Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ten Favorite Things That Begin With The Letter "B"

A beautiful and amusing (smile) friend of mine has been practicing a new game on her circle of bloggers. She chose the letter "b" for me (perhaps because of my last name?) so hence came my list of words.

Belle - French for "beautiful."
Baby's Breath - the flowers that most depict innocence, I think.
Ballet - let me dance...:)
Bathrobes - fluffy and white.
Berries - I am an aficionado of the sensation.
Books - if you know me, enough said.
Bon bons - mmm. Chocolate! I will ever be devoted to you, I'm afraid.
Boutiques - I'm a girl, of course.
Brides - someday, over the rainbow...hmm.
Brothers - I happen to have six, and I love every one of them.

Thank you, Cheri, for such a fun letter!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Isaac

He's not just any little brother. For one thing, he's mine.
For another thing, he is completely unusual.
Every day I take into consideration that he's completely boy, that he's six-years-old, and that he's gone through an unusually long Idahoan winter - hence the extra hyperness. However, no matter how much I try to make myself think that he is typical, the more I decide that he's not.
Monday morning, for instance, I gather my books to teach my little brothers. I happen to have five younger brothers whom I teach every day, but I always teach Isaac first because he has the ability like no one else to tire me out before my thirty-minute session is over. I'd rather that he tires me out before the afternoon hits and I feel inclined to take a nap.
He's learning to read, so I turn to the lesson we're on and we begin, always in high spirits. He begins reading his list of words, cats, vans, hogs, jams, rags, sits, until he pauses at the word fits. He squints his bright eyes in typical Isaac fashion and looks up at me. "Uh? What's that first letter again?"
I laugh. Surely he remembers the letter f. "You know this one, Isaac, just think about it for a minute."
We sit together in silence. After a minute, he reaches over and grabs my hand, gazing up into my face. "Has it been a minute, yet?"
"Yes," I smiled, "what's the letter?"
"Uh - r?"
"No," I shake my head, resigning myself to a long, difficult morning, "try again."
"No," he exclaims, shutting the book with emphasis, "I'm never doing school again."
His face is contorted into the most comical mix of frustration, impatience, and emotions I generally call "Isaacness." He glances at me from the corner of his eye, with his arms folded, and I know he is waiting for me to tell him what the answer is. This is the principle difference I deal with every day between Isaac and his seven-year-old elder brother. Micah is the epitome of a patient child, but when thoroughly provoked, will cry. He never yells, screams, throws his books, or announces that he's "never doing school again".
"Isaac, we can't get upset so quickly, dear. Try again." I try with my hands. "It's like - like a - what's this, Isaac?" I purse my lips together in a fish-kiss and make gurgling sounds, waving my arms as if I was swimming.
"A bird?" guesses my brilliant, prize student.
I groan. "No - it's - it's a fish, Isaac. Now, I'm not telling you anything else this morning."
His eyes light up. "F! It's f!"
My home is always filled with some kind of noise. With five younger brothers and three younger sisters, you can't really expect the most serene of a home. Music floats in and out of the house, though sometimes it sounds like it's storming in and out of the house (i.e. Bethany's piano practice, Rachel's penny whistle, Stephen's guitar, and who knows what else). The stairs are a constant source of racket, with feet pattering up and down the stairs many times simultaneously. And the voices. If wish I could say that all the voices we hear are melodious, encouraging; sisterly and brotherly. However...that's another story. Isaac's voice is, perhaps, the most prominent of all the voices, given the fact that he boasts a high, extremely audible voice that met every one's ears with gusto upon emerging from his mother's womb, and, I'll add, continues to meet our ears in the same way with the rising of every morning's sun and the setting of the same. I was the only child in our home that incessantly sang during her childhood until Isaac, who now delights me with his tenor voice, sweetly proclaiming the glories of childhood and innocence to the praise of our Heavenly Father.
That's a terrific speech, until tomorrow morning. I'll be enjoying my early morning beauty sleep, unconscious to the world, when in will hop Isaac. He'll bounce all over my bed, crying,"Wake up, Sarah! It's time to get up!" (Before my alarm clock has even had a chance to wake me, I'll interject.) If I don't cooperate absolutely immediately with his request, he'll start singing, "Sleepyhead! Sleepyhead! The sun is out and it's time..." or "Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory, rise and shine..."
Rats. I'll roll over and have to get up because I can't go back to sleep.
But then there are other times when my heart is simply captured by his whit, by his animation, his brilliant art, his fiery determination to conquer the world, or simply by his gentle heart. I'll never forget what he told me a few weeks ago, "Sarah, you're my best friend. Don't make me cry." I had just scolded him for pulling some of my books off their neat place on my shelf. Needless to say, I bit my tongue in regret and determined never to scold again.
I see in my darling little brother, running around the house with almost irrepressible energy, the fire and innovation of a fourteen-year-old, studying with all of his might and creating new things and beautiful art with his hands. I squint my eyes, like he does at times, and look into the future to see him as a tall, daring gentleman with the action conquer engraved on his very soul. I can see him loving, laughing, and serving the women in his life with a heart of gold and being a leader, not a follower, among his revolutionary, reformation-minded friends. I think I can see us, together, best friends still, with a deeper and greater relationship than before.
So when I see all the creativity ever given to a child expressed in Isaac, I must hold my tongue. I will stand in awe at the Creator of the universe, in giving my world such a bright light in it - even if it means my delightfully, irrevocable unusual little brother. I wouldn't change him for the world.
But to finish my story.
He had the f sound thoroughly engraved in his mind before I dared to open the phonics book again. I finally did, and we turned back to the page we were at.
"Go ahead and read that line of words again, Isaac," I said, pointing to the familiar string of words.
"Cats, vans, hogs, jams, rags, sits - uh?" He looks up at me with a questioning look again.
My heart groans, but I hang on. He has to know this. We just went over it fifty times.
He squints his eyes. "Um, is it d?"
Life goes on. I know it does.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Morning Song

