Worthy

Praise

We baptized a guy at church yesterday. And I’ve probably witnessed hundreds of baptisms over the years, but this one was different. This one was powerful in a way I may not be able to explain. But I’ll try.

Because of my work behind the scenes I heard Josh share his testimony at least three times. Three times I got to hear him tell his story, and three times God used that story to affirm my own faith. It wasn’t long, and it wasn’t fancy. In fact, it was really quite simple. But Josh made more of God in a few short sentences than many preachers will manage in a lifetime of sermons. And what it came down to was this. No matter what – God is worthy of my praise.

There was more. A childhood faith. A journey to sobriety. Some desperate years, and a cry for help. But the core of his story was far less about Josh, and far more about God. God is worthy. He said it again and again. No matter what. He’s worthy.

Just before Josh was baptized, we sang a hymn. How Great Thou Art. And there’s no way the worship leader could have known when he picked that song, how perfect it would be, and how fitting. Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee: How great thou art! How great thou art! 

And it was just what my own soul needed to sing.

I am in a season of clinging to God, which is good. Abiding intensified. And although the season has not been easy, it has occurred to me lately that my soul is in a good place. I am remarkably aware of God and his sovereignty. I am acutely aware of my own weakness, my own need. God is more present, and more real, than he has been in a long time. And even on those days when I feel emotionally and physically weary, I do feel spiritually alive.

This week is Holy Week. It is also spring break for three of my boys. I will be taking time away from work to focus on home. And to focus on Easter. To focus on Jesus. Last night in my dream thoughts I was marking the days of Holy Week with scripture readings for my family. Intentionally bringing the Word to my boys each day. This morning I wrote it all down. And I prayed it might work. To be honest, family devotions haven’t worked very well so far, given the languages, and the audience. Teenagers and boys. So it will be stretch, but I’m hopeful.

And I am also reminded. This week will be Holy in spite of my plans. Because at the end of the day – at the end of the week – Josh is right. No matter what, God is worthy.

The Water

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Stepping out of the boat is not the scary part. It’s being in the water. 

I said this, or something like it, earlier today over coffee. I was visiting with a new friend. A woman I met last week at a conference, whose story was similar to mine, and we decided to get together to share more. It was good.

Danielle is a Life Coach, with a blog called One Foot in the Water: Blogging to inspire fearless faith in the face of everyday life. And she told me over coffee, “My passion is to help people find the courage to step out of the boat.”

Without even thinking I said it. Stepping out of the boat takes less courage than staying in the water.

I was thinking, of course, about my own step out. My family’s step out. And we’ve made the comparison many times. Months ago we’d hear songs on the radio about water, and we’d claim them as our own.

Kari Jobe singing – Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me… 

We sang along.

And yes – saying yes was scary. I’ve said it before. My insides shook for several days after we pushed “send.” And there were moments of real fear in the journey.

But being in the water has been the true test. It is here in the deep, no going back, where our courage has failed.

And suddenly the story makes sense. Peter was bold in the boat. Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water (Matthew 14:28). I’m amazed at how I can relate. Yes! Jesus, if this is you, I’ll say yes. I’ll follow! And really, you hardly realize you’re stepping out at first, eyes fixed as they are on Jesus. All you see is Him.

But then, too late, you realize, and you panic. It was when Peter saw the wind and the water, the terror struck and he began to sink. “Lord, save me!”

What have I done?

Here in the water the fear is so much stronger. Out of our control. It’s far more gut reaction than choice. We don’t mean to be afraid, but the panic is real. “Lord, save me!” And now I know what I didn’t before. In the water our only hope is to cling desperate to Jesus.

We were there last night. Kyle and I. Desperate, clinging, wet with the water of fear. Night is always worse, isn’t it? But last night’s fear turned out good. We clung to each other, and we cried out to Jesus, and he heard us. He reached out his hand in the dark, and he came to our rescue. He pulled us out.

