Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Triumph and Treasure

When I was a sophomore in high school, I got to go to this career day thing for girls only. My mom was a chaperon. In all honesty, I don't remember anything of what I learned there. All I remember is one detail of one thing that was said. It was when one of the women who spoke told us about the first marathon she ran. I think she was over 40 when she did it. That fact alone really impressed me. Sadly, I remember nothing else of the talk she gave. No details of how she got there. No stories of triumph other than the mere fact that she showed up and finished (which is itself a true story of triumph). I only remember that she ran a marathon as, what was in my mind, an old lady. And I decided then that I wanted to one day do the same.

Having never been a runner (or exerciser, really), I had no plan or goal. Other than to one day do it. To run in a marathon. Still haven't done it.

But last summer, my new friend Diane invited me to join a team that raises money for orphans in Southeast Asia by participating in marathons. So I joined up (after learning that I could walk in the half-marathon), with much trepidation and alarm. But it was a cause that had captured my heart . . . helping rescue children from lives of sex-slavery and homelessness. (Those words just don't settle in my stomach even as I type them here.)

And I had completely forgotten about the "old" lady who "inspired" me to run a marathon twenty some years earlier.

But, you know what? I don't think God had forgotten.

So I trained. Yes, you do have to train even if you're just walking it. Especially if you're now an "old" lady. (In case you're wondering, I am younger than forty, but having recently found some gray hairs, I'm realizing that my definition of old has become drastically different than what it was in high school!)

And the the real triumph was not that I showed up for the race, or even that I finished. Nope. I am getting to see just a taste of the real triumph this week as I read through the blog of the short-term missions team from my church who's over in Cambodia and Thailand right now. And I am finding my heart more drawn to the faces of those children than perhaps to any other ministry I have ever supported.

Yesterday, I was trying to figure out how this area of the world and these children have captured my heart in such a real way. I've never really wanted to travel to Asia. Africa -- absolutely. Eastern Europe -- sure. But not really Asia.

But you know what? Jesus explained it about 2,000 years ago when He was teaching a crowd of people from up on a mountainside. He said, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21) And, more than money, I was able to invest so much of my treasure into these children. I invested the treasure of my time, training all those hours. And the treasure of my family, who helped me train and encouraged me along the way (literally -- along the route of the marathon). And the treasure of my pride -- because I. am. not. athletic. 'Nough said. And the treasure of my muscles -- uh-huh, I was sore for a few days and it was hard from about mile eight on. And now, my heart is with those kids.

Turns out, Jesus got it right.

So as I begin training to walk/run (walk two minutes then run 1 minute) for the Cleveland 1/2 marathon in May, I'm more excited than trepidatious. To see even more of the triumph that God is letting me be a part of. More kids rescued from the disgusting evil that lurks in their world. And I am so thankful! Truly. Thankful. That I get to be a part of it. And that I get to love these kids even a little bit like Jesus does.

And maybe by the time I'm forty I'll be ready to actually run a marathon.

p.s. Check out Tuesdays Unwrapped for some amazing stories of enjoying the treasures that are everyday.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I've Got Nothin'

Having spent much of Sunday night in the emergency room with my dehydrated five-year-old, I woke up Monday morning, well, exhausted. (Not a good way to start a new day, much less a new week.) Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. Spent.

And here I am on Tuesday morning feeling much the same way. Struggling to pry myself away from facebook games and self-pity parties as I watch my daughter (hopefully)sleep away the nausea. Thanking God for what we like to call "liquid gold" (the really expensive medicine that stops her from throwing up, which we would -- and did-- pay any amount of money for). And racking my brain - and my heart - for other things I can be encouraged by and thankful for.

Part of the problem is that I've already been here, done that, and don't want to do it again. See, we did this last March. First the e.r., then nine days later a three-day stay for her in the hospital. All for dehydration. We've run the gamut -- from barf bowls to I.V.'s to pull-up diapers for diarrhea and more. And, quite frankly, I don't want to run that gamut again.

But here we are. Right smack in the middle of the gamut.

And as I'm running -- no, crawling -- through it, I'm searching for something to grasp. Some piece of hope that tells me she's not going to throw up again. That my older daughter won't get it. Even just that God is going to use this to give me some incredible insight or wisdom or depth or something.

But, honestly, right now, I've got nothing but the fact that somehow -- I'm guessing by God's new mercies -- I made it through yesterday.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (New International Version)

22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Pants That Changed My Life

I was 10-years-old when I got my first pair of snowpants. I think I was about 15 when I bought my last pair. Every pair I ever owned were for the express purpose of skiing. In fact, they weren't called snowpants in my family. We called them ski pants. But all that changed last week.

See, I lived in Southern California until I was 12. And we didn't get much snow there. Every year we got about, um, none. So I never experienced life as a young child who takes snowpants and snow boots to school in order to play outside at recess. I never even had to take a winter coat to school, I don't think. Until I entered seventh grade. That was the year we moved to northern Ohio and I learned what living in snow is like.

It's cold.

