Tuesday, March 29, 2011

'Tis the Season

With the start of spring, many minds instantly picture flowers blooming, warmer weather,and the beginning of longer days. For our family, the mental picture that comes to our minds is baseball. It's the season that means treking to the ball field on an almost nightly basis. It means our four-year-old has 'red clay' from Lyndon ball field in his hair for two months straight. It means that we will be eating a lot of PB&J picnic dinners on the bleachers. It means we will go to McCalister's Deli on a regular basis because all five of our kids can eat FREE (it also means that they'll know our family and our order by name by the end of the season!). It means I will be spending a lot of money on ring pops to keep the 'O Factor' happy. It means getting home past nine most nights, covered in dirt and sweat. It means washing and scrubbing baseball pants daily. It means my seven-year-old, nine-year-old and thirteen-year-old will play pitch and catch non-stop out in the yard. It means that we will talk over and re-hash every game, play-by-play. We won't talk about anything else. We have a one track mind because it's baseball season.

...Listen closely--I can almost hear it, can't you? It's the music from 'The Rookie' playing in the background...

It’s opening day. Fresh, cut grass feels the air. Boys, young and old, dream about a winning season as they walk from the parking lots with their dads to their first game. With their baseball bags slung over their shoulders and sporting new uniforms, they can't help feeling proud. In fact, it's hard to suppress the grin welling up inside because of the sheer delight over the love they have for the sport. Suppress it, they do, however, because they envision their favorite major league player walking onto the field in all seriousness. Thus, they must compose themselves tall and soberly. After all, one day, they too will be playing for the majors.

Everyone rises for the National Anthem. Baseball players are scattered throughout the many fields, saluting the flag respectively, with hats off. A tear or too trickles down the cheek of more than one parent as they take in the scene before them. Something about the National Anthem and the 'All-American' sport of baseball, coupled with a boy in a uniform, makes one's emotions aroused.

The games begin. Dirt and dust from the in-field encompasses everything and everyone as boys hit the ball and round the bases. Shouts of 'hey, batter, batter!...' and 'Strike!' fill the air, along with some whoops and hollers from the spectators.

Hope is in the air because a new day has dawned. It's baseball season.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Taking Flight (A re-post)

I was going back reading some of my old posts and wanted to repost this one--enjoy, but don't let it make you cry like it did me, because this boy is isn't ten anymore :( !

About three weeks ago, our oldest son, Joshua, had a monumental experience. I have been wanting to write about it for awhile and just haven't had the time...so here it goes.

Back in May, our friends in St. Louis called and invited Joshua to go to Florida with them for a week. To give you some background: our friends moved from Louisville about four years ago. We were in a small group with them and their son, Andy, and our son Joshua were big buddies. We see them about once or twice a year and Joshua and Andy always look forward to reconnecting. Andy is an only child and they thought that it would be fun for him to have a buddy on their vacation this year. But there was a BIG catch: Joshua would have to fly by himself to get there. My first thought was, well that is way too expensive. Even if we were willing to let him go, we really don't have money set aside for him to fly somewhere. But that thought was soon squashed. Our friends' happened to have frequent flyer miles that they insisted that he use. OK. So cost is no longer an issue...

Joshua is our cautious firstborn who likes to be in control. He has struggled with fears on so many different levels since he was itty bitty. He is not a risk taker. He had expressed to us before that he was scared to fly. I honestly doubted that he would want to go, even with the enticement of spending a week with his buddy, Andy.

So we began with asking Joshua if he would even be willing to fly by himself. His initial response was, 'no way.' However, after he'd had a few hours to mull it over, he began to warm up to the idea. By the end of the day, he was actually getting excited about the prospect of it and began hoping that we would decide that he could go. OK. So cost is no longer an issue. And fear is no longer an issue....

I was stunned that we had gotten this far. Now the ball was in our court. So, I began thinking upon this. It sounded something like this in my head: "Joshua is ten years old. TEN. Fly???!!! By himself??? WHAT IN THE WORLD??? ARE WE CRAZY TO EVEN CONSIDER THIS???"

Strangely enough, from the intial conversations Eric and I had about him going, our gut instinct was saying, 'yes, let him go.' We spent a week praying about it; we wanted to know if those 'gut instinct' feelings were from the Lord. After that week of praying, we still had an absolute peace about sending him and felt the Lord was saying 'yes'. So, we finally concurred.

Over the next couple of months, there were times when I talked to others about this decision that I could sense them thinking: "You are crazy, you are so crazy...over my dead body would I let my child do that..." There were times I would begin waffling and catch myself wondering "Are you crazy??? What are you thinking??!!! Are you sure the Lord said to do this?" I had to keep reminding myself that Eric and I had prayed about this and had both felt clearly that the Lord had said yes. I had to remind myself over and over and over and over.

