Screens vs. The Kitchen Table

This blogging world is interesting.  To me, some things are too sacred to be shared through screens.  They have to be shared over kitchen tables, with coffee and wine and kleenexes, and chocolate. They have to be prayed over.  There are tear stains on pillows, and hands held in the dark.  Prayers for mercy.  For change.  For dreams lost.

And, then when it passes, when I have hindsight, I am more vulnerable to share with the masses.

That’s when God releases me to be open and vulnerable.  Not usually when I’m in the middle of something.  That is the beauty of writing.  You get to look smart, and put together and strong… because you are usually on the other side when you share.

That is not the beauty of real life…because in real life you are in your friends playroom having a complete meltdown and bribing the kids with video games and candy to let you finish your conversation.  Declaring your anger at God.  Crying.  Throwing a fit.

So, please before your read this, know that I am now on the other side.  The HIND side.  With HIND sight.  In the middle of this journey, I was not strong.  I was a mess.

In the beginning, Vince and I wanted 4 kids.  That was the plan.  We rolled right a long with 1.  And, then somehow, I couldn’t get pregnant with Parker.  We had 2 years of infertility, and finally went to a fertility doctor and had treatments…and got pregnant the very first month of treatment.  So amazing and exciting!  My dream was little off kilter, because I had planned to have babies 2 years apart, and now Reese and Parker were going to be 4 years apart.  But, that was ok.  That’s just details, and the Lord knows I’m not really into that anyway.

Along come Parker with a slew of health problems.  3 years of not sleeping.  3 years of sickness.  And, for some reason, I was still really stuck on my plan.  We weren’t trying to get pregnant during this time, but we weren’t NOT trying either.  Now in hindsight, looking back over this time…wow…God was protecting us.  We had more than we could handle.  More.  Way, way, way more.

Then, suddenly, we have a 4 year old and an 8 year old.  The 4 year old is eating and sleeping.  Has a diagnosis.  The 8 year old is continuing to be the sweetest thing ever…the 4 year old is also the sweetest thing ever. Right about prime to time to have another baby – huh?!  Well, right about that time my body decides to freak out.

In medical terms, I start growing a lot of fibroids in my uterus.  They were placed in the perfect spots for declaring war on my body.  I’m not going to go into details…because I just don’t feel like it’s necessary, but I will say, the war was long and rough.  Exhausting, mentally and physically.

We tried what I like to refer to as my life medical philosophy “Eastern, Western, and Jesus.”  Which kind of means we tried everything.  Medicines, herbs, vitamins, time, waiting, exercise, healing prayer, time, foods, medicines, prayer….back and forth and back and forth.  And…ta da….everything was getting worse.

In August, we were at our leader’s retreat with our church, and had an amazing weekend.  We hadn’t told many people at all about my health struggles, mainly because it was so personal in nature.  For some reason, it didn’t feel appropriate to me to go to the front on a Sunday and ask our pastor to pray for my uterus.  Sorry.  I’m just more bashful than that.

We had a guest speaker/pastor at this event from Scotland….that didn’t know me or Vince.  We had not even had any conversations with this man.  And, he prayed for me.  He put his hand right on my uterus and prayed.  And, let me tell you guys….I almost feel on the floor.  How in God’s green earth did he KNOW that my uterus needed prayer!!!  I was getting hot and starting to kind of cry.  He prayed, “You have been trying to push open a door.  God is going to open that door for you.  He is going to bring joy back into your home every month.  Every month you will thank the Lord for what he has done.”

I just sat there dumbfounded.  What in the world did this mean?  Of course, my mind ran with it.  I turned to Vince and said, “Maybe I’m pregnant right now!”  Mind…..running……away……

Vince, in his normal even-minded nature, said, “Hon…that’s not what he said.  And, he is not God.  He prayed that.  God led him to pray for your uterus.  But, he did not, and God did not say you were pregnant.”

“Oh.  Well.  That’s right.”  I said.

But, people let’s be real.  If someone you don’t know, prays for something they didn’t know about, that’s right on…. and the desire of your heart is for another baby….of course it means you are pregnant. At. This. Very. Minute!  Men.  They are so rational.

WelI, I wasn’t pregnant.  And, I was raging mad about that.   Cue the crying in my friends playroom.  “Why did God have to even bother me with this?  Why did he even bring it up?  It’s like here, kid you want a snack?  Oh, I didn’t mean you could have a cupcake…here is a fish for you.  Enjoy that fish.  Ok.”

