Saturday, August 31, 2013

the bigger win

friday night's game began with a yellow card.

a yellow card violation over a player's tape color. it seemed ridiculous. it seemed a terrible way to start a soccer game. and, it seemed to be that kind of evening. within 15 minutes of the first whistle, 3 goals were scored against our team.

it wasn't looking like a promising night for the southwest christian stars. and i suppose by the final whistle's blow, most people in attendance would tell you that it wasn't. after eighty minutes of play, the final score was 6 to 0.

it was a david and goliath match up. small southwest christian high school was competing against, chaska, the area's big public high school. clearly, however, our boys had forgotten their slingshots back at home.

the stars never scored a goal.

the loss was definitive.

photo credits: abby dumoulin
fans and parents were wrangling in their families and packing up their belongings ready to put this frustrating athletic competition behind them, when out on the field the two teams came together. it was a muddled circle of maroon and white. wiped out boys. varsity athletes. sweat covered teens, tired and eager to head home.

from up in the bleachers i watched as the circle of players and coaches dropped to their knees. the group grew quiet and heads bowed low. our varsity coach, travis, began to pray. from my place in the stands, there was no way i could hear what he was saying.

but i didn't need to.

clearly, the two teams were praying together.

"for where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” ~ matthew 18:20

take a close look at the picture.

lean in with them for a minute...

do you see the couple of boys in white (chaska players, left side) who don't have their heads bowed? it's terrible iphone picture, but can't you almost see their confusion? can't you see them looking around the circle wondering what was going on? now, maybe i'm reading a little into it ... BUT, i can't help but think that this moment could be a first for a few of them. maybe. perhaps. possibly. i realize that lots of christian kids attend public schools, but so do kids who very likely have never been part of a prayer circle on an athletic field or anywhere for that matter.

can't you also see the boys from opposing teams with their arms slung around each other's shoulders? there are no blog words necessary for that glimpse -- color of uniform, color of skin, color of heart ... none of it matters when prayer happens.

at 6 to 0, the loss might have looked definitive, but leaving the stadium friday night with this final image in my mind, i couldn't help but think of victory. the scoreboard becomes powerless when people pray together. there are no losers.

victory is high and lifted up when knees and heads bow low.

because Jesus is lifted up ... and in Him there is always victory.

earlier in the week, the same thing had taken place at the soccer team's first game. i was hustling indoors to watch emily's volleyball match, so i didn't see it, but through a shared email from the opposing team's coach, i heard about it. apparently travis also asked that team to pray with our players.

the next day the coach sent this email:

Hello coach Armstrong, my name is Eric. My team (Rockford) and I played against your team last night. Let me start off with congratulating you and your players on the win last night, you guys beat us in every aspect, yet it was one of the most fun games this season. You are doing something amazing with those guys and I know you will go far. Now the main reason I'm contacting you is because I want to thank you so much for inviting us to pray with all of you. For me, a strong Christian, that brought so much joy to me. Especially seeing how moved my team was after that. God is doing and will continue to do great things through you and your team, who are not just a bunch of soccer players, but truly the Lord's army. Lastly, just thank you for implementing the bigger picture beyond just another soccer game. God bless all of you individually, and as a team for the rest the season. Thanks coach Armstrong. 


i know the stars record for the week technically reads 1 and 1, but i have to tell you, even with that loss on friday night, it was a week of sure victory. these are big moments in the lives of high schoolers. they are even big moments in the lives of the parents of high schoolers.

perhaps i find this especially powerful because i was a varsity coach at a public high school. i can't even imagine the trouble i would have landed myself in had i asked another team to pray after a volleyball match. i was already constantly being "talked to" about how often i referenced my faith as an english teacher. my principal and vice-principal weren't quite sure what to do with a teacher who didn't hide her beliefs  very well. i have to wonder if these two public high school coaches will receive any flack for allowing their players to pray.

i know the power of praying with teens -- everyone wins. the southwest christian team wins ... the public school team wins ... the coaches win ... the parents watching from the bleachers win.

prayer impacts. prayer is powerful. prayer changes people.

prayer doesn't change the scoreboard, but prayer changes the bigger score.

later friday night, i was sitting out on the porch with emily while she told me about the school retreat the southwest christian kids had just come back from. she was especially enthused about the main speaker and his message. with great energy and charisma, this youth pastor challenged students to "be bold for Christ." he challenged them to not make excuses, but to "read, pray and obey." emily, like our soccer players, was completely wiped out friday night. she could barely keep her eyes open and i had to laugh as even her words slurred together. but she wanted to tell me all about it before we went to bed. she said, "mom, this was such a powerful retreat for the kids at southwest ... God was really moving... everyone broke into small groups to pray together and talk about how to hold each other accountable in our faith and in sharing our faith."

emily believes the retreat's message will change her christian school. we discussed a little bit about how if you can't be bold for Christ in the context of your christian school, how are you going to be bold outside of it?

like on the soccer field.

the boys from our soccer team were also all on that retreat thursday and friday. in fact, they had gotten back, just a couple of hours before their game. i know these boys were exhausted. i'm sure the retreat-sleep-deprivation didn't help their performance on the field friday, but i do know, regardless, many of these kids came back fired up and ready to be bold.

and how awesome to have a coach who is willing to boldly lead his team not just in an athletic competition, but in a life competition ... in an eternal life competition.

think of the impact not only on the kids who have never before prayed. but think of the impact even on the kids who pray all the time, but maybe don't know exactly how to live out their faith or how to be bold. think about what their coach showed them this week. it's huge.

and it is moments like these which do leave strong impressions and influence futures. it is moments like these that we hear about 10 or 20 years later when some guy gets up in church and says something like, "my faith journey began when this coach from another team randomly asked my team to pray ..."

friday night the scoreboard might have read 6 to 0 ... but this mom of a soccer player, is putting it down as a "W" in her book.
 "with all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, TO MAKE KNOWN WITH BOLDNESS the mystery of the gospel, for which i am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I MAY SPEAK BOLDLY, as i ought to speak." 
                                                                                         ~ ephesians 6:18-20 

Monday, August 26, 2013

i will wave when they look back


12th, 10th, 8th, 5th and kindergarten!
and there they go.

all five of them out the door and off to school and into the next new year -- the next new thing. the next season of their quick-as-a-wink childhoods.

summer things put away. bare feet covered in school shoes. bathing suits swapped out for new digs. goggles, towels, and pool bags left hanging -- the remnants of summer abandoned on hooks in our mud room.

