Saturday, August 28, 2010

Yes Abba!

Our small prayer group at Laity Lodge Women's Retreat Summer 2010

I am not sure I know how to start this blog. For the past two years I have had the privilege of going to the Laity Lodge Women's Retreat where I have met, prayed with and explored the things of God with other women.  It was so sweet as some of us from last year reunited again in our small prayer group while welcoming others who were new to the retreat.  This year I was the artist in residence and was able to teach some of these ladies a new technique as they taught and showed me the gifts within themselves.

I focus this blog, on the lady on the far left, Carol Bradley, as she is gone now to be with Jesus after a riding accident this week.  She loved horses and was a devoted mom who loved her kids.  I got to know her through her struggles, her blessings and her challenges as we all shared our lives with one another.  Though a brief encounter with each other it has been an encounter that will last through eternity.  I know I will see her again.  I think that is what makes this easier to bare.  She was a quiet demure woman who spoke softly, deliberately, openly, welcoming counsel from those of us who have gone before what she was facing.  None of us realizing what she was facing in less than a month.....our very own Savior.  My own encounter with her in the art studio and in the river was one of joy and inquisitive expression of how much she loved what we were doing.  She marveled at the chance meeting of another who might be one who graced her with whatever God offered through them to her.  

I got the email three days ago.  Knowing family was flying in, that decisions were being made, so I waited.  Today, however,  I just knew I had to go and see her.  It was the same feeling I got when I was to go and pray for a little boy named Isaiah Sanchez in Denver.  Even if I was not allowed in, even if I was too late, I knew it was never too late with God and I had to go.  I just had to.  So I put aside the cares of the day, devoted them to Carol, to God and to the time I had to be with them both.  Even though the appliance man was scheduled, even though dishes were in the sink, even though beds were not made, flowers not watered and cats not fed, I went.  I made allowances for those things that we normally think are pressing and put them in God's hands.  

I arrived at the hospital not really knowing where to go, never having been to the medical center in San Antonio and trusting God every step of the way.  Still receiving calls along the way about weddings, appliances, xcountry meets, bus pick ups and lawyers. Still I made my way to say goodbye to one of God's angels.  Just like with Isaiah God gave me a parking place right up front, directed me through asking the right people how I might see her and directing my steps each step of the way.  I have to admit my heart was pounding. I was scared. Then, I confronted the door of the SICU......locked.  The sign reads, "Vistors 8:30am-12pm, 1:30pm-5pm".  I had thirty minutes to wait so, I see a ledge by a window.  I sit, I pull out my bible and read Psalm 91 filling in her name whenever I can declaring His Word.  Just then the door opens and Robert comes out. He asked if I was waiting to see someone.  I told him who I was wanting to pray for and he said follow me.  He takes me back to see Carol.  I got to meet all of those who had been taking care of her, monitoring her, praying for her, wishing for her, wondering about her, inquiring about her, and requesting on her behalf.  A ministry within itself.  They allowed me time alone to pray, read scripture to her, tell her thank you, goodbye and to say hello to Jesus for me.  The third time I have asked someone to say hi to Him in two years.  It doesn't get any easier, but I know they deliver the message.  I sat in a corner, watched, listened to cell phones go off with each individual ringer, wondering, amazed and spell bound.  Then I asked for a timeline.  She was to go to surgery at 2pm where all of her organs would be used locally.....all of them.  Tremendous blessing.  It was 1:30 so I started to leave thinking her family would be there soon, but something made me ask, "Is her family coming back?" The nurse said, "No they said their goodbyes last night".  I was amazed God had allowed this time just for me.  Just me, God......and Carol.  I asked if it would be alright if I could stay with her till she left. They said fine.  Another blessing.  So I sat, I prayed, I read, I brushed her hair back, I placed my hand on the bottom of her foot and knew she had already seen our Savior.  You see her feet are what drew me to her in the end.  At the end of our retreat, after I had help others pack up, cleaned the studio and packed up my supplies, which took like an hour, I headed down the hill to the river.  As I entered the river as you have to do to exit the camp there she was, Carol, barefoot standing in the hull of the Frio River, pants rolled up, as someone suggested we all do.  She swayed her legs back and forth as her foot skipped over the top of the water.  As if feeling it for the first time she said, "Yes Abba".  I drove past her, pulled the truck over, took off my shoes and joined her in the water, feeling the fresh feeling she did as the coolness of the Frio ran over the top of our feet, we exchanged one last hug and goodbye.  We shared once more the abundance of the retreat, we embraced and vowed to see each other here, there or in the air.  Yes Abba, she says, as I went back through my old emails that she responded to of pictures sent by our prayer group leader. She ended with, Yes Abba as Nancy, our bridge builder, said at the retreat.
Today was beyond amazing as I said farewell to a chance meeting that made me realize more how delicate life is, how precious our time together is and how chance is usually, no, always divine.  The verses I read to her come from 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.  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs....heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory."  And in Galatians 4:6 "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father."  We are more than conquerers....we are heirs to the Creator of this universe who orchestrates everything for His divine purpose and plan.
I followed her bed down the hall as people watched her pass.  In front of me walked the nurse with the dolly of stacked igloos waiting to bring life to another. Reality.  I walked all the way to the elevator where she was going realizing I needed to go a different way to exit, I was not going with her,  yet complete in my resolve in why God sent me, I said one last goodbye and told her to have fun in heaven.  I found my way surrealistically back to my car, got into my oven baked seat and wept, saying now what?, now I am still here, now I get to drive back.  
To drown out tv noise from the other room,  I went to my old stand by MWS album Freedom for I knew it was all instrumental, not knowing the second song on the album is titled Carol Ann.  As I type, I am listening to over and over (click to listen)  Michael W. Smith's song, Carol Ann, having no idea what her middle name is, knowing she is with Him. As life would have it our football game this evening for Sydney's new school was in Mason.  Carol was from Mason.  Jealous in some ways of where she is, also knowing she would not want to miss in her families activities, but realizing we are all wanting what she now has.....eternity.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Reunited and It Feels So Good

