God Story

Pike's Peek

Living in a God story is beyond crazy. I’m just saying, I couldn’t have made any of this up. I tried, actually. At one point a few years back I imagined I had an inkling of a God vision, and I’d pray accordingly. Yikes. I look back now and I see. Yes, it was God prompting my prayers, and yes He’s been answering all along. Just not at all like I was expecting.

There’s a story unfolding that’s only partially mine to share. Someday maybe, but for now I’ll be vague. I have a cousin, near my age, engaged to be married for the first time ever. In love. And in this wildly improbable series of events, God used my life to intersect with hers, after all these years, and the man she loves is a man I knew, but barely. Looking back now it was only by the Spirit I knew him at all. God whispering to me, and then to them. So completely unlikely, but completely His story. And there’s no question in my mind. This cousin and I – neither one cut out for the journey God has us on, and yet He’s weaving our stories – hers and mine –together with each other and together with His.

We have this in common, my cousin and me. Both of us would choose lives simple, innocent, naïve. It’s how we’re wired and given a choice we’d just keep it that way. But God must see something in us we don’t see in ourselves, given the stretching He thinks we can handle. Goodness. Really?

Yesterday my boys played their first game of soccer this school season. Three Anderson boys, and a whole crowd of fans cheering them on. Friends and family about as assorted as ever could be. Let’s just say God’s mixing a fair share of spicy into my sweet little world. Fiery and feisty, and me just desperate for nice. And it struck me how my pristine little wishes are nothing like Jesus’. How he mixed it up with all assortment of people and didn’t much bother about how it looked on him.

I guess that’s a pretty good summary of a good God story. Stretching us ‘til we look more like Jesus.

Two weeks ago the Revision pastor preached a sermon on unanswered prayer. He gave four answers to the question of why? Two of the four were God’s answer to me – thinking back to those prayers and the God-driven visions. And how wrong I looked at the time. But there were things He knew that I didn’t. (Go figure.) He knew what I needed to make me like Jesus. And He knew of a future way bigger than my dreams.

I just shake my head at the doors He’s opened. How much more life I’m doing. The people I’m meeting. The love He’s increasing. I wouldn’t have chosen this story at all, yet this crazy God story has chosen me.

Stronger

CoAmer Games

On the day I called, you answered me. You increased my strength of soul. Psalm 138:3

Last week one of the Summit speakers talked about “increasing our pain threshold.” The phrase resonated with me, and I wrote it down. It turned out to be one of those morsels I’d take away and chew on a while.

I think our family has crossed something of a threshold this summer. I’ve been aware of this a lot lately. Those growing pains that used to consume us are much less noticeable. Maybe a twinge here and there, but nothing to worry about. Most days we feel considerably healthier. And stronger.

I’m stronger for sure. I realized it a couple of weeks ago when I came across this verse in the psalm. On the day I called, you answered me. You increased my strength of soul. Have you ever noticed how the wording of something can kind of awe you? You increased my strength of soul. That’s it. The very thing God has been doing these past twenty or so months. All of this crazy stretching. It’s increasing the strength of my soul.

It’s a prayer I used to pray, and truth be told there have been times I’ve regretted praying it. God increase my capacity… And then during those days of intense expanding I told him straight out he could stop. No thank you. I’ve reached my limit and then some.

But now, looking back. All of these increases seem to be shaping my story.

Our story. Because what’s happening to me is certainly happening to all of us.

I read a book earlier this month, by Malcom Gladwell. David and Goliath. This quirky author weaves stories and research to support his conclusion that obstacles and hardships can make us stronger, giving underdogs a surprising advantage. And the whole time I was reading I was thinking about two boys from Colombia who are my sons, and how this book could be about them.

Goodness knows, if I’ve been stretched, they’ve been pulled to limits I can’t even imagine. They call me Mom, but I don’t know half their stories. If ever there were kids who’ve faced a few obstacles it’s been them. And here’s Gladwell painting this picture of ALL the advantages of facing affliction. It was rather exciting, realizing the resilience and resourcefulness innate to my boys might just give them a leg up in the future. And I have every reason to think it might.

