Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Worst Day…With a Happy Ending

Yesterday, friends invited us to check out the East Lansing Art Festival. Their family has three little boys similar ages to ours, and we truly enjoy hanging out with them! We were both impressed at how large this event was. Multiple streets were lined with tents and vendors offered items ranging from homemade crafts to unique art pieces. Ryan went from being held by Daddy to walking hand-in-hand with me to holding hands with Joshua. The kids were all happily playing together and the parents were chatting and keeping an eye on the larger group. I was impressed with not only the size of the event but also the number of people who were in attendance! It was a pretty crowded area.

After walking a block or so and looking at the “artsy” side, we purchased some water bottles (it was a hot day!) crossed a very busy intersection of the main street of traffic to the other side that offered more crafty-type wares. We stopped for our friends to buy yard stakes, and then we walked a bit for me to buy a personalized wooden flag sign. Ryan had been playing with his water bottle, walking next to Joshua but not holding his hand. Shawn was right behind him and Sandy went into the tent with me to help me pick out a sign. Their 4-year-old son accompanied us gals while the men stayed out with the other kids. Shawn thought Ryan went in with us and saw what he thought was the top of his head in between Sandy and me. While the man personalized my sign, Shawn came in to make sure Ryan wasn’t being a handful. He realized that Ryan wasn’t in the tent after all (their son who’s roughly the same size had already left to join the other boys).

“Where’s Ryan?” Shawn casually asked. “With you,” was my casual response. I paid the man and thanked him, and turned my attention to Shawn, who now looked a little distraught. “I’m going to go back the way we came and look for him.” I now realized Ryan was really not with the men. Still, I wasn’t panicked. I assumed he was nearby and we just didn’t see him in the crowd. Sandy offered to go another direction to look. I demanded of Joshua, “You were holding hands with Ryan the last I had looked.. Which way did he go?!?” Joshua was still having fun with the other boys and shrugged, “I don’t know. He wasn’t with me.” Of course an 8-year-old isn’t responsible for his younger brother. Still, I would have thought one of the kids may have seen him walk away. Which way? They shrugged. I went forward a bit while the boys stayed at the tent where we had just made a purchase with Tim. Meanwhile, Shawn and Sandy went through two separate rows of vendors. I love Ryan dearly but I didn’t think he would have the wherewithal to go back the way we came to try and find us. I assumed he got lost in his own little world of tossing his water bottle in the air like the older boys had been doing and he kept walking when we stopped. I also thought he would probably find one of the many, many dogs that owners had brought to the event and stop to pet it.

I very casually walked up and down looking for him, calling “Ryan! Ry?” to see if he would hear my voice and come running. I also listened for his little voice as he’s not typically too quiet. No one answered. I walked back, thinking Shawn must have found him and brought him back. I saw both Shawn and Sandy circle back, still with no Ryan in hand.

We all started looking a little more panicked as the minutes since we had last seen him were starting to tick by. I didn’t like the look on their faces that was mirroring what I felt in my heart. I quickly and definitively grabbed my older boys and insisted that they walk with me rather than wait by the tent where I had made my purchase. If Ryan were in that area, he would have come out by now. At this point, I didn’t want to be separated from any of my babies.

I continued with my instinct that he had kept walking, dreading that we were coming up to another intersection (although a less busy road). Tim walked back to the road we had crossed. He wanted to make sure Ryan didn’t try to cross the street that had heavily congested traffic. Sandy started talking to vendors, describing Ryan and asking them to hold onto him if they noticed him walking by. I started to yell louder and louder for him, not caring if people thought I was crazy. I didn’t want to sound upset, but I desperately wanted him to hear me and come running to me. I was also listening for him in between my calling his name. “RYAN! RY?!?! Where are you, buddy?”

At this point, I told my other two boys we needed to pray together. We immediately did out loud “Please, God, protect Ryan. Keep him safe. Bring him back to us quickly. Please help us! You’re our only hope. Please God, this is my son…he’s just a baby!” At this point, I realized Ryan had been gone too long. Our chances of finding him were getting less and less with every passing minute. As I rounded the corner I saw even more tents lining the next street with even more people. But I didn’t think he would go this far happily on his own without recognizing we weren’t there with him…

For the past two weeks, Ryan hadn’t slept very well. Shawn and I had had a conversation about feeling like Ryan was scared to be alone. He wouldn’t go into another area of the house by himself even and was barely sleeping, crying out for me in the night. I had asked my little man what was going on – why was he crying at night when he needed his sleep (and I did too!). His response had been that he wanted to snuggle me. I had told him to save his snuggles for daytime hours… Now I desperately wanted a snuggle from him!