A year or so ago I remember telling friends about how our yes to God felt less like a decision and more like a wild leap. And we hoped God was there to catch us.

Now we know. He’s there.

They Asked

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Two weeks or so after our return home from Colombia, Kyle had an interesting experience. He was awake during the night praying, which isn’t unusual for him. He doesn’t always sleep well, and often he uses his wakefulness to talk to God. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night (Psalm 63:6). Occasionally Kyle uses his night watches to walk the neighborhood while praying, which make me just a little nervous. I wonder if he’ll be mistaken for a crazy man stalking the streets at night.

But this particular evening the temps were below zero, and Kyle did his praying indoors. His sleeplessness was due in part to the stress all of us were feeling given our life changes, and Kyle had a question for God. Why did you have us do it? It was a fair question. And God answered. Into Kyle’s thoughts came two clear words. They asked. It was not the answer he was expecting.

The next morning Kyle shared his experience with me, and we pondered it together. Those two words flipped our perspective.

What did they ask? I’ve been thinking about it since. Of course, it could be the obvious. They asked for a family. They asked for a home. But I wonder.

The day the guys left for Florida I had lunch with Luke. We talked about our family, and the changes. I told Luke about Dad’s prayer, and I shared a thought. I think they asked for a dad. 

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it might be true. My hunch is not meant to underestimate the rest of us. A mom, and a family. Of course, they need that, too. But I’ve been watching these boys for several weeks now, and I can say it without envy. The best gift God has given these boys is a dad.

I’ve been saying it for years. Of all the things my husband does well, he does being a dad best. It is his thing. And he’s awesome at it. I used to be annoyed when my own mom would brag on Kyle, saying how great he was. And I’d think – I’ve made a few contributions to this parenting thing, too, you know. What about me?

But just lately I’m willing to concede. This boy mom would be sunk without the boy dad. The boys would be sunk, too. We all need our Dad.

While the boys have been in Florida I’ve been going through pictures from Colombia, assembling scrapbook and frames. And I’m struck again by the caring community our boys left behind, and all of the women who loved them. These boys were mothered well.

And don’t get me wrong. I am committed to the core of my being to being a good mom. I will love these boys for life.

But as I think about my husband, sitting at the table doing math with a son who could do it alone, I feel certain I’m right in my assessment. They needed a dad. And God said, okay. The best of the best. He’s yours. Because you asked.

A Praying Life

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I’ve been re-reading a favorite book. A Praying Life, by Paul Miller. Years ago when I first read it this book resonated with my own reality, giving language to things God had been teaching me. Today my reality has changed, but the Praying Life message is as true as ever – just what I need to hear. I’ve underlined a hundred quotes.

What do I lose when I have a praying life? Control. Independence. What do I gain? A quiet heart. The living work of God in the hearts of those I love… Essentially I lose my kingdom and get his. 

And I know it’s true. This season of parenting is proving it. What I desperately seek is control, yet control is wearing me out. And I’ve never felt so powerless. Until I pray. Prayer is my lifeline. It puts control back where it belongs. It recalibrates my perspective. Oh…that’s right… You’ve got this. I trust you.

It happened just like that a couple of Saturdays ago. I was awake early while my family slept. It was one of those mornings when my first thoughts were a mix of apprehension and longing, and I sat in my bedroom chair and talked out loud to God. I talked about my boys. My frustrations and concerns. My hopes and desires. Eventually I got specific, talking to God about my annoyance over video games as a primary pastime for one boy in particular, and I asked if He might capture this boy’s passion with something more constructive. Like, maybe the piano. I said it out loud, just like that, in prayer.

And I’m still shaking my head over this one. Not two hours later my prayed-over boy was sitting at the piano, watching YouTube lessons and working out the songs. He probably spent four or five hours that Saturday absorbed in music. And mind you, he had never done this before, and it wasn’t my suggestion. It was a miracle.

I’d be a fool to miss the lesson. It was that simple. Yes. This is how I want you to parent. 

