Fog in the Blog

Pray 2I read, study, and meditate on the Scriptures. I’ve felt I heard the voice of God unmistakably speaking to me. With confidence, with authority and in very personal ways. It’s not that way right now; I have been shaken, but;

“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”                   Psalm 16:8-11

I am slipping but;He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” Psalm 40:2
My spirit is faint, but; “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me… to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit Isaiah 61:1, 3 

I am in a season of uncertainty. I am questioning why I know what I know, and if I have any clarity of His word.  My truth is being challenged, from my very core. I still believe the gospel, yet these feelings show my unbelief. I plea with God like the father in Mark 9:24 “I believe; help my unbelief!” 

I write partial posts, only to question the contents. Am I rightly handling the word of truth? (2Timothy 2:15) I am timid about really hearing clearly.  Yet, even in my fog of doubt, my prayer is that “Having the eyes of (my) heart enlightened, that (I) may know what is the hope to which He has called (me), what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward(s me because I) believe, according to the working of His great might” Ephesians 1:18-19

cropped-evidenceofgraceheader2.jpg

Heart Shaken, Soul Secure

“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” Jeremiah 31:25

feet

If God promises He is near to the brokenhearted, (Psalm 34, 106, 147, Is. 61) then we must acknowledge that there are broken hearts. At times, every one of us has experienced  a form of a broken heart; that feeling of overwhelming sadness, burdened by sorrow, grief from failure or defeat. Whether it was just a disappointment of an unfulfilled wish or a horrific loss, there is no getting around it, all of us is familiar with some sort of broken-heartedness. Disguised in dejection, discouragement, melancholic blue feelings, despair and hopelessness; broken-heartedness sometimes has you in the middle of a season of depression before you even realize you are there.

IMG_8404Depression darkens the door of even steadfast Christians. There is a fog that tenaciously covers a sense of our hope, our joys and our happiness. Whether spiritually, emotionally or physically driven, it is really of no consequence when you are in the middle of this cloud. When the cloud of depression starts to suck me in, I have a plethora of other emotions driving the downward spiral. As a Christian I am terrified. I am consumed by the very thoughts of the truths that have ministered to my faith in the past. My broken-heartedness causes shame and doubt and fuels unbelief. I question my faith.

Preaching to myself that my hope and joy are not found in how I feel, I remember Jesus himself was a man of sorrow. He experienced loss, rejection, and broken-heartedness. I know that depression is part of life in a broken and fallen world. Satan’s assault, distressing circumstances, sin, or from chemical or genetic characteristics; it doesn’t really matter to my heart; it manifests in the same darkness to my soul and a numb condition that I cannot shake. Joy remains out of my reach.

IMG_8396Reading the Psalms, I know that David too experienced dark and despairing times. In Psalm 6 his “soul also is greatly troubled” he is “weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.” In Psalm13 David has ”sorrow in my heart all the day.” “I am lonely and afflicted.” The “troubles of my heart are enlarged,” he bemoans in Psalm 25. “Bring me out of my distresses,” he begs the Lord. The 42nd Psalm finds him asking, “why his soul is cast down”, he cries about his “turmoil and oppression”. Again in 107 the “needy are afflicted.” And these are just a scant sampling of the discouragement we find in the Psalms

God made us with emotions. He is not displeased or alarmed by them. In the midst of the outcry of emotions, we are not always mindful of our words and with our theology, yet, God is there with us in the depression. Romans 8 promises, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, (including depression) will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” My darkness is not dark to my God. My feelings of hopelessness don’t nullify that there is hope. He sees me in all my gloom and despair. He is there. He is patiently waiting, working, transforming. My hope, my joy is not found in what I can “do” to get out of these feelings, but my hope is in what Jesus has already done. Jesus lived a perfect life for me, died for me, and rose from the grave for me. Jesus has overcome sin and death! He promises “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” and , “in me you may have peace.” (John 16:20,33) My heart may be heavy, but my feet are on the rock.

 I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Psalm 40:1-3

IMG_8411My faith has been rattled, matters weigh heavy on my heart, my life is suddenly fraught with grief and hard circumstances. Uncontrollable situations have robbed happiness and I am being tempted with unbelief. I am in a dark place. It may last for a moment; it may last for a long while. I know, because I have been here before. So I press into His word and the words of David, “I saw the Lord always before me, for He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.” (Acts 2:25-27) I feel shaken, so I pour over the words of 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7, myhope for YOU is unshaken, for we know that as YOU share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” I plead that, the “God of hope fill (me) with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit (I) may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13) For now I may feel that I have hopelessly lost my way, but He is not moved. My soul is secure.