a seasonal changing of the guard.

backpacks and book bags and lunch boxes now strewn across the kitchen ... staking claim for what is rightfully, once again, theirs.

no need for sun screen this morning.

emily asks me to braid her hair.

i can barely stand for the mixture of emotions tangling around my feet, threatening to topple me over as i crouch before them in the their cleaned-up state, snapping pictures and capturing a moment and trying my best to remain calm. the quick click of shutter matches the beat of my mama-heart. it's the rhythm of right now. the staccato sound of click.beat.click.beat. tapping out the message of this morning: one.moment.in.time. 

because this day will never happen again. today all five of them head off to school. same day. same morning. same hour. same direction.

somehow, we have been handed this precious gift of perfect coordination.

it's a first, and it will be a last. 

today, our little bella begins kindergarten. and today, our almost grown up emily begins her senior year of high school. the other three spaced across the in-between-years, like glue holding together these two wildly far apart places. 

and it's all this mother can do to keep from dropping to her knees and clinging to the feet of these children, weeping, "stop! don't move. don't change. don't leave. don't grow up!"

except that that would be so entirely weird i'm sure all five of them, including the cute kindergartner, would race right out of the house forgetting their lunches and backpacks and brand new-first-day-of-school-shoes.  

so, i will calmly take a few pictures.

i will capture this sweet moment as they pause in one place ... under one roof ... for one purpose ... at one time.

i will remind them to grab their random first day of school things from the counter. i will hurry them along and try not to fuss too much. i will smile and put mama kisses on their cheeks ... even on the cheek of the boy who is now shaving. i will smile hard and hug tightly and let go appropriately.

i will wave when they look back

i will not think about the fact that, next year, on this day, emily will already be moved into her college dorm. next year, she will not ask me to braid her hair. woman pauses in her typing. should she delete that last sentence? delete such a thought? why go there? right?

but i will be brave:  leave the sentence. let the children go. capture the moment. embrace the change.

wipe the tears.

wash the breakfast dishes.

rejoice in the day.

and give thanks for it all.







kindergarten with mrs. paine!
5th grade with mrs. houston!


after bella's half day, we had lunch at the minnesota arboretum with our buddies,
 "little emme" and miss di.  (thanks for great pictures diana)!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

i do


one phrase. two words. three letters. it doesn't get any simpler than that, does it?

i do.

23 years ago, rick and i, on a hot august evening, said that simple phrase to each other in front of our families and our friends and our future.

i do.

so short. so sweet. so simple.

except that sometimes it isn't.

sometimes in marriage it feels long and unpleasant and a little bit complicated.
sometimes we even feel more like, i don't. 

i don't want to put your needs first.
i don't want to have that discussion (again).
i don't want to forgive and forget this thing.
i don't want to argue over money or the children or the dog.
i don't want to see your toothpaste blobs in the sink.

i mean maybe y'all have perfect marriages. and maybe i'm going way out on a lonely limb here. maybe, right now, you're reading this and shaking your head and thinking "oh my, poor, poor girl ..."

maybe.

or maybe, you're just like me, you love your spouse dearly and are completely committed to 'till death do us part.' but you still sometimes have those "i don't" kind of days.

while i'm out on my limb, i'm just going to go ahead and say, i think most people in most marriages do have moments when they aren't feeling terrifically excited about the great "i do." 

because, guess what? --- marriage is hard. it takes work. even if we find our perfect soul mate and the person who "completes me..." marriage is a whole lot more than two tiny words uttered at the front of a pretty church or chapel.

even if we are over-the-moon-in-love with our honey-pie-sweet-thing, we wake up some days with challenges and disagreements and different ideas.

because there is no perfect marriage.

because there is no perfect person.

and mostly, because the only person who can ever "complete me" is Christ. if we're looking to our husbands or our wives to round us out and fill us up, we are going to be disappointed. it just doesn't work that way. i mean, sure it might work sometimes. because sometimes we can have those glorious moments of isn't life grand and aren't you the best thing since sliced bread!

but only Christ is always, continually, faithfully, perfectly, unerringly, unfathomably,
                                                                     ... beautifully enough!

only life in Christ can complete us.

only life in Christ is complete.

"so you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. ~ colossians 2:10

maybe it has something to do with 23 years of marriage and being in the middle of my 40s, but i have never before been so surrounded by such a great number of crumbling marriages. i cannot tell you in the last couple of years the amount of couples who once walked happily down the aisle, but are now walking miserably away from each other after 3 years, 11 years, 19 years, 26 years of marriage ...

why?

why are we at such a crisis level in our marriages today? why are those in the church almost as likely to divorce as those out of the church? what is going on here?

i am not at all an expert or professional on this matter. i don't, for one minute, pretend to be qualified to address such a serious and heartbreaking issue. but i do have some experience and a few thoughts:

1.  we live in a culture which doesn't value vows or hold us accountable to anything any longer.

pledges and promises, these days, are only important if we deem them important. that's the way the world works today. vows have taken on an emotional make up and therefore, have become entirely emotional agreements, based on feelings and circumstances -- which, of course, can (and will) change.
Groom: I,____, take thee,_____, to be my lawful wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.
Bride: I,_____, take thee,_____, to be my lawful wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.
that's some rather holy stuff right there, my friends. and it's also pretty darn clear. "till death do us part," doesn't give much wiggle room or leave much open for interpretation.

when the money is short
when the days are long
when the waist line is thick
when the hair is thin
when the problems come up
when the disappointments slam down
when the face is wrinkled
when the future is blurry ...

                                              that's when that little vow, "i do," kicks in.

if marriage was always full of roses and sunshine, we wouldn't need vows. i mean, no one needs a vow to finish their ice cream or to enjoy a sunny afternoon or to cuddle up with a cute puppy. right?

