Sunday, October 21, 2012


For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)
The monitor wouldn’t turn on.  Lilly went to bed with a fever, and I wanted to check on her before I went to sleep.  In fact, I woke up many times last night feeling the need to check on her.  She’s the type of kid that wakes up when I go into her room in the middle of the night, so the video monitor that allows me to spy without actually entering has always been my saving grace.
Thinking that maybe it just needed to charge, I plugged the monitor in and went to sleep.  At 1:00 am I woke up and could not get it to turn on.  Past experiences told me not to wake the sleeping bear in the bed beside me and ask for technological help.  As anxiety crept in, God put this verse on my lips: We walk by faith, not by sight. 
It was like He was saying, I will take care of her.  Trust Me. 
In the back of my mind, there were restless thoughts looming.  I was thinking about the blood test results we were still waiting on.  Lilly's white blood cell count showed up slightly lower than normal at her two year check-up this summer.  The results were consistent with the test she had at nine months old.  The doctor suggested we check her this month, and perhaps consult a specialist if there is no change.  Though she assured me not to worry, I was starting to wonder if those results had anything to do with the fever she’d had the past two days.   
I so badly wanted to see her on that tiny monitor screen.  If I could see her and know that she was alright, I felt in control.  The Momma in me was convinced I could protect her from illness.  But I can’t.  Only God can.  And in my heart, I know that God wants me to have faith in the unseen.  He wants me to walk in faith that my baby girl is in His hands, even when I can’t see what lies ahead.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)


We were referred to a hematologist this week after Lilly's blood work remained consistent with her other tests.  I was told on Tuesday afternoon that it could take a while to get in to see the specialist.  We asked God that this would not be the case, and that we could get in quickly to see a doctor.

On Wednesday morning, the nurse for the hematologist called and said they could get us in to see the doctor in Friday!  Shocked, I said, "You mean, like, in two days?"

God is good!

For the past two days, we've been praying that God would give us an answer (as rare as that is when you go to see a specialist), and that we would not have to make any return appointments to have this checked again.  This morning we found out that Lilly is healthy, and the doctor is not concerned with the numbers since there has been no other indication of anything abnormal.  He said not to even worry with checking it again, and did not even draw her blood this morning!

God is good!

My mom has been waiting on results through all this as well.  She had a repeat mammogram a few weeks ago and was called back for a biopsy.  We found out Wednesday afternoon that there is no cancer!  Praise Jesus! 

God is good!

Thank you for each one of your prayers.... they mean so much to us!

I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. Psalm 13:6 (NIV)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Acorns, Oak Trees, and a Hill

For the Lord has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3b (NLT)

In Texas, we never really experience Fall.  Where I live we have two seasons: hot, sticky weather and cooler, sticky weather.  It doesn’t snow here, and the beautiful vibrant colors of the leaves changing exist only in pictures.  Today, though, I experienced Fall.  Not in the way you’re thinking.  No, I did not breathe in the fresh crisp air of falling temperatures.  Nor did I take in a spectacular scene of orange, red, and brown.  What I experienced was more… unexpected.
The kids and I have gotten back into walking a few times a week.  We took a very long break when I decided that pushing two screaming toddlers through our neighborhood was not worth it any longer.  They always seemed to wait until we were at least a mile and half from home, then took turns wailing while I rushed to return us all in one piece. 
As they have gotten older, I have gotten wiser.  I have learned the beauty of negotiation.  They love greeting the horses, cows, and two dogs that live along our walking path, so they enjoy our morning walks quite a bit now.  I have also discovered the art of bribery.  If they behave on the walk (which includes no screaming or whining and involves keeping their hands and feet on their side of the double stroller), then I let them hop out and run around at the “tree park,” which is really just a hill with a bunch of trees planted around it.  To them, though, it is the best place ever to play chase and to collect pine cones, acorns, and leaves.

That’s exactly what Jake and Lilly were doing when Fall thumped me on the shoulder.  As I sat on a concrete bench watching my kids play, acorns seemed to be falling like raindrops from the oak trees.  The kids took off with their buckets (which I have found is much safer than Lilly stuffing her pockets full of nature finds which inevitably end up in the washing machine).  Running at full speed, they were thrilled with all of the acorns on the ground!  Lilly immediately got to work filling up her bucket.  (Jake just likes to carry his around!)


