Thursday, August 27, 2009

a new reason for love

I've written and rewritten a blog three different times tonight. And I keep wondering why I can't write more than a few paragraphs without getting annoyed about what I'm saying. And I realized that I wasn't being real.

So here's real.

A friend of mine's wife just had their first baby - a girl. She's perfect and beautiful and full of new life. New hope. And I look at my walking, talking, silly 18month old little girl (not so much a baby anymore) and I find myself actually missing those first few sleepless months. I don't so much miss the sleeplessness as I miss the newness of it all. It was indescribable to look at the life that Todd and I had created, the actual tangible gift that God had given us. And while I still look at her in awe, something is different. My love for her has changed. And it's stronger and different and evolving. And I'm pretty certain that's how God wants it to be.

But with every milestone or change in her life, in my life, in our life as a family, I can't help but wonder. I never thought my wonder would go so long and deep for him. I never thought I'd find days when I was desperate just to hear his voice saying "Ashley Mac" in just that way that only he could say. And when I call Loralai "boogs" it's only because it's a natural nickname that I had no intention of giving her but continued to slip from my lips and so it is. But it was his name for me. And I miss hearing him say it.

I just flat out miss my dad. And some days I cry a stinking river of tears missing him.

There are so many days that while I'm talking to God, I just ask Him to walk over to dad and give him a hug from me. I know it's not necessary. For heaven's sake, my dad is in eternal splendor in the presence of the King. The last thing he needs is a hug from me (praise God!). But there are some days that I'm pretty sure I could use a hug from him. So it's these days that I have to press in to God all the harder.

My thirtieth birthday is creeping up in about a week. I know. You're surprised. There you were thinking that I couldn't be older than 25. Well, you were wrong. You mistook my beautiful gray highlights for blonde ones. Blonde they are not. But with my birthday is just a tinge of missing dad. I can't remember the last time I said "dad" out loud. That just seems weird to me. I suppose it is a little bit. But not to God. Because none of this, these thirty years, is a surprise to Him. In fact, when He was creating me in my mother's womb, He knew that all of this would happen. He chose my parents for me, the town that I would be born in. He chose Bill and Kay to be dad and mom. And he knew the choices they would both make and that I would make. He knew that dad would struggle with a different sin than the rest of us. He knew that the natural ramifications of dad's sin would look different than ours. That his would set him apart.

My dad was set apart. And he was apart from God for a long time. But by grace he was saved. And because of that, I rejoice in my current suffering. Because I know that suffering produces perseverance and perseverance produces character and character produces hope. And hope doesn't disappoint because of the love God poured out to us in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. And how can I grieve to deeply or dive to far into self-pity when I know that I have forever to sit with my Father and my dad. I rejoice in the hope that God has given me because I know that what God chose for me was good. It was best.

He chose a dad for me who chose best. Ultimately, dad chose best. He chose God.

And so now I have a beautiful thing to teach my children. I get to tell Loralai about what it looks like to choose God and what it looks like to live apart from God. And God gave me a story close to my heart to show Loralai what love is. For the rest of the generations to follow after me, our children and our children's children, will know what love is. They'll finally understand what it is to see the face of their children. To hold them for the first time. To look at the eyes, and sweet mouths and thick thighs and stare in awe of the creation that God knitted in their mother's wombs and fire will be ignited. They'll know the story of all of those who went before them and chose hope. Those who chose Love. Those who chose to let go of their sin, of the things of this world that were binding them from letting loose and letting Jesus live inside of them.

And so the newness of loving my baby, my toddler, is restored. It's just changed. I don't look at the eyes and nose and mouth of my newly created infant in wonder of creation as much as I used to. Because now I look at her and think - from the lips of my mouth she will hear life or death. My motherhood will help a child chosen to be mine, choose. And choose Love.

I pray that all of us use our lives to help foster Love into our children so that they might receive the love of God.

His eyes were so blue, his hands so beautiful, his hair so black, his voice so dad. And I miss him. But I rejoice in knowing that loving him for 27 years, here was fine. Because forever with him will be even sweeter.

Romans 5 (suffering)
Jeremiah 1 (being set apart)
Luke 10 (choosing)
Proverbs 18 (power of our words)

Friday, August 7, 2009

the snake and the witnesses

We went to the aquarium here in town a few weeks ago. And while there we learned that there is a lizard with no legs. Not the cute little green lizards that turn brown or if brown turn green. But the lizards that are fat and cold and have a stripe down their back. Are you following me? Ok, so picture one of those guys but with no legs. Now, are you picturing a snake? If you are, that's exactly what these legless lizards look like, AND that's what I thought snakes were anyway. But I guess not. And I'd never seen a legless lizard until this aquarium encounter and told Todd that I would probably freak out if I saw one of those in real life.

