A Tricky, Sticky Kickball Game

My husband, Chris, and I were sitting at the dining room table as night was falling.  We were having dinner with most of our ten children.  The relative calm was interrupted when our middle three boys came bursting into the house with the delicacy of a herd of elephants.  They had been at the park and were returning home late. The chilly November air usually reminded them to return home much sooner than this. 

After much banging, clanging, and slamming of doors, the three of them stood before us.  Chai, age 13, was tall and muscular.  Cooper, 11, and Calvin, 9, were often mistaken for twins because they were so close in height and both wore glasses.  The resemblance ended there, however.  Cooper had dark hair and was very passionate.  Calvin, with his light hair and generous sprinkling of freckles, had a milder personality.

“Did you guys have fun?” Chris asked.

“Not really,” Calvin answered.

“Then why did you stay so long?” I asked.

Cooper, the natural comedian and storyteller began, “Well, we got the kickball stuck up in a tree.”

Cooper went on to recount the story of a very tricky, sticky kickball game.  Chai and Calvin chimed in with extra details now and then.

The boys had walked to the charming neighborhood elementary school just a block from our home. There they met many of the neighborhood children and had decided to play kickball.  All was fine until Isaiah made one powerful kick that landed the kickball in a tree. 

No problem.  Isaiah would simply launch his basketball and dislodge the kickball so they could get back to playing.  Except it turned out to be one sticky kickball that had perfectly wedged itself in between three branches.  After several failed attempts, the basketball got stuck in the tree too!

                No big deal.  Cameron had his basketball.  While Cameron threw his ball again and again, trying to hit one of the wedged balls, Jacob decided to climb the fence to see if he could reach the tree.  He was unable to get close enough, but he did get hit in the back by a wayward basketball. Unfortunately, Cameron fared no better than Isaiah, and his ball found a permanent perch in the tree as well. 

                No worries.  Someone offered their football.  This would surely work.  But alas!  It had the same fate as all the other balls.

                Now things were starting to look grim.  Desperate times called for desperate measures.  Cooper took off both of his shoes.  Maxwell took one of the sacrificial shoes and with strength and accuracy aimed at the kickball.  The shoe missed its intended target and landed right on a branch.  Cameron tried with the other shoe with the same result.  At this point Cooper was reprimanding them with rather high-pitched screams.

                Chai and Maxwell decided that they needed backup.  They walked back to our garage in search of more balls to throw.  All they could find were four deflated basketballs, but that was better than nothing.  While they were gone, Cooper’s feet were getting very cold.  He managed to fit one of his gloves onto one of his feet. 

                Just then Cooper noticed the School Principal, Mr. Stewart, walking to his car after a long day of work.  Cooper ran up to him and asked, “Is Mr. Dan [the janitor] still here?  Can he help us get our balls out of the tree?”

                Mr. Stewart glanced down and noticed Cooper’s feet.

                “What happened?” he asked with a funny look on his face.

                “I got my shoes stuck in the tree.” Cooper replied. 

                I am not sure what thoughts were going through the mind of the kind and wise Principal, but he simply replied, “We will have to get them down tomorrow,” and continued walking to his car.

                To Cooper, this was not an acceptable answer.  So what brilliant solution did Cooper devise with the help of his younger brother?  To throw this brother’s brand new shoes up into the tree, of course! When both of those got absorbed into The Tree, Calvin resorted to running across the street in his stocking feet to enlist the help of a neighbor friend.  This friend was not home, so it was back to square one.

                Janice, our energetic and joyful neighbor, had walked to the park with her young grand-daughter. She had been watching this entire drama unfold and found it quite amusing.  She took out her phone and was documenting the event with photos.  Her grand-daughter took on the role of cheerleader and kept saying in her cute, little girl voice, “You almost got it!  You almost got it down!”

                Chai and Maxwell returned with fresh ammunition and the tree received further battering by the four flat balls.  The tree proved to be a worthy adversary and claimed all but one of those balls. Thankfully, one of Calvin’s shoes was dislodged, so he returned it to one of his very cold feet.

The score was:

Elementary Playground Tree: 10  (1 kickball, 2 basketballs, 1 football, 3 flat balls, 3 shoes)

Seven Determined Boys: 2 (1 flat ball, 1 shoe)

                The boys were not to be defeated, however.  They continued with their strategy until eventually…slowly…one by one… each ball and each shoe had been knocked from its nesting place.

When Cooper finished his narrative, we were all consumed with laughter!  Finally the hilarity died down and Chris asked a question.

“Why didn’t you boys just get the ladder out of our garage?”

Cooper responded as though the answer should be obvious, “A bunch of boys walking to the park with a ladder?  That would just look silly!”

He Wants His Love to be Known

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Photo by Tim Rebkavets on Unsplash

The prince was kneeling before his father, the king.  This was a good and wise king.  His kingdom was vast and his subjects were too numerous to count.  His dominion was full of prosperity and peace.

                “How much like me this son of mine is,” the king thought to himself.  “He has grown into such a fine young man.  He will be wanting to take a bride soon.”

                “Father,” the young prince began as though he had read his fathers thoughts, “I have found my true love. I have come to ask your permission to pursue her.”

                “Very good my son! Who is she?” the king answered with a hearty smile.

                “Her name is Marie.”

                “Marie,” the king’s smile faded. “Her name means ‘bitterness’, and it describes her well.  She lives outside of the boarder of this land, in our enemy’s territory.  Her life has been hard, and I fear that there is very little beauty or joy left in her, even though she is still young.”

                “This I know, father.  I met her once on my way to the Outer Lands.  She was rude to me.  She was dirty and dressed in rags.  Yet there was something about her that has captivated me.  I feel that there is a treasure beneath the filth.  Every night I have dreamt of her, and I cannot forget the haunted look in her eyes.  Perhaps my love could banish that emptiness and transform her from ‘Bitterness’ into ‘Full of Grace’.

                “Son, consider your decision well.  Do you truly think that Marie will be a princess befitting our glorious kingdom?  Will she make a fine queen someday, able to rule at your side?” the king questioned.

                “I know that my choice seems irrational, even reckless.  Presently she would make a horrible queen.  But I love her, Father, with everything in me.  I love her!  I know that I can save her from her life of misery and her bitterness. Please let me try.” The prince closed his eyes and bowed his head, awaiting an answer.

                The king’s deep voice quavered with emotion, “Son, I am so very proud of you.”

The prince lifted his head suddenly. He searched his father’s eyes, the eyes that always seemed to hold the answers. The king went on.

                “You see, Marie was born in this Kingdom and royal blood flows through her veins.  She was meant to be your betrothed.  I knew that she could become a woman worthy of you, my noble son.”

                “What happened to her?” the prince asked with a new passion in his eyes.

                “She was kidnapped at a very young age and carried away as a slave.  She has lived in the enemy’s land, misused and deceived for all of her life.  She may be saved, but there is no guarantee. She does not recognize her dishonorable condition, because she has never known the beauty of our kingdom.  She may become offended by your purest intentions. ”

                The words of the king seemed to ignite a fire in the already love-struck heart of the prince.

