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!”

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.

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!

How to Rise Above the Vultures

We all have them.  Bad days, bad weeks, even bad months…when it feels like we are living under a dark cloud of depression.  All circumstances seem to agree with the discouraging thoughts inside our heads.  Yet if we know Jesus, we understand that this is not the abundant life that Jesus promised.  We realize something is wrong, but exactly what and how to fix it is a little fuzzy.  Fuzzy because the vultures are circling overhead, creating a dark atmosphere that blocks out the light of the Son.

                How can we live a life without those pesky vultures bothering us?

For me, they speak a language that I readily understand.  A language of condemnation, self-doubt, and self-pity.  Whenever I fall short (which is every day), my perfectionist nature can hear the toxic voices of the vultures.  I agree all too often and lose sight of God’s truth.  How do I stay out of their reach?

The book, The Final Quest offers a clue.  In Rick Joyner’s vision, he was fighting in the Lord’s Army.  He saw many Christians in the enemy’s camp being held captive by weak little demons of fear and being oppressed by the vultures of depression.  They could have easily fought off these puny creatures with their glorious swords, but chose not to.

Even the Christians who were not prisoners but were mighty warriors on the mountain of the Lord, were still vulnerable to the vultures. If they drifted too close to the edge, they could slip on the condemnation vomited on the rocky cliffs by the vultures.  Once they had fallen off the mountain, they were easily carried off by the enemy.  Rick avoided this fate by spending his free time driving his sword (the Word of God) deep into the side of the mountain and tying himself to it.  He finally climbed to a level that was above the reach of the vultures.  This level was called, “Galatians Two Twenty.”

                “…and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (NRSV)

This scripture speaks of a life I have not yet learned how to live, but I want to.  I want to climb up that level where I dwell in the reality, “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

My life is no longer about me.  My life is about Jesus!  No one (not even myself) has any grounds to judge me.  My value doesn’t come from being good, or perfect, or hard-working, or talented.  My value comes from the value God puts on me.  He knew me before the world began.  He made me.  He knows who I am in the depths of my being.  He knows who I will become.  He knows that His word is powerful to enable me to do anything He tells me to do.  He knows His finished work in me.  He says that I am worth His Son – His Life, His Death, His Resurrection.

                It is no longer about me!

                It is Christ living in me!

 My past mistakes – Jesus has signed his name to those and claimed them as His own.

My victories – I win them in His power.

My weaknesses – He is turning them into strengths.

My Strengths – It is His likeness in me.

My embarrassments…

My insecurities…

My shame – They no longer apply to me!

My condemnation – I say to those vultures, “Take it up with Jesus!  This life belongs to Him!”

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It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me!

When I start to get discouraged, when I tumble down the slippery slope to depression, I am focusing on myself.

My failures

My faults

Why I am to blame for all the imperfect circumstances.

Why other people don’t like me.

How I could never become the person God wants me to be.

Why all His goodness doesn’t apply to Me!

 I AM SO TIRED OF FOCUSING ON ME!!!!

Even Bill Johnson said that no one comes out of a time of deep introspection encouraged.  There are times that the Holy Spirit will lead us to look into our past or look into our hearts, and shine His Light and Love on whatever we find there. But looking inward all the time with our own understanding makes our world smaller and smaller, darker and darker.

“Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.” Romans 8:6 (MSG)

I want that spacious, free life!  I want to soar above the circumstances, soar above the vultures.  I want to mount up on wings like an eagle and rise above the grey clouds, to see the sun paint glorious colors on the sky.

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When I am being bothered by those vultures and thinking all sorts of disparaging thoughts about myself…

I turn my gaze to Jesus!  I start to worship Him for all of His excellent attributes.  I rehearse all of His goodness to me.  I see how beautiful and powerful He is.  I give Him His job back, being the King of the Universe.  My burdens become light.  He becomes so big.  My problems become so small.  I lift my arms in surrender and I feel faith arise within me.

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                I feel my wings unfold.  I feel the wind of His presence lift me high.  High above the vultures. High above everything…

except HIM.

