Dawn is breaking

Sitting on the porch soaking in this spectacular spring day, I can't help but reflect and smile. My birthday passed a few days ago. I turned 41 years old. I don't feel the way I thought 41 year old people probably feel. 40 was no big deal, I didn't have any terrible panic attack. 41 didn't cause any earthquakes either but I am finding myself a bit more contemplative. 

Where do I go from here. I have tween, a teen and a young adult. I'm so happily married as the email implies but what do I want to do with the second half of my life?

I have thought of going back to school, immersing myself even more into youth ministry, finishing the books that are gathering dust in my Word Doc folder, but it doesn't feel right. I spent the first 41 years moving as fast as I possibly could. I wanted to smell the roses while I ran with them in my hand. I wanted to do it all and squeeze in as much as I could into one day. 

I don't feel like I need to do that now. I don't have anything at all to prove. Nothing. I know who I am. I have outgrown regrets because I have seen God take every mistake and turn it into glorious light. 

The work of my life is not over, I still have a family to raise and all. But the pressure is gone. Perhaps we reach a place on the journey where we glimpse the view? Perhaps the trials of my life have blessed me with unwavering faith in God's plan? 

Joy is coming into focus. Joy has rested in the seat of my soul many years. There it has been nurtured and fed by obedience, faithfulness, by an abundance of love and blessings, and trust in the Lord. Forgive the brief foray into the sci-fi realm, but it feels like a power core, an intense source of energy that cannot be destroyed by an X-wing fighter or properly fired blaster. The joy feels like it is beginning to radiate through my body.

Imagine laying on the beach at sunrise. You have your own body heat to keep you warm but as the sun begins to rise it kisses your toes. You begin to feel the warmth move up your entire body until the sun is fully risen and you are bathed in light and warmth.

I feel like the sun is rising in my life and the joy is beginning to reach all the dark and cold extremities. Not fully risen but breaking.

Indeed, a new dawn is breaking over me and I intend to stretch out my arms and my legs, close my eyes and let it be. 


prom, another thing homeschoolers do well.

My beautiful daughter is getting ready for Prom. She is a vision. In shorts, flip-flops, hair pulled back and one of my t-shirts heading to her best friend's house to do hair and make-up. I can't wait to see her all dressed up looking stunning.

I remember 13 years ago when I began sharing with family that we were homeschooling. Someone said, well it just makes me sad, because she will be so pretty and she'll miss out on all the milestones of high school like Prom.

Both the kids have attended homecoming, proms, winter dances, homecoming games, and all that jazz. With friends from so many different schools, different homeschool groups and of varying ages they have had every opportunity to sample some of the fun things we all remember from high school without having to be immersed in the muddy drama we all remember as well.

I didn't know back then that they would have these opportunities. I wasn't sure if missing Prom was really something to regret. I knew the negatives outweighed the positives and so there was never really any question.

This Prom, $50 tickets, full meal, excellent music, well chaperoned, no drugs, no drama, no nonsense, just friends having a wonderful time celebrating their youthfulness. What's very cool is God is invited. What's very cool is that our God is bigger than the world and not afraid to let His faithful enjoy secular music, dancing, and fun.

You have to love how God works everything out. All things working to bring about good things for my family. Another day that I thank God for the wisdom, strength and fortitude it has taken to homeschool. Thank you Jesus!

Preparing my heart for the Mass of Good Friday. Sadness descends on my spirit as I try to spend this day each year contemplating what it must have been like to have awakened and learned of Jesus' arrest. To rush to the temple, to see Him scourged. Would I have walked the Way of the Cross with Him? Would I have turned back, run home and hidden out fear that I would be next? Would I have been counted in the number  of believers or would I so prone to fighting for my beliefs to the last have defended the Jewish Law? Would I have been a Roman, confused and amused by all the uproar, or lost and forgotten as a Samaritan?

There is not much point to trying to figure out who I would have been, but doing so causes me consider who I am, now, as His Crucifixion is remembered. Am I believer, so joined with Him in suffering that all else falls away. Am I afraid to stand up for my faith, or am I someone who beats down others who do not believe as I do? Am I lost, am I His persecutor.

Good Friday gives me another opportunity to work out my commitment, my love and devotion to Christ by walking this every year by contemplating and assessing my life.

I try to experience Good Friday as the early Christians would have, I try through prayer to sit with the belief that Jesus is dead. Painful and lonely all hope leaves my heart. If Jesus is dead, nothing matters. All we do will be dust. All those I love, dust. I will never see my children, my husband in heaven, there is nothing but death. It's a most sorrowful place.

I go there because I never want to forget what life is like without Jesus. It is dead, lifeless, hopeless.

