Monday, July 30, 2012

{She's Been to Camp}

You know your daughter has been to Bible camp when . . .

1. She casually drops phrases like, "Jesus rocks!"

2. She wanders around singing weird songs you've never heard of.

3. She needs to add a dozen new contacts to the phone.

4. She begins every camp story with, "Oh, it was so awesome . . ."

5. She has a sudden desire to dye her hair. With Kool-aid.

You're glad your daughter has been to Bible camp when . . .

1. She says she read your letter every single day.

2. She says she was thankful that you wrote out the bedtime blessing (which you secretly tucked into her suitcase) so she could read it each night.

3. She tends to her little sister even more lovingly since coming home.

4. She says her favorite part of camp was the evening session. ("Jesse's sermons were SO awesome!")

5. She asks you to read her camp commitment which declares her love and devotion to Jesus. The One who rocks.

Yes, honey. You can go to camp again next year.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

{Treasures of Darkness}

The trip had been planned months ago. Jamie would go to Florida to meet up with his friend, Phil, and operate the cameras for the next Sacrificial Poet project. He was excited and, although I was a bit jealous about the whole traveling-to-Florida-without-your-wife bit, all in all I was thrilled for his opportunity.

Our lives took a painful, unexpected turn. It became difficult to quickly transition to the Florida plan, but we were still convinced of the kingdom importance of this project. So he went.

I groggily kissed him goodbye at 4:30 last Monday morning, crawled back into bed and eventually drifted off to sleep again. When I woke up, I was determined to be a strong mom for the seven days Daddy would be gone. I would menu plan and get groceries right off the bat and orchestrate just enough activities to keep us merrily occupied.

And I wouldn't cry. At least, not too much.

As I anticipated the solitary evenings, I figured that having a list of page-turner books and sappy chick flicks on hand would be helpful. So I put out a facebook plea, asking for recommendations. I got quite a few, jotted them down and prepared to attack the week.

The next day, I saw that I had a book on hold at the library. It was a book, however, that I had placed on hold months ago. The timing was perfect and I figured that Kisses From Katie would be a good start for my quiet evenings.

It was more than a good start. It was perfect. I spent my evenings reading of a young woman who has devoted her life to Jesus by serving the broken and hurting in Uganda. Her love for Jesus was so contagious that, as I read, I found myself craving the Word of God.

My evening routine quickly morphed into a thrilling double feature: Kisses from Katie and the Bible. I forgot about my chick flicks and novels and simply couldn't get enough of God's Word. I truly knew what the Psalmist meant when he said, "His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:2)

My friend Annie and I have been talking lately about how our lives would be different if we were to always consult God's Word first before making a decision. Or how powerful it would be to grab our Bible before heading out to run errands rather than a novel or magazine. What if the Word of God became the only Word that we truly cared about?

Around this time I was (coincidentally) reading Catherine Marshall's book, To Live Again, which tells of her journey to healing after the death of her husband. As she faced the grief and the hammering questions that engulfed her, she made a powerful discovery:

I wanted authoritative answers. If I asked other people or even read books on the subject, I would at best merely be getting other people's opinions. Therefore, I went directly to the most authoritative source I knew -- the Scriptures. And I discovered what I should have known before -- that when you and I go to the Bible out of great need to learn what it has to say to us, it is then that we get real help.

Indeed, I was beginning to see this realization take shape in my own life. Just a few days after Annie and I began this discussion, I ran smack into this gem in 1 Kings, where I just happened to be in my daily reading: "First seek the counsel of the Lord." (1 Kings 22:5)

Ahem. Sometimes my brain requires the obvious.  

With these discussions and revelations on my heart, it seemed especially crucial during those long days without my husband that I purpose to seek the Lord's counsel, encouragement and wisdom.

As I did so, God's Word became my delight in a new and powerful way. And it was a good thing. By the end of the week I was exhausted. The Lord knew I would be, and He had lovingly encouraged me and strengthened me to build my fortresses for what lay ahead. Throughout the week He had brought friends and family to pray for me, drink tea with me, visit with me, and write me words of hope and encouragement. He filled me with His Word and with His Truth.

