Thursday, October 19, 2017

How a sweater moved me to prayer (from the archives)

We hug goodbye in the dark, on the front porch before school. My bare arms around them feel a chill, and I make them wait while I find their fall jackets. “We’re fine,” they insist, but I make them wear them, because I am cold, and because I said so.

The house is open today, and cool fall breeze blows away the musty smells of children and sweat and work. It is time to dig out the fall clothes.

Sometimes I wonder if God does the loaves-and-fishes miracle in my basement each season. Again this year, my shopping list is short. Again they will be clothed like the lilies of the field, and we have more than we need.

The too-short pants make a large pile.  
The long sleeves fit snugly in the drawers. 
I anticipate soft-sweatered hugs.

They try things on for me, and I hear their opinions.
"Oh I love this sweater! Look, Seth!"  It is soft, navy blue, with light blue stripes across the chest. It will compliment his blue eyes, and I can’t wait to take a picture of him in it.
He looks at it suspiciously.
"Hmmm,” he says. He holds it up and wrinkles his nose. Then he looks in my hopeful eyes.  “Well, we can keep it and I can wear it on Saturdays.”  I smile, and he clarifies, “Only on Saturdays when nobody's coming over."
And I resign. He is old enough to have opinions now, and I give him freedom. I will give the sweater away, but I will also enjoy his blue eyes. He doesn't have to know.

I open the baby’s drawer. He’s not a baby, I remind myself. He is two. I see cute PJs with feet that will not fit him this year. He is bigger now, too big for that.

And then, I take out the sweater, the one with the stripes, and I realize it is too small for him. There are many sweaters, but this particular sweater makes me pause.

This sweater was a hand-me-down. And even so, it has been worn by all six of my children. Six kids grew into it and then out of it again. And now the smallest has grown out of it.

My first baby.
Aggie, my second baby.
and then there were three.

Three, and then four, five, six. 

In and out of boxes, on and off bodies it's been, time and again. 
I imagine the stains, the yogurt blobs and the slobber and the pumpkin guts. Again and again it was washed, dried,and put on little bodies, my favorite bodies in the world.

And it kept them warm.

But they've outgrown it now. 
They still need warmth, but not from you, sweater.

And I try not to identify with the sweater, try not to think of the day they will grow out of me, the day when they will need warmth and love, but they will be too big to be satisfied with only mine.

The fall wind blows and the leaves rustle as I fold the sweater, slowly.
I gaze past the bunk beds, through the window, and I watch the bright colors fall.

Again I pray, 
Father, grow me up as you grow them up.
Teach me to rejoice in the changing of seasons.

Do you reminisce when you get out the fall clothes?
How do you feel about the changing of seasons?

Monday, October 16, 2017

still young enough

"...and the younger three get to stay home with me tonight."
"I'm not young," says the oldest of the youngest.
"Of course you're not young, son, I just mean you are young-ER than the older ones. Sorry, but it's going to be that way forever."  He scowls, and I know he's plotting to find a magic age-defying potion somewhere. 

A night at home with the younger three boys is an unusual event. I've been feeling nostalgic for our stay-at-home days lately, so I decided to make good use of our time together. Turns out, it's still pretty fun (and exhausting) to hang out with these three. 

They're old enough to know that if they are going to wake me up from a nap, it's better to say "Can I snuggle you?" instead of "What's for snack?" But they're still young enough to snuggle.

We made chocolate chip cookies because nobody's ever too old for that. We ate a hearty amount of raw cookie dough together, too. They're old enough to stir and measure and crack an egg, but young enough to think I won't see them sneaking chocolate chips the whole time.  They thought it was perfect- three boys, and three things that needed to be licked (Two beaters and a spatula.)

They're old enough to try to slide the cookies off the hot pan; but young enough to have to be told ten times, "BOYS you need to stop wrestling by HOT THINGS!" They're young enough to want to watch the cookies bake, to drool, and to make potty jokes about the brown blobs of dough. And yet, we made it through with no burns and no major spills- we are all definitely getting bigger.

We went for a walk with the puppy and kept our eyes peeled for our runaway cockatiel (last spotted in the tree in our backyard). My noticer noticed the heart shaped leaves and collected the prettiest ones for me. My manly man noticed the odd leaf stains on the road and thought it looked like splattered remains after an epic leaf war.  The youngest held my hand.  The puppy did his business and the boys giggled about it while I picked it up. As we walked, I kept trying to slip the bag of poo into one of their hands without them noticing. I am young enough to think this is funny.