 Counselor, Comforter, Keeper
Spirit we long to embrace
You offer hope when our hearts have
Hopelessly lost our way
Oh, we’ve hopelessly lost the way

You are the One that we praise
You are the One we adore
You give the healing and grace
Our hearts always hunger for
Oh, our hearts always hunger for

©Dawn Rodgers, Eric Wyse       https://youtu.be/oh_SXjN-AAs

cropped-evidenceofgraceheader2.jpg

The Maxinator

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18:10

210379_10151081006823559_1152591655_oAs you can see, we have a lot of August birthdays in our family. Max’s is today. I cannot believe he’s 15, but he can! He has been studying for the driving permit test for months and is so disappointed that the license bureau will be closed on Saturday. I’ve promised him we’d go first thing Monday. I hope I don’t forget, because he won’t!

The moment Max and I set eyes on each other, we were attached to each other. I could never have imagined a child not born of my womb being so bonded to me from the very first moment! His big brown eyes said I love you, and just six weeks post hysterectomy, he was my healing balm. (He makes the barren woman abide in the house As a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD! Psalm 113:9) The girls fell in love with “their” new baby and everyone wanted to take turns feeding and cuddling him. This put my boys as book ends, 20 years apart. Not the family span I’d planned when first married. Who’d ever have thought I’d be a mother-of-the-groom needing to find a babysitter, and a few years later pushing my son and granddaughter in the double stroller! But being an older mom has its advantages too. I am much too tired to worry about what others think of my parenting!

Connor Max is a delight to his older parents and quite loved by anyone who meets him. He loves life; plays hard, sleeps hard; he can never get enough apple pie or macaroni & Cheese pizza, and Max is always ready for f.u.n.!  He is funny even when he doesn’t mean to be. Max is always ready to give a full report on his sisters or share his expert opinion on any subject, giving Cliff Clavin a run for his money. His pockets have always been filled and ready for “MacGyver”esk rescues at a moments notice. Years ago, while walking along an outdoor shopping center I noticed something had splashed on my white slacks; Max proudly presents a Tide-To-Go stick. Why a four-year-old felt the need to put one in his pocket that day, I’ll never know, but I was glad he had. It’s not uncommon for him to have a roll of duct tape and at least three pocketknives, along with a variety of hiking hooks, writing utensils and a couple of sets of ear-bud headphones and a vast array of other possible gadgets. Max is always prepared.

Max can be like a dog-with-a-bone too! If a suggestion is made or a mere thought is shared out loud, he runs with it. Clint has learned to never suggest we think about going camping the following month unless it is a sure thing. With just the idea mentioned, Max has inventoried our supplies, checked the weather, unloaded the cots from the top shelf in the garage and is asking if he should load them in the truck. “Max! We haven’t decided if we are even going and if we do it’s 4 weeks away!” He loves to be ready. When a vacation is written on the calendar; Max has nothing to wear because he’s already got his suitcases packed. He’s invited to a friend’s house for a sleepover next week; I find his sleeping bag sitting by the front door. The night before we were going to Disney, I went into his bedroom at our rented house and his clothes were laid out in a chalk-outlined-crime-scene sort of way; from his shoes to his hat, complete with the wristwatch at the side. Yes, Max is always prepared.

I want to make sure I am raising a warrior and not a wimpy momma’s boy and I have to be careful not to let his status as the “baby of the family” let him get by with stuff. It can be hard to remember he’s a growing young man, but then I watch him take on new responsibilities and I realize its happening. He’s grown tall and muscular and his voice is so deep I sometimes think a strange man has broken into our house. I remind his sisters daily, “don’t forget to extend him respect as he becomes a man”. They tend to fill their roll as “assistant moms” and the poor kid gets critiqued on everything! From what he’s wearing, how he smells, what his haircut looks like to if he is remembering his chores; his sisters are ready with a comment, a suggestion, and an opinion! On the other hand, I am trying to get him to treat his sisters with tenderness, as precious princesses who need taken care of. He likes the idea of being their protector but he’s not a fan of the tenderness. I pray that some day his wife is the recipient of a boy who really “gets” women because of his experience…but right now, I’m just hoping they survive sharing a bathroom.

 

Max is extremely gifted with hands-on tactical things. He can figure out how anything is made and probably drove our electrician batty with all his questions during our guesthouse build. Once Clint mentioned the power washer leaking gas, he figured out the problem. While looking for my new box of pencils, I noticed a very strange contraption made out of bright yellow sticks. “My Pencils!” Turns out, you can make a working miniature compound bow out of a few pencils, rubber bands, paperclips and duct tape.

