Monday, April 28, 2014

Up from the grave: Easter, baptism and poison sausages

I've been catching up on my blog reading and I'm feeling a bit under the pile as I see mom's posting their amazing Easter pictures.  Their kids have on beautiful dresses and adorable bows in their hair.  There are pics of Easter Egg hunts and family dinners.
Our Easter ended up a bit less than traditional this year.  It all started when Olivia decided to be baptized on Easter Sunday.  Our church does a *believer's baptism* which is a public declaration of one's own decision to follow after Jesus as Lord and Savior.  O has been wrestling with this decision for about a year now.  Normally, the person being baptized makes a short video that is shown to the church before the actual baptism.  The idea of making a video has held her back.  When she heard that on Easter is was going to be a bit more casual and "spontaneous" (i.e. no video) she jumped on that idea.
Because the baptisms were at the end of the service, we were told she should wear dark gym clothes to the service so she would be ready to go for the baptism (we've got the full dunk situation at our church.)  Well... that put a turn of events on the old Easter dress.  And if she didn't have to dress up, I just knew the boys would protest dressing up.  So... I got to thinking...
What if we did a little family baptism t-shirt.  One of the ways we had explained baptism to the kids was a sport jersey analogy.  (Perhaps the first ever sport analogy ever from me... perhaps the last.)  We explained that when you put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, you join his team.  When you get baptized, it's like putting on His jersey so that everyone knows you're on His team.  I made t-shirts for everyone in our family to wear that morning.  TEAM JESUS t-shirts.  The kids' who have not been baptized wore gray, Steve and I (having already been baptized) wore white.  O was baptized in a gray shirt and when she got dressed after being dunked, she changed into white.  When/if the boys decide to be baptized, I imagine doing the same thing for them.  Clever, right?  It also gave me an out for shopping for Easter outfits!  Double clever, right?!
Well.... my idea was to have some really cute pictures taken before/after the baptism.  But then *IT* happened.
Enter, the poison sausage. 
The night before Easter, we went as a family to the farm league baseball game in town.  I ate a poison sausage.  I will spare you the gory details, but I'll just say I have not been that sick since, umm, maybe ever.  And in the middle of the night, when I was praying for the Lord to take me home, right there on the toilet, I realized, I HAD to be in Church the next morning.  My baby girl was getting baptized, 30 friends were coming for cake after, AND I HAD to be there to wear my white TEAM JESUS t-shirt for it all to make sense.  (Priorities!)
God graciously gave me a 2 hour reprieve.  I made it to church.  Didn't barf on anyone.  I also did not take any cute pictures.  I barely managed to stand upright and I sadly didn't get to taste the beautiful cake.  I ran home (literally) and crawled in bed for the next day as my family went to our friends' house for dinner and an egg hunt.  I was so sad and so disappointed. 

Yet so unbelievably proud of my sweet 8 year old daughter.  She is a beauty inside and out.  It is a privilege to be her mom.  Easter is such an amazing celebration of new life and although I wanted to die that day, it took on an even richer meaning watching my daughter accept her team jersey.  Who knows what life will bring her way, what sweet cake and poison sausages await her.  With either one, I will trust the Lord to keep her close!  What a special Easter that I won't EVER forget.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Nothing a little Cheetos, Chocolate and David Hastlehoff Won't Cure

Here it is, the end of another week.  It was a nice, normal week around here.  Which means we only had the normal crazy.  I like normal crazy.  The weather broke a touch.  It was not snowing, only a few rainy days and it even hit 70 yesterday.  The grass is green, the flowers are out and if only the forecast didn't call for a 46 degree day in the next five days, I would declare Spring to be Sprung.

Life just feels better when I can open the windows and shoo the kids out for a little bit.

Steve's dad had back surgery last week and we are thankful that all went well.  He is home and recovering.  We expect him to be swinging a golf club by the summer.  Steve's mom needs to go out of town this weekend, so Steve is headed to Ashtabula for the night to keep his dad company.  *Somehow* I find myself hosting our first sleepover on the same night.  I guess the somehow is actually my stupidity.  How I've managed to weasel my way out of one until now is pure skill on my part.  Its not actually the sleepover that intimidates me.  The friends that Olivia has coming over are great and I enjoy them and, frankly, I probably won't even see them for 2 days.  No, the intimidation factor comes with the brothers.

