Baby blue…like the Colorado skies…

So again, I’ve been feeling sad, a little blue, you might say.  I think it’s pretty simple—no need to over analyze.  I just miss my people and places.  I miss the Broken Spoke, my Buda HEB cashiers, the simplicity of THE one stoplight on Main Street, South Congress, Gordough’s Big Fat Doughnuts, House Pizza on Airport, Town Lake, and the list could go on.  Even sitting in this Katy Starbucks deceives me into believing I am sitting near IH-35 in the Buda Starbucks and life hasn’t changed.  When we lived in Austin, I used to get frustrated at the “Austin is the best place on earth” mentality.  It seemed so self-righteous.  But now I get it.  It really is the best city on earth. 🙂

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to go to Colorado as a family.  It was the first time to be on a plane for the kids (that they can remember) and it was the first time for us to travel that far with four kids.  In short, we all grew a little. 🙂

We had a moment in the car when one child did not want to go into the mountains.  Despite the prospect of snow, adventure and fun, the fear of the mountain was too much.  I don’t know if it was the foreknowledge of steep cliffs, avalanches or rock slides that was causing the trepidation, but whatever the source,  it was all too much.  In an effort to encourage, I tried to describe how fun the snow would be, how beautiful the trees would be, how amazing and worth it the drive up to the top would be.  None of it was convincing.  So, with tears rolling down the cheeks, we just forced all parties in the car up into the Rockies.

It ended up being worth it. (Go figure.) While this annual trip was not as restful as it has been in the past, we did have good fun family time together.  Here are a few pics of our adventures:

Manitou Cave Dwellings

Manitou Cave Dwellings

The boys and SNOW!

The boys and SNOW!

The Wolf Sanctuary

The Wolf Sanctuary

Feeding time for all.  Notice the wolf eyeing Judah for dessert.

Feeding time for all. Notice the wolf eyeing Judah for dessert.

Gold Mine Tour

Gold Mine Tour

 

We hunted for cave-dwelling Indians, gold, snow, and even wolves.  Well, they were easy to find because they were behind the fence and it was feeding time.  And everyone had no regrets about being in the heights of the mountain range.  Once the wonders of the mountain had been experienced, all fear and concern was gone.

In all the traveling and excitement, I rarely had to time to process anything.  This trip has become a mile-marker of sorts.  Every Cinco-de-Dyer (our friend, David Dyer’s, May 5th birthday) we trek to Colorado.  In the past the week of solitude and reflection has made every trip memorable and unique in that there has been a lot of introspective and identifying of the season we are in or the big lesson for that year.  It’s been a time to pause while on the outside of our normal life and take note of what God is doing.  We’ve been afforded the opportunity to take a “Colorado skies” panoramic of life and how the Spirit is guiding us.  (And if we’ve been following or not.)

This year, that didn’t happen.  At least not with the same intentionality.  But I remember that it was last year on this trip that as we drove down the mountain paths with huge vistas of blue sky and snow-capped mountains on either side, Family Rehab was born.  It was while in the beauty and splendor, without our kids, that a yearning to share it with them was born.  “It” was the beauty of the Lord—all that He has created and all that He has done.  His majesty spreads farther than the baby blue Colorado skies.  His splendor and power is also evident in our lives.  And by “our”, I mean everybody.  Whether a believer or not, God is working in your life.  Whether you confess God as your creator and Jesus as your Redeemer, or not…He’s at work in your life.  Whether we believe or not, I dare say we don’t notice or acknowledge the majority of His workings in every facet of our lives.  Whether we believe or not, He is pursuing all of us.  He pursues not to destroy and condemn, but to love and lavish forgiveness and mercy upon us.  Contemplating this, and knowing that He is pursuing me and loving me, no matter how small I am in comparison to Pike’s Peak, makes me feel amazing–so amazing that I want to make sure my children feel the depth and breadth of His love for them.  It was the desire to share with them the truth of how much they are loved and treasured that fueled Family Rehab.  And I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just telling them from a philosophical or religious mentality.  I wanted them to hear it from my heart, as someone who has experienced His love.  But let’s get real.  I don’t always feel it.  I don’t always believe that it’s there.  Like right now…I mean, if He loved me, He wouldn’t have called me out of Austin!