There is a little ripple of consciousness beneath my chest, flowing, widening, bubbling up like a spring. It stems from my heart. It is a song.

My song is simply a reflection of the beauty surrounding me. The winter days have finally taken wings and flown away, and spring has gently arrived, bathing me in its warm glow and celestial beauty. The trees and grass adorning my front yard have gladly thrown down their long-worn winter coats and have replaced them with the glad rags of spring; sunny, fresh and green. I can once again see the dew sparkling like a million diamonds on the first flowers of the year, and even the morning air whispers, "He is risen."

My heart sings for gladness. Even amidst the turmoils of life, the tragedy awaiting us at every bend, and the uncertainties of the future cannot dampen the happiness and joy that awaits my discovery in every, single day.

And even if where you are, it's raining and cold; dreary and hopeless, there is still an ounce of happiness tucked away for you to find. When it's raining at my house, in both or either a figurative and literal way, I try to find the sunshine. If it's raining outside, gladness finds me in the fact that my flowers are being watered to grow wise and strong. If it's raining inside, happiness finds me with the knowledge that I am being watered to grow wise and strong, just like my flowers. If there was nothing in the world to be happy about - no sunshine, no flowers, no happy faces, no dewdrops, no beauty - there still would be. If life was as terrible as it could possibly be, we would still have hope.

Two thousand years ago, God came to live on earth with His old friends who had long walked away from Him. Some of them changed their minds and began to love Him, but others hated Him with a passion indescribable. He was the King of the Universe, but they treated Him like a servant. He was the Creator of all, but they turned their haughty eyes up at Him, regardless of the facts that He fashioned them in their mothers' wombs, that He sustained their every breath; that all life was held in His hand. They killed Him one cruel, unfathomable day, and in their own wicked hearts thought that He was removed from them forever. Life hung in the balance for three dark days, and even heaven itself held its breath.

