Run.

I recently saw a bumper sticker that made me laugh out loud.

images

Genius.

Yes, I don’t run.  I have hard time with it.  I like the idea of running…the cool shoes, the fancy workout clothes, the amazing body that probably comes with it, and the sticker you can put on the back of your car announcing the courageous distances you have conquered.

But I don’t run.  I have a hard time with it.  I have some pretty decent flip-flops and a new shirt that says, “namaste in bed.”  I am slowly beginning to accept the extra 15 lb. around my middle and now I can have a sticker on my car…0.0…and proud.

I am realizing this morning, that I also don’t like to run spiritual races.  I have a hard time with it.

This morning’s verse hit a nerve in my soul, like most morning verses these days:

Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

run

Bleh.  Run.  With endurance.

“With endurance” implies that the race will necessitate endurance.  Which means I probably will have a hard time with it.  This is not a promise for an easy, uplifting Sunday jog.  We are promised vigorous races that we have to “endure”.

Again.  Bleh.

My current house buying experience is asking me to endure changes, instability, lots of waiting, and unending unknowns.  As soon I think I see the finish line ahead of me, I realize I’m only entering a hillside and my vision has been deceived.  As the horizon line swells, the optical illusion is revealed and I watch the finish line disappear behind the mountain.  This race has tricked me, pricked me, and left me exhausted, barely able to catch my breath.

Do you remember the first time your mom or dad stood in the swimming pool and asked you, a trusting child, to jump off the edge into their arms?

As a mom, I now realize what was really happening in that water.  Often, my parent, or older sibling, slowly stepped back forcing me to swim further and longer than I ever expected.  And usually, I ended up a little upset, even if I just doggie-paddled half the length of the pool.

This is me and God right now.  I jumped.  He’s backing up.  And I’m finding my water-legs.  And I’m a little ticked off that now I’ve no option but to learn to swim.  I feel like the whole world is watching, (though I know this is the farthest thing from the truth).  And I feel like God is playing some kind of mean prank…just for laughs.

This season of “homelessness”, living with another family of 6, (two of which are toddlers who have made it their passion to NOT share and to tattle-tale on each other)…this season of multiple closing dates that come and go, all while storing our stuff in 4 places across the city…this season of school supply lists and uniform orders that have no place to be stored except for the front passenger’s seat of my car…this season of suitcases and the same two outfits for over 3 weeks now…this season has tossed me into the race without water, into the pool without a floaty.

I don’t run.  I have hard time with it.

But last night, the couple who has been so generous with us, sharing their home with us, “crazies”, sat down across from us and shared much more.  They shared encouragement from God’s word.  They talked through the decisions that lay before us.  They gave perspective, hope, and most precious of all, witness to God’s faithfulness and sovereignty.

Today’s verse hit a nerve in my soul.

I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, and therefore, I can lay aside all my weight and all my fear and all the doubts that are entangling me.  I am not alone.  And now, the word “endurance” doesn’t stick out and prick my heart quite as much.  It’s a little two letter-word that now catches my eye: “us“.

Let “us” run with endurance.  I don’t run.  I have a hard time with it.  But my wobbly legs and flailing arms are being supported and encouraged and I don’t feel alone.  We run.  We don’t have to have as hard a time with it.

And God stands at the finish line, encouraging me to push through, telling me, “look, you’re doing it!” And, though I’m still a little miffed at the process, I realize I’m finding my legs, my breath, my stroke, and my pace.  I don’t know when I will reach the finish line.  But I do know that struggling along the way will only produce good things, if I allow it.

There are benefits to running.  Cool outfits, slimmer waistlines, and stickers that bear witness to the lengths that have been endured.  Spiritual running is no different.

romans 5

 (Romans 5:3-5)

 

 

Lent: Day 20, 21, and 22…

Day 20: Trampolines

Spring Break is officially half spent. All we’ve done is sleep in and have people over. It’s time to get out. The kids have been begging to go to JumpStreet, a trampoline park. So we added trampolines to Lent.