 

 

Our 21st Honeymoon: A Moonrise, A Sunset, and a Sunrise

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Chris and I celebrated our 21st anniversary on August 3rd.  It is always so hot in August, and we are not fans of heat and humidity.  Why did we pick August to get married, we ask ourselves?  Last year we celebrated our 20th on the hottest day of the entire year!  This year we decided to wait until October.  God provided a beautiful beach getaway at Ocean City, Maryland, and it was lovely!!

I have only been to the beach a handful of times in my life.  Florida when I was a preschooler.  Ocean City, New Jersey when I was in Elementary School.  The beautiful white sand beaches of Belize after I graduated from High School.  Brigantine Island for our honey moon.  Duck, North Carolina with the family 6 years ago.  This time I think I really understood why people return again and again.

First we decided to walk on the beach and then the boardwalk to see what we could see.  We ended up walking 68 blocks that day and night, because we didn’t know much about Ocean City.

Finally we found a beautiful restaurant with great Italian food.  We could sit outside and watch the full moon rise over the ocean.  My first moon rise over the ocean!

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The next day we decided to drive rather than walk.  We drove to the very end of the board walk which was the most exciting part.

 

We saw lots of little shops.  We saw hundreds of fancy cars in a car show.  Chris got some Boardwalk fries and frozen custard.  We went to the Life Saving Station Museum.  It was amazing to learn about the men who would patrol the beaches at night, looking for ships in distress.  The accounts of rescues touched me deeply.  The men would risk their own lives, work for hours in freezing temperatures and horrible weather, and think of nothing else except the person they were trying to save.

“That is like you, Jesus.” I prayed. “Give me your heart for your people in distress.  But how do I save them if they don’t even know that they are dying?”

You don’t have to do my job.  You don’t have to save them, heal them, know everything about them, or make everything right for them.  Just love them and obey Me,” I heard Him answer.

Later we ate a delicious meal on our balcony overlooking the bay.  Then we walked on the bay as the sun began to set.

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It was my first sunset on the bay…

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Night falls.

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The next morning we woke up early and walked to the beach one last time.  The sun was about to rise.

I was surprised by all the other people gathered, watching the horizon.

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There is the first bit of sun peeking over the ocean!  My first sunrise on the beach.  We watched as it rose quickly into the sky.

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We shared the beach with the trucks and the morning fishermen.

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And a woman doing acrobatics.

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And two pelicans.

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I could feel His presence in the wind that carried the birds.  As we walked along the edge of the water, I could hear God’s voice in the waves.  They were unrelenting and drowning out all other sounds.  I can see why people love it here.  Away from the rest of the world.  Encounters with God come loud and clear.

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I am struck by how God reveals himself in His creation.  He is like the ocean.  Unpredictable.  Just when you think you have figured out where to walk to just get your feet wet, a large wave comes and gives you more seawater than you had bargained for. Uncontrollable.  The waves push and pull and can’t be stopped.

Unimaginably beautiful.

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Have Patience!

 

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I love shopping at Costco! It is usually a lovely experience…usually…

At first I was nervous about paying for a Costco membership, because I didn’t think we would get our money’s worth out of it.  Now I shop there twice a month.  It really has become inconvenient to NOT buy in bulk.

Frequently I shop with some of the children with me.  This particular Saturday morning Chris was able to come along too.  What a treat!  We had a delightful time trying all the samples, browsing the aisles, and filling our cart to overflowing.  We finally paid and pushed our heavy load out to the exit.  We found the place packed with shoppers with their carts, watching the torrential downpour happening just outside the large open doors.  We tried to maneuver our cart close enough to the exit to see what was actually happening outside.

A perfect summer storm!  Sheets of rain pelted down, unrelenting.  No one was willing to go out into it, yet new shoppers with full carts kept pushing towards the doors from the checkout lines.  A few people rushed in from the parking lot, wanting to start their shopping, only to find an almost impenetrable wall of people just inside.  With grumpy, disgruntled faces they tried to wiggle their way out of the rain.  I felt very in the way.

Chris decided that he would make a dash for it.  He was going to get the van and pull up to the entrance.  A good start to a plan.  Without discussing the details any further, he plunged out into the rain with his phone in his pocket.

