Saturday, September 21, 2013

Man, Eagle, Lion, and Ox

Four words jumped off the page this week as I read Ezekiel Chapter 1: Man, Eagle, Lion, and Ox. These were the four faces of the creatures that Ezekiel saw guarding the glory of God in a vision that he had. They were powered by and moved with the spirit. While this passage holds so much more than this, I have wondered why these four words sunk so deep for me. I immediately imagined that the characteristics of these creatures are those that God has chosen for me as an ambassador for Him. I began to research these faces today and stand amazed and convinced that this is what God desires of me.

Oxen. They are used for hard labor. They are typically used in pairs. They are trained to respond to their master's verbal and even gesture commands. Although they are not as fast as horses, they are stronger, move slower, and their pulling style is steadier. Hard working oxen wear their feet down, so they need to be properly shooed. The training process begins at a young age, and as they grow older, their yolk gets bigger and the load they pull becomes heavier. They have been and are the preferred choice for agricultural work, especially tilling and planting the ground and for harvesting.

Lions. They are social and live in groups. They hunt their prey and have strong jaws and teeth to devour their food. They have powerful legs and are known for running fast! They are BOLD. They are fierce and their roar commands respect, submission, and authority. "They shall go after the Lord, he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west." - Hosea 11:10.

Eagles. My favorite of all. They are amazing birds! Six character traits of eagles stand out. 1. They have fine sight. They can see another eagle flying from 50 miles away. Their eyes are designed for long distant vision and for clarity. 2. They are fearless. They will never surrender to the strength of their prey. 3. They are tenacious. While other birds seek shelter in the storm, an eagle takes advantage of it as it uses the wind to soar high above the storm. 4. They are high fliers. (this amazes me!) They can fly up to 10,000 feet in the air. I have sky dived from this altitude and it took us at least 20 min to reach this height by plane. No other bird can fly this high. 5. They nurture their young. Although they are known to be aggressive, ferocious birds, they are proven to be the most gentle and attentive of all birds to their young. 6. They possess vitality. (this one amazed me more than anything!) They become frail around 30 years old. Rather than succumbing to their lack of strength, they retreat to a mountaintop to rejuvenate. Over a period of about 5 months, they knock off parts of their body ... their beak, their talons, etc. and in time grow new parts, regrowth, which in turn allows the bird another 30+ years to live. AMAZING!

Man. Men and Women. They are created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Because we are created in the image of God we possess his traits. We are loving, caring, become angry, we are social, personal, spiritual, intellectual, hard working....and so forth.

 The creatures had each of these faces, yet appeared to Ezekiel as men. I believe that God wants us to be as each of these creatures. He has clothed us with these qualities. He has created in us the ability to hear and obey his commands. He asks us to prepare the soil, plant the seeds of his salvation, and to gather the harvest. This is not easy work, and the older we get, the harder the work. We need to be slow and steady workers for him, capable of carrying heavy loads.
He wants us to be quick, bold, and strong as a lion. He wants us to hear his roar and to come to him when he calls. He has given us a "pride" to dwell in.....his people, chosen to work together for his good purpose of testifying to the gospel.
He wants us to "hope in the Lord, renew our strength, and soar on wings as eagles, running and not growing weary, walking without being faint." (Isaiah 40:31) We are to be fearless, never quitting, keeping a clear vision of what lies ahead. We are to nurture our children and gently teach them to fly. We are not made to fear the storms, but rather to rise above the challenges of life and use them to soar higher! We are to fly high and free. We are to climb the mountains and allow him to restore us unto him to gain strength to carry on!
As men and women, created by God and for God, we are to claim our foundation in Him. He wants us to live in such a way of being children of the King! Not orphans, but Children with a Father!! Secured in His love each day. Romans 8:15 "for you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry 'Abba, Father."
I am challenged to claim these attributes. Knowing that this insight is such a small thread in the  tapestry He is creating!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Being a sign of God's Faithfulness

Last Sunday's sermon at my home church in Pennsylvania couldn't have come at a better time for me. It was short and simple but held a powerful message about life. There were two main points, the first one of living our lives in search of the signs of God's faithfulness, and the second of being the sign of God's faithfulness. He quoted several different people on the identification of a "Christian" being found through the answers of the poor. Who would the poor say served Christ?

