Wednesday, August 29, 2012

something else

"The day is ending.  It's time for something that was beautiful to turn into something else that is beautiful.  Now, let go."  The plumber from New Zealand in Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Eat, Pray, Love.

Letting go of something is always difficult for me.  Always.  No matter what it is...good, bad, or indifferent.  It is not that I do not want things to change, I just do not want to lose anything that I have experienced in my life.  A hoarder of experiences, of sorts, I guess I am admitting to be...just pile them on and keep 'em coming.
Photos, blog posts, journal entries, emails...they all help me hold onto the memories so I will not forget.
Memories are great.
There is just one thing that memories lead one to do time to time that is not so wonderful.  Memories keep one looking back too often once in awhile.  Life is not found in yesterday.  Life is not found in the dreams of tomorrow and what it might bring.  Life is today.  Right here, right now.
As I read the above quote this evening, it was confirmed in my heart that handing over something to God is not always a punishment, but it is indeed for my good and His glory.  The concept of a beautiful day turning into a beautiful night is so simple, so wonderfully easy to comprehend.  One has to leave in order for the other to appear.  Outside of Alaska where there are 24 hours of sunlight in summer and the same amount of darkness in winter, our normal days turn into nights.  Both can be beautiful, but both are very different.  Similarly, Monday was a most beautiful day with sunshine, warm temperatures, and a nice breeze.  The sunset was stunning as the sun turned the first and incoming clouds of Tropical Storm, turned Hurricane, Isaac, pink.  It was a transition into a beautiful night, but it did not take anything away from the beautiful day just hours before.
God has blessed me with some amazing things in my life.  Treasures that I do not want to ever forget.  Places, people, things...all beautiful.  However, I've moved several times, said goodbye to family and friends, and given away items that once were at the top of my list of things I wanted...it was time for something beautiful to turn into something else that was beautiful.  And, in order for that to happen, I had to let go.
In this step of faith in order to trust God with my something beautiful, I am reminded by all these things that the "something else" is beautiful too.
Easing my grip on what I have held on to so tightly for so long, I feel His grace showered upon me, making it a little less painful.  My eyes are heart are on Him, in expectation, for my next beautiful something else.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

MtR: faith to trust

"Now fear the LORD and serve Him with all faithfulness.  Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD."  Joshua 24:14

God wants me to trust Him more.
How do I know?
He's asking me to give Him something very precious to me.
He wants me to give Him this something so He can give me more of something else.
If my hands and heart are filled with yesterday, how can I receive today?
Good point.
If He didn't have my attention at verse 14, the message was loud and clear when verse 23 rolled around...

"'Now then,' said Joshua, 'throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.'"  Joshua 24:23

I have been holding onto something that is taking up too much of my mind, heart and time...God wants it gone.
Throw it away.  Delete it.  Let it go.
"Have faith to trust Me with it," God beckons me.

Okay.
I have no choice but to obey.
He is worth it.
He always is.

Thank you PB for preaching that sermon just for me.  It was awesome...a remarkable moment indeed.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Of bath time and Jesus...

