Breaking

Fuller

I had such an amazing experience last week. On Wednesday, flying to California for a church conference, me in a window seat and unaware of the gift I’d receive. God showing off the whole way west. At first we flew above clouds, billowy and white, but before long the skies cleared and creation below came into view. One wonder after another. Snow-capped mountains. Rocky red cliffs. The beginning of a river, and then – could it be? Yes. A fly-by tour of the grandest canyon, and I sat forehead pressed tight against aircraft window in awe. Is this even possible? Worth the cost of the ticket just to take the tour. And bonus for me, since I wasn’t paying.

The next morning something else happened, equally awesome. I struggle to put it into words, but I’ll try. It’s worth it. For me.

I woke, late for Minnesota, but early for California, with plenty of time to linger. Five of us in a guest house suite, including my friend’s baby, and I was not expecting quiet time. But got it, and more. Door pulled shut and window open, Lent devotion on my phone. Week Two: Humility. Something I always need. And me aware of my carnal pride. Convicted already for several days.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.*

 And then, in that moment – broken. Broken by God in a vision of grace, tears flowing authentic and sweet. Sitting there hoping the door unlocked would stay shut, and it did. Thirty minutes or more it was just God and me and the purest breaking I didn’t expect.

He asked – do you trust me? And I knew what He meant. This sin of mine, foolish. Yet me clinging tight. What will He do if I let Him have it? Knowing the problem. I do not trust.

And then as I wrestled – this image. Mountains and Canyon. His voice.

Consider the flowers…* 

I sobbed, quiet, knowing. Remembering.

The evening before at the conference, talking about faith and teens. The grace of the Gospel, and for faith to stick our kids need to know the difference between works and trust. And what if the gospel they’re getting at church is the reason they’re walking away? “God is good. You are bad. Try harder.”**

It’s not working. This trying, not trusting. Our kids need to trust. So do I.

It’s true; I know it. Here, broken. I can’t – but He can. His grace is amazing.

I trust you. I do. A million times over. I do.

*Philippians 2:3 and Luke 12:27

**Sticky Faith, Youth Worker Edition, by Kara Powell and Chap Clark

Almost

map

We almost had a miracle this week. Or maybe we did. A prayer answered, for sure, even though it didn’t turn out how we thought it would. And our own vantage point being limited as it is – and His being impossibly greater ­– I’d better give credit where it’s due. It was a miracle.

It was a miracle last Sunday sitting at Chipotle eating burritos and hearing the answer to our prayers rolling off tongues. Without hesitation. Yes. Just like that. Yes.

It was the last day to sign up for the mission trip and we asked the boys if they would like to go. Not telling them how hard we’d been praying, and how many others had joined us in prayer. Three months or longer. And always framing our requests like this: It would take a miracle for them to say yes. But we’re praying.

And then, just like that. YES. Yes to 30 hours by bus to the Spanish-speaking church in Texas where believers pray with students every morning at 5am. Yes to being a part of team of kids who learn to serve and learn to love and come home every year changed. Some changed forever.

My own firstborn. Grant was sixteen the first summer he went on that trip and nothing was ever the same again. Grant before/Grant after. He met Jesus during those early morning prayers and he came home different. I said it to Kyle a few weeks later. It’s like Grant’s personality filled up with the Spirit. It was real, and it lasted. It changed him forever.

So we prayed, and God answered. They both said YES.

Not two days later and Kyle tells me. Bad news. Turns out the big soccer tournament – the one the boys have been crazy to play in for months on end… It’s the same week. Same time. The coach confirms. The worst possible conflict. Just like that.

We tell them, of course, and give them the option. And who can blame boys for not wanting to miss the biggest games of the year?

It was the same with Nils and the family vacation we planned to take as soon as school let out this summer in June. But alas. Potential state playoffs for his baseball team, and this year they have all the stuff to make it. It’s a no-brainer. Too risky. And sure you might argue we put too much stock in sport, but this is world we live in.

So we rescheduled our summer vacation for spring, and another miracle started to sprout. Five of us would have traveled in summer, but wonder of wonders – eight in the spring?! Three schools with breaks at the exact same time, and if that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is. I cried at the discovery, just after Christmas, teens and marrieds all eager to go.

Less than four weeks away, and we’re almost going. Almost. As long as a space opens up for us at the YMCA camp in the mountains where our friend assures us, there’ll be a place. And she’s optimistic, but we’re guarded. Wanting to trust her and trust God. But desperate to hold on tight to this miracle, too.

Later this week I’ll fly to California. Five of us from church attending a conference about families and the faith of teens. And this too is a miracle unfolding. After years of wondering where God was leading, an opportunity like this is a dream-come-true. All of my gifts and passions and hands-on-experience, and I get to call it work, all these things I love.

Rarely do miracles appear all of sudden, but most often in almosts unfolding with time.

Obedience

Maple in February

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. I think it’s the puppy. And two days of no school. Monday, working from home, it felt like a whole litter. Everybody’s everything strewn about everywhere. Puppy gladly chewing on whatever she could find.

Sometimes she just sits with her little chin resting right on top of temptation. My stack of books by my morning chair. She knows it’s “NO” but she just can’t resist. Not chewing, but snuggling as close as possible to almost-naughty.

She reminds me often of a certain boy. Who shall remain nameless. But goodness, this kid just has to keep those toes caressing the line. Deep down scared to death of being too bad, but still so prone to snuggling up close.

What is it, I wonder? I can’t relate. I’ve hated badness my whole life long. A Goody Two-Shoes, some might say.

Of course, I do know my own weakness, and this being the season of Lent and confession, I’m even more aware. The things I give up reveal my own craving for my personal taste for the things of the flesh. It’s pathetic sometimes. Really.