I waited and waited with two very antsy boys and an ever increasing mob of people.  We were lined up by the door, but no one was going out.  Where was Chris?  I couldn’t see him through the rain.

“Do you have the big van out there?” a nice woman asked.  “I see it back there behind my daughter.”

I inched my head around the corner and saw our van sitting behind a rather long line of vehicles.  Yet no one was moving, no one was loading up their groceries.

“What is happening?” I thought?  “Should I wait for Chris to get to the entrance?  But no one is moving.  Is he waiting for me to come out to him?  He is always accusing me of being slow.  Maybe he is wondering where I am.”

Cooper and Chai were urging me to go out to the van.

“Come on, mom! Let’s go!!!”  they kept saying.

After several more annoyed looks from incoming shoppers, I decided to risk it.  It could rain like this for the rest of the day, and we couldn’t stay here forever.

“OK guys, we are going to run as fast as we can to Daddy.  Stay with me!  Ready?”  I said.  I was no wimp!  What is a little rain?

As soon as we left the building I realized what a mistake I had made!  The “little rain” soaked us to the bone in one millisecond.  It was too late to go back inside so I plowed on, pushing my load up the sidewalk which had been transformed into a river.  The water covered my shoes and was soaking my pants.

Through the sheets of water pelting me, I caught a glimpse of Chris’ face in the front seat of the van.  The van that was so close yet so…far…away.  He was shaking his head with a look of bewilderment that said, “What in the world are you doing, woman?!”

I knew that I had made a very bad decision, yet I had to keep going.

“Boys, help me push!” I yelled.

They tried to help until we came to the place where a drain pipe exited the side of the building.  Water from the roof was shooting out of the pipe like a fire hose.  The boys stopped moving forward and began to play in the water!

“This is the life!”  I heard Cooper say happily as I was still struggling to get our very soggy groceries upriver to the van.  I finally get there and Chris jumped out.

“What are you doing?”  He yelled with a crazy kind of laugh and immediately started loading groceries in the back.  The boys began to help, although it pained them to leave their fun.  We all threw ourselves into the van in a matter of minutes, dripping and soaking the seats.

“Cutie, I wanted you to wait for me.  I could see on the radar that this storm is about to pass, but I couldn’t call you because you left your phone at home.”

I was trying my best not to sink into a disgusted, self-loathing depression for all the groceries that I had just ruined.  I was thinking about all of us having to change all our clothes – more laundry! Arghh!  I was thinking about having to dry out the van.  I was thinking about my sopping wet hair matted to my head.  When it finally dried, the humidity was going to make it poof into a frizzy mess.

The words of Bishop Joseph Garlington came to my mind.

“If it’s funny later, it’s funny now,” Chris said as though he was reading my mind!  I was trying to see the humor in it, but I was just feeling foolish and oh so very wet!

Chris began to maneuver the van out of the parking lot.  Before we even turned out onto the street, the clouds cleared.  The sun came out and painted the most beautiful pinks onto the now blue sky.

“See, if you would have just waited a few more minutes!”  the sun seemed to say, as if to mock me!

What have I learned from this unfortunate event?  Clear communication is very important.  Discuss a plan thoroughly and understand what the other person is thinking.  If you are unable to obtain the needed clarification…simply wait!  Have patience!  Wait on the Lord and listen to His wisdom.  His radar is perfect and He knows exactly when those storms are going to clear.

I have gleaned a few more pearls of wisdom:

Don’t take advice from impatient pre-teen boys.

Don’t worry about the rude looks of other people or what they might be thinking.

Almost all of Costco’s products are wrapped in plastic so you don’t have to worry about a little rain.

Even a wrong choice is not the end of the world and can make a pretty good story.

 

God Encounters ~ Part Three; Maleficent offers a message of Hope!

Maleficent

After going through a season of loss, it is hard to allow yourself to dream again.  There is something beautiful and freeing about surrender.  Lay all my dreams down and cling to God alone?  Sure, I can do that.

But what happens when I feel dreams stirring in my heart again?  Old dreams.  New dreams.  Forgotten dreams.

