(In and Out of) The Nest

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(A swing full of cousins, summer 2015)

My prayers this week have mostly been for my own kids, the nest nearly empty except for one. A whole flock taking flight and not just small journeys but adventures big and wild. Out there all over the map, out of cellphone range more often than not. Parents at home, and the only connection we’ve got is to HIM. Which of course is the one connection that matters.

And He’s got us covered. Again. As always. Oh, my. It almost makes me feel a little guilty how thoroughly He answers our prayers. If I shared all the details of every story you’d know what I mean and then some. Health and strength and GRACE and wisdom – and this little matter of a brand new passport for a kid 3000 miles from home. (No worries; he’s back now in the nest, safe and sound.)

On Tuesday I got one little text in the middle of the day. Feeling well and the program is going well too! Luke from the mountains, and it’s all that’s needed. Two weeks out on a big excursion, and every so often he’ll randomly find the tiniest signal – quickly sending a line to Mom. Good boy. He probably hasn’t the slightest notion how nine hasty words can answer a prayer.

I was telling someone yesterday about our summer, and how it’s felt a bit nutty so far. One big event followed by another, and it looks like it’ll be this way until the start of school. No one’s fault, just the consequences it seems when you’ve got a passel of kids. The day will come when it will be too quiet. I know in my head this is probably true.

My Wisconsin brother is filling his own nest a bit fuller today. Four littles already and number five almost here. It’s Baby Jack’s family, only he’ll not be the baby for very much longer. My boys absolutely adore these out-of-state cousins, asking often when we’ll see them next. Not often enough, that’s for sure, and almost always in the context of a big family gathering. We’re five of us siblings, plus all of our kids, so when the whole clan gets together you hardly know if you’re coming or going. Like my own Grandma Helen (also mother to five) was famous for saying. UFDA. But she’d always say it with a twinkling eye.

Yesterday I gathered with family ministry leaders from churches all over the metro. We’re joining forces to prepare a conference, this week introducing ourselves to each other. As each of us shared a bit of information, we began to notice a pattern. First it was me, and then several others. We were all of us parents to FIVE. And I’m here to tell you – it’s a LOT of children, whether they’re littles or turning adult.

By the end of today I’ll have three of my own back in the nest, just in time for a holiday weekend. We’ll gather with cousins from two sides of the family for boating and swimming and games of Settlers. Packed around tables devouring Grammy’s food. Enjoying family, but aware of those missing. Siblings and cousins in other places, beginning to build nests of their own. And this, I think, is a mother’s dilemma. Longing for quiet, but missing her children. Not sure if it’s chaos or void she despises the most.

So I thank you, God, for a week’s prayers answered. You were there watching over each crazy adventure. A Father to countless nestfuls of children; all taking flight in every direction. You’ve got each of them covered by your OWN big wings. Today and tomorrow – always, I trust you. In the sweet name of Jesus…

Ufda. Amen.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:26-27 

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4

Small Ball

Safe!

(Photo credit to Karen McDermott)

When Nils was a little guy he spent hours every summer at the ball field, watching his brothers play. He’d don a helmet, way too big, the cutest little bobble-head you’ve ever seen. Then he’d take his position in front of the bleachers, parallel to the first-base line. He’d watch every play, and reenact it. A swing of the bat… a run to the bag… a slide if you’re lucky… and HE’S SAFE!! Over and over, all evening long.

One day during this season of life, I took boys to the public library to stock up on summer reading. Not at all interested in books for babies, Nils had something specific in mind. A baseball book on a particular topic – he described it in detail to the librarian on duty. She was clearly impressed. You know a LOT about baseball for a boy so small! Without missing a beat Nils gave explanation. “I learned it playing Backyard Baseball on my computer.”

You don’t say!

Alas. Whether learned in real life or via computer, our third-born son was groomed for the game. He started playing shortstop for Coach Dave Sorenson’s little league team around the age of eight. Nils by then could reenact all the catches he’d been watching daily on SportsCenter.com. Every play the kid made looked like an ESPN highlight, whether it needed to or not.