Y'all, don't you know that God set me up?! What are the odds that a flippin' legless lizard would live in our new yard? Obviously fairly high because mister legless himself lives here! Uggh. Todd and a friend of his spotted Legless the other day - and my considerate husband gave me fair warning. But we have lizards at our old house and no warning is needed. Lizards see you, they move. They never stick around to let you pet them. Well I suppose when you gain 5 ounces and you lose your legs, you're slower than the average four-legged lizard. Because upon my walk across the backyard the other night, I so freakishly stepped on Legless. He then wrapped himself around my ankle in an attempt to kill me, I'm sure, but I being 100+ pounds heavier and more swift than he, jumped about 3 feet in the air, screamed a big Wooo hoooo ooooohh!!! and ran. And when I looked back, I caught a glimpse as Legless slithered (ran) into the azalea bushes.

So that you know, I was alone. No one witnessed my woo hooo shouting or got to laugh at my jump and running dance. And while I'm sure it was funny - cause really, it was - it was all the same NOT funny. Dang snake wannabe.

And yesterday as the little one and I planted some flowers in the backyard, two beautiful women walked up to me asking if they could talk to me for a second. I'm guessing you know what women these are. Because unless you're the mailman or a neighbor or someone who's car has broken down, let's face it, people don't just come walking into a person's backyard to chit chat.

So after offering me a Watchtower pamphlet about Jehovah's Witnesses, I smiled. Oh I was so happy. After all, God did make it clear that this house and land we live on and in is His promised land for Todd and I - it is His place to make a new impact. And as they walked onto our land, I thought "well welcome to the Promised Land y'all. welcome." We had an awesome conversation where I lovingly challenged them to rethink their belief that there is no final heavenly dwelling and that only a certain number do enter a paradise. I reminded them that if they did believe in Jesus that he said, "Come to me All who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest." He did not say 'come to me you 100 or 1,000.' He said come to me ALL. Our Lord does not discriminate. He asks that we simply acknowledge that Jesus is savior and that his death and resurrection are complete and allow full access into the grace that is eternal life in heaven.

The Jehovah's Witnesses believe a whole different set of understandings of what the Trinity is - of who God is and who He says He is. And after listening to them and us going back and forth they said that they had to go because they had alllll of these other houses to get to. And I told them that they should stay and be diligent to give me the evidence that their way is The Way. They were hesitant and insisted that they had to leave. So I told them that when they were going on their way to witness to other people that their time was a waste. If they didn't think that one lost sheep - their thought: me - wasn't worth fighting for, then all they were doing was walking the streets and passing out pamphlets. Not fighting for their faith. I also told them that they needed to get a copy of the King James bible (b/c they said the Bible had changed so much over time and that theirs was the correct version - and they agreed that the King James was the first. whatever. i'll take it.) - but i asked them to get a copy of it and compare it to their Bible. To look at the differences - b/c y'all, the wording is subtle and yet the meaning is huge - and then to pray to the One True God and ask Him to reveal Truth to them. They said they would. So will you pray with me that these two women will, even if they don't get a copy of the Word, pray to the one true God for revelation of His Truth?

Remember, eternity was set in our hearts and in us (all of us) is a desperate longing to know our Creator. Wherever we are in our lives, let's pray to the One True God for direction of what Truth is.

And let's remember that the snake is always creeping in the garden - and sometimes his disguise is so so so minute that it makes us think that it's just a lizard or that someone who knocks on your front door trying to profess that God is someone other than He says he is, is annoying. They aren't annoying. They're just confusing the snake for a lizard. The harmful as harmless. And they need to know who Love is.

Monday, August 3, 2009

well hey there. wanna read?

man. has it been a while since i've posted or what?! let me catch you up.

it starts here. new chaos.
when i posted last, i think that we were in the midst of figuring out when we would move and i was figuring out a toddler's new nap life. and i did all of this napping research (mainly because we were in napping hysteria and i was losing my mind with a sleepless child) and learned that this whole sleep transition could take two to six months. i was confused. all of my friends were like 'oh yeeeaaa, she'll be sleeping 2-3 hour naps in a week. well, two months later and we're just getting there. some days it's an hour and a half...some days an hour (sigh)...and some days two or three hours. so we're doing well. now.

but it started here:
the day that she decided that her green crayon was her favorite. i told her that she was not allowed to eat her crayon but coloring with it was ok. she agreed. but as i stood in the bathroom and was greeted with a toddler who said, "i eat cay-on mommy!"...i knew that she either was being defiant or hadn't understood our earlier agreement. either way, i laughed inside, and sat her hiney in hallway timeout where she kept insisting it was time to "git up mommy?" ...after a kiss and hug and a teeth washing that left the toothbrush green, we moved on. as we're continuing to do daily.
this summer has been full of lessons all around the board. in our marriage and in parenting. and i'm learning - relearning - some essential truths.

and those truths start here:

and here:
in the obvious gifts that God has given me. my family. my two brown-eyed sweeties. and now, our new house. our promised land straight from the hand of God. and i mean that. the enemy was working hard to get us to not close on our house. but close we did. only we ended up closing on our old house two weeks after we were scheduled to. oh y'all, it was a war and God won and we declared that we are NOT grasshoppers! and we will not be afraid because our God has gone before us and declared this life, this land, is his gift to us and we will walk forward in it with thanks and bless others because He blessed us.

