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Name: A. Ann
Interests: God. My husband. Our 8 children. Art and photography. Home decor, creativity. Sports. The great outdoors, camping. Fashion. The beach and warm weather. Music and writing. Simplicity.
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|My desire is that this blog not be about views, comments or advertisements~this is merely my occasional journal of photography, memories, and my journey to draw near to God. My hope is that people will feel encouraged to pursue relationship with Jesus Christ (not a list of religious rules/lifestyle), see purpose in the storms of life and live each day with less regrets. Feel free to message me and I will try to write back. Please ask for permission before using pictures or writing.
This spring has been a cooler one than usual; more rain, more clouds. In the last few weeks we've had a day here and there of glorious sunshine and warmth. I'm so grateful those days have nearly all been on weekends!
School is coming to an end. We're all talking about, "Only so many days 'til no more school!" May will finalize it for everyone. It's been a great school year - for the homeschooled and the otherwhere schooled.
I'm so glad for the wonderful people that have partnered with us to help educated our kids! If you've ever tried to homeschool a whole class full of kids at different grade levels you can appreciate it so much more when you no longer carry that burden! I know, I know, so many out there who truly see it as their freedom and blessing to school a half dozen or more at different levels - don't get me wrong, I'm so very grateful there is that option for those who are led by God to do so! I'm even more encouraged that when the option isn't there, the gifting, the money, the know-how, the grace, and the leading to do so. . . that God isn't boxed in.
He is so much bigger than that.
He is glorified when we listen to His promptings and leadership even when it doesn't always make sense, or make others pleased with our choices. Or even fit our paradigm (a set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing something.) For some folks homeschooling is that thing that doesn't make sense or please others and God calls them to follow through with it and He honors their obedience. For others it's schooling another way that they find people don't like or make sense of -- and the fears are there and the people against them, and they must follow through in obedience to what they know honors God for their family.
Our paradigm has shifted, been blown out of the water really, as we've discovered that our past paradigm concerning schooling was primarily information driven by fear, information that didn't apply to all districts, schools, and teachers, and even Bible verses widely taken out of context to fit a certain way of life.
Heart parenting becomes a lot more real when you aren't relying upon your form of education to do the trick in resulting in "good kids." Your identity gets shaken (and challenged as to where and to whom it lies) when you are no longer that big family that homeschools type. I've learned I don't fit anywhere now - not with one group nor the other - and man, it's an awesome thing (not to deny it can be super lonely). . . to get deeper and push deeper in relationships than whether you both school your kids the same way.
Amazing what we've learned about people and relationships through this change in our family's life. Some sad findings. Some really great ones too.
More importantly though, beyond all the fluff that really doesn't matter, we've seen God work in wonderful ways in our kids lives, our lives as parents, and in others that our children have had the blessing to build relationships with.
Christian has said time and time again, "I have extremely great teachers!" Scott and Shelton speak of their teachers like good friends. The three older boys have had awesome teachers this past year: communicative with me as a parent, ultra encouraging - great teachers who have not only taken educational interest but have sought to enjoy and challenge my children to be the best they can be. I praise God for this.
The middle kids are always happy to go to grandma's for school! I mean, seriously, how awesome is that! The older ones never fail to mention to the younger how "easy" they have it being homeschooled! And it's true. Going to grandma's for school might even mean an occasional pancake breakfast before getting on school work! Compared to the work schedule, wake schedule, and homework schedule the older boys carry, the little ones are enjoying the easy life these days.
It's been wonderful to concentrate primarily on the pre-school girls most mornings - learning to write names, count, alphabet sounds and recognition, and sing-a-long videos! There was a day when I had little cowboys lined up to school, now it's princesses or ballerinas at the table. I must admit they are way more emotional over their project papers than the cowboys were, but far less distracted.
When the older boys were all here at home each day all I got done was working with the older ones. I was just teacher and activity finder for them and a frustrated one at that because I watched the other five kids just get less of a mom then they needed! I was full time educator, not full time wife and mom. Hated that awful! Now I am more wife, mom - mother. Time to nurture the younger four like I did the older four when they were little.
I have been so blessed by Lamentations - speaks over and over again about seasons in life. THERE ARE SEASONS and this is a very good and needed thing in the life of a family. There is a season for child bearing (if God allows), and a season to stop bearing and be a full time mom to the ones you've born. There is a season for teaching and a season to let others teach too. There is a season for protecting and guiding and a season where they are on their own. There is a season to discipline and disciple as a parent, then comes a time where God takes over our job and others touch their lives in a way that we cannot.