I don’t want a fish!!!!!  I didn’t even ask for a snack!!!!!

(See I’m really rational.  This is why I am best at sharing in hindsight.)

After all all my fit throwing, Vince and I sat down and had a good rational conversation.  Basically, we moved forward.  We do fertility treatments and get pregnant, or we remove the fibroids.  Those were our only two options.  We could not keep things going as they were.  Especially after all the medications, etc. we had tried…did not work.  The effects of this “war” on my insides was not something that could just be left alone.  So, we were at a fork in the road.

We committed to praying for direction.  And did for a long time.  God was completely silent. Nothing.  No blinking signs saying “GO THIS WAY!”  No nothing.  And, again…Mrs. Rational, was really mad about that.  Mad at God for not giving us some kind of direction.

Then, on a Sunday after Thanksgiving I was cleaning out Parker’s closet.  Folding up clothes that he had outgrown.  I was totally overcome with emotion.  I sat down on his closet floor and was crying in there.  And, then Vince came in. Apparently he had gotten emotional out on the back porch.  At this very same time, he was praying for direction for us, and felt a push from the Lord.  Then he found me in the closet crying.  He sat right down on the floor in the middle of the clothes, and we held hands and cried…just cried that our dreams for our family might look differently that we had thought.  We prayed and cried.  And God spoke to us.  He spoke very clearly that his dreams for our family are WAY better than the ones that we have.   He reminded us that he is our protector…and sometimes unanswered prayers are for our protection.  He reminded us of the blessings of Reese and Parker.  He reminded us that he does not need my uterus to grow our family.  He reminded us of autism statistic we had just learned at a convention. He reminded us that he is here.  Listening.  Close to the broken hearted.

After this conversation, weighing the statistics we had learned, and hearing so clearly from the Lord…for the first time, Vince and I felt peace.  Total peace.

We called my doctor to re-open the door of discussing what to do about the fibroids.  I had another ultrasound, and had grown even more of them.  Answer confirmed.  I was getting worse.

So, here we are.  Post surgery.  I am healing really well.  And, can’t stop thinking about how the Jews missed Jesus because he didn’t look like what they thought God had said.  They were expecting the messiah to be a warrior.  Not a peace maker.  I was expecting God to make me pregnant to bring Joy…not take away my sickness to bring Joy.  I know I will be grateful every month.  Vince and I will be so grateful for health!  Looking back, I think I may have just misunderstood.

 

Read these lyrics from Lauren Daigle’s Trust in You.   This came on as Vince and I were pulling into the hospital the morning of the surgery.  It was like a movie.  Like slow motion.  We were holding hands, breathing deep the emotions of God, the promises of God….

If I were to bet, I’d say this is just part one of some kind of incredible journey God is going to take our family on.  Because after all, his dreams are better than our dreams.  His dreams are bigger than our dreams.   What’s next?  We will trust in Him.

TRUST IN YOU

Letting go of every single dream.

I lay each one down at your feet

Every moment of my wandering

Never changes what you see.

I’ve tried to win this war, I confess.

My hands are weary, I need your rest.

Mighty warrior, king of the fight

No matter what I face you are by my side.

When you don’t move the mountains, I needed you to move.

When you don’t part the waters, I wish I could walk through.

When you don’t give the answers as I cry out to you.

I will trust.  I will trust in you.

Truth is you know what tomorrow brings.

There is not a day ahead you have not seen.

So in all things, be my life and breathe

I want what you want Lord and nothing less.

When you don’t move the mountains, I needed you to move.

When you don’t part the waters, I wish I could walk through.

When you don’t give the answers as I cry out to you.

I will trust.  I will trust in you.

You are my strength and comfort

You are my steady hand

You are my firm foundation

The rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher

your plans are always good

there’s not a place where I’ll go that you’ve not already stood.

When you don’t move the mountains, I needed you to move.

When you don’t part the waters, I wish I could walk through.

When you don’t give the answers as I cry out to you.

I will trust.  I will trust in you.

 

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The Ladder Builders

Friends, a big part of the purpose of this blog is for Autism Awareness.  This fall, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of parents, Occupational Therapists, Behavioral Therapists, and Speech Pathologists.  It was an amazing experience, and something I feel so passionate about.  Here is a few lines of my talk…and some awesome movie clips about Autism and Aspergers.

Watch this video of Temple Grandin…it’s amazing. (Click the black section, watch this video on You Tube and it will link you up).