Fast-forward a half-dozen years.

By now big brother Grant has been an All-State catcher, and is playing college ball. Luke’s close to 6’4” and honing his skills as pitcher. And Nils is small. As in scrawny. (At a graduation party, one of Nils’ classmates had a display of team photos from elementary school. I nearly gasped when I saw my son in his basketball uni. Goodness, young man. Did your mama feed you?) So for all his spectacular fielding and wily base-stealing, Nils starts to wonder if he’s got what it takes to keep up. He tries track & field for a season in the seventh grade.

And who could blame him? It’s just the boy’s luck, already little brother, and wouldn’t you know all his buddies at school are man-child marvels. No class before and probably since has seen such a crew of athletes – and baseball players all. So while Nils second-guesses himself and considers a career as a 400 runner, his parents are imagining a future dream-team, no doubt including their favorite scrappy shortstop. (If you’re my friend on Facebook, you know where this is going.)

Press pause.

Let me ask you a question. Have you ever felt like this kid I’m describing? A little among all the BIGS?

I have.

Lately especially. Aware of my smallness. My limitations. (If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know what I mean.) But then just lately something else has been happening. Maybe inspired by baseball games. It’s like the more I’m faced by this sea of limits – the more conscious I am of potential STRENGTHS. And this matters.

Here’s why.

Resuming the story. The first time we took Nils on a college visit we met with a baseball coach. (Actually we found out later he wasn’t really a coach, but a B-team conditioning guy.) So this 20-something sort-of-coach takes one look at Nils and proceeds to tell him about all the 200-pound-plus homerun hitters the school’s been recruiting, and how they’re looking for players who can bench a gazillion pounds. We walk away feeling appropriately rejected. But then Nils does something I’m not expecting. He starts to laugh out loud. That guy was crazy. You can’t be a team with just ONE kind of guy. Good luck winning games with a mindset like that.

Now there’s the spirit! (And if by chance the guy from the college is reading statistics from this recent season on a particular shortstop from Minnesota, he might understand what he’s probably missing.)

His senior season. A state leader in hits and runs and bases stolen. Turning double plays and diving for balls. The nastiest bunter you’ve ever witnessed, flying to first in record time. You don’t need to be BIG to kill it in baseball.

Here’s to my son – the king of SMALL ball.

But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
1 Corinthians 7:7

Limited

F & K Prom

My muscle-men (;

Not long ago I had one of those conversations with someone about why so-and-so wasn’t doing such-and-such. Without even thinking, I responded. Maybe they’re limited. I mean, I know I have limitations. Probably they do, too.

Right?

My answer had everything to do with this increasing awareness. Every time I turn around it’s right there staring me in the face. Goodness knows. I am LIMITED.

I’ve expressed it before. Not sure if it’s the enemy taunting or God refining, but I can say it with Paul, and with conviction – I am less than the least.

This blasted introversion, for starters. I’ve wondered on countless occasions. Is it just an excuse for being self-absorbed? Does this particular bent have an upside? Is it possible for a person to be a God-honoring Christian and an introvert, too? It feels like a hundred strikes against you when your entire mission this side of heaven is to love your neighbor and evangelize the world.

Kyle wants me to do Boot Camp with him. 5am two mornings a week. At the YMCA. He’s been doing it since the first of the year, and I’ve been his biggest supporter. Honestly impressed with his crazy discipline (which I might add is not really his bent, either.) And I’m all for Fit and Firm when it’s my husband’s bod we’re talking about. You’ve got this. Keep up the good work.  

So he asks me to join him, more than once. And I tell him – no thank you. I drink coffee in the morning. And read my Bible. And then I go for my run. In that order, and it’s more than enough. No need for more. Then earlier this week we’re talking about something; I can’t even remember what. I make a comment about how I’m all endurance, but pathetically short on strength. Weak muscled and overall wimpy. (This is me admitting, not him.) But he’s quick to agree and reinforce his point. Boot Camp. You should try it.

