Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Answer the Door!

I read once that grandchildren are God’s way of compensating us for growing older. I will personally vouch that being a grandma is one of the sweetest parts of my 50-something life.

I’m up to 6 grandkids now, though when you have seven kids that number can change at any moment!

What do I love about it? I love getting the chance to do things differently, the way I wished I had done them as a mom. I love revisiting the wonder on a child’s face as the huge Christmas tree in the shopping plaza is lit for the first time. I love seeing the world through their untainted eyes, when a common daisy becomes a miracle. And I love that when I’m with them, my only responsibility is to simply be with them. I get wonderfully tired when I do, and then get to go home to a good night’s sleep.

The only part I don’t like? My three granddaughters all live out-of-state. Only my three grandsons, Isaac, Ryder and Asher, live nearby.

At four-years-old, Isaac is the oldest of my grandkids. He loves people—the more the merrier—and loves to turn strangers into friends. That boy exudes joy!

Ryder is three, and reminds me so much of his dad at that age that a sense of déjà vu is inevitable. He is curious, funny, mischievous, and smart.

Asher is only one, and his biggest goal in life is to keep up with his brothers. Please do not try to convince him that he can’t, because he will prove you wrong!

Every time I drive the 15 miles to their house, I can’t wait to get there. I think of what their faces will look like when they see me walk in the door—that flash of recognition followed by joy. I look forward to that first hug as they rush to me, and the fun of playing with them. At the end of the evening, I look forward to snuggling with them as they wind down before going to bed.

When I get to their front door, I knock. My heart quickens in anticipation. Sometimes neither my son, Stew, nor my daughter-in-law, Annie, hear that first knock. I understand. Boys tend to make a lot of noise. Sometimes I will just stand and listen to the noise and those little voices that I love so much.

door for answer the door

But I always knock again, a little louder. I want them to open that door so I can be with them!

Sometimes, I even have to knock a third time.

I really don’t care how many times I knock before they answer. I’m going to stand there and keep knocking until eventually someone answers the door. And once that door opens, the fun will begin!

Jesus, too, stands at the door and knocks. It is the door of our hearts. Even if we have already responded to Him initially for salvation, He continues to knock, wanting to come in more fully and more completely, and to enter the deeper parts of our heart.

Sometimes life creates so much noise, so much commotion that we just don’t hear Him.

But He keeps knocking.

Or sometimes we do hear Him, and ignore His knock. Because we are busy. Because we know He wants more of us. Because we know if we let Him in, He will have something to say about what goes on.

So He keeps knocking. And He will keep knocking until we answer. Because He loves us, and He knows, even if we don’t, how wonderful it will be when we let Him in.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. John 17:24

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20

Further reflection:

  1. Do you take the time to listen carefully when Jesus knocks on the door of your heart?
  2. What are some things that make it hard—by circumstance or by choice—to hear Him?
  3. What do you think would change in your life if you chose to listen more carefully?

Father, I’m sorry for the times I tell myself I am too busy to slow down and listen for Your knocking. I’m sorry that sometimes I choose to ignore Your voice. Thank You that You persistently, patiently, and perfectly wait for me to listen to You, and that You delight in the fellowship we share.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Foolish Dogs

“Mom, where are the dogs?”

I peered out from under the blankets through sleepy eyes at my son, who was standing at my bedroom door. His voice sounded worried.

“Mom, the dogs are missing. They aren’t in the backyard!” He spoke even more urgently.

Now that woke me up in a hurry! I jumped from bed and ran down the stairs, as if looking for them myself would make them magically reappear.

Our old black lab and our yellow lab puppy were nowhere to be found. The gate left cracked open on the side yard gave a clear indication of how they made their escape.

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“Mom, it’s my fault,” Derek confessed. “You dead-bolted the front door last night, so I went through the gate to come in the back. I guess I didn’t make sure the gate was closed tight.”