                “I must go to her!  Father, I must show her that she is loved.  That she is worthy.  That she is destined to be a queen!  Please Father, let me go into the enemy’s territory.”

                “You must understand, son, that your quest is noble and born out of true love.  But you will suffer.  You will suffer all that Marie has suffered…and much more.”

                “I know,” the royal son replied in a passionate whisper, “Somehow I have always known. But my suffering is a small price to pay for Marie…for my love.  To live here in the glory and abundance of our kingdom without her would cause me greater suffering.”

                The prince paused as if the very thought of a life without his love was too terrible to express. He stood to his feet and raised his voice, “I am ready, Father.  I must go to her!”

                The king stood as well and enveloped his son in a strong embrace. 

“You are right.  You ARE ready.  Marie IS worth the price. I will miss having you here by my side, but I am confident in the future. A future where both you and Marie are reigning with me.  This quest is your destiny.”

The prince thought he saw a tear roll down the strong cheek.  The King continued in a whisper now.

                “This quest…it will cost you everything.”

 

As I watched this scene unfold on the stage of my mind, I knew that my assumptions were changing.

My paradigm was shifting.

My world was transforming.

This prince wasn’t afraid or reluctant.  He was confident and bold.  He was longing to go into hostile territory.  Like a courageous warrior, he was willing to suffer and to die for the object of his love.

This prince was Jesus.

This Marie was me.

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Photo by Kenny Luo on Unsplash

I was the prize that fueled His courage.

I was the treasure that energized His passion.

I was the pearl of great price that He sold everything He had to obtain.

He pursued me like a man pursues His bride. And He found me.  He saved me.  He turned me into “Full of Grace.”

He is still wooing me.  He is still fighting battles for me. I am not yet a queen worthy of His great Kingdom.  He is relentlessly pursuing me until I truly know who I am and whose I am.  I feel Him teaching me His ways day by day.  I feel His patience and His passion.  I feel His delight and His desire.

He is pursuing each and every one of us, but only a few of us are aware.  The rest go about their lives oblivious of the glorious kingdom for which they were born, the love that chases them.

Men and women all through the ages have encountered this love-sick warrior prince.  Sometimes they caught just a glimmer of His smile, just a glimpse of His fiery eyes.  Other times they have been washed by His love, wave after relentless wave until they were happily drowning in it.

Some have written about it.  One such man is Cory Asbury.  I found in the words of his song “Reckless Love” a confirmation of my own experience.

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me

You have been so, so good to me

When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me

You have been so, so kind to me

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

There’s no shadow You won’t light up

Mountain You won’t climb up

Coming after me

There’s no wall You won’t kick down

Lie You won’t tear down

Coming after me

One night I was able to steal away to the prayer room at church.  I got so caught up in my love for Jesus that my words just came spilling out in a passionate prayer.

                “Jesus, you are everything – all we want.  You are the goal, the prize, the destination, the journey, and every step in the journey.  You are everything!”

I felt a small twinge of guilt.  I offered up a silent prayer, “Sorry Holy Spirit. Sorry Father.  I didn’t mean to forget about you.”

Then I saw the Father smiling down on me with pleasure, just as any good father would do while witnessing his son and fiancé being clearly head over heels in love with each other.

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Photo by Joshua Rodriguez on Unsplash

                “You have chosen well, my son,” I heard him say.

I was shocked to hear this.  I simply don’t see myself the way the Father does, the way Jesus does.

I am so thankful that He will never be satisfied until I do.

I am so thankful that He won’t let me go.  That the fire in His eyes and the burning in His heart will never be diminished.

Jesus is the prince.

I am HIS PRIZE.

YOU ARE HIS PRIZE.

He will never give up us.

If you have never encountered this love or long to encounter it more, listen to “Reckless Love” and ask Him to reveal himself to you. This is a prayer that he has suffered, died, and now lives to answer.

He wants his love to be known!

A Parris Island Graduation

We had just celebrated New Years.  I was excited to say goodbye to 2018, a year of being pregnant and recovering from being pregnant.  I had spent most of the year feeling my worst, but trying my best to be more active.

And here I was, bright and early on the second day of 2019, starting out on a road trip to Parris Island, South Carolina.  Amazing!

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“This is going to be a great year!” I thought to myself as I watched the scenery go by, as we crossed the border of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and then South Carolina.  I was happy as the temperatures got noticeably warmer.  I remained optimistic even when the southern humidity turned my hair into a frizzy puff ball.

I was with Chris and our oldest daughter, Areli (19 years old) and our youngest daughter Aria (4 months old) driving down to attend the Marine Graduation of our firstborn son, Cole.  We were also traveling with Cole’s girlfriend, Amy and her mom, Valarie.  We were making good time even with nursing Aria every 3-4 hours.  We were close to our rental home, but we had to stop for supper.  We found a local diner with southern comfort food.  No bright and fresh vegetables, but plenty of the fried variety.  It felt almost too stereotypical to be true: the friendly waitress with the charming southern drawl giving directions to the toothless gentleman, “Turn at the big tree, past the single-wide, to the double-wide where my mama lives.”

The next morning we awoke early, but we could hardly sleep anyway.  It was the day that we would see our Marine for the first time in three months.  I had to rise at 4:30 to get myself ready and feed the baby. Even though we got on the base at 6:30, we realized that we were a bit late, and the parking lot was almost full.  We hurried out to try and find a good spot along the street.  At 7:00am the Motivational Run would start, and we wanted to catch a glimpse of Cole as he ran past.

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We could see the famous sign over the Blvd de France that said, “WE MAKE MARINES” and our excitement mounted!  Soon we heard something but couldn’t see anything.  Was it recruits doing PT?  Or was it our Marines getting closer?  First to come marching down the street was a small band that Areli nicknamed, “The Side Band.” A lively and talented group of brass musician and drummers danced and marched and interacted with the crowd.

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I learned later that they were all master musicians who joined the Marines just to be in their band.  Soon we heard a military cadence being called out by hundreds of young Marines.

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We could hardly contain our excitement at this point.  Camera and phones were out.  We watched the guidons carefully.  First the lead platoons would pass…1000…1001…

There was 1002!  Cole’s Platoon.  I strained my eyes.  Then in the middle of all the green and shaved heads…I think….I see…

“There’s Cole!  Cole!!!!  Yeah!!!!  I see him!” I yelled like a crazy person.  I saw Cole’s head perk up ever so slightly and in his eyes was a look of recognition.  He was not allowed to break formation in any way, but he had seen us!

The others couldn’t spot him, so we waited until they all ran past again.  This time everyone could see him, strong and proud, running like it was no big deal.  When “The Side Band” passed us again we realized something.  We didn’t know where to go or what to do next.  By the time we followed the crowds of people who were congregating across the street, we were at the back of the line.  We found out that it was the line to get into the All-Weather Training Facility were the Liberty Ceremony would be held…in two hours!