Later I’m thinking about how my physical limitations are a good representation of my overall situation. I’m all endurance and no strength.

Take being a mom. Patience – check. Long-suffering – check. Gentleness and tender compassion – check, check. But. Like Jimmy pointed out a while back, “Mom, you need to get TOUGH!” Good grief, I know. I’ve got zero chutzpah, there’s no doubt about it.

I’ve got limitations.

We’re doing this series at church on the Holy Spirit, and it’s without question my favorite topic. He does for us what we can’t do on our own. This is my own sermon; the message I’ve preached a hundred times. So two Sundays ago I nearly laughed out loud when the pastor said this. I wrote it down, right there in my notes:

You might be limited. But the Spirit isn’t. He is your strength, when you have none.

Point taken.

So I guess I’ll keep praying this prayer. The one that gets me in trouble every single time. God, increase me. And He’s sure to do it. Filling my home with boys and dog and all kinds of crazy. Filling my calendar with mind-blowing tasks. A ministry calling beyond my pay grade. A prayer list chock-full of every sort of impossible. And nary a dull moment for this gal who nearly worships a wee bit of quiet.

But He’s got me covered. No limits for Him.

Boot Camp, indeed.

Taking Flight

Hug

We left Felipe at the airport just a couple of hours ago, and boy did it feel weird. It’s his graduation gift, a trip back to Colombia. A rite of passage and celebratory blessing, both. And we’ll be counting the hours until that last plane touches down and we get his message of safe arrival. All day praying.

I prayed for him first thing this morning, still pajama-clad and drinking coffee on the porch. Sun brilliant, flowers in bloom. Early June in Minnesota is a glorious time; even Felipe admitted he’ll regret missing out. And so the boy consumed my waking thoughts, part nerves, part pride. And all trust. Trust in airline travel, and plans well-rehearsed, and the overall goodwill of fellow man. Which is to say, only really trusting the ONE who’s got all those others in hand.

I’m reviewing Ephesians, the first three chapters mostly memorized after all these months. And it’s right there in the last chunk of verses, His Spirit infuses my praying. THIS is it. All I ask for the boy.

It’s the passage from the necklaces, worn by Anderson brothers. The same scripture Kyle referenced in his graduation letter. That same letter I used as the text for a digital scrapbook – two copies ordered. One for Felipe, and one for Doris, his foster mom, who he’ll surprise tomorrow in Yopal.

So here I am memorizing the very same prayer we’ve used for his blessing time and again. But seeing it this morning is like it’s the first time, and just what we needed. What Felipe needed, and I needed, too.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 

And I’m thinking and praying about all this FAMILY, and how God chose us to be together. Two and a half years exactly we’ve been family, and now these boys are part of our hearts.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

When you memorize a passage you become aware of every little phrase, each one perfect. And so I pray.

Out of HIS RICHES. How glorious is that? And I’m praying for a boy who’s turned a good fortune since stepping on this soil. An American dream, like it or not. Not to mention, the riches of grad gifts recently deposited, thanks to an overwhelming host of generous friends. The boy is rich by worldly standards. And truth be told it’s one of my fears. Him going back there and taking the glory when it’s been HIS glory all along. And so I pray for strength and power from the Spirit. Power to fill his innermost being. Christ alone, and only through faith.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge… 

And this part of the prayer makes me laugh out loud. Rooted in love. Power to grasp love’s heights and depths. And to KNOW this love that surpasses knowledge. See what I mean? It’s a ridiculous love, this love of Christ.

My last text to Felipe as he boarded the plane. Three big red emoji hearts. Oh God, let him…

…know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 

We received this text just minutes ago. Hey I’m already here. (Dallas, Texas – first leg of the journey.) How do I get my next ticket? And Dad’s watching his progress, tracking flights and gates and texting instructions. Better than Siri. And I’m thinking about Dads and FATHERS watching their children – giving good counsel. An answer to prayer.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. 

Immeasurably more than all this mom knows to ask. God, I trust you. Go now with my son.

Scripture from Ephesians 3:14-21