It should thrill me and fill my heart with excitement…but instead, I feel fear.  The fear of being disappointed again.  The fear of being wrong, of being foolish, of going around that same painful circle again.

God sent me a message that gave me permission to dream again.  And he sent it through a famous Disney villain – Maleficent!

If you haven’t seen the new live action movie, Maleficent, you might want to watch it before reading this article (I don’t want to ruin any surprises for you).  I never had any interest in seeing this movie.  I hate Disney villains!  They are so scary!  I don’t let my small children watch them.  Yet when the movie Maleficent came on the TV, I was drawn in.  Maleficent was a young girl with piercing eyes.

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She was a powerful fairy.  In fact, after the death of her parents, it fell to her to protect the fairy kingdom of the Moors.  She didn’t look at all like a fairy with great horns growing out of her head and massive, dark wings.  Yet she was wise and good.

I was captivated when I watched her flying with her strong wings,  joyous and free, shaping the clouds with the force of her flight.  I wished to do the same!  My recent obsession with eagles that I wrote about in “God Encounters ~ Part Two”, fueled the desire that I could enjoy that same freedom that Maleficent had.

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She trusted a young boy even though humans were usually enemies of her kingdom.  She and the human fell in love, and on her 16th birthday, the boy gave her, “true love’s kiss.”  Her trust was rewarded by abandonment and an empty heart.  Soon the boy forgot about her in his ambition to become King.

Years passed.  That boy had become a man and returned to Maleficent with kind words.  She forgave him and let him into her heart again, only to be betrayed. The man had intended all along to kill her, for whoever killed Maleficent, the great protector of the Moors, would be given the human kingdom that wanted to conquer it.  This man couldn’t bring himself to kill the dark and beautiful creature he had once loved.  So instead he drugged her and cut off her wings, thinking that this would be all the proof that was needed.

Normally I am not that deeply impacted by a Disney fairy tale, but this time I truly grieved for Maleficent.  To see her painfully crippled by the one that she loved hit close to home.  I could feel her pain.  What a tragedy for her to be earthbound when she was created to fly!  The sorrow and suffering turned into bitterness in Maleficent’s heart, and she cursed the daughter of her betrayer, Aurora.

Aurora was so sweet, so happy, so innocent, and so defenseless that Maleficent began to love the child despite herself.  She became Aurora’s sustainer and defender, her “fairy Godmother.”  As I watched Maleficent’s heart turn from unforgiveness to love, I still felt so sad.  Sad to see her only a shell of what she once was.  Yet that happens to many of us in this life.  I comforted myself with the thought that even if our physical bodies are broken and our circumstances are prison-like, we can still be free on the inside.  Our spirits can still soar above the clouds in God’s presence.  Still, we long to see restoration with our physical eyes.

Maleficent tried to renounce the curse she had put on Aurora, but she could not.  When Aurora turned 16 and fell into the death sleep, Maleficent showed no concern for her own life when she brought a prince into the castle to give Aurora “true love’s kiss” and break the spell.  It didn’t work!  Maleficent was heartbroken, coming face to face to with the fear that has always haunted her – there was no such thing as true love.  She promised to always protect the sleeping girl.  When Maleficent stooped to kiss the one she truly loved with a selfless devotion, the spell was broken!  Aurora was awakened!

The king, now a tortured and crazy man, did not even notice that his daughter was well again, so intent was he on killing Maleficent.  Aurora ran from the battle and came upon Maleficent’s wings, locked in a glass case.  They were still alive and flapping!  This was something I never expected!  Cut off a body part and it surely dies.  In the years that had passed, they would have decayed and been long gone…yet here they were, as strong and true as ever.

Aurora shattered the case and the powerful wings were reunited with their owner, carrying her above the battle.  Maleficent’s true identity had been restored, and it was a wonder to behold.  This was a miracle!  I was rejoicing!  This is the type of miracle that only happens in fairy tales…or is it?

Could this just be a message from God to get my attention, to lead me to the real miracle of the restoration of all things found in Is 35 and again in Is 65 all throughout the Bible?  This will really happen in all people and to the entire earth…someday.

But what about right now, inside of me?