By Saturday night, however, I was a downright mess. Jamie was far away, my emotions were raw, and I needed the comfort of my husband. Again, the Lord knew this. He drew my eyes almost immediately to the book of devotions I keep out on the bathroom counter. The passage for the day? "I am married unto you." (Jeremiah 3:14)

It was a tad surreal. But it was true. Jesus was all I needed in that moment. Although I still longed for my husband's return, I was comforted by the knowledge that I got to spend my evenings with the Lord.

I slipped into bed that night, switched on my bedside lamp, and fell into the routine I had come to love: Kisses from Katie followed by time in God's Word. Katie's words that night seemed to leap from the page. I grabbed a piece of paper and copied down that which I was beginning to understand:  

We must know sorrow to be able to fully appreciate joy.

I read eagerly. Hungrily. I read the Psalms and I nodded my assent as the tears splashed down my cheeks. I knew what it felt like to praise. And I knew what it felt like to doubt. I knew what it felt like to rejoice. And I knew what it felt like to weep. The Lord continued to faithfully bring passages of hope and encouragement to my heart, and that aching heart began to swell with gratitude.

Annie had shared a verse with me earlier that day that again came to mind as I finally turned off the lamp. She encouraged me to remember that it is in these times of darkness that we truly see the light: "I will give you the treasures of darkness . . ." (Isaiah 45:3) God was indeed revealing these treasures in my sorrow and loneliness.

As I tried to relax my body that night, praying that sleep might finally claim my exhausted little self, I found that I still couldn't stop sobbing. My mind was filled with faces and voices and words of encouragement from the week and yet the tears wouldn't stop. I tried to pin-point the emotion. It was different than grief. It didn't hurt in quite the same way. It wasn't loneliness. Jesus was there. And it wasn't despair. The Lord had faithfully continued to give me a spirit of hope.

And then, almost suddenly, my body relaxed. The tears stopped and I came to a realization. The light had dawned. The treasure of this darkness had been revealed and I finally knew what I was feeling. It was joy.
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Saturday, July 21, 2012

{Love God. Love People.}

A few days after sharing Brett's story, it dawned on me that at some point I would write another blog post. Eventually, a spark of an idea would creep into my brain and I would sit in front of my computer, ready to click "new post." I knew it would happen at some point. But that point seemed so distant.

In the mean time, I simply desired to sit quietly and keep that space devoted to our friend until the Lord prompted me to write again.

Today was Brett's memorial service. Brett loved people with a passion. He loved widely and deeply (and hilariously) and touched so many lives that the sanctuary was filled with hundreds of people. The sound that most often filled that room was laughter which was, I'm sure, how Brett would have orchestrated the whole thing.

After a week and a half of walking through grief and peace and joy and hope as a family, one aspect of the Lord's provision has been made consistently clear.

The provision? His people.

My son came home from our church's high school missions trip last week with a t-shirt that says, "Love God. Love people." It struck me that this was exactly how Brett lived. Because he loved God and loved people with a contagious vivacity, he connected with hundreds from all over the world.

He was particularly connected with a number of local churches. In the last several days, I've been amazed to hear of the number of people that were connected with Brett.

I'd fall into conversation with a friend from one church body and find that they had connections with another who in turn knew someone who knew someone . . . . It has happened so many times, that I've been in delighted awe over the ways the Lord keeps His family together.

As I embraced old friends and new friends at the service today, I quickly realized that I was seeing faces from many congregations. I saw faces from at least five congregations that our family alone has been a part of.

And, although there were tears in our eyes, it was a taste of heaven. It was a reminder that this was the main thing. This loving God and loving people business -- it's the most important, the most fulfilling, the most joy-filled mission that a human being could ever embark upon.

It's what we're created for and, therefore, the only thing that brings true and lasting satisfaction.

One day we will gather in ultimate, everlasting praise and worship. We will recognize every single face that we encounter, and each visage will bring joy and delight. We will no longer be from a variety of congregations with semi-connected stories. We will be family. Perfect, whole, family in the presence of our Father.

Oh, what a day of rejoicing that will be! But guess what? In the mean time, we still have those things. We have God. We have people.