The Thursday morning before Joshua was supposed to leave, we sat down as a family while Eric read the first chapter of Joshua outloud. While up to this point we had had a peace about Joshua going, at this moment I began to tangibly feel the Lord in this decision. For many reasons, it was very fitting to be reading the first chapter of Joshua outloud to prepare Joshua for this departure. For one, Joshua was named after this Joshua in the Bible. The verse Joshua 1:9 hangs on a canvas in his bedroom and he considers it his 'life verse'. This verse says: 'Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.' Secondly, the Lord repeats over and over again to Joshua in this chapter: 'Be strong and courageous!' What better words could our Joshua hear right before this trip?

As the Lord often does, He had even more to teach us that morning. Verses 7-9 specifically say: 'Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.' As we read these verses we were able to talk to Joshua about the importance of the following:
  • reading his devotional and Bible even when his mom and dad are not there to tell him to.
  • obeying the commandments in scripture even when we are not there to direct him, such as shielding his eyes from things that might come on tv, talking respectful in our absence, etc.
  • that he need not be nervous about flying because God is always with him wherever he is.
Verse 11 says 'Go through the camp and tell the people, 'get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession o f the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.' I do not believe it was a coincidence that we were reading this three days prior to Joshua's flight! Eric, Sophie and myself had each written down bible verses on index cards for him to pull out while he was taking off and anytime he became nervous or scared during the flight. We talked to him about the importance of getting your 'spiritual' supplies ready before you venture out on your own. We each gave him the bible verses we had for him, explaining that these were his supplies. He could read these outloud and internalize God's truths as he was flying.

So, Sunday arrived. We were at Kentucky Lake for the weekend with our extended family. The plan was that I would take him to the Nashville airport and then stay all night with some friends that night and head back to Louisville the following day. So it was just me and Joshua. A mother sending off his son. Joshua was visibly nervous the whole morning. I kept reminding him of God's truths. Once we began the process of checking bags, going through security, etc, all of Joshua's fears seemed to vanish and it was replaced by anticipation and excitement. Everything went without a hitch. Everyone was so friendly and overly helpful (gotta love those Nashvillians!).

Finally, it was time to board the plane. We hugged and said our goodbyes. As he walked away I felt a tug on my heart. As I watched the plane back up and begin taxiing away, I felt a bigger tug. Amazingly, I was able to watch the plane taxi to the runway, takeoff, and ascend into the sky until it was just a tiny speck. As the plane got smaller and smaller, the void in my heart got larger and larger. Questions bombarded my mind: 'what if he is scared? what if someone who doesn't like kids is sitting next to him? what if they crash? what if...what if...what if....???' Joshua 1:9 came back to me as clearly as if the Lord was speaking it aloud: 'Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged. For I am with your Joshua--my Joshua--wherever he goes.' He also reminded me that He loved Joshua much more than I could ever love him.

As I walked out of the airport, I could see in the distance the Nashville skyline. The sun was setting behind it and it was illuminated by the clouds that surrounded it. It was absolutely beautiful. It reminded me of the love I have for this city. The city that I came to know God as my Savior. And now the city where I was sending my son off for the very first time, with the promise that His Savior was protectinwith Him. I was trusting the Lord with Joshua, even though it felt as if my heart had been ripped out. I thought about all of the mother's of missionaries...all of the mother's of soldiers sent out to war...I realized I had just had a small taste of their experience. I thought about how this was just the beginning of many times that I would be sending my children off. With every year that passes they are getting older and 'taking flight'. Somehow, I knew that it was going to be hard to send them out but that the Lord would give me the strength to do it, just as He had tonight.

Well, the week sped by, Joshua had a blast and flew home without a hitch. I thought about all of the lessons Joshua and our family had learned through this adventure. Lessons about faith and facing our fears through leaning on our Lord. I thought about how this was a definite spiritual marker in all of our lives, specifically in Joshua's. I thought about all of the lessons we would have missed if we had said 'no'. I am thankful that we listened to the Lord and said 'yes'.

His Kingdom...

Christ is building His kingdom with the broken things of earth.  People desire only the strong, successful, victorious, and unbroken things in life to build their kingdoms, but God is the God of the unsuccessful--the God of those who have failed.  Heaven is being filled with earths broken lives, and there is no "bruised reed" (Isa. 42:3) that Christ cannot take and restore to a glorious place of blessing and beauty.  He can take a life crushed by pain or sorrow and make it a harp whose music will be total praiseHe can lift earth's saddest failure up to heaven's glory.  ~J.R. Miller

"Follow Me, and I will make you..."
Make you speak My words with power,
Make you vessels of My mercy,
Make you helpful every hour.

"Follow Me, and I will make you..."
Make you what you cannot be--
Make you loving, trustful, Godly,
Make you even just like Me.