A Surprise Visit from My Marine, a Family Picnic, and another Eagle Sighting

It was 7pm and dinner was still not ready! I was working in the hot kitchen as the children were running all over the house and yard.

“This just does not work!”  I lamented to Areli, my oldest daughter.  “It is simply too late to be eating supper.”

How did it get so late, and why was I so unprepared today?

“It is alright, Mommy” she said sweetly as she helped.

I was putting the finishing touches on chicken chili (why did I decide to make soup on such a hot day?) when I heard a voice behind me.

“Mom! Mom!”

                I turned around and to see a face I hadn’t seen in four months.  The grown-up, handsome face of my oldest son, Cole.  It took a few seconds to register in my brain.  Then I rushed to hug him, and hugged him, and hugged him, and hugged him some more.

He had just graduated from his Marine MOS training school that morning.  We had all texted him congratulations, and his only reply was that he was off to his next duty station.  He had told us earlier in the month that he didn’t have enough time to come see us, and that it could be quite a while before he did.  Little did we know that he had bought a car and had gotten enough leave to drive home.  Areli knew all about it and had been in communication with him the entire time.  My heart was so happy, so thrilled, so blessed that I couldn’t put my emotions into words. Suddenly I was thankful that dinner was so late and I simply said.

                “Cole, you are just in time for supper!”

 

That Saturday we decided to take the whole family to Little Buffalo for a picnic.  We had many happy memories of day trips and camping trips there, and it was a beautiful day!  As we started the journey in our 12 passenger van, my heart was overflowing.  Our van was full, and I was so thankful that all 12 members of our family were together again.  I sent up a little prayer.

                “I would really love to see an eagle today since we are all together and Cole is here, since Cole is an eagle too.”

About five minutes pasted.  We drove across the Susquehanna River and there it was.  A big black bird.  Flying across the road right in front of us.  It had a white head!

It was a bald eagle!

“There is an eagle!” I screamed 5 times as I pointed frantically.  Most of the children saw it before it flew out of sight.  Cole didn’t spot it, and he started laughing at me.  The other children looked at me strangely and someone said, “Mom, I don’t think I have ever seen you so excited!”

“I was definitely more excited to see Cole when he came home…but you guys don’t understand!  I just prayed and asked God to see an eagle today.  Literally 5 minutes ago I asked Him, and there was an eagle!”

Chris had just been telling me how he had to drive this route many days to deliver packages.  It was a lovely drive.  But he had never seen an eagle before.  The rest of the day I spend in gratitude and wonderment.  Why would God so quickly answer my frivolous little prayer?  What had I done to deserve to be surrounded by such beautiful and handsome faces?

DSC_0002DSC_0010DSC_0018DSC_0071DSC_0127DSC_0156DSC_0191DSC_0209DSC_0211DSC_0216 (2)DSC_0218

These people made up my whole world, all my hopes and dreams. They are large portions of my heart walking around outside of my body.

They are all so precious, so special, and so important to me.  They were all here together on this perfect day.  Finally we had to head home, clean up and make supper. The perfect day was fading into twilight, and I wanted to hold on to it.

Cole would be leaving for his first duty station soon.  Would our entire family ever be in our van together again? I began to worry.  It is easy for a mother to worry.  So many details for each child.  So many hurdles stand between them and accomplishing their destinies.  Sometimes one of those hurdles is me!  (Did I check all their school papers?  Did I look that child in the eyes today and see his heart?  Will this one overcome my bad parenting techniques in the past?) A hundred fears began to pop up their ugly heads, and I began to play whack-a-mole with them in my mind.  Not a fun game because they just keep popping back up again.

                Finally I remembered that God had just shown me an eagle.

He had done that twice before, and both times He had used the eagle sighting to tell me something very important.  The first time was in response to a very specific prayer of mine.  He showed me that I do hear His voice, He does hear my voice, and that He created me to be a spiritual eagle.  (Details in “A Hawk, A Vulture,and an Eagle” Part 1 and Part 2.)

The second time I was on a long drive and He told me that I could trust Him with my Children and that He loved me more than I could imagine.  Then I saw the eagle.  Right at that moment this scripture came on the Bible CD I had been listening to.

So don’t lose your confidence. It will bring you a great reward. You need endurance so that after you have done what God wants you to do, you can receive what he has promised.

“Yet, the one who is coming will come soon. He will not delay.

The person who has God’s approval will live by faith. But if he turns back, I will not be pleased with him.”

We don’t belong with those who turn back and are destroyed. Instead, we belong with those who have faith and are saved.

Hebrews 10:35-39 (God’s Word)

                It was clear that these fears had no place in my life.

God loved me, He was holding my husband and my children in His hands, and had given me the faith I needed to stand firm with confidence.  Then I was reminded of something He had been showing me a few weeks ago.  Frankly I had kinda forgotten about it, because it was just too hard to wrap my brain around, so against my normal way of living.  However, this third eagle sighting had convinced me that this was truly a message from God that I had to believe and attempt to live.

It is called, “The Hunted becomes the Hunter.”

To be continued….

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.

wedding day

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!

 

A Fresh Start for Mom

In November my mom started acting strangely.  We were all together for Thanksgiving, but she wasn’t herself.  The children haven’t seen their grandma since that day.

Since then, Mom has been in and out of 4 different hospitals.  Her mental and physical state has fluctuated wildly.  I have long since lost count of how many doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, and social workers I have talked to.  None of them could tell me why this was happening or how exactly they planned on fixing it.  The plans were not so much focused on bringing abundant health, but more on stabilizing her.  And the plans changed almost daily.

I would visit mom when I could.  None of the hospitals were places that I enjoyed spending several hours in, let alone weeks at a time.  Stark, barren, clinical.  Very little that was cheery or beautiful to look at.  Very little to do.  No fresh air or access to the outdoors.  Mom and I were both dreaming of a better environment in which she could convalesce.

When I was in my mom’s house one day, collecting some clothes to bring to her, I notice this pretty decoration.

fresh

It was the stone that she had received at our church on Mother’s Day.  It carried a message that I hoped would be true for her life.  I prayed that she could have a fresh start.

It was finally decided that she was stable enough to be released to assisted living.  Mom and I were both so excited!  I had found a lovely, friendly place that would become her new home.  It had a large “apartment” for her.  It had a nice dining room and common area with a fire-place and piano.  It had a courtyard where she could do some gardening.