But so very beautiful. In fact, throughout my adult life, the beauty of snow has become for me, winter's saving grace. In other words, the only real things I truly love about winter are freshly fallen, untouched snow that covers trees and quiets life, and watching the pretty snow fall from inside my warm house in my big, thick, comfy sweater while I drink hot coffee and read a book on my cozy couch in front of my warm wood-burning stove. Once a California girl, always a California girl, I guess.

So when winter hit this year, after last spring's 2x4 God-smack, I knew something needed to change. So I could live this life that Jesus gave me (John 10:10) even in the winter time. So I would not just go through this winter surviving but actually living. And that needed change was most likely not going to be my kids' sudden desire to just look at the pretty snow from inside rather than playing in it and messing it all up. Oh no. It needed to be something drastic.

So I got crazy last week and bought myself some snowpants.

And I must tell you -- I am forever changed! I had a blast playing outside with my kids today in the snow! I built my first ever snow fort.

And my daughter was so impressed with it that she asked me to help her build hers! How amazing is that? We made snow angels and pushed each other down in the snow and tried to throw snowballs at each other and rode around on the sled. All things I've done before, but never have I truly enjoyed them without counting down the minutes until we get to go inside and get warm. And it's all because of the snowpants. Amazing invention, these pants.

The best part? When my daughter said "That was the most fun we've had all year!" Of course, we are only eight days in. But still. I'm just sayin'.

Now, if I can just figure out how to build a snowman...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Plowing Season

Proverbs 20:4
"A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing."

That hit me hard when I read it last year for the first time. In relation to my kids, I mean. Young as they were, it was definitely plowing season. And I realized that if I didn't change something soon, I was not likely to find much at harvest time. At least not much of what I'd want to find.

It was early Friday evening, February 20, 2009. I know the date because I had been reading a Proverb for each day of the month. And I remember that it was Friday because I was reading it as my daughters' friend came knocking and ended up staying for dinner. You're probably wondering what's so memorable about that. And so the story begins...

See, Fridays had become a sort of unofficial "family movie night." We would lazily eat some not-so-nutritious meal in front of the TV while watching some form of a "family friendly" movie (i.e. some animated treasure such as Barbie and the Diamond Castle or something of the sort). It was a treat. For the whole family, actually. So when the aforementioned friend stayed for longer than the time I'd allotted in my head for said friend to stay, I was, shall we say, less than delighted. Annoyed is actually a more suitable description. That's when God took the Proverbs 20 verse 4 two-by-four and smacked me upside the head.

"A sluggard does not plow in season, so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing."

By now, dinnertime was quickly approaching, and so was my seven-year-old with the dreaded "can my friend stay for dinner?" question. And I realized that I had a choice to make. I could choose the work of plowing the field I'd been given in this season of my life as a mom. Or I could choose to be a slug. Oops, I mean sluggard. Now, you may think that after being smacked in the head by God with a two-by-four, the choice was all but made. Nope! I mean, yes, the friend joined us for dinner. But my spirit of true hospitality was more than lacking. In other words, I did not serve like Jesus wanted me to. I did not prepare the soil that is my children for the seeds of unselfishness, Godly hospitality, and wholehearted servanthood. I did not show them the true love of Jesus. His real life that is exhibited when I love and serve Him wholeheartedly. I might as well have made the friend go home and sent my kids to bed early.

As I (grudgingly) cleaned up after dinner, I started thinking about what exactly I hoped to find at harvest time. And I thought about how badly I want our home to be the one my kids want to hang out at with their friends when they're teenagers. I thought about my longing to see my kids really love Jesus and follow Him because they know that they know that they know that His ways are awesome and are the real and true LIFE.

And I realized that this is the season. It's plowing time, Bria! Time to get off my butt and plow the soil.

So I gave it to God. I mean I seriously talked to Him about it... about all of the opportunities I'd missed up to that point as a mom... about the accompanying guilt... about how difficult it was for me to enjoy my kids... about what a struggle I'd always found motherhood to be. And how I'd always, my entire career as a mom, felt like my life was on hold until my kids got older and more self-sufficient. As if this motherhood thing were a mere matter of survival -- daily surviving until my husband got home from work, weekly surviving until my next "time off" on any given Saturday, yearly surviving until my next weekend away. Instead of seeing those times away as opportunities to be refreshed, I'd always seen them as necessary respites from my job. Instead of seeing this season of my life as the short plowing season that it is, I'd always viewed it as a means to an end. Get through it so we can get to the good stuff. Namely, the nicely behaved, well-adjusted teenagers that they would one day be. Just get through it. Then I can enjoy it.

Only -- it's not like that. This is not survival I'm called to. It's motherhood. It's life. REALIFE. And when Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came to give "more and better life than (I've) ever dreamed of," there was no exception for moms of young children. He meant that I could have this more and better life right now. If I did it His way. And, on Friday, February 20, 2009, His way meant inviting a young friend to join our family for dinner and loving him like Jesus does.

And, everyday, His way includes making the most of every opportunity to teach and show my kids what Jesus' love is really like. By enjoying them. And loving them. And making right choices in my own life. By choosing to serve Jesus wholeheartedly, willingly doing the things He asks me to do.

Especially when He hits me upside the head with a two-by-four!

p.s. Check out the Saturday Evening Blog Post for some other really great blog posts from January. Enjoy.
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