The truth as I know it:

We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life. But those who make their journey home across time & miles, growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them, are carried on the wings of destiny and placed among us by God's very own hands. ~~~ Kristi Larson

Monday, March 28, 2011

"The secret to finding joy...

is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is."  I love this quote from the book by Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.

And this, in relation to a story that she is telling from the Bible.  Actually, in adulthood, it's probably become my favorite story in the Bible.  It's the story of Jacob.  My mom and I have talked many times about this story over the past ten or so years.  You see, I was raised in the Southern Baptist way of "never questioning God."  But I don't know, truly, if that is even in the Bible?  Does anyone know?  Grace?  Aunt Suzie?  Mama?  Angel?  Can you tell me the Scripture where the Bible tells us not to question?  Because in the story, Jacob actually wrestles with God.  Some translations say it was an angel, but others say it was God himself.  Either way, Jacob grabs hold of God and won't let go.  At one point, God touches Jacob in the hip socket, breaks the sinew (the strongest part of him) and tells Jacob to let him go, but still Jacob refuses. Jacob is hurt, badly, and physically exhausted, painful, dirty.  Still, he REFUSES to let go of this man.  He does not know at the time that the man is God.  It's dark, Jacob had laid down to rest before a day he dreaded (he was going to see Esau for the first time since he stole his birth-right.)  And he finds himself mysteriously in a physical fight with an unknown man, a man who breaks his hip and demands Jacob let him go.  But Jacob refuses!  Imagine it, really!?!?!  And he tells the man that he will not let go until the man gives Jacob his blessing.  As the first rays of light begin to break through, Jacob realizes that he has actually been wrestling with God.  He has wrestled with God all night, will walk with a limp for the rest of his life because of his tenacity, but he has received God's blessing... and a new name... and he meets his brother the next day and is able to see the face of God in his brother, even though the day before he was all full of dread for the meeting.

I love this story.  Every time I hear it, I am renewed and relieved by it.  I think I can most identify with Jacob, of all the people in the Bible.  See, Jacob took things that he didn't deserve.  Ran from his problems, and in the end, God blessed him and gave him a new name, all because of his unwillingness to let go before he saw God.  I have wrestled a few things down with God in my adult life.  True, God has been very kind to me, He could have snatched them from my hand, but instead, He gently gave, and generously so.  But there were times, like 11 years ago when I had no children, and I literally clawed that blessing from the hand of God.  There have been periods of time where I was holding on tightly to God, refusing to let go without the blessing I knew He wanted to give to me.  This past year, in particular, has been a very different kind of year in our family.  The emotions I have felt this year, with our move, all the questions, all the transitions, all the ups and downs of leaving home for a "foreign" land, have all taken their toll on me.  I haven't blogged much since getting here because my emotions have been so raw and so tender that I couldn't seem to put it down on paper.  There is so much tied into every decision, every day the emotions swing so wide that it's impossible for me to keep track minute to minute, much less share them with anyone else.

I have said that God gave us bite-sized morsels, hand fed this assignment to us in digestible increments.  But there is a toll in temporary living too.  The temporary mentality starts to wear on you after a while.  It's a lonely feeling.  Isolated!  But still, I have been able to find real joy in the journey here.  I have embraced the "time out" that God has put us in.  The sidelines don't look like punishment anymore as much as a much needed time for our heart rates to return to normal after the fast pace we kept in TN.  I know that when we return home, we will go back changed.  There will be pieces of this place that we take with us forever.  There will be days (probably mostly cold winter days) when we wish we were sitting on our lanai in tropical paradise, listening to the wind-chimes in the trade-winds.  There will be days when we hear a Jack Johnson song or Bruno Mars and we are taken back to 2011 and we'll wish for the things we take for granted here.... 80 degrees and sunshine.... palm trees sway... ocean waves crashing... beaches in every direction... and nothing but flip-flops for years on end.

We still have no decision on going or staying.  We are still debating, every day a new emotion, a difficult turn to make.  There is the call of all that is familiar, comfortable, loyal, faithful, and the feeling of needing to "get on with real life."  And then there's the selfish side of wanting to keep my children and my husband to myself just a little longer.  Not wanting to give up the tropical breezes, my prayer spot where the waves crash over giant black rocks and only surfers and me know about the secret spot.  Wanting to remember the days of no real schedules to keep and no long to-do lists.  It's all merit, all virtue, all redemptive, but the uncertainty of it, that's the part where I have to hold on to God and refuse... REFUSE to let Him go until He gives me the blessing, one way or the other.