I've had the opportunity to watch many who do not believe in seasons. They get so caught up in the identity, security, and pride they feel and receive in one season that releasing it and allowing it to move on is not only frightening, but not happening. It's selfish really. Self-absorbtion at the expense of the children/young adults/even married children they say they love so much.
It's not easy. But it's right. (Ecc. 3:1-22, Dan. 2:21).
As the school year comes to a close and I think back I'm reminded, and humbled, by how faithful God has been through it all. I don't know why I forget in the midst of it all, but I do sometimes. I know it's been God guiding, leading, protecting, providing, and prioritizing.
I know my boys better since they have gone to school than I ever did when they sat right here underneath my nose at home. It is constantly, gratefully, forcing us to relate deeply, honestly and daily through the challenges and the excitements. I cannot put into words how much each one has matured on so many different levels this past school year.
"O Lord God Almighty, who is like You? You are mighty, O Lord, and Your faithfulness surrounds You." Ps. 89:8
Psalm 91 has been so meaningful to the boys and to me this school year:
"Surely He will save your from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. . ."
"Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness." Ps. 115:1
And yes, wow, we can't wait for summer either! We will take a break from schooling for everyone. I thought about teaching the little girls on through with their pre-school but it was just that -- a thought! I cannot wait to have all eight around together!
Course I hold to that lightly. . . Scott is going to be working part-time jobs and away at different sports camps and mission outreaches. Not to mention drivers ed. Yep, was studying last night through the manual. So happy for him. He has waited his whole life to drive ha!
I've told him to save me some time and come along to the beach a day or two or three. . . no hesitation there, he is up for it.
Here are some pictures over the last few weeks or so ~
The five younger and I went to the zoo the day Christian's 5th grade class went. He was able to head out with us and was our map and my huge assistant for the day!
Course Christian would rather be searching out animals in the wild. Here is one of his cute finds on a hike we took.
I love how the oldest and youngest interact. She brings him so much joy and he her.
Weekend cookout with my family for birthdays. . .
Itty bitty lighting up my life as usual with her big blues and sweet heart.
Baby is exploring her world and we're giving her lots of opportunities to do so. There is something just so sweet about watching a little one out in nature touching, seeing, and trying things for the first time. She has also become such a daddy's girl lately. It's darling. She looks so much like him. I'm pretty sure the only things I can see that resemble me are her eye lashes, and eye brows that raise automatically at just about everything! Everything else is beautifully her daddy.
The younger ones are a tad bit slow at times when out and about so the boys head out and the little girls tag along with Robert and I. I love seeing Robert daddy his four daughters. He is so tender with them. Shelton of course is riding his bike through the water instead of tubing it. At one point he was riding through it with the water up to the top of the handle bars. By the end of that day, he had ripped his shorts into shreds and was riding home in just his boxers. Only Shelton.
Bub and Christian catching little fish one evening, despite the chill of the water.
Poor three younger boys! Scott has had such a growth spirt the past few months that they are no longer any match for him in water fights!
My mom and sis -- on a hike together makin' some good memories.
She's feeling independent, not wanting to ride in the wagon or stroller most days.
Someone crashed in their last amazing fort. Not to be deterred, Scott began again. This one is the most amazing yet. Like waterfront property really.
No luck at catching anything yet, but the fishing poles have come out once more. Lake has been more likely to hook herself than a fish. Baby is just super cute. She loves wrapping in towels and sitting with me and throwing rocks into the water.
An evening dip into the shallows of the river.
Ah, yes, here he is again, still riding through the water.
Spring breezes and pretty hair.
Always lookin' for a good tree to hang from.
What brothers do best: get you all wet.
Baby in her little cast. She has been such a trooper and it will soon be off. Robert took this of me one evening as I was soaking my broken toe in the cool water of the creek. I am wearing a "necklace" of white feathers and yarn that Morgan and I had put together that afternoon while sitting under a big oak tree.
A long hike in the rain! Poor baby wasn't sure she enjoyed the water coming down on her back in the pack. Pretty sun on Morgan.
I loved this series of pictures of Bub. All on his own Bub began to move rocks to form a little bridge for his grandma to cross the small stream on our rainy day hike. Then he took her hand and made sure she crossed safely. Oh my goodness, could melt any heart.