isn't that something?
isn't this something?

and can i tell you somethings that might seem silly to you? well you can't tell me not to, so i'm going to. it actually smells like home. isn't that weird? i mean outside does. and it's not that i was trying, or am trying, to recreate my childhood home but there was something so incredibly sacred about that house and land where i grew up. and still, i can hear the sounds of the bugs in the woods. i can feel the wind and see the sunrise that i looked at every morning as i got ready for school. and as i stood in my backyard the other day, i had to catch my breath. i heard the bugs again. (y'all are saying, "ashley, we call those crickets." but it's not crickets. it's a special chorus that sings at night. and it's here.) and the wind, it blows just the same as the lane i grew up on. and after the grass was cut the other day, i nearly cried. i swear that if i closed my eyes and opened them, i was going to see my dad walking towards me all sweaty from working outside, and i would see my mom bent over plucking weeds and my brother washing his tan ford ranger. but i opened and all i saw was green grass. our green grass. on the street where God planted our new roots. and in the yard where loralai will look up and see her daddy all sweaty from working in the yard, from building her swingset. where she'll see her mama planting flowers and working in the garden. where she'll play with her brother or sister. where the dogs will play and love will grow. and she'll get to smell and feel the same love that God gave me when i was just a girl - only on a different street, but in His same creation. isn't it beautiful?

don't you ever just look at the sunset and think - vladik sees that.

vladik is my dear friend's belarussian son. he comes to stay with her family for six weeks in the summer to recover from nuclear fallout. and while getting fat on wholesome foods and being taken care of by doctors who donate their services, he hears the word of Life. God spoke to sweet Vladik for the past two years (and surely the prior 8) of his life through Carie and Mitchell and all the believers who loved on him while he lived in north carolina. and five days before sweet Vladik was scheduled to fly back to Belarus, he accepted Jesus as his savior. i'll never forget the phone call from Carie. she was crying like a little girl - more like a mama who just witnessed her first child accept salvation. i can't imagine the fullness in her heart - but i could hear it in her voice and i couldn't help but laugh a giddy little laugh with her. ...and so the search was on for a russian bible for vladik. Carie kicked herself for not having gotten him a bible prior to his coming this summer, but i'm certain that God didn't urge her to get the bible so that she could see a miracle happen. because after all, watching Him intervene in our search for a bible was WAY cooler than going to the bookstore and picking one up and wrapping it in pretty paper.

follow this: carie calls and says that vladik is saved and asks that i'll pray with her that we'll somehow find a way to get vladik a russian translated bible so that he will have a version of the Word that he can read. after searching for a few hours, online, for a bible, i called her to tell her what i found. but we were discouraged because it was going to take at least 4 days to get here (and that was the overnight system). weird right? after i hung up with her, i had a major ah ha! moment. God reminded me of an old friend. a friend of my dad's. my dad and mom had a couple that they were good friends with - they had a cottage at the river near ours - so we grew up with them - and their daughter became a missionary. can you guess where she does her mission work? eastern europe: bulgaria, poland, russia. I couldn't believe i hadn't thought of her sooner. so after emailing her to ask her if she knew where we could find a bible to have overnighted, she emailed me back. and i mean RIGHT back. i hadn't talked to her in years and God reconnected us in an instant. what i didn't expect was what she did for vladik. she found a bible. the correct translation (because she knew what translation was correct having lived in that area). and had it overnighted to carie's house. the part that, at first, made us sad was that it arrived just hours after vladik's flight left. but the beautiful part. oh just wait...

our fear was that stuffing a bible in a ten year old's travel bag and making it through customs into a dictator-led nation would make for trouble for our sweet vladik. so God eased our fears, calmed our hearts and did something even greater. he delayed the overnight, missing vladik's delivery and instead is going to deliver the bible by other means. Vladik's translator from 2008 was in raleigh this summer. so carie and mitchell delivered vladik's bible to that translator who will enter their home country with the bible - able to defend why she has it if asked in customs - and she will take a two hour bus ride out into the country to deliver the bible to Vladik. can you imagine a bible being hand delivered to you by your sister in Christ? or by your sister in Christ whom you've never met but has poured God's ministry into your country for years (years, even, before you were born) only to see the fruit of her labor coming to light?! can you imagine the conversation that will follow as the translator enters Vladik's home...that the translator will get to smile as she hands Vladik the bible and tell him how God used his people in extraordinary ways simply because God loves Vladik SO much that he wanted him to have a copy of His word.

now that is love.

and when loralai woke up from her nap on Sunday afternoon and the first words out of her mouth were "wadik? wadik home?" I said, "yes baby. vladik went home." and so we prayed for him. we asked God to form Vladik's heart after His own - and to protect him and seal him with His word of life.

God's creation - i stand on it and breathe it in and smell it and smile knowing that the promised land given to us is a reminder of how much He loves us. and i look at the sunset and i see the stars and i think 'vladik sees this too'.

God, you are everywhere.