Little boys are inspired by tasty things, and they were willing to work for another treat: applesauce. They are old enough to try to peel apples: it was terrifying, inefficient, and dangerous.  It was fun.

We got out the juicer and juiced the skins.  These boys were babies when I was on a juicing kick; they are not afraid of oddly colored juice with a little bit of thickness to it. They love putting the skins in the machine and watching the juice squirt out. It came out brown, but they were brave enough to try it- we were all AMAZED at how sweet and wonderful it was- no need to add sugar!

We had a "whatever meal" for dinner (whatever you can find- just no sugar because we're having more cookies later!) and each plate involved some form of melted cheese.  Then, the countdown to technology time began- I told them I'd play MarioKart with them later. "Mom, why do you want to play technology so much? Do you really like it too?" said the littlest one.  It is weird, indeed. Normally I am the technology regulator, not the instigator.  I said to him, "It's not that I like technology so much, but I do love my boys, and I know you guys love it, so I wanted to do something with you that you really love." Suddenly the other son burrows his head into me and says, "I really like this day, mom."

I liked it too, even though just like my stay-at-home days, it was a day intermixed with mommy chores. 5 loads of laundry, a bjillion socks, and the typical discoveries that led me to holler for the boys: "Are you kidding me? Get down here and wash out this lunch box, it smells like the yogurt has fermented!"  and "I know I told you to put those shoes away- now you have to clean up all the shoes!" and "Find me hangars boys, this pile of uniform shirts is so big it's starting to tip over!" They are old enough to sass, and I am smart enough to send them on laps or give them extra jobs when they do.  But I also gave them new batteries for the Wii remotes, and warm applesauce just because.

They are old enough to beat me at Mario Kart, except for the youngest, who is young enough to cry when he loses to everyone Every. Single.Time. The oldest of the youngest played two games at once: he'd stop racing to play Clash of Clans on his ipod, where he was apparently fighting his sister-- she wasn't home, but she was playing remotely from dad's truck!  Wow, fancy use of technology!

Finally, bedtime. They are old enough to read before bed, and they can turn out the lights without my reminders. They don't even need a nightlight any more, but they do need each other, and at least one dog, to feel safe.  As for me, I was sound asleep before 9:30.

Thank you God for little big boys.

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

The little sinner

A little boy stands wide-eyed before his father.  His dress pants are wrinkled, and he is wearing no shirt.  Morning rebellion, pride, anger, and unrepentence sent him to an early nap.  Now, he must stand before his Father; he must give account for the actions that sent him to an early nap.

Father is stern, and he lists the complaints against the boy.
“Son, I’ve been told these things. Are they true?”
One by one, Father speaks accusations, and the little boy nods.  He bites back tears, and he nods, nods.

It’s true, it’s true, it’s all true.  

Mother watches, cringes, prays. She aches with the truth of it, she aches with the declaration of consequences, given for his good. (TV and technology banned. Mother does share the burden.)

Finally, Father takes those tiny boy hands, stained, naughty hands, and he guides them, folds them between his.  It’s time to pray.  “Son, you must pray.”

His tiny voice shakes as he prays, “Dear Jesus, please help me to be good.”

The trembling voice, the words, they pierce the heart of the boy’s mother. She wants to hold him, but instead she holds his prayer; the desires of her heart wrap around his. Dear Jesus, please help us to be good.  

Sniffles and silence.

Then, the tiny prayer is built upon, added to- and oh, the importance of this addition!-- that which cannot be known by nature or by effort; more than a desire for improvement, for virtue; Father adds grace. He adds Jesus.

The goodness that is lacking has been covered.  

Jesus; Forgiveness; God with us; Christ for us; these Words are poured out on the little boy with the red eyes and wrinkled pants.  

When the prayer is over, the boy is free.  

Reconciled to God, he turns to his mother, and her hug is a joyful extension of grace-filled Word.  
The little sinner, he is loved.

