Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Crooked Sidewalks

“Crooked Sidewalks” is a picture God gave me a year or so ago that I’m just now starting to put together and understand.  We live in the city, and because of that our daughter Avery will grow up in the city.  I am not unaware of what this means and could mean to Avery.  Life could be hard and not always fair.  The education isn’t as great, the violence is close to our house, and the people have different upbringings and backgrounds that can make it hard to relate to at times.  As a wife to Kory, it wasn’t that hard to adjust to life in the city. It was an adventure with little to sacrifice.  Now as a momma to Avery, there is more I’ve had to sacrifice.  I realize that she may not have all the bells and whistles in her childhood.  Sometimes that’s sad to me and other times it’s exciting.  Sometimes it’s scary and other times I’m at peace with it.  Sometimes I’m nervous and other times I’m refreshed by it. 

When Avery started to learn to walk, that’s all she wanted to do.  She quickly learned that when she put her shoes on and when I put my shoes on she would get to go outside and walk.  She started to bring me my shoes all the time.  When I was doing dishes, when I was folding laundry, when I was cooking dinner, here comes Avery with my shoes in hand, setting them down in front of me and pointing at the door.  Her first word was “mama” second, “dada” and I think third was “walk.”  The good news is there are a lot of places to walk when you live in the city and a lot of sidewalks.  The problem is the cement is all broken up, jagged, uneven and crooked.  This is problematic when you can walk much less when you are learning to walk.  I don’t know how many times I caught my breath and tried to save Avery from falling and scraping knee after knee after knee.  Let’s just put it this way, she had scraped up knees quite often.  But now…now she sails across those sidewalks easier and swifter than an adult.  I trip more than she does.  I watch her dominate those jagged edges as if she’s memorized them.  “Big step” I’ll shout out to Avery as she is a bit ahead and I can visualize a fall.  “Watch, out, Avery.”  “Be careful.”  I don’t even think she hears me, she confidently marches on as if she were born to walk the crooked sidewalks.

And that’s when I realize that she was.  She is born to walk the crooked sidewalks.  I believe that God knew all along that Avery Lantz would grow up in the city, amidst difficulty and obstacles.  Yes, there will be messiness and pain that we will not be sheltered from as a family.  There will be conversations at an early age, trying to make sense of things she will see and start to hear.  There will be questions we won’t be able to answer, and things we will not be able to keep her safe from.  But as I watch her walk the crooked sidewalks, I think she will be just fine.  I think she will learn the bumps and understand she has to adjust in order not to fall.  I think I will be the one yelling, “Avery, big step.”  “Watch out!”  “Be careful.”  And she may not even need to hear it, because she’s already a step ahead, doing what she was born to do, walk the crooked sidewalks.   

Often times, God asks me to walk the crooked sidewalks as well and I drag my feet and complain.  Why can’t I have nice smooth, groomed and flat sidewalks?  If you gave me those sidewalks, God, I would be able to run for you, not just walk!  But he doesn’t let me stay there, he pushes me to keep walking; over every jagged bump, through all the shattered glass.  And as I walk these crooked sidewalks day in and day out, I learn to see the beauty in the brokenness, beauty in the uneven ground.  I pay attention a little bit more when the path starts to smooth out. 

I’m thankful for both of my daughters, Avery and Karis, who have taught me how to walk on the crooked sidewalks.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Firebird and Veggie Tales

I just re-read my entry on June 4, “God, can we get a break”?  That is exactly how I feel today.  Today we are in Sanibel, Florida.  We’ve been encouraged to take a sabbatical and I’m no longer complaining, it’s great to be here.  When we were preparing to get here, I was complaining.  It’s hard to leave.  It was hard to explain why we deserve a 3-week vacation and they still need to go to work and deal with life at home.  It was hard to leave a house that we just moved into and still need to unpack and settle into.  It’s hard to walk away from things you’ve been working on (basketball camp, summer camp) and put it in someone else’s hands while your gone.  It was hard to explain to the kids that we would be MIA for 3 weeks with no way to contact us, yikes.  We have never done that. It was hard to cram in all the people we wanted to see before we left.  We ran ourselves ragged getting to this vacation.  Some nights we wondered if we would even make it to the sabbatical because we thought the prep of it would kill us before we got there.