I felt like it was my fault. If I hadn’t locked Derek out, we wouldn’t have been facing this problem. But either way, the dogs were definitely gone.

We ran to the car, calling our dogs as we circled the block.

“Daisy! Duchess!” No answer.

We drove through several neighboring developments, craning our necks and hoping to catch a glimpse of yellow or black fur. Where do you look? They had been gone for more than six hours by then! I felt sick to my stomach. My only consolation was that both dogs had collars with tags on that identified them. Hopefully, whoever found them would call us.

I could see that Derek felt terrible. We love our dogs and take the responsibility for them very seriously. It hurt to think of them roaming around lost, hungry and thirsty by now, unable to find their way back home. We didn’t know if they would even stay together. The older lab, Daisy, could barely keep up with the young and energetic Duchess when we took them walking. I had visions of Duchess, unleashed and free for the first time, bolting and leaving Daisy in the dust.

I was actually grateful to have to go work later that morning. It sure beat sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.

Derek was so upset that he went looking for them for more than two hours that afternoon, just driving around and randomly stopping people on the street to ask, “Have you seen my dogs?”

“No…” was always the heart-breaking answer.

At one point he even stopped two bicycle policemen. Though they hadn’t seen Daisy and Duchess either, they did take down a description. They also noted that Derek was wearing a Round Table pizza work shirt. A half hour later he received this phone call from them.

“We’ve found your dogs.”

Somehow they had ended up in the storm drainage channel that was quite a ways from our house. The policemen had been unwilling to go down into it to get them, partly because it’s never a good idea to approach strange dogs, and partly because of the steep, slippery slopes and filthy water of the channel.

When Derek arrived he found both dogs standing miserably in dirty runoff water up to their haunches. As soon as he called them, they barked joyously to see him, but they weren’t able to climb out by themselves. He never hesitated, but immediately clambered down the sharply sloping cement and carried a frantically happy Duchess back up. Leaving her with one of the policemen, he took a leash back down with him and helped pull Daisy out as well. Then he took those dirty, smelly, soggy dogs home with him.

How wonderful it was to have them back!

As I thought back over the day, I remembered a comment that Derek had made while we were driving around.

“Stupid dogs,” he’d spouted angrily. “Why would they run away from a place where they have food, where someone takes care of them, plays with them and loves them?”

Oh, the wisdom of that simple question. Why would those foolish dogs run away from home?

My dogs didn’t understand that fences were not designed to keep them imprisoned, or to keep them from experiencing something better. Quite the opposite. I love my dogs, and wanted them to stay where they are protected. Where they are safe. And where they will ultimately be happiest.

After the first rush of excitement I’m sure my dogs only wanted to come back. The kind of undisciplined freedom they experienced isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but they could never have found their own way home. So because Derek loves them he went looking for them, found them, and brought them back. Daisy and Duchess returned home after their adventure cold, hungry, dirty and smelly. Yet their return was still celebrated, because we were so glad to see them.

Oh, how I can relate to my dogs. There was a time in my own life when I decided that I knew better than God did where the fences in my life should be. I felt that His boundaries were unreasonable, intended to confine me, and I craved the freedom that escaping them would bring me. I was determined to live life by my own rules. And since God gave me freewill, He left the gate open for me to go.

It felt wonderful at first. The freedom of not having to answer to anyone for my choices felt heady and exhilarating. I ran with that freedom, but what had seemed to promise joy only brought great pain, and I began to be homesick. Homesick for my Savior, because He knows me; tired of the freedom that failed to satisfy the deepest longings of my heart; hungry for all the good things that God had planned for me and I had rejected. And I wanted more than anything to be with Him again.

Because He loves me, Jesus came looking for me. He knew I couldn’t find my way home without Him. He didn’t care that I, too, was smelly and dirty and cold. He washed me clean and He celebrated my return.

I’ve experienced living life apart from Him, outside His loving boundaries. And it stinks. I never want to leave Him again.

