09 June 2006

A Tearful Goodbye - God's Promise

Two weeks ago today we closed on the sale of our house - and bid a fond farewell to West Virginia. There were a lot of things that happened that I couldn't really write about until now. It was one of the saddest days of my life. I have said many a goodbye in my life, and often had to leave a place without the opportunity to say goodbye - but nothing has ever compared to pulling up roots that have grown 11 years, and pulling taut the heartstrings that are tied so closely the the hearts of some of the most precious people I have ever been priveleged to know. In the end, I just felt like I couldn't say goodbye anymore. I was in a numb haze. My friend Carol and her family, who has been more like a sister through the years, were the last ones we saw before pulling out - it seemed that we would never get in the car and actually drive away for real. When I hugged her that haze lifted, and the floodgates burst, and continued as we headed down the road. Travis had to carry a sobbing Kullen to the Ryder truck over his shoulder like a limp sack of potatoes. The girls were riding with me and the three of us just rode together crying for the longest time. We would try to talk and end up inciting more tears. Throughout the preceding weeks, I had comforted my kids with reminders that God had a plan for us, that He would bring new friends into our lives - not to replace the ones we had - but to add to our lives, and that this was what was best for our family - how the Lord had opened doors to make this all happen, etc. etc. etc. About an hour down the road, Kendra started to ask me how I knew that God would do all those things - work out His plan, give us new friends, give us another home that we would love. How did I know???? I told her that I knew because He was always faithful. About that time those words were coming out of my mouth - we saw a RAINBOW over the top of the mountain range - the most vibrant and brilliant colors that I have ever seen. We pulled the car off the side of the road - and snapped a picture, bawling our eyes out the whole way - but our tears of sadness and despair had been traded for tears of joy and comfort and peace. We were almost giddy through our tears. The Lord displayed His faithfulness in the same way He showed His faithfulness to Noah, and has continued throughout the ages. Here's the weird thing - it hadn't rained at all that day - - - and when we got back on the road and looked back the rainbow had vanished from the sky!

08 January 2006

Don't Take it For Granted

This morning my husband and I were having a conversation about the mining accident in West Virginia. Having worked in construction for the majority of his adult life, he knows what hard manual labor is like. And through the years he has experienced his share of accidents. He was hit in the face with a mortar mixer the week I met him in 1988. Later he had the end of his finger cut off. And when I was pregnant with Kaitlyn in 1993, I got a call in the middle of the night saying he had been electrocuted - putting him in cardiac intensive care for three days. (That's actually a funny story now - I was so shocked and half-asleep that I hung up the phone without finding out which hospital he was in!)
One thing we discussed is this human propensity for blame placing. We all tend to want to put the blame somewhere when we are hurting. I don't know why that is, but I have experienced this myself on a smaller scale. For instance, if I stub my toe on something, I want to yell at the person standing nearest to me. I see my children do exactly the same. My daughter got her finger slammed in the van door, and because I was talking to her at the time, she blamed me - even though what I was saying was "Get your fingers out of the door!" With this in mind, imagine the blame placing, hurting and lashing out families will do when their loved ones are lost in such a tragic accident. The media just fuels the fire, stoking the flames with more kindling, and in spite of their claims to sympathy for the grieving families, they are actually the ones continuiously picking the scabs off of wounds that will be trying to heal.
Now, let me be clear that I don't know anything about how this accident happened. I did see the CEO/President of International Coal begin his press conference choking back tears and saying, "Welcome to the worst day of my life." He seemed very sincere to me, but admittedly I don't know what happened.
I know well that sometimes employers are negligent. In two of the accidents I mentioned above, the mortar mixer and the machine Travis was working on when his finger was cut off, the employers involved removed safety devices that would have prevented his injuries. Travis was annoyed by a comment he heard from someone on the news that they couldn't understand how mining accidents still happened today. All blue collar work has risks involved. Perhaps this is a good reminder that daily we benefit from things that people risk their safety so that we can have. Don't take it for granted.