We've a road runner that has frequented our front porch this spring. Showing off his catch and his hairdo. Bub likes to wear his goggles and put his face under the water when catching little fish.
Morgan and I have discovered one of the coolest bamboo fields nearby.
Just when I think Bub is such a softy, I capture him like this in a football game. I love this shot, his bed head an' all. Last but not least, Robert and I enjoyed an awesome muddy smooch after running non-stop through 12 miles of mud, hills, and obstacles. Awesome workout, good challenge. . . and way too many analogies connected to marriage then I could possibly write! I will never forget this race together.
Here's to a good last month of school for everyone! Summer, come soon!!
1:56 am. Tuesday.
The blog has always seemed a separate side of me, maybe more the real side of me.
Somedays it kinda feels like something way out there in space where I go to try to work through my thoughts, believes, grief, and joys. Then I close the lap top and often times, well, it's like my burdens close up with it, my endurance, peace renewed.
Lately though, I've just felt too broken to write. Motivation dissolved, for the hundredth time. I think the last few months though it's been more because I've been fighting God.
I have times where I get bogged down with the questions that run round in circles in my head. Questions about God, life, relationships, all that kind of stuff.
Sometimes I think I think too much. I try to make sense of everything in my life.
I'm the type that whispers, sometimes not-so-whispery, "God, if I just knew the why behind what's taking place, well, I'm pretty confident I'd trust You more if I just knew why. . . just so You know, it would seriously help my walk with You to know everything You know. . ."
I was so not the kinda kid who could handle, "Because I told you so."
I get the faith like a mustard seed concept, I think!
And have more than once in my life hoped mustard seeds were as small as I want to imagine they are, like pretty much non-existent looking, but somehow still there. Maybe a seed not even seen with the naked eye. Hoping at times maybe that the desire to have faith is somehow as good as having a tiny bit of it.
Trust sometimes doesn't make sense. Maybe that's why it's called trust.
Sometimes precious little in life ever makes sense.
Maybe the bottom line is that I'd like to play God? I'd be logical, reasonable, sensible and that sounds really disrespectful to God, but what I mean by that is in my own human thinking.
Sometimes it plainly comes down to things so non-eternal like I'm tired of this rental house and being so squished all the time and if I were God I would have given me a place to call home by now and be the homemaker every woman should be, right? Doesn't God know ten people, two bathrooms, five loads of laundry, four loads of washing dishes, and all those showers going per day just doesn't work with plumbing?
I wouldn't make myself pray, pray, pray and keep praying. Or hopes be dashed again and again. Why is that love for me from Him?
Like if I were God I would make all my children desire to seek Him with all their heart and from the time they were two wanting to say the sinner's prayer. No worries of ever wondering if one would not be in heaven one day.
And yet I know the answers in my head. I even know them in my heart. There is a mustard seed of some sort that I seem to have tightly squeezed in my hand, like I don't want to move a muscle so that it doesn't slip out and fall. I'm not talking about faith in God's existence or control. I'm talking about feeling those feelings and questioning of faith that comes when things seem polar opposite of how you think it should go in life. I'm talking about that crinkling of forehead and lowered eye brows that come when I can't see the goodness of God in the circumstance that I find myself in - whether it be big circumstances or small.
Faith that He is good. In all things.
None of that really has to make sense to anyone; not sure it really matters since I know what I'm thinking. . . which reminds me that God has that right too, and so much more so: He doesn't have to make sense to me. He knows what He's thinking. His thoughts are right. I wonder if mine ever are.
This makes me feel broken; because I am.
Last night I lay in bed until late, voicing all my questions, thoughts and wonderings about God's sovereignty and man's responsibility in regards to salvation, particularly in regards to the salvation of our children.
Yeah, if you've stayed up at night over that one you know where that one goes! In circles. We don't debate it. We don't fight it. We just listen to each other's opinions. Sounds so godly of us? Don't see it that way, we've merely learned the hard way after 16 years that that's the way it should be ~ or maybe it's because spending our day working to provide for and raise 8 leaves us too tired to say much but, "Uh hum. Yea. Right. . . silence. Uh hum."
Actually, it's a combo of that - and that of suffering at the hands of other people who have rejected us for our differences and beliefs, God has taught us through that pain to respect each other's thoughts, feelings, and beliefs without trying to change each other. It's okay to feel different from each other, or think different or be different. In fact, iron surely sharpens iron. It's meant to be.