 

The Ladder Builders 

“Autism?  He doesn’t have Autism!”

This little face was not the face of Autism to me.  Sure, he couldn’t sleep and had a lot of food sensitivites, but he was funny and fun, and smiled…not all the time, but sometimes. When he felt good.  At the time I didn’t realize I had preconceived notions about Autism.   That I was playing into a stereotype.  And a false one at that. I had heard all the commercials on the radio, that your child is more likely to have Autism than to play major league baseball. And for the record, I still don’t like that commercial.  One day I hope they replace it with, “Hi.  I have autism and I play major league baseball.”   That’s the kind of thing we need advertise.  Back to my point.  I’d usually turn the volume down every time that commercial on, even before Parker was born, because it made me sad.  Being a person that thrives on relationships, I thought Autism was, in a nut-shell, a child that was incapable and uninterested in forming relationships.  And Parker wanted a relationship with me, and the rest of his family.  No way was he Autistic. Or so I thought.  I had put Autism in a nice little box. And now that I know more about it…A box is the last thing Autism fits in.  Now looking back, I could not have been more wrong.  Every child with Autism wants relationships.  They do.  They just sometimes have a different way of approaching it, a different way of connecting, and it’s our job to find out how they connect, and pursue it!  Pursue it with all our might!

Temple Grandin says, “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher.”  She goes on to say, “Social thinking skills must be directly taught to children and adults with ASD.  Doing so opens the door of social understanding in all areas of life.”

One of my favorite songs is Bob Dylan’s Forever Young”.  The lyrics say, “May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung.”

Kids on the spectrum need someone to help them build their ladder to the stars.(See picture above).  With help, YOUR HELP, these children can reach their goals and dreams. These stars are not out of reach.

I want you to close your eyes and imagine yourself.  Imagine yourself nailing in those rungs on the ladder belonging to your student, or patient, or child.  You are so important for their future.  You are their ladder builder!

Through Parker’s story there is one main highlight I have learned… Autism doesn’t fit into a neat box.  Or a messy box.  Or any box for that matter.  Stephen Shore says, “If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.”

In looking back over our story, I have come to the conclusion that yes, we made mistakes, but we also made great victories.  Victories in realizing that Autism is not a disease.  It’s not something to be cured of.  It’s just the way Parker is made.  He was fearfully and wonderfully made with Autism.  Just the way God wanted him.

Watch this clip from the Movie, Temple Grandin.  It’s the true story of Temple Grandin, best selling author, professor, activist, and voted as one of Time Magazine’s top 100 most influential people in the world.  And she is autistic.

Temple says, “I had people in my life who didn’t give up on me:  my mother, my aunt, my science teacher.  I had one on one speech therapy.  I had a nanny who spent all day playing turn taking games with me.”  She goes on to say, “It’s never too late to expand the mind of a person o the autism spectrum.”

Are you that person for some one?  The person that didn’t give up.  The ladder builder.

I want to leave you with one of my favorite scriptures.  Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Build the ladder.  Reap the harvest.  Change a life.

 

 

 

Here is a great link to show your kids about Aspergers from PBS’s Arthur.

 

 

And just one more clip, to make you laugh.  This is Big Bang Theory.  It comes on CBS, and my husband and I had been watching this show for years.  We had NO IDEA that Sheldon Cooper had so many qualities of a person with ASD until we entered into this world.  Now it’s even better to us.  Sheldon, while quirky, is funny, fun, has friends, has success…he gives us good laughs and a lot of hope.

With that said, I’d like you to watch this clip of Big Bang Theory of what not to do.   Amy is giving Sheldon Cooper therapy to try to stop his compulsive need for closure.  Let’s watch.

 

The Fritz

I love Joanna and Chip Gaines from HGTV’s Fixer Upper.  I find myself thinking of them sometimes throughout the day.  How is it possible that they have this amazing house.  Beautiful garden.  Green house.  Chickens.  A whole farm.  4 kids.  A show.  The Silos.  Magnolia Market.  A book.  How is this possible?  How come I can’t get through my laundry pile?

Somedays I feel like the name of my show would be “The Fritz.”  This is a nice phrase I love to use regularly.  I say, “My phone is on the fritz.” (it really is today.)  “My car is on the fritz.”  (it actually is as well, because I was side-swiped last week). “My whole EVER-LOVING sanity is on the fritz (um…no comment)!!!!”

The actual meaning of “on the fritz”, in non-dramatic terms, is something that stops working, malfunctions, or acts in a way contrary to it’s usual manner.