The security was very strict so it took a long time to get into the building.  We couldn’t all find seats.  Areli, Amy, and I squeezed into the tight bleachers.  Chris just stood in the back with the baby. I had to exit to use the restrooms (which we soon realized, were not one of the top priorities of the Parris Island hospitality committee).  When I returned, the doors were being closed because all the seats were full, still an hour before the ceremony.

I knew that Family Day and was a big deal, but I didn’t realize how BIG it was!

Family and friends had traveled to be here. Whether alone or in groups of up to 30, they came from all over the world to see their beloved receive one of the highest honors; the title of United States Marine.

Time ticked on as we watched Marine promotional videos.  Finally a Marine in charge told Chris he could take Aria and sit in the front row, in a handicap spot that hadn’t been filled.  I joined him.  It was amazing that God worked that out for us!  Next to us was sitting the wife and three young children of one of Cole’s DIs.  Again, I was amazed.  DIs have wives?  They have adorable little children?! I prayed that Aria would be a good little baby and not go into one of her crying fits during the ceremony.

Right on time one of the large doors was opened.  A single Marine sang out a Cadence as the DIs and Platoons marched in perfect formation.  Platoon 1002 stopped right in front of us, but I couldn’t see Cole.

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The talking seemed to last forever.  Finally Liberty was announced and the room erupted into chaos.  It took a while for Cole to find us.  He looked so good, confident and strong.  I hugged him and couldn’t speak for the lump in my throat.

We spent the next 4 hours and 45 minutes walking around the base, talking, asking questions, eating, shopping, and taking in the museum.  There was so much we wanted to know and so little time.  Cole seemed relaxed and happy to answer our questions.

He told us stories that made us laugh and stories that made us wonder in amazement.

He had made it through!  He was still alive and still human, but now more mature, wiser.  He could joke about his suffering and smile and greet other new Marines.

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Marines are always early, so Cole made sure he was back at the Parade Deck well before Liberty was over.  I nursed the baby in the van while the others watched the Graduation Practice.  We spent the rest of our day relaxing at our rental home.  We enjoyed the porch and the beautiful view.  South Carolina really is lovely, if you don’t mind all the frizzy hair.

We decided that we absolutely HAD to get on the base earlier for Graduation Day.  When Aria woke me up at 3:30 am the next morning, there was no point in going back to sleep.  But it was worth it!  We got on the base by 5:30 and Areli and Amy began to wait in line.  The rest of us waited in the van with the sleeping baby.  After a while Valarie and Chris got out to wait in line as well.  At 7:30 they were finally opening the security check points and allowing people into the bleachers.  Still, the ceremony didn’t start until 9, so I thought I would let the baby sleep.  I nursed her in the van around 8 and Chris called me saying, “Get in here as soon as you can.  We are trying to save you a seat but they keep telling us to move closer together to make more room. It is filling up fast.”

I grabbed the diaper bag, my purse, and the baby and walked to the closest metal detector.  By this time the line was very short, and Aria and I got to our seats in no time.  Wow, there were a lot of people!  And packed in so close together, you felt like you were sitting in your neighbor’s lap.  It was a friendly crowd, and I began to talk with the ladies in front of me.  One had come from New York to see her nephew graduate.  Another had come with 20 other family members from Georgia to see her grandson.  We talked about boot camp, our hopes and our fears, and the goodness of God. Tears were coming already and the ceremony hadn’t even started yet! The overflow bleachers were filling up and people who didn’t get a seat were standing.

 I looked out at the crowd and was struck by the amount of love it represented.

I thought about the mother originally from South Africa who traveled with her daughter and grandson.  I remembered the woman in front of me in line explaining how she didn’t sleep a wink during the crucible.  She had stayed up with her candles lit, praying for her great-grandson.  I recalled the sweet young girlfriend from Michigan, alive with giddy excitement at the Liberty Ceremony.  Brothers and sisters holding banners at the Motto Run, women running and embracing their Marines at Liberty, and family members decked out in matching shirts filled my mind.  Now I was surveying the thousands lining the Parade Deck who had taken time off of work and gladly paid the expense to be here.  What love!

I was so glad that I was here!

Part of the thousands,

part of the love,

part of this little piece of Parris Island history,

part of this huge piece of MY SON’S history.

The ceremony was very impressive, full of military marching and orders.  (I don’t have a military background so please forgive my rudimentary and perhaps inaccurate descriptions.) First came the “Main Band” we called it, not to be confused with the “Side Band.”  To watch them march with their instruments was rather like watching close order drills done with slide trombones rather than rifles.  There was the parade master, a woman with an incredible voice that could be heard from one end of the Parade Deck to the other.  There were many commanding officers and two generals.  The mascot of the Marines, a cute bulldog, made an appearance.  When the platoons came marching in, their skill was amazing!  We caught a glimpse of Cole!

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                There were orders called out, awards given, accolades received, and cannons fired!  I had two favorite moments of the ceremony.

First was when I watched my son’s platoon all take a stance in perfect unison, bringing their heels together with one thunderous clap.  Second was when a commanding officer said, “Good Morning!” and over 600 Marines answered him with one voice that seemed to shake the earth.

Finally each platoon was given the order to go on leave and Cole was free!  Free for 10 days!  We gave hugs and congratulations.  We took pictures.  We were bursting with pride!

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We met some of Cole’s friends.  We picked up the last of his bags and saw his squad bay. Cole was anxious to get off of the base and start his leave.  We all had so much to talk about, so many things to do with him, and so many favorite foods to prepare!  But for the moment, we seemed a bit dazed.  It felt like a dream; the culmination of over a year of praying, preparing, and training.

Our son had truly earned the title:

United States Marine!

I Can Trust God with My Children

My oldest son, Cole, is in Marine boot camp right now.  Actually he is in the middle of the Crucible, and my mind is going crazy.  I am trying to remember him in prayer at all hours of the day and night without letting my thoughts lead to worry…

and the worry lead to impatience…

and the impatience lead to “what ifs”…

and the “what ifs” lead to panic.

I thought back to October of last year when he first told me that he wanted to join the Marines.  He didn’t talk about the benefits or the pay.  He said he wanted the brotherhood, the character development, the challenge.  At first I wasn’t sure I wanted my son in the military, so I asked God about it.  He gave me peace and the impression that this would be the very best thing for Cole.  Pretty soon I was feeling that joining the Marines would be the most important step for him to take after High School.  I had been praying for a long time that Cole would find a positive focus for all of his teenage energy.  Finally he had found it!

As a mom, I can worry about absolutely anything!  So my son had made the very wise choice to pursue a career in the Marines.  But what if his enthusiasm waned?  What if he got in trouble and became disqualified?  Boot camp was a year away.  What if he didn’t make it there?!

On October 28, 2017 the worries were getting the better of me. It was the Saturday morning of his very first Marine work-out.  One of the stipulations of the delayed entry program was that Cole had go to the recruiting office once a week to prepare physically and mentally.  A recruiter was going to pick him up early that morning to take him to the work-out.  I had to leave even earlier to make a trip to the farm. There was dew on all the blades of grass and all the colorful leaves.  The sunlight peaking over the horizon was like white gold glittering on every water droplet.