For further reading
Law and Gospel in the Home

originally published on 9/6/13

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

rain snapshot

I am leaving school after a parent meeting. There’s an evening list waiting for me and I am not excited. Also, it’s pouring; I need to brace myself before I head out in the rain. Deep breath and… go. I run into the parking lot, splashing in my dress shoes, trying to decide if my body can handle a full out sprint back to the parsonage. I take a shortcut through the grass, and dodge a mud puddle. My back is sopping wet and my dress shoes are a mess, but the water feels good running down my face. The rain comes down with a dull roar; and I hear screaming and laughing-- wait, what? Who in their right mind would be out here in this downpour? The gate opens before I get to it and I see the kids, led by their Responsible Big Sister, being led out of the yard to the park! Some are in their swimsuits; all are shrieking.

“What a great idea!” I holler. I throw my purse in the house and join them. Pete and I bounce on the trampoline, slip on “banana peels,” and watch the water splash with every jump. I am the crazy lady in her work clothes, seizing the day with her kids in the rain.

Meanwhile, one stays inside with his dog and says we are all crazy. He shakes his head at us- but, with a small smile. Just like his daddy.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


"If life is a story, how then shall we live?
It isn’t complicated (just hard).

Take up your life and follow Him. Face trouble. Pursue it. Climb it. Smile at its roar like a tree planted by cool water even when your branches groan, when your golden leaves are stripped and the frost bites deep, even when your grip on this earth is torn loose and you fall among mourning saplings.

Shall we die for ourselves or die for others?
For most of us, the question is rarely posed in our final mortal moment (although there is glory when it is.)  Death is the finish line of the preliminary race. Shall we cross the finish line for ourselves or others?  The choice isn’t waiting for us down the track. The choice is now.

Death is now. The choice is here.

Lay your life down. Your heartbeats cannot be hoarded. Your reservoir of breaths is draining away. You have hands, blister them while you can.  You have bones, make them strain--they can carry nothing in the grave. You have lungs, let them spill with laughter.  With an average life expectancy of 78.2 years in the US (subtracting eight hours a day for sleep), i have around 250,000 conscious hours remaining to me in which I could be smiling or scowling, rejoicing in my life, in this race, in this story, or moaning and complaining about my troubles. I can be giving my fingers, my back, my mind, my words, my breath to my wife and my children and my neighbors, or I can grasp after the vapor and the vanity for myself, dragging my feet, afraid to die and therefore afraid to live. And, like Adam, I will still die in the end.

Living is the same thing as dying. Living well is the same thing as dying for others."

"How much of the vineyard can we burn first? How fast can we run? How deeply can we laugh? Can we ever give more than we receive? How much gratitude can we show? How many of the least of these can we touch along the way? How many seeds will we get into the ground before we ourselves are planted?"

N. D. Wilson, Death By Living

I just read this book for the third time and it won't be the last. If you need help directing your eyes and your love up to our gracious giver God and outward to those He sends you, read this book.

Read my full review here.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


Yesterday the little two got out the train while I folded the laundry. They tried but couldn’t quite set it up; I pulled myself away from the tasks and connected tracks for a bit, even making a hill and a path under the bridge… and my little boys said “Mom you are SO smart!” and they looked at me with new eyes. I went back to the laundry and listened to them play; transported back to the little stay-at-home days when their prattle was the background noise to all my tasks.

Later, I picked up a book and they snuggled down next to me, one on each side. The story began, and then I had to take the noisy gun away; another page and “where did you even get that balloon? If you want to play, go play, but we’re reading in this room right now.”  Another page, and they finally calmed, transported by the story.  We lingered over the words and the pictures, and took our time inside the magic of the story. Like a beacon, the story pulled in another sibling, and then even the oldest found her place on the edge of the bed and was transfixed.

Note to self: Don't. Miss. These. Moments.

Thursday, August 3, 2017


We took a trip down the Platt River with the Rozegnals. (My dad's siblings and family)

That seems like such a small statement for such an event. We were part of an epically complicated logistical puzzle that culminated in a gigantic raft-a-palooza down the Platte River with 28 garrulous Rozegnals and their adoptees, squirt guns, and two barge floats.  We experienced uncounted looks from strangers who passed by our loud barge-party, resembling the looks I receive in the grocery store when I shop with ALL my kids in tow.  Adults mounted and dismounted the floats most ungracefully, while the kids were on and off, swimming and pulling and towing and even flipping their Nana over completely. (This writer will neither confirm nor deny the mom-inspired nature of these shenanigans.)  The Great Aunts tried to learn my children’s names and had an especially hard time with the boys; this was made more difficult by Seth who pretended to be Marcus for a large part of the trip. He was punished by the river later; a leech latched onto his toe.