2.  we enter into marriage with expectations which are way out of wack.

i love books and movies. i adore a really good story. and i'll be honest, i love, love, love a good love story. (go ahead and roll your eyes). but, i have been convicted over the years in what i allow myself to read or watch. our world is so full of idealistic and unrealistic messages about love, marriage and romance. i believe it is one of satan's greatest tools today. we watch beautiful bachelorettes making-out with 12 different hunky guys and playing eneey-meeny-miney-mo and we call it family entertainment. we see perfect people, living lovely lives, with magazine layout homes, darling children, and passionate love and we wonder what's wrong with us. why isn't it quite so perfect in our own homes? why are we busy cleaning throw up off the couch or scraping burnt eggs from the pan? why did our husband leave his dirty socks on our pillow this morning? why is the man of our dreams teaching the boys (alright, and the girls) how to burp at the dinner table? why do our children bicker and whine and bring home bad grades? why is there more dog hair on the floor than on the dog?

i think this point really resonates with me because having slightly romantic notions and being a tad idealistic, i grew up just knowing it would all someday be perfect. when i was a teen girl i didn't plaster my locker or bedroom walls with pictures of teen heart throbs, instead i cut out pictures of pretty gardens and well-decorated homes. i kept them all in a box under my bed. i couldn't wait for perfect living to begin. i couldn't wait for the fairytale to begin.

twenty-three years and five children later, we certainly have some tales to tell, but i'm pretty sure most of them wouldn't exactly fall under the fairytale category.

3. we don't take seriously enough the devil's determination.

the evil one loves to mess with marriage. in fact, it is one of his favorite places to plan an attack.

i love what john macarthur says, "You don't even get out of Genesis before the enemy starts to tear at the fabric of society – marriage." the very first sin in the bible deals with a break down of communication between a couple. and adam and eve aren't the only ones struggling ... the bible is filled with examples of husbands and wives who face problems.

think about it: it makes perfect sense that the devil would mess mightily in this area. he gets a lot of bang for his buck. when he deals with marriages he doesn't just wreck the lives of two people, but through divorce, he often gets to devastate many lives all at once. and, what's more, he gets to pass on to future generations a struggle with this sin. you don't have to be half as cunning as the slippery serpent to realize why it is a good investment on his part to fiddle around with this holy union.

oh friend, please know, i have no desire to offend. that's never the goal of this blog. i am not writing today in a spirit of judgment. i have dear, dear friends and family members who are going through or have gone through divorce. some of my best friends are linked closely to this word. many of them didn't or aren't flippantly throwing away marriages because they are bored or looking for something better. many of them are limping away injured and wishing wildly that this wasn't their path. for many of them, divorce wasn't even their choice.

i would just encourage you to be careful. divorce isn't a time to stop loving people or to start casting grave judgment. often it is a time when people need most to be ministered to. yes, in malachi 2:16 God says, "I hate divorce ... so take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” God is clear: He hates divorce and we should "take heed." it's not that there is never a reason to divorce, but regardless, God hates what it does to His children. He hates the pain it causes. He hates the foothold it gives the devil. but it would be wise to remember, Jesus doesn't hate the person who divorces, He loves them as much as He loves the person with the perfect (looking) marriage.

Jesus, always had a heart for the hurting and the humbled. divorce often brings an (un)healthy serving of both.

i have never known an individual who has walked away from this kind of break up without some substantial wounds. can those wounds be healed? yes. can their life be resurrected? yes. does God hate divorce? yes. but, are we to sit in judgment? no.

when i was young, i used to find it odd that God used marriage terminology to describe His love and union with the church. but now, after two decades as a wife, i get it.  

a good marriage is a lot like the gospel message.

it's about surrendering completely. it's about dying to yourself. it's about making a decision - daily.  it's about putting another person ahead of yourself. it's about believing desperately in the "i do."

"husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." ~ ephesians 5:25

"for your Maker is your husband,  the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,  the God of the whole earth he is called." ~ isaiah 54:5


23 years ago, as a girl who hadn't even had her 21st birthday, i  stood at the front of my college chapel and said "i do." did this girl with the puffy bangs (and the even puffier sleeves) know exactly what she was doing? probably not.

did i know all that the future would hold? no.
did i doubt that my life would be just like those magazine pictures in the box under my bed? no.
did i ever guess at some of our struggles and issues and challenges? no.
did i know that when two became one, problems wouldn't divide, but might even, on occasion, multiply? no.
did i know that the beautiful love i had for my young husband would sometimes look a little bit ugly? no.
did i ever believe that i would at times, myself, be unlovable? no.
did i ever realize the sacrifice it takes each day to die to my own desires? no.

but, can i see how much more rick and i love each other today because of the hard stuff? YES!

a good marriage is one of God's greatest earthly gifts. with 23 years under our belt, you can be sure, we have had our share of challenges. but God has been unbelievably good in protecting our marriage and filling it, even in those hard times, with great blessing and beauty.

and today we celebrate!

we celebrate not only our "i do" ... but we celebrate what God has done. what God continues to do!

"though one may be overpowered, and two can defend themselves.
a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  ~ ecclesiastes 4:12


on a lighter note ... 
i found this poll online, thought you'd enjoy these thoughts on marriage:

HOW CAN A STRANGER TELL IF TWO PEOPLE ARE MARRIED?
 1. You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids.   -  Derrick, age 8

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR MOM AND DAD
HAVE IN COMMON?
1. Both don't want any more kids.  - Lori, age 8

IS IT BETTER TO BE SINGLE OR MARRIED?
1. I don't know which is better, but I'll tell you one thing; I'm never going to have sex with my wife. I don't want to be all grossed out.  - Theodore, age 8
2. It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them.  -  Anita, age 9 (bless you child)

HOW WOULD THE WORLD BE DIFFERENT
IF PEOPLE DIDN'T GET MARRIED?
1. There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there.  -  Kelvin, age 8

and my personal favorite:

HOW WOULD YOU MAKE A MARRIAGE WORK?
1. Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck.  - Ricky, age 10

Thursday, August 22, 2013

THAT woman

i don't want to be THAT woman.

you know the one: the lady who is always too busy to talk. the gal who is in a rush and running out the door. the neighbor who is known only by the tail lights of her departing SUV. the friend always on her way some where ... to some place ... to some thing ... with some one.

i don't want to be known as the woman who breezes in and breezes out all the time.

but that's what i feel like lately -- a lot.

a woman with her hair on fire. that's me.

last week i attended a coffee in a neighbor's home where i am pretty sure, in under ten minutes, i let every other woman present know i had somewhere else i had to be. we were supposed to run from the meet and greet coffee to a meet and greet kindergarten class play date for bella.

both were scheduled from 10-12 am.  that's do-able, right?

in my world, i seem to think it is.

but i'm struggling in my world lately -- a lot.

i don't want to be the mom who can't seem to string together three cohesive sentences because she has a child interrupting or another engagement pending or some ridiculous fire in need of extinguishing.