To a warm-weathered Texan, it doesn’t make much sense why anyone would live in sub-freezing temperatures and shovel snow.  In the same way, believing that 1) God exists; and 2) He knows me; and 3) that He pursues me with love doesn’t make sense to everyone either.  I don’t always see snow.  I am so far removed from it at times that I don’t remember exactly how it feels in my hands.  I can’t adequately describe in words the crunchy sound it makes under my feet.  But if I took you to the mountain, made you kneel beside me and make a snowman, you would know and understand the thrill and joy it brings because you experienced it.  I think this is the tricky thing for a believer.  I can tell you with all manner of words how knowing and trusting Jesus is better than life, but until you experience it for yourself, it just won’t compute.  And if I asked you to travel with 4 kids through an airport then drive in a tear-filled SUV up a mountain trail to experience it, you may not take the challenge, because without knowing the value of the view at top, the view of the journey holds no worth.

It takes risk to climb a mountain.  It takes faith to live on one.  It takes commitment to shovel through ice and snow winter after winter.  But if we go to the mountain together, we can remind each other of the scary cliffs and the exhilaration of making the journey past them.  If we go together, we can communicate with fewer words of convincing and more across-the-room glances of solidarity and connection.  Taking my kids to the mountain daily is a key part of Family Rehab.  It’s not about me simply sharing bible stories or rehearsing scripture memory verses.  I am inviting my children into my personal experience with Jesus.  When I struggle, they need to see it–because Jesus will show up.  When I am sad, they need to hear about it–because Jesus will say something.  When I am happy, they need to know the source of it–because Jesus will be pursuing them with storehouses full of it.  If I don’t help them experience Jesus, they might miss Him like so many others.  They might believe in Him, but they might miss experiencing Him and all His goodness.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!  (Psalm 34:8)

I want my kids to not only taste and see that snow is good.  I want them to taste and see with all their senses that Jesus is good.  I don’t just want them to push past their fears and see that snow and mountain-fresh air is worth it in the end.  I want them to push past insecurities and doubts and the fear of being fully known and see that freedom in Jesus is worth it.  In a world that sometimes portrays a Jesus who is disappointed in us and pities us, I want them to know from experience that “Jesus is always good news” as my husband puts it.  He loves us and wants good for us.  He pursues us with grace and mercy and open arms.  He wants us to be happy and full of joy, not guilt and shame.  Experiencing that freedom first hand is key.  To be loved for who you are right now, in all your failures and insecurities, knowing that right now, without changing a thing, you are worth dying for–that’s worth the pain of being honest about your imperfection.  That kind of love doesn’t exist in any other religion, with any other god, or in any human relationship.  We’d like to think that we can love unconditionally, but if we are honest, we really do expect quite a lot of good behavior from those that we love.  Jesus does what no one else can.  He loves me completely and freely…no strings attached.

Oh, kids…taste and see that the Lord is good!  Oh, friends…taste and see that the Lord is good!  Oh, believers…taste and see that the Lord is good!  Oh, Angie…taste and see that the Lord is good!  (even when I’m homesick)  I need to listen to my own rant here.  In my sadness over seeing and tasting familiar Austin things no more, I need to remember that Jesus looks better and tastes better.  What He has for me here makes everything else pale in comparison.  It may take awhile to see it, to experience it here, but He is at work and He is lavishing grace and mercy on me every moment.  I need to heed my own advice.  I need to push past the tendency to withdrawal in the safety of my house.  I need to gather around me the people He has given me in this place for a journey up the mountain so we can experience His wonders together and remind each other that, yes–He is here, He is good.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good. 🙂

 

A Hand To The Face

I thought I would share our bible verse from last week and how we have started to practically apply it to real life situations.  I just walked up the stairs from trying our practicum on the children, and it actually had a positive impact for the first time. So, I thought I’d better share while it’s fresh and still true that it’s working.  (I better type fast!)