So now we are here, ready to enjoy J  As I type, Kory is laying in bed with one of the worst migraines I’ve had to see him endure since January.  I hate seeing my strong husband in so much physical pain.  Instead of being at the beach, playing with Avery in the sand and the waves, I’ve been on and off the phone with doctors trying to come up with the perfect mix of meds that will take the edge off this beast of a headache.  We can’t leave the house, because you don’t leave someone who is in that much pain to themselves, but my 2 year old doesn’t understand that.  And my physical body is still trying to process the fact that I had a baby a month ago and struggling to get back to normal, especially in the hormone department.  After I shut the door to Avery’s room getting her down for a nap, I went to my room, cried, and was very honest with God.  I know that other people have way worse issues than us, but sometimes I feel like waving my arms up to heaven and screaming “over here, can I get some help over here???  Do you see me drowing, yes, that is me, can you please throw me a rescue line or something???”

God brought two things to my mind.  Veggie Tales and Firebird.  I love when God speaks to me through children’s stories.  Avery’s found a new obsession since being on vacation and that is her love for “Bob” from veggie tales.  We don’t watch TV or movies much at home and I think she is making up for lost time, all she wants to do is watch “Bob.”  We will be at the beach and she will say, “Bob?” Oh boy.  I didn’t know watching some “Bob” in the morning would cause her to think about it all day long.  Anyways, the veggie tales show we have is the story of Joseph out of Genesis.  His brothers sell him into slavery, Potipher’s wife lies and he goes to jail, and basically has a ton of “not fair” things happen to him in his life and he did nothing to deserve any of them.  Veggie Tales breaks down the story in such a simple way, I see it in a different light.  There’s a scene where “Little Joe” (Joseph) is in jail and Bob (the jail keeper) asks him why all this bad stuff is happening to him if God really loves him.  My ears perked up.  I listened to a cucumber on the screen say some profound things.  I don’t know yet.  But I know God loves me.  My job is just to keep doing good wherever I'm at” I went back and read the whole story of Joseph and was amazed.  In all he went through, he had to be screaming the same thing I was.  “Over here, God!!!  Do you see me?  I’m drowning!  This is not fair!  Why are you not helping me?”

Firebird asks a similar question.  It’s the story of a small orange bird who loves the sunshine.  Firebird is sad when God allows the storms to come and take the sunshine away.  Why would God let the storm take the sun away?  He asks.  We all ask it.  Firebird’s momma told him that he wouldn’t understand until he took a walk on the clouds.  So firebird flies straight into a storm to try to break through the clouds and see what his mama is talking about.  He about gets ripped to pieces when he is in the midst of the storm, but then it happens, he breaks through the clouds.  We get to experience this in an airplane.  We finally reach that point where we break through the clouds and see the beautiful sunshine beaming in the blue sky.  Firebird realizes, God never took the sunshine away, it is as constant as his mother’s love. 

God is like that sunshine, constant.  He never goes away.  He is always there.  But sometimes the storm gets in our way and we can’t see him anymore. That doesn’t mean he has left.  The rain, thunder and lightning is what surrounds us, but he is waiting for us, just above the clouds. 

If God has taught me anything through the life of my daughter, Karis, he has taught me that his love is constant and that I have a choice.  My choice is to be grateful or my choice is to become bitter.  Again, Henri Nouwen’s quote comes to my mind, “Will I relate to my life resentfully or gratefully?”

Today I’m grateful I have the husband I do.  I rather be with him with a headache than apart from him.  I’m thankful that we didn’t have to cancel plans, today there was no agenda to keep.  I’m thankful that God has given us doctors that know how to help.  I’m thankful he has given me family to text and ask for prayer, to lean on. I’m thankful we have generous friends who have opened their home to us to be able to be here at all.  I’m thankful for leadership who pushed us to take a break even when we pushed back not to take one.  I’m thankful I’m in Sanibel, Florida, a beautiful place to enjoy God’s creation.  I’m thankful he has given me a daughter, full of life and energy, who helps me to stop and see things I would never see like the lizard on the rock and the puffy white cloud in the sky. Thank you Lord, thank you for sending your lifeboat of gratefulness to me.  I needed that.