I especially like this phrase, first off, because it’s fun to say, and secondly because it sounds like “The Ritz” but opposite…Like, “Oh man…we are staying at The Fritz.”  And, believe me, no one wants to stay at The Fritz.

Back to Jo Jo and Chip …do you know what they have that you and I don’t?  They have editing.  Yes, their 4 children are playing preciously at their beautiful farm table….but we didn’t see the huge pile of junk directly to the left of the camera.  OUT OF VIEW.  We didn’t see that workers planted the flowers in the garden that Joanna is watering.  They were OUT OF VIEW.  We didn’t see the stress and strain of a huge professional life on their family…we didn’t see it.  We don’t see it, and we won’t see it.  But, their friends will.  And, that’s as it should be.  I have to remind myself of this easy fact.  I am not friends with Joanna and Chip.  Maybe someday.  A girl can dream.

Can I let you in on a horrible secret?  Most of my friends seemed perfect at first.  And, then I got to know them.  Hehehe.  No offense to any of you.  I love you more because of it.  And,  I’m honestly so glad you are not perfect.  I’m glad you are a “fixer upper”.  I’m glad you are on “the fritz”.  Because I am too.

I’m so glad for authenticity.  I’m so glad I get to see what’s OUT OF VIEW.  Because when you see things “out of view” in your friends lives, you know you are doing life together.  When you see laundry on their dining room table.  When you see their kids have a huge fit.  When you see them using Velveeta, or admitting their kids had marshmallows for breakfast.  No edit.  Nothing out of view.  Friendship.

TV and social media sometimes work our brains over.

“Why is everyone having so much fun?”

“Why is everyone’s house pretty?’

“Why is everyone accomplishing so much?”

“Why?”

“Do I have value?”

“Do I have much to offer?”

Let me declare –  YES!!!  Yes, you do!!!

And you will see what you have to offer in real life relationships.  You will see what you are good at.  You will laugh at what you are bad at.  You will feel unedited.  You will feel seen.

No matter how busy we are.  How stressed.  We need people in our lives.  We need community.  We need friendships in every form.  And, it’s hard.  I wish churches offered classes on friendship.  How to divide up your time.  How to keep your family first  and STILL have friends.  How to work and have friends.  How to be exhausted and have friends.  I don’t know the answers or the secrets…but I do know that we have to make an effort.  And, in all honesty, I get introverted at times, and am not great at this. But, God reminds me that I need people.  We were not made to live in isolation.  To live life wishing we had it together like so-in-so.  Because, if you REALLY knew s0-in-so..you’d realize she doesn’t have it together either.

Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Friendships challenge.  Sharpen.  Move.  Push.  Direct.  Reveal.  Support.

And, they stay at “The Fritz” with you, laughing all the way.

(P.S – if you are looking for friends and support, and feel like this is something missing in your life, try a community group at your church.  For real.  Do it.)

 

 

 

 

Sleepin’ in my Bellybutton

Parker, our 4 year old declared loudly last night….”Can I sleep in my bellybutton.?”

Let’s be honest.  Half the time, we have no idea what Parker is talking about. Vince and I just looked at each other, and said, “What?”

Parker: “You know.  Like Bubba does.  Sleep in my bellybutton.”

“Oh….I get it!” I said, cracking up.  “You mean sleep without a shirt on?  Like instead of sleeping IN your PJs, you want to sleep IN your bellybutton.”

Parker: “Yes, dat’s right Mama.  Well, can I?”

After we finally stopped laughing, I said, “Well, Bud, it’s REALLY cold out tonight.  Are you gonna get cold with no shirt on?”

Parker:  “No way Mama.  I’m a big boy.  I can do it just like Bubba.”

After all, we all know that big kids sleep in their bellybuttons, and by golly, Parker was going to do it too.  PJ tops are for amateurs. Babies.  He was not going to be moved.

I have been reading the book of James this week, and James loves to talk about being “steadfast”.  I feel like that word is one that I’ve always heard in church.  Be steadfast.  But, I really had no idea what it meant until this morning.  Thank you google.  It literally means, FIXED IN PLACE.  Similar to Parker sleeping’ in his bellybutton – he was steadfast.  Fixed in place.  He was not wavering.  Not moving.

Read James 1:2-4 with me:

Consider it all joy my brothers when you face trials of various kinds for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (steadiness, dependable-ness, reliable-ness, solid-ness, loyalty, faithfulness).  And let steadfastness have it’s FULL effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing. 