A couple of weeks ago I did something I’d never done before in order to stretch my own limits. I did it on purpose as recreation, so I’m not even sure it really counts. But ever since walking the high ropes challenge I’ve had this cool sense of accomplishment. I did it. I overcame that particular fear.

Courage, of course, is not the absence of fear – but it’s doing the thing while we’re still afraid. I’ve never been all that good at courage. Still not, if I’m going to be honest. But just maybe I’m increasing.

Reflecting

GLS

Every summer our church hosts the GLS – a simulcast leadership conference. I love it, even though I’m always numb with inspiration overload by the end of day two. Which was yesterday. AND – poor planning on my part – I managed to schedule a fairly big church event last night of all nights, making it a 13+ hour day. All day alternating between gulps at the GLS fire hose and bursts of “Campfire Stories” setup. It was a bit much.

That said, I did manage to come away inspired, and also chuckling still about my personal response to a couple of yesterday’s sessions. One of the speakers, a great communicator and highly entertaining, talked about how ALL leaders are motivated by statistics and goals of winning. Well, this does NOT describe me, and I had to send a comment by text to Grant who was watching the Summit from Des Moines. I am definitely the minority of those so NOT competitive that data and the idea that I’m supposed to win makes me immediately want to quit. He understands his mom, even though Competition for him is a top-5 strength. 

And then after lunch a respected therapist and author encouraged us leaders to care for our souls. He exhorted the audience to do whatever it takes to prioritize quiet reflection. And again I chuckle just a little inside, thinking if this expert knew me he might need to give the opposite advice. My own reflecting at times can consume me to a point of forgetting to come up for air.

That said. This conference never fails to inspire, and it’s usually just one or two intense impressions, used by God in my season of life.

First was a challenge from Bill Hybels, and nearly every Summit he asks this same thing. What is your God-given passion? Years past, I’ve known the answer. But this time I wasn’t sure. The question stuck with me all day long, and I mused and wrestled to come up with the answer.

Next morning the question was still on my mind when I headed to my porch for some quiet reflection. This is what happens. I settle down with my coffee and I ponder with God, then wait for his answer. What is my passion? Right now, in this season of life? My mind wanders. I picture this thing and that – and then comes this image that brings me to tears. It’s an 18-year-old girl from my church who’s being baptized in just over a week. I can picture her face and hear her testimony, simple and sweet. “I just threw up my hands and gave God control of my life.” And it’s so real. Her faith and her experience with God. And that’s it. My passion.

Then yesterday there was an afternoon session. I almost missed it, busy as I was setting up those tents for the story-telling stations. But I followed a prompting which turned out to be the Spirit – Don’t miss this one. She wasn’t a big name, like most Summit speakers, but she turned out to be the surprise of the day. Danielle Strickland – Officer in The Salvation Army; Advocate and Author. And this woman nailed it. She just blew me away with her talk of Shalom and the peace of God. Confirming my story. And passion.

It’s Saturday morning, and I’m back at church. Helping to video-tape the last of our baptism testimonies before heading to Des Moines to see my kids. It’s been quite a week. Full. To say to the least. But so good. And later today I’ll have four hours in a car by myself. To think and savor. Quiet reflecting (:

One Year

View More: http://janelleelisephotography.pass.us/kianagrant

Thinking about it today, I don’t know if it feels long or short, this year that’s passed since you said, “I do.” When I think about your wedding and all that was special about that day, it seems near. I’m savoring it still. Every detail planned to perfection. The barn and the flowers. Sun on a day that was supposed to have rain. The wildly handsome groom, my son. And his bride, exquisite. And oh so happy. Both of you – all of us, intensely happy.

In some ways it was like it was yesterday. Cliché. And yet, I’m struck by this other sense. Contradictory almost. Like the two of you have always been you. Forever. Grant and Kiana. Husband and wife.

I saw a chart in a magazine when I was at the dentist today. It was about Millennials and how long they wait to get married. Suffice it to say you’re an anomaly. You probably knew. But being the mom of the 8 percent was satisfying somehow. You’re exceptional and rare, and I’m glad.