I have pondered this through the week to follow as I also had conversations regarding serving the poor and caring for the orphan. I wondered how I have served the poor? How have I been a sign of God's faithfulness? What if I am not able to be or do things that I admire about other's faithfulness? I admire the ones who have taken the orphan into their home, the ones who feed the homeless, and shelter the needy. I have come to realize that not everyone is able to do each thing. Although I may wish I had the ability to do one thing, God may want me to do something else.

Who are the poor? Are they limited to the absence of physical possessions? Are they hungry, homeless, parent less? Yes, but are they more? Are they the poor of spirit as well? They may have riches beyond compare, yet lack the riches found in Christ. Maybe they have also the riches in Christ, but have found themselves in the darkest valleys, the driest deserts...the places that seem so far from God. As I ponder the concept of "poor", I realize that my mission field just got so much bigger. God has given each person a different talent or maybe several talents. He wants us to use them to minister to the different kinds of poor.

A talent. Now there is another word I have come to think about. I have always read the parable of the talents believing that the talents referred to wealth. The land owner gave each of the three servants different amounts. To one, he gave 10, another 5, and the other 1. When the ruler returned the servants with 10 and 5 had doubled theirs, the one with only 1 talent had hidden the talent out of fear. The first two were rewarded for making the most of what they were given, but the servant with one talent lost even the talent he had and it was given to the first. These talents, I am learning through my own life, are not just those of wealth. They are also talents of pain and suffering. I have been given this talent. It is up to me to either bury it, or to use it to benefit others. Maybe God is calling me to reach the poor of spirit.

It is so hard to believe that a year has passed.  A year ago, I was asked to speak at a women's retreat in the Pocono mountains. I accepted the invitation knowing that God would provide for me as he always has. That retreat is now two weeks away, and God continues to impress the women who attend into my heart. I have been praying for them as I have trusted God to provide the words that he wants them to hear. I know that He will be faithful. I know this because of the many signs of His faithfulness that he has given to me. It is my prayer that God will now use me as a sign of his faithfulness to someone else.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Stained Tears

I let the boy get his things and go. He doesn't need me to walk him in on the first day anymore. He is in seventh grade this year. He is twelve. One year and one month older
than his sister was the way she left.
He is taller than she, now. His muscles are stronger, shoulders broader.
He is brave, like his sister. And, handsome as well.
He is a boy. A button pusher. A fun giver.
His heart is loving, it is broken...and tender.
He's too big to kiss in public now, but lets me steal kisses at home.
He serves his maker.
He is my son.
The bigger of the littles, she is strength wrapped in a tiny package.
Holding her fears captive, she went to school today.
She is a third grade girl this year. She is eight.
Next year is forth grade. The last one her sister completed before heaven.
I wonder what strength a big sister at her side would be?
she looks like her sister. both sisters, really.
she looks like heaven to me. or maybe just a taste of it.
She has energy and drive. she will obtain her goals.
she knows what she wants 
She has strength and inner beauty. She is so much older than she aught to be.
she knows truths that other little girls wonder about.
she is courage.
she is mine.
The smallest one. She went to kindergarten today. All day.
She is five now.
She speaks her mind of truths and of love.
She is kind, and loving. She is Grace.
God's Grace. His riches at Christ's expense. I can not deny this about God!
Every day that is spent with this child.
She is a busy one, filled with ideas and pours out her kisses and love.
my kitchen countertops will miss her through the day when I cook!
her heart resembles her biggest sister.
She is my baby. my joy. my last kindergartner.
she is Grace
She is the crown of my motherhood.
She is the joy of my heart.
Hers was my first day of kindergarten, and of third, but not of seventh grade.
Her last was of fourth.
I would have dropped her off today. She would have walked in with her brother,
her friend.
They always were quite the pair!
It would be our first year of high school. Ninth grade. Fifteen.
I can not imagine now.
Her skin would be dark from the sun of the summer. Her hair would be long and medium brown. Or maybe she would have chosen it short. Her legs long and lanky, I can just see them now.
We would have shopped for her shoes and her stuff that she needed to start.
I'm left to wonder what she would have picked.
She was beauty. She was strength, but also tender as little girls are.
She loved her Jesus. She loves him now.
She is radiant. Kind. loving. perfect in every way.
she is still mine.
My tears are stained as I walk away.
Each child is seated in the chairs and ready for the new year.
and, yet I feel so incomplete.
They are not all there. I'm missing one. As I always am.
it is a feeling I rarely can get used to.
Mommies are always counting. I always come up short.
I hold my tears in till I get to the car when they come flowing down my cheeks. It has been four years. And, so another school year marks the beginning of the fifth.
she is still eleven and eight days old.  She never began fifth grade.
I am the mommy who left school today, and went to the grave.
It is a once foreign place, that I have come to know.
a quiet place. a horrid place. an empty place.
it is not mine.
Ashley, is mine. Heaven is mine. The pain, the tears....they are mine.
The new joy of life, the blessings in each day.....
The broken in my heart.
They are all mine.
I will soon pick them up. I will hear of their day. I am their mommy.
I am not the woman I used to be.
At times I miss her dearly. 
I ask God to dress me with strength for this year.
He will.
Because He is mine. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