Isaiah 61:3 was the verse I read earlier this morning: “For the Lord has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.”  It was on my mind as I watched my kids run like crazy underneath this perfect circle of oaks at the base of the hill.  It reminded me of a family, my family, standing in a circle, holding hands, relying on each others’ strength. 
The past two weeks have brought with them fierce winds for my circle of loved ones.  The blow of unexpected tragedy, uncertainty and confusion rooted in things out of our control, and the reminder that life is but a breath.  
After putting Jake and Lilly down for a nap this afternoon, I loaded the pictures from the park that I had snapped on my phone.  As I was going through each one, I smiled at my two little messes and thought some more about the beautiful picture of family that God had laid on my heart.  When I reached the end of the photos from the park, I was taken back to the very first picture stored on my phone.  I’m not even sure how this photograph made its way there.  It was just an ordinary photo of an ordinary man in an ordinary truck with paint peeling off the roof. 

That ordinary man in the photo was my grandpa, my Pop.  And God used that ordinary man in some mighty ways.  No, he was not famous.  And my Grandma will tell you that he was far from perfect.  He lived a very ordinary life.  This picture was taken by his daughter and is so dear to her because as she says, “It’s just so him.” 
I love that technology attaches the exact date that this image was captured.  It turns out that this was the very last picture taken of Pop before he went home to be with Jesus, just two months later.  Here are some other ordinary facts about this ordinary day in the life of an ordinary man:   
He was watching my Grandma do a little spring cleaning in the backyard, as my aunt, without him knowing it, snapped this candid shot.  When my Grandma had a load of twigs and leaves to haul to the dump, he’d help her load it in his truck, then he’d drive her down the road to drop it off.  He was too weak to help, because he had just finished chemo.  He had received encouraging news that week from his doctor, and his prognosis was looking good.  That same week I had called him to tell him that I wanted my son to have his name.  (I remember that he cried when I told him.) 
Two days before this picture was taken, he celebrated his eightieth birthday. For his special day, our family surprised him with a photo book full of pictures of his life and letters from his loved ones.  This is what his family said to him and what their words say about the kind of life he lived:
My Grandma, his wife and best friend said, “I knew at 16 that you would be the love of my life and you have been.  Thank you for all your love for the Lord, for your faithfulness to me, for all your encouragement, your provision for our family and on and on.” 
He was a man who had his priorities in line.  I love the fact that my Grandma thanked him for putting God before her.
My brother, Jay, recalls a time when he and a friend spent a week with my grandparents.  He said, “Your warm smile and kind heart made [my friend] feel as if he was one of your grandsons as well.”
My husband, Cody, traveled with me to visit them in our first year of marriage.  He shared something similar.  He wrote, “Everyone treated me just like I was family, and it felt like home.”
My mom wrote about all the times he drove her and my dad around on their Friday night dates.  (They were high school sweethearts, and my grandpa had much to do with my mom’s faith.)  She said, “You have become more like a father to me than a father-in-law, because you have made me feel like your daughter.”
My sister-in-law, Brichelle, recalled the special nickname that Pop gave to her: “Sea Shell.”
He was a man who made everyone feel loved and important. 
My brother, David, was reminded of Pop every time he walks into his shed. He told him, “The smell takes me back to the days when I used to play on your tractors.”
My dad wrote about his fishing trips with his dad.  He said, “The fishing was incredible, but more unforgettable was the time you spent listening to my dreams and my failures.  You never judged, but always encouraged me.”  He went on to talk about his dad’s strength and his humility.
Pop was a man who shared life with those he loved, whether in his shop with a tool in hand or on a rock holding a fishing pole.  He wasn’t afraid to get dirty, and he knew that life could be messy. 
My aunt talked about her dad’s faith.  She wrote that “as a father, one of the most important things that you could do for your children is to lay a strong foundation of faith for them.”  She went on to say that she never gave it much thought as a kid, but as an adult she recognizes that “without that foundation instilled in us we would never be able to get through some of the trials that come our way.”
My dad, at age 55, said this of his father: “You are my hero.”

As I slowly started piecing together all that was held in this one ordinary, forgotten photo, tears started streaming down my face.  Oh!  Yes! The acorn! I see it now, God, I said.