The older three headed to the main section of the park while Judah and I hit the “7 and under” area. I put him down in front of the trampoline, took my seat on the floor against the wall, and told him, “jump.” He looked at me with an impish smile, looked back at the trampoline, and ran into my lap. I stood him up, pointed to one of the dozen inflatable balls lying around and again said, “Go…jump.” He got up and ran to get a ball that was in the middle of the trampoline, but abruptly stopped at its edge, curling his tiny toes to keep from falling.

He surveyed the land for a bit, walked over to the space in between the brightly colored trampolines, and slowly lowered one foot on its rigid surface. Then, he slowly walked, one foot strategically placed in front of the other, down the one-foot-wide green non-bouncy strip.  Like a tightrope walker, he methodically ventured. He paused as he came parallel to the ball in the center of the trampoline, the wheels turning in his mind to plan his next move. Just then, another toddler jumped on the opposite end of the trampoline, and wouldn’t you know it, the ball rolled directly into Judah’s little body. He looked back at me with amazement as he reached his short arms around that gigantic ball and pivoted on his solid path to make his way back to me.

As he walked, the large ball impaired his field of vision, blinding the two feet directly in front of him. As he neared the end of the green runway, he miscalculated the end of the trampoline and took a sharp left turn towards me. He caught the corner of the trampoline, running four little steps on it’s bouncy taut skin. Immediately, his 2-year-old body gained momentum and speed, and he instinctively rose to the tippy tops of his toes. His eyes were too large suns peering over the horizon of that big red ball. Before he knew it, he was back on the solid floor face to face with me. He lowered the ball, looked at me and said, “whoa.”

What joy he was missing walking along the safe edges of life. Me too! I never thought I’d be publicly thanking JumpStreet, but, yes, thanks is in order. I am grateful for the reminder that sometimes joy is just on the other side of risk. I can trust God that if he tells me to “jump” and go fetch a ball that lies in the middle of an ominous unstable place, He isn’t throwing me into danger. I can trust that He’s pushing me to experience new things and the fullness of life. whoa.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”

Psalm 28:7


 

Day 21: windshield time

Today we headed to Austin. I love the space of green that exists along vast expanses of highway, in between the buildings and busyness of cities.

As we drove, the kids watched Finding Nemo and the adults had a chance to talk and catch up. I’ve been forced to ask some hard questions of myself lately, involving purpose and life goals. I have some decisions laid before me that require the investment of time and money, but first I need to know if that’s the path God wants me to walk down.  It was good to discuss my thoughts and feelings with someone who knows me like none other. It was enlightening to hear how he sees me and the purposes to which he thinks God has called me.

I’m thankful for a partner, for his insight, and his patience with his often confused and bewildered wife. We call these car ride conversations having ‘windshield time’. It was good to add this to Lent, to take the time to ponder and reflect on these questions. Processing my own goals while considering Jesus’ life and the purpose to which He was called, is humbling and recalibrating.  It’s also amusing to have the conversation with Dori in the background singing, “Just keep swimming…swimming, swimming, swimming…”

If God can speak through a donkey, he can use an animated fish, right?!

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.”

Proverbs 27:9 

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”

Proverbs 19:20 

 


Day 22: familiar places and faces

Today we visited Buda Elementary. When we were discussing our trip to Austin, the girls pleaded to go to recess at their previous school so they could see old friends. It happens to also be the school where The Well gathers every Sunday for church. It was surreal to be back, comforting to be “home”, yet sad to know that we would not be staying. It was just a year ago, over Spring Break 2014, that we piled into the moving van and relocated…how timely to be back for a visit.