I wanted to enjoy the beautiful drive and the peaceful time alone…but I was feeling guilty and worried.  Cole was NOT a morning person. What if he didn’t get up in time for the workout?  I should have stayed at home to make sure that he did! What if he wasn’t serious about this Marine thing? What if all God’s plans for his future got derailed?

A song on the radio washed over my mind with the power of the Holy Spirit.

                “Death could not hold you, the veil tore before you.

                You silenced the boast of sin and grave.

                The heavens are roaring, the praise of your glory.

                Yours is the name above all names.”

The worries were replace by a picture of Jesus on the cross, conquering death and sin, then rising again victorious, becoming the Savior of the world.  I saw the Good Father allowing His beloved son to come into this world that did not love or receive Him.  All of hell was working against Jesus and much of the earth and mankind as well.  A million different things could have gone wrong. Countless roadblocks stood in the path for Jesus to become all He was destined to be, to accomplish all He was meant to accomplish.

Yet the Good Father was able to keep Jesus and guide Him perfectly.  He could do the same with my children.

“You mean I really don’t have to feel responsible for making sure my children achieve their purpose here on the earth?  That I could really just trust you to do it?” I asked God, trying to let go of years of ingrained thought patterns that always led to worry.

                “You know that you never could, no matter how hard you tried. That is why you worry. That burden is not for you to carry. Just trust me,” came the whispered answer.

When I arrived back home, Cole had already left for his workout.  I didn’t need to worry!

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Cole and I a year ago after he swore in to the Marine delayed entry program.

Now he is almost done with boot camp, just hours away from becoming a Marine.  I didn’t need to worry. But I still did.  About EVERY little thing over the past year. I decided that I had to remind myself of all God had spoken to me.

When I went back and read my journal entry for October 28, 2017, this is what I had written.

                “You are the Good Father who puts his children in this world and then brings them through the crucible victorious.”

I had written that before I knew anything about the Marines.  Long before I understood that they had the toughest and longest boot camp out there.  Before I had any idea that the culminating event of Marine boot camp was called The Crucible; 54 hours packed with missions to accomplish, obstacles to overcome, 45 miles to be hiked, and very little sleep or food to be had.

                I had been prophesying and I didn’t even know it!

So as I am imagining every possible thing that could go wrong with Cole out there in the rain and the cold and dark of The Crucible, I chose to remember;

I can trust the Good Father with Cole and his destiny.

God will bring him through The Crucible Victorious!

 

 

Candy Wrappers and Fuzzy Tongues: the Influence of an Older Brother

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Having six boys, we have quite a culture of testosterone in our home.  Wrestle first, ask questions later.  As my older boys grow into men, I hope that they will be a good influence on the younger ones.  Teach them to respect their mom, stand up for their brothers, and protect their sisters…stuff like that!

However I have noticed a different type of influence that is not always good.  The oldest boy would relentlessly pick on the second to youngest one.  I would explain to the Oldest that I understand that the Second Youngest can be very annoying at times, BUT the truth of the matter is, “You were very much like him at his age.  You looked very similar and had very similar behaviors.  Your Dad and I didn’t call you mean names or criticize you did we?” I ask.

“No,” the Oldest answers.

“So give him the same courtesy,” I say.

My logical explanation seems to have little effect on his behavior as the bullying continues.  I begin to notice that the Third and Fourth Oldest are learning the fine art of bullying.  I am distressed.

Other behaviors trickle down the line such as writing on clothing or sneaking candy and stashing the empty wrappers behind the washing machine.  A love for fishing, violent video games, and BB guns flourish.  When the Oldest joins the delayed entry program of the Marines, the other boys pick a branch of the military that they will join someday.  Even the Youngest is being encouraged to follow his dream of being a paratrooper.

“I don’t want ALL my sons to be in the military,” I yell out. What is a mother to do?

As the Oldest spends more and more time with his Marine recruiters, training physically and mentally for boot camp, I notice a change in him.  He is maturing.  He is becoming more honorable and more truthful.  He is becoming more respectful…most of the time.

Dental Health has never been very important to the Oldest Brother.  Dental Health is very important to me.  I used to brush each child’s teeth after each meal.  As they get older, they must brush their teeth themselves of course, but I still remind them quite often.

“Have you brushed your teeth?” I call out to the Second Youngest who is rushing out the door for school.

“Yeah, Yeah,” he answers.

I suspect that he didn’t.  I suspect that he hasn’t brushed at all in the past week.  I need to pry open his mouth and check for myself but there he goes…halfway to school already.

One day I witnessed firsthand the power of the influence of the Oldest Brother.  We were all sitting at the dining room table eating a meal.  When we are done I try again to preserve the teeth of my children.

“Everyone, brush your teeth!” I call out.

No effect.  No indication that anyone has heard me speak.

Then a new voice declares, “You should really brush your teeth, you know.”

It is the knowable voice of the Oldest Brother.

“I didn’t used to brush my teeth at all,” he continues, “but then I saw this picture of what happens to your tongue when you never brush. I almost puked right there!  The back of the tongue was growing mold, fuzzy mold!”

“Really?” the younger brothers are very interested, “Show us!  Show us!” they beg.

He whips out his phone, finds the picture and shows them all.

The younger boys do not walk, they RUN to the bathroom to brush their teeth.  In all my years of mothering, I don’t think I have ever elicited such immediate and wholehearted compliance to one of my instructions.

The cool Oldest Brother has a power that even he doesn’t totally understand. May it always be a force for good!  Now that the Oldest Brother is in boot camp, may the core values of the Marines be the driving force behind his awesome power of influence.

HONOR

COURAGE

COMMITMENT

And just a little bit of good housekeeping and proper dental hygiene.

 

 

The Naming of Aria Iolani

It was an early Sunday morning in July.  Most of the family was still in bed.  I was on the computer Googling “names meaning eagle” and hoping no one would come down the stairs and see what I was doing.

I felt rather silly, looking up baby names.  I was 41.  I already had 9 beautiful children.  I had no reason to think that I would ever be blessed with another one.  I would say from time to time, “I think I would like to have a baby in my 40s.”  My husband would always respond, “You’re crazy.”

I felt a little crazy just then, but I felt compelled to do it.  I just had to know what names were out there that meant “eagle.”  Over the past few years God had used many amazing encounters to convince me that I was meant to be an eagle.  I was beginning to let go of who I thought I was (a quiet girl who was deathly afraid of heights) and believe who God made me to be.

I found many names that fit the bill.  However, I needed an “A” name for a girl and a “C” name for a boy to follow the pattern of all our other children.  I could find no suitable boy name, try as I might!  A girl’s name struck me as though it were jumping off the computer screen .

Aria Iolani

 Aria:

Hebrew from Ariel – lion or lioness of God

Italian – air, melody

Sanskrit and Persian – noble, honorable

Teutonic – intelligence of an eagle

Iolani (ee-oh-lahn-ee):

Hawaiian – hawk of royalty, bird of heaven, to soar like an eagle

How perfect!  How beautiful!  A dream had been planted in my heart; a tiny seed carrying the perfect name. A dream that I would one day have a daughter who would bear this name.  A daughter who would have the vision and intelligence of an eagle.  A daughter who would know her identity from the womb. She would not have to live 40 years on the ground before it began to dawn on her…she was meant to FLY!

