I came with two projects, but His leading was clear. I’d settled on one. The Covenant Story. The life-changing story of God’s covenant love through the pages of Scripture. The book of His heart, entrusted to me.

Saturday morning, we made our way to one last class. One more keynote session. By now I was maxed out and weary. Mentally exhausted. Heather and I skipped lunch and loaded her Jeep for the drive back home. I could sleep until tomorrow, but I knew it wasn’t fair to my generous driver. I did my best to stay awake and engage in post-conference conversation. Telling Heather, it’s ironic, her Fully Present to Win, a book about unplugging our families to be present to life. And here I am thinking if I’m ever going to publish a book, I’m going to need to step up my social media engagement and then some. Not at all sure I have what takes—or the desire to do it.

Voices I haven’t listened to in three long days, take advantage, vie for attention. Doubt and fatigue. Regret over appointments not made, classes I’m thinking I should have attended. Should have done this and didn’t do that. I’m on the verge of tears when I realize what’s happening, and I muster the strength for one more battle. you’re a liar, you creep. None of it’s true; He was holding my hand.

Back home I compile notes, make my list of next steps. People to thank. Friends to find on Facebook. Books by newly published authors to order on Amazon. The life story of a publisher-turned-friend to read before bed. A proposal to polish, and send out again. Still not sure what it means for me to be a writer. What it means to steward this gift He’s given. I just want to be faithful. He hears me say it, and I know I can trust Him. Because He’s the Author.

And the AUTHOR was holding my hand.

Solla Sollew

Dedication

It was the perfect sermon at the perfect time. Yesterday morning, Father’s Day, and Maisy’s Dedication at Revision Church. We filled up a row from end to end – two Great-Grands, four Grands, and an uncle and aunt from Kiana’s side. Afterwards, clustering outside the elementary-school church for family photos, one of the Grandpas went ahead and said it. Our baby was the cutest one up there. Not one bit biased. Of course. And yet. Our little princess waved at the crowd from Daddy’s arms the entire time, and who could deny such an obvious fact?

From the Cat in the Hat to the Big Hearted Moose, Here’s What I Learned from Dr. Seuss. It’s the name of this month’s sermon series there at Revision, and I’d just been saying to Maisy before church that morning, the two of us reading books on her playroom rug. “You need more Seuss.” Those sing-song rhythms have the baby girl bouncing to the beat from the very first page of the ABC’s – Big D. Little d. David Donald Doo dreamed a dozen doughnuts and a duck- dog, too. And I swear I am not making this up, just as soon as I read it, that genius-baby emphatically added her own “DADDY!” to Seuss’ list of D’s!

And then, not two hours later, it’s Pastor Mike starting his sermon:

I learned there are troubles
Of more than one kind,
Some come from ahead
And some come from behind. 

But I’ve bought a big bat.
I’m all ready, you see.
Now my troubles are going
To have troubles with me!*

And it was the perfect sermon at the perfect time.

Three weeks exactly. Three weeks since the weekend of Jimmy’s grad party, and I remember, because I’d made a comment. Something about how stress-free I’d felt through all the whirlwind of house-selling and graduation and I didn’t know how, but I was doing great. And then, the next day, or next week for sure, just when I should have been breathing the biggest sigh of relief – it hit. The stress. And fatigue. Mental exhaustion, and okay, maybe physical, too. But it was something more, and I knew it.

I knew it last week, going out for my run, a podcast titled You’re Not the Boss of Me, and it’s Andy Stanley talking about how emotions can get the best of us. And just before tying on my ASICS I’d been praying with Kyle, confessing my stress, and a whole host of toxic thoughts taking up residence in my brain. You’re believing bull–.” My husband’s good counsel just before we prayed.

And he was right, of course. I knew it then. Knew it even truer after the Trouble in Solla Sollew and Pastor Mike’s sermon out of Ephesians 6.  He compared satan’s tactics to warfare by deception, using a scholarly term, which I didn’t write down. Not having picked up sermon notes on my way to save seats for our row of family, forced to write with pen in the margins of my own Bible, where it will stay forever next to the Armor of God. “The enemy’s entire strategy is lies.”

We don’t fight FOR victory; we fight FROM victory. Driving home later after dropping off a load of furniture for Nils in Cedar Falls, my Mom asks in a text – what was that quote?