Today we added familiar places and faces to Lent. In doing so, we treasured the past and gained hope for the future. We made sure to hug every familiar person and take in all the memories of the place…painting the paw prints on the sidewalks, Easter-egg hunts in the courtyard, and doughnuts by the nurses office, to name just a few.  I remember the first day of Kindergarten for our oldest, so many years ago, and worrying about leaving her with people I didn’t know. Now, I call them friends and trust those people more than ever. Recalling this makes me view our current home and surroundings in a refreshed light. One day, I will look back at this first year and remember the fear of starting a new adventure, only to bask in the love and memories that God is already fostering.  I’m excited for the new stories that He is writing–for us, for The Well, for Buda Elementary, and for our new family in Katy.

“O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.”

Isaiah 25:1

Life After Rehab…Step 2

So Family Rehab has concluded and summer reflection time begins.  Earlier this week, I posted about Step 1 of Life After Rehab, drawing from seven steps I found on a drug rehab site.  The steps are written to help addicts as they transition from a time of intentional learning back to real life.  If you didn’t happen to read about Step 1, please take the time to check it out, as the thoughts after each of the seven steps support all of them.

Before diving into Step 2, I have to take a moment to mention how thankful I am for this thinking and processing time.  God has been overwhelming me this summer with His provision of time and space to think and write.  I feel like I would be “hiding it under a bushel-oh, no!” not to mention the way God has been caring for my heart in a very personal way during this time.  From anonymous donors who have made babysitting possible, to my mom who has given up her week to come and help me while I work from bed with a thrown out back, I have been inundated with blessing.  I hesitate to even write publicly about His provision, because I don’t want others to compare and feel bad about their current situation.  (I say this, because that’s exactly what I have done and would do…)  But the amazing thing is that the same God who has been so generous with me is the same God of everyone who is reading this.  His love for everyone else is just as deep as it is for me.  His generosity and provision no less for anyone else.  I know that at another time, in another season, I will read someone else’s blog and feel jealousy well up within me because their life seems so blessed.  I can hear my own, “Well aren’t you lucky…” sassiness in my head.  I’ve been there before and done that.  Maybe the next time I will remember writing this and will eat my own words.  Hopefully, I will just thank their God for being my God and for taking care of all of His children.

Okay…on with Life After Rehab…


Step 2:  Evaluate the Neighborhood, and Move if Needed.

“For some people, the old neighborhood contains a plethora of reminders about substance use and abuse. They may be walking by their drug dealers on a daily basis, and the street corners, local bar fronts, and green parks might remind them of the times they spent getting drunk or getting high. These memories can be powerful triggers for addiction cravings, and they could be too much for people to resist. Other people may find that their homes are, similarly, unsafe. For example, a study in the journal Substance Use and Misuse found that female heroin users often lived with a current user or a former user. When rehab is over, these people might return to homes filled with drugs, and a relapse might quickly follow. Moving to a new neighborhood can push the reset button on cravings, providing the person with new vistas and new opportunities to explore. The neighborhood might be safer, with fewer available drugs, or it might just be different enough to push the old memories away. If the old neighborhood is unsafe or it’s too hard to live under the burden of memory, moving might be an apt choice” (http://www.michaelshouse.com).


HA! I laughed out loud when I read this step. This is NOT why we moved away from Buda! Nevertheless, I get the point and see how our move to Katy is further evidence that God was at work in our Family Rehab year.  While we weren’t fleeing from unsafe people or places, we did find ourselves in “new vistas” and with “new opportunities to explore.”  Honestly, we haven’t really done a lot of this work, so this step is still very applicable for our family.  We don’t want to get swept up in the chaos of American dream setting and fast-paced living that we neglect the hearts of our children yet again.  And the struggle to end up there again is even greater in a new place with the pressure to fit in to our surroundings.  Before Family Rehab, the majority of our time was committed to people and places outside of our home (for us, as adults, as well as for the children). These commitments were all with good people and were for healthy reasons.  But with every “yes” to other people we were saying “no” to focused time with our children.  Having them home for school has dramatically changed the amount of hours we have alone with them.  For this I am grateful and see the benefits of spending my days with them.  Our conversations are not limited to the dinner table or at bedtime.  This is one area where we dramatically changed our surroundings during Family Rehab.  For life after Rehab, this might be a change in lifestyle that we choose again next year.