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees…It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. (Psalm 119:67-68, 71)

For you were like sheep (or dogs, my words) going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:25)

Further reflection:

  1. Have you ever deliberately walked away from the Lord?
  2. What were the consequences?
  3. What did you learn from that experience?

Father, it was indeed good that when I went astray I did not find the freedom I’d anticipated, but pain that I did not. It caused me to want to come home. My heart is full of gratitude that in Your compassion You came looking for me, in Your mercy You forgave me , and in Your love You welcomed me home. I want to stay with You always.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Listen to Your Mother!

Am I the only one who assumed that a mom’s job would progressively get easier as each child moved out of the house? It was so comforting to think that as the kids got old enough to live independently I wouldn’t have to worry about them anymore. I looked forward to the time when I was released from the day-to-day concerns of child raising, no longer fretting over the decisions they made or what time they got in at night.

What a lovely fantasy that turned out to be!

When my then 23-year-old son, Stewart, called me to inform me that he was going backpacking, I thought it was a wonderful idea. He had often hiked in Northern Washington where he lived, and the three day trip he had planned was to a gorgeous area of the Cascade Mountains. I encouraged him to go.

Until he told me he was going by himself! That bombshell was met with stony silence. Too many stories of those foolhardy enough to trek by themselves sprang to mind. Something as simple as a sprained ankle could have far-reaching consequences. I could picture Stewart hurt, bleeding, alone, and without a way to call for help. Nope, it was just a foolish thing to even consider.

I strongly urged Stewart to reconsider, but his decision was already made. He wanted the time to be alone with God and wrestle with some life issues he faced.

Burdened, I immediately called everyone I knew to ask them to pray. Relief came only as I prayed for him myself.

It turned out to be a good thing that so many people were praying.

On the second day of Stewart’s scheduled three-day trip there was a message on my answering machine: “Hi Mom. This is from your a-little-too-adventurous son. Just wanted you to know that I’m home, safe finally, and a little early. I’ll spare you the boring details of a very long story, but let’s just say that I’m very glad to be home.”

If not for the fact that Stewart was obviously alive to utter those words, I think my heart would have leapt right out of my chest. This is the story he told:

As is common in the Pacific Northwest, there was a constant rain falling as Stewart began the first leg of his trek. A few miles in he hit the first of two possible campsites. His heart told him to keep going to the next camp, six miles further in. His head told him that because of the rain it would be better to set up camp before dark. This time he listened to his head and quickly set up his tent close to a sleepy little stream, and crawled in for an early night.

During the night he woke up and realized that the sound of the brook was considerably louder over the sound of the rain than when he had gone to bed.

“Curious.” he thought, and promptly fell back to sleep.

When the first light of morning woke Stewart, he peeked outside his tent. The sight before him was alarming! Instead of the gently flowing stream he found an ominously swollen channel that was threatening to overflow its banks. The still-falling rain continued to fill the turbulent creek even further.

Stewart bolted from his tent, threw it and the rest of his gear into his backpack, and immediately started a quick double-time back to the trailhead. Rivulets of water began to wash across the trail. At first, they were shallow and reached only to the top of his waterproof boots, but the still-falling rain swelled the running water until it reached his knees. When he stepped into one of these currents and found himself in water up to his waist, he began to realize the full seriousness of his quandary.

 backpacking-4

The ground was already saturated, so all of the rain had nowhere to go but downhill, and often its path cut across the trail. Stewart had no other way out but to follow that same trail.

Fear dug in, and Stewart began to pray in time to his rapid breathing. When he stepped into yet another wash of water, it reached all the way up to his shoulders before the swiftness of it swept him completely off his feet!

“Mom,” he told me. ”I have never been so scared in my whole life! Just as the current took me, I reached up and grabbed hold of a small tree growing in the rock beside the trail. I hung onto it for dear life. I struggled to get my feet under me, and finally lunged out of the water. I realized in that moment that I could die at any time, and only God could help me.”