You remember the lyrics by Peaches and Herb. Well, that is if you listen to 80's music. Or was it 70's, yikes!  Now that I have that song stuck in your head, let me share with you my last two weeks.  LLYC's slogan "Best Two Weeks" says your camp experience will be....."best two weeks of your life".  I would have to beg to differ because what we just did was one of the best two weeks EVER.  William and I have come to the conclusion that when we go somewhere we want to go where some if not all our girls are or can join us.  It is an amazing phenomenon watching the girls as they reunite.  The hugging, spooning, out and out howling, borrowing and fun they all have is more than any entertainment package anyone could put together.
If you have not discovered Vacation Rental by Owner you should.  We have experienced it now two or three times and love staying in peoples homes.  This place in New Orleans had a salt water pool and was fantastic.  We had a dinner party with future in laws, hung out and watched tv, took naps, and the house was close to everywhere, clean, and big enough we could all stay there and never feel on top of each other or the owners who were upstairs......and just had a new 5 week old baby.  IT WAS FAB.  My point is it just felt good to all be under one roof.  It was like old times when everyone lived at home.
God was doing a work in me on my 3000+ mile road trip, if I count when we drove to Raleigh, NC and then the drive home from NOLA.  My 4 days of driving across America taught me a lot about my oldest, about myself and about other people we would encounter others.  Most everyone you meet is pretty nice if you just smile at them. I never met anyone who did not respond favorably to smiling.  It was fascinating for me to see God's handiwork in all the different landscapes.  He has such a variety for us to enjoy.  All that He has created for our pleasure and enjoyment.  So why don't we enjoy it more?  Why are we not taking better care of it?  Why do we overlook what is right in front of our faces most days?  It is highly unlikely I will drive that drive again, but highly likely I will never forget what it looked like.
I fell in love with discovery.  In love with falling in love over and over agin as love kept growing more love.  What God was helping me with and showing me was the difference in loving and letting go.  That I can let go and that is still loving.  Hanging on too long with training mode with my adult kids, let's call them what they are, and thinking they wanted to listen was what I discovered most about them and myself.  A fine line to walk.  I am learning and hoping they will ask for my opinion or advice without my usual piping in as it tells me in Ecc. 5:2 "letting my words be few", or not keeping my seat as it tells me in 1 Tim 2:2 to "lead a quiet and peaceable life".  Quiet here literally means "keeping one's seat".  O how I love to jump up.  Something I have come to realize is that I pipe in, jump up and speak out more times out of loneliness for adult conversation and fellowship.  The search for significance, if you please, in conversation with another who affirms me and my ideas. Wanting them to remember me as the Carrie Underwood song goes, "Don't Forget to Remember Me".  All they have to do is look in the mirror and they can not forget......there I am in many ways in many faces.  He is teaching me to be affirmed in Him, find my source in Him and trust He will always listen even when I am alone.  As much as I, we, have worked to train, impart, teach, love, help our children they were teaching me how much I love discovering God more through them.   What they were sharing with us and each other opened my eyes to His fruit from the seeds that were planted so long ago.  It was so fun to hear them encourage each other, to love each other, to embrace each other as adults, sisters in the family and sisters in Christ.  The older ones don't want to be trained anymore......all of our labor is seeing blessed and tastey fruit.  Why do you think they call it labor and delivery?  We labor and God delivers!