The fact that I don’t really know anyone yet here in Katy has helped me in not spreading my schedule too thin. But, I know the time will come when the temptation to over-commit will call.  More concerning than over-committing time away from home, is the temptation to misuse the time I do have with the kids.  Am I looking past them to the calendar for my next mommy-break?  Am I easily frustrated that they just won’t go to bed because I am more concerned about sitting down and doing nothing than I am about discovering the state of their little hearts?  Once our new house becomes our home, I am certain that these temptations will become a part of our new norm…honestly, they already have.  But, it’s because of my weakness in giving in to these areas that we started our year of rehab in the first place.  Moving to another house or city will not be an option when these selfish cravings pursue.  I’m not sure what the right step will be, but I do know that likely God will ask me to do something that causes change and shakes things up a bit.  I need to be open to that.  I need to prepare myself now because that time will likely come and sacrifice will likely be asked of me.  A life of faith-risks and ultimate trust is what is asked of me.

Perhaps what is worth noting from this step is exactly that–being willing to do the “crazy” thing for the purpose of sobriety—sober-mindedness (see previous post).  Think for a minute how huge of a deal it would be to just pack up and pick up and move to another part of town, all for the purpose of getting away from temptation.  That’s a pretty extreme step for the sake of healthy living.  Especially if what you are tempted to do is widely accepted, joked about, and encouraged in our culture.  But, if you consider doing it for your kids, that might become a different story.

Consider this:  If your child was being bullied by a young neighbor down the street, or a predator was stalking your teenage daughter, relocating for the sake of their safety wouldn’t be that much of a stretch.  So if the culture I am living in and submitting myself to encourages me to neglect and be disappointed in my children because they are “in the way”, then are my kids really safe with me—in my home?  So what dramatic changes will I need to take if we find ourselves living in the neighborhood of busyness, impatience, fear, and neglect?  I have to at least be willing to consider that changing something might be the right thing to do, not just for the children, but for all of us.  If it upsets my comfort, is an inconvenience, or requires sacrifice, than I’ve got to remember that I am the only one who can be asked to take such drastic measures for my children.  God has entrusted me and my spouse with them, called me to care for them and teach them, to facilitate their growth into little men and women of God.  (Deuteronomy 6:7)  I can’t get out of this one… (sigh).  I can’t look to the Sunday School teacher or the swim coach to take over this responsibility.  Am I willing?  Will I be willing when even more is asked of me than just “Family Rehab?”

This is a really hard question to honestly consider.

[silence]

Yep…that’s about as far as I let it sink in for me, too.  It’s a hard question to consider until we are at the crossroads of the sacrifice and the decision to follow-through.  My prayer is that for all of us, when we are asked to deny ourselves and pick up our crosses and follow Him, that we will find the courage to do so.  I pray that God will give us all a clear enough picture of the destructive drugs we are being asked to run from that when sacrifice is required in the fleeing, there is no doubt that giving them up will be worth it.

We can incorrectly assume that life after rehab means all the hard work and incredible sacrifice is over.  But it’s not.  There will always be more opportunities to refine who we are and adjust our thinking and priorities.  There will be new drugs, new temptations, and new addictions.  The humbling thing is that God in His mercy provides joy in the midst of sacrifice.  That joy is the overflow of a thankful heart that sees and recognizes the mercy and grace of the Father.  The temptation to “just get through” the day instead of invest in those with whom you share the day, the drug-like highs of productivity, busyness, and stress that cause a back-lash of hurtful behavior towards the ones we love, the culture that lures us into lazy and slothful parenting—God lifts our heads above these things.  He gives us hope to overcome these things, because He already has and He simply just cares that much.  He rescues us from the entrapment and slavery of these things.  For that, we have reason to be joyful, to give Him praise, and to worship Him.  Even if we are asked to sacrifice time or comfort, or even neighborhoods, knowing that we have been freed up to be freed from our addictions gives us thankful hearts and joy in the midst of sacrifice.