First, let’s take note that this verse says WHEN we face trials.  Not if.  We are promised trials.  And, let’s be honest…that is not awesome. But, with God there is always a kick back. A resolution.  A hope.  He says these trials produce things in our heart that we desperately need to become complete people.

What trail are you facing?

One of my trials this year has been health related.  It’s actually been awful if I’m honest.  I’m having surgery next week to hopefully fix the issue.  And, this is a TRIAL for me.  It’s really hard to consider it joy.  This surgery will make me unable to have any more kids. And, if you guys know my heart, that’s hard to grasp for me.  But, you know what God is producing in me through this?  He is producing steadfastness.

Psalms 16:8 “I will keep my eyes always on the Lord.  With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  (I will not be moved, I will not be upended, I will stand firm).

When my eyes are on him.  Looking at his face.  His love for me.  His father’s heart for my family.  His protection.  His plan.  I will not be moved .  Let me repeat.  I WILL NOT BE MOVED.  He has a plan for my family.  He loves me.  He loves you.  He has a plan for your trial.  He has a plan greater than mine and yours.  His dreams for my family are greater than mine. His dreams for your family are greater than yours.

I am growing in that trust.  The trust that “He is with me always, even to the end of the age.”

I am growing in the fact that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.”

I am growing in the fact that “He never leaves or forsakes us.”

I am growing in steadfastness.

I will not be moved.

And, I will not sleep in my bellybutton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Journey with Aspergers

Thanksgiving 2013,  Vince (my husband) felt the Lord say that we would be celebrating Parker and his story next year. That we would be telling of God’s faithfulness. His miracles. His answering of our prayers for our sick little boy.

Vince shared this with me that Sunday in 2013, and while I trusted he heard from God, I immediately thought and said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” In other words, “yeah, right.”

We were in distress. Our little boy Parker had gone through 2 1/2 years of constant sickness and sleeplessness. Which resulted in him throwing up everything, eating only 6 foods and elemental formula (that cost as much as a mortgage), and a huge amount of daily medicines. He had seen numerous allergists, immunologists, and gastroenterologists. He had multiple blood panels, allergy tests, and 2 scopes and biopsies on his intestines. He had whooping cough, salmonella, and hand foot and mouth (all in a 6 week span). Our doctors were baffled that every test..from immune system to GI tract came back clear. After all this time, our specialists basically told us that they could no longer help. We were lost.

In addition, there was the sleeplessness. Parker was miserable. He could not rest. He would literally scream for hours on end. Every night. And day. For over 2 1/2 years. We did not sleep. We couldn’t even sit down with him during the night. We had to walk and squeeze and stand with this screaming toddler from 2-6 am or longer almost EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. Even as I write this it seems unreal. Our families would take turns on “Parker watch” so we could get some rest. We kept sleep logs to give to our doctors. We were hanging by a thread. Actually that last part of the fraying thread that was rapidly disintegrating.

This is where I stood at the thanksgiving service. Not only in disbelief, but having taken offense with God. I’d prayed for healing. I’d prayed my heart out. For years. I did not like the story of the persistent widow anymore. I felt like I’d ask, seeked, and knocked until I’d bruised my hand and lost my voice. And I did loose my voice. I came to the conclusion that I could pray prayers for others. For myself. But no longer for healing for Parker. I just couldn’t bear it. But in this time, God moved.

A trusted friend gave me a message from the Lord. God had shown her a picture of me having my hands held up to heaven by my friends because I was too weak to hold them up myself. Like Moses in Exodus 17 was too weak to lift his staff, so his friends held up his arms. That is how we continued. Our family and friends carried us. Carried us to the Lord.

At this very point, right around the thanksgiving service, I sent an email late at night, in desperation, to one of the top GI hospitals in the country. I sent our sleep logs, our food journals, our plea for help. To my total and complete surprise, they called me the next day and asked us to fly in the next week. Which we later found out is completely unheard of. Patients wait six months to a year to get in to the specialist we were seeing.

This miracle of was not lost on me. I immediately dropped to my knees in tears thanking God, and felt him tell me to check the mail box. Immediately, I knew what that meant. We had been waiting for months for a substantial tax return that had been very delayed due to identity theft.

I couldn’t even handle it. No way would that check be in the mail box that would pay for our trip to Denver. On this very day. We could have received this check any day since April. I slowly walked to the mail box. And there it was. Just as God had said.
Miraculous.