This precious son of mine is also a huge problem solver. One mention of an issue and he has 5 or 6 suggestions ready; with full explanation and reasoning. I could share one story after another but our favorite happened just last year. Max was listening to Blake and Clint on the phone. Blake was in quite a predicament on a job sight where he was building a deck 12-15 feet off the ground. It was after dark, the homeowners had locked the door and his ladder had fallen. He was stranded and waiting on someone to come home. (I guess calling his dad 3 hours away was just to kill time) Upon hearing what was going on, Max immediately suggests, “Blake needs to order a pizza and tell the man to bring it around back. Win, win! He gets dinner and someone to pick the ladder up!” His cleverness and quick thinking will help keep me from over-worrying on the remote chance that he ever gets stranded on a deserted island!

Max’s constant banter, everlasting list of questions and his determination to never have silent dead air can become wearisome. However, when he’s quiet, it’s a sign he’s really not feeling well, so I’ve learned to embrace his many, many words. Without trying to discourage him, I just keep praying that God will use his gift of gab and he will become like Judas and Silas in Acts 15:31-33, “who encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words.”

Sometimes, I become preoccupied by the things the world tells me Max needs to be successful. Especially as we begin his high school homeschooling years. I am always second guessing if I am best equipped to help mold Max into a successful man. Max will most likely not go to college, but a technical school, and I’m really O.K. with that. Proverbs 22:6 says to Train up a child in the way he should go” But “train” has such a loaded definition and the way “he” should go not only speaks of his spiritual walk but of the way God created and gifted him! I worry about his reading and handwriting and overlook his curiosity about creation and science. I focus in on a grade level and fail to notice his inquisitive pursuit of a current or historical event. I become extremely focused on his academic endeavors and fail to recognize how well he took care of cleaning the pool and checking the chemical levels. I quickly see an unfinished assignment and miss how tender he is being with his aunt or how he took extra care to get his chores completed well. I am excited to see where this freshman year will direct us. When I read Proverbs 22:6, I need to read it as an exhortation and be encourage and not as a rebuke the enemy uses to keep me in fear I may really mess up. “As a parent, you either accelerate or stifle your child’s giftedness. They will spend much of their life benefiting from, or recovering from your influence.” God prewired Max long before I had any influence on him. Now I get the privilege to know the specialness of this child because I am his mom. I get to watch and pray and provide and point and train! This proverb has brought me encouragement and hope. The anxiety and guilt is replaced with open hands that plead for extra wisdom and grace to be one of the greatest influences in Max, to be a man of God first. A man with a vocation second.

Max was and is a perfect gift to our family, to my heart and to this world, which desperately needs men equipped for good works. (2 Tim. 3:17) I love watching Max as he begins to follow hard after God and I love watching his faith increase. I pray that as he continues to grow, he will be prepared to withstand the onslaught of our cultures secular values and be the man prepared to give an answer for his hope!

Happy Birthday Max!

Ellie Belle; our Disney Princess

“A happy heart makes the face cheerful” Proverbs 15:13a

12341519_10153704851953559_1074826496182299080_nIt is amazing to watch how different our three daughters are. Our youngest daughter Caryn Elaine, (known by all of us as Ellie, or Ellie Belle because she is secretly a Disney Princess), is probably our most laid back, chilled, child. She’s on board for any fun, isn’t bothered surrounded by clutter, and is satisfied with passing grades in school. Not much ruffles her feathers, except for her younger brother. (He’s talented that way!) She’s always loved twirly-dresses and has a gift with Humming Birds.

10382153_10152566385098559_5232018930552839965_nEllie came to us with a smile on her face that shined from ear to ear. She was always cheerful and her eyes twinkled. She never muttered a word in her first two weeks, but there was always that smile. Not a cry, whine, not a syllable, a grunt, a murmur! I was slightly worried, but really just enjoying getting to know her. Ellie loved to snuggle and I was one of the lucky recipients. She didn’t know a stranger and would just watch you until you picked her up. Then, on August 9, 14 days after she came to us, while I was setting the table for her 2nd birthday, she asked, “Can I have cake too?” So! She does have words! And she does like cake!