I thought of Ryan’s fear of being alone and I started feeling sick in the pit of my stomach. “RYAN! RY!?!?! WHERE ARE YOU, BUDDY?!?!?” I continued to call for him. We continued to search the area. A woman came up to me and said “Can we help you?” I burst into tears and blurted out “My 3-year-old son is lost and all alone and we can’t find him anywhere!” This sweet shopper started mobilizing a team. “Her son is 3!” she shouted. “Help find this lady’s son!” More and more people came up and offered to help. Angels, I tell you! It takes one person to make the choice to help that leads others to recognize that help is needed and pitch in.

“What is he wearing?” someone asked. I described his very simple navy blue shirt and jeans. I groaned inwardly and thought to myself, why don’t I dress him in neon yellow? I heard people say, “Wow! He’s only three?” Folks who had heard me calling a name before suddenly realized how serious the situation was. People started looking and calling his name – he’s 3, wearing blue and his name is Ryan – GO! A woman sent her teenage kids to start looking for a 3-year-old blond boy with blue eyes. Minutes continued to fly by… “RYAN! RY?!?! WHERE ARE YOU, BUDDY?”

I tearfully continued searching until someone said “A boy that fits that description is with a police officer in the information tent.” I felt a surge of hope! “Don’t worry, Mom, he looked very happy and peaceful,” they consoled me. This is what didn’t sit well. Peaceful? Ryan wouldn’t be peaceful without us. Even at night he cries if we’re not in bed next to him. Truly, he’s not even peaceful with us at times. He had been whining how hot he was and how he wanted a balloon yo-yo much of the afternoon. Happy and peaceful…was this found boy the same kid we were looking for? Still, I had to find out! I had to hope it was, even though I was a little doubtful. Where? Where was the information booth? Even if it wasn’t Ryan, that might be a good place to check and get some help.

No one seemed to know where the booth was. I followed a woman who was trying to get her bearings with all the tents and people and we walked all over and through a large building to the other side…on and on we kept going. As we raced, my older boys complained that they were having a hard time keeping up. I was pulling them along, anxious to find the information booth and my Ryan! As we kept walking and walking, the strong doubts that this was my son started to creep in. Really? This far? He wouldn’t have gone this far on his own… I heard people tell each other “They found him. You can stop searching.” I wanted to scream “Don’t stop! What if this isn’t the same child?!?” I literally felt sick. What if this wasn’t my son and I was being led far away from where we had last seen him? I was starting to panic, but this was the only “lead” we had.

The thought crept in, “What if someone took him?” We hadn’t found him after searching a long time in that area. He wouldn’t go this far. What if…I tried to push those thoughts out of my head. If this boy wasn’t Ryan, I wasn’t sure what I would do….I couldn’t think about it. I had to keep pushing.

We arrived at the information booth, and there was no police officer and no Ryan waiting for us. WHAT?!?! The woman there said, “Someone told us that a frantic mom was searching for her missing son on the other side, so the police officer was walking the boy over that way to try to find you. Stay here, and he’ll come back eventually. Don’t worry, the boy is calm and fine.” Minutes passed. No Ryan. Do I wait here, far away from where I felt we should be looking? Yet, the three of us (Shawn, Sandy and myself with my other kiddos) had walked up and down that area with absolutely no success. Others were looking and hadn’t spotted him. Tim was still stationed with their kids by the busy street, not thinking that strangers would allow a small child to cross alone but not wanting to take the chance…

I texted Shawn that they may have found Ryan, and he came running to where we were, only to find no child. I wanted to leave, but everyone cautioned, “Stay.” What seemed like an eternity later, Sandy tearfully came up with the police officer and with a very calm Ryan who was happy to see us. My rigid body relaxed as I let out a gleeful sigh and scooped him into my arms. I tearfully told him “Mommy was lost! I was sad I couldn’t find you!” I didn’t want to make him panic but he said “Yeah, I couldn’t find you either.” We thanked the police officer and I hugged my boy! Sandy said she ran into the police officer who was bringing Ryan around to the area where we had been. When she saw the officer and Ryan, she started to cry and explained to him, “I’m not the mom but I’m with her!” She had also started fearing the worst and had suggested earlier to her husband that we should call the police. Now she was able to tell him that Ryan had been found. Tim went with his kiddos and bought them all the balloon yo-yo’s that Ryan had been asking for since he had seen theirs.

Their family continued to look around as I told Shawn that I had had enough excitement for the day…we headed back home, and then their family came over later to hang out. I told Shawn it had been a rough day (even with our car battery dying…another story!). But, it was a good day when we realized that all of our kids were home safe with us. Thank You, God, for protecting our boys!

