Monday, October 31, 2011

Running out of time

I have heard it is extremely rare for women to get pregnant after age forty without some kind of fertility assistance. Anecdotally, the people I've talked to personally were mostly 42 or younger when their youngest child was born. I think I know of a woman or two who were 43 or 45.

At best, I probably have 2, maybe 3 pregnancies left in me. Or 1. Or none.

I am enjoying my 12 children. Each is unique, amazing, delightful. And I would love very much to have a dozen more. Or 8. Or 2. Or 1.

I am okay with none. But I would prefer to have more.

So (laugh if you like) my 3rd son and I are praying for twins. Having done the virtual twin thing and survived, we think maybe we can pull it off. I would love to have 2 more and 2 more and 2 more children. Or just 2 more.

I also think about adopting out of the foster system. I'm told we have too many children to be allowed to actually foster, but that we could adopt children who are in the foster system who have already had their parental rights terminated.

So, sometimes, when I think of it, I'm praying for those kids out there, who might be born already, that might be mine someday. I pray that they would be protected from harm at the hands of their birth parents, their foster parents, and the enemy of their souls. I pray that God would visit them in dreams, in visions, that they would know Him even before we know them. Hey, if John the Baptist could be filled with the Spirit in his mother's womb, I guess my future children could encounter Him in their early years as well. And just because my kids come from a messed up environment doesn't mean they have to be messed up by that environment.

I know that my diaper days are drawing to a close. Way more is behind me than is ahead of me. And that is okay. I will let those days go.

I know that time with my older kids is also running out. That makes me more nervous for the boys than the girls. Have I prepared them for the future? For being husbands and fathers? For providing for families, for earning a living?

I have helped them to hide God's Word in their hearts, to value what is important, to save their hearts till marriage, to guard their eyes and minds and hearts, to choose friendships well. But have I prepared them for life outside my home? To work their way through college, to pursue a job, to balance life and work and church and school?

I guess some of these things are learn as you go. And I hope, if the relationship we have now continues, that I will be able to help as they learn those lessons.

And I guess that is what helps when I start to feel the "running out of time" panic - I am not really running out of time. I will continue to bear fruit in some way, even as I'm older. I will continue to parent my children in different ways, even as I'm older. I will still accomplish what God has given me to do, because my biological clock does not govern my eternal clock. Sigh of relief.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Heritage of faith

I'm sitting at my dad's computer, in my dad's chair, reading my dad's Bible. I love my heritage of faith.

I love that my dad and my daughter encourage each other reading their Bibles.

I love that my mom is a crazy flag waving worshiping dancer and that my children love to worship in expressive ways.

I love the memory of my grandparents voices uplifted in worship of the King, "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long."

I love the heritage of my Auntie Evelyn and my Aunt Gin, my Uncle Charlie and my Uncle Jim, all giving years and hours of their lives singing and playing piano and guitar, leading many in songs of praise and worship, and discipling me to do the same. They were heroes in my eyes, and the beginnings of dreams planted in my young heart.

Though I don't remember, I know I have a deep heritage of faith that began in a little country church in Kansas also.

I have grown up into the faithfulness of generations who have served Him faithfully. Not that there are not prodigals in my family, there are. Some walk near, some farther. But the foundation is there for us to build on, or run from.

How very precious, not just in memory, but in the strength that I feel pouring over the Bible my father reads every day, loving the same God, laying the same firm foundation, building his house, and my house, upon the Rock.

Reminds me of Amy Grant's old Christmas song, Heirlooms (which my mother likes a little too much, smile).

Up in the attic, down on my knees
Lifetimes of boxes, timeless to me
Letters and photographs, yellowed with years
Some bringing laughter, some bringing tears
Time never changes the memories
The faces of loved ones who bring to me
All that I come from
And all that I live for
And all that I'm going to be
My precious family is more than an heirloom to me

Wisemen and shepherds, down on their knees
Bringing their treasures to lay at His feet
Who was this wonder, Baby yet King
Living and dying, He gave life to me
Time never changes the memory
The moment His love first pierced through me
Telling all that I come from
And all that I live for
And all that I'm going to be
My precious Jesus is more than an heirloom to me
My precious Savior is more than an heirloom to me

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Baby Mark

Eleven and a half years ago something went wrong. My cousin and his wife were due to have a baby, their first, the day after I was due to have my fourth. That was supposed to be mid-July.