I prepared for her to be transferred.  I gathered necessary and homey items from her house.  When I was out shopping I found this little sign and thought it would give Mom a positive message to look at, day after day, in her new room.

fresh 2

I was hoping that it would give her comfort when she felt the pain of what she had lost.  I prayed it would give her hope in the difficult days of transition.

It really could be possible that once Mom adjusts to her new home, meets new friends, and participates in new activities, she will be happier than before.  Perhaps with the burden of taking care of her home and herself is lifted, she will feel a sense of freedom.  Maybe her loneliness will fade away and she will enjoy life afresh!  Perhaps God will draw her to himself like never before and will make her Valley of Trouble into a Door of Hope (Hosea 2:15).

I was sure praying that all of that would be true, but I felt worried too.  Was it too much to ask for?  Too much to expect?

I found out on Friday that the Assisted Living Home couldn’t take her until Monday.  My heart dropped.  Another weekend in that boring hospital with the screaming lady right down the hall.

“Oh well, God, work all these things for Mom’s good,” I prayed.

I got busy putting together all the details.  I compiled stacks of paperwork.  I worked on checklist after checklist.  I wrote everything important on the calendar for Monday to be sure I wouldn’t forget.  As I was writing on the little square that represented March 20th, 2017, I realized that I was writing around the words that were preprinted there…

First Day of Spring!

                My heart leapt!  My eyes filled with tears of joy!  Even though the delay seemed like a trial, it was God’s plan all along.  His plan was good.  His plan was full of Hope.  His plan was for a Fresh Start!

fresh 3

Will you all pray for my Mom?  For abundant health and life?  For a heart after God?  For an awareness of God’s goodness?  For a recognition of all His good gifts He gives her with each new day?  For a Fresh Start and a Spring Season?

Thank you!!!!!

America, this is God’s Mercy!

dsc_0446-3

I have never prayed so much for a presidential election.

I have never prayed so much for my country.

I have never sought God more for His presence and His will.

On the morning of Nov. 3rd I was thinking about the article I had posted the night before, Heartbroken and Troubled by the Election? Be Encouraged!

“God, do I have your heart?  Have I heard you correctly?”  I found myself asking.  I turned to the Bible and asked Him to give me a scripture.  I was still wearing my pajamas and doing my morning exercises.  The little ones were playing around me, and I should have been getting on with my day, but I just had to hear His voice.

I opened the Bible to Hosea 11 and began to read.

When Israel [I felt like God was putting the USA into this place] was a child, I loved him,

And out of Egypt I called my son.

The more I called them, the more they went from me;

They kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.

It was the hand of God that formed our nation.  Yet our nation has largely turned away from our Biblical foundation.  Our country sacrifices the blood of 3,000 children a day to the idols of fear, selfishness, wealth, and convenience.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim [America] to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them.

I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love.  I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks.  I bent down to them and fed them.

God had abundantly blessed our country and given us freedom and prosperity, but systematically over the years the government has turned from Him.  Most of us are complacent in seeking him.

They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me.

Swords will flash in their cities, will destroy the bars of their gates and put an end to their plans.

I can see how America deserves judgement from God.  My heart is heavy.

My people are bent on turning away from me.  To the Most High they call, but He does not raise them up at all.

At this point my heart is beating fast.  I am panicking and full of grief.  “No, God!” My heart is whispering, “We cannot endure this.” I continue to read.

How can I give you up Ephriam [America]?  How can I hand you over, Israel [USA]?  How can I make you like Admah?  How can I treat you like Zeboiim [cities that were destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah but no longer remembered]?

My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.

I WILL NOT execute my fierce anger; I WILL NOT again destroy Ephraim [America]; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I WILL NOT COME IN WRATH.

I did not know this chapter of the Bible by heart, so when I came to these verses telling of God’s mercy; relief and deep, deep gratitude flooded my soul.  I found myself on my face on the living room carpet, weeping uncontrollably.

His word is MERCY!

We deserve judgment, but He has said MERCY!

All I could do was worship Him with tears as my little ones continued to play, unaware of the collision of heaven and earth that had just occurred inside of me.

Then I continued to read Hosea 11:10-11.

They shall go after the Lord, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west.

They shall come [with eager haste] trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD.

This election has served an important purpose; to expose the problems in our nation and awaken the church.  This is going to continue!

God is roaring like a lion!!!

Do you hear him?  Will you come to Him like never before to seek Him for the healing of our land?  He wants to provide every American with peaceful dwelling places, secure homes, and undisturbed places of rest (Is 32:18), but it will take quite a battle to get there.

After I read these verses, I was sure that whoever was elected would be God’s mercy to us…and I was about 98% sure that it would be Trump.  Nov. 3rd was my day to spend 3 hours in the Furnace (prayer room) at my church.  This was such a pleasure for me since I love to intercede but don’t have many chances to leave the distractions of my busy household.

Those of us in the Furnace felt incredible faith to plead the blood of Jesus over our land, which speaks a better word than judgement and the Accuser.  I prayed out Is 40: 22-24 which talks about God’s breath as a whirlwind, blowing away evil rulers like chaff.  I prayed that every evil in our government and in our culture would be blown away by that whirlwind and that the Kingdom of God would replace it.

When I returned home I found confirmation to all of these things on Facebook.  The importance of Hosea 11:11 was highlighted to me when both Rick Joyner and Lance Wallnau announced that they are having important meetings on 11/11/16 and Veronica West saw that same day as a day of justice.  Another post from Veronika West went like this;

“DAUGHTER WHY DO MY PEOPLE LISTEN AND PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE THAT CRY OUT JUDGEMENT, JUDGEMENT, JUDGEMENT IS COMING, FOR SURELY I TELL YOU MY HEART OF LOVE AND COMPASSION IS TURNED TOWARDS THIS NATION, FOR I HAVE HEARD THEIR CRIES FOR MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, AND NOW MY MERCY IS MAKING A WAY WHERE THERE SEEMED NO WAY”, says God.

As I was reading these words I had a video playing on another tab.  It was a service in which Dutch Sheets and Chuck Pierce were prophesying over America.  It had just been recorded in Las Vegas a few days earlier.

MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY!” they kept saying over and over.

I continued to read the post from Veronika West;

“THIS IS THE 11th HOUR, FEAR NOT, FOR HIS MERCY IS MAKING A WAY, AND HIS GRACE HAS NOT GIVEN YOU WHAT YOUR SINS HAVE DESERVED, GREATER ARE THOSE THAT ARE WITH YOU, THAN THOSE THAT ARE AGAINST YOU!…

AMERICA, I DECLARE THIS IS THE 11TH HOUR, THE HOUR OF DIVINE INTERVENTION AND GREAT REVERSAL!!!

WATCH! HERE COMES THE WHIRLWIND OF REDEMPTION AND RESTORATION, LOOK UP! THE SPIRIT OF MIGHT AND POWER IS RISING UP IN THE LAND, THE GRACE AND MERCY OF GOD IS OVERRULING, OVERTURNING AND UNRAVELING IN THIS 11TH HOUR.

Then I heard the spirit say, “BELOVED HAVE I NOT SAID, I AM DOING A NEW THING? OH YOU OF LITTLE FAITH! REPENT OF YOUR DOUBLE MINDEDNESS, AND YOUR COMPLAINING, AND RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE. LOOK! HERE COMES MY DIVINE INTERVENTION AND GREAT REVERSAL, FOR MY MERCY IS MOVING AND MAKING A WAY WHERE THERE SEEMED NO WAY, GET READY FOR MY WHIRLWIND OF REDEMPTION AND RESTORATION IS COMING QUICKLY AND SUDDENLY, I HAVE HEARD THE CRIES OF MY PEOPLE AND IN MY GREAT COMPASSION AND UNFAILING LOVE I HAVE NOT GIVEN YOU WHAT YOUR SINS HAVE DESERVED, BUT MY HEART AND MY HAND HAS BEEN MOVED TO SHOW YOU GRACE AND UNMERITED FAVOUR IN THIS 11TH HOUR…”

Whether you like him or not, Donald Trump is part of God’s plan for mercy.  Trump will not do everything right, but he is God’s way of resetting the clock to give the church in America more time.  More time to do what Jesus asked us to do, make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19) which means OUR NATION!  It is time that we stop listening to the media, to people, and to the Accuser.  It is time that we start listening to what the Spirit of God is saying about Donald Trump and the USA!

He is saying Mercy!

Too Small a Thing (The Death of Signarama Part 2)

dscf0775

I honestly think that our failures are more useful than our successes.  They certainly provide us with the opportunity to humble ourselves and acknowledge our need for God.  God doesn’t waste anything, and failure is a treasure trove of learning if we will take the time to seek out that treasure.  It is painful to come face to face with our shortcomings, but oh so worth it!

As we were heading toward the end of Signarama, I took every available moment to seek God.  I needed to hear His voice because it seemed like our circumstances were contradicting everything I thought He had told me.

I thought He had told us to buy the business.  Despite my fears and uncertainty about it, He had given me supernatural peace.  I thought that He had promised to prosper Signarama.  I thought that He had promised to use it to bring us the wonderful provision that He kept talking to me about.  Through the four years of running the business, we experienced ups and downs, but mostly downs.  Yet through it all, I had felt the peace of God.

Now that we faced our own inability to keep the business going, I questioned whether I had heard God correctly.  Could I even hear His voice at all?  How could I ever be sure that I knew what His will was?  How could I avoid making the same mistakes in the future?

Annalise was just a newborn, nursing about 8 times a day for an hour at a time.  Nursing this sweet little girl was my full-time job.  I still had to take Ashlyn to therapy once a week at HealthSouth.  Ashlyn’s therapist gave me my own little office to set up camp during the hour and 45 minutes that we were there.  I could nurse, read, and pray in a quiet, private room while Ashlyn did physical and speech therapy.  What an amazing gift!

Each week I would get cozy in a chair with Annalise and a nursing pillow.  I would set out my Bible, journal, and pen on the little rolling desk. All my other children were in school or at home with my two teenage babysitters, and I had uninterrupted quiet times. I would ask God all my questions….and He would speak!  How precious those times were!

One day I was mourning the loss of our dream.  Chris always said during the pain and struggle of business ownership, “It just has to be worth it!”  I always felt that it definitely would be worth it…eventually.  Business people kept telling us that after 2-5 years we would really see the profits.  Eventually, if we had the right team of employees in place, Chris would be able to work less but make more.  He would have the freedom to pursue other investments, to spend time with the family, and to take vacations.  Signarama would be an investment that would bless us for the rest of our lives, and perhaps one of our children would want to take it over when Chris retired.

Yet, we couldn’t make it to the point of earning a profit.  We were facing the reality of losing everything we had put into it and moving backwards in our goals and finances.

It had not been worth it at all!!!

                God gave me the scripture Is 49:4.

“But I said, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.”

Isaiah was describing exactly how I was feeling!  I continued to read.

“Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”

Could there possibly be a reward in all of this?  We just had to trust God that He was holding our reward even though we could see nothing good in failure.

When I talked to Chris about all of this, he told me that he had been meditating on the same scripture!  God certainly was trying to tell us something.

Another day at HealthSouth, I asked God, “Was it your perfect will for us to buy Signarama when we did?”

He gave me Is 49:6.

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

dscf0773

God had spoken this to Isaiah right after he had lamented about spending his strength in vain.  Isaiah was being obedient to give God’s words to the Jewish people, yet he didn’t see any fruit.  No one was listening to him.  He was probably threatened and harassed for his message, and he couldn’t see what good could possible come from his pitiful ministry.

Yet God surprised Isaiah by telling him that his vision of bringing his people back to God (a vision that seemed totally unrealized) was way too small.  God was telling Isaiah that he would also bring the light of salvation to the non-Jews all over the world.  How could Isaiah have imagined how far his words would reach and how many people would be impacted by them?  For the past 10 years I have lived in the book of Isaiah!  The words of God recorded by that discouraged prophet have been a life line to me!

I bet Isaiah never imagined that a little mom and housewife in Pennsylvania would be forever impacted by his ministry.  Yet here I am, writing an article about him!  I bet most of you reading this have also been blessed by Isaiah.