Last week our verse was, “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19.  I had the girls draw a heart in their prayer journals.  In the middle of their heart they wrote their name.  Around the edge of the heart, they wrote the verse.  Then we talked about what it means.

Q: “Who loved us first?”

A: “God”

Q: “How did God love us?”

A: “He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us.”

So we drew a cross to the left of the heart with an arrow pointing to the heart.  Because God loved us, the arrow points from the cross to our hearts.  The love of God enters our hearts by way of the cross.

Q: “Because God loved us, what can we do?”

A: “Love others”

Then we drew some stick people to the right of the heart.  Again, we put an arrow in between the two to show that love flows from our heart to others.  When you trace back the path of the arrows, it all starts with Jesus and the cross.

Q: “So what is unique about the way that God loved us?”

A: “He gave up his Son”

Q: “What is unique about how Jesus loved us?”

A: “He gave up his life.  He died for us.”

So there was a “giving up” of something.  That’s called sacrifice.  God loved us with a “sacrificial love.”

Q: “So if the same love that starts with Jesus on the cross flows out of us onto others, how can we love others?”

A: “We can sacrifice for them.”Image

“Great discussion”, you say, “but how do you put that into practice…with children especially?”  Below is what we have been trying, and as of 10 minutes ago (and counting) it is working (well, once so far…)

Here is our plan:  When someone is yelling (usually in our house it’s “STOP!”), whether it be to stop kicking, singing, smacking, or generally stop being frustrating, the new rule is to hold up a hand to the face to accompany the “STOP!”  In our family, the “STOP” seems to be second nature and takes no training, so I decided to use that to my advantage.  Usually our yelling is self-seeking and is accompanied by name-calling.  Having the hand up reminds us all that we need to stop.  It doesn’t matter if we are the one doing the yelling or the name-calling, or the annoying, we all need to stop.  We need to think about our heart drawings in the prayer journals.  When a hand goes up, everyone should stop and say the verse together.  “We love because He first loved us.”  Then we have to pause and ask the questions: “How did Jesus love me?” ( He sacrificed for me.) “And how can I sacrifice for the other person right now?”  Our frustration and yelling and difficulty in loving each other usually arises when we are thinking more about what we want to get out of the relationship or situation than what we can give up for the other.  So, in an effort to retrain our first response in those situations, let’s ask ourselves not what I can get, but what can I give, remembering all the while that it is only because of Jesus that we have the capacity to love sacrificially.

Earlier I ran into the kitchen because I heard a cacophony of screaming and yelling and name-calling.  The kids were playing their own version of “town” or “life” where playing cards are used as currency and someone is manning the bank, the store, and the cafe.  Instead of joining in with my own self-righteous yelling and name-calling, I just held up the palm of my hand.  All three little hands went up and the room was silent.  I almost didn’t know what to do next, I was so shocked.  I started, “We love because…”  and they joined in.  (Oh, don’t screw this up, Angie!) I lead them through the simple explanation of how Jesus taught us sacrificial love and how that same love lives in us.  I asked, “how can we give up something right now in order to love one another?”  Helen, without hesitation said, “Here, Gideon, I will give you some of my money.”

GULP…it worked.  Without further thought, I ran upstairs and started typing.  I probably should have followed up with them more, but I was so encouraged and shocked that I didn’t think about that until now.  Honestly, in retrospect, I don’t even know if the money was the issue at the center of all the yelling.  I probably should have at least checked that much, but needless to say, as of yet, there still has been only happy play noises down there, so I don’t dare dig up old bones.  This moment is going on the “Count Your Blessings” board.  Hopefully, having a practical way to apply the gospel to those intense situations will stick.  My hope is that they will eventually start leading the way themselves by putting up a hand without me even being there.  Who knew a “hand to the face” could be such a gesture of sacrificial love?