Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

Rick Warren

Thanksgiving is a difficult holiday for many.

How can you be thankful when your doctor says it’s cancer? How can you feel grateful when the one you love just walked out of your life? Or when you’ve been fired . . . or your dream has collapsed . . . or an economic tsunami has wiped out all you’ve worked for?

This year became the worst year of my life when my youngest son, who’d struggled since childhood with mental illness, took his own life. How am I supposed be thankful this Thanksgiving? When your heart’s been ripped apart, you feel numb, not grateful.

And yet the Bible tells us “Give thanks IN ALL circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” The key is the word “in.” God doesn’t expect me to be thankful FOR all circumstances, but IN all circumstances. There’s a huge difference. The first attitude is masochism. The second shows maturity. We’re not supposed to be thankful for evil or sin, or the innocent suffering caused by these things. But even in heartache and grief and disappointment, there are still good things that I can be thankful for.

I used to think that life was a series of mountain highs and valley lows, but actually we get both at the same time. In our world broken by sin, the good and the bad come together. On the cover of my wife’s book, Choose Joy, is a photo of a railroad track heading into the horizon. Like that photo, our lives are always running on two parallel rails simultaneously. No matter how good things are in my life, there are always problems I must deal with, and no matter how bad things are in my life, there are always blessings I can be grateful for.

So what am I thankful for this Thanksgiving?
  • I’m thankful that, although not everything that happens is good, God is a good God. Having had a close friendship with him for nearly 50 years, I know without a doubt that God sees all I go through, he cares, he grieves with me, he is close, and his strength is available at all times. 
  • I’m thankful that, even though I don’t have all the answers, God does. In tragedy we seek explanations, but explanations never comfort. It is God’s presence that eases our pain.
  • I’m thankful that this life is not all there is. It’s not the end of the story. One day God will right all wrongs, even the odds, and settle all accounts. Justice will be served. Evil will not win.
  • I’m thankful for the hope of heaven. I won’t have to live with pain forever. In heaven, there are no broken relationships, broken minds, broken bodies, broken dreams, or broken promises. The Bible tells us “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”
  • I’m thankful for my church family.  For 33 years, I’ve had the privilege of loving, serving, and leading the people of Saddleback Church. But in our darkest hour as a family, they gave all that love back in a split-second, the moment Kay and Ireturned to speak after a 16-week grief sabbatical.  We can handle anything with prayers and support like that.
  • I’m thankful that God can bring good even out of the bad in my life, when I give him the pieces. It’s his specialty. God loves to turn crucifixions into resurrections, and then benefit the whole world. God never wastes a hurt if we give it to him.
Itzhak Pearlman once broke a string at the start of a Lincoln Center recital.  Rather than replacing it, he played the entire concert with a broken instrument. At the end he said, “Sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.” That kind of humility honors God. This Thanksgiving, don’t dwell on what’s lost, but on what’s left

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Saint Paul

A week or two before we left for Europe to help tour Pillars of Fire (the story of Paul), we were made aware that Avery's third grade class would be doing a saints project on All Saints Day.  

Given that Avery was going with us on the trip and that she was in the show, Shaun and I informed her she would be doing St. Paul.  At first the idea of being a "boy saint" was less than appealing, but eventually the idea grew on her.

Mr. Grosvenor hooked her up with an authentic costume....

....and R played makeup artist.
The class entered to When The Saints Go Marching In.

Each "saint" was given a note card of information to memorize and recite.
Then the Father took it upon himself to share what HE had learned in researching each child's saint.  He couldn't hear the students and the audience couldn't hear him and some of the information he gave was inaccurate, but who is going to question a priest.

Offering gifts....

Amanda getting a blessing during communion.

Avery had some fans! (Daddy and Amanda were there as well, but had to cut out before the reception).

We're really proud of the job she did.  It was her first major, three-page research project and she spent many hours on it.  She got it back yesterday and it looks like her teacher liked it, too!  Great job, Avery!

(I took the liberty of adding a few paragraphs, for your reading pleasure)

My saint is St. Paul, his feast day is June 29th.  He was born about the same time Jesus was born and died in 67 AD.  I chose this saint because my mom and dad wanted me to and I know a lot about him.

My saint worked as a pharisee and then became a pastor.  He lived in Jerusalem.  Paul was a bad man because he was killing the disciples and bringing the  men and women from Damascus to put them in jail.

But while he was going to Damascus he met Jesus on the road and Jesus said, "why are you doing this to my people?".  And Paul didn't say anything and he was blind.  He went to Damascus, and in Damascus was a man named Ananias.

Then three days later Jesus told Ananias to go to his house and touch him and pray for him.  So that is what Ananias did.  From then on, Paul was a good man.

So then Paul started telling everybody in the world about Jesus.  While he was in jail he wrote a letter to Timothy and wrote some of the New Testament.

The Emperor of Rome was named Caesar Nero.  He hated Christians and would kill them by putting them in a lions mouth, or burning them, or crucifying them.  Caesar Nero convicted Paul and sentenced him to die.  Because Paul was a Roman citizen he didn't die like most Christians, he got a clean death by getting his head chopped off.  This is the story of St. Paul.

The thing that most surprised me about my saint was that he died by having a clean death.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Project 365, Week 47

wasted spent some time this week recalling, with fondness, a time PFC (Pre-Foster Care), when we were a cute little family of five with three innocent children.  A time when I'd never stepped foot in a therapist's office, never been called into school to talk about inappropriate behaviors,  never had to be (weekly) accountable to complete strangers for the way we live our home-life, and the list goes ON.

I knew children were abused and neglected and subjected to all manner of ugliness, but I had the luxury of mostly ignoring it.