She learned quickly that she could make us laugh, 12321187_10153974463323559_5399889395643889315_nand she still does to this day! If the mood is heavy, she’s quick to make a comment in her strange “Miranda Sing’s” voice. She can get her daddy laughing with one of her quick-witted remarks. If I want a quick picture, she is quicker to throw her leg up or contort into a strange shape. Really? Just one picture, please. She listens to everything and is extremely discerning. She hovers around conversations in a quiet pleasant manner, keeping us unaware that she is hanging on every word! And, we learned expeditiously that her bedroom directly above Clint’s office prevented any discussion of Christmas gifts or private conversations. We call her “noisy”, she says she just likes to be “in the know”! However, she would rather have you happy and ignorant of the facts, than upset and “in the know” of trouble when it comes to herself. Because she likes lighter moods, she hates conflict. Any sort of disagreement can turn her sparkling eyes to glistening tear-filled, ready to spill over in a tidal wave.  She is extremely tender hearted.

Ellie was born with a servant’s heart. She is my first to ask what she can do to help and the best about volunteering for jobs in church or her homeschool group. She likes to joke that sometimes she’s “volun-told” for things, but she really is the one I know I can count on. She loves just being with her dad and I and will choose going with us over her own pleasures. She is also very tender and good with her special needs Aunt. When Aunt V is having a bad day, Ellie is around to find out what she can do to serve her and make her day brighter. Sometimes just tenderly hugging her until Aunt V is happy again.

These past few months she has taken over the responsibility of our meals. She makes the menus, including her dad’s and my crazy diets! She inventories what we have and makes the grocery list. Her meals have been fun and new and great recipes. She has taken her role as family cook to a much higher level than I ever taught her. It’s fun to see the other kids look forward to repeats of some of her new recipes. They already have their favorites! Known as our gagger, when it comes to food she doesn’t like, it’s enjoyable to see how bold she is with her culinary creations! Maybe her new passion will lead to less food aversion.

Her name Caryn (Pure) and Elaine (Light) was chosen because of the light she brought into our lives. However, her name has grown to mean more than we ever expected.  We have needed to learn how to instill in Ellie an “above reproach”, “in the light”, kind of life. Sometimes omitting truth in an effort to maintain a conflict free life has been her struggle. With Ellie, we’ve had to really learn how to guide her with truth.  Being truthful isn’t something I thought I struggled with, until I started realizing how much conflict I would like to avoid. I don’t want to hurt feelings and I definitely don’t want people mad at me.  Even welcoming people to “come on over” when it was the most inopportune time, or acting thrilled to hear from someone who really irked me , Ellie quietly watched, evaluated, learned. I quickly saw how easily I could get defensive and make excuses.  Ellie’s desire to have peace, please others, and avoid trouble at any cost was easy to see; and God used it to pull out of me, my misleading deceitful bent. “Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.” Proverbs 8:6-8  It has been awesome to watch her develop the confidence to speak truth, confess wrong and grow in grace. It is hard for this charming funny girl, but the Holy Spirit has been so faithful to encourage her heart and soul. Jesus is becoming more and more her confidence and the approval of others is becoming more of a bonus to her than a need of hers!

Ellie turns 17 today! i love this tender hearted, beautiful girl. She will always bring fun to our lives, lighten our days, and a smile to our face. But, more than that, she makes her Father smile.

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness.” Zephaniah 3:17

Evidenceofgraceheader2

 

 

 

Blake

FullSizeRender (86)Blake’s arrival was a mixture of extreme joy and unknown fear. I had just turned 20 and we were 9 days shy of our first Anniversary. My hearts desire from the time I was 2 or 3 was to be a wife and mommy. However, I was finding out how hard the being a wife was, my pregnancy was 6 months of severe morning sickness and 6 weeks of shingles. After 19 ½ hours of hard labor and 2 hours of pushing I ended up having an emergency C-section. Nursing was not the delight the other mommy’s were talking about either. Clint was on a full scholarship at Iowa State and not allowed to work, so I had to return to work when he was just 6 weeks old. Was I going to be the mommy I desired to be to this beautiful little boy? More on the forefront of my mind, was everyone else going to think I was the mommy I should be?

Over the next several years I missed a lot of the joy of motherhood worrying about what others thought. Poor Blake was always disciplined just a little more often so that other mom’s wouldn’t think I didn’t take the exhortations of Proverbs 22 or 23 lightly. I worked on his alphabets and flash cards like a Mensa drill sergeant. He had to have the perfect hair and wear the perfect clothes. (To this day he hasn’t forgiven me for the “Bill Cosby”ish sweaters with a turtleneck I insisted that he wear.)

I worked on memory verses and shoveled the gospel down his throat as if he wouldn’t get it if I messed up at all. I struggled with constant comparison of other mothers.