i certainly don't want to be guilty of half-listening because my mind is jumping ahead to the thing i have to do next. ouch! i type that sentence knowing full-well it happens.

there i was last friday morning, meeting with these delightful new ladies and what i wanted most was to go find a corner, sit down and talk more, hear their stories, tell them mine. i wanted to connect! but instead i was stuffing a muffin into my mouth, gulping coffee and wrangling in bella from the pool (yes, the pool).  all the while i was nodding my head and trying my best to bond a little with these nice, new neighbors.

because a woman can do some bang up bonding when she's in the midst of stuffing, gulping and wrangling, right?

wrong!

as we were leaving (early), my sweet friend, colleen, who hosted the coffee, walked me to the door. i was sweating profusely trying to get bella out of her swimsuit, back into her shoes and out the door -- all the while balancing her plate of goodies, a wet towel and my bag. as we headed down the front walk, colleen called after me, "i'm so glad you were able to fit this into your busy morning!"

she didn't say it sarcastically. colleen, one of the most genuinely kind ladies i know, doesn't have a sarcastic bone in her body. but i walked to my car thinking ... "fit this in ... fit. this. in ..."  yuck! i don't want to be the lady who fits people in. i don't want to be THAT woman.

except that sometimes, i am.


the fact is though, as much as that idea leaves an unpleasant taste, i'm sitting here a few days later not entirely sure what to do about it.

should i say no?

i promise you -- we say no. we decline to the point of being rude. sometimes that's the answer, but not always.

i have a hunch that it has something to do with five kids. it has something to do especially with having five kids all still at home -- all with school and activities and schedules. we've really enjoyed this summer, but i have to tell you, we've never been stretched in so many different directions. recently, i described our family to a friend as seven ships passing in the night. i am not sure that's a very flattering or healthy description, but it is accurate. and good golly, someone remind me, isn't this summer?

i know this season of life is the busy run just before the imminent slow empty of our nest ... but most days it leaves me feeling a little scattered ... a bit scarce ... a tad frantic, in fact. i physically long for the slow and simple. i have been known to crawl under the covers of my bed at 4:00 in the afternoon and shout, "let's pretend mommy's not here for a while!" that works for about five minutes. instead i have high schoolers gulping smoothies at 7:30 am on their way out the door to varsity practices ... middle schoolers racing off on bikes to meet up with friends ... and even a kindergartner last friday morning with two places to be.

i am THAT WOMAN driving down the street in the middle of a summer afternoon who realizes that one of her children was supposed to be at a birthday party two hours earlier. yep ...

i believe this is the time when women like me crack up and move out to the country ...
or begin homeschooling everyone ... (not that that sounds like a solution)!
or start exercising for hours every day...

just between you and me, i would probably be more prone to over-eat or over-shop before i would ever (like, in-a-million-years-ever) over-exercise (or homeschool).  you understand, right? ...

i am fully aware this has something to do with control.

or should i write, lack of control.

i can't control the number of things we have to do or the places we have to be. and it's kind of driving me crazy. i used to be able to do that when they were little. pick and choose. i can remember not telling my little people about a play date or a birthday party or a park opportunity, simply because i knew it would be too much for our family (for me) to say yes. simply because i could. because i held the cards. i called the shots. i was the one in control of the master family schedule.

these days ... well, it just doesn't work quite that same way.

i'm not a flimsy parent. i have no problem saying "no" to my kids. they would probably even tell you i say it a lot. we do have some pretty good boundaries in place. but still ...

the mcnatts are living life at full throttle.

and that's not really a bad thing. we should live life with gusto ... live life with great zest! hooray for life! i get that. i want that. Lord, help us all the day this woman feels slightly bored. but i believe in all this craziness, there's got to be some line of balance. i want my kids to have enough to do, just not too much. i want the same for my husband and the same for me.

enough to do, but not too much to do. i'll be honest that line feels rather thin lately. one mis-step and we find ourselves fallen into either idleness or insanity.

oh dear Jesus, i want that elusive, imponderable, catch-the-butterfly-kind-of balance!

the proverbs 31 girl seems to be a woman always held in high esteem. so let's talk about her for a minute.

would she understand my dilemma? did she have balance? did she feel the same stress when walking the line between "eating the bread of idleness" and "planting her vineyard?"

i really want to know!

in proverbs it says: "her children rise up and call her blessed;  her husband also praises her..." 

so, i'm thinking this woman without a name who dresses her family all in scarlet and still finds time to laugh, plant vineyards, and shop in faraway places has figured out how to be busy enough, but not too busy.

so, what's her secret?

i just spent a little time in this passage today and i pulled out all the verbs which describe her. (fascinating former english teacher stuff -- i know).

SHE: seeks, works, brings, rises, provides,
considers, plants, dresses, makes, perceives,
puts, opens, reaches, clothes, sells, delivers,
laughs, teaches, surpasses, looks.

whew!

okay, seriously, is it just me or is anyone else completely exhausted reading that list???

she does all of that? really? without a high efficiency washing machine or a microwave or even a mini-van?

vineyard in santa barbara -- didn't plant it,
but did have a lovely glass of wine!
maybe there was a proverbs 32 woman working quietly behind her: an assistant, an apprentice, an adjunct ... at the very least an ally!  i think i might be on to something here friends. there's just no way this esteemed woman could do all of this completely on her own, right?  i mean i'd plant that vineyard and consider myself done for the day ... maybe done for the year! i am just so utterly impressed and in awe of this gal's energy!

... and so very thankful she is not my immediate neighbor.

she's making her own clothes and the clothes of her kiddos and i can barely make it to the gap for a sale. what's going on here people? how is she doing it?

but, you know what? i love her. really, i do. i have connected with this passage since my teenage years, knowing that she was a fabulous role model. but i if i was being honest here, (and i do try to be honest most of the time), i also want to sit down and pick her brain a bit. i'd like y'all to know right now, that come heaven-time, i will be blowing right by peter and gabriel and on the hunt for the proverbs 31 woman.  i have a few questions for this proverbially wonder woman. like: how did she do all of that stuff ... all of those VERBS ... and still find time to work the ny times crossword puzzle on saturday mornings with her husband or dangle her feet in the lake with her little ones or enjoy a leisurely walk in the park without a list of stuff rattling around in her head. exhausted women want to know!

here's my big question: how did she do all of that AND still manage to be available to those around her?