After two hours, the Platte River spilled us out on the beach; the sparkling water of Lake Michigan tossed about every color of blue in its cool waves; in the distance, dunes (Sleeping Bears), and at our feet, the softest sand on the planet.  We opened heavy coolers and feasted together right there by the water.  The cold water of the lake made the channel feel like a hot tub; the girls played, then relaxed, then played again. The boys learned to kayak; the littlest one got carried away by the wind and hit a stranger with his paddle at least twice. Aunt Lisa began her sandcastle art; soon she had helpers so committed they asked me if we could stay on the beach forever. My active uncles played ball and squirt guns and talked marathons and mountain biking with the boys. And then, we all ate some more while the wind blew and our skin grew pink.

See these people, kids?  I come from these, and they are a piece of home to me; just like the sands of Lake Michigan. Watching you relate to them and watching them delight in you, I thank God for the gift of family.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Looking for home

Today's post was written by my dear friend, Katie Jo Otte.  I love her reflections about "home," and the ways it changes over the years. What comes to mind when you think of "Home?" How has it changed over the years?

by Katie Jo Otte

It means so many different things to different people at different times in their lives.

      For about twenty years, home was a two story farmhouse in the midst of the most trees you will find in most of Central Illinois.  It was dirt and bugs, hay sweat and sunsets, crafts, dress up clothes, stuffed animals, and two loving parents who made themselves available to support whatever I set my stubborn mind to doing.  Home was two church families and knowing all the “neighbors” for miles around.  Home was a Methodist church full of neighbors, with a dove in the domed ceiling, sun shining through stained glass as my brother and I proudly carried the light in and out for the candles, gaining confidence singing with my choir buddies, and an old pipe organ that rang through the beautiful sanctuary and beyond.  It was a dimly lit but beautiful Lutheran church with “old ladies” who watched me grow and old men whose joy was contagious.  I did a lot of learning and growing, laughing and serving in two damp church basements that felt like home.  Home was also being involved in just about everything the community offered, many of which my parents helped facilitate; 4-H, Girl Scouts, LWML, church, choir, cantata, plus most non-athletic (and even some athletic) activities possible at the school.  School never really felt like home, but about 5th grade, I found another home.  East Bay Camp, and later Girl Scout Camp Peairs, became homes, as well.  They were places I could test myself and push my boundaries, in atmospheres of support and perceived safety, despite risk. 

In high school, I found home in the choir room and on a beautiful wooden stage.  I found home driving in with “little brothers” at 6:00AM for Madrigal practice.  Home was a heavy, old, “wine and smoke” colored, velvet dress, two of my mentor altos wore for Madrigals before me.  For a while, I found home at a boyfriend’s house, where he and his grandparents made sure I was fed, despite my hesitancy to eat.  I found home at a Bible Church youth group, with people to listen and embrace me in my “existential angst.”  I found home strumming my guitar and asking deep questions of a youth pastor who always made time for us. 

I tried to return to my camp home, after high school, but there was no longer a place for me.  Home went South, to a sweet director with a Southern drawl, some good old country boys, and my first experience with (lots of) ticks.  Hot and sweaty, crawling with ticks, twisted ankle, fast convertible rides, plentiful deer, camper insults, camper triumphs, facing fears, pushing boundaries, all became my new home.  Those good old boys, along with the rest of the staff, became my family for the summer, and oh, what a summer it was.  One of those good old boys became the man who would define my “home” for the rest of our lives. 
         It took me a while to find home in college.  I found it at an old friend’s house, after he drove me out in the country, where the tightness in my chest relaxed, and I could breathe, again.  I found home in his family’s generously welcoming me, and feeding me, whenever I needed… and I still do.  I found home with an atheist roommate who listened to me read the Bible and struggle.  Eventually, I found home at Wittenberg Lutheran Center, as I had dreamed I would.  It took a new Vicar and his wife, who became my protectors, comforters, and confidants, as they did for all of us.  I found home, with them, then, as I do whenever I go back. 