I am seeing a difference in the way they react, respond and receive what I have to say.  They have already heard it. Why do I think they haven't?  I guess I just miss the engagement.  I miss them.  I miss us as a one unit family.   I think I just slip back into that mode without realizing it.  He is teaching me now just to be myself with them, like a friend.  They patiently and sweetly hug me, tell me they love me, thank me and do all the things I adore.  The thing is, I did not teach them that, He does.  I now get to reap the blessings from this fruitful family tree as we will shortly be all over the world.  It takes work, hard work, to stay connected the way we were when we were all under one roof.  That is what this weekend felt like.  The journey getting there, 3000+ miles for some of us was a challenge.  Some of us it was 10 hours and for some just a couple blocks, but all the roads led us home together.  Home was a vacation rental by owner that did not matter the address cause it was where we felt, heard and saw the heart of God in each one who crossed its threshold.  Memories of our time will have to sustain us til once again, wherever that may be, we meet up again, we run home to discover more of what God has uncovered since last we met.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Living Beyond Our Years

My oldest daughter and I have been on the road now since Tuesday making our way across America.  We hit 2000 miles today and are staying with relatives in Alabama.  No bad weather til we got here, but feel blessed that is all we have encountered.  I decided if I was going to journey across America I was going to do it in style, with massage every step of the way and just enjoy the time spent with her. So we got massage in San Diego, Fort Worth and will again in Jacksonville by the beach.  Can't wait!  We have seen just about every type of topographical landscape imaginable, going from 68 degrees to 112 degrees heat index, running over road shrapnel tires from 18 wheelers, encountered a water moccasin, laughed with friends, met people who knew people we knew in the middle of nowhere at a Starbucks, listen to the Broad Minded and Dr. Laura on XM, dreamed a little, cried and even revealed a few things to each other that have resulted in healing.  I would have to recommend this recipe to anyone who attempts to drive 2000+ miles in four days driving.  It is the only way to go.  We finally made it and we went 2681 miles.  We have four more days til we get to NOLA for our family reunion where we will be for a few days to rekindle, release and fellowship our family ties.  We are a unique family and I am so blessed to be a part of it.
All this driving has made me feel as though my life is moving under my feet as fast as the road is moving beneath the car.  Though I know it is not the road that is moving, however, after a while it is what if feels like and the car is just sitting still.  I guess that is because Interstate 10 and 20 are pretty flat and straight.  Our trusty navigation system keeps us going on the right road while God keeps us on the right path in our thoughts and conversations.  My daughter is one of my best friends and can tell her anything knowing it will be met with love, compassion, understanding, forgiveness and wisdom.  She is an amazing person and I am so blessed to have this time with her as she begins her new life in this new place. I feel sometimes I am constantly starting a new frame of mind, a new set of rules, a new direction and a new hope for my life on a daily basis.  She will do it more often physically because she is married to a Marine pilot.  I feel like I am constantly wanting to be in a new place with God, a new place in my walk and constantly looking for that newness that I once experience as a younger person. I know I am growing old, but I really want to keep my young at heart attitude. 
I crave the idea of "living beyond our years", so that what we establish here lives beyond our natural lives and on in our children, their children and their children's children, in to eternity. This idea I got from listening to Anita Renfroe on Broad Minded show on XM.  A legacy carried over to the next generation that lives on.  The sacrificial love given and steps made to reveal and increase healing will ensure our lives, what we believe, our hope that will be carried on beyond my years.  I messed up big time as a new mom discovering my own selfish and self-centered behaviors, not having a clue really what to do with raising a baby. I had, still do in some cases, this need for perfection, and making sure everything was a certain way, need for control and wishful thinking.  And if it weren't a certain way then I was a failure as a mom, that it was out of control, that I did not know what I was doing.   Well guess what?  I really didn't know what I was doing even with those unrealistic ideals.  I was living up to an expectation that was so far out of my reach that it ended up coming back to bite me.  So I finally could settle on setting the bar high enough to reach, then I would reset it and so on.  I think that is why I have this on going fixation on the newness with God.  Seeing what's next with God every step and beyond.   When I read Jeremiah 29:11 for the first time it was so freeing for me to know and trust that He "knows the plans for me" because they are the plans, "I have for you".  The more I try to plan the tighter bound up I became in making sure the plan was going  according to my plan, missing the point and forgetting to consider His plan for me.  It was all or nothing with no give, no slack and little room for error.   Going to Montessori mother baby classes to better equip myself to parent was a great idea, yet somehow I allowed the self in me get the best of me which in turn really wasn't the best of me and was worse for my kids.  But I learned, they endured and forgave me so sweetly.  Now I get to go on 2000+ mile road trip together because we worked hard to get down the road thus far.
So living beyond what I can naturally see is like driving on this road we have been on.  We have our pop up nav system, our map, our co-pilot, water, phones, snacks, sunglasses, craft projects, magazines, books, music and the like.  The most important thing we have on this trip is one another.  The time we have spent together will live way beyond our years as stories will be told of trips driven, taken and endured across this country, across the world and beyond.  Live beyond your years and see where God takes you next. It truly is the greatest adventure.