Could it be that God is restoring my true identity – the parts of me that were stolen or crippled?  My true self, my purpose and all of the freedom and thrill and excitement that comes along with it?  Could God be storing up all of the dreams I ever had, all the dreams He ever had for me?

-before they got trampled and crushed by life.

-before I experienced betrayal and pain.

-before I hear the words “You can’t,” “You shouldn’t,” “You Never Will!”

-before I morphed into a shell of what I was created to be, a wingless eagle living in the dirt.

Could those wings of mine be alive and viable somewhere?

Perhaps I WILL feel the wind rushing around me!

Perhaps I will rise above the earth again.

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Perhaps I will see the miracles I once expected.

Perhaps I will be whole and strong.

Perhaps I really will be a fearless one!

Perhaps I  was born to fly!

And perhaps you were too…

 

 

 

God Encounters ~ Part Two: The Sky and the Ocean

It has been a difficult season for me, being sandwiched between the needs of my children and my mom.  I feel so busy, so responsible, and so drained that it is almost suffocating.

Yet, all this is pushing me deeper into God.  I am asking for strength and for wisdom.  I am asking for His love to flow through me when I am empty.  I am listening for His voice.  He has answered me with the most beautiful string of encounters with His presence.

                One – The Wind

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One February night I was having a quiet time in my room.  I turned on some “Bethel Without Words” and just sat in the music.  I felt God’s presence.  It was like a wind blowing through me and around me.  I was reminded of my childhood, when I used to climb the maple tree in my front yard.  I loved to climb as high as I could, until the branches got thin enough to sway gently in the wind.  I felt a breathless exhilaration.  I felt peace and joy.  I felt the wind.

                “That was me,” I heard God whisper.  “The wind was my presence.  I have always been with you, even before you knew me.”

The presence of God was so sweet.  It blew away my fears and left me feeling refreshed and new and loved.  I practiced trying to find this “Wind of His Presence” during the course of my day; when I was stressed about all I had to do, when I was worried that I wasn’t enough, when I felt my frustration rise and my sanity shaken.  I would close my eyes and feel the wind softly rock me back and forth, like a mother rocking her baby.  I was safe and loved, and this reality was where I wanted to live every hour of every day.

                Two – The Heartbeat of Love

About two weeks later I was enjoying worship at my church on a Sunday morning.  It is so easy to connect with the presence of God in that place.  I felt the wind again.  Then it began to pulse through me like a heartbeat.  I began to awaken to the truth that this love was also pulsing through everything everywhere…All THE TIME!  The universe was founded and built by His love.  It is operating and expanding by His love still.  This love is alive and active like the wind blowing, like a river flowing, like blood being pumped through every cell.

This was challenging my current world view.  I had seen the world as a very cold and hard place much of the time, full of dangers and toxins that I had to protect my children from.  Many scenes that flashed through my mind were not pretty; broken down cities full of corruption, once beautiful wilds polluted and dying, great mountains of decaying garbage inhabited by sick and hopeless humanity.   Yet God was telling me that His love was pulsing through all of this.  Scenes of great evil, people experiencing unspeakable horrors at the hands of other people, also flashed through my mind.

“There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still…”

I knew that Corrie ten Boom had said this after living through a concentration camp, but now God was telling me that it was really true.  HIS LOVE IS EVERYWHERE!  Of course there is a lot in this world that IS NOT love, that IS NOT part of God’s original plan.

But His love is still there, bigger and stronger.  If only we could be aware of it.  If others have found His love in the depths of darkness, certainly I could find it in every circumstance of my life.  If His love can bring redemption from the worst of the worst, certainly He can do the same in my slightly messed up life!  When I began to look at the trials as potential miracles, my burdens began to turn to wonder.

              Three – The Eagles and the Wind

Eagle silhouette in Kachemac Bay where many birds can be seen

In the following weeks, I practiced feeling God’s heartbeat of love pulsing all around me and in me.  I imagined it flowing thought everything I looked at.  I imagined it touching everything I thought about.  Many times I would feel the wind of His presence, so full of love.