Until the morning. Death and hell were blinded by rays of light as the Son of God ascended from the depths of hell with the keys of life in His hands. Stunned, astonished and speechless, they watched Him soar beyond galaxies with triumph in His grasp, healing in His nail-pierced hands, love in the heart that the world could not hold; conscious of a Power stronger than rain, stronger than darkness, stronger than death. He was alive, and all heaven rejoiced. The epic had been told. It was finished. Life had conquered death.

No matter what any of us may ever go through, there is always sunshine to find. Mine happens to be strong this morning, taking the form of a song, lifting itself through my voice and carrying it over and beyond the fields that dance, the trees that clap, and this heart that soars.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Living Intentionally

Every now and then, something rocks my fairly stable world. It has to be something significant and completely relevant to me, otherwise it won't really "hit home". This past week, something has both shook my stable world and hit home in my heart.

Our neighbors, Chuck and Sherri Leason and their two two teenagers, Tyler and McKenzie, have been some of the neatest people we've known ever since we first met them. They are a typical, happy, Christian home school family with a nice mom, nice dad, and nice kids with a nice house in a nice community (Our community! I could add with nice neighbors, too, but that would be too obvious. :). Everything nice, that is, until last week.

Mr. Leason had been having severe headaches for a few days in a row while his wife, Sherri, was on a trip visiting family in Minnesota. When Mr. Leason informed his wife that he felt like his body was going numb, Mrs. Leason came back immediately and took him into a natropath doctor. They were told he was simply fighting a head cold and sinus infection. Not so sure they felt okay with this explanation, the couple went to their medical doctor for further analysis. What the doctor told them has changed their lives forever. Mr. Leason was diagnosed with brain cancer, in the fourth (worst) stage, and after a biopsy, the tumor was found to be in his brain stem and fast growing, getting to an enormous size in only two months. The doctors have proclaimed him beyond medical help.

His family, as devastated as they well should be, have not lost hope, but are pulling together in remarkable ways. Almost overnight, it seems, family members have been showing up from all around the country, pouring out their well-founded concern on kind Mr. Leason. My family and many of the families of our friends, have had the blessing of helping the Leasons during their time of need with healthful, all-raw, all-organic, meals. With only a few days left to decide whether or not they want to do chemotherapy, the Leasons are going all-out on natural remedies - the balanced prescription of a natural doctor who has helped many people out of scary situations like this one. Besides all of that, however, Mr. Leason stands this moment on the verge of death. Every day is just another lived through and another moment closer to his fast approaching destiny.

My Dad visited him in the hospital, just two nights before he was released to come home, and came home with a shining report. No, the cancer hadn't disappeared, and no, the doctor hadn't announced that he was heading towards a better direction. But Dad had a story to tell. He walked right into the ICU room and saw the nurses, Sherri and Chuck. Chuck was sitting up in bed, talking in an animated way with his wife, and they both were delighted to see my Dad. And then Mr. Leason began to talk. He talked and talked and talked, my Dad told us. We were shocked. Mr. Leason - talk? He was the kind of guy who was kind and thoughtful, so much so that he had a reputation for it, but who was so quiet that in the midst of a chattering group, he'd just stand to the side, smiling and nodding, holding his wife's hand. He wasn't shy, but he wasn't a talker, either. Then Dad went on to tell us that Mr. Leason didn't say a thing about how distressing his situation was, only how great it was for him to be in a place of great ministry. He was delighted that he could shine the love of Christ to so many medical professionals, and felt that Jesus had him there for that purpose. He laughed over and over again with my Dad, telling him how God was blessing him as he sat there in that bed, with a hole in his head (from the biopsy) and cancer spreading terminally throughout his body. And then he said something interesting. He told my Dad, "As soon as I get out of here, things are going to change in my life and my family's. It's time to live intentional."