this passage doesn't mention friends or neighbors.  did she have them? did they know her by the tail lights of her cart or by the backside of her donkey? did they watch her spinning her scarlet clothes or on her way out to her vineyard and say to themselves, "well, there goes, that always-busy-and-productive-proverbs-31-mama --- who does she think she is anyway?"

this chapter in proverbs doesn't say much about her relationships outside her family, but somehow, i think she found time to visit with other women and encourage them along the way. "she opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." i don't think she spent a lot of time on facebook or hanging out in the cul-de-sac gossiping. but i do think she had wise words and kind gestures readily available for those in her circle.

i am pretty sure she delivered a casserole or two in her time.

i'm kind of poking fun at her today. but you know, the truth is, i want to be a woman whose children (and husband) rise up and call her blessed. i want to be a woman known for her wisdom and kindness. and i want to be a woman who strikes the right balance for her family ... and even for her friends.

i do want to be THAT woman, i absolutely want to be THE woman God designed me to be.

sometimes it's hard to figure out who she is, what she looks like, and how in the world she's ever going to get it all done!

but God knows.  He designed each one of us in an unique and purposeful way. and on those days when i can't seem to control the pace or the plan, i need to remember:
God does have a plan and only He can put pEace in the pace.

"for I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you
and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." ~ jeremiah 29:11


"LORD, you establish peace for us; 
all that we have accomplished you have done for us." ~ Isaiah 26:12

Sunday, August 18, 2013

technology: my fiery trial



well, here it is -- the scripture document i promised many of you almost a month ago.
nice, huh? i took the old, beaten up sheet i created way back when and i put it on a new fancy-shmancy 2013 web page. and let me tell you, i was literally beaming with pride over the fact that i was able to locate the iweb thingy-ma-doo on my computer and use it!

yes, it took me an entire evening.
yes, it wasn't easy.

but still, i was proud.

except my pride quickly turned to technology persecution.

because as nice as that all looks, we have one problem:  i can't figure out how to get that web page on my blog and out to YOU!

i've tried a variety of things -- none of which  have worked.

and, y'all know me:  I.DO.NOT.LIKE.IT.WHEN.THINGS.DON'T.WORK.

seriously, the night i was messing around with this i ended up accidentally importing a zillion gigabytes of junk into my macbook. i was certain my laptop was going to blow up right then and there on top of my lap!

so, the truth comes out: i have a love-hate relationship with technology.

i know some of you think because i have a blog and because i have even figured out how to add pictures to it, that i must be some kind of technology savvy individual.

but, i'm not.

i'm a mama who is too busy to mess with it and when i do sit down to mess with it, i just wan't the blessed-ed thing to work before i have to run and cook up some dinner.

i bet some of you can relate.

and it's everywhere.

there is no escaping technology in the year 2013.

i admit, i've stood completely stumped in front of touch screens in even the most ordinary of places like the bank, the market and the airport. it's an especially grand experience when my kids are peering over my shoulder and shouting impatient instructions.

"mo-om ... you've got to push that button right there ... no, not that one ... that one!"

like it's that easy. geesh!

i am not only battling middle-age and all of the glorious physical accoutrements which come along, but i am also in a daily battle with my issues of technical-stupidity. and, what really gets my goat, is that 9 times out 10, my kids are standing nearby watching the antics of their technologically challenged mother. 

they don't get that i used up all my brain cells on giving birth to them. or that any energy left over was spent keeping them all alive through their dangerous childhoods.  they don't get that their mother's middle-aged brain somedays feels a little like mush.

i have to stand at computer screens and actually READ THEM ... and then i have to actually THINK ABOUT THEM ... and then i have to actually THINK ABOUT THEM SOME MORE. and even after that incredibly long processing pause, it is still possible for me to almost blow up things like my laptop.

and nothing is sacred -- it even happens at church!

just this morning the girls and i were checking bella into sunday school.  a few weeks ago our church went to a computer check-in method (that's another phrase for challenging). all you have to do is scan your fingerprint and then press a few easy buttons on a screen and, voila! child is checked in!

except it didn't go quite like that today. every time i pressed my finger on the scanner the screen beeped and gave me a lovely error message. people were beginning to line up behind me and my daughters were beginning, in grave embarrassment, to shout instructions over my shoulder.

"mom, you have to hold it there longer."
"mom, you are using the wrong finger."

i began to sweat.

i was just trying to get my five year old checked into sunday school. really? must i have to encounter my technological shortcomings even in this place of sunday morning sanctuary?

well, the good news is that my girls were right. so i switched fingers and i held said finger on the scanner a little longer and BAM! the necessary tickets magically appeared out of the box and bella made it to sunday school and i resumed breathing and all was well. except i was really sweaty all through church.

i am not sure if there's a really deep spiritual application here. but i do think there is encouragement to turn the frustrating things of this world into something good. some of you are a gazillion-gigabytes better with technology than i am, but you probably have something else which limits or frustrates you.

we've all got our stuff.

so whatever it is, just know that it is these kinds of tiny irritations which best polish our rough patches. the big problems and dramatic issues can do their share, but, it is the everyday grievances which really chip away at us.

i don't know about you, but, personally, i can be more way more patient and calm with the big stuff than i can with the little irritations.

i think that has something to do with my expectations.

"beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. but rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you." ~ 1 peter 4:12-17

when peter mentions the "fiery trial," i'm not sure that he's referring to only the really big things. i have a hunch, in his mind, fiery trials can be small things too -- like, oh, um, near exploding computers. after all, peter, who is known for whacking off a guy's ear in anger, probably would have been a tad demonstrative with an uncooperative computer. but that's just my thought on the matter ...

 i especially love that he says don't act like "something strange were happening to you."  that's really great stuff, because you know that's what a lot of my frustration is about. THIS SHOULDN'T BE HAPPENING. that's what i think when things don't go well or don't work out. IT SHOULDN'T BE THIS HARD.

i was yelling at my computer the other night because i really should have been able to do some kind of quick click and copy and really cool thing.  my web page should have easily and seamlessly materialized on my blog. it works like that for other people, right? but instead of a quick click, i started desperately pushing buttons and almost had my own fiery trial with a smoking macbook pro!

so, what's the lesson here today?

well, for me, it is about being patient in the frustrations of life. and more so, for being willing to look for His bigger lesson in my little annoyances.

is anyone kind of laughing at the irony of that picture up above? what does the first topic in that document deal with? oh yeah: grumbling and complaining. and i think the next one down is about anger .... hmm ...

i am not sure when i'll ever be able to figure out how to load a web page onto my blog (i am 100% open for suggestions). but i refuse to allow satan any further victory in this situation. so, here's the deal:  if you are still interested in these scripture passages, send me a quick email at: emmyandty@aol.com and i will send you the document directly! and guess what? ...  I REALLY CAN DO THAT.