That quote about victory, and how the enemy lost a long time ago, when Jesus climbed a hill with His own big bat, and now the best satan can do is deceive us.

he lies.

(Taking my cues from Charles Martin, who refuses to even give the creep a capital letter.)

And I hate to admit it, but I’ve been believing those lies.

Three weeks. Three weeks with a house sold and graduation finished, and the next thing on the agenda is a Writer’s Conference, and that’s when it started. You. Can’t. Do. This. Bone-weary, and is it possible for exhaustion be a bold-faced-lie?

It’s toward the end of Mike’s message, and he circles back to verse 10, and I’m flipping pages to find the place, making my notes. Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power…

BE STRONG. I’m rewinding the past couple of weeks, and all the ways I’ve been lacking strength. And then Pastor Mike says the very thing I’ve needed, and on Spirit’s impulse I’m hand to chest, audible gasp.

Be strong – is passive.”

It’s passive.

Be strong IN THE LORD and in HIS MIGHTY POWER.

This strength is HIS.

the enemy can only tell lies.

But my strength is found in HIS VICTORY WON.

And those troubles are going to have trouble with me…

 

*I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew by Dr. Seuss

Dragonflies

L A & N Mountain

The dragonflies were out yesterday afternoon when we returned from the airport. Somehow this seemed symbolic. My boys taking flight all over the globe. We don’t even have a kid in the state. Kyle’s comment at dinner – and his tone (shhh, don’t tell the guys) was noticeably giddy.

“Do you worry?” Friends ask, thinking about international travel, news reports about a less-than-safe country. And we are aware. But we’ve been here and done this, been doing it now for a handful of years. This letting go and trusting.

“Think of prayer as your first resort, not last.” We’re five in the Jeep, counting Sidney, and I compare it to calling Dad in a sticky situation. “You don’t even need cell service to connect with your Heavenly Father.” And then, it’s Jimmy, asking, “How long should we wait in between?” Between the prayer and dialing up Dad, LOL, but he wasn’t joking.

It’s the same answer I recently gave a friend, asking, doesn’t it make me nervous – all those Spanish conversations? Four and a half years of a secret language, and me left to wonder what they’re talking about. The limitations of an earthly parent – but there are no secrets from a Heavenly Dad. He’s got this, and then some.

Colorado or Colombia. (Iowa, too, although the imagined risks seem so much less.) And it doesn’t matter if they’re scaling mountains, or attempting to travel incognito as wealthy Americans, this mom knows enough about risks to fill her days with fretting. (Did I mention Kyle’s Saturday plan has him back up on the roof?) Glen Climb

Nils scaled a mountain, his first week or so out at The Glen. A seventy-five-foot rock at Day Camp training, and he sends the text. Conquered my fear and made it all the way up! His mother’s child, and the one kid I can count on to tighten the harness and return to sea level.

Minnesota law says kids are required to wear life jackets through the age of ten. Kyle’s reading from some website this week, thinking about our lake home, knowing I’m inclined to This Particular Worry. WATER. Which, I know, is ironic. My mom still likes to tell the stories of my first swimming lessons as a terrified child, and somewhere out there is a former swimming instructor with scars to prove it. To this day I’m not a big fan of water-sports. (Nils either, which is why he worked the register at the Aquatic Center and left the life-guarding to his big brothers.) And yet. Fear of heights and water aside, it’s a toss-up which I enjoy most, lake-view or mountain.

The weekend of the Grad Party it was Luke and Ali, and Jimmy and Sidney, out at the lake. “It could be a sled run in the winter, and a waterslide in the summer!” That steep slope from future lakeside porch to water’s edge, and my husband’s got more wild notions than the young adults. “How about a zipline?” We’d been talking about creating a safe path for Grammy, and I’m wondering if it’s a harness they’ve got in mind for her, too.

Good grief. Just when you think you’ve safety raised a passel of boys to adulthood, along come the grandkids. Which is to say, I’d better be sure I’m believing my own press. About letting go and trusting, that is. Honestly, I know my limitations. I learned a long time ago I’m a limited parent (grandparent, too, if we’re thinking future) and I defer to the Father. He is sovereign. I am not.

Now. About that ladder…