My good old Indiana boy convinced me to make my home at a different camp, the next summer.  Our summer at Lakeview was rocky for me personally, and for our relationship.  I had some run ins with injuries, conflicts, and disappointment.  I also made some great friends and finally learned to ride a bike! My camp home migrated, again, after this summer, from trying something new, and because there wasn’t a place for me, anymore, once again.  It was a painful time of growth, for me.  Sometimes home is like that.  Camp Peairs was home for a summer of physical and emotional growth, getting Lifeguard certified and obtaining the title “Safety Luna” while gaining confidence playing and testing myself “in the wild”.

The next summer, Luke came home on leave to start building our home together.  We were married June 5, 2010 at the church we hoped we would be able to call home, some day.  We started putting down roots at White Creek, knowing they would have to hold long distance, if at all. 

Home in the military is where you make it.  In the best of times, home is where you can be together.  You make friends, you make connections, you find ways of being “you” wherever you are.  Home in the military meant driving out to New Jersey, the week after our wedding, with just what we could fit in an old Jetta with no air conditioning.  It meant staying in a hotel and doing my first married cooking in a microwave with a big Pyrex measuring cup we dug out of the back of the car.  We home searched, then, driving around, checking to make sure base housing and temporary lodging were really not options for us…  Looking at neighborhoods for the first time and wondering about the “for sale” signs and the commitments that would come with them.  Thankfully, it meant taking a break, getting to a “random” Lutheran church “accidentally” an hour early for the service, and meeting a sweet couple who had recently downsized…  and were looking for a family to rent their beautiful home at a price that was a steal for the area.  It meant long nights awake, alone, waiting for Luke to get off of 16+ hour shifts, so we could finally sleep together in our home.  I slowly got to know a bit of the neighborhood, timidly, as I had no vehicle, and had to walk wherever I explored, knowing Luke wouldn’t be home for hours.  We kept the house boiling in one of the hottest summers locals could remember and 50-55 degrees in an extra cold winter, with electric heat, and some of the highest electric bills I could imagine.  Home is finding family where you are.  We got involved in that little, old, Lutheran church, Rose of Sharon.  The organist, and her husband, our landlords, became our best friends.  We were mistaken for mother and daughter, multiple times, but we told people we were “soul sisters…” the truest term we could find to define our friendship, mentorship, relationship.  They welcomed us into their church, the choir, their Bible studies, and both of their homes.  We had a home there, for a while.

Before long, though, home meant hearing his voice or seeing his writing when I was in my original home back in Illinois, while student teaching and his deployment to Qatar.  It meant getting into a strange new normal in a place that had always been my normal.  I was home under my parents’ roof, but the head of my married household was halfway across the country, then halfway across the world.  It was lovely to be home, but it was a complicated balance for all of us.  I was back in my home churches, where they prayed for my husband with “those serving our country,” and I was so proud.  I melded right back into many of my community roles, almost as if I had never left...  I even went back to my home camp, East Bay.  It was good to be back, but so much of me changed when I became a wife.  Some of that home was better and more secure than ever, but oh, how I missed him. 
After deployment, we hoped home would be that big two story house we moved out of, when Luke deployed.  It was not to be.  Though the friendship remained, we had to find a new place to stay.  Home became an experience of base housing with friends we vaguely knew.  …and then knew better and better…  Some days we knew each other better than any of us wanted, but home remained with them.  We participated in parties more enjoyable than what we imagined we missed at college age (him in the military, already, me studying too hard and too conscientious to party, anyway).  We had campfires, community friends, my first roughing it camping trip, ballerina time, shared meals, lots of weed whacking, intense workouts, cat sitting, creative possession stacking, Christmas light hanging, and much more.  Again, home was a complicated balance, as two young married couples each tried to develop the dynamics of head of household and submission while sometimes stepping on each others’ toes, and still remaining friends.  Home also became a new church community, Holy Cross Lutheran, unlike any Missouri Synod church I had experienced.  Challenges and opportunities galore met us, there.  I was still dependent on Luke to drive me anywhere farther than the work I biked to over the summer.  We shared in helping with youth group, providing meals to the hungry, singing and doing sound for praise band, lots of drama and feelings, and some wonderful friendships.  Home at Holy Cross looked like Pastor’s family taking us in for Christmas and his wife providing me a personal retreat when Luke was TDY to Africa over our second anniversary.  It looked like support, even when my presence made waves.  It looked like a family taking us out for the most expensive meal I had ever had before Christmas Eve service, because they had military family and wanted to make us feel at home.  Home was also the sweet “senior members” I talked to about Hymns, who reminded me of my LWML ladies growing up. 