In Denver, our specialist led us for the first time to pursue a neurological route in treating Parker. He felt that most of Parker’s problems were originating in the brain, not the stomach. He referred us to a neurologist, who later referred us to speech and occupational therapists, who later referred us to a developmental psychologist.

When we returned from Denver, we felt hopeful. We’d seen God move. We had a bit of a plan for the first time. But, Parker was not better and was not sleeping. We had been reading in The Journey of the father in Mark 9:24 who said, “I do believe. Help my unbelief.” This had cut straight to my heart. The girls in my c-group prayed this verse over me. And they prayed for Parker to sleep!

That very night, he slept the entire night!!! Which he had done only a few times since birth. And then he slept again,the next night. I was rejoicing. God had swooped in. He had saved us! He had healed Parker! I was telling everyone. Shouting it from the rooftops.

But…we had a horrible 3rd night. An ALL night scream session. To be honest, I felt tricked by God and I was really angry. How could he bring us this far, and then leave us?

But, true to his form, God did not leave. He moved. Slowly and perfectly. He gave me a dream to change Parker’s bed. He gave Vince wisdom about new medication. Better and better and better. We look to that c-group prayer night as a huge turning point.

God made scripture come alive. Words that I’d read many times, were seeming to break the barrier in my soul. Promises, “the Lord your God is WITH you. He is mighty to save.” (Zeph 3:17). “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted. (Ps )

God spoke to me 2 years ago, very clearly, that he was NOT going to heal Parker, but was going to use Parker’s story to change the world for the kingdom of God.

I really struggled with this. Especially because at this time, I thought Parker had a GI condition. Why would God not heal him? And then tell me he wasn’t going to?? I was really mad about this, again, to be honest. Even though I knew He had said it, I still didn’t like it.

Now looking back, 2 years almost to the month of this conversation with God, we received a diagnosis for Parker last Tuesday. Asperger’s syndrome. High functioning autism.

Most all kids with Asperger’s have a “biologically sensitive system”. Their body over reacts to everything. Heat, noise, lights, sickness, food. Food intolerances are very common in these kids, as well as prolonged insomnia. All the loose ends are tied into a nice, diagnostic bow.

While he does get lost in conversation, Parker is friendly and smart and not what I had stereotyped in my mind as Autistic. That is the interesting thing about the Autism Spectrum. It is a full spectrum. If you know one kid with Autism, you do not know the next. Vince and I got a chance to go the the state Autism conference this weekend and felt like for the first time, people understood our struggle with Parker. Things actually made sense. We had somewhere that we actually fit.

Interestingly enough, this is exactly what God said. He wasn’t going to heal Parker because this was precisely how He made him. He made him fearfully and wonderfully with Asperger’s. He made him smart and unique and passionate. He made him exactly how he wants him … to be able to change the world for The kingdom of God.

This Thanksgiving we are thankful that God is never too late. That He never left us. We are thankful for answers. Thankful that God used this time to draw us close together and close to him. Thankful that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Thankful that God keeps his promises. “Blessed is she that believes the promises the Lord has given to her.” Luke 1:45

I am Harry Potter

So we just finished watching the last Harry Potter movie in our Christmas marathon with our oldest.  And, let me say, IT WAS AWESOME!!!! What an incredible story!

Now, I know we all have our different convictions about things as Christians. I’d like to put a little disclaimer out there, that if you don’t like Harry Potter and don’t want this story to be a part of your family, you are SO entitled to that. We have to choose what works for each of our families. And, I respect your opinion. 

But, my opinion is ……HARRY POTTER IS SUCH A CATALYST FOR THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST!

For example: Reese and my conversation on the couch in between scenes.
Reese: “Mom, is Satan worser than Voldemort.”
Me: “It’s hard to believe, but yes.”
Reese: “wow. that’s really bad.”
Me: “I know. But you don’t have to be scared of him. You know the scene at the end where Voldemort is like a withered little tiny person under the bench at the train station. That’s how Satan is when we have Christ in our hearts. The power of Jesus makes him powerless. And, you have that power in you Reese.”
Reese: Smiles.

Friends, I am so tired of showing my older kid cartoons with no bad guys. Or stupid bad guys. Or even pretending evil does not exist. What a shock this world will be!!! There is horrible darkness. AND, there is good, and it’s so wonderful. It’s what life is made of.

Take Harry Potter for instance. Just a regular guy. Like you and me, and Reese. We resemble Voldemort some. Yes, we do. We have a sin nature. A dark side. That we wish didn’t exist, but it’s there. We were marked by this sin, this lightening bolt, since we were born.

