Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday: Oh how He loves

He loves, oh how He loves. Grateful. Oh how I'm grateful...

The Sun Stops Shining (for the little people):

And for the bigger people (5 minutes that leave me a grieving, grateful mess):

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Holy Week at our house

My clearest childhood memory of Easter is singing at church:

Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o'er His foes, He arose a Victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever, with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

I looked forward to that song every year and the jubilation with which we sang those words.
As an adult I’ve come to appreciate Holy Week and all that it represents. I'm recognizing that Easter is about so much more than 12 hours of celebrating on Sunday.

In an email from Connected Families this week, titled "Are Your Easter Traditions Leaving a Legacy of Faith?" they made this statement: "
It can be easy to let Holy Week slide by in a blur, but we challenge you to be intentional about the message and values behind the traditions you embrace with your family."

Whether you have children or not, Holy Week can certainly slip by in a blur of activity. This week can become about last-minute errands, grocery shopping, cleaning and Easter basket preparation. It becomes about Spring Break or visiting family and the meaning of Holy Week gets lost in the hustle.

I'm not sure where I read these powerful words:
"Before we can celebrate the resurrection, we must first take time to recognize the loss that precedes the miracle."

That’s what Holy Week is about. Recognizing the loss that precedes the miracle. We can each do that in our own unique ways, but here’s what’s taking place in our home this week to honor all that Holy Week represents:

Love to the Uttermost

Ryan and I are reading this ebook
by John Piper. There are 8 readings for the week. It’s definitely something to prepare one’s heart to honor Christ’s death and resurrection. It provides a thought-provoking perspective on the week’s events and Scripture that we’ve read numerous times.

Matthew 28:5-6
As a family we are memorizing Matthew 28:5-6 this week: The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.
He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.”
Thus far the kids have down, “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.” Apparently we are memorizing from the end to the beginning. It doesn’t matter. As long as they know we serve a RISEN Savior, nothing else matters.  

Easter Playlist
I’ve been trying to teach Lauren the words to When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. Turns out I really know the words to the more contemporary version, The Wonderful Cross, so we’ve been listening to and practicing that. Other songs on our playlist this week that keep us in prayerful reverence and thankful grief:
  • I Stand Amazed
  • Redeemer
  • In Christ Alone (Then bursting forth in glorious day up from the grave he rose again...if listening to this doesn't give you chills all over, turn up your music).
  • Jesus, Only Jesus (or anything on the new Passion 2013 album. Love. It.)
  • Jesus Paid it All (O Praise Him)

A Broken Hallelujah
I’ve read this three times and I just keep reading it. If you read nothing else this week, read this:

Each year my heart is drawn more and more to the Easter season and it becomes such a tender time. I understand the sacrifice of Good Friday and the miracle of Resurrection Sunday to a greater depth every year. I find myself living in a constant tension between the secular Easter celebrations and what truly honors the greatest gift we’ve ever been given. Jen’s honesty and authenticity challenges my heart about how to best show Christ's love on Easter.

The Most Important Story Ever
We’re reading about the events of Holy Week from the various children’s Bibles that we have at home. This is when Samuel asks deep theological questions like, “What color were Jesus’ burial clothes?”
We are reading about Christ’s death and resurrection from:
The Big Picture Story Bible
The Jesus Storybook Bible
My First Message

Dark Friday
I’m not sure how/if this will pan out, but we're planning to turn all the lights in our house off at 3 p.m. on Friday to represent when Jesus died and the world went black. We'll keep them off for the remainder of the evening. Maybe we’ll use candles once the sun sets. I’m not sure. We haven’t done this before, but I really want to do something in a tangible way that will allow my kids to comprehend as best they can what took place on Good Friday. It’s so much more than a day off of school and work. I have preparations that needs to be done for Sunday as well, but I won’t be doing them on Friday. Instead we’ll remember Good Friday for what it is: the day that changed the world for eternity. I hope you can take time to honor Christ’s sacrifice in a way that best fits your family.

Resurrection Sunday
This is a day of celebration. Not about bunnies or eggs or baskets. Though there will be some of that when we head to Ryan’s aunt’s home. But because we’ve taken time to recognize and honor the loss that precedes the miracle, today we will celebrate that Jesus Is Alive. We’ll attend church and sing about our Savior. We’ll spend the day with family. We’ll read about an empty tomb. We will celebrate that Jesus conquered death and He lives. He Lives! And the kids will probably hear me humming
Up from the grace He arose, With a mighty triumph o'er His foes...