A few months later, in December, I found that I was pregnant.  The revelation came at a time I didn’t expect.  It didn’t seem like the right time for another baby.  But …perhaps this dream in my heart had been a dream in God’s heart all along.  Perhaps now was THE TIME!

My oldest daughter, Areli, loved the girl’s name I had found!  The boys did not like it, mostly because they wanted the baby to be a boy.  Chris liked the named “Aria” but wasn’t sure about “Iolani.”  It was too hard for him to remember and pronounce correctly, and he thought it would difficult for others as well.

I checked out a bunch of books from the library about Hawaii since Areli was planning on going there for school in the next year or so.  I discovered that there is an Iolani Palace in Hawaii, the only royal palace in the United States.  That settled it.  “Iolani” was THE middle name!

I was excited but told myself that this baby could easily be a boy.  Soon sickness and other pregnancy discomforts (that I had never experienced before) came upon me.  The dream of “Aria Iolani” was still a lovely thought, but it was overpowered by the thoughts of a victim pleading for release from her prison.  I understood that all that was going on in my spirit was being experienced by my baby’s spirit as well.  I tried to be thankful and upbeat.  I tried to speak over my baby love and peace and truth.  Half the time I doubted the truth myself.  That God really loved me and that someday I would feel good again.

Many fears started to plague my mind.  What if there was something wrong with this baby?  What if there was something wrong with my body?  And the worst fear of all, what if this child had a chromosomal abnormality like Ashlyn had?  I love Ashlyn and I am still amazed that God would trust us with such a special child.  Still, I always thought that having two special children would be absolutely too much to handle, and I would break under the strain of it.  With each pregnancy there has been a small chance, and each time this fear rears its ugly head.  This pregnancy the fear was worse than usual, almost suffocating me at times.

I didn’t go to church for two months.  Finally I was feeling well enough to go to a Sunday morning service.  As I entered the balcony of the sanctuary, I heard the Helsers leading worship.  I felt the sweet presence of God, and I longed to linger there forever!  They were singing, “Mt. Zion.”

We have come to Mount Zion

City of the living God

Heavenly Jerusalem

By his blood we have come

I felt God’s presence.  I felt peace and joy.  I felt safety and security.  The fears dissipated.  Hope started rising.  This is where I should have been living this whole time.  This is where I wanted my baby to live, even in the womb.  I felt sad that I had been such a bad mother so far.  I had tried to abide in the presence of God in my own home.  But most of the time I just felt sick and discouraged.

Here at church I could feel His presence, as though Mount Zion was a reality I was dwelling in. The song continued:

Thousands of angels dance around his throne

Thousands more sing out new songs

And elders throw their crowns down

As all of heaven sings out

 

“Baby, this is where you are to live all the time,” I told the precious little one.

                “I know, mama.”

I heard a sweet little girl’s voice say these words.  At least I thought it sounded like a girl. I knew it was my baby.  This was very unexpected and unusual.  It wasn’t said in a sassy voice as if to imply that I was being dumb for thinking my baby didn’t already know this.

It was said in a comforting voice as if to say, “Mama, you worry too much.  I am just fine.  I just recently came to you from heaven.  I could see those angels in person, and I can see them still.  I am still surrounded by His presence.”

I felt more at peace than I had in a long time.  My baby was more aware of spiritual realities than I was.  She was most definitely an amazing child.  I began to remember all the fears I had confronted during previous pregnancies.  One by one those fears had fallen by the wayside, replace by peace.  Almost across board just the opposite had proven to be true.

I didn’t need to worry about this baby’s health, well-being, or intelligence.  She (or possibly he, I had to remind myself) was extraordinary…a super baby!  She (or he) had just spoken to me from the womb for goodness sake!

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On March 30th we had an ultrasound that revealed a perfect and beautiful baby girl!  My dream was growing inside me.

Aria Iolani

About four weeks before my due date, Aria dropped.  She was sitting low and I was uncomfortable.

“At least she is head down and in the right position.  She is getting ready to be born, and it won’t be long now,” I thought.

Each week she dropped a little lower.  Each week I was more uncomfortable.  I kept having signs that labor was near, but no real labor would come.  The last week, each day felt exponentially worse than the day before.  My due date, August 16th came and went, and Aria became my first baby that was actually late.

Finally my water broke the night of August 17th.  The next day labor still had not started, but my homebirth midwife came over to check on me.  I was already dilated to 5 cm and Aria was at +3 station.  The midwife said that babies normally are not that low unless the mom was already in labor.  We both thought that once labor started, Aria would be born quickly.  We were wrong.

Labor finally began around 3pm on August 18th but it progressed very slowly.  I was listening to worship music, scriptures, and birth affirmations.  I was enjoying God’s presence.  He was speaking to me and showing me visions of Himself.   Before I knew it, it was evening.  I didn’t feel like I was in transition even though I was dilated to 10.

Then it got difficult.  I never really had a difficult labor, so it was a new experience.  Aria was so close to being born, yet she wasn’t being born!  I am sure it was difficult for her too, but her heart-rate remained steady.  Finally after an ambulance ride, an epidural, Pitocin, and some sleep; Aria supernaturally came into the outside world at 2:33 am on August 19, 2018.  I felt no pain and consciously did nothing at all.

I simply slept and prayed, “Jesus, you do this because I can’t.”

I woke up to the slightest bit of pressure.  My midwife looked under my covers to see that Aria’s head was crowning!

She was born quickly and placed in my arms.  The rest of the room faded away.  There was only my baby.

Aria Iolani

She was beautiful and peaceful.  I noticed her eyes first.  They were open wide and moving slowly back and forth, scanning and taking it all in.  To me they looked like the eyes of an eagle.

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She is now six weeks old.  Aria had not been as sleepy as my other newborns.  She is more alert and her eyes are always looking.

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The midwife saw her at three weeks and said, “She seems more like a 6 week old that a 3 week old.”  At 3 ½ weeks she began to really look at our faces and smile! The most adorable smile.

Not all is prefect of course.  My recovery had been much slower this time.  Aria finds it hard to just fall asleep, and she spends a good amount of time crying when she is tired.  She also had the worst case of thrush I have ever seen.  Then came the baby acne.

But when I nurse her and look at her baby face, I am so thankful for the chance to have her as a daughter, my 10th child.

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What a rare and precious jewel.  When I prayed for her during my difficult pregnancy, God showed me so clearly that Aria is vitally important – to this family, to this world, and to eternity.  She was not an extra baby or an optional baby.  She NEEDED to be here.  Just like every single baby ever to be conceived.

Of course to me Aria is amazing!  Brilliant, observant, and born to fly.

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Aria Iolani

A dream come true.

My Son Just Graduated from High School! But what do the Marines have to do with this Rite of Passage?