Written 8.7.12 @ BMC

As I am writing this, my boys and I are at Bible Memory Camp, a week long event of fun, Treasure Hunts, games, food, swimming, campfires, and, most importantly, Jesus!  God always shows up (something about a promise of being around when 2 or 3 are gathered in His name {smile}).  How clearly we sense, see, and experience Him depends on us.  How prepared we are to open our eyes and hearts to Him...how eagerly we seek His presence in our midst...makes all the difference.  At times, it seems, God makes a statement so that ALL are keenly aware He is in our midst and at work.  No one left behind to wonder about whether or not He exists, He proves it in mighty ways.
A mom of two, count 'em 1...2..., campers now, I can only hope that inbetween all of chlorine, sweat, bugspray, & campfire smoke they will find and make time for a quick shower or two during camp.
Is this too much to ask?
I think not.
They believe otherwise.
I have grown up in the Bible Memory program...camper, counselor, staff, board member and now mom of campers.  I have seen and heard it all.  BUT, when I do hear something new it doesn't surprise me anymore. The campers (and sometimes their parents, as they check them in and prepare to leave their babies behind) make me laugh because of their sayings and doings.  Young campers are all alike in some ways.  My boys are no different, and I didn't expect them to be.
The campers want to have fun.
They adore their counselors...like "They walk on water!" kind of admiration.
They are forever losing and/or forgetting things.
And, last but not least, they believe that swimming is a grand substitute for showering.
Knowing these things, I felt a little prepared for Alex's confession after camp last year (first year of being a camper) that he never really showered all week, BUT he did wash his hair once.
That's something, at least.
This year, while gathering toiletries and  packing suitcases, I made my motherly plea to at least consider showering this year.  They promised to think about it.
In the Florida heat, I can only hope they will...for everyone else's sake if nothing else.
Somewhere along the line, showers have become "optional" in their minds.  No longer do they run with excitement ahead of me into the bathroom where they cannot wait to hop in the tub.  Gone are the hour long baths where I have to go in every so often to add more warm water to the tub to keep them from turning blue.  No more wrinkled fingers and toes from extended play in the water.  Other things are more important now.  Baths are so yesterday.  And showers are quickly following suite.
More fun and interesting things are taking their attention away from the innocent fun of playing in the bathtub. The necessity of soap and shampoo are lost in the distractions of other activities.  The idea that one more day won't hurt me or anybody else has moved in and refuses to be budged.
I saw a parallel to this concept that never crossed my mind before today.  I credit it to a family's crisis that I became aware of over the summer while in Anchorage.  A sweet grandmother came to a friend and I in tears stating that she had received an email from her daughter that her grandson had sent an email to not try and contact him ever again.  He was disowning his family, but worse, he was disowning His Jesus that he grew up learning about, memorizing Scripture about, worshiping, and loving.
Slowly but surely something had distracted him, disillusioned him, hardened his heart toward the One who made him and whom he adored growing up.
This shook me to the core.  As a mother of boys who seem to have a very similar upraising to my friend's grandson, this is something that I have been praying against already in their short lifetimes.  As the three of us stood there praying for her grandson, my heart pleaded to God again for my own boys and the choices they have ahead of them in their own lives.
I still am praying for this young man who is choosing to go against his God and his family.  I am praying for the parents and grandparents who are hurting because of his choices.  I cannot even imagine how their hearts must hurt and miss his company and love.
Just like with bath time, the joy and attraction of Jesus to this young man (and countless others) has lost out to other things.  He's no longer needed.  Time once spent in His presence is spent elsewhere worshiping worthless idols.  I suspect a prayer went unanswered in the way this young man desired...or a Christian failed him in some fashion...maybe he became bored and felt unloved in his church.  Maybe a combination of all of these.  He looked away from Jesus and chased a squirrel which has led him to making choices that are hurting himself, his wife, and his family.
However, there is still hope.  As long as they are able, his family is and will remain in prayer for him.  While they pray, I pray, too...
I pray against distractions for my boys and the people who would seek to persuade them to try and do things that are sinful and displeasing to the God they are growing up in knowledge about right now.
I pray for them to have strength and courage to do what is right...not to avoid doing wrong, but to bring honor to the one true God who deserves it.
I pray for wisdom to know how to love and discipline my boys with the heart of God and not with my own.
I pray for the courage to keep on the straight and narrow pathway myself so that the footsteps they follow lead to the One who loves them more than I do or ever could.
I pray for positive influences in their lives when they are outside of the four walls of our home.
Finally, I pray for God's love to fill them to overflowing, leaving little to no room for evil to get a foothold.
In Jesus' name,
Amen!