I was very comforted by the thought that God was going to use our lives in ways we could not imagine, despite of, or maybe because of our failure.  Still, we were praying that God would do a miracle right now that we could see.  Resurrect our business, bring in the finances to keep going, bring us to the place where we could make a profit and recoup all our investment and more!  The days went by and no miracle came.  Why was God saying, “no” to our pleas?

After my time with God at HealthSouth, I began listening to some CDs that had been recorded at a recent conference at my church.  I came across a quote from Lance Wallnau that spoke directly to my heart.

“God says no to what you want simply because He has something better in mind.  If God isn’t answering Joseph’s plea to be released from the confinement of his prison cell, it’s only because Joseph, prophet, man of God, blameless as he may be, has a smaller perception of what prophecy fulfilled looks like than God has.  In other words, he was willing to settle for a whole lot less than God had in mind so God had to keep him in a place of contradiction until the timing was right for him to be released to the greater thing God had.”

Could this be what was happening in our lives?  God had promised prosperity, we had pursued prosperity, and we had failed.  God’s promise was still true, but His plan was even greater than we had originally thought.  Was Signarama “too small a thing?”  Did God have something much greater for us?

We purchased Signarama because we wanted something better for our family than struggling from paycheck to paycheck.  We were in pursuit of the American Dream; that if you worked hard with skill and determination, you would achieve a better life for yourself and your children.

“Is Signarama a picture of what we could do with our own hard work?” I asked God.

“We were with child, we writhed, but we gave birth only to wind.  We have won no victories on the earth.” Is 26:18 was the answer that I received.

Perhaps God’s dream was higher than the American dream?

“How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.  I thought you would call me ‘father’ and not turn away from following me.” Jer 3:19 was the scripture I got next.

This reminded me of the book I had been reading, God with You at Work by Andy Mason.  Chris and I knew in our heads that we were God’s children and He was our Father.  Yet reading this book had made me realize that the way we thought and lived our lives were indications of an orphan mentality.  Truly being a son and daughter the way Andy described it was so foreign to my thinking that I could hardly understand it.

He said that the key to doing business in a kingdom culture was behaving like sons.  To live in our inheritance that Jesus already won for us rather than working so hard for payment.  To cease from striving and self-effort and to do all our work out of rest.  To not seek God to attain His blessings, but to seek Him for relationship simply because we love Him so much.  Then we would be able to watch the amazing things that God would do on our behalf.

People in the world are successful in business all the time with no relationship with God.  They have innovative ideas, work hard, and achieve great things while having no understanding of God as their father!  Why could WE not succeed even though we had sought God every step of the way and asked for His blessings?

Perhaps it was because we have also prayed crazy, outrageous prayers such as:

Give us more of you!

Give us YOUR dreams and visions.

Don’t let us fall short of YOUR plans for us.

Don’t let our lives be ineffective.

Let us impact eternity.

We want to see and participate in signs and wonders.

Bring all of our children into their destinies.

Prayers like that mean that a financial success out of our own hard work was “too small a thing.”  God has something bigger for us like he had for Isaiah and Joseph.  Something that requires us to actually become the people He intended us to be.  That can only happen by seeking Him more and more each day.  By being uncomfortable to know that we need Him.  By seeking His kingdom first.

We can never achieve this by working hard.  We can never step into our sonship and inheritance by working hard.  Signarama was all about working hard.  God cares about us too much to let us earn success from our own hard work.  He wants us to become a son and a daughter and to see real success happen out of rest.  Success that He brings about with His amazing power – not our own abilities or intelligence.

dscf0759

I still don’t understand this whole “sonship” thing.  How can I just accept His unconditional love for me? How can I just live in my inheritance?  You mean I never have to work hard to earn it?  I never have to prove anything?  God delights in me just the way I am right now, failures and mistakes and all?

You mean I never have to worry about provision because God ALWAYS provides for His children?  I don’t have to seek after these things but can seek His kingdom? This I just don’t understand.

But at least now I KNOW that I don’t understand it.  I can ask God to show me and help me.  I have the death of Signarama to thank for that!

 

The Heartbreak and Joy of a C-section

As a young girl, I read that one out of every ten babies in the United States was born by C-section.  I remember thinking, “If I have ten children, I will probably have a C-section in my lifetime.”  But who really has ten children anyway?  So I dismissed it as a very unlikely possibility.  Despite the fact that cesareans have become more and more common (one out of every three births), I estimated that my chances were dropping.  I was healthy and strong, educated in natural childbirth.  I had beautiful, easy deliveries…eight of them!  Although theoretically, I knew that anything can happen in this life, and I was not exempt from the risks of childbearing, I never thought it would happen to me.

I was so excited to be pregnant with my ninth child.  I became even more excited when I found out that it was a girl!  I had longed for a girl for so long, that I had almost given up.  I felt the overwhelming joy of a dream come true.  Yet along with it came a suffocating fear.

I had never before worried about the life of any my unborn babies.  I just loved them, prepared a room for them, and anticipated a future for them.  Yet this time I began to wonder if my preparations were in vain.  What if I never got to hold my baby girl in my arms?  What if I never got to dress her in all the pretty clothes?  What if the sweetness and the tenderness of who she was, left my life forever?

I didn’t speak of these thoughts.  If I uttered them out loud, they might become more real.  Finally one night I tried to explain it to my husband, and I began to cry.  Why was I crying?  The baby was healthy and moving around in my belly.  This had been my easiest pregnancy yet.  There was no reason to worry.

“I think you have fear with this baby because she is so connected to the promises of God,” Chris said.  At that instant I realized that it was true.  We had already named her Annalise Promise which means “Oath of God” and “Graced with God’s Bounty.”  Her name was a sign to us that we would be entering a season of promises fulfilled, promises for abundance.  We had always prayed for that season. We had been looking for it ever since we had gotten married, straining our eyes across the horizon for any sign that the prosperity might be on its way.  We felt deep in our bones that God meant for us to have more than enough of everything we needed, everything our children needed.  Yet we hadn’t been able to live in that prosperity, cycling between the highs of great opportunities and the lows of dashed dreams.

Now we were having a girl whose very name meant the Boundless Generosity of God, and I was terrified that I would never be able to keep her or God’s Goodness, that both would slip through my fingers no matter how hard I tried to grasp them.