What went wrong was that baby Mark was born in March. Early. Too early. Or so it seemed. Defying all probabilities, Baby Mark, weighing in at, I think, something like 1 pound, 2 ounces, entered the ring of life with serious obstacles.

And he defied them all. Brain bleeds, premature lungs, reflux and feeding issues, shunt malfunctions, and frankly, lots of stuff I don't remember or never knew about. I have no ideas how many surgeries the boy went through.

But he went through them all and won.

Until yesterday.

Sunday afternoon sometime, I received a call. It was not the first such call. They haven't been very frequent for a while, and because he always pulled through, we kind of figured he always would. This time he didn't.

It went something like this: Mark has been having some headaches and upset stomach, so they took him to the hospital. He walked in. Two hours later, he stopped breathing, in what they now believe was a stroke. Later, after being transferred to another, better hospital, he had another. He also had 2 surgeries and a seizure that night. At 1 a.m., the call to pray was heavy.

At 4 we prayed. At 7 I learned they would give him 24 hours to show some sign his brain was alive. At 3 or so, his vitals started to drop. A little after 7, he was gone.

Maybe 26 hours. He walked in. Then he was gone.

I'm working on a song, because, that's how I process things. It's what I do.

Something like this:

The first time I held your hand
Smaller than I ever knew a hand could be
I trembled
I slid my ring up on your leg
And marveled at the perfect way
He formed your hand
I held it

Then a million years went by
Till the day I finally held your tiny frame
Didn't breathe,
couldn't believe I held you then
So long I waited for that day
To hold my son
I held you

But I know Who holds you now
But I know Who holds you now
But I know Who holds you now
He's holds me too

I have held you many times
With each surgery
And every wounded knee
I kissed you and I prayed
God would see you through
And hold you

Every time I let you go
with the knowledge that
the One Who gave you life
loves you even more than I
and holds you

See I know Who holds you now
Yes I know Who holds you now
Yes I know Who holds you now
He holds me too

He holds the universe together
He holds the wind in His fists
He holds my tears in a bottle
He holds my life, my heart

And I know Who holds you now
Yes I know Who holds you now
Yes I know Who holds you now
He holds me too

Faithful and good and true
Perfect and worthy
Gentle and wonderful
Is the One Who holds you
Who holds me and you

Okay, it's not done, but you get the point.

Baby Mark, who hasn't been a baby for a long time, has been such a fighter, we just thought he'd keep on fighting. But he lost finally. Or rather, he won, in a different way.

We know he is fine now. No shunt, no more surgeries, no little barely noticable limp, no glasses, no scars.

But for us, it's just, no Mark. No Mark smiles or jokes or hugs. No son, no brother, no cousin. There's just a Mark shaped hole, like a Grand Canyon, right in the middle of our hearts.

I'm far away. Mark was not the center of my world, except on days when the phone would ring in the scary, Mark needs prayer, kind of way. But people I love are dying inside today.

Jesus, You loved and lost and wept. Even knowing the end from the beginning, even knowing healing was coming, and eternity wasn't far off, You wept. Maybe You are even weeping with us now.

You are near to the broken hearted. Please help us feel You as near as our pain, as near as our tears. And in the days ahead, as that Grand Canyon where Mark used to be, was supposed to be, widens, please fill it with Your healing love. And someday, please, give joy for our mourning.

Friday, October 14, 2011

THIS is halloween

I was walking into Walmart yesterday with my oldest son (yes, I still go there) and we saw peeking out of the back of a car/van/truck/vehicle with a hatchback (what are those things anyway) what looked to be a dead bloody forearm and hand. Isn't that funny? Amber alerts about missing children, horrible months long searches for bodies, and we think a dead hand sticking out the back of a vehicle is a fun joke.

"THIS is halloween," I said to my son.

An hour later we were in a grocery store and there standing by the self check out lane was a lifesized cardboard cut out of what was meant to be a demonized woman. She looked frightening and sick and terrible.

I said, "THAT is halloween."

We can eat candy every day. We can dress up in costumes as often as we like. Halloween isn't dressing up, and halloween isn't eating candy.

Halloween is fear, murder, violence and death.

Look around. Tombstones, dead rotten hands sticking up out of the ground, pretend bloody knives sticking out of someone's back or head, fake corpses hanging from trees, this is what we accept at this time of year. My children received a fun cookbook with recipes for food that looks like fingers that have been cut off.


