Thursday, September 29, 2011

on milking cows and county fairs

first the county you might understand the milking cows.
We decided to stay an extra day in Brown County following Grandma's funeral to get to re-experience a tradition near and dear to our hearts - the county fair.
Most people are surprised to hear all the schools in the county dismiss school for the entire week of the fair...not because of the rides or the amazing pork tenderloin sandwiches, but because of the high number of students that participate in 4-H events that require them to be at the fairgrounds throughout the day all week.
Aron has always loved the demolition derby, which we stayed late enough to enjoy. But truly, the tractor pulls hold a special place in my heart (mainly because it was during one noisy, screeching pull in 1999 that Aron first told me that he loved me...I had to ask him to repeat it because I couldn't hear him over the massive, over-sized jet engines mounted on the mega-tractors. you can swoon or laugh hysterically now...which-ever).
But truly, when you're not confessing your undying love for someone, we all know the real romance of the fair is the food.
We were surprised to learn that Judah would completely agree. Late Monday night after we'd returned back to Papaw & Mammaw's house, we were attempting to wind the kids down for their midnight bedtime. As I changed Judah into his pumpkin pj's, I asked him, "What was your favorite part of the fair tonight?"
Without hesitating he answered, "FRIES!" I probed further inquiring what else he enjoyed. "SAM-WHICH!" he squealed, referring to the most delicious pork tenderloin one has ever tasted. The pork producers of Brown County outdo themselves year after year.

We hung around the grandstands and watched the parade.
And the kids rode real rides for the first time ever.
We toured through the animal barns, meeting up with family members as the night went on. It was so wonderful to see every one.

Aron risked a sour stomach to have the opportunity to 'love' on eli on the sizzler. I still can't believe our oldest nephew is as big as Aron now. Aye, me.
The kids fell quickly in love with the "Little State Fair".

And subsequently, have been playing various farm games since we got home. Tonight, Aron and I received tickets to visit the barn. As it turns out, I was quickly cast as a milk cow and Aron a hen by the "Farming Cowgirl".

As I moo'd, Belle 'milked' and explained to Aron, "You have to be really gentle when you milk; otherwise, you'll pull the milkers right off." Nicely put, my little one. I must admit, she had excellent technique. (*check out her little pail of milk and the barn cat meowing on my back).
Aron had too much dignity to allow me to capture him 'laying eggs', but you can imagine;)

And below, Belle scattered chicken feed for the hens.

I am so behind in posting life. Check out facebook for more pictures if you'd like to see more.

Monday, September 19, 2011

It is well

Monday, it rains, as if to live up to its reputation.
And my soul, it pays no attention.

Already my heart has pioneered through mountain and valley, and its only 9 am.

Beauty and grace flood as I consider the significance of this day. Five years ago a gift unexpected was placed into our arms, not yet five pounds, fragile and delicate, but each perfect, heaven-kissed breath smelled of mercy and sang of love.

And that same lacey child just danced out the door, galoshes splashing in cadence with the falling rain. Anticipation served for her as an umbrella - arms full of birthday treats to share with stranger-friends. And she leaves in her wake a rainbow of smiling hearts, all colored with gentleness and imaginative delight.

Earlier, when the house was still quiet and all but me were still cozy in their dreams, my thoughts turned to Grandma and how it must feel to know there stands but hours and numbered breaths between this bittersweet life and all His promises fulfilled. Our hearts moan and grieve what death steals in the here and now, but if we could only wrap our minds around the inheritance awaiting as she passes from life to LIFE, never truly tasting death's bitter cup because of the cup Jesus accepted in Gethsemane's wrestling.

Even in our own wrestling, in our Jesus and our Jacob moments, we are not condemned for our humanity, or worse, annihilated as we justly deserve. I think Jesus' garden struggle proves that he understands how hard it is for us to submit to the ultimate good when our eyes can only see the pain before us. The grace he gives as we work out our salvation is nothing short of stunning. A picture of a God that loves from everlasting to everlasting, stretching out his kindness before us from horizon to horizon (have you ever tried to capture the whole horizon in your view? try'll grow dizzy trying, but I promise it can't be done. And so you will never be able to fully capture the entire spectrum of His kindness, faithfulness, and love for you. Its beyond us, encircles us.).