“And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord” (Psalm 27:5-7).

Life After Rehab…Step 1

“IT’S SUMMER?!?!? WHAT? WHO? WHERE? WHEN?!?”

So it hit me the other day that summer is here.  Oh, don’t misunderstand…I know that it is summer!  We have been looking forward to the days when there’s no school and there are more hours to play.  (Although, with our recent relocation, we’ve really been acting like it’s summer since Christmas.)  So it wasn’t really the fact that summer has arrived that caught me off guard.  What was profoundly shocking about my realization was that our year of “Family Rehab” is over.  When we started this crazy adventure, we committed to taking one school year at home to rehabilitate our family and our hearts.  Wow.  The school year is over.  Those 9 months went by incredibly fast.  This surprising conclusion has raised many questions concerning Family Rehab:

“Was it worth it?”

“Did we succeed and change?”

“Did we learn anything?”

“Are we better for it, or worse?”

“If we’ve learned anything during this year, how do we keep from reverting to old habits and behaviors?”

When a person enters a formal drug treatment program, they don’t stay there forever.  They go through months of overpowering therapy and work, learning how to live in a world that entices them back to their addictions.  It’s an intense time created with the purpose of preparing the person to one day leave the facility in better physical, mental, and emotional health.  When a person is leaving a treatment facility for drug or alcohol abuse, there can be a lot of similar questions to my Family Rehab questions:

“Was is worth it?”

“Did I succeed and change?”

“Did I learn anything?”

“Am I better for it, or worse?”

“How am I going to survive out there?”

“How can I keep from falling off the wagon?”

I did a little research and found 7 helpful steps from a rehab website (http://www.michaelshouse.com) for those re-entering life after rehab.  I think these steps are helpful for our family also as we consider life after Family Rehab.  In the posts to come, I will cover these steps and how they relate to all of us in our every day walk.

First of all, it’s wise to note that going to rehab of any kind, whether for substance abuse or for Family Rehab, doesn’t fix a person and take away their struggles.  Rehab is designed to concentrate on the tools needed to face the struggle head-on and to lead a life of sobriety.  1 Peter 1:13 says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  Our struggles with sin, with parenting, with relationships, and with coping in this world rely soley on the saving grace of Jesus.  Our hope lies in Him–not in improving our performance or trying harder.  So these helpful tips for diving back into the real world after a season of intentional learning and healing are not the saving secret codes to life.  They are merely help in maintaining that sober-mindedness.  They are merely a way to keep the mind prepared for the action that life throws our way.  These 7 steps I will share over the next week can help make the transition from a slower pace of intentional living back into regular life a little less stressful.


 

Step 1:  Find Sober Friends

“Addictions often form through the influence of other people. Studies on teens, such one published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, clearly demonstrate that peer pressure is a powerful motivator for drug use, as those teens who spend time with pro-drug friends are more likely to use when compared to teens who spend time with sober friends. The same could be said for adults. Those who have friendships built on drugs may find it hard to go to parties, share meals, or otherwise interact and stay sober, as the temptation to use might grow and spread. Sober friends can be vital, as they may be willing to engage in fun activities that don’t involve substance abuse. Temptation levels might fade when people are surrounded by others who are sober” (http://www.michaelshouse.com).


Using this logic from a drug rehabilitation program as a guide, step 1 for Family Rehab is also to find sober friends–that is, sober-minded friends.  1Timothy 3 speaks directly to sober-minded influences or leaders and overseers in the church:

“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:2-7).