What do you do to honor Holy Week in your home (now or as a child)? What are your favorite songs/hymns to listen to during the Easter season? Do you have a book or devotional that you read annually to prepare your heart to acknowledge Christ’s death and resurrection? Please share by leaving a comment. I would love to learn what traditions you participate in.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Take heart. I have overcome the world.

Last week in the course of four hours I got news about three difficult situations:

1 – A friend’s husband was notified that his position at the elementary school where he works will be eliminated in the fall.
2 – A friend was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that is resting on her optic nerve. Doctors are watching it to determine whether surgery is necessary.
3 – A friend’s dad, who had been battling cancer for more than four years died.

As I have thought about and contemplated and prayed through this news, the words of John 16 ring true: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

The Message version states it like this: “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

I am so thankful that Easter is just days away. Because sometimes the hurts and hardness and sadness and difficulties in life can be overwhelming and discouraging.

Easter is so many things, but for me it is hope. Hope that this is not our home. Hope that life here is temporary. Hope that Jesus has conquered the world. Hope that in a godless world, God still reigns supreme. Hope that the One who created the Heavens knows the very number of hairs on my head (which I just
read last night because, of course, I am behind on my own Easter Challenge).

So when the doctor says there is a tumor, we can breathe in unshakable, unmovable peace trusting that God knew the moment the tumor started growing because he is the
star-breather and the hair counter.  

And when the husband shares the news about the job and the time has come to say goodbye and the trials and sadness and troubles and sorrows weigh heavy, we turn to the Truth that says we can have peace. Not empty your mind and focus on the sun and think good thoughts kind of peace. But peace that comes from the hope of knowing and loving and serving and believing in a resurrected Savior.

John 14:27 says, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

I have no tumor diagnosis and no parent that has died and yet the battle for peace rages daily. When the flames of doubt and confusion and discouragement are beating at my door, I can choose to unwrap God’s gift of peace. 

Take heart. I have overcome the world.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

May we all unwrap God's greatest gifts this Easter: The hope of eternal life. The gift of deep peace. And the truth that these promises are for all people, at all times, in all situations.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What I want you to know about my son's birth mother

I just read a blog post titled "what I want you to know about my daughter's birth mother."

It wasn't long but it was honest and it was powerful. And it was inspiring. 

So here's my what I want you to know about my son's birth mother:

My son's birth mother was 19 when she did the hard work of delivering my son into this world. She hadn't planned on him. She hadn't expected this little life. She found herself at a hospital delivering a baby and needing to find a family to raise him. She took a risk and chose us and trusted us with the gift of her son.

Today she is known to Samuel as Samantha. Samuel knows he grew in her tummy. We tell him how thankful we are for her decision to allow us to be his parents forever and ever and ever. We pray and thank God for Samantha and her decision. We don't talk about her often because adoption is not his identity, but it is part of his story and our story.
We cannot tell the story of God's great plan for our family without including our birth mother. It is through her that God gave us our miracle.

We don't shy away from questions or conversations about Samantha. Samuel will only ever hear words of affirmation and gratitude coming from our mouths about his birth mother. He will always know that we are grateful beyond words for the decision she made in that hospital room when he was just 24 hours old. Her decision changed our lives forever.

Today I have a son who is handsome and smart and fast and strong. He is passionate and good and curious and full of life. I had no part in his conception and I did not carry him or birth him. But I am raising him each day, by God's grace, to be proud of who he is, where he came from and who God created him to be. I am raising him to trust that the same God who placed each star in the sky wrote the beautiful story that led him to be part of our family. And God does not make mistakes.

Our hearts are full of love and gratitude for our birth mother. We will spend our lives praying that Samuel can see what a brave, strong and beautiful woman she is.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

An Easter Challenge

Today marks 25 days until Easter.
Here in the U.S. we're in full Easter mode as retails stores boast the perfect holiday d├ęcor, the tastiest candy, the brightest eggs and the biggest Easter baskets.
And, if you and I are like most Americans, we’re:
  • Snacking on Easter candy.
  • Making plans for church services, Easter brunches and family celebrations. 
  • Picking out Easter outfits for the family.
  • Creating menus filled with the delicious dishes we’ll serve to loved ones.
  • Shopping for items to fill Easter baskets.
With all of this taking place, it’s easy to get sidetracked and miss the true story of Easter. It’s difficult to stop amidst the busyness, still our hearts and contemplate the miracle that is Easter.
For the last couple years I've offered up an Easter Challenge for anyone who would like to participate with me. I have found it is a good way to prepare my heart to honor and acknowledge Christ's suffering for me on the cross and the power that was displayed through the resurrection.