04 January 2006

Even for the Likes of These - Book Review of Blue Like Jazz

I just read a book called Blue Like Jazz by a guy I never heard of named Donald Miller. One friend recommended it, and then another mentioned it in something that she was saying, and one night at the mall with a bunch of my girlfriends, amid all the hustle and bustle, somewhere in my scrambled eggs I officially called my brain, I decided I need to read something that provoked me to think. Every mall has a bookstore, so I went in search of this book with a title my eight year old thinks is weird, and the hunter in me was satisfied. Those who know me know that my library card is one of my most treasured possessions. I love used book sales and amazon.com, and have found many a gold mine at Goodwill, flea markets, yard sales and antique shops, but I NEVER, almost ever buy a book brand new. I paid full price at the mall for this book, and I will never regret it. There are so many thoughts I have had over the years that I have never been able to put in words, and Mr. Miller does says them in such an easy-going, matter-of-fact way. Here is an excerpt from a chapter about "the church" that was so right on to me.
One more thing that bugged me, then I will shut up about it. War metaphor. The churches I attended would embrace the war metaphor. They would talk about how we are in a battle, and I agreed with them, only they wouldn't clarify that we were battling poverty and hate and injustice and pride and the powers of darkness. They left us thinking that our war was against liberals and homosexuals. Their teaching would have me believe I was the good person in the world and the liberals were the bad people in the world. Jesus taught that we are all bad and He is good, and He wants to rescue us because there is a war going on and we are hostages in that war. The truth is we are supposed to love the hippies, the liberals, and even the Democrats, and that God wants us to think of them as more important than ourselves. Anything short of this is not true to the teachings of Jesus.
I was nearly in tears when I read this paragraph and was convicted about the way Satan gets us sidetracked, so that we aren't even fighting the real battles. I have seen so much division between people over things that have no bearing in eternity, and I think that as long as we stay encapsulated in our little "churchianity" there is no blood, sweat and tears ministering to the world around us. We like it clean and tidy, sanitary. We don't want anything contaminated to touch our world, our minds, our children. Yes, we should be in the world and not of it. But like this author said, if we are truly to be Jesus to those in the world around us, we need to model our lives after His - He never shied away from anybody.
One thing I think can be read wrong or misinterpreted in this sampling from the book - when he says that God wants us to love hippies and liberals - I do not read this to say that we are to tolerate the sin of homosexuality, or drug use, but to look past that to the human soul that is valued, and loved by God - enough that He would send His Son to die - even for the likes of these.

03 January 2006

Part of My Heart Goes to Iraq

This is my brother Rob. Okay sure he is handsome and all that good stuff. He is 34 - and happily married to his wife of more years than I should probably give away. He is the guy that three awesome kids named Travis, Haley and Zachary call "Daddy". Right now, as I type this, he is probably on an airplane - destination: Iraq for his second tour of duty. I know there are so many courageous, talented, extraordinary men and women overseas - protecting and defending our many, many freedoms. They are all so very special, and as believers we should be taking them daily to our Lord - for protection, companionship when they are lonely, courage when they're afraid, inspiration when faced with challenges, strength when they feel weak and tired, and the Presence of the Almighty when they are homesick and alone.
This hits a bit close to home for me because this MY little brother. To help you understand, travel back in time with me 30 years - and see a little blonde headed boy wearing footie pajamas, standing on kitchen chairs next to his brown headed sister, very close to the same size - looking out the window at the snow, blowing their breath on the glass and drawing pictures. A few years later, imagine these same two children in elementary school, being picked up by their dad and driven to a hardware store where they would spend the afternoon in a back room while their dad moves the entire contents of their family home to an apartment that he rented in another city. Later, they sit together on a bench in a long, stoic hallway as their parents separation agreement is issued by a judge, and forever their hearts are torn by a word called divorce. All these two really had consistently for years afterwards was each other.
When we were small, I was the big sister - I was his caretaker and protector. I was the only one that understood what he wanted when he broke his leg at three years old and refused to talk. I was the one that made him use the bathroom before our attempt to run away together to our dad's when we were 7 and 8 years old. I was the one that held his hand on an airplane as we flew through a lightening storm while he cried. I was the one that he talked to when he was so confused about our parents, and life and knew I was the only one who would truly understand.
Somewhere along the way, this little boy that I love so much became and extraordinary man. When our grandparents died four days apart in 1991, he was a brand new father, and I was expecting my first child. I remember how grown up and handsome and strong he looked that day at the funeral home in his Air Force uniform. He held me up while I cried unconsolably. Tonight when I go to sleep, I will ask the Lord to protect him while he is away from us - far from family, home and country. But, I will feel a little safer because what he is doing is so important to him that he was willing to risk it all, and I know how capable he is to do his job well.
God bless you Rob! You are on my heart and in my prayers.

02 January 2006

NEW Year - or Is It?

Our family got together with some of our closest friends on New Years' Eve to celebrate the closing of what was a very difficult year for our family. Within our family of five we love and support one another, but outside of our little home, this has been a year of tremendous changes.
My friend and I were sitting just after midnight around her kitchen table. All the goodies we made had been consumed - the pepperoni bread, bean dip (I got this from a blog on Homesteadblogger and it was AWESOME!) and Chinese donuts -- all the cherries were gone and rolling around in the bottom of half consumed Shirley Temples. Our discussion was about whether it really is a NEW year, or just a continuation of the same. If you think about time in relation to eternity the way the Lord sees it, there really is no starting and stopping points.
Long before this discussion, I decided this year, I would make no New Years' resolutions. Any changes that I were to make, or that I would yield enough of myself for the Lord to make in me, would not be for a year - but for a lifetime. This first conversation of the "new year" really pulled everything I was thinking together, and solidfied my thoughts. Whether it is January 1st or June 19th or October 7th - if you know something in your life, your family, your home needs some alteration - THAT is the day to resolve it in your heart - and make the difference. When the Lord brings something to your attention - there is no time like the present to address that issue, and begin anew.
I don't want to be a bummer to anyone that has truly committed in their heart to make a much needed change in their lives. I have many areas where the Lord is helping me through the refining process. My desire is to encourage anyone who now realizes it is January 2nd, or 7th, 18th or 23rd - or maybe you were searching my Archives and found that today is August 12, 2009 - TODAY can still be the place where everything turns around!
A Happy and Blessed New Year to each and every one of you!
Much love - Julie