The situation made me think about parents whose story doesn’t have a happy ending…how do you reconcile that in your mind? I don’t have a great answer, but I still trust that I have a great God. I am humbled and grateful that our boys are okay.

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Unshakable Faith in the Most Shaking Circumstances

We moved to Michigan for my husband’s job toward the end of last summer. It was a decision we had been wrestling with prior to making the move – at first I had told him NO WAY to moving north and west. But, as we prayed, God began to change my heart. I saw verses about God leading us to where He wants us and directing the steps of the godly (as I have mentioned before). Eventually we agreed to move, and everything “fell into place” – which I attribute to God working in our lives! Our house sold, we found a home here, the boys loved their school, etc. Part of why I felt like it may be a good fit for us was that my husband’s job was near MSU, which offered a doctoral program in marketing. It had been a dream of mine to obtain my PhD, but I wasn’t sure how realistic that goal really was…

I came home and cried. What I assumed would be a happy day in getting accepted turned into an extremely rough day. In fact, I cried until I gave myself a migraine and had to go to bed. My sweet husband said he would support me any way he could. He’ll help find childcare (as that’s my biggest fear), and he’ll love me no matter what I choose. (Have I mentioned lately how great the man I married is?!?!)

I called my Mom to ask her opinion. She said it was a big commitment, but we were here! She said maybe it was time to ask for a fleece. “A WHAT!?!” I asked, “Mom, it’s 80 degrees here today, why on earth do I need a fleece?” thinking she meant a sweatshirt. She replied “A fleece, a sign, like Gideon when he asked for the wool fleece to be wet when the ground was dry and then the fleece to be dry when the ground was wet.” I recognized the story (found in Judges 6:37-40), but I hadn’t heard the expression to ask for a fleece rather than a sign. Later, I called my sister to ask her opinion, thinking she would tell me I was crazy for even thinking of taking on this task when my kids were in their formative years. She said that maybe asking to do just the one class online would be my fleece. What?!?! I felt like that was what I should do. I spoke to other friends who encouraged me to go for it but to also recognize that time with the kids was important. I asked our babysitter about how her PhD program was going (a totally different program but still at the same school) and if she had any words of wisdom.

I’ve been wrestling with the decision (even crying in the shower!) and praying and asking for a definitive answer on the right thing to do. I just keep coming back to God allowing doors to open. I had a phone call with another professor in charge of this program, who said I only had to pay for and pass the second of the two classes instead of taking both. But, I had to attend another course (simply sit in on it) to prepare me for the second. I was expecting to take the first class and not the second (with the first one being online). Now I had two in-person classes and no childcare. So, while financially it looked better, I felt all the more devastated. But I asked if I could attend a closed section, which meets two evenings a week. They agreed, noting I’d have to pull in a chair from another room. I’ll be apart from my family two nights a week for the next six weeks and then two days a week at the end of the summer (pray that I can figure out a good solution for my kiddos!). But, I’ll be learning valuable concepts that will help me in the program.

I read the end of the Moses Bible study and reflected on God’s goodness and had a new peace about the decision to go for it, despite the time commitment. The author of the study noted “the beauty of God’s love is as impressive as the splendor of His glory.” She notes later “God alone is the source of every blessing!” and “God defends, safeguards and blesses His people.” God safeguards us. He doesn’t give us more than we can handle. He fights for us and defends us. We can trust His protection and love. In reflecting on the life and death of Moses, she noted that he demonstrated “unshakable faith in the most shaking circumstances.” That’s exactly what I need! I underlined: “God is the one who gave Moses his intellectual ability and ordained the circumstances in his life.” Wow! Was that something to chew on… perhaps this is another one of those moments where God has brought us here for such a time as this. He ordains our circumstances and gives us our capabilities. If we keep our focus on God and reflect Him to others, He will continue to guide our steps and keep us from drowning in sorrow or poor decisions.

Today I signed the acceptance letter, and I start my first class next week. I will do my best and allow God to take care of the rest. He has never failed and won’t start now! I trust Him for my future and the future of my family, especially these sweet kiddos He has entrusted to us.