Of course I realized that God does not work that way.  This fear was not from Him, yet He would take it from me, I was sure.  I laid my fear at His feet and He gave me hope and joy and promises!  He had me read Zephanaiah 3:14-20 over and over again.  I could almost hear Him rejoicing over me with happy songs.  I could feel Him hold me in his strong arms.  I could sit back and watch him fight for me and gain the victory!  I did not have to fear disaster! He was holding my little girl in His hands and she was safe!

My other babies were always head down in my womb, settling into a familiar position that I knew so well.  But this little girl would not do that no matter how much we talked to her, coaxed her, and prayed for her.  She would flip and turn and end up in all sorts of positions.

I was becoming quite nervous about her position as I headed into week 37.  Our whole family had been hoping for an Easter baby which was only days away, yet Annalise was still not head down.  I would lay in bed at night, tired yet unable to sleep.  My belly was so big, I found it hard to breath.  I could feel her do flips inside of me.

“I think we need to get another ultrasound to check on your placenta.  If it is too low, that may be why the baby is not able to descend.” Mary, my midwife said as I was getting close to 38 weeks.

I had no intention of getting another ultrasound, but the night before Chris had expressed concern about the same issue.  I felt peaceful that Annalise was safe and sound in God’s hands, but for Chris’ peace of mind, I agreed to go in and get checked.  I prayed that if all was well, I would go into labor before the ultrasound.  A peaceful homebirth was my heart’s desire.  I would rehearse the wonder and beauty of it in my mind to cheer my weary bones.  Yet I also prayed, “Don’t let me give birth at home if you want me in the hospital.”

Labor did not come and I found myself lying on a table in a darkened room.  It only took the ultrasound tech a few minutes to see that placenta was covering the cervix.

“I am so sorry!” Mary said, “I know how much you wanted a home birth, but we just can’t deliver you at home.  If the placenta is born first, your baby could die.  You will need to choose a hospital and I suggest you go in tomorrow.  It would be better to get a C-section as soon as possible so you don’t go into labor.”

I was in shock.  I couldn’t believe what was happening.  Yet, I knew that it was what God wanted.  Otherwise He could have easily moved that placenta and brought labor on the week before.  When I returned home from the ultrasound, all I could manage to do was cry.  Most of my other eight children were around the house playing or doing homework after school.  My oldest daughter hugged me and said, “It will be ok, Mama.”

I tried to believe her.  I cried and grieved the loss of my perfect homebirth. I had wanted to be close to my other children.  I had wanted a fast and easy recovery that would allow me to continue taking care of the needs of the home and homeschooling.  I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that I had offered my body to God as a living sacrifice, to carry this child of promise, and He was going allow doctors to cut into me tomorrow.

The next day Chris and I began the work of getting ready to go to the hospital. As soon as Chris’ mom had heard about the situation, she had started driving to Pennsylvania from Florida.  She would be able to get to our house by the evening to take care of the other children.  How that eased my mind!

I sent a prayer request to all the ladies who had been to my baby shower a few weeks earlier.  I also called my mom to explain the situation.  She had been hoping to be at the birth, but I told her that I had to get surgery and she probably wouldn’t be able to see the baby until hours afterward.  Mom happened to be at the ladies meeting at church.  She stopped the meeting right then and there and asked for prayer for me!

A lovely thing began to happen.  As I was trying to get ready, rushing around the house, up the stairs and down the stairs again, I started to receive emails and texts and calls from loving friends.  They were praying for me and speaking encouraging words and offering help!  One dear friend even prayed out loud for Annalise while I turned on the speaker phone so Annalise listen.

I was feeling an overwhelming sadness about having to endure a C-section, but I didn’t want Annalise to feel sad.  I didn’t want her to feel like she was being torn from her safe haven too early or experience anguish on the day of her birth.  The prayer I heard coming from the other end of my phone brought peace to my body and soul.

“Annalise will be so peaceful.  It will be a sign to you.”  I heard my friend pray.

Chris and I arrived at the hospital in the early afternoon.  Mary was already there.  It took hours for the staff to assess me and determine that the placenta was not actually covering the cervix but was dangerously close, only .9 cm away.  Studies had shown that 90% of women with a marginal placenta like mine bled during labor and required an emergency C-section to save the life of the baby.  Thankfully, I had not yet gone into labor and we could have a planned C-section.

It took several more hours to prep me for the C-section. During this time I felt oddly peaceful.  God was in control and it was going to be ok. Finally at 8pm I was taken into the operating room where the anesthesiologist started the spinal.

“No pain.  You will feel no pain, only pressure.  No pain,” he kept saying over and over again.

I must admit that I didn’t believe him.  How could I feel no pain at all during such a major surgery?  Yet almost immediately, I started to lose feeling in my lower body.  I started feeling woozy. My body felt so heavy.  I was so tired, that I could hardly respond to the questions the nurses would ask from time to time.  Before I knew it, Chris was next to me.

I heard the voice of a doctor instruct the intern on how to begin.  I had never seen the doctor’s face.  The intern had introduced himself and explained the entire procedure beforehand.  He said he had done at least 50 to 60 C-sections in the past. He was friendly and I liked him a lot. The doctor, however, was gruff and rude to this nice intern, acting like the intern had never done a C-section before.

“NO, not like that! Not like that! Here, let me do it!”  I heard from the other side of the blue curtain.  I really experienced no pain at all!  It was amazing to me.  It almost felt like this procedure was happening to someone else.  Even the abrasive voice of the doctor and the extreme pressure on my pelvic bone couldn’t bring me out of my medicated haze.  But more than that, I felt the peace that surpasses understanding.  I knew that God had every detail of this birth planned out for the best.

“She is almost here.” I heard Chris say with joy and excitement.  I just couldn’t muster up excitement myself.  I felt pushing and then a weight was lifted.  I was lighter!

“She is here!” Chris said.  Quickly the little bundle was taken to a table just a few yards behind me.  I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her.  She was crying for all she was worth!  A good sound.  I wanted to call out to her.  I wanted her to know that I was close by, that I was so excited that she was here, but I didn’t have the energy.  Someone brought her to me and placed her on my chest.  She was little and perfect.  I was too numb to hold her, so she was whisked away again, this time out of the operating room.  Chris went with her and suddenly I was alone…so alone.