Home was the draw that helped Luke sign separation papers from the military.  There was a house, and a job, and family waiting back home in Indiana.  Home was full of promises, for Luke, and I committed to follow him.  This homecoming was not what we had hoped.  Things fell through, moved out of range, changed direction, when we showed up.  The physical home he had dreamed of, that was promised to us, was unavailable at the time.  Thankfully, his parents welcomed us into their spacious, woodsy home, which smelled of lavender laundry and wood smoke.  Home became a treacherous tightrope walk of living with his boss/father.  Though they had generous good intentions, it was all too much to balance and for too long.  Home was briefly a summer of lake living, where I got to kayak to work at camp, but outside stress and conflicts almost beat the life out of our marriage. 

A new home in this place meant new church membership.  We began attending the church in which we said our marriage vows, the church we always intended to come back to.  We met new family at St. John’s White Creek.  I finally met the Pastor’s wife I had read so much from, whose children’s names I had memorized, as I tried to learn their personalities from words on a screen.  She opened her home to me… to many women and families.  She taught through words and actions, with Grace.  We studied God’s word, talked about things we could not, elsewhere, cared for each other and each others’ children in the midst of the coffee and chaos of Bible study and Thursday mornings that often turned into Thursday afternoons…  I learned preschoolers are actually interesting.  She was one of the first to hear when our family was growing.  I got to experience chasing a toddler while pregnant with my first.  Though they are at another home, now, that parsonage and that family will always hold fond memories of one of the places I first brought Jimmy home.
About that dream we were waiting for…  the cozy farm house with the beautiful trees and inviting barn…  It was more than we bargained for.  We planned our first overnight visit for the day I took my first pregnancy test.  The home wasn’t ready to move in, but we wanted to anchor this memory in the home where we hoped to raise our children.  We were scared.  We were elated. It was 90+ degrees, the air conditioning did not work, we had no fans, and I was nauseous before the wood roach crawled across my leg.  At about 3 in the morning I convinced Luke we had to go back to his folks’ house.  After months of nausea, work, stress, and expense, for both the owners and ourselves, we moved January 2, 2014.  I was 5 months pregnant.  Remember those New Jersey electric bills?  They paled in comparison to our new winter bills. 

A property that has been unoccupied for over 20 years has more needs than an outsider can imagine.  More than that, a property full of multiple people’s dreams and memories holds more blessings and obligations than I can describe.  We had a 90+ year old man visit and cry telling me how he wished he could show his momma what we did with the place.   We had three sisters visit at different times and share their stories.  There were tears over memories of time spent at the kitchen table, just looking at and imagining where it was.  We heard from another brother and sister of their memories, as well.  Pride, joy, regret, hope…  life happened here for so many, in so many different ways.  Surprisingly, we all had so much in common, despite the changes that have happened in the physical building and property through the years.  We heard stories of God’s faithfulness, as parents prayed for returned health for a dying child (the 90+ year old about 80 years earlier), listened to children saying prayers, taught them to embrace family and hard work… It made the place even more dear to our hearts…  Another positive pregnancy test, another baby brought home, fed here, kept safe and loved, here, and this home will always hold a place in our hearts.  The tears, laughter, prayers, memories and lessons will always be a part of this house, but we are learning they, and we, cannot stay here. 

As I learned with camps, God is not limited by location.  Before this world had form, and long after these walls, these trees, this ground has passed away, He says, “I AM.” 

We are looking for a new Earthly home.  The path is unclear.  We have hit some road blocks, just as we were building up speed.  We pray God directs us and puts a “hard stop” in the way of anything not according to His will.  Sometimes answered prayer can be disappointing, in the moment.  We pray for continued trust His knowledge and goodness, which are not limited by time, space, finances, or human understanding.     

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

tired but alive

That look on Seth’s face; it’s the same one Josh had that time we rented four wheelers and he took me on those trails that were MUCH more intense than either of us expected… that edge-of-danger sparkle, “can’t you feel it? we’re ALIIIIVE!” And his motor roared and off he went, and I wondered for how long will he be alive with a wild spirit like that one?  I followed as fast as I could and prayed all the way.