It’s a fine line between parenting and controlling. I’ve never been more aware. I struggle with the balance between letting go and being responsible. Trusting and leading. I want to do more and I want to do less. Both.

Maybe praying is both. More and less. Miller says, “It didn’t take me long to realize that I did my best parenting by prayer. I began to speak less to the kids and more to God. It was actually quite relaxing.”

And these days, relaxing sounds heavenly.

Florida Bound

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First thing this morning I saw Jimmy’s post on Facebook. Video from Georgia, in route to Florida. It’s raining in Georgia, and in the background I could hear David Crowder singing. In the middle of the storm, I am holding on, I Am. Fitting.

Four Anderson guys took off yesterday as soon as school got out, a road trip to Florida. Felipe, Jimmy, Luke and Dad. Grant made his way, too – by plane, with the BU baseball team. Spring training, and an excuse to get away. There’s no school for Luke next week, and Felipe and Jimmy are skipping.

Just before they left, Jimmy realized I’d be here at home alone, at least until Nils returns from his band trip on Monday. “Mom. Nils with band? You alone? You need dog.” Oh Jimmy, if only you knew. No – I definitely do not need a dog.

It was also Jimmy who insisted on praying before traveling, although I think it was Kyle’s suggestion. Jimmy is a bit of a worrier, and he’s had some concerns about the long drive. Specifically he was concerned about Dad being able to stay awake, and with good reason. Jimmy has caught Dad dozing at the wheel more than once, and now he’s a hawk in the car, watching Kyle’s every move. In addition to prayer, Jimmy is recommending coffee for Luke, and Red Bull for Dad.

No worries. They made it through the night. I have the video and a good-morning text to prove it. Just eight hours left to Fort Myers. And Fort Myers really is their destination, in spite of Felipe’s FB post from the driveway yesterday. Three boys standing in front of a loaded Jeep, and “Soon we’ll be walking the streets of Miami.” We’ve been clear. No, not Miami. But he insists. There are three US cities he’s determined to see. Miami, Los Vegas, and Hollywood. And we have Hollywood to thank for this boy’s American dreams. Fast cars, slick men, and sexy women. Uggh. And I’m praying hard for new dreams for a new life.

I’m reassured, as it was also Felipe who suggested a sunrise trip to the ocean. He wants to be there when the tide comes in, hoping to witness the starfish washing up on the beach. I’m remembering our first week in Jopal, and it was Felipe who took us on the sunrise hike up the mountain. And I know underneath the macho exterior this boy has a heart for beauty, and I’m looking forward to showing this son some of the real wonders of his new country.

I must confess. I’m not minding this time to myself. At all. Don’t tell the guys, but it’s quite glorious. Sitting in a quiet house on a beautiful spring Saturday morning in Minnesota, and who needs Florida today? There’s plenty on my to-do list, with big events at church this week, errands to run, and always the possibility of spring-cleaning. But I’m happy to say the latter will not be priority. First importance is savoring the time and making it count. Recharging and refreshing. This morning I’ll head out for a run, and later today I’ll start a scrapbook of our photos from Colombia. I hope to surprise the boys when they arrive home next weekend.

Last night before bed I went through all of our pictures and placed an order. It was good, sitting in a quiet house, processing memories, reflecting on where we’ve been. Two and a half months we’ve been a family. A lot has happened, good and hard. Time alone gives me perspective. I can zoom out and appreciate the bigger picture. The progress and the journey. We’re doing it. We’re getting there. Finding rhythm, and purpose. Finding our new normal.

Have a great time in Florida, boys. You are with me here at home in a million ways. And I’ll be okay here on my own. Really. Even without a dog.

Spring

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Daffodils were BOGO at the grocery store this week, and I couldn’t resist. It was a good purchase. Those spunky yellow blooms have been sitting there next to my sink saying SPRING all week long. Add a ten-day forecast of nothing but 40’s and 50’s and sun, and there’s a spring in my attitude to be sure.