I was lying on the operation table in the middle of the large room.  I was vaguely aware of nurses and doctors working to stitch me up.  They were talking among themselves, but not acknowledging me.  I knew that the bright lights were highlighting my nakedness and my gaping wound.

“My baby is here!  She has been born!”  I thought to myself. “Yet how could this really be considered her birth?  I didn’t give birth.  Is today really her birthday?  I didn’t push her out.  The doctors pulled her out.  It didn’t feel like a birth.”

As these thoughts floated around in my clouded mind, sadness descended.   Instead of feeling the overwhelming relief and bliss that enveloped me after the birth of my other eight children, I felt a stark and cold loneliness.  I wouldn’t allow the weeping to begin.  I knew it would overwhelm my consciousness.  I didn’t want to meet Annalise in the recovery room with tears.

Soon I was being wheeled to where my baby was.  She was placed into my arms and I got my first really good look at her.  Her face was tiny and beautiful, and she was looking up at me with open eyes.  So serene.  So peaceful.

IMG_4047

She was a sign to me that everything was going to be ok.  I would heal.  The sadness would fade.  I had suffered loss, but it hadn’t been the disaster I had most feared.  My little girl was safe.  Safe too were all of God’s promises.  Our finances were still in an unstable place.  But I was certain that we would see His goodness.  I was sure that Annalise would live a life marked by God’s generosity.

DSCF8695

The bliss didn’t rush in and seep into every cell as I had hoped.  It crept in slowly.

DSCF8720

 

It increased slightly with every look into her eyes, every touch of her soft skin, every time she nursed.

DSCF8702

 

My heart was full of sorrow and joy, but the joy would overtake and overwhelm, one miracle moment at a time.

 

Happy Heavenly Birthday Dad!

George july 4, 2012

My Father, George Redman Beyer, passed away last year on July 31.  In honor of him, I would like to post here the words I spoke at his memorial service.

 

scan114

 

All you who knew George, whether it was for 5 minutes or fifty years, knew that he was very kind, calm, patient, slow, methodical, and very intelligent.

scan11

He loved history and could remember facts and figures with an almost photographic memory.  Most of those official blue and yellow signs you see around the state of PA were written by my Dad.  When I was little I couldn’t remember the name of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, so I just told people that my Dad was a Historical Marker Maker.  They gave me funny looks.

scan8

I got even stranger reactions when I told them that we were Quakers and went to Meeting instead of Church.  Dad was always a man of peace.  I almost never heard him criticize other people and I almost never saw him get angry.

scan10

In recent years, he had to bear with my five wild boys running around the house with nerf guns, squirt guns, and cap guns.  Still he was very patient with them.  He spent hour after hour after hour reading to all the grandchildren, snuggling on the sofa.

scan36

He answered question after question, read book after book.  He rejoiced at the birth of every new grandchild and enjoyed them immensely.

scan31scan 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was an intense week for our family.  Dad was sent to the emergency room on Monday with blood clots in his lungs.  He stopped breathing and received CPR three times.  When I saw him that evening, he was unconscious and the hospital was still trying to stabilize him.  That night I prayed those deep, desperate prayers.  I love it how God draws so near to me in times like these.  I felt like He said to me, “This will end in death, but it is OK.”  Then I saw a picture in my mind.  I saw my dad as a young boy, running in the summer twilight.

scan23He had perfect shalom, “perfect peace, nothing broken, and nothing missing.”  He was running into the arms of God the Father.  They both had such joy and excitement about being together.

On Tuesday the hospital thought they might be able to stabilize Dad and wake him up.  Then we received a call that he had taken a turn for the worse, and we better get in there as soon as we could.  Again I began praying in the car, and I was desperate with God.  I said, “You can’t let him die if he’s not ready, if it is not his time.  I haven’t done enough. I haven’t told him enough about you.  I haven’t shown him enough love.”  Again the sweet presence of God surrounded me and said, “It is already done.  I have already done it all.  All that is left is to trust me.

So as we sat in Dad’s room watching him peacefully pass away, I again thought of him running into the arms of his Father.  I heard the Father God say to him, “George, it doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do in your lifetime.  I want you! You are my reward; You are my pearl of great price.”

Mom told me in hospital that Dad had recently attended a conference at Life Center and loved the Song, “Abba” which means Daddy. (Click here to listen to the wonderful song.) We sang that song in Worship tonight.  This confirmed to me that he had a longing in his heart to know God as his Daddy, and now his heart’s desire is fulfilled.  He feels for the first time the full strength of the unconditional, all consuming love of the Father.  Dad had loving parents and a loving family.  Loving relationships are the joy of this life.  But they are just the first morning rays of sunlight peaking over the horizon.  Now he is standing in the brightness of noonday, and I am so happy for him!

scan24

I love how God gives us signs to explain what is happening in the unseen realm.  He gave me a sign.  My mom had transplanted lot of flowers from her yard to into my yard.  The irises and hyacinths have been blooming for many years now, but I have never seen the resurrection lily.  I just thought it had died, and I had forgotten about it.  But the day after my Dad died, I looked out my window and I saw it blooming!

cooper's b-day 2013 033

 

I love you Dad!

This is My Mercy

 

It was New Year’s Eve.  Chris and I had just moved back to our hometown after living in Colorado for 8 years.  We had the chance to celebrate the holiday with long time friends, friends we hadn’t celebrated with in ages.  We were so excited about the opportunity to get out!  We had left our five children with two babysitters, sisters who had agreed to spend the night with our little angels since we might be out very late.  I was going to take the baby along, but at the last minute, I decided that he didn’t need to nurse anymore that night, and he could stay home and sleep with the others.

It was already very dark when our minivan drove up the onramp to the highway.  Chris, in his typical impatient fashion, maneuvered quickly to the left of a slow merging vehicle.  He swiftly crossed the right lane and went directly into the left lane, leaving the slower vehicle still chugging up the on ramp.

“You are not supposed to do that,” I thought to myself. “I know that I would never do that.”  I am a more cautious driver.

In a split second, Chris was slamming on the brakes. A dark shape came into view right in front of us, and Chris screeched to a halt to avoid hitting it.  I reached out my arm to brace myself.  We came to a dead stop in the middle of the highway, a dark car parked in the left lane just inches in front of us.  It had no lights on and had been totally hidden by the shadows of the bridge overhead.