"in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."
 ~ romans 8:37


one step away from a fiery trial!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

small things

 
“if you are faithful in little things ...” 
~ luke 16:10
silverware soaked                    story read                          fingernails clipped

 dryer lint removed       stain scrubbed              green apple sliced
    
  syrup blob wiped   

cake batter stirred          note left              joke heard. again

          dry cleaning picked up                

                                                                library books dropped off 


socks matched                         towels folded                              shoulders rubbed

                       ball game watched                               seatbelt buckled

neck hugged            dog walked              floor swept                    piano played      


soup poured            weeds pulled            ball tossed

                           hinges oiled                 car washed                roses trimmed

shoelaces tied                                   hair braided                               head kissed

                                                                                           ... family loved                                  
"let me get that, mom." my almost 16-year-old son grabbed hold of the trash bag which was beginning to tear. he took it from my arms, hardly breaking his teenage stride on the way out the door. there was no glance back for approval. no waiting for his mother's words of praise. no looking for my nod of affirmation. my boy simply walked out the back door with the garbage.

and there's really no way to tell you -- to tell him -- how much that means to a mother.

i'm flat out of words when it comes to those little-ordinary-every-day-love-acts.

i mean there's nothing special about my son taking out the trash. in fact, he's supposed to. that's one of his everyday chores -- one of the things we just expect him to do. all my children have their lists: make beds, clean bathrooms, walk dog, fold laundry, sweep floors. they know what is needed to keep this wild place running. they know they are what's needed!

many hands make light work and all that yada-yada jazz ...

but still.

it's the little things which matter most -- and it's not just the little acts of serving, but the little acts of loving as well. if you ask me, these two present participles kind of mix and mingle a bit.

at least, they should.

sisters curled up on a couch reading. a dishwasher emptied (without bribes, threats or arm twisting). a handful of dandelions carried in from the yard. a boy brushing out the dog. gas in my car. an extra gallon of milk brought home just in time for dinner. "i thought we might need this." in our home, we are always in need of milk.

there isn't extraordinary effort in these ordinary acts, but there doesn't need to be. because the small things have a way of adding up to something big. love.

isn't that what we women spend the first part of our marriages explaining to our husbands? it's not about the dozen roses on anniversary evenings. it's not about the size of the diamond or the swanky dinner place or even the tropical island.

{not that, mind you, there's anything wrong with roses, diamonds, swanky dinner places or tropical islands} ...

BUT ... it's about our man taking time to vacuum out the mini van or flip the pancakes or hunt for the missing shoe. it's about him bringing a hot cup of coffee to the morning porch ... bringing two cups of coffee ... bringing coffee even when the man doesn't drink coffee.

small gestures. simple gifts. unassuming graces.

life isn't about chasing the big glitz ... it's about cherishing the tiny glimmer.

and, like it or not, most of life is lived in the glimmer -- the glance. the dash. the dot. the pause ...

as we begin to wind up the string of our summer, it occurs to me that what i love most about this season is the stringing of simple things. it's about the collection of nothing majorly important:  red strawberries ... golden retriever asleep in the sun ... black-eyed susans smiling in a jelly jar ... little gal in her swim goggles ... orange petunias ... loon on water ... teenagers loud in the house ... charcoal grill smoking ... summer rain tapping ... brown eggs in blue bowl ... a screened in porch ... watermelon sliced ... weeds pulled .... a sprinkler's hum ... blueberries ... a game of cards ... tan lines ... late night movies ... popcorn ... tire swing ... freckled noses ... ferns ... bird song ...

the list could go on. you know it could.

we've done our share of traveling this summer. it's all been lovely and fun ... and busy. but in between the arriving and departing, we've shared my favorite part -- the days of doing practically nothing. the time in our home when we just shlunck around from one seemingly insignificant activity to another: blowing bubbles, cutting hydrangeas, petting the dog, baking chocolate chip muffins. slicing tomatoes. you know what i mean  -- the small stuff.

it's not just what strings summer together in delight ... it's what strings life together.

it is easy to count all the big things we've been through ... the large things we've endured or encountered or experienced. we list them all and tally them up like some kind of lifestyle resume -- the big trips we've taken or the big travels we've had or the big tickets we've booked.

often people get to the end of these big things and find they are simply not enough -- they are too light, too little, too too empty in their enormity. we might long for the next larger-than-life-moment, but, the truth is, we live amidst the little stuff of the in-between.

and whether we're five or fifty, that's just the way it is.

that, by the way, has nothing to do with being small minded, but it has everything to do with being mindful of the small.

sometimes life does explode gloriously in the big plans, but mostly it settles beautifully in the small pauses.

our truest moments are found in slicing oranges, sweeping crumbs and matching socks. even those of you with lives much more glamorous than mine, you, too, live life in this everyday space. we can talk about the next big thing or the last big thing or some big thing ... but when we add up the real minutes of real living, it's simply about a string of small stuff.

and that's okay.

in fact, that's really good.

"enjoy the little things,
for one day you may look back 
and realize they were the big things."    ~ robert brault

today: let's challenge ourselves to take a treasure hunt for the tiny. savor the simple moment at your kitchen counter or out in your backyard. look past the large plans and peer intentionally into the present  -- into the pause of right-this-very-minute.
if we are willing to hold open our hands to the small, we just might find something we didn't know we had lost.

but don't just take my word for it. let's look into God's word:

because clearly, God blesses the simple. in fact, He uses the simple. time and again, He employs small stuff to tell big stories with even bigger outcomes -- outcomes which show His incredibly large love. and, guess what? often these big stories started with very small beginnings:


let there be light.
                            man formed from dust                                      woman from a rib
                     the bite of an apple               two of every animal
a dove returning                     a rainbow promising                stuttering moses    
                              a boy with a sling shot
                                                                        a virgin mother
                                         simple carpenter
                  babe in a manger         a donkey                
 a wooden boat
two fish
five loaves of bread
                 the rough wooden cross                      a stone 
friend, don't let the idea of doing something big, even something big for God, get in the way of serving Him in something small. i've seen that happen. we so desperately want to do grand stuff with the gifts God's given, that we pass by perfect everyday opportunities.

yes, some days are water-to-wine kind of days. most days, though, aren't about miracles, but about simple moments.

in matthew 19, Jesus, in judea is surrounded by "large crowds."  He has the perfect audience. He has their perfect attention, heck, Jesus has perfect platform! this was prime opportunity to whip out a miracle and snag a few more followers. the time was ripe for some kind of grandiose something, but Jesus, instead of employing His supernatural power, uses His gentle voice to say what wasn't expected,"let the little children come to me ..."

this little moment is nestled between the pharisees badgering Jesus about huge issues like divorce and adultery and the disciples asking about wealth and eternal life ... but in the middle of all their questions and serious discussion, Jesus stops.