One little acorn seems so insignificant, so very ordinary.  But stepping back to take in the circle of giant oak trees that over time had grown tall and strong and gracious was extraordinarily breathtaking.   I was reminded that God is in control and His timing is perfect.  I have heard it said that God created time for us, but He exists outside of time.  That must be why He can look at a tiny acorn and see what it will become, hundreds of years down the road.  To me, the thought of something so small growing into something so big and beautiful is beyond mysterious.  But not to God.  He always looks at what is to come, rather than our present state.
 As I sat down to type these words, unsure of how it would all spill out onto the page, He brought me to the book of Luke.  In Chapter 8, Jesus teaches a parable about soil.  He describes a farmer scattering seed.  Some seed falls to the ground, but birds pick it up and carry it off.  Other seed falls on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed grows, but then dies due to lack of moisture.  Other seed falls among thorns, which grow up with it and choke the plant.  Still other seed falls on fertile soil.  And Jesus explains that soil in this way: “The good soil represents honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s message, cling to it, and steadily produce a huge harvest.” (Luke 8:15 NLT)
My Pop, in his marriage, in his parenting, in his work, and throughout his very ordinary life clung to God’s word. Like an acorn in fertile soil, my grandfather grew his roots deep, and when he encountered the toughest battle of his life, he fought graciously.  He knew where his roots were planted, and he relied on the strength of the Lord.
Sitting was something else my Pop did well.  He loved to sit on his front porch and wave at all the neighbors as they walked by.  I think that man was on a first name basis with everyone in the entire town!  And kids loved him!  He always had candy in his pocket to share!
There is a story about two sisters in Luke Chapter 10.  One is busy, distracted, and stressed with the busyness of life.  The other sister makes herself comfortable sitting at Jesus’ feet.  The first sister, frustrated by this, asks Jesus, “Doesn’t it seem unfair that my sister just sits here while I do all the work?” And then, to her surprise, Jesus responds with, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about.  Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
The reason Pop was able to make total strangers feel like family is because he always had time for people.  And he always had time for people because he learned how to make time for Jesus.  He sat at the feet of Jesus for years and years and years.  My favorite part of this story is when Jesus says that this one thing, this one essential thing, will never be taken away.   When I look around at the storms we are all weathering, some of us bending almost to the point of breaking, it is good to remember our roots.  
Just like that circle of oak trees in the park down the road from my house, 
Jesus is calling us to sit...
at His feet, 
at the base of the hill, 
at the foot of the cross, 
with our eyes fixed on Him.  
I'm pretty sure that is exactly what Pop is doing this very day. 
I wonder what Pop was thinking that day in his truck.  I wonder if he knew his battle was almost over.  I wonder if he thought about all he was about to leave behind and everything he was about to inherit.  I wonder if he was talking to the Lord, asking Him to look after Grandma when he was gone.  I wonder if he was ever really able to fully grasp the lasting impact of his faith, which began as a tiny seed at the young age of 21.
I have heard that the process an acorn must endure to transform into a tree is very risky and only a handful of acorns actually complete this transformation.  Much like our faith in Christ, choosing to depend on Him is absolutely risky.  It doesn’t come without cost.  In fact, it costs everything.  God created us to live "all in."  

In her book, Anything, Jennie Allen describes something that clearly my Pop understood.  She says, "Abandonment only makes sense if there is a God worthy of abandoning everything for.  The greatest gift in surrender is that in letting go of everything you think will fix you and make you better, you find a person... not a pat answer or a verse or a cause.... you see a person."[1]
That person is Jesus.  
Pop did not just know of Jesus; Pop knew Jesus. This relationship changed the way he lived.  He talked to him, listened to him, spent time with him, learned from him, walked with him.  I'm sure he asked his share of questions and confessed his share of fears.  His life affected so many, but we miss the entire story if we walk away from it just talking about a man who lived a great life, who left a legacy for the generations to follow.  I know Pop.  He wouldn't want us to be down here talking about him.  He would much rather us spend our time talking about Jesus, the person in whose footsteps he followed.  After all, it was Him who planted that tiny seed all those years ago that grew into something so strong and beautiful.

For I will plant them there with my own hands in order to bring myself glory. Isaiah 60:21b (NLT)

[1] Jennie Allen, Anything: the prayer that unlocked my God and my soul (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 168.