MtR: a matter of perspective

Send your bread on the surface of the waters, 
for after many days you may find it.
Give a portion to seven or even to eight, 
for you don’t know what disaster may happen on earth. 
Ecclesiastes 11:1-2
In just the past few days I have had to endure two very different, yet very fearful circumstances.  It has caused me to think about fear and my reaction to it.  I have come to the conclusion, my recent and totally opposite reactions to fearful situations was closely related to the information I knew about my situations.
My first potentially dangerous situation was the one with a bear story.  All I knew for certain was that there was a bear just feet away from me and my family...the only thing separating us was a tent wall.  I could hear the bear tossing around our cooler, but could not see anything else.  I knew very little, but what I did know terrified me.  Why?  Because I knew what that bear could do to me...or worse, my family.
I needed to act, but I hesitated out of fear of the unknown.  
That was midnight Saturday into Sunday.  Monday afternoon rolls around and I find myself in another situation that put the boys and I in danger.  As we pull into the garage, Tim states from the back seat that he thinks he sees water on the garage floor.  I hadn't noticed anything pulling in, probably due to my sunglasses and change from sunlight to darkness as I drove inside the garage.  I replied to Tim that it would be just our luck to have a water leak somewhere.
As I opened my door, fumes instantly filled my nostrils.  There was liquid on the floor...not water, but gasoline.  And, from the intense fumes, it was more than just a little.
In a second's time I had to make a decision on what to do.
Leave the car with its hot engine in the garage with gas under it or start the car again in the garage with gasoline under it in order to move it away from the gas and fumes that had been building up for who knows how long.
Neither choice was really a great one.  Both potentially explosive.  Both had me fearful of the results.
I gave acknowledgement to the fact that starting the car again was very risky, but went with that choice over the other of leaving a hot engine inside the garage filled with fumes and an unknown amount of gasoline on the floor.
What I knew for sure:  gasoline is explosive in nature, it doesn't take much to bring out the explosive side in gasoline, and we were in danger.
I had to act on what I knew and I did.
What I did not know was the actual seriousness of the gasoline spill (which was a leak from the VW Bug we own and park in the garage).
Some people believe that the very act of the garage door going up not igniting the gasoline is a miracle.  Next, they cannot believe that pulling the car inside did not blow us into tomorrow.
By the time people hear that I restarted the car inside the gasoline filled garage, their jaws have dropped and they are speechless at the fact that the boys and I are still here.
I knew it was dangerous, but I didn't know it was that dangerous.
I am thankful that I didn't know then what I know now.
With the bear, fear had me frozen.
With the gasoline, fear had me act.
My reactions were so different...why?
It is a matter of perspective.
The unknown was worse than the known with the bear outside of the tent.  I was afraid of all of the "What if's..."  I did not know how the bear would react if I made noise.  What if I did something and he attacked?  I would be the one responsible.
The known was worse than the unknown with the gasoline filled garage.  I knew what could happen if the car remained in the garage and it seemed a greater risk than the unknown of what might happen if I started the car and moved it out of the way.  If I didn't move the car and the house exploded, then I'd be responsible.  I didn't know at the time, two miracles of sorts had already occurred.
Ultimately, nothing was in my control outside of my own actions in either situation.  Even then, a bigger and greater God knew how I would react in both situations.  I firmly believe He had His hand of protection of us the entire time in the woods and in the garage.  He gave the notion to do what needed to be done to the person in each situation whom needed to do it.  He heard my prayers for wisdom and answered by giving wisdom to the one who needed it at the moment and courage to act on it.
And, I thank Him for it!  Over. and. over. again!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

