Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Learning to See

Shortly after Levi was born, we noticed that his eyes didn't seem to track together. In fact, it seemed at least one of his eyes was crossing much of the time. We took Levi to the eye doctor and had him examined. At first we tried patching one eye to get the other eye to kick in. When that didn't work, Levi had surgery to move some of the small muscles around the eye to give him more control. And it worked perfectly. The eyes were straightened, and he followed with both eyes in tandem.

At four years of age part of Levi's yearly check up included a vision screening. The pediatrician expressed concern about his vision, so I took Levi back to the opthamologist who performed the surgery. Dr. Greenberg did some testing and confirmed what the pediatrician had suspected: Levi was favoring his right eye and not using the left one like he should.

Structurally, his eyes are perfect--meaning there is no real reason why he should favor one eye. But, if he doesn't learn now to use both eyes equally, he will limit his vision for life. So, for now we are on a patching routine. I patch the good eye for five hours a day. He is forced to use his weaker eye to play with his train set, watch Curious George, etc. We will go back in about three months to find out if the patching has made a difference.

All of this eye stuff made me think about how I don't always see life clearly. Spiritually and emotionally, I need more than what I observe to make wise judgements. I need the eyes of trusted friends who know my weaknesses and aren't afraid to challenge me.

On my own, my vision is limited. I have blind spots that can lead me astray. My point of view becomes the only vantage point while there are great vistas I am missing. God has placed people all around me whose eyes track differently than mine. These friends are a gift of grace to me. They can bring encouragement when I feel hopeless, they can see life lessons that I am too blind to notice.

"Open your eyes and see-- how good God is."
Psalm 34:8

If I want truly to open my eyes to life with God, I can't isolate myself from others. It is not enough to spend time with God in prayer and the Word. I've got to hang out with friends. I've got to open up and be real. And I've got to be humble enough to hear what I may not want to hear.

Step one for me is calling a friend and getting something on the calendar. Coffee. Dinner. Sitting around my house. Meeting at McDonalds with the little ones in tow. Something! Anything! Because, dang it, relationships don't just happen. And I don't stay close, connected, and authentic if I'm not relating to others.

Okay, I've convinced me. Gotta get to the phone now. Ready to get a new glimpse of God's goodness. Ready to see clearly again. My eyes aren't strong enough on their own.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Treasure Box

A few weeks ago I was privileged to attend a ladies retreat with a group of women that I call "The Fellowship of the Broken." These ladies have all experienced pain, heartache, and grief in their lives. And this pain has brought them to a place of being authentic and open and thirsty for God.

In this group I have watched the Father save those who are crushed in spirit. I have seen women who had isolated themselves take the risk of opening up to others. I have seen women trade their ashes for beauty. I have seen miracles. And it is amazing and beautiful every single time.

I want to share the beginning of one of those stories here.

Holly spills over with life and energy, a full- throttle kind of girl. If she is ever slows down to walk, rather than run, she walks fast. When she talks, she talks with great expression. I'm pretty sure she was the inspiration for the Nike slogan, "Just Do It".

At this time in her life, Holly is enduring intense emotions over the betrayal that she has experienced in her marriage. She is up, and she is down. She is hopeful, and she is discouraged. She is angry at times, and then she is tender and forgiving. Life is a roller coaster of feelings right now for Holly.

At one point during the retreat, after a powerful lesson on how our souls relate to God, our speaker asked each of us to decorate our own small, plain wooden box. We were given a box and a number of craft items to help us create a box that would represent who we are, body and soul. Holly, whose strong suit is not arts and crafts, was trying her best to make her box as she had been encouraged to do.

Unfortunately, there was an accident. Holly mistook the white paint for the mod-podge. For you non-crafters out there that means instead of gluing on her designs and making them look shiny like a coat of mod-podge would do, she completely covered her work with white paint.

Her box was ruined.

Discouraged, Holly tossed the ruined box aside as garbage and got another plain box. There wasn't much time to start over, so Holly simply slapped some stickers onto the new box and called it done.  

A woman who had watched Holly toss her first box in the trash and rescued it. This lady redesigned, repainted, and remade the box into an amazing work of art. As a finishing touch she painted this verse across the front: He Makes All Things New.

I wasn't aware that any of this had happened. I only knew that Holly had told me she was awful at this box making stuff. So when I saw the beautifully decorated box she was holding during worship, I said, "I think you are lying about not being very good at this crafty stuff! Your box is beautiful."

That's when I saw that she was crying. And with tears rolling down her cheeks, Holly told me that someone had redeemed her solid white mess up from the trash heap, and produced this lovely new creation she now held.

Immediately my own tears started flowing, as well. I was so overwhelmed by God's tender mercies and care for my friend. He had seen her struggle. He had seen her pain. He had seen her need. And He had called on one of the members of the body to give a gift of hope.