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Cole graduated with his class from Dauphin County Technical School at the Forum in Harrisburg last night.  His father graduated at the very same place 25 years ago.  Excitement was in the air as all the students were decked out in their sashes and cords, representing their accomplishments.

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Cole was the most proud of his black and red United States Marine Corps sash.  We as his family thought that it was by far the finest piece of his outfit, representing months of hard work, representing his future.

 

                As the students got ready for the ceremony, the woman in charge told Cole and two other students that they could NOT wear their Marine sashes during the ceremony under any circumstance.

If they did, they would be denied their diplomas.  The reason?  The students who had enlisted in the other branches of the military did not have similar sashes.  Their red, white, and blue cords would be decoration enough.

Cole was quite angry with this decision.  We as his family were pretty upset as well, wishing there was a way this decision could be overturned.  However, as the seniors marched into the auditorium, no red and black sashes were visible.

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The time came for each cord to be identified and each group of students to rise to receive recognition for the corresponding achievement.  So many fine students!  So many accolades for certifications, test scores, and memberships in honor societies!  Cole rose for many of them, including most outstanding Senior in his technical area.  Finally the students wearing the red, white, and blue cords were asked to stand for their commitment to the armed forces.  Applause and clapping erupted!  Many people stood to their feet!  Our family was up, cheering our hearts out.

Soon almost the entire auditorium rose to honor these courageous young people with thunderous applause. The cheering seemed to last forever.

Although the roaring applause did last four times as long as the applause for any of the other cords, it did not last forever.  Still it was a moment in time that will live in my heart for eternity. A defining moment.

Patriotism is not dead!

Commitment and sacrifice for your country means something! Something that our lives and freedoms depend on.  We feel that gratitude in our very bones.

My son was the recipient of that gratitude in that moment.  I hope he remembers that moment when it feels as if the entire world is against him.  I hope he remembers that his choice means something that I can barely express, but feel so deeply.

I hope he always remembers that we are so, so proud!

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Discouraged Much? Me Too!

I was looking forward to 2018 with great expectations.  This is what I wrote in my journal about the coming year.

The Best is Yet to Come

Best Year Yet

Open Doors

God Encounters

Becoming Eagles

When the New Year arrived, it came in a way that I didn’t expect.  During January and February I became very discouraged. Three major sorrows had come upon me.

Sorrow #1 – I felt sicker than I ever had in my life

I discovered that I was carrying a new child of destiny in my womb. It was a dream come true, and I was elated!  I felt wonderful with my last pregnancy, so I thought this one would be even better.  Wrong!  I had never felt so weird and nauseous before.  I had never thrown up so much before!  I have never had hot flashes and cold chills before.

When I believed that 2018 would be the year that I would become an eagle, I imagined writing more.  So many beautiful God stories were in my heart, crying out to be crafted into words.  Maybe I would even put together a manuscript and work on a book!  For Christmas my husband and children surprised me with a new laptop…OF MY VERY OWN!  I was so surprised and excited!

I also thought I would be able to be more involved at church.  Oh, all the beautiful times of prayer and worship and God encounters that awaited me!

Yet January and February found me sitting on the sofa or sleeping in my bed with a weak body and a fuzzy brain.  It was hard to think about anything except how to avoid throwing up again. I tried to write, but I couldn’t.  Sitting at the computer even for a few minutes made me feel even sicker!  (It still does so this article was a bit of a struggle to produce.)  I didn’t go to church at all.

Sorrow #2 – Finances

God was going do wonderful things in our finances this year.  I was sure of it!  Early in the New Year Chris got promoted to full-time at UPS.  This was amazing, happening more quickly than usual.  However, it didn’t play out so well in real life.  First of all, peak was over, so his hours went from 70 hrs to 50-55 hrs a week.  That is normal, just life at UPS.  However, because of a rule that says all full-time employees have to be paid for at least 8 hours each day they are called in to work, Chris lost the opportunity to pick up 4 hours of air-rate overtime on Saturdays.  This had a significant impact on each paycheck.  In addition, full-time employees have to pay more union dues.  We had less instead of more, and it was feeling like a struggle again.

Sorrow #3 – Lack of Healing

It has been difficult for me to believe in miraculous healing.  I do believe theoretically, but I just haven’t had much experience in my own life.  This year I felt faith arising!  Perhaps this was the time that I would see healing with my own eyes!  We were planning a double foot surgery for Ashlyn, but what if God would heal her first?

I took Ashlyn to a healing room.  It was lovely, and the people were beautiful, and I felt the goodness of God.  Prayers were prayed, but nothing happened with Ashlyn that I could see.

They also prayed for me for two specific health problems.  The following week those two issues became significantly worse. Talk about being discouraged!

One of those issues was varicose veins.  I had bad veins in my right leg since my 4th pregnancy which was 14 years ago.  14 years of no shorts, no dresses.  14 years of feeling rather ugly and old.  Last June I had the worst vein removed and the faulty vein repaired.  It took three days of surgery with local anesthesia.  It required one incision and 58 small holes.  The recovery was more painful than I had expected, and I wondered if it was really worth it.

It was supposed to heal and leave me with a normal looking leg.  Yet I had to attend my daughter’s High School Graduation in baggy, frumpy pants to accommodate the bandages.  I developed a dream in my heart that encouraged me greatly.  My son’s graduation would be next June.  I would attend that important event in a pretty summer dress!

In this New Year, I was so excited to be pregnant without those horrible veins!  No pain, no awful compression stockings!  As this pregnancy progressed, I noticed pain in my leg again.  It was awhile before I realized that it was new veins popping out on the back of my leg.  The leg that still bore 59 little scars.  Slowly the veins traveled down my entire leg.  After receiving prayer, they began to hurt so much that I had to wear a compression stocking.

My beautiful dream had officially died a pathetic and mournful death!

The Sorrows are so small

Now that I am in my second trimester, I can look at my life and see a hundred joys outnumbering those three little sorrows.  I can give thanks for a thousand different blessings each day!!!

Still, I feel discouraged.  If only things were a little different in certain areas.  If only I didn’t feel my faith slipping away.

One Sunday morning during worship I gave my discouragement to God.  Still I wished for my sorrows to be gone.  Then God helped me to realize.

There is something Deeper (than my reality).

There is something more Real (than my circumstances).

There is something more Important (than my discouragement).

Like this baby growing healthy and strong.  Like the delight that God has when He looks at me.  Like the fact that this suffering is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in me, the glory that will be revealed in my daughter.  Like my character being formed into the character of Christ.

Like Becoming An Eagle!

I had asked God to transform me into an eagle this year.  To help me to worship Him until the wind of His presence surrounded me.  To help me to stretch out my wings in faith.  To teach me to fly.  To teach me to see EVERYTHING from His higher perspective.

He has been answering my prayer this whole time.  No one ever learns to do something new without practice.  All these sorrows are training me to rise above and SEE!

Your eyes will see the King in his beauty, and the highlands of heaven far away.” Is 33:17 Living Bible

This has been His promise to me.  I have asked Him to help me live in it.  I have asked for a difficult thing…

But it is worth it!

