Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 29th

February was supposed to end on Tuesday, but we were given an extra day. What will we do with it? March is a spring month and February a winter one. So, as I see it, we have one extra day of winter. How will we make the most of it?

As I pondered that question, the day became a wonderful celebration when our family was blessed with an incredible gift! A new baby! A Leap Year baby! Anthony and Kim's son was born this day. His name is Joseph Michael and he is a big, healthy baby. What a crazy mixed-up day it was for everyone. Fred left work in the morning, picked up Arielle, and went to the hospital to encourage and support Anthony, his son. Liana and I could not go due to our illnesses. Everyone waited many long hours. (Aren't birthing and dying usually long and painful? I think of so many hospital vigils with family surrounding a loved one.) Fred would call from time to time to update us and in the background it sounded like a party was going on. I'm sure Kim was not part of this festive mood. Having been in the labor room many times, as a participant and also as a nurse, I know what it's like for the mother. Early on, she made it clear she wanted everyone OUT.

Finally little Joseph arrived and was welcomed by his joyful, celebrating family. Arielle told me someone took a great picture of Grandpa and his first grandson. (I will post it when I get it.)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Week of Illness

It's been a long, long week. Liana and I haven't felt well, but were we sick enough to go to the doctor? I wish I didn't have to make all the health care decisons. After 10 days of a raging sore throat, I finally gave in.

It was an interesting doctor's visit. I always bring a book to read while I wait. The doctor walked in and I started to put my book in my bag. "What are you reading? I'm nosy," she said.

She is German and I was reading Bonhoeffer. She was curious and picked up the book and wanted to know what it was. I told her it was about a German pastor in World War II who was executed for his involvement in a plot to kill Hitler. It explores the question of whether Christians are ever justified to murder someone. I value my doctor's ideas on this topic. Her sister died in the 9/11 attacks. How did she feel when Osama bin Laden was killed? We had an interesting discussion before she even looked down my throat.

Liana was next. She had a cough all week, which she tends to get with every cold. No fever, but she felt lousy and the cough increased until she was coughing almost non-stop. I felt so bad for her because she couldn't get a moment's rest. She kept looking to me for relief. Nothing I tried worked. Every bark of her cough was an indictment against me. Why couldn't I relieve her suffering? This is the very worst part of parenting. With new babies in our family, I think of how the parents will be in anguish as they worry about the many illnesses that come along. Even though my baby is 12, the worry never ends. Just as she looks to me for healing, I look to God and cry out to him. "By his stripes, we are healed." (Isaiah 53) Medicine, doctors, they are just the means he uses to heal. Lord, have mercy on my daughter hacking without relief. Her cries to me are the same as my cries to him.

So Liana saw the doctor on Saturday. Bronchitis. Now we wait for her antibiotic to work. Still she coughs. I give her codeine at night and then worry about the sedation. How much is too much? Liana asks, "Will you check me in the night?" She wants assurance that I am looking out for her, making sure she is okay. Of course, I will. I ask God to look out for her too. I can't be awake all night. But he is. "Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? ...Even the darkness is not dark to you. The night is as bright as the day." (Psalm 139) I need to trust more.

Our faith comes as we remember God's words and his faithfulness to us. Jesus says, "Do not be anxious for anything." He uses the word "anxious" six times in one brief passage in Matthew 6! He knows we are a worrying people, especially when it comes to our children. I remember that "the one who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" (Psalm 91)

My number two son and his wife travel to India this week. Will I be anxious? Of course, I am the mother and it is in my nature. We worry about bigger things as our kids grow up. But I will choose to trust God, who has always been faithful to my son.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Vision and a Prophecy

Maybe a year ago I was in church focusing on the service and in my mind I suddenly had a picture of my son in front of the congregation playing his drums. This was not some mystical vision, but it came to my mind out of nowhere. At the time, Damien was playing drums in a rock band performing in bars.

Just in the last couple of months Damien was asked to play in a new band--in his new church. Amazing! He plays four services on Sundays. We had been trying to arrange a day we could go and see him. Finally it all worked out.

I really wanted to see my son on his drums serving the Lord with his incredible talent. But I had reservations about his church. It sounded like a very young church--young minister, young congregants. I knew it was very casual, very hip, reverberating with loud music and maybe dancing in the aisles? So unlike my church. I really didn't know what to expect. But I figured I could move out of my comfort zone one Sunday and support my son.

We were stopped as we first turned into the parking lot. Two guys waved at us and I rolled down my window. They wanted to know if this was our first visit to the church. The snapped bracelets on us so we could claim the gifts awaiting us inside. Then they directed us to a parking spot. As we entered the building others welcomed us with smiles and handshakes. These friendly folks were totally sincere and genuine; there was no pretense and no agenda. We were offered coffee and a young man told me to come to him personally if I needed anything or had any questions. Maybe my church could learn a thing or two about hospitality. Then a young woman offered me ear plugs. (Uh-oh.)