Thankfully, Stewart found his way back to the trailhead and his Bronco shortly thereafter. It took a while for his breathing to slow to normal, and even longer for his thoughts to settle down. That explained the adrenaline-laced message that I had picked up.

As moms do, I was hoping that Stewart had learned an important lesson from his hair-raising experience.

“Of course I did!” Stewart assured me. “I learned never to go backpacking in the rain!”

I’m pretty sure he was pulling my leg about that. Regardless, I learned some very important lessons from his ordeal.

First, when everyone is telling you that what you are planning to do is foolish and dangerous, you need to pay attention! God often uses the counsel of other believers to challenge us to rethink a foolish perspective. Stewart’s desire to be alone with God was commendable, but he would have been far better off to heed the wise counsel of those who love him. It would have saved him a great deal of trauma (Proverbs 12:15, 12:1).

Secondly, our unwise choices do affect those who care about us. We do not live in isolation. Good or bad, our decisions have consequences for others. Many people love Stewart, and if he had been swept away we would all have been left to grieve (Proverbs 14:12).

Lastly, we are incredibly blessed that God’s grace so often covers our lack of wisdom. We choose to do what seems right in our own eyes, yet He rescues us from our folly. In His rich mercy, He chose to keep Stewart safe. In the process, he taught both of us some valuable lessons (Proverbs 19:20).

So listen to your mother, and don’t go backpacking by yourself!

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Psalm 15:22

Further reflection:

  1. Has there ever been a time when you refused to listen to wise counsel?
  2. Looking back, what do you wish you had done differently?

Father, You are wise, and Your plans for me are for good. I’m sorry for the times I rushed in, doing my own things my own way. Thank You for the gift of godly friends who offer wise counsel. Above all, thank You for Your abundant grace that so often covers my foolishness.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Brunch

An incredibly diverse group of women met for brunch. The differences between us are obvious: some are still in their twenties and others are closer to sixty years old. Some are slim, others not so slim. A few introverts, more extroverts. But there are similarities too; we all love Jesus, and we all either work at our church or have husbands who do.

food for Brunch

Encouraged by our hostess, each woman had the opportunity to share about how they met their husbands. It was absolutely fascinating.

One guy had to endure multiple rejections before she would ever agree to a first date. Another shared how they were friends, who grew into best friends, who eventually grew to love each other. One woman loved her guy for years before the light bulb went on for him.

I watched each face light up as she remembered what it was like to fall in love with the man that would become her husband. I heard the joy in each voice as she recalled the first time she realized her love was reciprocated, and the wonder of being pursued.

Every story was different, but every story had a common theme: love.

In the same way, it is good to remember the story of how we came to love God, and accept His love for us. He loves each of us deeply, passionately. Yet the love story He writes in every life is different, and His pursuit of us is unique.

For some, they loved Him even as a child, though that love has grown mature and deepened over time. For others, it begins as a gentle wooing; whispers in the soul by the One who yearns for us to love Him back. Sometimes it is pain He uses, as He can and does use even (and perhaps especially) the hard things to bring the good of loving Him back into our lives.

Each love story looks different, but there is one thing of which we can be sure: He will faithfully, tirelessly, and relentlessly pursue us. He will do so until He reaches His goal; to have each of understand and accept His love, and to commit to loving Him back , not merely “until death do us part”, but for all eternity.

Because He is the lover of my soul.

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

Further reflection:

1. How did God pursue you?
2. What convinced you that His love was real, and could be trusted?
3. Take a moment to reflect on that time when you first loved Him back. How has your love for Him grown, and deepened?

Father, thank You for the way You pursued me all those years ago. Thank You that you knew the desire of my heart was to love You, even before I realized it. Your pursuit never faltered. Your love never wavered, even when I tried to walk away. Constant, unchanging, unconditional, forever; that’s how You love me. I cannot deserve it, but I cannot, I cannot, refuse it.