Today, I watched my son come alive in the same way on the mountain bike trails.
My legs shake and I just got hit in the face with a branch, but I plow forward on my bike, trying to keep up with him.  The trails are tricky and we have to focus; no chatting, no looking up at the trees.  Dodge that tree, jump over that root, try not to fall off the narrow bridge. It’s all balance and muscle and timing.  I only fell once, and he only laughed a little.

With a sore wrist and behind, I push on and stay cheerful. It’s like i’m trying to prove something, and I suppose I am. I’ve still got it. I’m not ready to surrender this body to slowness;  I want to push through, to sweat myself strong, to be a fit mama and a fun mama.  When my kids find things that make them come alive, I want them to show me, really show me, for as long as it’s possible.  

He showed me; conquering those trails at a rate I didn’t dare: doing stunts and riding on balance beams and makeshift stairs.  I slowly did the stairs, but I drew the line at the balance beams. A broken arm wouldn’t fit well with my schedule. I am still amazing, but I withhold some amazing feats that might have happened for the sake of prudence. (Adulthood can be so lame!)

I can feel it coming: the need for a nap. “Ok guys, if we stay longer, that means when we go home you’re fending for yourselves for dinner while I take a nap.” They are happy to consent, and I am happy that my legs have a good rest to look forward to.

We stop conquering the world for a moment to sit by the river.  I am the first one to free my feet from shoes and cool them in the lake; this gives them all permission and they quickly follow.  The one who always takes any fun farther than the rest is soon skipping rocks and painting himself with mud.  The cool water, the shade, the breeze, and the soothing gurgle of the river: we take it all in.  

“I survived many a summer this way,” I tell them. I remember watching toddlers play in the lawn, and sitting my pregnant body down with my feet in a bucket of ice cold water, feeling it cool me and giving me hope I could make it through another summer day.  Green grass, a healthy garden, and loud little kids- life, everywhere, including in a giant wiggling ball on my lap.  That was certainly another way to “feel alive!” Tired, yes, but alive.

Now with my feet up in a chair at home, I trace over the edges of the gifts God has given us today.  I’m tired, yes, but alive, and grateful for this day that bursts with life.

"The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Job 33:4

“You alone are the LORD You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You.” Neh 9:6

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Sheepfold (guest post)

The Sheepfold
-- Pastor Cook

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,   just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.   And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”  John 10:14-18

This past Sunday the Church observed Good Shepherd Sunday. On this Sunday, once every year, we focus our attention on Christ our Shepherd and ourselves, his sheep. Because sheep were important livestock for mankind for thousands of years, the people of Jesus’ day knew a lot about sheep. Not many of us today have had experience with sheep, so let’s take a quick moment to educate ourselves about just one aspect of sheep – their need to belong to a sheepfold.

We learn the following from the website

Normal sheep behavior
“Changes in normal behavior can be an early sign of illness in sheep. The most obvious example of this relates to the sheep's most natural behavioral instinct, their flocking instinct. A sheep or lamb that is isolated from the rest of the flock is likely showing early signs of illness (unless it is lost). Even the last sheep through the gate should be suspected of not feeling well, especially if it is usually one of the first.”

When Jesus speaks about us as sheep, one of the things that he is teaching us is that we belong in community – we need to belong to a flock. Not belonging just in name, but in a real and meaningful way – through regular flesh and blood interaction. God has created us with a need to interact with other Christians. We need to be fellowshipping, praying, worshiping, and studying God’s Word together. When we don’t do those things, it is a sign of illness, just like it is for sheep. For sheep, if the illness is ignored, it could lead to death. For Christians, in a like manner, if the sickness is ignored, it can lead to spiritual death.

It is for this very reason that Jesus has come to be a Shepherd to his sheep. He desires that we all remain spiritually healthy by staying connected to him and to one another through the gifts he has given – his Word and Sacraments, his Church, and his People. Jesus laid down his own life so that we would not be separated eternally, from him, and from one another. As we listen to his voice he brings us into the sanctuary of the sheepfold. By his grace he allows us to gather together as the Body of Christ. Our attendance isn’t just something we “should do,” it is vital and necessary to our life together as Jesus’ little lambs. His voice calls to us all today, and it is our joy to listen!
--- Pastor Cook

God, gather us together,
increase in us faith toward you
and fervent love for each other.
Thank you for the gift of community.

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