At the same time, I found myself searching the sky for eagles.  I know that there probably aren’t many eagles around here, but I was eager to see any bird of prey.  God speaks to me so often through nature, and right then I had an obsession with eagles.  It started when I wrote the article,  A Cure for the Negativity that is All Around , in which I told about a vision I had about 12 years ago.  I saw a nest full of baby eagles on the side of a rocky cliff.

God said, “You are eagles and you are to raise your children like eagles.”

Eagles play a huge part in the visions that Rick Joyner tells about in the Final Quest Series.  The eagles seemed to represent the prophets, flying high enough to see clearly what others cannot see.  They instruct, encourage, and warn the other believers.  They bring refreshing winds of healing when they flap their great wings.  They set believers free when they devour the snakes of shame. They carried many scars from the battles they had fought with courage. The Final Quest books have impacted me deeply.  I have read them many times and felt challenged and uplifted each time.  A small, timid voice inside my heart would say, “Perhaps I am meant to be an eagle.”  My mind would quickly dismiss the silly thought…until I remembered that vision.

I still didn’t understand how I could be an eagle in the spirit, but I wanted to find out.  So I began to search the skies for a sign.  Perhaps if I caught sight of the noble creatures (even a hawk would do!), they could teach me something.  As I drove through the country to the farm I frequent once a week, I would see large birds high the sky.  I would marvel at their freedom and wonder what they were seeing.

“How I wish I could fly up there like an eagle!  How I wish I could feel the wind as they do and see as they see!”  I thought to myself.

As I watched, I realized that they usually didn’t work hard or even flap their wings.  They simply allowed the wind to carry them.

                “The Wind of my Presence will lift you up so you can see like an eagle.  Being in my presence is the key to the vision you desire,” I heard the Spirit of God say to me.

In a split second He married my two obsessions, the wind and the eagle. I wasn’t crazy!  God was taking me on a journey that I didn’t understand, but it seemed as though He wanted me to be an eagle as much as I wanted to be one!

The scripture I received at the Women’s Encounter brought all of these encounters into focus for me.

Psalm 27:4-5 “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life (His presence – YES!  That is what I want more than anything!), to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” (That’s where my baby eagles and I live!  That is where He is positioning me!)

Four – The Sky and the Ocean

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One Evening in April I was attending Women’s Prayer at my church.  The worship that night was simply a play list on a cell phone plugged into the sound system, yet I felt the Presence of the Lord so deeply.  I felt His love pulsing through me!  I felt His wind!  I imagined stretching my wings.  The beautiful wind lifted me high above the earth, above my circumstances, above the doubt and fear and anger of this world.  I could see that all was love, all was victory, all was good.

Right at that moment a song came on that I didn’t know, but the vocalist was singing about the wind of God.

“I can feel your wind blow through me.  All of me cries out for all of you!”

The words perfectly captured what was going on in my spirit. (Later the leader told me that she hadn’t picked that song and didn’t know why it had come on…but I did!)  I was soaring on the inside and feeling incredible freedom and peace.  Then I encountered the clouds in the sky.  I became the rain, falling to the earth.  I became part of the great waterfall that Hannah Hurnard talked about in Hinds’ Feet on High Places.  I was one of those happy drops of water, throwing themselves down from the High Places with thrilling abandon to be broken on the rocks below.  We continued to flow to the lowest place, down to the Valley of Humiliation to bring life and love to suffering humanity.  The water persisted in its journey until it reached the ocean.  And there I was, water in the depths of the ocean.  I could lay my life down to bring His love in the lowest place.

The wind and the rain

The Sky and the Ocean

             “This is what I am offering you.  This is the necklace from your dream.” The Father whispered.

Then I remembered necklace and my dream (God Encounters ~ Part One)!  The beautiful silver necklace with light blue jewels each inlaid with smaller dark blue gems.

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The light blue was the wind.

The dark blue was the rain.

The light blue was the Sky.

The light blue was the Ocean.

The Sky was limitless freedom and potential and vision.

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The Ocean was His Love and Peace in darkness and suffering, humility and servant-hood.

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My Father was offering me the vast expanse of the Sky and the deepest depths of the Ocean.