 

P.S. Just a note to all of my followers.  I am so delighted that you enjoy my writing! I probably will not be posting much until August or September when I hope that I will be reconciled to my laptop.  Praying you will bask in all the joys!

P.P.S. Ashlyn’s surgery well very well!  She has been recovering beautifully and I am so thankful.

Prayer Warriors Needed for Ashlyn’s Foot Surgery

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Ashlyn is our special 14 year old.  She was a happy and healthy baby.  We didn’t know until she was 6 weeks old that she had a chromosomal abnormality.  We couldn’t get into a pediatric geneticist until she was 3 months old.  It was then that we learned that a piece of her 6th chromosome was missing.  This was very rare with less than 25 cases in the world similar to hers and none on record just like her.  I felt amazed that God would trust me with such a special little girl.  This also meant that no one knew what the outcomes would be for her.

“Wait and see,” is what they said.  Chris and I were sure that she would be almost normal.

We were wrong.

With each passing month, each passing year it became more and more clear how wrong we were.  I asked God for wisdom.  I read What to do with Your Brain Injured Child by Glenn Doman and it became my guide.

I let Ashlyn lay on her belly all the time.  It seemed like forever until she lifted her head, but she did it!  I made a crawling track for her and eventually she started to scoot!  That is, after many excruciating months in a brace to fix a right dislocated hip.  Still, that right side didn’t seem quite right.  She would drag that leg behind her while using the left leg to move forward across the floor.

300717_240310076004371_2823406_n  It took many years and a trip to the Family Hope Center to get Ashlyn to start the cross-pattern crawling.  Learning to climb up the stairs is what did it for her.  I was overjoyed!  I was ecstatic!  I didn’t care how long she crawled.  I knew she would get up and walk eventually.

                Again, I was wrong.

She didn’t get up and bear weight on her feet.  Slowly, ever so slowly, a mysterious and invisible force inside of her body began to pull her feet inward, the right more than the left.  The legs began to become internally rotated on the hip sockets, the right more that the left.  I didn’t notice and neither did all the doctors and specialists that she went to.

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Finally we recognized a progressive club foot deformity. We employed many different types of therapies and braces which allowed her to stand independently for the first time when she was almost 9 years old and take 11 steps by herself by age 10.

We built her a walking track and she worked up to over a hundred trips a day!  She could walk independently around the house.

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However, that invisible force kept on pulling, robbing her of all the progress she had made.  Now the only option left is surgery.  I hate the thought of surgery.  The pain.  The 8-12 weeks of recovery and non-weight being.  The bulky and difficult casts.  The unknown outcome.  The scar tissue and possible pain and arthritis later in life.  I asked God for wisdom and I figured that we had to give Ashlyn the chance to walk.

No surgery would mean no walking.

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I decided to get two opinions on Ashlyn’s case.  The first with Dr. Sorenson at Hershey Bone and Joint Institute and the second with Dr. Herzenberg at the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics in Maryland.  We saw Dr. Sorensen first.  I like him so much!  He recommended a Posterior Medial Release for the left foot and a Talectomy for the right foot (removing of the talus bone.)  He had gotten a medial release when he was 12 years old and it has been great for him.  He thought that Ashlyn would be able to walk just fine!  I was so encouraged and left his office with hope.

I don’t ever remember leaving a doctor’s office with so much hope!

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I researched the two doctors online and my heart sank.  Dr. Herzenber had around 30 years more experience that Dr. Sorenson.  I didn’t want to travel all the way to Maryland to see him, but I felt like I would be a horrible mother if I didn’t.

Thankfully Chris came with me on the day of the appointment.  The drive was long.  The wait in the office was even longer – 2 ½ hours in the room!  Dr. Herzenberg sure knew his stuff!  He said he had done many talecomies over the years but came to realize that a triple arthrodesis produced better results.  A telectomy didn’t leave a joint at all, just scar tissue between two bones that didn’t fit together.  This was not good for a major weight bearing part of the body.  A triple arthrodesis would fuse three smaller joints but reform the talus bone into a working joint.

                I left that visit feeling like this surgery would be totally impossible!

I had to give Ashlyn the best surgeon and the best option, but I could never drive back and forth to Baltimore time and time again for pre and post-op visits.  I could never stay away from my family for the days that she would be in the hospital.

I decided to talk all of this over with Dr. Sorenson.  I didn’t know how he would react.  Some doctors bristle when you question their authority and opinion.  I prayed and prayed.  When I told him that I had taken Ashlyn to see Dr. Herzenberg for a second opinion he said, “Oh really!  He is wonderful.  I actually went to see him for a second opinion when I needed knee surgery.”

I showed him the report of Ashlyn’s appointment and Dr. Herzenberg’s recommendations.  He sat down and read the entire report, WORD FOR WORD!  I never expected that!  It was clear that he admired this other doctor greatly.

When he had finished, he said, “I see his point with the triple arthrodesis.”  He examined Ashlyn’s feet again and declared, “Yes, I think that would really work!  Yes, I agree.  I could do the surgery here for you or you could go see Dr. Herzenberg.  I wouldn’t be offended at all.”

I told him that I would much rather do the procedure here in Hershey with him as the doctor.  We talked about all the details; four weeks of casting prior to surgery to stretch the muscles as much as possible, three days in the hospital, 4-6 weeks in castes, 4-6 weeks in special boots.

“I am so glad you went for a second opinion,” he said at the end of the appointment.

                I was overjoyed!  I liked this doctor and the office much more than the Baltimore option, but I never dreamed that it would work out so well!  I thanked God over and over for this humble and wonderful Dr. Sorenson.  I prayed that God would make him brilliant beyond his own abilities!

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As I thought about writing this article in hopes of raising a prayer army for Ashlyn, I realized something.  I wasn’t really expecting this surgery to work, to actually give Ashlyn the ability to walk.  I was doing it because to not do it would seem like neglect.  But my expectations were of pain and suffering for Ashlyn, myself, and the entire family; not of a breakthrough. There were two reasons for my dismal outlook.

  1. There were other issues that made walking difficult, her hips and the 50% curvature of her spine that would not be addressed in this surgery.
  2. Everytime we had followed instructions that were supposed to help Ashlyn’s feet, it failed to do so. Doctors, therapist, and The Family Hope Center had prescribed 8 different therapies or equipement to use and here Ashlyn is…a 14 year old who can’t walk.

God has been coaxing me away from my expectations rooted in the past.  He is bringing me into faith.

Faith that the future could hold more healing and more promise than I can see right now.

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I am also asking Him for miraculous healing since I know that He is the great Physician and that He would do a perfect job with no pain or scar tissue!  I am taking Ashlyn to a healing room this Saturday and hope to take her To Randy Clark’s healing service on Good Friday.

Ashlyn goes for her first casting on March 21st.  Her second casting is April 4th.  Her surgery will be on April 19th at Hershey Med Center.  Could you please pray for God’s amazing healing to be displayed and for peace and comfort for Ashlyn and the rest of the family as well!  I am not sure how I am going to deal with showers and potty-time with Ashlyn in two casts, unable to stand or walk at all.  Pray for God’s wisdom and grace!  Thank you for standing with us and expecting wonderful things!