It doesn’t take much thought to see the wisdom in seeking out sober-minded friends.  When surrounded by people who demonstrate the qualities listed above, peer pressure alone makes us better people.  But, in the book of Titus, Paul explains the the relationship with sober-minded people is not just one that consists of merely being surrounded my these people.  They have been called to be teachers and we are to allow ourselves to be taught by them.  He writes to these teachers:

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:1-10).

Wow…I want to be around someone who has been charged with all that and is willing to take on the challenge.  I want to learn from them, study them, and become like them.

In the next phase of our “sobriety”, I think it is important that each member of our family find sober-minded friends.  Not just friends, but mentors–people from whom we can learn.  For Paul and I we have various mentors already in place for different areas of life.  But I think we need to look forward with the goal of really seeking mentorship in the area of parenting specifically.  There are couples God has placed in our lives whose families we admire.  Their children are respectful and follow Jesus with a passion.  Their marriage seems strong and steady.  They speak of their spouses with the upmost grace and care, never slandering or damaging them.  They deal with stressful situations with calm and peaceful ease demonstrating a firm belief and trust in the Lord’s plan.  I want to encourage my children to seek out mentors in older children as well.  (Of course, we have to approve their choice.)  But we want them to start now looking to older and more seasoned believers for guidance and wisdom.  We are naive if we think our children will come to us for advice on all areas of life.  We are also naive if we think we can go through life as parents without mentors.  I want us all to learn how to recognize and make relationships with sober-minded friends.  (Us ladies, find ladies.  The guys, find guys.)  This, however, doesn’t mean that we circle the wagons and cut-off relationships with those who are outside our circles of faith or condone the particular sins others struggle with.  It does mean that those relationship look a little different.  If a women is struggling to respect her husband and is filled with frustration, she probably shouldn’t go vent to her girlfriend who is constantly husband bashing.  That won’t bear any good fruit or set her up to battle her temptation to sin.  Likewise, the man who is struggling with lust probably would not do well to go hang out with a group of guys from work whose relationship is built around frequenting the local strip club.  It also will not bear good fruit, nor set him on a path away from temptation.

Who we spend time with, learn from, and let influence our decisions is important.  In our American culture we tend to think our opinions and convictions are invincible.  But in reality we are so easily impacted by popular trendy beliefs, voices of “intellect” and status, and by merely unconsciously observing the lives of others.  Just like the addict, spending the weekend with a best friend doesn’t seem like a potentially dangerous plan in which safety has to be questioned–and maybe it’s not.  But the purpose of rehab is to train ourselves to at least be willing to ask questions about the people we let speak into our lives…whether the person is as close a relative or spouse, or as distant as Oprah.

Not only do we need to ask questions about current relationships, but we need to seek out sober-minded friends and mentors.  This is a hard process…especially when in a new area like our family currently is.  But, the hard and awkward work of getting to know people and learning about them is all worth the effort if the result is having relationships with people who are courageously marking a path of sobriety before you, and setting up boundaries in relationships that might discourage positive headway on the journey.

My prayer is that God leads us to these good relationships and gives all of us, but especially our children, the discernment and wisdom to identify sober-mindedness and the courage to engage and learn from those who possess it.  I also pray that we cling to those relationships that are already established and have been proven to bear good fruit.  Through all of our life after rehab I pray that we don’t forget our most valuable lesson from the past year—that our greatest friend and influence is Jesus.  His faithfulness is unmatched.  His sobriety amidst trial and temptation is above that of anyone else.  His relationship—a priceless treasure.  His forgiveness—unending.  His love—relentless.

Psalm 25:14 says, “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.”   He makes known to us His faithfulness to His great promises.  Whatever “Life After Rehab” will look like, we can trust that in His friendship He will let us know the “what, who, where, and when” of each moment.  He has promised to love us, to never forsake us, and to guide us.  And we can trust that He will open our eyes to see the fulfilling of those promises.


Keep an eye out for Step 2 of Life After Rehab…

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. 🙂