Now thankfully for Blake, and for me, he was an easygoing child. He was compliant and very trainable. When he did deserve discipline, he accepted it and repented quickly. He was a delight to my heart when I could let go just enough to see clearly. He put up with a lot of my mistakes as a young mom. He unfortunately also endured my years of depression and anguish over infertility. But here’s the thing: in spite of my best efforts, God saved Blake! He loved and chose Blake to be his own. God let trials, things beyond his control and Blake’s choices mold him into His likeness. He used my mommyhood as a tool to develop in his own heart the things He had in store for Blake; the good, the bad, the ugly AND all my failures.

Blake is a man who loves God. He loves his wife and his 5 little girls.

He’s hilariously funny, bright and charming. He’s handsome and a proficient beard grower. He’s grounded in theology and talented in the works of his hands. He’s a gifted musician and an amazing worship leader (when he needs to be). His dad is his best friend and he is a prolific story teller.

He has struggles like any man, and he has to pursue Jesus daily and he sometimes makes mistakes. Now he has chosen to follow after his dad and is in medical school. (Even with my worry and wailing to try to get him not to!) So, my only resource to help Blake continue to be all that God calls him to be, is to faithfully pray for him. Then, to trust the God “IN” Blake, for it is God who works in (him), both to will and to work for His (own) good pleasure! (Phil. 2:13)

11392862_997022353641983_1249859772599085050_nHappy Birthday to my firstborn! I count myself blessed to be called your mom and love you more than you will ever comprehend. I will be forever grateful that God used you to show me a clear understanding of the gospels transforming grace!  Far above my pride that you are my son, is my joy that you are His son!

When Grace Fails

Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. Psalm 34:14-15

We have had a difficult few months and yesterday morning  I was just ready to throw in the _MG_7117towel. We’ve tried to extend grace and hurtful words have been said.  We have made attempts to overlook an offense only to be insulted again. I’ve had lies told about me, words totally taken out of context and I’ve looked betrayal in the face .  But, I have continued to extend grace where I knew it was needed. Just not today. I’m finished.

I want to cry out my defense. I want to reassure and present my evidence, I want to back track and fix the wrongs. Grace has failed, I’ve been wounded and I can not bare to see the ones I love as victims of foolish, failing grace.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:3
Grace means unmerited and undeserved treatment. The free gift of grace of salvation through Jesus Christ is the greatest example of grace. God’s grace toward me as a Christian means I extend grace to others. Yet I feel as if my heart will never mend and I am exhausted. So as my uncontrollable tears are flowing, as Clint is listening to all my complaints and wailings he reminds me to take courage, “let our first concern always be to see the gospel do for others what it has done for us.”

For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 2 Corinthians 1:12

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Ephesians 4:4-7

When I begin to pour into His word, He begins to pour over me. I am gently reminded to look at the cross, where the perfect One took on all my sin and extended me unmerited and undeserved grace. I am also moved to look beyond the cross to the tomb; it’s empty! His resurrection; risen Son of God, our only hope of salvation. Grace did not, can not fail! God’s grace, transforming my heart.

Scandal of Grace Hillsong United

Grace, what have you done?
Murdered for me on that cross
Accused in absence of wrong
My sin washed away in your blood
Too much to make sense of it all
I know that your love breaks my fall
The scandal of grace, you died in my place
So my soul will live
Oh to be like you
Give all I have just to know you
Jesus, there’s no one besides you
Forever the hope in my heart
Death, where is your sting?
Your power is as dead as my sin
The cross has taught me to live
In mercy, my heart now to sing
The day and its trouble shall come
I know that your strength is enough
The scandal of grace, you died in my place
So my soul will live
cropped-evidenceofgraceheader2.jpg

My Most Excellent Adventure: Camp Blessing

 

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Jeremiah 31:3b

camp bThis is my 3rd year to come with my teens to a little town outside of Wausau Wisconsin, to help cook and lead crafts at what I’d like to call a good old-fashioned Church Camp experience. NO bells and whistles. NO super slides, or zips lines. NO swimming pools are even cell/internet reception; just good food, lessons from God’s word, recreation, games, crafts, campfires and a lot of conversation. The 4 cabins don’t’ have air conditioning and the teens share a bathroom in the main building. They don’t care. And here’s the best part, most of these campers’ parents came to this camp, and even some of their grandparents! Or maybe the best part is that it doesn’t cost the campers a dime. Men and women who want to see generations grow in wisdom and stature of the Lord sponsor it all! That is Camp Blessing.