That buzzed around in my brain for awhile until my brother, Stephen, and my sister, Rachel, went to visit them with my Dad after Mr. Leason had been brought home, just yesterday afternoon.

"Mr. Leason," Stephen said, upon his return, "was sitting up at the kitchen table when we walked in the house. He was laughing with his sister and daughter," Stephen's eyes showed what I was thinking: surprise. "He shook Dad's hand and wouldn't let go of it for a long time. When he shook my hand, he didn't let go of it until it was time to leave. He told me that as soon as he was over this, he was going to write so many books on the power of God and the evidence of Him in our lives; he said that his family was going to be active for Christ, and that we we going to have the greatest community ever. He said that there were so many people ready to receive Christ and in fact, his own sister received Jesus in her heart that very morning. He was so passionate," my brother said, "and by the way he held my hand, it was like he was trying to tell me something so important, and something so time-sensitive that he didn't even know if he had enough time to tell me. When you walked in the room, the grace of God was absolutely there. I could feel it."

And then it struck me. That's what living intentional is all about. It's about having a purpose, a goal, a intent, that consumes you, inflames you, and empowers you to fulfill it. A person has never floated through life and lived intentionally, with a goal, with a vision. And just then something else struck me. No one has ever achieved anything spectacular without being intentional. People don't simply wake up one morning to the knowledge of, "Hey, I'm a best-selling author!" Or, "Wha'd'ya know, I'm a movie star!" Or even, "I'm the pastor of the largest church in Kentucky - and hello! I didn't even do a thing to get here!" That's impossible because it goes against logic. But then why is it that we Christians of the Gospel - the good news, the people of the very Word of God, and the people with the greatest responsibility to mankind, sit around and "wait" for the great happenings to happen? And why are we content to float through life with never a thought on what we're actually doing? This should bother a whole lot more people than it does. Why is it that it takes something as serious as a friend getting cancer to "wake" us up?

I'm determined not to wait until something dreadful plagues my life or those dearest to me before I live with a purpose. I shouldn't be planning on living with fiery goals, I should be living them. Anything can happen to any of us at any time. And it might be me next. Or you. That serves as enough reason for me to get off my couch, and out of my house, and into yours - and it should be for everyone.

Life doesn't last forever...or does it?

Monday, March 10, 2008

When It's Dark

My heart is going through an immense season of growth. I say this because I am convinced that just when it hurts the most (life, that is) it must mean I am simply growing in grace, and more like Jesus Christ. Whoever said it was fun?

Christianity is not about feeling better with yourself and it's certainly not a fast ticket to heaven. Christianity is not a dreamy, painless cruise through life. It's not about gaining the favor of a God who will give you the shortcuts through through the hard times, or a God who will see to it that you get the easiest road. It's not about being pain-free and as light as air.

I'll tell you what it is. It's hard. It's rough. It's grinding. It's full of pain. But that's the Christian walk. Rocky. Painful. Trying. No wonder when people in general have come to see Christianity as a glamorous way of life (by the way we advertise it, I might add) they are stumped and flabbergasted when they find out how hard it actually is. No, Christianity, period, is not easy. In fact, as long as Christianity remains on earth it will be the hardest religion to embrace. Even in America. That's unfortunate, but realistic, anyway. But let me give you a brighter picture.
Though the gospel of Jesus Christ is not about lovely sunrises and perfect sunsets, and though it is about hard climbs throughout life and the difficult understanding of His truths, the beauty of Christianity is summed up in few words. When it's hard, when it hurts, when it's dark, when you can't see, when you're holding onto the tiniest strand of hope - or when there's none to hold at all, He's right there, with you through it all. He never promised to give us sunny freeways, but if anything, He has promised rocky, rainy roads. But when it's hard, He speaks to us. When it hurts, He holds us. Though He doesn't banish the clouds away, He sits in the dark with us, holding our hand.

It's dark and I can't see, but He's still here. He can see far better than I can - even in the dark.