Skeletons, ghosts, vampires, witches - none of these things are cute.

I have a rule in my house that we do not pretend to be evil. Not in games, not on the Wii, and certainly not on halloween. It glorifies the sin. It teases the lowest part of our flesh into thinking there is something we are missing out on by doing right.

If there were no God, no devil, no supernatural realm, I still think halloween would be sick and wrong. But there is a God, and there is a real devil, and halloween is a day in which the latter revels.

Death, dismemberment, demon possession, seduction, fear, violence, murder . . . these are things celebrated on that day. This is halloween.

So what do we do? What should we do? As Christians, or even as people who do not love darkness, what can we possibly do?

I have two possible plans:

Plan A: get to a local house of prayer, and just pray and worship all day, fasting sugar.

Plan B: still fasting sugar, and worshipping and praying all day at our house, string lights all over the front of the house and give out flashlights with cards made by my kids saying things like, "Jesus is real so you don't have to be afraid."

Not sure what we will do, but whatever it is, I hope very much to punch holes in the darkness, not just accept it, and certainly not join it. I don't celebrate planting, or spring, or winter, or summer, I see no reason to have a halloween party and pretend like it is a celebration of fall or the harvest. Let's be honest with ourselves and take some ground. There is a battle, whether we acknowledge it or not.

A tree is known by its fruit, and the companion of fools will suffer harm. The fruit of what our culture does on October 31 is death and fear, not to mention gluttony. The enemy knows what that day is, but He Who is in us is greater than he. We have authority to cast out demons, heal the sick and raise the dead.

Don't join 'em. Beat 'em!

Forty one tomorrow

He had blue eyes and a warm smile. He was older than me. And he loved his mother. These were the features that drew me to the man I eventually married.

I learned later that he was gentle, patient, and conservative. And a hard worker. Whatever the opposite of a procrastinator is, that was him. If a professor gave a 4 week deadline on a project, he was the guy who had it all but done the first week, and was distracted from his final tweeking the last week by all the people just starting and needing his help.

I remember around Easter of our first year together we were eating at Ponderosa and he started to cry. I said, "Why are you crying?" He responded, "Jesus died, for me." And he had me.

I said, there are, maybe, guys who are more charming, more romantic, better dancers, but all that, I can live without. This passion for Jesus - that's something I can't.

So the man I married was a wonderful, Jesus-loving, tenderhearted hardworker.

But the amazing thing is that he has become more wonderful, more godly, more pleasant, more wise, stronger, braver, and better looking with each passing year. Then he was a young man, a new husband, a new employee. Now he is a good husband (indication: happy wife), a great father to 12 gifts from the Lord, a manager and a leader, a songwriter and worshipper, a man of courage and discernment and passion. He is bold and deliberate. He is a real man.

Tomorrow he will be forty-one. Forty one years of getting better and better. How amazing my husband will be when he is 60!!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Praise vs Worship

I get it.

I should probably apologize for all the eye rolling and arguing I've done in the past regarding this subject. (If I have many more blog-about-faces, I'm going to have to rename the blog, "Crow for dinner".) I just didn't get it, and I do now.

Praise is a choice. It is an action, giving what is due to the one (One) who rightfully deserves it. It is logical. It is deliberate. We praise Jesus because He is worthy. We give Him our praise. It is conscious.

Worship is a response, a reaction. Worship is what happens when we encounter Him. Worship is the way we feel, the way we are, the way we cannot help but to be in the face of His beauty, His majesty, His excellencies.

Praise can be commanded, worship cannot.

It is appropriate to praise, regardless of feeling or emotion, even contrasting it. Worship happens in spirit and truth.

And I think praise often leads to worship. We exalt Him, He reveals Himself to us, we worship.

Anyway, sorry to everybody I ever argued with about the terms "praise" and "worship". You know who you are. Praise is exalting Him, first person, second or third. Worship is our response to the exalted Him.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Raising the bar

For a long time, my answer to any disappointment in marriage has been simple: lower my expectations.

I have adjusted my marital expectations to be as follows. My husband, who is a wonderful, godly, patient, kind, selfless, gentle (pick a fruit of the Spirit, he's got it), beautiful man, has a limited number of hours in his day, is limited in his ability to meet my needs and those of our children, therefore, I will not place demands on him for what I need emotionally, but rather put my hope and trust in the Lord to meet all my needs, sometimes through said wonderful husband, sometimes other ways.