The service began with music--contemporary music to be sure, but godly music. The lyrics were clear on the screen in front. I did not need ear plugs. No one danced in the aisles. I kept my son in view, up front before the congregation. I saw the joy on his face. When the band played Chris Tomlin's song "Our God" tears filled my eyes. I thought back to a church I attended with my three little boys years ago (no Jon yet), when I was going through hard times. Folding chairs were crammed into an auditorium full of people. I knew no one, but the praise music washed over me, giving me renewed hope. After the service a woman approached me. She had not been sitting near me so I didn't know where she came from. She gestured to Damien and said God had given her words to share with me. She said, "Don't worry about all that's happened. He's going to be just fine. God has great plans for him."

I didn't quite understand. Damien was a tiny boy. But like Jesus' mother Mary, I kept these words and pondered them in my heart. This day, so many years later, I remember those words. Prophecy unfolding. God brought Damien to this place, in this time in his life. Damien says to me, "It's only the beginning." To remind me of this morning, I include the music Damien played.

After the songs we saw a very touching baby dedication ceremony with young families up front, parents praying for their children. Then came a great message through, yes, a very young pastor. We headed out. The church was filling rapidly with a new crowd coming in for the next service. Damien went to get ready to play again.

We left joyful, energized, and thankful. And I didn't feel weird or out of place here. In fact, I felt quite at home. After all, it was in this kind of church, with this kind of young people, where I met Jesus forty years ago--when I was young.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Letter to a Father

Some of you may be wondering what happened in the saga of the lost-now-found father. I decided that I'd done my part by contributing pictures to be sent along with the boys' information. But I never received any word from my father directly. I heard there were some bitter feelings between my mother and him and those attitudes somehow filtered down to include me. So be it, I thought. I was a little child and did nothing to cause any problem between my parents.

Yesterday in church the opening scripture was: "God through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation...therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We impore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." II Corinthians 5:18-20.

Reconciliation--us to God, us to others, me to my father. God is always about reconciliation. These words stuck with me all day. I knew I had to contact my father. I am not good with phone calls (and he has a problem with his voice), so I decided a letter was better.

What do you say to a stranger of a father? I acknowledged to him that all this might be an unwanted intrusion in his life. I said that what is in the past is over; there is no blaming. I told him I'm glad I found him but that I had no expectations of anything more. I wrote about my wonderful children and husband. I told him about my great God.

What do you say to a father after 54 years of silence? Just the important stuff. I am now at peace about all this.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

One Last Bear

My baby turned twelve. How quickly the years have passed! Finding a gift for her was more challenging this time. She's not a greedy child and had few things on her wish list. She doesn't long for dolls or Polly Pockets or Littlest Pet Shop toys anymore. What do you give a girl who is on the outskirts of childhood getting ready to fly away? And what would we do on her special day? It's her choice. She decides on going to the mall. Really? She doesn't even like shopping. Maybe it is to please her sister.

We have a carefree time with no urgent schedule to keep. We walk and roam. The girls brought old gift cards with them, never used. (We don't get to the mall much.) They visit Claire's and spend a long time looking at all the trinkets, finally finding earring for themselves and gifts for Lana and Mattie who will be coming for the family party the next day.

Liana has a long forgotten Build-A-Bear Workshop gift card in her purse. It's been many years since she and her friends, such little girls, had a birthday party here. Liana decides to make another bear. She wants Arielle to make one too and even offers to pay for her sister's. (Arielle says no.) Liana chooses a white fluffy bear and goes along with the clerk's instructions to kiss the heart that will go inside the bear and then she jumps up and down to make a wish. Her smile, her joy--just like before. The magic still lives. She names her bear Arabella.

At home we have Liana's special dinner--Chinese Longevity Soup and chocolate chip ice cream. We play her new game of Five Crowns that lasts way past bedtime. I kiss my twelve-year-old daughter good-night, her new bear sitting beside her pillow dressed in princess clothes. Liana hasn't flown away yet, and I'm very happy about that.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Year We Skipped Winter

The girls and I were challenged to find three God-gifts today--morning, afternoon, and evening. Here are mine.

#248 Springtime in February with a brilliant blue sky

#249 Walking a little dog named Belle with a warm wind in my face

#250 Apricot roses floating in my grandmother's blue glass bowl

"I would maintain that thanks is the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." G.K. Chesterton

Sharing the Good Stuff

I gave Fred a Fernando Ortega CD for his birthday that has a beautiful piano version of this song. For some reason it was in my head this morning so I tried to find it on youtube. Instead I found Michael Card's music, which is also lovely. My friend Joan told me she brought this CD with her to the hospital when she went for chemo.