How could I, an imperfect mortal be worthy of such a gift?  How could I even understand such a gift?  How could I ever accept it and live in its reality?  Then the answer came.

                “You can’t work for this.  You are my daughter.  This is your inheritance.  Just accept it.”

So in my spirit that night, I accepted the gift that I could barely comprehend.  My Father, the King, placed the necklace around my neck and clasped it in the back.  It felt light.  This was no burden!  This was no heavy yoke!  This was the Sky and the Ocean…and it was mine.

 

 

 

 

Will I See My Papa Again?

50th anniversary

It was a warm summer night and the sun had not yet set.  My brother and I were hanging out with our friends at the close of our youth group meeting.  Our youth pastor, Bryan, came up to us and said, “Your mom is in the office and wants to see you.”

That was very unusual.  My mom didn’t attend our church and she never came on a Wednesday night.  When we entered Bryan’s office, Mom told us that we had to call our grandfather, “Papa” as we called him.  He lived in Wisconsin and we only saw him and our Grammy twice a year; at Christmas and during summer vacation.  We loved them dearly, yet I didn’t understand why mom had driven all the way into the city to make sure that we called him on the church telephone.

“Your Papa is going into surgery early tomorrow morning, and I wanted you to talk to him before that,” Mom explained.

With the excitement of the approaching summer vacation and my graduation from High School, I had completely forgotten that Papa was scheduled to get a hip replacement.  He was in his eighties but still seemed fairly young to me.  He and Grammy loved to go hiking, yet in recent years his hip pain had made even walking very difficult for him.  The past summer, Papa didn’t breathe a word about his pain, yet I saw him trembling and breathing with slow, shaky breaths whenever he sat down or got up again.  Grammy was anxious to get back to their active lifestyle and urged him to get the hip replaced.

I wasn’t worried about his surgery.  He had gotten his other hip done a few years back, and it seemed rather routine.  I took the phone and told him that I loved him and hoped his surgery went well.  I thought my mom had been silly to insist upon this call. After all, we would see him in person soon.

That was the last time I ever had the opportunity to talk to my Papa, and how thankful I am now for that phone conversation and my mom’s intuition.  Days later we learned that something had gone wrong after the surgery, a nasty infection.  Papa’s vital signs went haywire, and he was about to die.  The doctors were doing everything they could to stabilize him.  In the scary chaos, they asked Grammy if they should put Papa on life support.  She looked at the love of her life, the man she adored, her partner for more than 63 years.  She saw him dying and thought the doctors were asking her if they should save his life or let him die.  Of course she chose to save his life.

She told me later that she didn’t understand what life support really meant.  If she had known at the time that it meant hooking her beloved husband up to all sorts of tubes and equipment, keeping his body alive in a sort of artificial limbo state; she never would have agreed to it.

Yet there he was, in the hospital bed, being sustained by machines.  Grammy’s heart was broken and so were ours.  Everything had changed.  No more hiking trips.  No more happy summer vacations listening to Papa’s funny stories.  No more Christmases with my grandfather and his white hair all mussed up from getting out of bed so early in the morning.

There could be a miracle.  I believed in miracles and I prayed for a miracle for Papa.  I thought about what a precious man he was.  He had met Grammy when he was 21 and Grammy was only 16.  He walked her home from the ice skating rink and never had eyes for another girl.  They waited 10 years to get married so they could save money to build a house.

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Harold and La Vera Gisselman on their wedding day

That adorable house was still their home and one of my favorite places in the world.  To read more about my memories, read my article, “The Term is Over” and “Happy 100th Birthday Grammy.”

He was called into the army during WWII, but never left the United States thanks to his excellent typing skills. That was a very good thing, because during that time, my mother was conceived!

Harold and Dana

After the war, he began working at a bank as a teller and worked his way to becoming the bank president.  He was known by many of the people in the small city of Wausau, and was affectionately called “Chick” even though his name was Harold.  He was always easy with conversation and jokes and was great fun to be around.

He was a very honorable man and attended a Methodist church.  He didn’t talk much about his faith.  In fact, when I had a life-altering salvation experience at the age of 14 and started attending a Charismatic church, he didn’t seem that interesting in talking about it.  I wondered if he really had a relationship with Jesus.  Had he ever asked Jesus to forgive his sins and take him to heaven?  I didn’t know.  The thought of never seeing my Papa again terrified me.