letting go of something

I am sitting here today with silence in my soul.
I desire something, yet I don't know what it is...Could it be that I need someone to listen to me?
Do I need to cry? I feel like I do, but I can't seem to get the tears out.
I cleaned the bathroom because it was filthy, but sat down now because I don't feel like doing anything else.
I want to do nothing, I think.
I hear the sounds of summer in my ear. The crescendo of the cicada's song,
I hear the wind making music as it gently tosses the wind chimes.
The breeze is cool today, but the sun it warm. It feels and smells like the end of summer.
The stalks of corn in the fields are beginning to brown from the bottom up.
It is tall corn. A good year for farmers.
My garden is getting tired. The cucumbers and tomatoes are sparse.
The bounty of the summer fills my soul.
I can hear my little girls playing outside. They are happy.
One big girl is missing.
I miss her today.....a whole lot.
I wonder what heaven is like today. Is it summer there too? Did she climb a tree?
Did she lay in the grass and read a book under the sky?
Did she run through the fields with her feet free of shoes?
Did she fill her day till it overflows? Did she kiss her Father?
I long for her.
Did she dig potatoes in heaven's garden like we are digging ours now?
Do the butterflies visit the flowers that stand taller than the rest?
The ones who's flower is too heavy to hold  so they lean toward the ground?
I wonder.
Today I can feel the summer slipping away.
It is hard to let go of the summer.
I love it so.
and yet, I wonder how I love it so, when it hurts so bad.
the boy said I can't control the coming and going of summer.
he is right, I think.
That is true with more things than just summer.
it's so hard to let go.
Summer came, and it will go, and soon fall will come....
and I have nothing to do with that.
I can only just capture them in their moments of splendor and bounty.
And, then they too will be gone.
Heaven will not be like this, I think.
No! It will not. I will enjoy all of it all of the time.
My tears are flowing now. I suppose this key pad and letters on a screen were what I needed.

Friday, March 29, 2013

His Hell day.

As I cleaned my house this morning, I began to dust over the things that I dust each week. Every time I do this, I feel sickened as I continue to dust over those same photos of my daughter. The photos that are frozen in time. They will never be replaced with new ones of her as she grows older. The darkness of this reality began to sink it's way deep into my soul. It felt like a Saturday today, until I realized that it was only Friday. Friday. Good Friday. He died today. Today is the day that God's son died. My Ashley died on a Friday too. I wondered what God wanted me to know about this day. As a parent of a child who died, I desired to see this day as such...the day God's son died. I wanted to respect this sacred day for God.