the one with a bear story

A camping getaway at Vogel State Park in the north GA mountains was our spontaneous weekend activity of choice.  We pretty much decided Thursday it was going to happen, so we packed up everything we could think of that we might need for a two-night stay in a tent when we arrived home from an Upward soccer coaches' meeting at our church that evening.  The finishing touches were packed Friday morning before school began.
Even with the chance of rain being rather good, off we went Friday afternoon; tents in hand, smiles all around, and spirits high.
Friday evening was spent setting up camp, roasting hotdogs and marshmallows over the fire, and relaxing in between bike rides and short walks into the woods around us.  The weather was perfect for camping.
Saturday Alex was up early stoking the fire and getting it going again for us.  It wasn't needed for warmth, but for our favorite breakfast when camping:  pancakes and sausage/bacon cooked over the open fire.  No better tasting pancakes anywhere.
As we were cleaning up our breakfast items, thunder rumbled in the distance.  Scott finished cleaning up while I went into the tents and gathered our bedding items and placed them in the truck to keep them dry.  Just. in. case.
We were both finishing up our tasks when the first drops fell.  We all gathered in the big tent while the downpour ensued.  Not often do we find ourselves all together with nothing to distract us from each other.  It was a great way to begin our day...even if the rain was falling.  We decided together to head out of the campground and explore some places around Blairsville once the rain let up enough for us to get out and about.
I really do not know how long we were in the tent, but it rained hard enough and long enough for us to realize that our tent, one that was my father's for many years and we acquired after he passed away, is no longer waterproof.  The puddles were pretty large under the air mattress, but since all of our bedding and baggage was tucked safely away in the truck, all was okay.
We took a few minutes to shower and get ready for the afternoon ahead of us.  They keep a very clean campground, including the shower houses, at Vogel.  A huge thank you to the park managers and volunteers!  It was rather comical, however, that as Scott was going in for his shower, the electricity was off. No big deal, right?  Well, apparently, they use an instant hot water system which was off due to the lack of electricity, so the water was straight out of the ground cold.  Poor guy!
Almost lunch time found us heading into Blairsville with tummies grumbling.  We ate at a quaint restaurant there, truly a mom-n-pop restaurant that had amazingly good fried chicken and bbq ribs.  Good thing a hike was in the near future to work off lunch. :)
After lunch, we went over to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia.  Driving up the mountain, we joked about a mysterious fog that would probably roll in just as we reached the top.  We have a history of being at high elevations with great overlooks and not being able to see one single thing except fog or clouds.  It happens all the time to us.
But not this day.
Thankfully, the clouds were providing cooler temps by hiding the direct sunlight, but were still high enough for us to have a wonderful view of the valleys below and the mountainous terrain all around us.  It was a great hike and time spent up on the mountain.  The visitor's center on top had so many photos and information about the history of the mountain and surrounding area.  It was a great way to begin Alex's 4th grade study on our state.  They also offered a free 15 minute movie on Brasstown Bald.  I had no idea that it has never reached a recorded temperature above 84 degrees on top of that mountain.  Crazy to think about, especially this summer, when the temps only 1/2 mile below were nearing 100 just a couple of months ago.
Hiking down gave me time to process all the info we had just heard and read about up top.  I love and appreciate the history of our country now that I am older.  In school, a few things were interesting and a few things stuck in my mind, but the appreciation for how our country was founded and what it took for people to make a life here just wasn't there.  I hope my boys gain an appreciation a little earlier in life for their forefathers' hard work and determination than I did.  Exposure to our history outside of a book is one of the reasons we try to travel as much as we are able.
We stopped off at a car show in Blairsville before we headed back to the campground.  The old cars are so cool...and looking really good all polished up for display.  I often wonder what a person who drove one of the first cars would think of all this fuss over the cars.  Thankfully, the first car I drove is not included in the lot...just sayin'...
Driving back into the campground we stopped off just outside the park entrance to look at a waterfall and try to figure out how to get to it.  Tim and I wanted to hike down to the bottom of it.  The trail that went around the lake in the campground led to the trailhead for the waterfall.  Off the two of us went.  It was only about 12-15 minute hike from where we began...and we were thankful for the relative easy climb.  It was worth the time and energy, though.  I love having some 1:1 time with my boys when I can get it.  Their little personalities come out and it's just a great way to chat and catch up.  Scott did us a favor and came and picked us up once we reached the beach in the campground...saved us a few long minutes through the camp sites to reach our own.  It was a really sweet gesture and we appreciated it.
Evening time at the campsite had more open fire cooking, relaxing, bike rides, walks, and prep work for the night time...like putting things under a tarp to keep dry in case of rain and tying shut the cooler to keep critters out during the hours of darkness.