Genesis 32:38 "The man said, "But no longer.  Your name is no longer Jacob.  From now on it's Israel (God-Wrestler); you've wrestled with God and you've come through."  

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tsunami Lessons

If anyone is really reading this, thank you!  I don't know if my words matter any less because I neglect them and because I have left them untended for so long and so sporadically that hardly anyone reads, but I think, somehow, that comments (verification that there are readers of the words) is somehow validation of the words themselves.

Anyway, on to the lessons in this weeks Tsunami.  Let me set the scene.  Brian is out of town for a week.  I am on day 5 of 7 days without our leader at the helm.  It's tiring for me, the "leading" of the house.  It doesn't feel natural to me.  It's not my role.  Probably some of you think this sounds weak or old-fashioned, but for me, I realize that I have talents, God has given me certain gifts (which arguably, could also be called curses, but that's another post), but decision making is certainly NOT one of those gifts.  So, when Brian is gone, I'm thrust into this unnatural role for me, of being in control and having to make all the decisions.  And I don't enjoy it.  So, enter last week, day 5 of 7, and my parents arrive in Hawaii for their first visit since the move.

We see them at 8:30 PM.  I haven't laid eyes on my Mama since early September of last year and I've never gone that long without seeing my Mama.  At 9:00, I get a call from a friend saying that there has been an earthquake in Japan, a tsunami, and that we are under a warning.  At 9:59, the first sirens go off.  And the "watch" escalates to a "warning" and we are in the "inundation zone" and therefore under mandatory evacuation orders.  10:30 PM - Out to the street to check the pulse of the neighbors.  There are a few people out.  Some are leaving, animals and water in tow.  Others are riding it out until the police come to force them out.  What should I do?  I have 8 people here (my four, me, Amy, and my parents.)  I don't know where to go if I do leave.  I can tell you the EXACT moment of a tornado warning that you should actually take cover (and it's usually about 10 minutes AFTER Lisa Van Patton tells you too. :)  I can tell you that you should not rush out for bread and milk when the Snowbird report sounds like Snow-Armageddon is just one more turn of the moon.  But tsunami warnings?  I'm lost.  And I'm alone to make the decision, what to do, where to go.  And I don't know very many people.

11:30 PM - I finally decide that we really should just go to be on the safe side.  But where?  It's the middle of the night.  In TN, there are at least 273 people I could call in the middle of the night and predict within 99.9% accuracy whether they would be awake and also whether they would be annoyed by my lack of planning.  But here, I only know the phone numbers of three or four people and I have NO idea what any of them would think of me showing up on their doorsteps at midnight with 8 people in tow.

11:48 PM - I finally decide, "Screw it!" I'm driving up the hill to Meg's best friend's house.  IF the lights are on, I'll knock.  If they aren't, then I'll pack up my brood and sleep the night in the school parking lot (which is what my next door neighbor was doing.)  ... the lights ARE on... I DO knock... Piula answers the door (that is her father's name) and it's obvious that he had been stretched out on the couch watching the coverage.  "Can we come here and stay with you?  I don't know where to go!" I tell him.  "Sure, come in," he says.  And his wife comes out and goes into action the way any good woman does when a friend is in crisis.  She clears floor space, moves her daughter from her bed, makes pallets, and starts slicing apples, cheese and opening crackers.  At midnight.

My parents take the guest room and presumably fall right to sleep.  My kids are already asleep and we just arrange them on the floors and couches and then collapse in front of the TV.

12:45 - a knock at the door.  Piula's uncle and three cousins are at the door.  "Is there room at the inn?"  So, we all shift around, I move kids from couches to bedroom floors, they gather more pillows and blankets, and Uncle settles into the recliner to watch with us.  Our hosts go to bed (after all, we're up on the hill now, well out of the danger zone.)  Amy falls asleep, but Uncle and I are both determined to be awake when this thing hits.  It was predicted to hit at 2:59 AM.

I am so glad that I was here for it.  So thankful that the wave did not cost lives.  It was really a different experience to watch the live coverage of Diamond Head beach (somewhere we frequent) as the water left the beach and exposed the reef.  And then... a small wave, splash, and nothing.  We all breathed a sigh of relief and went to bed.