This is a New Season!

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There is a new season that I believe God is leading us all into. He is whispering in our ears, He is wooing us with His love, He is drawing us to follow Him out of the desert.  The desert season was full of disappointment and wounds.  It was full of waiting and hope deferred.  Yet God was saying through one of His prophets (Sue Roby), “The Delay is in your favor.”  I tried to hold on to that thought, to continue to believe that all would work out for the good…but I let some of my faith slip away.

A few months ago another prophet (Tony Brazelton) came proclaiming, “The Delay is over!”  My spirit leapt when I heard it. Could it really be time?  The time I had been praying for?  Yet the fear of disappointment almost choked this new hope to death.

In September God gave me two scriptures to read, Isaiah 65 and Psalm 144.  These same scriptures had been a source of strength during the lowest point in our lives as a family.

Is 65 had been God’s way of announcing to me that I was pregnant, back in 2010.  Verse 9 says, “I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live.”

I was happy to be pregnant and to feel the presence of a fresh new spirit within me.  I didn’t even need to take a pregnancy test.  Yet also I was ashamed.  Ashamed that I was pregnant for the fourth time in 5 years.  Ashamed that we still lived in a two bedroom townhouse and had to go to the health clinic for lower income families in Colorado Springs.  Ashamed that we struggled to pay our bills and had to set up a nursery for our baby in our walk-in closet.

The baby girl was due in January.  Right before Christmas Chris was laid off from his job.  We didn’t know what we would do.  We tried to enjoy Christmas as the debts grew.  I had a difficult time with Ashlyn’s birth which I wrote about in Birth Story Part 3.  Yet when she was born I was filled with peace and bliss.  My perfect baby girl!  God was so good!

The very next day the doctor informed us (devoid of compassion) that something was definitely wrong with our baby, but they didn’t know what.  Then began the many tests and scans.  Problems were found in her lungs, diaphragm, and heart.  We didn’t know what was going on.  We asked our church to pray and the only word they had for us was that this was my fault, that I was being too prideful.  I asked God if they were right.

That is when God gave me Ps. 144.  I felt peace flood my soul as I read:

“Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.  Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Our sheep will increase by thousands, by tens of thousands in our fields; our oxen will draw heavy loads. There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets.”

Amazingly Ashlyn was cleared and was released to go home after just two days, a perfectly healthy baby girl!

ashlynA perfect baby girl…until the results of the Chromosomal analysis came back.  A part of her 6th chromosome was missing but no one knew what that meant.  No one had ever seen this before.  We began this journey of parenting a special child, one who didn’t grow and develop like the other children.  One who had to wear a brace for a dislocated hip and a patch for strabismus in her eyes.  A child who needed physical therapy to learn to sit up and occupational therapy to learn to drink from a cup.

This is when Is. 65 became even more meaningful.  God had brought her forth and had told me that she was destined to take mountains.  She was not a mistake!

By April Chris still hadn’t found a full time job.  Our church kicked us out and shunned us.  Our mortgage and second mortgage were threatening to foreclose.  Our townhome association was threatening to take us to court.  Ps 144 didn’t appear to be true for us.

Yet God worked His miracles, one at a time.  He gave Chris a new job, sold our townhouse, brought us home to Pennsylvania, led us out of debt, and blessed Ashlyn with supernatural health.  More financial struggles, hardships with the children, and failed business ventures followed.  But we were home in the land of our inheritance.  We had friends, family, and a church that loved us!

When I started reading Is. 65 and Ps. 144 again this September, I was reminded of the encouragement I had received from them years ago.  Yet, I didn’t really want to delve into them, to relive the pain we had been through.  I kinda thought, “I know these verses inside and out.  I’ve been there and done that and I DON’T want to do it again.  Can’t I read something else?”

But I felt God saying, “Take another look.”

I discovered that these words, written thousands of years ago, were perfectly tailored for my life.  Not just my life back in 2010, but my life in 2017 and beyond.  I received revelations that I was not able to receive back then.  That our church in Colorado was not pleasing to God, but HE HAD BROUGHT US OUT OF IT to possess His Mountains.  Not because of anything we had done but because His faithfulness, He saved us from that situation and now we are taking mountains for His Kingdom.

Then I saw all the promises that God had for His servants (Is. 65, verse 13).  We will eat, drink, rejoice, and never be put to shame!  This has happened in our lives.

Then I read a verse that I had never noticed before, verse 16b.

“For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.”

If God can forget the past, why couldn’t I?  I felt Him saying to me, “I am bringing you into something new, something you haven’t seen before.  You don’t have to interpret current events through your past experiences.  You don’t have to look into the future through the lens of the past.  I am going to give you a new perspective.”

I had been gaining a different perspective, an aerial view like that of an eagle.  I didn’t want my thinking to be clouded by people’s opinions, ever changing circumstances, or the dark clouds of depression.  I wanted to be seated with Christ in heavenly places, to see things from his Eternal perspective.  God was telling me that I was meant to be an eagle.   I was trying to fly, but I really needed some help.

I asked God to let me see a real eagle, and He answered my prayer just weeks later on our family vacation up north.  See my previous articles, “A Hawk, A Vulture, and an Eagle Part 1 and Part 2.”  I felt elated!  I felt inspired!  I felt ready to fly!

Of course vacation has to end and normal life has to begin again.  Could I see an eagle during the course of my daily routine? Chances were no.

I have made a weekly trek to a farm for years now.  At first I never noticed the birds flying in the sky.  Not because they were not there, but because I was not looking.  After God started speaking to me about being an eagle, I began to search the skies.  I loved watching all the birds – the swallows, the robins, the wrens, the sparrows, and even the crows.  They looked so free.  Even better that those birds were the large birds that flew high above the rest.  I felt inspired by their flight…until I realized that they were vultures.

Months I spent searching the sky for eagles only to see vultures, buzzards, and more vultures!  Ahggggggg!  At the end of October I made this trip for the 20 zillionth time.  I saw a large bird swooping down over the highway.  Another vulture, I said to myself.  Still, when I got close enough I turned my eyes away from the highway and up to the sky just long enough to see…

A bald eagle!  I saw the brilliant white head and the powerful straight wings!  I was not expecting that at all!  An eagle in my own neck of the woods!  In the midst of my normal routine!

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This seemed very significant so I asked God if there was something He wanted to tell me.  Immediately I heard this verse on my Bible CD:

“‘The One who is coming will come.  He will not be late.  The person who is right with me will have life because of his faith.  But if he turns back with fear, I will not be please with him.’

But we are not those who turn back and are lost.  We are people who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:35-39 (ICB)

Fear has been my normal reaction to many things, so normal I hardly realize that I am choosing fear over faith.  But I am not one who turns back!  I am one who believes!  I will choose faith!

I heard God say to me, “I want you to be ready to see eagles where in the past only the vultures flew.”