Sounds godly, no?

In fact, if you read back far enough, you will find this posture expressed in the form of advice.

But recently I have felt challenged by the Lord to contend for more. I believe He wants our marriage to look like the relationship between Jesus and His bride. And that is a little different. He wants me to hope for more. He doesn't want me to absolve my man of all responsibility for our marriage, and just hope God will make me happy. He actually placed responsibility for our marriage on my husband's shoulders.

What does this mean? What do I do with this? Well, I did communicate with him. And handed the reins to him. And now I pray, and wait, and trust. Because his heart is still God's responsibility, and so is mine. But now I hope.

I'm hoping for more coming together in our relationship with the Lord and each other. I'm hoping for more conversations that are either able to happen simultaneously with chaos, or snatching moments separate from it, more conversations that go beyond what to pick up from Aldi, when to buy a new laptop, and all things relating to the budget. I'm hoping to show my children a marriage that they will hold out for and want to emulate. I'm hoping to have a relationship that teaches each of us and those around us about how Jesus loves His church, and how His church trusts in Him.

That's raising the bar.

Monday, October 03, 2011

On the wall

I wrote a song not long ago - sorry I don't have a high-tech (or even low tech) way to let you hear it here, but it goes like this:

Come take your place upon the wall
See your enemy draws near
Come take your place upon the wall
Follow hard and do not fear
You've neglected it too long
And now the time has come
Build me a stone wall

It was inspired by a couple sermons preached by Lou Engle and Tammy Riddering, which were in turn inspired by Nehemiah, regarding the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem after the exiles returned from Babylon. But they were preaching about prayer, building a wall of prayer.

It struck me yesterday, why I am so pumped about my little night watch. I'm part of this Moravian Night Watch. And I have found my way to the 2 or 3 a.m. slot. I tried doing the late night positions, but that meant staying up really late. By doing the middle of the night, I go to sleep when I'm tired, wake up to pray, and go back to sleep.

But none of those things is easy. Going to sleep isn't always easy - I'm kind of a night owl, and sometimes there is too much to do, my head buzzing.

I'm a light sleeper, so waking up is not hard, but waking up enough to pray and read my Bible without nodding off, and with any sense of actually communing with God, well, that's a different story. I am often numb for the first half hour of my watch.

I've gotten very creative about finding ways to stay awake. When it was hot out I would take a cold shower for most of it, 'cept you can't have a Bible in the shower. Standing, walking, marching in place, dancing. Mostly I do things like scrub my kitchen floor, match socks, iron shirts, and my favorite, the one most likely to really wake me up - process dirty cloth diapers. I can frequently be found at 2:20 in the morning sitting in my kids bathroom with one hand on my Bible and my other in the toilet, cleaning poop off a bumgenius before I wash it.

What do I pray about, with my hand swirling in poo? Whatever the Lord brings to mind. I pray for our nation and its leader, for leaders in my church, in our house of prayer, in my city. I pray for Israel, for the peace of Jerusalem. I pray for Muslims to have dreams and visions about Jesus, and to learn what a wonderful Father God is. I pray for prodigals who have walked away to come home and find Him waiting for them. I pray for the unborn to have life and for the next generation to have their life in Him. I wage war, tear down strongholds, rebuke demons. I also hear the voice of my Beloved, loving me.

And so by the end of my watch, I'm wide awake. And going back to sleep is almost as challenging as waking up was.

Don't be impressed. Like I said, it is often numb, difficult, weak, fumbling. Often, I have the fervency of a stone.

But that's what I'm so excited about. I am a stone. A living stone on the wall. I don't have to be impressive. Stones seldom are. I'm just there, part of the wall. I'm one of many. But I'm there, showing up.

And after years of longing to be part of the house of prayer, the global prayer movement, which I love, partnering with the Lord to bring His glory here - I'm doing it! I'm on the wall, in my obscure, stinky, middle of the night fashion.

And there has been grace for this. I am eating and living healthier, but I can say that I am not just exhausted all the time. I am okay. I'm not falling asleep during school, not tired when driving, not losing my temper with my children, not acting despondent and hopeless with my husband (all normal exhausted-me symptoms). I may be even thriving. Not for amazingness. Just for love.

I love that each night I have a weak, unimpressive, half-asleep date with the Lover of my soul. And I love that as a mom of many, I still get to be part of the night warriors taking the kingdom by force in prayer.