But, tell you what friends, we were also CHOSEN. Special. We carry in us the ability to have grit. To be tough. To fight for good. To love others. To sacrifice. To join the light.

Harry joined the light. He fought the darkness. He sacrificed for his friends. And, had to die to defeat Voldemort. Just like we have to die to ourselves, to defeat sin and darkness in our lives. We have the true “resurrection stone” in Christ. We defeat darkness with his power, not our own strength, but the power of the stone, the TRUE CORNERSTONE – CHRIST JESUS!

Just about wanted to raise my hands in praise to the Lord as the movie ended. I am Harry Potter. And so are you.

The Tree of Life

Our pastor today spoke about two of my VERY favorite chapters in the Bible. Revelation 21 and 22. (The new heaven and new earth.) Basically a description of eternity. What it will look like. It’s a painting with words. Beautiful. Hopeful. Certain.

I am always amazed that one day I will see this place. And, I’m more certain of that than anything in my life. I will be standing there. Not painting with words. Not painting with watercolor. But, letting my eyes take in the majesty of this place, that I get to enjoy forevermore.

FOREVER-STINKING-MORE. Can you dig it?

So, while we were reading these glorious chapters today, my mind started to imagine. I like to hear things and not just think about them, but imagine myself there, completely. And, I get sort of lost in my brain. I know that’s strange. You might try to be kind and say that is creative, but let’s be honest…it’s strange.

Let me tell you what the Bible tells us we will see. Let yourself be strange and really get this in your mind’s eye.

The kind yet powerful voice of Jesus says, “Behold. I am making all things new.”

And, then you see it. You see and and FEEL it all at the same time. There are no tears, death is no more, there is no mourning or crying or pain, the former things have passed away. New. All things.

This new city is shining. There is no sun or moon. The glory of God blasts through the precious Gems that form a wall. A rainbow wall. The wall is made of precious stones, rubies, jasper, on and on. Each row of the wall is a color. There are rows and rows of colors, stacked one upon another. Stacks of gems. Jewels. And, the glory of God is shining through the gems. Like a rainbow blast.

You look at the gates. There are 12 gates. Giant pearls. With angels sitting on top of each. The gates will never be shut.

You see inside. The streets are made of gold. So pure, so smooth, it looks like glass.

Then, I see my favorite spot. The tree of life. From the tree of life, you can see the throne of God. The river, bright and clear as crystal flows, from the thrown of God and around this tree. This giant tree that’s leaves are “healing to the nations”. This tree bears fruit. Gives shade. Complete’s God’s full circle story from the fall of man, to the redemption, to the fulfillment.

I think about this tree a lot, and Vince has gotten his fair share of “Did I tell you about this tree??” It is one of the things I’m most excited about seeing. And, I hope you will be too.

I was thinking about all of this, AGAIN, today at church…imagining myself there…. in a canoe….with Jesus. I was sitting, and he was paddling under this giant tree. The glory of God was shining all around us. Jesus looked at me, smiling and said, “Is this what you wanted my daughter?”

I was so overcome. So overcome with joy. With peace. With what I had longed for, that I jumped up in the canoe and leapt forward to hug him, crying and saying “YES!”

Then the canoe tipped over, and we fell in the river.

We were soaked. And laughing….and so was everyone else on the bank.

Jesus tossed a fruit off the tree at me, smiling jokingly and said, “Thanks a lot Joanna!”

And, that was the beginning of eternity.

Laughter. Jokes. Jesus.

I. Can’t. Wait.

What Did You Said?

Parker: ” I had a dweem (dream) about Jesus.”
Me: “Oh, really? What happened?”
P: “Well, he said somp-thing…and den I said, WHAT DID YOU SAID? And den he said somp-ting again…and den I said WHAT DID YOU SAID? And, den he said somp-ting again and den I said WHAT DID YOU SAID? And, den Jesus hit his hand on his head and said “Oh, Bummer!”

I can’t help but think that this TOTALLY cracked Jesus up. I’ve been giggling about this, and was suddenly hit over the head with it’s spiritual significance. 

How many times does God whisper something to my heart. And, I’m too busy to listen. He whispers, “call this friend.” And, I think…I have too much to do today. I need to ignore that. I go into a “what did you said?” mentality. Busy. Moving. Getting things done.