That anonymous woman was obedient to the call. She used her gift of compassion to bless Holly. Little did she know that her simple act of repairing the rejected box would become known to every lady at the retreat. Nor did she know that this small act would resonate so deeply within our souls.

As Holly shared the story with the group, we all could sense that God was speaking to our hearts as women. He was proclaiming His love and tender care for each one of us.

Our own lives had looked like they belonged on the trash heap. Broken, messed up, imperfect. But what we viewed as rubbish was still valued by the Father. He didn't turn His back to us. Rather, He lovingly looked down and rescued what seemed ruined and beyond repair.

And now we are God's treasure. We are learning to cling tightly to Him, come what may. He is making us new.

Special thanks to "Holly" for allowing me to share her story.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Transformers

In 1984 when I was a senior in high school, Hasbro introduced a cool new toy line called "The Transformers." These action figures could change from robot to vehicle with a few turns and twists. They were "more than meets the eye" as the theme song said.

I have met my own real life transformer. And it could kick Optimus Prime's or Megatron's butt any day of the week. This transformer goes by the name of Pain and it takes as many forms as there are people on this earth. Each pain being unique to the individual.

The psalmist wrote, "Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name."

I have prayed this verse many times for my life. I don't want to be here and there. I don't want to be halfway for God or so caught up in the pursuit of comfort and ease that I lose sight of the kingdom of God. And it is easy to do. Be half-hearted, get distracted. The gravitational pull of the world doesn't stop.

Thankfully the Father is aware of my struggle and He has a plan. This plan involves the great transformer, Pain. God knows the exact pain I need that will lead me to rethink how I am doing life, that would push me to seek change. Without pain I will never let go of the things that are dividing me. Pain brings focus. Pain transforms.

But when pain comes, there is a problem. Pain hurts. And in my hurt I sometimes run away from God. I sometimes seek relief in other places. Some of the very places God wants to lure me away from.

The relief, if I find any, will be short-lived because the real answer to my pain lies in learning to turn my face to Jesus. I have to open my heart to the One who knows and understands me and knows my need.

Life with God begins with a turning from my way to His. And daily life requires that same decision every day. Will I turn to the Father or will I turn to my own devices? When in the midst of my pain will I cry out to the One who can save me, comfort me, and help me? Or will I stubbornly insist that God doesn't care?

My children have all gone through immature phases when they accused me of not loving them. Those accusations usually involved some sort of discomfort that was good for them. I'm ready to move out of that baby phase of my Christian life. I want to have an undivided heart. A heart that says to my heavenly Father, "This growing hurts. I don't like it. But I know You and I know You are for me. You made me and planned me and You want to know me more deeply. I trust You with this pain. Hold my hand as I walk through this valley today."

Monday, April 2, 2012

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

When I first discovered, at the tender age of 41, that I was pregnant again I was surprised and excited. Honestly. I had always wanted another child (or five); so even though it wasn't the time table I would have set, it was very happy news to me.

Levi is now four years old and definitely has changed the family dynamic in more ways than I could have imagined. Someone recently described Levi this way: "He has a big personality." Oh my goodness, does he ever!

Levi is never short of opinions, questions, and dramatic facial expressions. He tries to tell me how to drive and where to turn and how fast or slow to go. I continually remind him that I know what I am doing and where I am going. It doesn't seem to faze him. Honestly, I spend much of my time just shaking my head and laughing and wondering what God has in store for this little guy.

Levi's newest thing is his desire for a little brother. Some of his preschool classmates have baby sisters and brothers, and now he believes it is our turn again. So at night when I am praying with him, he always asks me to pray for a baby brother. I do this for him with a clear conscience knowing that foster care and adoption are options. At 46, I am done with childbirth.

Recently, Kevin was putting Levi to bed. Levi made his usual prayer requests and Kevin prayed, but did't ask for a brother for Levi. Of course, Levi did not fail to notice this omission.

"Daddy, you didn't pray right. You didn't pray for a baby brother."

"Levi," Kevin said, "I didn't pray for a baby because I am too old. I don't want another baby." 

Levi's wheels turned quickly, "Well, when we get the new baby, maybe you can find a another family."

Yes, Levi has his own ideas about how to rule the world. His philosophy is simple: get on board or get out of the way.  Honestly, we all want to be in charge of life. "Tears for Fears" got it right: Everybody wants to rule the world. But, the Rolling Stones got it right too: You can't always get what you want.

What's your plan for the day ahead? Will try to rule the world or be at peace when you don't get what you want? Peace comes as we learn to trust in our Heavenly Father. After all, "He that did not hesitate to spare his own Son but gave him up for us all--can we not trust such a God to give us, with him, everything else that we can need?" (Rom. 8:32, Phillips)

So I will continue to pray for a new baby. And hope that if God somehow blesses us with another, we get to keep Kevin.