I HATE anticipating "NO FAIR!"  "How come Olivia gets friends over and we don't?"  (Because I might be stupid to do this while your dad is away, but I'm not INSANE... that's why!)

Keeping the boys from bothering the girls... dreading.  Keeping the girls from screaming and yelling at the boys the whole time...shuddering.  Unwinding on a Friday evening... impossible.

However, I delight in the right of passage that IS being a second- nearly third grade- girl.  THE SLEEPOVER.  So, part of my job today is to make sure there is enough junk food to sustain them.  AND the brothers.  Because if I have any shot of making it through to Steve's arrival on Saturday night, it's bribing everyone with sugar and a variety of snacks that will stain their hands- and my furniture-  orange. 

No worries, I'm gonna nail this!

One last thing to make you smile as you begin this weekend... I found this photo on my phone this week.  It made me laugh hysterically... and I seriously have NO IDEA how it got there.  See if you can name the face that doesn't exactly belong:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Meet me at the Olive Garden

It was chilly.  I was under dressed and under prepared.  It had rained all morning long; sometimes like cats and dogs and at other times an annoying drizzle.  I had been in Jerusalem a day or two.  I can't even remember now because some things seem to have blurred together.  One soggy, chilly day blending into another.  We started at the top of a hill in the Kidron Valley and as we carefully managed our way down the hill, trying so hard not to slip on the wet pavement, we stopped outside of a walled area.  I waited, once again, for the rest of the group to go to the bathroom.  I had worn a maxi-dress which skimmed the ground.  By the time we reached this next sight, my dress had soaked up rain puddles and the wetness reached mid-calf.  I was beginning to get cranky.

We entered in to find a grove of trees and another church built to signify the "traditional spot" of the garden of Gethsemane.  X marks the spot.  We waited as our group gathered and tourists from Nigeria and Korea crowded through the doors of this church.  As we waited for our turn to step inside and tour the church, we stood next to an Olive Garden.  No bread sticks were served but we did marvel some 2,000 year old Olive trees.  They were goofy looking yet magnificent.  I, however, was focused on standing somewhere dry for a few moments. 

We took our turn in the church.  It looked like the other churches that had been built to mark *the spot* throughout Israel.  Our guide then pulled us aside and told us we would be entering into a private garden in a few moments.  We wouldn't have long, perhaps 45 minutes total.  The guard opened the gate and we walked in.  It was quiet.  Peaceful. Wet. Cold. We huddled together as our guide read to us from the Bible:

"When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley.  On the other side there was a olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.  Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.  So Judas came to the grove, guiding the detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees.  They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.  Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, 'Who is it you want?'
'Jesus of Nazareth,' they replied. 
'I am he,' Jesus said.  (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.)  When Jesus said, 'I am he,' they drew back and fell to the ground...  (John 18:1-6)

In, quite possibly, this VERY spot, Jesus allowed himself to be arrested and taken to what he knew would be a gruesome death.  A necessary death for the redemption of those He loved... mankind. Wow. 

We had some time to be *alone* (which is a tremendous task when you are in a closed garden with 50 other people.)  The rain was only a slight drizzle.  But oddly enough, I barely noticed.  I sat on a wall, overlooking the olive grove.  I turned on my music (Blessed Assurance, I Come to the Garden and I Am by Phil Wing were all I had time for.) 

I sat and reflected on the events that occurred to the Creator of the Universe, right there in that very garden.  The fact that He willingly give himself over to be killed on my behalf was overwhelming.  It sounds so cliché.  So over-simplistic and utterly predictable, but I gained a supernatural understanding of God's goodness in that garden at that very moment.

I've struggled over the past 4 years to connect my intellectual understanding of God's goodness and the experience of my complete trust in His goodness, no matter what my circumstance, to my heart.  I've had some crappy circumstances and I have struggled to believe with my heart.

It was as if God took me half way around the world, sat me on a wall in a rainy garden to wash me in His goodness.  What a way to learn how to not allow outside circumstance (rain, wind, puddles, soggy dress, cancer, death, whatever) to keep me from missing the goodness of God.

Self-sacrifice... goodness doesn't get any better than that.