My own children have come since 2010. They wouldn’t miss the week. Some of their best friends and what will be life-long relationships have come from this camp. Claire was already up  here, because she served as a Junior Counselor with the Kid’s Camp the week before. (Camp Blessing also offers a week of Special Needs Camp, an Adventure Camp, and a few retreats each year.)

So, Friday evening we packed up the huge car top carrier, the bumper trailer and every nook and cranny of my Navigator and headed to KC to spend the night with my parents. This knocked off the first 2-½ hours of our trip. Early Saturday morning we picked up two more campers from Kearny and started our 9-½ hour journey. I found a Starbucks for my morning coffee and reassured the kids I was travel ready. The fact that QT was where we were picking up our friends delighted all of us. A full tank of gas, loaded with snacks, we were finally off! (And let me just make a plug for the Lincoln makers, I get 4 cup holders up front! One for the shot-gun seat, who was Aunt V on this trip, and three for my personal needs.) Coffee with heavy cream, water, (yes, I actually drank 28 oz. on the road) and my Diet Coke. (Keep your opinions to a dull roar. Yes! I have read ALL the horrible research.)

Just over the Iowa border in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and in time for lunch, is our first stop. We have made a habit to stop at the Petro Trails Truck stop. (It’s kind of like stopping at the Pratte, Kansas DQ when I was growing up.) With its Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Subway, Cold Stone Creamery, a huge Deli, great cheeses, snacks, fountain drinks to compete with any QT, and a gift shop with just about everything, gas pumps and showers, what more could us weary traveler want? (I’m thinking that showering at a truck stop may be something I add to my bucket list…or NOT!) We love this place and even a quick stop takes us 45 minute.   It is always crowded and they need more employees to keep up with the mess; but over all, it is clean and never disappoints. If you want fresh Wisconsin Cheese curds; check out the deli case. If you want a purple sequined hat, check it off your list. Looking for State coasters, they’ve got them. From dude-rag biker hats to lace hemmed bell-bottoms, hand quilted jackets and a plethora of slogan t’s; you will find a complete new wardrobe experience.

Arriving at Camp Blessing a day earlier than campers gives some of staffers kids some special time to just chill and help get settled. (Now I probably should make it clear, I do sleep in the main building staff rooms, which are air-conditioned.) We prep food and get craft supplies organized and watch Melissa, this year’s Teen Camp Director, finalize and over-think the last details for the lessons. We stay up way too late! On Sunday morning we head to the top of the hill and go to the Mission Evangelical church. We triple their attendance each year, and it’s interesting to hear from a church that has no pastor and is congregation led. Each sermon I’ve heard over last few years has been unique in style, theme, or presentation.

Around 3 o’clock the campers start trickling in and we have our first staff meeting. Gregg Mathewson has been the Camp Safety Coordinator/handyman/head dishwasher/ insurer of the lights-out enforcement, every year I’ve been here. He stays in his motor home parked in the churches parking lot, but he is always around the camp. He gives us the fire drill and storm protocol, explains the dos and don’ts of camp policy and will do any dirty job necessary. He can also be bribed with chocolate and ice cream. Then Melissa Cannon, who loves her time with these teens, hands out chocolate to pump up us staffers, gives us the themes and the schedule for the week, and reminds us not to be grumpy.

Melissa takes on “Camp Director” with the gusto of a twenty year old. Her energy amazes me and she is determined that these kids will experience the joys she remembers from her years at camp. She writes the lessons, lines up the volunteers and gathers supplies. Since the camp has no internet or cell service, she has to come really prepared, and a last minute run to Office Depot is just part of the traditions we enjoy. I watch her interact with these teens with a genuine compassion and interest in their lives. She’s one of my girls favorite adults and maybe someday I’ll tell you the fun story of how our families met back in 2009. It’s been a friendship that could only be orchestrated by a good, good God.

By 4:30, the cooks are busy preparing the first nights dinner and we are always thrilled to have Roberta Johnson delicacies! She makes camp food from scratch with fresh ingredients and her Italian flare. She has a crew of ladies that make cooking for 40+ just plain fun! I may not be officially in the kitchen, but I’ve been known stick a hat (or hairnet) on my head to slice and dice so I can hang with these ladies. Besides being an amazing cook, she just finished nursing school and will be christening her skills by sharing Camp Nurse duties. Roberta has a way of making all of us feel special and practices hospitality in biblical proportion.