There are 24 chapters in the book of Luke. Starting today, I plan to read one chapter a day until the day before Easter. Luke will bring us through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. If you are interested, you can start today along with me, tomorrow (March 8 and your last reading will be on Easter morning), or, you can start on March 19 and read two chapters a day and finish on March 30 (that's what I have done in the past).

This year, I am going to read one chapter a day which allows me time to ponder and meditate on what I'm reading. I can ask questions like: Who is Jesus? What was he doing here? What did his life represent?

I am planning to read Luke with this purpose in mind: to know God better. Each day before my reading, I will ask God to teach me more about himself. I don't want to walk away from the next 24 days and 24 chapters on the life of Jesus thinking about myself and my life and my burdens and joys. I want to know God better. I want to know the One who created me and loved me and sacrificed His Son for me. What kind of God would do that?
If you join me, it's likely that we'll experience deep joy and gratitude as we focus our hearts and minds on something more than chocolate-covered bunnies, time with family and an extra-long holiday weekend.

If you're in, leave a comment stating "I'm in" and I'll be praying that God would reveal himself to you during these next few weeks. Thank you for joining me! 
Lord, may we not be so busy doing Easter in the next few weeks that we forget to be still and prepare our hearts for the miracle that is Easter. God we want to know you better. Reveal yourself to us through the pages of Luke and through the life of your Son. Consume us with who you are and what you have done for us. Amen.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

When the sirens come to your house

I sat in my robe holding my daughter at 5 a.m. on the first Saturday of the New Year. Just 60 minutes earlier I heard my 3-year-old  crying. I went to check on her and took her temperature. It read 101.5 so I gave her some meds, tucked her in and rubbing my tired eyes crawled back into bed about 4:20. 10 minutes later she cried again and Ryan went up to sing to her. He sat down next to her and asked her what song he should sing. She didn’t respond, and then he felt her legs shaking. He jumped up, turned on the light and saw she was having a seizure.

He called me upstairs, and by the time I got there she was done seizing but her eyes had rolled back into her head and she wasn’t able to gain control of her eyes or her mouth. I screamed at Ryan to call 911 and held Lauren. The tears poured from my eyes as I yelled in her face “Look at me Lauren” and there was no response. I panicked, of course. I sobbed and cried, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” I prayed and cried and the passing of time felt like eternity. “Jesus, Jesus, Oh Jesus.”

I believed like never before in the promise of Scripture that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

I picked up my baby girl whose mouth moved without making any noise and whose eyes still could not look at me, and carried her down the stairs.

“Jesus, Jesus, Oh Jesus.”

That’s when I heard it: the sirens. We often hear them at our house because we live on a parkway and it’s a common route for police, fire trucks and ambulances.

But this time the sirens were coming to my house.

“Jesus, Jesus, Oh Jesus.”

In came the firemen. Next came the EMTs. They couldn’t get my baby girl to look at them or follow their faces or voices. We wrapped her in her Dora blanket and an EMT carried her to the waiting ambulance.

“Jesus, Jesus, Oh Jesus.”

The doctors told us it was a febrile seizure. No long-term effects. Common when fever spikes in a small child. Not common in our world. 
Not at all.

“Jesus, Jesus, Oh Jesus.”

They sent us home a few hours later. We left the hospital just as the rising sun promised a new day.

“Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus, Oh thank you Jesus.”

Those few hours before dawn on a Saturday morning in the New Year…they changed me. They changed me as a person. They changed me as a mom. When the sirens sound and they come to your house, it changes you. I’ve always prayed for ambulances and now I pray differently because I know what it’s like to ride inside one. The illusion of control we have as humans (and as parents)—it was squelched that morning. We have little control. Our lives, our every breathe, are in His hands.

We are given these children as a gift—
whether they are from our womb or from His hands, they are gifted to us just as every good and perfect gift is from above.

When the sirens come, may we all call on the One who gives us our very breathe: “Jesus, Jesus, Oh Jesus.”