I know, I know, if you are in one theological camp you are so sure, and if you're in the other you are so sure.
Somehow I want to camp out between the two camps - because I see both threaded throughout the Word. Besides it seems the safest place to be, that there would be both man's responsibility and God's sovereignty knit together. . . somehow.
I want to wrap my mind around it all. I've had the idea that to know God means to know all these kinds of details. Theological correctness, like super-duper - know the mysteries so they aren't mysterious anymore. Ya know, just KNOW all about how He ticks, how He saves, how He thinks. I can almost hear in a audible, deep, resinating voice , ". . . to knnnnow thee minddd of God."
So, my wonderful husband, he listened to me. He actually listened long into the night my wanderings, my frustrations and my questions. He doesn't even think of the kind of questions I ask or wonder about. He can't imagine having a mind that questions. He is content to not know. He feels no deep need to ponder, and definitely no need to vocalize it in circles.
I use to think I was the strong one - ya know, the "more spiritual" type, wanting to probe and pry into God's Word, debating back and forth this or that about theology or issues. Even clarify why issues shouldn't be issues.
I'm kind of the same way in my relationship with Robert. I don't want to just know my husband surface-like. I want to KNOW him. I want to know how He ticks, why he does what he does, why he thinks or works the way he does, understand the depths of him - his past, and how it has effected his present. What is behind his actions, decisions, beliefs, and interests. That's how I feel close. I want to know the whys behind him. When I find these out, acceptance is so much easier, compassion so much greater, emotional connection so much stronger.
Love deeper? Hum. . . maybe I just don't get simple unconditional love.
I'm an enormous questioner. Not always outloud, but always inside.
And so I've been about God. I feel "close" when I understand Him. I want to know Him deep, way down under the surface, have all my questions answered. Explain Him to myself and to others.
I don't know how late it was last night before my mind shut down. Way too late.
The morning always comes early. Before the sun gets up there is more noise in this house than most have at their busiest hours. Four different alarm clocks go off in an area the size of most people's master bed room. I rubbed my eyes and blindly made my way to the sound of the shower already going in the bathroom.
He reads my mind and my inner wrestling even with my eyes scrunched closed from sleep and exhaustion and his eyes closed and head turned, soap suds sliding down his face. I can almost still hear him speaking like it's right here next to me tonight. I don't remember word for word but it was something like this:
"Babe, in my relationship with you I'm so content to just be together. I think about you all day long. I long for you. I want you. I'm happy just being in your presence. I enjoy you, everything about you. I don't always understand you but I love you so much. I see my relationship with God a lot like that. I don't understand everything just right and I don't get it all, I don't have to have answers to all the theological questions or issues, all I know is that I am filled when I'm in His presence. I believe in His love for me and I trust Him. I'm at peace and I just want to live my life praising Him, praising Him all day long, and loving Him..."
I pulled the blinds and sat there on the edge of the sink, watching the sun begin to stream in. I thought about the last five years and how he is a new, such a different person - I've seen that about him and God. Such simplicity. Such simple adoration. Knowing Him not because he knows all the theological debates, answers or maybe even has it all "right." But because He loves Him who first loved him. It's more like a love relationship than some things to believe in.
I have envied, in a good way, his simplicity of the gospel. His faith and trust that is childlike, while mine is always looking to make it hardcore, "smart" or "spiritual." Theological-relationship if you will, instead of just loving being with God and praising Him for all He has done for me.
Instead of trying to figure out if desiring God is something I actually feel and do or God does in me before I can feel or do it. . . what about just sitting at His feet telling Him I'm broken? Well, does He do that in me or do I have to choose to do that? See, there I go again trying to make relationship with Him all theological.
Tonight I sense that God has been trying to show me once again how the enemy likes to get me sidetracked. Sidetracked from simple salvation -- crying out to Him and calling out to Him no matter if the desire is there, no matter if I understand theologically how it all takes place. Simple love. Simple faith. Simple fellowship with Him. Simple praise.
What I know to be true is that even if I did understand all wisdom and all knowledge but do not have love, I'm nothing. (1 Cor. 13)
What I do know is that I want Him in my heart and life and I will ask Him to come over and over again because each day the need for Him to indwell me is revealed once more through my inability to love Him and others.