The first thing I realized that was different about the day that Ashley died and the day that Jesus died was that on that day, God gave his son willingly. God knew he was going to die, actually, he sent Jesus here for that reason. He created his son to die. Jesus, being God in human form knew this too. Yet in his human likeness, he desired to escape the snare of death. He agonized over the very thing he came to do, but because he was God and a man, he could indeed choose to die for the sake of the ones he came to save. I could not do this. I could not have chosen to give my child. I would choose to keep her. I wouldn't send my child willingly to die for someone else. But, God knew how much he loved me, how much he loved his children. He knew how imperfect we were.....He knew that our sins could not go unpunished, so he took them. He covered himself in my sin. His perfect, flawless self became all that I am. God looked at his son dressed in my sin and cast the fullness of His wrath on him. He scorned him and turned his face from him. Jesus died alone. I loved my little girl to the very end. Never once did I have to turn my face in disgust. She died that day, and I was left in the agony of earthly pain and suffering, yet rested in the assurance that Ashley did not die alone. She was met by God, and he carried her home.

Each year that Ashley's day comes around marking the passage of yet another year, we have begun to call that day her "Heaven day." The sound of "death day" was so horrifying, I couldn't bear to call it that. Pondering this day as God's son's "heaven day" as I know it, I realized that today all those many years ago, Jesus didn't just die alone in shame. He was ushered into Hell. This was the day Jesus went to hell. How can such a perfect man go there? He didn't deserve it. I did. I deserve hell. But, he LOVED I loved my Ashley. I still love her and my only comfort in her death is knowing the life with her that awaits.

I am selfish. But, God in his selflessness....placed my sin upon his perfect son, because he loved me, then went to hell in my place. He did this so that I wouldn't have to suffer for my sin, but also because He couldn't bear to be apart from me forever. He paid for my sin. It didn't stop there. He wanted to give me more. He wanted me to have all that was his. So, on the third day....he conquered death and hell. He became alive again erasing my sins, dressed me in His righteousness and presented me with the gift of heaven. It is because of him that I will see Ashley again. It is because of him that I will never die alone.

This day, was the day that Jesus went to Hell. In MY place.

Monday, March 25, 2013

When I Don't Feel Like Being Mommy

It's the week before Easter. Today we have finally gotten snow after a long winter of no snow. After I have planted pansies, hung sheets on the wash line two days ago, and have put away all of the winter snow clothes, it snows. The kids have no school today. It's a snow day. They are thrilled and are currently playing together outside. There are mounds of snow, little foot prints, shovels and sleds everywhere outside.

I am glad they can't see me inside crying. Why does today hurt so bad? Why does a snow in March hurt so bad? Maybe it's just the day....maybe it's just one of those days that come and go. Maybe it has nothing to do with the snow. I want to see four kids outside today. I want to make four cups of hot chocolate. I want to have the energy I used to don my hat and boots and go play with my kids in the snow. For some reason, today, I just can't do it. My tears would turn to snow today. How can it be that four years later, it can hurt like it was yesterday?

Do my kids know that they aren't getting what they used to get from Mommy? Do they know that I used to be fun and full of child-like energy? Do they know that I desperately wish I could be who I used to be? Will they ever understand the windows and walls that trap me inside? I pray not. I do not wish for them to ever understand because the only way they can is by losing a child themselves, and that, I do not wish for anyone!

I guess I need to find things to be thankful for today. Things like a day off from school, and that my kids are actually playing nicely together. (something that doesn't happen all that often anymore) I should be thankful that they got a snow day this year, even if it came late. I am thankful for my tears, even though they place me in a room of windows. I am thankful that my tears have not gone....they are proof that my child will always hold such a place in my soul that will never be taken by time.

As Grace pops inside to let mommy know she is going sledding, I only stand amazed by her name, which continues to remind me of "God's Riches At Christ's Expense" Grace is what keeps me going each day. God's grace, as represented by my little bundle of riches dressed in snow pants today, reminding me she is there, and urging me onward. Pushing my next foot forward. Despite the things I'm thankful for today, I'm still stuck in my room of windows.....I suppose that's where I'm supposed to be today. Tears are my snow day.