That week I graduated from High School.  The graduation ceremony was lovely.  I had some of my closest friends back to my house afterwards to celebrate.  We stayed up most of the night, talking.  There is so much to talk about when you are on the verge of the rest of your life; with missions trips, college, and careers all on the horizon.

Then we got into a circle, grabbed hands, and began to pray.  We prayed for each other, prayed for our futures.  Then I began to pray for my Papa.

“God, I ask that you would do a miracle and heal Papa.  If he doesn’t know you, Jesus, DON’T LET HIM DIE!  Heal him and speak to him and let him know your love.  If he does know you, if he is going to heaven, then let him die.  I don’t want him to have to suffer indefinitely, unable to talk or really live.  If he is saved, please take him to heaven,” I prayed.

I looked up at the clock and it said 2:30am.  It was time to wrap up this party.  My friends returned home and I fell asleep in my living room, curled up on the recliner.

In the morning my mom gently shook my shoulder.  “Last night your Papa died,” she said.

I was so sleepy, that I didn’t respond except to let out a sad, “Ohhhhhh.” Then I rolled over and went back to sleep.  I couldn’t explain the peace that I felt.  My mom expected me to be quite distraught, and she hated to give me the news on the day after I graduated.

Later, when I was fully awake, I asked my mom, “What time did Papa die?”

“It was 1:30am,” she answered.

My heart sank.  He died before I had prayed that prayer.  I didn’t have any assurance that I would see my Papa again.

Then I remembered.  Papa had passed away at 1:30am Wisconsin time.  That was 2:30am our time here in Pennsylvania, the exact time that I had asked Jesus to carry him to heaven!

 

The Wonder of a Little Girl

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My Annalise is quite a special little girl.  She has bright blue eyes that sparkle with life.  She has cute little dimples in the corners of her mouth when she smiles and one on her right cheek as well.

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She loves to run around the house in bouncy, toddler circles.  She loves to run on the sidewalk outside our home, her small arms pumping with the joy of childhood.

I am certain that she must be one of the most beautiful creatures in the universe.  There is no sound more beautiful than her high-pitched voice exclaiming, “Mama!”  when she sees me.  There is no feeling more wonderful than when she puts her chubby, little arms around my neck and rubs her soft cheek against my cheek, slowly and lovingly.  I can feel her long, dark eyelashes brush my skin.  She snuggles in and expresses her joy by sighing, “Ohhhh, ohhhh,” like we do when we hug her.

Throughout the day, I will call out to her for fun, “Lisie, Lisie!” which is her nickname.  She responds, “Mommy, Ahmmy!”  I can’t hide my absolute delight in her.  I smile wide and my eyes tell her that she is the light of my life.  She smiles back with those dimples and a look that says, “I really am something, aren’t I?”

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Recently I gathered some pictures to decorate my mother’s new room.  She just moved to an assisted living home in March.  Now when I visit my mom, my attention is always drawn to a particular picture on her bookshelf.  It is an old photo of me.  I look to be about three, just a little older than Annalise.  I have noticed that I have the same bright blue eyes.  I have those cute mouth dimples.  And there it is, the smile that says, “I really am something, aren’t I?”

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My mom had told me many times that Annalise looks very much like I did at her age.  Mom also says that she acts a lot like me, sweet and kind but also feisty.  I wanted to believe it, but it wasn’t until I saw that picture did I begin to think, “I was just as precious and marvelous as Annalise.  I was loved and cherished just as Annalise is.”

I don’t know why I had forgotten that.  Somehow the years and my life experiences had told me a different story; that I wasn’t that special, that I had to work really hard to get people to like me, and that I had to worry about losing that approval.

God is taking me back to that little girl.  The one who was the most beautiful creature in the universe.  The one who captured her Father’s heart with one glance of her eyes.

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The one who already had the perfect love that could never be earned, the love that could never be diminished, the love that could never be lost.  That little girl is me… and I really AM something, aren’t I?