What my heart yearns for most is not all my questions answered and all the right words to tell my children. I yearn most for the kind of knowing that isn't the mental knowing of facts and theological correctness, but the kind of knowing that just wants to be with Him. It's truly that simple.
I'm pretty certain satan is pro at using anything to get my focus off, but I think he is best at using things I think are good things. Distractions if you will. Things I try to wrap my mind around and ultimately try to use to find my identity in. Like homeschooling, or family, or theology, or even trying to get my kids saved, or living outwardly what I think is a holy life - getting caught up in dos and don'ts. Not knocking any of these things, but they can distract and even hinder me from living for Him and get my mind caught up in living for these good things instead. My identity becomes what I do or don't believe in. . .
Instead of just WHO I believe in.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who gave up His life so that I might have life eternal.
Had two girls tonight - two get up midnight hours! One needing to pee, one having a bad dream, calling out, "Mama, Mama!" One is asleep here beside me, and the reason I couldn't sleep and came to this place in space to fight through the articulation of my heart and find once more, He brings me full circle to simple Father and child relationship.
Like Lakelyn and me here tonight.
"Abba Father! Abba Father! I cannot find rest. . ." I cry. And He listens to my cries, sees my tossing and turnings and He is simple and gentle love, like my heart for my daughter here tonight. . .
He saves me from my struggling, calms my fears, assures my heart and mind, He holds, He wipes away tears, He puts me near Him and brings me back to resting once again.
When I couldn't sleep as a child, my mom would come to my call and "pat" me (as I called it). I can still remember saying, "Pat me, Mommy."
And she would take her hand and press it against my cheek to where her thumb rested on the side of my forehead and she would go back and forth with her thumb on my head. Like her hand cradling that busy head of mine and calming it until it found peace.
Wouldn't you know, I "pat" my kids to sleep to this day if they wake up in the night.
They don't even know to ask for it. I just reach out and do it.
Tonight it feels very much like God has reached down and done the same for me.
"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good."
I want to give my kids genuine love: attention, appreciation, affection, acceptance, allowing. . .
Allowing for failure, mistakes, and imperfection. Attention to their needs, attention to their accomplishments, attention to their voice and their unspoken emotions. Affection even when it's not deserving. Acceptance just as they are.
This means letting go of fear, control, judgement, blame, censure, contempt, attachment, ego, and complaint. This means exchanging the living by my feelings mentality and living through the power and working of His Spirit ~ which fills me when I empty me of me ~ with love, joy, kindness, patience, goodness, peace, and self-control.
I know the difference between real love and "love" that is not genuine. I've experienced both.
My children know if my love is genuine.
When it's not, I have a real important step I need to take: repentance to God and to them, taking all the responsibility for my fake love and seeking to begin again (even if it's over and over again each day) and let MY LOVE BE GENUINE.
Like Jesus' love.
I understood the meaning of "rofl" (rolling on floor laughing) when it was pointed out to me that I had titled my last post about my dad, "My fried, my brother, my dad."
After posting, and I'm sure it was at a time that my brain was fried -- I'd not come back to the blog for several days. When I finally did there was a kind message informing me of my fried (should have been friend!) dad.
I am still smiling over it.
Not that it's anything new that this blog has typos, mis-spellings, and amateur writing, but "fried" couldn't be more accurate of a word to describe how I feel pretty much each time I open up a post and sit here and take a breath in and then out, just so relieved to be sitting down; then write, as if I'm talking, and sometimes my fingers flying across the keyboard are speaking their own little crazy language.
Track season is over, gratefully.
I love watching the boys run and pole vault, but each track meet was windy and cold and if you have ever had a child run track, you know the meets are LONG. It's not a family friendly sport, not if you have small children. They were troopers and cheerers, but I have no doubt that won't miss the evenings we've spent in the cold stands or sidelines.
On the upside, I am always so struck with how running races is like life, especially the races my boys run which is the 800 and 1600. Now for some, those still seem like sprints, but for most, it's an endurance event when you are needing to run each lap as if it's your best. I watched the boys fight it out each week.
Pole vaulting is a new event for our family. It seems my boy who from toddlerhood thought flying over things way up in the air was the coolest thing ever, has found a new passion. Shelton amazed us with taking first place in the pole vault at the very first track meet he competed in, having only just learned the sport three weeks prior. It seems to come natural for him and we are looking for a way to continue his training.