Jesus pauses.

Jesus puts aside all the puffed up important men and, instead, invites the little ...

overlooked opportunity? missed miracle? i don't think so.

"there are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, 
 but few of us are willing to do little things." 
                                     ~ dwight l. moody

by the way, just this morning i ordered jeff goins' new book "the in-between."  check it out! i haven't read the book yet, but i'm in his "tribe writers" group and i really like what this guy has to say. i'm pretty sure he's chatting about the same topic as today's post. can't wait to read!   http://goinswriter.com/inbetween/


a few small  favorites from our summer ...

4th of july flowers from my yard -- pickle jar vase!







more gifts from the yard ... those big pink blooms are peonies. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

mountain climbing: the beautiful and the brutal

"before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth
 and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." ~ psalm 90:2

this week, my siblings and i climbed a mountain together.

mt. rainier is 14,411 feet high at peak elevation. i know this because i have a 10 year old who tells me these things. he was also quick to remind me that rainier is not only a mountain, but a volcano, as well. he did not find the fact that it hasn't erupted in 150 years reassuring -- instead, he  wondered about it being a bit overdue.

i assure you though, mountain or volcano, our climbing goal was never 14,000 plus feet -- that lack of ambition probably had something to do with the seven young children we brought along on our sibling adventure.

"it's so big, mom!"
"it's huuuge."
"can we climb all the way to the top?"
"aunt jody, why is there snow up there?"
"do we have to keep climbing?"
"mama, i'm tired."

and the all-time-parent-favorite: "are we there yet?"

these were just some of the comments from the under ten crowd.

"keep going," we encouraged. "you can do it," we repeated. "we're almost there!" we promised. each one of us took turns carrying backpacks and water bottles and the smaller children. we stopped to study wildflowers and eat fruit snacks. we stopped to scratch the dirt with sticks and turn over rocks. we stopped to look up and look down. we stopped. a lot.

at one point i looked back to find the three 5-year-old cousins, bella, colt and pearl, sitting criss-cross on the path playing with their stuffed puppies and purses. bella was in her glory this week paling around with her twin cousins of the same age. i have a new appreciation for the power of five year olds when they come in threes.

our plan wasn't to scale up to the very top, but still, i wondered how we'd get even to the waterfall -- our lunch spot -- with all these little legs. i suppose our adventure might seem crazy to some, but none of us were particularly worried. we knew it wasn't going to be a sprint, but a journey. not every adult would have been game for this kind of trek, but my four siblings and i were completely content with our four cameras and the breathtaking views. every time the little ones stopped to pick a flower (a no-no, by the way) or put up a fuss or pull out a water bottle, we stopped to click.

mountain climbing with seven young children isn't for the individual in a hurry.

it's a slow process. it's a one-step-forward-and-three-steps-back kind of thing.

it's a lot like life.

and as we were climbing, it occurred to me, this was not the first time our family has climbed slowly up a mountain together.

it wasn't the first time we've had to face something so large ... something so formidable ... something which seemed impossible.

let me tell you about my brother, doug.

not only was he crazy enough to think vacationing in a national park with his three younger sisters and their seven young children a good idea, but he was also completely on board and just as excited as the five year olds to climb this great mountain. and that day out on the mountain, as i watched him climbing up ahead, i couldn't help but think about the continual climb he's been on in his own life ...

you see, every sunday, at three o'clock, you'll find my brother, doug, at the detox center in akron, ohio.

he's there because of the mountain he's faced for almost three decades ---

alcoholism.

doug took his first drink at the age of 14. i was two years behind him in high school and remember watching him drink with his buddies at the weekend parties -- the popular crowd. and i wasn't there just watching, i was there taking my first sips of beer as well. even at our christian high school, it was what everyone did.

i don't know when my brother moved from being a teenager who had a few weekend beers to a full-time alcoholic. that's a line rarely clear for most people. during these years i was busy with my own life: away at college, getting married, having babies, raising kids. my sisters and i were not only wrapped up in our separate lives, but we also had all moved out of state and away from home -- three different directions we scattered -- west, east and south. we grew farther apart from my brother and his issues and his growing illness. it was harder for any of us to know what was really going on in his life. we sensed things deteriorating, but still ... we'd sweep into town for a brief visit and then jump back into our cars or onto a plane and return to the preoccupation and commotion of our own homes.

we worried about him and, on occasion, we even talked to each other about our worry, but always felt helpless and unsure about what we could do. we tried talking, even tried a family intervention ... but my brother was a smooth talker and always steered us away. he talked us down from the cliffs of our concern. "i'm fine. don't worry about me. you're imagining things ..." and the truth is, we hoped deep inside, we were imagining things. we didn't want to believe our brother was an alcoholic any more than he wanted to believe it. my charming brother always had an answer or an excuse or a good explanation. alcohol makes exceptional liars. because alcoholism mingles well with deceit.

this went on for years. decades, really.

but then came a cold january day in 2010 and a phone call from my brother. "i'm desperate, jody. i don't know what to do. i'm at the end. i can't go on like this any longer. help me." he was on the cliff's edge and his desperate words were the final thin threads holding. the high school homecoming king ... the star basketball player ... the boy with the charming personality, the winsome smile and a million friends ... was holding on by nothing more than a thin thread.

it was time to do something drastic.

phone calls and connections were made. there's no quick way to explain how God orchestrated the details. He just did. He directed our steps to the right people, the right place. we were able to find my brother a spot in a christian treatment center in georgia. he had only to get himself on a greyhound bus and come south.