We were all tuckered out from a fitful sleep the first night and a busy day outdoors.  The boys retired around 9:30  and we turned in around 10 pm.
All was well.
Until...
I heard "it" and knew instantly we were no longer alone on campsite #79.
A bear.
A bear, trying to get into our cooler, had successfully knocked it off the picnic table with a loud crash. I awoke to that sound, contained, cooled items and ice sloshing around inside with a vengeance.  I lay there awake and more alert than I have been ever in my life, listening and trying to anticipate its next move.  The bear was insistent on getting that cooler open.  I found myself holding my breath, not moving, in disbelief that no one else had been awakened by such a raucous.  I prayed the boys would remain asleep and that God would make that bear go away!  I prayed for wisdom and protection.  I prayed for headlights to come through at that very moment and scare the bear away.  I prayed he wouldn't get that cooler open right outside the tent.
As I listened, prayed, and tried to remember to breathe, I remembered a friend's advice on a return trip to Alaska...
"Don't let the bears eat you."
Okay...that applies here too, I hope.
Also heard was Scott K.'s bear instructions again and again in my head from all my summer weeks in Alaska.  "Make noise," he'd said.
How can I make noise when I can't even remember to breathe???
Fright had overtaken my flight instinct.  I was useless to make any noise.  My heart was in my throat...a heaviness sat upon my chest.  My mind was racing, but my body was frozen.
I was making plans of action in my head, but my limbs and voice refused to cooperate.  Somebody wake up already!
With every flip of the cooler and every scratch of its claws at the rope tying it shut, I knew he was a determined bear.  One pretty frustrated, too.  He wanted what he came for and wasn't leaving without it.
Finally, Scott stirred and rose his head up as if he'd heard something.  I finally found a whisper and said, "It's a bear!"  Having my voice again, the fear went into irrational thinking.  It seemed with each toss of the cooler, it was getting closer to the tent.  I began thinking of "What if..." scenarios.  What if he flipped it over and it landed by or on the tent?  What if he got it open and planted himself there for his feast?  "What if the boys woke up?"  I rolled closer to Scott and he held me for a moment, telling me it would be okay.  He asked if we had a cell phone.  "No, they are both in the truck in case of rain."  Never again will I make that mistake.
Then, Scott became my hero.  He made noise.  He clapped his hands loudly, several times.
Silence.
He clapped his hands again, just in case.
The sloshing ice noises sounded farther and farther away from the tent.
Halellujah!
Wait a minute...that bear just stole our cooler!
And, then, up on the hilltop, just above where our tents stood, his determination to get inside of the cooler to the bacon, sausage, milk and other chilling items, got the best of him and he again was trying to get that bearproof twine off his newly discovered treasure.
After a few more minutes (I'm guessing), it went quiet across the campground again.
No more clawing.  No more flipping cooler.  No more ice sloshing.
Scott was ready to go back to bed.
The boys never even turned over on their air mattresses.
But, I had found my flight plan.
Heart still pounding in my throat, I found enough words to get out that I was not intending on remaining in this tent for Mr. Bear to come and find later when looking for dessert.
Insert irrational thinking in overdrive here.
Never mind that countless others were around us with other items of delight for him to find.  He knew where we "lived" and might come back again. He was just up the hill.  It wasn't like he was going to forget...he was just here!
My kind, thoughtful, considerate husband then took it upon himself to relocate his family without a harsh word toward his filled with fear and determined to leave the campsite wife.
We relocated to a hotel in Blairsville.
Within an hour of the first noise from the knocked over cooler, the boys and Scott were back fast asleep.
Me?  Not so much.
It was a couple of hours later that my mind finally settled down and my body relaxed in the comfort of the bear free environment in which I was now residing.
As I laid there, the comedy of it all hit me.  I laughed out loud; trying to keep it quiet only worked halfheartedly.  Thankfully, no one was bothered by my muffled laughter.
The thought of a bear stealing our cooler, taking off up the hill with it and my irrational thoughts of him returning to the scene of the crime for more was too much for me not to laugh.  Fear and stress does things to people...I first froze and then I laughed.  Better than crying any day, I figure.
Would I remain at the camp site if it ever happens again?
Probably not.
Would I be a little more brave next time?
Hope so, but probably not.
Will I sleep in a tent again?
Yes.  But the cooler will be relocated far and away from our tent site. :)
When we made our way back to the camp site the next morning for our things, the cooler was visible about 180 ft or so up the hill.  Further investigation found it opened with its contents spilled over onto the ground.  Split open cans, cartons, and containers emptied of their contents were all right there beside the cooler.  A very tidy bear, he was.  Gone were the bacon, sausage, and hotdogs...and he apparently prefers ketchup over mustard.  Never touched the mustard, but the ketchup was devoured.
Oh, the humor of it all!
When we reported it to the ranger on our way out, his response..."You are one of about six people he visited last night."   Guess they don't get too excited about bear activity up in the mountains these days.  He didn't even ask how we knew...I would have loved to tell him my side of the story, but I don't think he'd find the humor in it like I do now.  Not a chance.