Because of this, and in all these ponderings, even before coffee and cream, I can say, it is well with my soul.
(if you have the time, grab a cup of something warm, close your eyes, and allow yourself a few moments to soak this in).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

dreams of Russia

I spent the length and the breadth of my sleeping hours wrapped in thoughts of this family.
Meet Phillip & Kara, Adalynn & baby Gwen.
They chased Jesus to Vladimir, Russia, where they are planting a church and making disciples in an almost entirely unreached city.

Kara and I met just before 7:50 am one brisk Tuesday morning, 18 years young and bleary eyed, in our very first ever college class at Indiana Wesleyan - Mrs. Porter's English Composition. Phil was a sophmore in leadership in Aron's freshmen only dorm that same year. I don't really remember when exactly Phil and Kara became an item, but it was clear to everyone they loved each other deeply. And now, 9 years later, half way across the world, Aron and I are honored to support them as they live out the call on their lives.

Last October Phil and Kara were raising support in a nearby church, and we were so excited to be able to spend the afternoon with them, reconnecting and reminiscing. They told us of the sadness and hopelessness common to the people of Russia, long smothered and suppressed by harsh government and virtually unreached with the hope of Christ.

And so in a foreign city on the other side of the world, where hearts and ground are frozen alike, this precious young family has abandoned all comfort and worldly wisdom to live in a high rise apartment and go about the awkward task of learning a culture not their own. Not because its fun or adventurous; infact it seems to be quite the opposite: uncomfortable, counterintuitive, lonely. But they have counted the cost and found it worth the sacrifice. What an inspiration to me! You can follow their journey here on their blog:

And join us in praying for them in both their personal adjustment to their new city and their mission of hope and faith. Their task is enormous, but I know the Lord is with them.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

write to breathe

i've been all choked up of heart,
and who really wants to share their heart
exposing it naked when you can't make sense of yourself.
so i've avoided this place like a violent stomach virus,
for fear of spewing my innards on the floor before you,
the stench and mess infecting you too.

so i've hurled and i heaved in the only healthy way i know,
prayer and pleading, confession and bleeding.
my God, i know that He can handle the mess of hurt i lay down.
and a few precious sisters of the soul, have shared to lighten the load.

but tonight, the hot tears falling,
i feel i must write to breathe.

four years of life on our own,
and the pain of missing the moments,
it pierces and it stings every time.

we sit quietly tonight. alone, a world apart.
and our family, they gather together, and they connect and they eat,
celebrating life as every loving family should.
they linger over laughter and soak in the children
taking in together the moments that make up a lifetime.

i've cried these tears four years of quiet evenings,
watching from afar the milestones and the mundane,
(mundane only to those who have known the beauty of togetherness so long they are numb to the gift)
technology can be a blessing and a curse.
who can know the pain of exile? that's how my husband explains it.

and i scold myself a thousand times, each person's cross to carry worth the weight.
who can know the pain of a husband passing?
or a child missing? or hunger piercing? or health depleting?
wars wage and pain suffocates; who am I to be melancholy?
selfish me with my cupboards full and my body strong
my children sleeping safe, my husband loving faithfully and true.

but tonight, the hot tears falling,
i feel i must write to breathe.

i walked a road of death this week,
never before knowing the ways of self-loathing.
selfish, wretched mess of a woman. hopeless.
that's what the enemy whispered.
and for the first time, i agreed,
believing it so deeply, I wanted to tatoo it to my skin.

but jesus sent my husband to pray words of life over me,
and its a good thing, because Eden falling is a scary place to live.
satan, he deceives, and even now, that fruit entices.
"Can I really trust your heart toward me is Good?"