at this point my brother couldn't fly any longer. he had lost his license because of too many DUI's. lost his insurance. he was drinking a fifth of vodka every day. he couldn't go longer than four hours without a drink or he'd be violently sick. he had to drink first thing in the morning to get his body moving. his eyes were glassy. his hands shaky. his spirit destructive. he was lying to everybody about everything. losing money. losing his family. losing his mind. alienating people and partying hard with his inner demons. the doctors had told him, his body wouldn't continue much longer like this. he was killing himself slowly.

in another blog, i wrote about the january day he arrived in atlanta on a greyhound bus ... 3 1/2 years ago:
the arrival door opened and people began to drag in. as i searched through the muddle of tired passengers, my eyes paused at the haggard man hanging back from the group. everyone exiting the bus looked exhausted from a long night of travel, but this man looked exhausted from a long life ... or a slow death. he was grey and shaking, unshaven, hunched over, broken like one homeless --   
he was my brother.  
my stomach dropped -- this shuffling body moving in my direction, almost unrecognizable. our eyes met. mine welling with tears, his bloodshot and distant. and immediately i knew, as hard as it was for me to watch my oldest sibling come to me this way, it had to be a million times harder for him to be met by his younger, healthier, seemingly-whole sister. but he had come for help. we embraced, we clung, we knew what the weekend ahead held. this was not a favorite uncle coming for a quick visit with his nephews and nieces, this was a broken brother limping into town for help. 
he was coming to our house this weekend to detox and prepare to enter a six week treatment center here in the south.
later that night, he told me he had passed the 16 hour trip from cleveland to atlanta counting the white slash marks on the road. a man can only count so many white slash marks before having to come face to face with the slash marks in his own life. on his own soul. the slash marks he has left on those he loves. doug had 16 solitary hours on a greyhound bus to take count of them all.  
alcohol has been my brother's buddy for a couple of decades. it has been his culture. his comfort. his best friend. his mistress. one doesn't walk easily away from those relationships -- from those holds. their tongues have lured him into a seductive dance, while their unrelenting claws have clutched and snared and gripped .... leaving marks. leaving wounds. leaving blood. taking life. 
while he was at my house this weekend he told me the story of another detox attempt earlier in the year:
just days after leaving that last treatment center the engagement began again. the comforting words of his cunning friend quickly convinced him he could pick up a six pack and have just one, no more than two. he was told by the wooing voices of his head, he "could handle it. he was stronger now." 
he took his purchase to the basement when he arrived home. he was called for dinner, his children at the table. the food ready. his place set. yet he sat in that dim basement and drank all six beers on the cold cement floor. he sat alone. his family was only a floor above -- they might as well have been a world away. his one beer turned into six. 
because this is the story of alcoholism: broken man or beaten woman. alone in a cold and filthy basement. desperately clutching their betrayal. their family at the dinner table with warm food waiting, but the drink winning. the demons wild. the dark things rejoicing.                                  
      ~ january 14, 2010 "the eaten years"
doug went into a treatment program that winter. it didn't heal him completely. but he came out with new tools and a new determination. mostly though, he came out with a renewed faith in God. and for a while he was good. he was great. but even after all that renewal and all that time spent in treatment, he stumbled again. it's one thing when the mountain looms up ahead, it's another thing when you've made progress and then begin sliding back down into the darkness ...

and though there have been times when doug felt like he would never conquer the mountain of alcoholism, he has learned, in the past few years, to climb more slowly, more carefully. more like a child who sometimes needs to be carried. like our own mt. rainier adventure this past week -- one step forward, three steps back. he has learned to respect the size and scale and the seductive power of what he faces. he has learned it's not a sprint, but a journey. he has mostly learned to surrender himself.

my brother has not had a drink in 18 months.

maybe that doesn't seem like much to you, but to our family, it's huge. it's a miracle. we are all incredibly proud of him. and this weekend, my sisters and i had a chance to tell him.

my brother, today, is a different man. he is still up on the mountain climbing, but he is no longer on the edge.

he would tell you that at any time he could slide back again, because there's no slope more slippery than addiction. but through his surrender he is learning how to do battle with something so large. doug is at every AA meeting he can attend, he facilitates them and regularly shares his story. he spends time in the trenches mentoring other men and women. he talks with teens and goes every sunday afternoon to the detox center at st. thomas to meet with the most broken. he knows their pain well. and he knows the importance in his own life of remembering that pain.

working with those in the evil clutches of alcoholism is necessary for doug. it is now his mission and it will always be his medication. because it is easy to slide back down a mountain when we forget about the dark places below.

mostly though, doug has learned that he isn't alone. Jesus is climbing with him.

early wednesday morning, while everyone else was still asleep in our cabin, doug and i sat out on the deck. and under the shadow of mt. rainier, he shared more with me about the mountain of alcoholism. my brother, who at age 46, has been through detox four times and failed, knows the cost of this climb. in alcoholism you will never stand at the peak and declare you've conquered your disease completely. it is a continual climb, an every day decision. there is no pinnacle of perfect success. you just keep doing what you know how to do. doug told me that at AA they have a saying about recovery,"it is simple, but it's not easy."

mountain climbing is fundamentally pretty simple. it's about one foot in front of the other. it's not looking too far ahead, and not dwelling too much on where we just came from. it's about one step at a time ... one day at a time. it's about sometimes stopping to scratch in the dirt with a friend or sit for a while and rest, but then it's about getting back up and continuing to climb.

this sibling get-a-way wasn't about my brother or about any one of us. but while there, i think each of us discovered it was about all of us in some way. we've each had our share of mountain climbing in the past couple of years. and though this trip wasn't planned to be symbolic -- it was.

there was a day when the last place my brother would have wanted to be was on a mountain with his three bossy, know-it-all-sisters, but he bought a plane ticket and got himself there and, together, we climbed a mountain.

when i asked doug's permission to share this on my blog, he answered, "those people that know me, know my story. those who don't, might be encouraged to hear it."

friend, i don't know what mountain you are facing right now -- but i know you probably have one. we all do. my prayer in sharing doug's story is that you are encouraged by his struggle ... and inspired by his surrender. he would want you to know whatever your problems and however large they loom, there is hope when you stop sprinting up the mountain in your own strength and learn to journey with Jesus in His strength.


"the mountains melt like wax before the Lord, 
before the Lord of all the earth." ~ psalm 97:5

"if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 
‘move from here to there,’ and it will move. 
nothing will be impossible for you.” ~ matthew 17:20
































"in His hand are the depths of the earth; 
the heights of the mountains are His also." ~ psalm 95:4