 “O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you.  Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.”  Isaiah 33:2

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31

"Your Hands" JJ Heller

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Narrow Place

Today is one of those days where the wave called “emotion” comes crashing over you and you have no power but to let it.  For whatever reason I was hit with emotion of missing Karis.  I can’t point to exactly what led me there or why, but I was hit hard. There is no getting out but to feel it and be in it.  Grief is so strange.  You don’t know how, when or why it will hit, but it does.  You continue to conquer it by allowing yourself to feel it.  I’ve noticed that what I thought would be hard (having pregnant friends) has not been my struggle, and things that never crossed my mind are where I’m getting hung up.  What’s been hard lately is seeing and watching sister pairs around me. Watching sisters interact that are about two years apart.  The way my mind works is that I will get the chance to be pregnant again, I won’t get the chance to raise sisters two years apart again.  I’ve noticed myself grieve on Avery’s behalf, a lot.  She doesn’t even know what she’s missing, but I find myself grieving for her.  Grieving that she may never have a younger sister like she was supposed to.  I’ve also grieved on Karis’s behalf a lot.  She doesn’t know the family and friendships she is missing out on.  I wanted her to experience vacations with us and to know what it’s like to be Avery’s little sister.

I’ve been specifically reading through Scriptures that talk about trials.  In the book “I Will Carry You,” Angie Smith looked up the original meaning in the Hebrew language and the word “trials” means “to bind, tie up, restrict.  Thus the noun comes to denote a narrow place in life where one is bound or restricted.”  I would agree that a trial feels very similar to a narrow place.  You feel bound, you feel restricted, you feel like the world is closing in a bit.

We are in Colorado this week at the Rocky Mountain National Park with family.  We have done some really cool hikes.  One of the family’s favorite hikes is summiting Long’s Peak.  Long’s Peak is the tallest mountain in the whole park, making this the hardest non-technical hike in the park.  This hike is not for the faint of heart.  I was asking Kory to describe it to me (it’s on my bucket list) and it was interesting. He started telling me about this part on the hike called, “The Narrows.”  He said it’s one of the scariest parts because on one side there is a rock wall that goes straight up and on the other side is a thousand foot drop off.  The part that you have to walk on is very narrow.  He said you have to get on your hands and knees because if you stand, your shoulders touch the rock that goes straight up and you feel like it will push you over the edge.  I imagined what that part must feel like.  Narrow.  On your hands and knees.  Holding on so you don’t go over the edge.  A place that feels restricted and tight.

I imagine our life as a mountain path.  Some parts are wide and smooth.  Some spots have beautiful views where we marvel at God’s gifts.  Some spots are steep and rocky.  Some spots we stop and play, eat and fellowship.  Some spots we are breathing hard and being mentally tough.  And then there’s those spots called “The Narrows.”  The thousand feet drop offs, where we fear if we don’t crawl through we may go over the edge.  Trials.  It’s where I’ve found myself these past two months.  I may be crawling, but I’m not here to stay.  I will keep moving forward.  Even if I’m crawling.

I’ve been drawn to the book of Isaiah lately and the intense trials they faced during this time period.  The Jews have been attacked by the Assyrians.  Cities are destroyed. People are being taken captive.  Judah is in chaos.  The King turns to Isaiah for help.  Isaiah quickly points to the Lord as the only one they can rely on and put their trust in.  

Isaiah writes, He (the Lord) will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.” Isaiah 33:6

The Lord will be the stability of our times.  Stability.  Stability in the narrow places.  When going through trials we long for some stable ground.  No matter what the landscape of our life may be, he is keeping us stable and balanced, so that we will not fall.

"If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm: though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand"  Psalm 37:23-24

"I lift my eyes to the the hills- where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip- he who watches over you will not slumber."  Psalm 121:1-3 

God doesn’t promise smooth ground and easy hikes, but he promises to be our stability through it.  He promises to be a firm foundation that we can stand on when so much around us is shaken and unknown.  He is constant.  He is sure.  He is unchanging.  He is stable. 

Lauren Chandler, wife of Matt Chandler (pastor at the Village Church in Texas) says she held onto this verse when they found out Matt had a cancerous tumor in his brain.  She wrote a song called, “The Narrow Place.”  In it she talks about how we are living in the “already, but not yet.”  We are living in what is, and waiting for what is to come.  She explains, “In Christ, there is stability now in knowing that because of his work on the cross and his resurrection, all things work together for my good (Rom. 8:28); but there is to be a stability at the consummation of all things, when Zion is filled "with justice and righteousness."

As believers, we are all living in a narrow place.  This world is a narrow place.  We long for healing from this broken world.  We long for heaven.  But until then, we will be in a narrow place.  Jesus would you come and fill this place.  We need you.  Be our stable ground.  Be in our narrow place. 

“When you trust in the Lord, through the unfailing love of the Most High, you will not be shaken.”  Psalm 21:7

"Faith to Believe" Shane and Shane