So, that was the actual timeline of the night.  But what I learned was that love is an amazing thing.  At about 2:00 AM, I started to receive the phone calls from home.  As people were starting to wake up to the news, they started calling me.  One friend called to "wake me up" because he knows I tend to sleep through the tornado warnings in TN, but he didn't know if I had heard since this was middle of the night for us.  When I answered, he could hear the sirens wailing, and he had his answer.  My mother-in-law.  My dad!  All calling to make sure we were safe.

But I would expect that after living in the same home for 12 years, same town for 20, and the same state for 41 years, I would have some people who loved and concerned for me.  What was startling is that I was able to think of even one person I could turn to in the middle of the night in a place I've lived for 6 months.  In TN, it's called Southern Hospitality.  In Hawaii, it's called Aloha.  And it's the same spirit.

My heart breaks for the people of Japan.  My heart aches for what they are experiencing because we had warning, we made preparations, we lamented what to take and what to leave behind, but they had no warning.  And the devastation continues for them with no end in sight.  It seems so real to me after having experienced the threat.  Looking at my house, realizing what wouldn't survive the water, if it came.  It's sobering!  I've never been in a natural disaster that required an evacuation.

But on a lighter note, most of you won't be surprised to know that I actually, briefly, considered just putting my kids to be in their life-jackets and getting into my own comfy bed!  :)  I decided that was a bad idea, obviously, but the fact that I even considered it (or came up with it) sort of makes me chuckle at myself.  Which brings me back to the original point... it's a really GREAT thing that I'm not the one making the decisions most of the time.  ha!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Whew! Almost too much to say...

if that's even possible.

First of all, something funny.  Liam had his Lion's club eye exam at school last week.  As a reward for being good through the exam, they gave him a pair of "slippas" (flip flops.)  Only in Hawaii! :)

We have a foster dog right now... well actually TEN foster dogs.  She has nine puppies that are only three days old right now.  I hope we can keep them to see them adopted.  What an experience for the kids.

Brian leaves for "the mainland" tomorrow.  I'm so sad.  Really, it's hard to be so far from family, but it's really really hard to know that the leader of our home is unreachable for 14 hours and then, in the event of an emergency, he couldn't be here in less than 24 hours (at which point, the emergency would already be over anyway.)  I don't like it and my stomach is in knots just dreading it.

My parents arrive on Friday!  I can't wait to see them.  I've never been six months without seeing my Mama!  (Brian will be back on Saturday, so I'll have them to myself for a day.)

My parents leave the following Friday.  But other TN friends arrive the Thursday before they leave.  My closest friend just left on Tuesday.  It's an insane month, to be sure!

Monsoon like rains here for the past few days.  The rainstorms here are one thing I'm going to miss when we move back.  I really love the massive storms here (because there is no lightening to speak of and no threat of tornado.)

Did I mention the puppies?  OH SO SWEET!

My sweet friend, Shawn, who runs Snooty Giggles Dog Rescue, is featured in Nashville Lifestyles Magazine this month as one of the 100 best things about Nashville.  How cool is that?  She deserves it too.  She's the real deal.  If you're ever looking for a new family friend, look up Snooty Giggles on Petfinder.  She's truly one of a kind in the rescue field.  (Did I mention that I have 9 puppies at my house right now?  Heaven!)

DO NOT take your kids to see Rango unless you like to have them hear animals tell other animals to "Go to hell!"  "I'll send you to hell."  And "Just sign the damned thing!"  I mean, if you're down with your kids hearing animals cuss where profanity is not necessary to make the point, then by all means, be my guest.  But I will not be seeing another Nickelodean movie without first checking the reviews from other sensible parents.  Very disappointing!  Otherwise, it was an okay movie, but I didn't like the religious symbolism they used.   But my kids wouldn't have picked up on that part, so I could have excused that part if it hadn't been for the blatantly trying to expose children and desensitize them to profanity.  Ugh!

Please pray for Charlie.  Hope's brother!  This family does NOT need another battle on their hands.

Pray for Brian and me as we try to decide where the Lord is leading us from here.  Are we to commit to another year in Hawaii or come home at the end of the school year.  Our hearts and minds are torn, just trying to hear God's will for our family.

My dear friend and neighbor, Angel, has a recurring brain tumor and is currently undergoing radiation.  She has two young children and is a precious woman.  Please lift her up if you would!

And lastly I have two friends who are facing some obstacles in their marriages.  I think all of us married folks could really use a strong dose of God and Grace.  Would you remember to pray with me for all of our marriages?

Here's a video of a song I just discovered.... hope you enjoy it as much as I am.