my God pursing and my Adam gently loving,
i dared to breathe in of hope.
But hope is a scary thing;
deferred it makes the heart sick, that's what proverbs says.
and waiting seems to be all I've ever known.

so I stand staring into the black night,
not knowing when or how the light will appear.
but I know the one who led me here is Good.
and though the enemy surrounds, insisting that He has abandoned,
left me for dead, never returning,
i clench my eyes and scream into the piercing darkness,

"I HAVE A FATHER! He promised to never leave me! He promised to work all things together for the good of those that love him. And I do love him, frail as I am. He has a son who is called Faithful and True. He promised to be with me always, until the very end of the age. If he saw fit to lead me into this dark, he will come for me, and he will lead me through it!"

with eyes still clenched, and in broken whisper I finish,

"And I...I. trust. Him."

when your dreams have been stripped away
and your hope lies limp and dead,
it is terrifying to trust the one who is the architect of the plan
that has brought so much pain.
i imagine Jesus felt this way when he hung from the cross that should be mine:
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt 27:46)

but when we find ourselves in this place,
let us resound with Hosea:
“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds." (6:1).

i trust that if he injures, if he strips, if he isolates, if he burns,
it is for my refining, my undivided heart, my growth, my good.

so tonight, in pain I don't understand, hot tears falling,
i feel I must write to breathe:
"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tawas Triathalon 2011

Five weeks is not much time to train for a triathalon.
I thought you were crazy, out of your mind, you might drown insane when you told me.
But you set your mind to it, and you finished.
Looking out across those waters the night before the race, a sickness settled in my stomach. Such an ambitious goal, such open waters for novice swimmer with the determination of a bull shark.
The kids were simply happy to be on the beach, sand between their fingers and toes, on such a gorgeous Huron evening.
And Judah, more like you every day, marched right in freezing water, over his head, clothes soaking right through.
He watches your every move; this brings me great excitement, for I know none more honest, none more intentional, none more valiant for him to model.
These moments, these accomplishments, these demonstrations of your perseverance and strength, they will remember for a lifetime.

Your delight in them,
Your tenderness toward them,
Your attentiveness to them, even while running a race they know nothing about.

Belle loves this picture; she giggles at your goofy smile.
And I love this one; your face speaks of focus and determination. But I remember the way your fingers wiggled with nerves and adrenaline.
The speaker boomed, "10 seconds...5 seconds..." and my heart raced for you.
And moments later, you raced for you.
Running into the mountain you feared you couldn't climb.
You raced for strength, for discipline, for the lessons God wanted to teach.
And you emerged victorious; simply because you looked fear of failure in the eyes, and swam anyway.
You make us proud to be called by your name.
In your orange and your perfect smile and sun stained skin, you are your father's son.
"Go, Daddy! Good job, Daddy!" Belle and Judah shouted from behind the airy fence. Their squeaky encouragements made you smile, and you turned to wave at them.
On the way to the run, your strongest of suites,
you stopped for high fives from your favorites.
Which is exactly why you will always be their favorite.
High fives of the heart and you were off.
You paced so fast, the kids and I nearly missed your big finish. We were crossing the street from the beach when I saw you coming. "Run, Belle, Run!" I shouted over my shoulder, and Judah on hip, bags on shoulders, we sprinted just ahead of you. Judah thought it was the ride of his life, all giggles and "Woah! Woah! Woah!".

I planted my feet just behind the finish line, dropped kid and bag alike, jerking out camera, lens cap flying. I barely flipped the camera on, and 'SNAP' I caught you just beyond your goal.
We were 'Over the Moon' for you!

Thank you for offering us your strength. For living beyond yourself. For teaching us about life and obedience and perseverance in pain. We love you!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bedtime Stories

It started out as a nice quiet bedtime story continuing our journey through Exodus.
But it erupted in song, and set bedtime back an hour.
Not exactly a perfect strategy for quieting the children and lulling them to sleep.
We have much to learn!