Grant was scheduled to travel with his baseball team this weekend to southern Illinois. The first games of the season, ten hours south, where temps are typically mild by the first week of March. But no. Twelve inches of snow sit on Marion’s fields, and all games have been rescheduled. Here. To Minnesota. The sun and 50’s bode well for back-to-back double-headers early next week. Go figure.

I’ll take it. Three weeks ago when I was stuck for whatever reason in a stretch of darkness, it was Luke who made a good point. Mom. It’s February. Everyone feels this way in February. You’ll be okay. And he was right. I’d been acknowledging it myself, knowing the combination of winter and hormones and hard days at home were a recipe for gloom. Hoping light was on its way.

It was, and it is. Light. A lighter spirit and a lighter sky, and suddenly everything looks hopeful.

The same week Luke made his comment I’d read a story written by a missionary who struggled with his own darkness while on the field. He talked about how he and his wife had to be deliberate about finding passion for their souls in dark times. Exercise and sun. Light-hearted books and movies. Avoiding anything sad or serious for a season of refreshing.

I took his words to heart, and I made myself a list. Things to avoid and things to pursue. And it helped, some. Except for one thing. The one earthly thing I needed more than anything was just out of reach. Spring.

I am an out-of-doors girl. I live to be outside. Once the snow melts and the air warms to just above frigid I’m out of here. Anything that can be done outside I do. Eating, reading, blogging, working. Thank goodness for laptops.

Luke knew this about me. He reminded me it was coming. Soon. But three weeks soon? This is too good to be true.

Of all years, this is the year we needed it most, and I’m not saying God planned the weather forecast just for our family. But maybe. Maybe he’s got his eye on two boys from Colombia who’ve had their taste of winter and need a hint of spring. Two boys who still refuse to wear coats, even with temps below zero. And Jimmy so eager to ride his new bike he insisted on taking it to the store the other day when it was single digits. How was it Jimmy? We asked when he got back unharmed. It was freezing. Lesson learned.

But today, Jimmy. And tomorrow. And the next ten days. Fire up that two-wheeler. Spring is here.

Hopes

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Just a few minutes ago in my morning quiet time God showed me something profound. He used a Proverb to do it. There, in the last bit of my daily reading, was this:

The fears of the wicked will be fulfilled; the hopes of the godly will be granted. (Proverbs 10:24)

I read and reread, savoring the message. His words to me, simple and sweet.

Don’t you see? You are in Me. And in Me it’s not fears, but hopes granted. 

Thank you.

This has been a season of both hopes and fears. And I’ll admit, there have been days when I’ve been fixed on fear, letting it fester in the pit of my stomach. Knowing I need to let it go. Asking Him to take it – and he has. For several days now I’ve sensed a shift. More hope, less fear. Sweet relief. And now, today, he gives me this word. Fear never had a chance. Fear is not my destiny. Hope is.

Yesterday we celebrated two birthdays – our firstborn, and our last. Grant and Jimmy, 22 and 15. One born from my womb on 3-3-93. The other born seven years later, a continent away. I remember the day. It was 70 degrees here in Minnesota, and we had a yard full of little boys celebrating Grant’s seventh birthday, shooting off rockets, running wild. And I was enjoying the day, clueless about a little life being birthed thousands of miles away. A newborn I’d one day call my son.

Earlier this week we talked about dreams with Jimmy. It was a school assignment. What dream do you have for the future? And Jimmy’s was this. A BMX bike for his birthday. It was all he could think about these past few days, and yesterday his dream came true.

During that same conversation, Felipe shared his dream. To one day discover the cure for AIDS. And he was serious.

Some dreams are bigger than others.

But the conversation made us stop and think. What hopes do these boys carry? How many times have their hopes been dashed? What hopes will we, their parents, get to see fulfilled?

And I know what I hope. More than anything.

I hope for a family, fully devoted. Loving Jesus. Pursuing God. Five boys, each one counted among the godly, anchored in this promise. The hopes of the godly will be granted.