And, because we were made in God's image, we have the capacity to love them wildly. So let's do it.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

{Thank You, Brett}

"So . . . Maizy's been shedding a lot." We had just gotten home from our trip to Montana and were welcomed by Jamie's friend and co-worker, Brett, who had been house sitting for us. I saw that the vacuum cleaner was out and heard the hum of the dishwasher. A stack of towels was neatly folded on the ottoman. I was amazed at this young man for taking such good care of our home (and the hairy dog it contained).

He sauntered toward the kitchen and took a deep breath. "So . . . I accidentally broke a plate . . ." And he gestured toward the wall where I had had three plates on display. "It was so crazy. I just went like this, and it broke!" He wildly reenacted the whole thing, much to our amusement. I assured him that it was not a valuable or treasured plate. I now have two plates on display.

Brett continued to recount the events of his week with animation and enthusiasm. He said he had a great time and we knew we had a treasure in this man. As he hopped onto his motorcycle he was still talking. This time, his enthusiasm was for the high school camp he would be attending the next day. He had written a song for the students and was heading home to finish it up.

As Brett rode away, I told Jamie that we needed to do something for Brett. I wasn't sure what, but I wanted to let him know how grateful we were. Grateful for his time, his energy and his joy in serving. Grateful for him.

Three days later we heard of an accident at a nearby high school Bible camp. Our stomachs knotted as we wondered if we had any connection with the camp. A phone call that afternoon revealed that we did. A student had slipped near a waterfall, and a youth leader jumped in to save him. Both were pulled under and drowned. The student's name was Caleb. The leader was Brett.

Our family grieved deeply like we've never grieved before. We couldn't even begin to imagine the ache that their families were experiencing. We clung to each other, held our stricken children, and prayed and thanked God for his goodness. And we thanked God for Brett.

Jamie drove down to the camp to be with the students and staff this afternoon. It was a poignant reunion. He called later to let me know that they were handling the loss with a peace that only Christ can give. I heard the peace in his voice.

He paused and then continued. "I got a text tonight. From Brett's phone." My body shook and my stomach dropped. Impossible. Jamie went on, "The text just said 'Ahhh'."

I was still shaking, unsure of what to make of it. Was Brett really sending my husband a message? I still don't know how to answer for it. I don't know what it means and I can't explain it. But I do know that my husband is at peace. And I know that our God is able to do "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think."

I also know that Brett and Caleb are experiencing a peace and joy that we can hardly fathom. They are in the Lord's presence, praising and worshiping their God.

Brett left his mark on our family and in our home. I found a mismatched pair of socks in the dryer. I had set them aside to return to him. Today I retrieved the pieces of broken plate from the recycling bin. I'm not sure what I'll do with them, but I wanted to continue to remember that look on Brett's face when he reenacted the moment. The way he reenacted every moment: with joy.

We didn't get to do the something for Brett that we wanted to do. Instead he did something amazing for us. He loved us, he cared for us and he gave us a glimpse into eternity that we will never forget. In his passion for his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, he did the same for countless others.

Because of that we can rest in the Lord's peace. Ahhh.


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Monday, July 9, 2012

{Over the River and Through the Woods}

Last week we sneaked away to visit Jamie's family in Montana. My mother-in-law delighted in taking us to all of her "growing up" haunts. It was wonderful.

Manhattan is nestled in the Gallatin Valley, surrounded on all sides by rolling hills and majestic mountains. It smells of sweet sage and sun-bleached hay and makes me want to wear boots and a cowboy hat all day.

Time stood still for a week and we soaked it all in . . .

There's a reason this place is called Big Sky

Cousins (who insist on telling people they're actually twins)

The Lawson boys. Mine's the thirsty one.
Dry Creek Bible Church
Impromptu concert on Aunt Ella's organ

Day trip to Yellowstone

Visiting the barn where Granny collected eggs as a child
In her element. Oh, and the house in the background? It belonged to her great-great-great grandfather.
Fourth of July at The Garage in Bozeman
Virginia City stagecoach tour
Again, in her element.
Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

{Look Out, Etsy}

I'm starting to think she should open her own Etsy line: Original Signs by Miss Kate.

Of course she might have to branch out from the pencil and lined paper medium, but you have to admit that her word choice is catchy and memorable. As usual.
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