I love watching the campers greeting each other and parents who probably went to camp themselves reunite. I listen to them reminisce and laugh. This is a unique group of people. They come from so many backgrounds and theological prospective, but they come together each year because they don’t want to miss camp. From the shyest to the most gregarious teen, everyone is anticipating the week. They have traditions and routines that have become the highlight of their summers. (And don’t think about a new Camp Director messing with some of these traditions.) I hear boys planning skits and girls discussing the camp romances. Twenty-nine teens; laughing, sharing, joking and getting reacquainted. Playing games, lounging on the couch, checking out their cabins and willingly turning in their cellphones and electronic devises, there is this mystery of Camp Blessing that cannot be explained unless you’ve experienced it first hand.

IMG_8099Crazy Love is this year’s theme. I am excited to listen to what comes out of the lessons and discussions from the rich and amazing scripture she is using. I am waiting with anticipation at how God is going to work in the hearts of some of these teens. But, I am already in absolute awe of how this place draws my heart to reflect upon a Father who has reckless and abounding crazy love for me. I am in the middle of the beautiful Rib Mountain range outside of Wausau, Wisconsin, surrounded by tall fields of corn, nestled in a peaceful wooded campground, and He is whispering; I love you.

camp 4I’ve only been a part of this for a few years, but it is a joy to serve along side people who have been around for decades. As the campers get ready for their first night of lessons and worship, it is obvious His sweet evidence of grace is continuing to transform me on my most excellent adventure to Camp Blessing!

 

 

Evidenceofgraceheader2

A Letter To Me

319228_2685295530425_1403682975_nDear Twenty year old Me,

As life races by and I want to slow down, I think back to the early you. You will think to yourself, “I wish I knew now what I knew then”, but would I like to start over? Yes! And no.

But, there are a few things I’d like to tell you; things that may have alleviated undue pressure, preempted trials, put less wear-and-tear on your heart. But I also want to say, relax! It’s going to be ok. In fact, it’s going to be awesome. And hard. And beautiful. And laborious.

I’d first like to tell you that you are as messed up as you think. You are continually going to be tempted to follow after the wrong passions. You are disobedient and you will never be able to get your act together. You are gong to blow it as a wife and mom over and over again. You are filled with sin by your very nature and there is no hope for you to ever amount to anything…But GOD! He is rich in mercy, and because of the great love with which He loved you, even when you were dead in your polluted disobedience, He made a way! He made you alive together with Christ! It was by grace you have been saved—stop trying to “be better’, “love Him more”, “act the right way”, because only grace saved you! Nothing you have done or will ever do, it was unmerited grace from God alone. Now dear self, just walk out the good things He has prepared for you. (Eph. 2)

Secondly, you need to understand your roll, as a mother, is not about making your child love God. You get the privilege of training them in the things of God. You get to mimic the gospel. You get to pray for each of their salvations and that they belong to Him. You get to be a walking example of Christ-like character with abandoned humility. But nothing you do will save them! You cannot protect them from Hell; you cannot walk out their trials. God saves; He is the only one who can save them. Matt Chandler says, you “gather the kindling, but only got ignites their hearts.” Stop all the striving and rest Cathy Jo. Rest in the promises of Psalm 78:6 “that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God.”

 Also, don’t miss out on so much. Stop and watch your kids more. Watch how they play and interact with others. Put down your magazine while your child is on the playground, or at the pool. (It’s a good thing there was no smart phone with FB when they were little!) Rachel Jankovic is right, “Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.” Interact more, play more, enjoy more time with them. Know who they are really are. You may hear it all the time, but the time really does go by way too fast. You will blink; they will be grown with kids of their own! Be willing to die to yourself just a little more, don’t fret that you will never have one moment alone. I promise you, you will one day tinkle without an audience! Your house will be free from an avalanche of toys and the mysterious purple stain is on a rug that will be replaced many times over the next several years. Engage your children everyday, it will make a difference

Cathy Jo, you are going to read a lot of great, gospel saturated parenting books over the next few decades. Continue to choose what you read carefully. Don’t be swayed by things that tickle your ears or make you feel better as a mom. However, I wish you would spend more time in the book written by your Father. Spend less time trying to learn how to be a better parent and learn about the perfect parent. You are going to miss a lot of great truths that will transform your heart by trying to be a godly mom and never really knowing God. His word will grow your faith. His word will be the blood flow to the heartbeat of your life. Remember ‘formally, when you did no know God you were enslaved, but now that you have come to know God’, you wont turn back or regret it. (Gal. 4:8) Remember Psalm 73:28, “But for me it is good to be near to God” and being in His word is a great way to be near to Him.