By the end of the Mass though I leave with a secret smile in my heart because as much I as try experience

fairy godmother

I recall this morning how blessed I have been to be a sponsor. Christina, Joshua, and Clayton honored me over the last three years by asking me to be there Confirmation Sponsor. What a joy! I can't begin to express the privilege of standing alongside these young people as they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit conferred upon them through Confirmation.

This year I am sponsoring a beautiful teen in my youth group who came to us a serious skeptic and unbeliever. On Saturday she will be Baptized, Confirmed and received in full Communion with the Church. I am rejoicing as I pray for her this morning.

So many join us at Easter, the renewal, the power of the Resurrection, the life of the Church is never more intoxicating to me than it is this week (Holy Week).

I have to say, how on earth did I get here? Honestly, if you want proof of God - look at me. A girl who was wild, wayward, lost, broken and God has seen fit to raise me out of it, restore me, renew me, and has  me (me!) of all people, leading others to Him? I am not worthy of such abundant grace. His love is luxurious, He truly made me a new Creation, a new daughter. I will not turn back never. I refuse to wear the garment of a slave. I walk in my life as a daughter of the Living God. It doesn't matter who I was, I know who I am in Him.

I encountered Christ as a teen, I experienced that initial conversion, but faith is not a moment in time. It's not a switch that was flipped. It's a journey. Some people are found, and then they just get lost again. I did. He kept coming for me. He never let go.

My world was a house on fire, Jesus broke down the door and came for me. Silly girl I was, I ran from Him, tried to hide even. But He kept coming. He was not going to leave me in the fire.

He would leave everyone else and come just for me. He died on the Cross for me alone. Think about that, for a second. He would have walked Calvary, suffered and died if the only person His life would save was mine. He loves me so much! You cannot be in a relationship with someone and share this depth of love and not be overwhelmed. My God adores me, He guides me, cares for me, disciplines me, challenges me and calls me to greater things that I might know the joy of bringing Him glory.

He heaps upon me joy after joy. A marriage I am safe and loved in everyday. Children on earth and in heaven to love, family, and He allows me to work in the vineyard sharing His great love. I am praying most especially for Joshua, Christina, and Clayton this Easter - as their sponsor it's my duty to be their prayer warrior. I am praying for Gabby, who has blessed me with the opportunity to be not only her sponsor but her Godmother. Please pray for all the elect joining the Church this Easter. His truth is marching on.

one question, as a fairy godmother do I get a wand??? I probably seem more like a fairly oddparent, than godparent but hey take it up with the big guy.

Thank God.

fair warning this is an article, a devotion of sorts and it's longer than a typical blog post.

Thank God.

I twisted and rolled over taking as much of the sheet with me as I could. Sleeping with my baby brother on the floor between my folks was not my idea of a fabulous Friday night. My dad slept on the couch, mom on the loveseat.

Earlier in the day our air conditioning breathed it’s finally burst of cool air and died. July in the Midwest is hot and humid. The nights bring little relief and this particular stretch that summer was especially miserable.

My parents had fought bitterly about the air. I hear heat makes me people experience stress more acutely. Acute stress was not what my family needed. Dad was about half way through the Police Academy. All my life we had lived hand to mouth. Finally, dad made a connection in his dog training business with someone who could help him, the Chief of Police. He had decided his department needed a K-9 unit. He had begun to work with dad to create it, look for the right dogs and begin training them. As their work had progressed it became obvious to the Chief that instead of having dad train his officers, the most efficient way to get the unit up and running was to make dad an officer, a K-9 officer, in charge of the unit. Politics in Southern Indiana operates to this day on the good ol’ boy system. Dad was the Chief’s pick and the Chief had the people he wanted on the town council so, it was done.

The pressure shifted to my dad. A smart guy, he had never found his way in the world really. Switching jobs and having no idea about what he might be when he grew up had added up to a man in his early thirties barely treading water. Married, divorced and remarried to his high school sweetheart, with two kids, and a broken A/C in late in July. He had reached the point in his training where he could come home on the weekends but weekends were spent studying. Not terribly studious in school, learning at such an accelerated pace with so much on the line was all very new to him. He rose to the challenge but not without considerable emotional strain.

I didn’t understand when the fight erupted, I was witnessing the collision of so many broken things in my family. The air being down was a fresh reminder of what life was like without any means to fix our home. It brought up memories of utilities being turned off, going without basics, not being able seek medical help and generally life as a working-poor family. For my mom it was fear. Fear we would never have anything different than what we had always known. Fear that the pressure would overwhelm dad and he would leave us again. Fear that she would never know what it was like to feel safe and secure. The responsibility that closes in on a parent cannot be explained.  You just have to walk in those responsibilities. Until you know what it feels like to watch your child go to the bus stop in a light jacket when a heavy winter coat is what is needed, you don’t know. When your child needs to see a doctor, a dentist, a specialist and you can’t even think about taking them, you don’t know. My parents had been there, done it and it had taken it's toll on them.