BAM! SMASH! CRASH!

We were hit violently from behind and pushed forward into the abandoned car.  We were sandwiched between two vehicles, our hearts beating fast and our minds trying to unravel what had just happened.  We exited the vehicle, stunned to see that it was smashed up pretty good.  A young teenager emerged from the car that had stuck us.  She was visibly shaken.  A man who had pulled off to the side of the road was yelling at us to get off the highway.  Thank God for that man!  I was so shocked over what had happened that I was standing still, surveying the wreckage, in the very blind spot that had swallowed an entire car.  All of us could have been mowed down by a speeding tractor trailer.

We quickly ran to the shoulder and assessed the situation.  Several cars now sat in the highway, smashed and inoperable.  We were afraid to run back out to try and move them.  We were afraid that other vehicles would pile into them and create a much bigger mess.  Thankfully, the emergency vehicles arrived on the scene very quickly, and traffic was prevented from traveling that stretch of highway.  It seemed that every police car, ambulance, and fire truck that was close by had come to the scene.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 8.27.49 PM

I stood staring into those red flashing lights cutting into the cold, dark night. I was trembling.  This was supposed to be a holiday, a special night for celebrating with friends.  Instead we were stranded on the side of the highway.  Why had this happened?  I was sure that if Chris hadn’t been in such a hurry, we could have avoided the abandoned vehicle.  It must have been his fault, mustn’t it?  Why had he done that?  Why were we in the wrong place at the wrong time?  Were we doing sometime wrong?  Perhaps we should have never gone out driving on New Year’s Eve.  Perhaps we had allowed some sin to muddy our thoughts, and we had strayed off the perfect path for our lives.  All these thought were whirling around in my mind, thoughts that had become the byproduct of our years in Colorado.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 8.10.17 PM

We had been apart of an abusive church, a community of “Christians” who would look at any misfortune in your life and find a reason to blame you for it.  Bad things weren’t supposed to happen to good people, were they?  So if something bad happened to you, you must have done something to deserve it. You must have sowed bad seed and were now reaping the equally bad harvest.

This is my mercy

The still small voice broke into my thoughts.

“What?  How can this be mercy?” I thought as I viewed our totaled van and a highway shut down because of us.  Then my thoughts began to unwind and straighten out and become more like God’s thoughts.  Accidents happen.  That doesn’t make it our fault.  No one was hurt.  Every single person in every vehicle walked away with no injuries.  The ambulances drove away empty.  The fire trucks had no fires to put out.  We were safe!

“Oh my goodness!  I was going to bring the baby!”

I remembered that my sweet, little four-month old was sleeping peacefully at home.  He had not been in the accident.  He was safe!  This was God’s mercy!  He had not been punishing us for something.  He had saved us and our infant son from something that could have been much, much worse.  He was not waiting to bring retribution; He was guarding us and protecting us at all times!

It turns out that the van could not be repaired, and the insurance company paid us for it.  We were able to take that payment and combine it with Chris’ pick-up truck and get a new van with no monthly payments.  That was something we had been specifically praying for.  We each also received $5,000 in free chiropractic care, something else we had been praying for.  God used this destructive accident to bless us!

So the next time you are looking at a mangled mess that disrupts that flow and peace of your life, God could be saying…

This is my mercy!

I Love My Tribe

 

554028_10151743184084334_1588782753_n

 

The music washes over me.  It is not just melody and rhythm…it is the very atmosphere of heaven.  The lights are bright, the stage is full of musicians, and I am surrounded by my tribe.  Almost every Sunday morning I find myself here, in the sanctuary of Life Center and saturated with the swirling presence of God and humanity.  There are so many worship leaders that share the stage, so many musicians that rotate from week to week.  They are full of talent and resurrection life, and I love them all!  They have birthed an abundance of CDs out of the overflow of their lives of praise.

I watch the senior pastors in the front row, boppin’ to the rockin’ music.  They are in their sixties, but they enjoy the youthful expression and energy as much as anyone.  They actually lead the rest of us in radical, “out of the box” thinking! They have served this church for over twenty years, and I love them! I see one of the younger worship leaders, passionately singing a song that he wrote; and I think about how I used to babysit him when he was a boy.  I look over and see his parents in the front row, beloved pastors who raised me in the youth group; still loving, still serving, still standing for all that is true.

558158_10151536490454334_2112485730_n

Some folks are out of their seats, dancing.  Some are swaying to the music.  Others are sitting with their eyes closed.  Others are kneeling on the floor.  My teenage daughter is up front, worshipping with her friends.  I observe many gray heads in the crowd, faces lined with wisdom and love.  I see parents holding their little ones.  I see children twirling scarves and prancing on bare feet.  Life is always bursting forth at Life Center.  There are more pregnant women than I can keep track of, and I love them all! I long to be able to tell each one of them how gorgeous they are and how precious they are to God, carrying His little children of promise!

I notice women running to each other in joyful reunions, laughing and hugging.  I see people spontaneously begin to pray for the person next to them, passion and concern on their faces.  I see others exchanging gifts or notes.

It is time for the offering and one of the “newer” pastors takes the microphone.  He and his family have become so precious to me.  Every time I see him take the stage, I am alert with anticipation.  I know that some stunning revelation will spill from his lips that will rock the way I see the world.

The music subsides and there are announcements of births and deaths; family business that herald joy and tears all at the same time.  How we each know that thrill and that pain, and how we each long to share those with our brothers and sisters.  I walk to the back of the sanctuary during the meet and greet time, and I am enveloped in a warm and healing hug by a beautiful black mama.

“Look at you!   You’re beautiful!  Just beautiful!” she always says to me with her eyes shining and her amazing, white smile blazing.  She is the beauty! I wish I could describe the indescribable, how dark and lovely she is…but her beauty is so deep and so true, I am at a loss for words.

It is time for the message and another pastor comes up.  He and his wife are treasures to me, having led countless youth events, missions trips and prayer times that I was apart of.  We have even lived with them a couple of times.  Some folks in the crowd are a little confused because he talks too fast, as though he has 4 hours worth of revelation to impart in 45 minutes.  Chris and I are fluent in “speed talk” since we grew up under his tutelage, and we just chuckle to ourselves.  In his message, he talks about a mission trip that he led 20 years ago.  I was part of that trip, and how I cherish those memories!