There were lots of disappointments, tears, close calls, and exhaustion through the season, but now these eight weeks later from when we began I see the emersion of stronger young men both in and outwardly.
Having to take good sports-men-ship to a new level.
Being humbled, learning what to do with success and wins, finding worth in how God sees them when they feel only average and think they can't handle another loss.
And for me, asking God to show me how to keep pointing them to Him through all they live and walk through. Praising the strength of character no matter the outcome. Comforting one brother and pointing him to truth when jealous of another. Being sensitive to their disappointments at the same time pointing to what really matters. Searching and wanting to know how a mom is to be and act when her boys are no longer little boys, but young men, needing to be treated and respected as such. Giving them the room they need, yet always letting them know I'm there.
Always feeling, yep, pretty fried. . . yet needing to be much more than a fried friend to my children!
Phil. 4:9 talks about God supplying every need of ours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. I initially think of this being physical needs - the shelter, food, clothing. And for us, family of ten, we're crying out daily for Him to provide just that! But I have been constantly reminded that my needs of emotional stability, spiritual thirst, and unconditional love for my husband and children trump my physical needs.
Time and time again the Bible instructs me to "cry for help."
Trouble with me is that I don't like to cry, nor do I like to have help. I kinda like to go pole vaulting without the pole. I have a son who has pretty much tried that before. Doesn't work. The pole is key to getting over what is so-very-way-too-high for us to make it over.
My own strength can be a huge deterrent to me reaching for what enables me to conquer, Jesus Christ.
Ps. 34 says, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. . ."
I see the purpose in imperfection, in weakness, in thorns, in mean people, in losing races, or scratching on pole vault when you so had it!
I understand I have needs that reach so much greater than food, shelter and clothing ~ spiritual needs that run so deep.
When Baby broke her left forearm this past week, falling from her seat to the grass (just a foot out of my arm's reach!) on the edge of the trampoline as we waited for Robert to arrive home from work, I was struck with how out of control I am over sudden "freak" accidents.
As I sat there with her as they x-rayed and casted her arm, feeling all those feelings of bad-momness and what could I have possibly done differently to have ensured it didn't happen, I was reminded of how He draws near to the brokenhearted. . . and man, my heart was breaking. I so hate seeing any of my children hurt in the least bit.
As I've watched Haven energetically, tearlessly, co-operatively wear her sling and run around like nothing ever happened, I've been challenged once more in my lack of trust. She has amazed me. On top of looking pitifully, absolutely adorable and tiny in that cast, she has been so tough and strong she puts me to shame.
She lives on, seriously happy to have her right arm available and all the extra hugs in the mean time.
Wandering from any seemingly direct topic this morning, probably more exhausted and emotionally fried than I even know, I feel His nearness. I know He is here with me. I am not empty, though feel I have little to give. I am not useless, though I wonder if I have the strength to tackle even the next thing on the list today.
I am crying out, in my brokenness, in my needy state of existence for help. Help from the Living God who gives grace sufficient. Out of His love for me and knowing my spiritual need, He therefore would lovingly show me how I can never boast in anything but in Him.
Help doesn't always come in the way I think or expect, but time and time again I have found that it comes. And in the bigger picture, in the grand scheme of it all, it's just the very thing, the very help I need.
(One Sunday afternoon out and about with the children ~ the girls in their element.
Baby, dirt on face, walking through the water with me.)
Right now he is in South Africa, not too many hours ago, finishing up speaking at the residence hall on the University of Cape Town.
Tomorrow is my dad's birthday. He would never desire a post here pointing people to him. He desires one thing: pointing others to the Heavenly Father.
That is what I know my dad for most, if not completely.
Of course he has other amazing qualities and giftings. Two qualities I admire most are his passion and determination. . . to point others to Jesus Christ. God has given him eyes and heart to see what is eternal, to see through to the other side to what really matters.
He has relentlessly pursued spreading God's love and truth of His Word.
I've known a lot of people who claim to do that. I don't know, but usually they are known for something else though - some issue, some topic, some standards, whatever. Then there are those who just keep pointing over and over and over again back to Jesus Christ. I can speak from my personal experience ~ In all that I have gone through, anytime I talk with him, share with him -- he leads me back to my Father. He doesn't lead me to him, or some list of rules to live by, some book, or try this or that, or just "keep smiling. . ."
Even this week, from South Africa he emailed me:
"...God will be glorified as you draw near and hold fast and His grace comes to you..."