Lastly, Be still! You will put a lot of unnecessary mileage on your heart. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not!” (Psalm 37:7) Sometimes the waiting will seem forever, fretting will sneak up on you! Yet, “Be still, and know that (He is) God.” (Psalm 40:10) Cathy Jo, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.(Philippians 2:13) You are the recipients of Christ’s imputed righteousness and you can anticipate with joy, absolute acceptance from God and His everlasting inheritance. He will never love you more or less. His love is perfect! He is out for your good and His glory, no matter what the next 35 years bring.390278_2685291930335_1567766229_nAnd I’ll give you a clue; it’s not what you imagined and more than you could have hoped for!

For His Glorious fame,  Me

Photo credit goes to the very talented Allyson Bird @AllysonNeelyPhotography

Adoption; A New Name, Pt. 4

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” 1 John 3:1aIMG_7964

Did you know that when you adopt a child, they issue a brand new birth certificate with your name in the space as mother and father? No secret code, not a different color, no asterisk to let some historian down the line discover that this is really an adopted child. You are issued an official state Birth Certificate, identical to the one a child born from your belly would have!

Adoption fulfills the legal obligation for us parents to call the child ours. But it also meant that with complete confidence, they could call themselves ours! God intervened in an extreme ways. He took children from tattered broken places, at times unwanted, to status of a much-wanted “chosen child.” And all the red-tape, that was hard and difficult reminds us that Jesus satisfied all our legal standing with the red-tape of His shed blood.

FullSizeRender (85)Something that was of significant importance to our family was the fact that when you adopt a child, you get to give them their name. Many children out of foster care are older and do not want a new name. However, some may want a totally new identity and help choose a new name. Our children were 3, 5 and 6, but they wanted to be called by their new “real” names preceding any real legal name changes. Part of that, was the gospel stories behind “why” we wanted to give them new names. They embraced their new identity and were eager to be established as our heirs. They would be the family of the  grandparents and Aunts and Uncles and cousins who they already loved. Our youngest daughter had a middle name that seemed to fit her and we liked, so we still were calling her by this name. (Side note: for some strange reason we call all of our children but one, by their middle name) One day, prior to our adoption and totally off subject, she said, “and when I’m your real daughter, I get my new name?” That was it! One of my favorite Aunt’s name was picked out and she would get her name, which means, “light”! She lights up a room with her laughs and smile, she has lit up our hearts from the beginning. We pray that she is a light to our world as a child of God! (Phil. 2:15)

In Genesis 17:5 and 17:15 God changes Abram’s name and Sarai’s name to names with significant new meanings. In Genesis 32:28 he changed Jacob’s name, and in John 1:42 He called Simon by the name Peter. Throughout the Scriptures you will find name changes, but God specifically changed the names of four people to let us see their new identity in Him. Changing names for a Jewish person couldn’t be some arbitrary, “we think it’s cute” or cooler. It was about a divine plan that He had for them and generations to come.  God called His people out of sin, they responded in faith, and He changed their name.

There was great spiritual significance to the names God gave these people. We wanted to make sure we chose names that would signify the change in the status of our child, but also make them our heirs. There was to be no distinction between biological and adopted. We began by choosing a first name that began with “C” because each of us had “C” first names (not intentional when picking our 1st two’s names, but non-the less, we ALL had “C” names.) We looked at the meaning behind each first name carefully and chose one that could prophetically speak truth about God into their character. We chose spellings that would be ones that reflected ours and unique to us. Secondly we chose middle names from our friends and relatives who were dear to us. To remind each of them of the history of our family. This was the case with our biological children and would not differ for our “chosen” children.

“No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.” Genesis 17:5

God was proclaiming His promise that we would be His seed, their new names were significant to what they were and what promises He was calling them too!

My children each have their own story to be told. But, His story is the story that we want them to know and share. We hope their adoption, their name changes, their counted as our heirs; have given clear shadow image of our adoption in Christ. Opening doors to continue telling His story.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” 1 John 3:1a

Giveaway #5

Kate is a stay-at-home mom and married to  Jason a church planter. After burying 2 baby boys and finally being blessed with a daughter and son, they thought their family was complete. But God kept whispering to them that He was not finished growing their family. He placed adoption on their hearts, and you can read for yourself her beautiful story.  http://www.theadoptshoppe.com/

I am so excited to be giving away one of her original paraphrase & design  totes. Made in India by women rescued from the sex trade, you will be honored to carry these adorable, fair-trade bags.

This tote is sturdy grey canvas, the interior is fully lined with charcoal fabric and has a side zipper pocket. It fastens with a magnetic clasp. The approximate size is 12.6″ x 16.5″ x 5.9″with a 12″ drop handle.

Evidenceofgraceheader2