After the service, I hug my dear and longtime friends.  I greet friends I grew up with and friends who were in my wedding.  I talk with my children’s pastor, who I went to school with.  I see more recent friends, who have quickly taken residence in my heart.  I identify new acquaintances as well.  I notice many fresh faces and hope to call them my friends someday too.  So many personalities, so many gifts, so many stories, so many ways that God reveals Himself to me; represented by these precious people.

“I love my tribe!” I always think to myself on a Sunday morning.  The love wells up within me, along with pride.  I love my tribe!  There are children of God all over this earth, in different denominations, different countries, varying cultures and traditions.  But I am so glad that my boundary lines have fallen here, at Life Center.  I started coming to this church in 1989, when it was meeting in the old casket factory.  My husband Chris started coming earlier than that, in 1985.  We left for a time and moved to Colorado Springs.  In the eight years we were there, we couldn’t put our roots down, no matter how hard we tried.  Now we are back in our promised land, surrounded by family.  How good it feels to watch our family tree grow tall and strong with a wide trunk and thick bark, an oak of righteousness, a planting for the display of His splendor.

september 2013 108

How glorious it feels to let our roots descend into the rich and fertile soil of Central Pennsylvania! How refreshing to drink the deep, deep waters.  How thirsty we had been for those waters!

april 2012 205

There are wonderful people of God all over the world, but this family is mine…my clan…my tribe.  I am so glad!  How I love my tribe!

Oh, the Love of a Sibling!

 

Amy Devita Photography 039

It is such a gift to have siblings…lots of them!  My firstborn was a girl, Areli.  When she was 18 months, our second child, Cole, arrived.  Areli took to him right away.  She couldn’t say, “baby” but she could say “boo-boo.”  Boo-Boo became his name for the next two years.  Areli and Cole cannot remember life without each other or “our chuthers” as they used to say.  They were always best friends, like peas and carrots.  They still are.

Amy Devita Photography 002

Two years after Cole, Cadin came along.  They were a happy trio, getting into trouble and playing pretend.  Cadin was always his own person, however, having different tastes than his older brother.

Ashlyn was born 18 months later.  Her development was very delayed because of a chromosomal abnormality.  She didn’t crawl for a long time and didn’t sit up until she was almost two years old.  She didn’t begin to stand and walk until she was nine.  Her world until that time was on the floor.  God provided three little boys to take turns sharing the floor with her.  Chai was born when she was 18 months, Cooper two years later, and Calvin two years after that.  Oh the fun fellowship they shared, exploring every inch of the space underneath things and “cleaning up” any crumbs that fell there.

Ashlyn and the boys

Cooper and Calvin have a special bond because they share a room and a bunk bed.  They are now 7 and 5, and they are hyper, little balls of energy.  We call them C&C Music Factory.  If I want a peaceful outing to the store, I must only take one of them along.

Amy Devita Photography 030

My children love each other!  They never lack a friend to play with.  It is true that sometimes they express hatred rather than love, hurting the other just for the sheer enjoyment of it and denying that they are related at all.  But I know that when the immaturity of this season passes, they will be deep and earnest friends for the whole of their lives.

Amy Devita Photography 040

Each new baby was welcomed with such excitement and enthusiasm that we had to protect the vulnerable little thing from being loved on too much.  It was so sweet to see a normally wild boy get quiet and still when it was his turn to hold the baby.

Baby Courage 065

Areli was always a natural mother.  She got to be present at the birth of four of her little brothers.  She was enchanted with it all.  Childbirth can be intense at times, but witnessing it only seemed to increase her love for babies and her desire to be a mom someday.  When Calvin outgrew the newborn, eat every few hours at night stage, he slept in a crib in Areli’s room.  She was so happy to have him there.  She would change him and clothe him and snuggle with him. She would even comfort him if he cried during the night and she wouldn’t tell me about it until the morning.  A sister like that is worth more that her weight in gold!

Baby Courage 092

Calvin turned two, and no new baby arrived.  Cooper, age 4 at this time, began talking to me about the fact that we really needed a baby.  I told him to pray about it.  He did!  After a few more months had pasted, Cooper came to me exasperated.

“I prayed for a baby, but I don’t think God heard me!  We don’t have a baby yet!”

I encouraged him to keep praying and that God knows the perfect time for everything.  More prayer seemed to increase Cooper’s vision.  Soon he was reporting to me that God had 10 babies for us, 5 boys and 5 girls!  They were up in heaven, just waiting for God to send them down.

Amy Devita Photography 015

This seemed rather far fetched, so Daddy told him, “Perhaps you are talking about the children that you will have someday when you get married!”  Cooper didn’t seem so sure.

Not long after that, Chris and I announced to the children that I indeed had another baby in my belly.  Cheers erupted!  They all wanted another baby to hold and snuggle and change and dress.  They were all so excited, none more than Cooper.

“I hope it’s a boy!” he announced.

Since we already had 5 boys, the rest of us thought a girl would be nice.  An ultrasound revealed that the baby was indeed….another boy!  Cooper was overjoyed!

“Now we only need four more boys, and 5 more girls!”

I have always encouraged my children to pray to God and listen to His voice.  Cooper had always been great at this, possessing that child-like faith in great measure.  I didn’t want to tell him that he was not hearing God’s voice, because how did I know?  In my own walk with God, His words were usually somewhat surprising to me when they came, interrupting my own thought with an altogether different message.  I have found that His thoughts are truly not like our thoughts; that His ways are not like our ways.  He is constantly trying to get us out of that box (or cage), encouraging us to jump off of that cliff, and teaching us to fly with Him above the logical and obvious.

So Cooper’s ambitious vision for brothers and sisters does seem like impossibility, considering my diminishing fertile years.  We had seriously looked into adoption a few years back, but right now, that seems impossible as well.  How do I feel about the fact that Cooper thinks I should give birth 9 more times, or have triplets 3 times, or have two more babies and adopt seven, or any number of other scenarios?

I know that God knows what He is doing and His ways are mysterious beyond my comprehension but far better than what I could ever imagine!

So I just say, “Keep praying Cooper…keep praying!  You never know what God might do…for the love of a sibling!”

 

Amy Devita Photography 055