"...I see the Lord holding you up, but sometimes concerned that at times you try to face the storms with shear determination. I know there are times we all do that and then we realize we aren't as strong as we would like to think and we settle into His arms and let Him protect us from the wind and the storm I love you..."
He is like a spiritual brother to me, always speaking truth with grace, saying, "Don't give up. Look to your Heavenly Father. Set your eyes on Him."
Life was fairly simple before I left home 16 years ago. The storms I have faced since leaving have been beyond difficult - beyond what I could have ever imagined. I have hit lows that I thought were impossible to pass through. Heart ache, hurts, and pain I don't know that any parent could prepare a daughter for.
But he did. He did prepare me and I don't even know if he completely knew he did! I'm sure he wondered at times!
My dad didn't lead me to him. He didn't try to hold my heart. He entrusted my heart to God. . . and just kept pointing to Christ. By his life, with his words.
In my darkest of days I knew I was not alone.
"Through fire or pouring rain, Alyssa, you will not be shaken if you set your eyes on Jesus Christ. He is your Father, He is your Source of life, rest there."
That is what my dad's life has spoken, no, shouted with all joy and love to me!
I get a lot of messages asking about parenting. What books? How do you make "good" kids?
Is it homeschooling? High standards and family rules and lists? Protection and possession? Have them memorize the Bible? A day set aside just for praying? Demanding respect, demanding instant obedience? And is it the church? and so on.
As parents it's natural to want answers and be looking, our eyes roaming everywhere in desperate panic ~ thinking it's in the things we do or don't do.
What is not natural is having eyes set on our Savior in all that life sends our way. That is super-natural and it can only come from a real and active relationship with Jesus Christ. It's simple - the living what we preach, we hear that said so often. So many parents though are preaching "good things" and even living those good things out, but that merely tells children doing the right things is salvation. That will not hold them up when tough life really happens.
BUT are we daily drinking, thirsting after the Heavenly Father and having Him fill us with the power in which to live and unselfishly, unconditionally love??
That takes the working and power of Christ in our lives. And that kinda life preaches salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone!
Living a life of trust that HE is enough.
When I faced the storms of life, my dad left me with what mattered most. A lived out example to me of the only place to turn and run and be filled ~life in Jesus Christ. When my circumstances have left me with empty hands, my dirtiness has left me feeling helpless. . . I knew He was my only Hope. Nothing else.
I am eternally grateful.
I love you, Dad. Thank you, thank you, for not giving up pointing me to my Heavenly Father, even this week as trials came. You just keep pointing! Your submission to your Heavenly Father and to others has been such an example to me.
I miss you at this time in my life, our lives so different, doing different things, different seasons. But at the same time, it's right. You let me go, you've given me to Jesus and taken a back seat in my life since I married. This has been hard when I wanted to run to you! But you knew I needed to run to God. I really can't imagine how hard this has been for you - watching from a distance, having such a father's heart. . . yet knowing that if you stepped in, it would hinder me from finding my true Heavenly Father to be my all.
You have demonstrated to me through these 16 years what it means to trust God. You have lived it out by trusting me to God. It has made a huge impact on how I work with my own children.
I praise God for you. I can't wait 'til heaven! I can't wait to shout and praise and dance and celebrate with you before His throne!!!!!
Thank you, thank you for being a vessel of grace and mercy to me so that I had eyes to see that in my Heavenly Father.
Maybe someone is reading today and thinks, "Wow, wish I had a dad like that."
Well, let me tell you! You do! God, the Heavenly Father, He is that kind of Father and more!
Or maybe, you get caught up in thinking my dad is this super-human, spiritual man. So you think you need to look to him, or some man like him to get what spiritual goods or info you can glean to make life feel full. Don't look to him ~ don't look to men/women! He is far from perfect and has daily desperate need for grace, forgiveness, and mercy from God just like the next. In God's great scandalous amazingness He uses far from perfect people and transforms their hearts so that they can lead others to His mercy seat. That is my dad - an empty man that God filled and is using for His glory.
This world needs a Father. All of us do. Yes, it needs men to be real men and love women and children with real love. But even more it needs the Heavenly Father. As parents we have this incredible privilege to point to Him.
We can't do that unless we are emptied of ourselves and filled with His Spirit. We can't do that unless we know our Father.
Happy Birthday, Dad!