But this week, I was missing Shaun.  He is working more hours than you'd think were in a week and its the ripple effect of buying this house.  And we would not have bought this six-bedroom house if we weren't doing foster care.  And we would not be doing foster care if God had not so clearly laid it on our hearts.

And so, I asked WHY?  Why us, God?  Why were we asked to throw out all sense of normalcy and invite pain and hurt and disfunction into our home?  

In my questioning, this is the verse God gave me:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2

I'm so glad God doesn't give up on me but continues to work in my heart and through me, despite me.

November 17
We went back to see Extreme Impact on Sunday morning and everyone walked out with a souvenir, including this frying pan that they rolled with their bare hands.
November 18
Aiden was helping me make a birthday cake for my sister's special day.  Later that evening her husband hosted a small dinner party in her honor.  So grateful for her life!
November 19
So much raking/sword fighting this week!
Meg and I had out fifth year taking Christmas pictures at a teen mom's shelter.  Such cuties this year, including a set of identical twin boys.
November 20
Avery's such a good big sister to Aiden.  This afternoon, she was helping him help her do homework.  Also, she was SO excited to have her basketball jersey...she wore it everyday.

November 21
This kid is just too much.  All day long I hear I love you momma, I love you with my whole heart, You're dee only one I love,  Momma, you are da best momma in da whole world.  More sweetness than my heart can contain.
Attempt #2 of the week trying to find a "Happy Adoption Day" card (during National Adoption Month!), this time at a Hallmark store.  Nothing.  The best I could find was "A Special Day" card.

If you have just gotten a cat, lost a cat, had cat surgery...then there is a card just for you.

I also looked up "National Adoption Month" on Pinterest, thinking maybe I'd just make a card, and found the first portion to be about adopting children but then most of the rest was about pet adoption.

Admittedly, I'm not an animal person (at all!) but seriously??
The kids all had a half day and it was mild weather.  We heard the leaf vacuum truck a street over, so everyone pitched in (except for R who was doing his paper route).  The kids worked hard, and with happy hearts, spurred on by the approaching truck.
Then we took R for a routine physical, but since he was a new patient, they had to go through all his history.

Dr: And what about your parents?  Do you know any of their medical history?
R: No.
Dr: Why were you taken from your home and put into foster care?
R: I don't one has ever told me.

(insert lump in throat)
November 22
The business day of National Adoption Day and I had the distinct honor of witnessing the adoption ceremony of good friends of ours.  They brought her home straight from the hospital back in March and now she is officially theirs!  They've had ups and downs throughout the year but what a beautiful story!

Such a wonderful thing to celebrate!!  The judge said there were 44 adoptions happening over the course of the day in our little state.   That will help put a dent in the more than 100,000 available for adoption in the U.S.
November 23
We got to watch this little gem for the morning.  The kids were ecstatic to have a baby around.
Thanksgiving Day for my side of the family.  These '09 boys are getting SO big!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My Favorite Superhero

Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be brave. Be strong.
I Corinthians 16:13

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Project 365, Week 46

Good morning!  I have nothing in the way of an introduction today, but I hope you have a great week!  

There are blessings everywhere.  Some days you have to sift through the "stuff" of life a little deeper and sometimes your arms are so heavy it feels like they can't dig, but keep looking...there are ALWAYS things to be thankful for and more blessings than you can count.

Start with the fact that you are breathing and have eyes and a mind that can read this and take it from there.  :)

November 10
We left Ohio at 1 AM...Batman was my backseat road buddy for the 12-hour drive.
 November 11
Our first sighting of s-n-o-w for the season.  Boo!
November 12
This is Aiden's treasure box that he hauls all over the place.  A rubber band gun that doubles as a pen, coins (real and play), a tape measure and an avocado pit.
Amy and I took the boys to see The Hungry Caterpillar ( or calapiter, as Amanda says).  They look so big here!

 First night of basketball practice for Avery.  Though she's a lot like me, she seemed to favor her dad on the court...phew!  :)

She scored a great coach and I told her so as we were walking out.  When she asked why I said, because he's going to teach you a lot, work you hard and expect your best.  (I wonder if she got picked by her last name, since he and Shaun have known each other on the basketball court for many years :).  
 November 13
Love to hear the stories Aiden tells me about his lego setups.

November 14
I believe they refer to this as bed head.  :)

 Sooo pretty driving out of Great-Grandpa's house!
About a week ago Avery and Aiden were fooling around together and Aiden jumped up and hit the bottom of Avery's chin....hard enough to chip two of her (front, ADULT teeth).  The dentist had a good report that the enamel is still intact and normal growth and wear and tear should even them out.  And he didn't charge us for the three minute visit!  Blessings!
 So, so grateful for our new house that gives us the option to say yes to a respite and not have to worry about where we're going to put everyone.  Its the reason we bought this place!
Sweetest girls, matching for bed.

November 15
So Mom....this is where the weapons go, this is where the money goes, this is where the bad guys go... (no, our family is not part of the mafia :).
 Aiden got all dressed up to go with Pop to "do the Lord's work".  Yes, I let him go out like this.
 On the way home from a work lunch, I stopped in to see Shaun.  He had his crew hard at work, digging holes for a soon-to-be deck.
 Xtreme Impact did a show at Christian Life.  Very impressive and such a powerful message!
November 16
R and I set out early to go meet up with his biological brother, who he hadn't seen in three years.  (They are full can definitely tell that!)  The visit went well and they hope to do it again soon.
 Then we went to a Gender Reveal party (a first for me).  Shaun's sister gave her ultrasound results to a baker who made the inside frosting the color that represented the sex of the baby.  Then, with their immediate family and a few close friends gathered, they cut into the cake.

 And...its a......BOY!  I'll have a new nephew in April!!  (My 10th, if I counted right.  :)
SUCH a fun, happy event!  We couldn't be happier for them!