Five more days and counting. I’ve had to wait nearly a month for my road trip to Des Moines to see the two of you in your new home. That little brick bungalow, just blocks from the church. A starter home, and Nils has compared you more than once to Chip and Joanna, the Fixer Uppers from HGTV. True enough, and not fair really – that two people living under the same roof should be so EXTREMELY creative.

You two separately are crazy gifted. But together? There’s so much potential in you two-become-one, it makes me wonder. What kind of extraordinary purpose has God ordained for you?

From the start you’ve been Kingdom shakers. Both of you filled to the brim with passion. For Jesus. Charged with His Spirit. In love with the Church, and wholly God’s. And oh my goodness… Grant + Kiana + Jesus=??? There’s just no way to even guess at what will become of that.

One year ago today you sang together, just before you took your vows. It was my favorite part. My heart aches now even remembering. The two of you singing your Creed.* I believe… Those words so true and holy. The two of you, so completely devoted. Then and still.

Happy anniversary, Grant and Kiana. One year. Already and forever.

*This I Believe, by Hillsong Worship

 

 

21

Mountain Luke

Somewhere on a mountain near Colorado Springs a boy becomes a man today. Of course it’s been happening gradually for a good long time. In some ways this kid was born a little man.

He’ll read this post a couple of days from now when he returns from his last RMC of the summer. I imagine he’ll spend some time at The Glen. He’ll sit under an umbrella out on the terrace drinking espresso, using up punches on his coffee card before summer’s end. Connected to wifi he’ll catch up on all the latest, which will certainly include Mom’s blog. He’s my most faithful reader, and my editor, too. The first to catch my misspelled words or failed attempts at capturing trends. Hey Mom. Great blogging today. Just wanted to let you know it’s HGTV, not HD… I send my thanks back by text and quickly post an update.

Luke’s friend, Kendra is a close second Boy Mom follower. Last spring when we were together at the Humble Cup listening to Luke’s band she said the birthday blogs are her favorite. They always make her cry. So I knew I’d better keep the tradition, even with Luke on the mountain unplugged on his special day. For Kendra’s sake if nothing else – we can celebrate weepy together today.

So Luke. I did something crazy in honor of your birthday this week. On Tuesday in Lanesboro, Minnesota. I was with our small group gals on an overnight, two days of biking and kayaking and a secret adventure prepared by Patti Bertsch who took the lead on planning the trip. Turns out her surprise was a high ropes excursion on the bluffs overlooking the Root River. At first I said NO. Not an option. Sweat dripping just thinking about those heights. But later as we walked the trail and I looked up into the trees at those cables stretched taut, wooden bridges swinging precariously overhead I had this thought. I should do this for Luke. And there’s not one other reason on this great planet good enough to get me harnessed up and stepping out legs shaking and sweat pouring except me thinking about you in those mountains doing all kinds of crazy. And I’m THAT kid’s mom, and I’ve got to do this for Luke. So I did it. Thinking about you the entire time, clear to the zip-line ending.

Here’s how the mom of a boy knows he’s really a man. It’s when she finds herself wondering at random moments how would my son handle this? What advice would he give, and how would he do it? When the boy takes the lead and the mom follows trusting this man-child who’s become her guide. And Luke, this has been happening now for quite a while. Have you noticed? When we sit down to coffee and I’m rapt absorbing every word and suggestion, and thinking with wonder how this man was the babe from my womb.

To say I’m proud hardly does it justice. I’m overwhelmed and I’m humbled. How God’s grace to ME could mean doing life with YOU. So much has been given, I’ve said it before. To whom much is given much is required. Which is why you’re the one leading these mountain excursions. You’re the one showing the next generation how to follow Jesus and cling desperate to God.

I’ll be counting the hours ‘til you’re down from that mountain, awaiting your text or call. No pressure. But it’s been two long weeks of praying and trusting, mind full of images of your summer adventures. And I’ve never been so ready to hear your voice. So Luke, Happy Birthday. Today in my heart and sometime this weekend when you’re back safe and sound. I love you like crazy, my son.