something old...something new

Things I was reminded of at Bible Memory Camp this summer...
plus a few newly acquired tidbits of awesomeness...

Camp is camp no matter the address.
Peru is the birthplace of potatoes.
Florida grows some really big bugs of the icky variety.
When God is involved, numbers do not matter.
Grasshoppers are a delicacy to turtles.
Rowing does not come naturally to all boys.
If you buy one completo, it's only one dollar...but, if you buy two completos, it's only two dollars...But, if you  buy three completos, it's only three dollars...BUT...
Camp songs do not go out of style, but do take on some new characteristics time to time..."Hey, Cows!"
Fire ants are real.
Hot & humid take on a new meaning during a week of camp in the Sunshine State.
While missing out on seeing my BMC family of familiar faces, meeting new camp friends is always a joy!
The water balloon tying thing-a-ma-jig (once you get the hang of it) is awesome!
Certain games take me back to my camper days at just the mention of their titles.
Hearing kids say "Next year at camp, we can/should..." makes me smile.
11 year olds get bored during snooze time and make hand puppets that argue with each other.
Swimming in warm water at camp is possible.
"Is it new socks?" can bring the house down.
God can allow rain to fall all around, but not directly on us when He so chooses.
"Mmm Pop-as" cost the same as completos.
and...
Skit-tels is...really good!


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

the other side of the postcard

"Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires."  Psalm 37:4
Sunday morning, as I listened to a young woman share about her time in Figi this summer, one thing she said stuck with me especially well.  She was speaking of her time spent in places off the beaten path of tourists in Figi...the other side of the postcard, she described...where one finds the not so glamorous, the "real life" happenings, the ones in need of encouragement, the lost and lonely.
The inland tour...the path less traveled.
That's where ministry takes shape in Figi...in Alaska...at home...or anywhere.
In the places that will not make the "Top 10" list on travel websites is where God loves to shine His light and share His love.
Where rock bottom is well known and down and out is the norm, Jesus offers new life.
Like the back of the postcard is blank, a person's life is blank awaiting God's hand to bring life and meaning to one's days.
He writes the script.
It is for our good and His glory.
What is God writing out for my life? for others' lives?
Am I demanding the postcard picture life or am I willing to go to the lesser known place(s) He desires?

"May He give you what your heart desires and fulfill your whole purpose."  Psalm 20:4

Before this, in Sunday School, we were discussing what "home" is for us; what defines "home" for us.  Several people gave appropriate answers, describing our home as being a place where we feel safe...a place where our bed is...a place where we are with family.  In my heart, my definition of home has always been where God calls me to be at the time.  Wherever my feet are walking is where I am to call home.  It may be for a week, maybe years...time doesn't matter but my heart condition does.  He longs for me to desire His desires for me.
Only when I am where He wants me, following wholeheartedly, will the blank postcard be filled with His script for my life.