God whispers, “buy a cheeseburger for this homeless guy.” I’m too tired to deal with the world’s problems….I move on. Drive by. Ignore him. Ignore God. Moving back into my “What did you said?” mentality. I heard God. I heard the whisper. I just can’t. Not today. Can’t act like I heard him. Moving on.

I don’t listen. I ignore. I am too busy to hear. I am not making the effort to be still and really listen.

Hebrew 3:15 says, “Today if you hear my voice, do not harden your hearts.”

Let’s open our hearts. Listen. Be present with God today, even in the still small voice. How much change can happen in the world, if instead of “What did you said?” We just said, “ok.”

Literal Parker

Literal Parker 1:

Took Parker to McDonalds today. Little smartie reads the sign in his tiny voice…”Pick. Up. Here. So, how do you pick your food up on da roof? How we get up dere?”

Me:😂well, signs are kind of confusing. We pick up our food at the window. They just point you to the general area.”

Literal Parker 2:

Me: (kissing Parker’s cheeks and saying “yum yum)”

Parker: why are you eating me?

Me: because you are soooooo delicious!
Parker: I not want to be delicious.
Me: well you sure are!
P: (starts to cry) I not delicious. I smart!
Me:😂you are right buddy. Yes! You are smart…not delicious.

Literal Parker 3:

(Parker makes me and Reese laugh for the third time in a row.)

Me: Parker you are so funny! You are on a roll!

P (looks under himself): I not on a roll. I on my car seat mommy!

Me:😂

Literal Parker 4:

Bibby: Parker are you so excited about going to Disney World?

P: no…I just want to stay on this planet.

Me:😂

Literal Parker 5:

Parker: can i have some candy?

Me: maybe later

P: maybe yes. Or maybe no.

Me: maybe means you might get some.

P: yes or no.

Me: maybe

P:

😡yes or no mom!!!!

Me:😂ok you can have some. Yes.

Literal Parker 6:

P: where we going?

Me: to see Aunt Karen and Aunt Kathy and Aunt Gayla.

P: WOW!!! Cool. Do they live underground?
Me: um no. Aunt Karen lives in a house. (Confused).
P: so are dey berry small?
Me: What? You know who they are? They are adults. We just saw them at Cafe 7?
P: oh, so dey just turned into Ants. Ants crawl on da ground. And dere habitat is underground.
Me:😂sweetie Aunts not Ants! It’s like a nickname…they are humans.

Moses Supposes

Moses.

The story of his life is just incredible. He was supposed to be dead as a baby. There were too many Hebrews in Egypt, and Pharaoh didn’t want a revolution. Any baby born a boy had to be thrown into the Nile. Can you imagine? Horror and injustice at such a great height.

BUT.

But, Moses was found by Pharaoh’s daughter in a basket, floating in the Nile. She saved him. He grew up in the palace. In the lap of luxury.

BUT.

He did not grow up as a leader. He was meek. Slow of speech and tongue. I imagine that people in the palace spoke this into his life. “You are not a leader. You cannot rally people. You speak too slowly. You will never speak in front of a crowd. You need to sit back. Be humble. Be meek. This is not you. You are not a leader.”

BUT.

But God choose him as a leader. Moses says, “Who am I?” God says, “I will be with you. I AM.” Moses says, “What if they do not believe me. I have never been eloquent.” God says, “Don’t listen to what others have said about you. Listen to me! I made your mouth. I will help you speak and teach you what to say.”

As I think back to Biblical heroes, true leaders, Moses is at the front of my mind. He was a revolutionary. A true leader.

But was he?

Read Numbers 12:3 – and note that is is even AFTER he had parted the Red Sea…….(“Now Moses was a very meek man, more meek than anyone on the face of the earth.)

What I see here is that if God is going to use you to do something, you don’t have to be any “typical” way. God could have picked a natural leader. He didn’t. He picked Moses. He picked the meekest and most humble man on earth. Does not sound like the character qualities of a leader? NO! It sounds like someone I’d like, but not a revolutionary. And you know what? Moses did LEAD! And how? Through the power of God!!!

If God is impressing leadership on your heart, and you are not a natural leader…..do not listen to things spoken over you in your past. Listen to God. His power is made perfect in our weakness. If you don’t think you can come to church because you feel shame, don’t let shame make decisions for you. Let God! He is waiting for you. Not to scold, but to LOVE!

God chooses the meek to lead. The broken to restore. The weak to become strong.

He is writing a story in each of our lives to show his power. Let him take those places that we are ashamed of …..Take them, and make them new.