So what do you do with puppies and boys and boundaries and rules? It’s crazy-making most of the time. Kyle and I neither one prone to fighting. And aware of the need to allow for some space for boys who still long to be little. They didn’t get to be babes here, under our roof, in our care. So for a time is it okay to go backwards a bit? Let them romp and be messy ‘til they’ve had enough?

Yesterday at church a comment was made in our study. A young mom who has a sister and a nephew 14-years old. And this young lad’s heart is good but he’s going through a season of cool, and at church he’s too cool to worship. Mom and Dad wonder what they should do. Do we force him to join in the proper way? And then one wise parent figures it out. No. We don’t want him to fake it. That would be worse.

Good answer.

And here, too, we’d rather be patient than fake it.

So I watch my pups for signs of growth. Knowing there will be plenty of ways to measure these hearts, since no one around here is faking.

Meanwhile our Maple-pup grows by the day. Tripled her weight since she arrived. And Kendra, our puppy-sitter for the days we both work, gave high marks this week. She’s made so much progress! Less biting, more listening. Puppy kindergarten seems to pay off.

Today is my day to work from home. Work includes church, but also means laundry. And bathrooms. And as I look around and assess the damage I think – it’s not too bad. Could be a lot worse. A few extra minutes to tidy up messes is worth it to let them be pups for a while.

Love

Love

It’s in the air. Flowers at school today. Special plans with special friends coming up on Sunday. And all week Mom and Dad have been on call to give advice. What should I do and how should I do it?

The weekend will be busy for Kyle and me and I’m not holding my breath for romance. We might have to take a raincheck for now.

But I am feeling pretty smug about that clearance sale I stumbled upon earlier this week. It only took one store on a whim to find a little something for seven people and early enough to mail it, too. On Tuesday I rushed packages to the post office, not sure how many days it would take to send my love to out-of-town kids. A day later I got my text from Luke. I love you too Mom. Wow. Mail delivery is an amazing system.

Love came to Kyle unexpectedly last weekend. Just minutes after submitting my post comparing this life to a roller-coaster, our ride took us around another unexpected bend. A tumble, to be exact, involving Kyle and a snowboard. (And I do have to wonder how many guys nearing the second half of a century of life are still hitting the slopes like the teens. Just saying.)

So there I was peacefully posting when my cell phone rang and it was Kyle’s number, and I knew right away to be leery. What’s going on? And even though I answered wary I didn’t believe him when he said it at first. Too many boys tell stories around here, trying to shake Mom up. No you didn’t.

Yes, he did. A separated shoulder. And he passed out, too, which freaked out our niece and Felipe, who saw it happen. (Had I been there I could have warned them. Dad tends to faint when he gets shaken up. He’ll probably be okay.) And he is – okay. Seems to be healing up nicely, and in truth he’d say he’s glad it happened – just to experience all that love that came rushing out when a son rallied for Dad in crisis. A bonding experience in an unconventional way, and we’ll take it.

I’d have to say Dad’s been on the receiving end of a lot of love just lately. Maple adores him. Follows him everywhere, lavishing her favorite human with licks of affection every chance she gets. And there’s no doubt about it. Puppy love counts.

I’m feeling it, too. Love, that is. From puppy and boys. Bedtime snuggles (always past my curfew) and a genuine hug before school this morning. Earlier this week there was a boy with tears. A private struggle in the arena of love. And those tears in my own eyes were evidence of a heart’s response. Long-awaited. Not just love in practice, but love’s emotion. Another answer to prayer.

Don’t stop, please. Those prayers you’ve been praying are making a difference. And this weekend could be sweet, or a time-bomb ticking. You never quite know what to expect when it comes to teens and love.

Ride

Ride

(Random photo from last year’s spring break which has very little to do with this post.)

I’m not a big fan of roller-coasters. Too much holding your breath and hanging on tight on the way up. Too much sick-to-your stomach terror on the way down. I avoid them whenever I can. At the parks and in life.

Maybe you’ve noticed. This story I’m telling tends to be a bit up and down. Highlights one week and requests for prayer the next. In truth the ups and downs usually happen within a day, and it depends on the day how I’ll tell the story.

This week was both. Up and down. Boys digging in heals over church. Conversation, genuine and easy. A stomach bug and two more days of missed school. Fresh snow for snowboards. Best and worst games of the basketball season. A tie in soccer. Battles in the morning and laughter at bedtime.

And three whole days of work files somehow deleted from an entire company during the busiest season of the year, and there never seems to be a break for dear old Dad. Ugh.

On the heals of every victory there’s another battle. Every day a reminder this war’s not over. Not yet. But earlier this week I heard something helpful and I’ve been repeating it now for several days. We live in an unshakable Kingdom. Wow. A reminder I needed.

Our own little kingdom is given to quaking. Tossing and turning like an amusement park ride. When we live in this realm we roll with the waves and we lose our stomachs. We’ve been there. We know.

But what a relief to remember. Our real Kingdom. Unshaken.

This morning Kyle quoted Psalm 46 at breakfast. Boys with phones following along and buzzing him loud at the smallest mistake. (And it struck me this might be better than church.)

God is our refuge and strength

He’s been memorizing while walking his puppy.

There’s a line in the Psalm about God burning shields with fire, and this morning Kyle used that phrase to pray. God melt this armor around hearts of boys.

Tomorrow is Sunday. Often, but not always, our biggest battle. (Kyle mostly since I leave early for church.) And it’s really no Sabbath for the Dad of this brood, who holds his breath as he wakes up boys. Dreading and hoping.

We talked this morning (after the prayer about armor) about the ups and downs of this ride that’s our life. And the conclusion we came to is the ride’s always better when we let go and enjoy it. Not gripping and dreading, but hands in the air and face to the wind. Screaming loud with delight.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
(Psalm 46:1-3)