This job however offered them a fresh start, a completely new direction. Dad had to do well. He had to graduate. Everything depended on it. Losing a day of studying to tinkering on a dinosaur of an air conditioning unit, fighting all while suffocating in the heat with whining children and an angry wife is not productive. I suppose now, as I write this, it was hardly my parents idea of a fabulous Friday night either.

Dad was ready to take some money and stay in a motel, anything with air. Mom was adamant that we couldn’t possibly afford it and after all it was no real solution. What about us after he went back to the Academy on Sunday? Were we to just sweat it out? Was he just to good to be hot at night? On and on.

As they settled in their respective corners to lick their wounds before the next round my mom did what she was always doing, trying to fix it. She gathered sheets and soaked them in cool water in the tub. She rung them out and hung them in the doorway to the living room closing off the room from the rest of the house. She took the two fans and had them going. She made a pallet on the floor between the couch and loveseat for my brother and I. The small space was easy to cool. The damp sheets helped to circulate cool air, the open window with the second fan brought in the cooler night air. Even my dad had to admit that it was more than comfortable. After a cool bath we were almost cold when she tucked us in.

Sometime in the night I heard my mother say my dad’s name, “Norman? Norman!” What followed happened so quickly I couldn’t have recalled it clearly at the time. There was a startle, a scuffle, and shouting. I saw my dad grab his jeans and pull them on. He grabbed his holster, which he always kept close now, with his loaded gun and he ran out the door.

He chased a man through the woods. The intruder met others as he ran, they jumped into a car and sped away. Meanwhile my mother had called the police. Another new fixture in our home was the police scanner. We had learned all the codes and call signs for the officers we knew. Within moments of my dad leaping from the front porch in pursuit of our intruder the dispatcher, used the codes for armed break-in, she said: multiple suspects, officer’s home, officer in pursuit, need backup. I sat in the floor holding my 4-year-old brother, as sirens seem to descend from everywhere. Police were upon us in mere moments. Literally a minute didn’t pass.

The would-be burglars had gotten away. The police were searching for them. They wouldn’t find them. I listened to it all unfold on the scanner. I remember just wanting to see my dad, and know that he was okay. It was a long time before he came back into the house, longer still for reports, and the house to be checked. I gathered from my expert eaves dropping skills that a group of 3 men had attempted to break-in to our home. Two from the back, one from the front and another man parked in the getaway car across the woods.

The men in the back had gotten in and were making their way through our home. The man coming in the front door had opened it to find my entire family sleeping together. The tiny house was only 600 square feet. The front door was not 12 feet from where my dad laid on the couch. Mom had heard him working the lock, called to dad and then it all just exploded.

Finally after a couple hours the police left and we were expected to go back to sleep. All I could think was how glad I was that the air conditioning had broken. If it hadn’t, we would have been in different rooms, me in the front, alone, my brother in the back, alone and my parents in the middle, of our shotgun house.

Would we have been robbed? Would they have hurt me? Would they have shot my dad if he hadn’t gotten the jump on them first? I was thankful and I was angry. I was angry that my parents had been so mean to one another about the temperature all day, that they couldn’t have any faith that it might have happened for a reason. Were they ever going to see the big picture and cope differently with their struggles? The answer to that question is no. They never would. When bad things happen they curse them. They do not know how to be thankful for the things that seem "bad" and even their ability to see the good in the eventual outcome is horribly diminished. More often than not they chalk off those instances as luck.

13 years later having battled one another into exhaustion, they would divorce again, and it would stick. They had lived a marriage without God, without faith, without knowing the Creator of all things. They call their god, luck. That summer I had began to call my God, Jesus. It changed everything about how I saw the world.

Holding my little brother and telling him everything was okay and we were safe I knew we were safe because God was in control. Not mom or dad, or the entire police department that was combing my neighborhood would protect us, God alone would. God had provided a means for our safety by breaking that ac unit. I stopped assuming things were a blessings or a curse and instead decided to wait and see what God was doing. For all things are used by God, for His good work. Count it all joy, even when it doesn’t make any sense.

Yes, I’m saying when something terrible happens, thank God. When something annoying happens, thank God. When something expensive breaks, or someone comes or goes or even passes away unexpectedly, thank God and above all else, when things don’t go according to your plan, thank God.