Will you join me in praying for the details? I mean, if you’ve read this far, what’s a minute more in prayer? 😉

Father God, we thank You for all You have done on our behalf. Thank You for revealing to us Your care and Your presence in the details of our lives. We know that timing isn’t by chance and mere coincidences don’t happen over and over again – we see You and recognize Your faithfulness. We praise You for who You are and all You do! Lord, we also thank You for the life of Moses and his faithfulness in recording the journey of the Israelites so that we can know You better and Your heart for Your people. Thank You for the Bible and our easy access to it. God, we ask right now that You would continue to ordain all our circumstances and days. We pray that You would allow us to continue to focus on You, even as life gets busier. May we continue to be a reflection of Your goodness and mercy to those around us. I specifically and humbly pray for our boys – Joshua, Caleb and Ryan – please provide the best option for care for them and open wide doors and close others tightly. If this is not Your will, please clearly make us all see that. But, if You are opening doors, help us boldly walk through, trusting You to provide all we need. I pray for those who read this post, that they would be encouraged about how much You care about the details of our lives. We love and honor You! In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

Just So You Know…

As I’ve been reading through Ezekiel, I have underlined and highlighted the same phrase over and over again. When a theme is repeated, I can’t help but think it’s extremely important. After all, the Bible is long enough, right? God wouldn’t repeat Himself unless it were critical that we catch what He’s trying to convey! So, what is this all important phrase?

THEN THEY WILL KNOW THAT I AM THE LORD.

Have you ever questioned if this “whole God thing” is real? Is there truly only one way into heaven? Is God really going to judge people at the end of time for their deeds and based on whether or not their sin was covered by the blood of Jesus? Is our purpose truly to glorify God and enjoy Him forever? While I personally believe the answers to these questions are yes, I’m not the One who is truly able to prove it. I can give my testimony of times I’ve seen God act on my behalf or read His Word and knew in my spirit it was truth. But, only God can fully make His presence known. And throughout Ezekiel, God explains His actions and says “Then they will know that I am the Lord!”

How many times is this phrase used? Not being a math person, I want to say “A TON!” But, let’s look together: Ezekiel 6:7, 6:10, 6:13, 7:4, 11:10, 11:12, 12:16, 13:14, 13:23, 14:8, 20:26, 20:42, 20:44, 22:16, 23:49, 24:24, 24:27, 25:11, 25:17, 26:6, 28:24, 28:26, 29:9, 29:16, 29:21, 30:19, 32:15, 34:27, 34:30, 35:15, 36:11, 36:23, 36:38, 37:6, 37:13, 37:14… And I’ll stop there because I’m sure you’re not reading every verse and have lost count already (plus, I’m only up to chapter 38 in my New Living Translation Bible). The point is this, it’s obviously an important phrase to reflect on.

How will we know that God is the Lord? What do some of these verses tell us? In the references from Ezekiel 6 to 11, we see that when God punished the Israelites and allowed them to die for the idolatry and sins they committed – when they saw all that He predicted come true, then they would know that God alone is the Lord and that He was serious. In Ezekiel 12, the Bible tells us that God would spare a few Israelites from death by war, famine or disease so they could confess to their captors how wicked they had been, so that they would know that He was the Lord. Later in this chapter, God warned against misleading predictions of peace in Israel, saying that He was the Lord and what He threatens always happens (Ezekiel 12:25). Ezekiel 13 continues with judgment against the false prophets who were giving false hope rather than warnings to repent. When God crushed them, then He would reveal that He alone was the Lord. When God crushed the leaders who lead others into idolatry, then He would show that He alone was the Lord (Ezekiel 14:8). When God devastated those who worshiped other gods, He would reveal that He alone was the Lord (Ezekiel 20:26).

In Ezekiel 25, we learn that when God inflicts His revenge, we will know that He is the Lord (verse 17). We see when Israel stops trusting in neighbors and puts their faith in God, then they will know that He alone is Lord (Ezekiel 30:19).

Opposite from the disaster and destruction, God brings words of healing and hope to show His nature. “…And I will display my holiness in you as all nations watch. Then when I have brought you home to the land I promised your ancestors, then you will know that I am the Lord. You will look back at all your sins and hate yourselves because of the evil you have done. You will know that I am the Lord, O people of Israel, when I have honored my name by treating you mercifully in spite of your wickedness, says the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 20:41b-44). Does this verse excite you as much as it did me when I read it? While God does what He says He will do, He is also merciful even when we don’t deserve it!

In Ezekiel 34, we saw that God would once again show mercy to Israel and let the land produce bumper crops, stop wild animals and neighboring nations from attacking the Israelites, and free them from slavery – then they would know that He alone was the Lord. Ezekiel 36:9 starts with “See I am concerned for you, and I will come to help you…” and verse 11 goes on to say “…I will make you even more prosperous than you were before. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”  Ezekiel 36 continues saying that when God displays His holiness through Israel – not because they deserve it, but because He is protecting His Name – then everyone would know that He alone is the Lord.

Today, do you know where Israel is? Could you point to it on a map or recognize the name when it’s on the news? Do you find it “coincidental” that this is the only nation that we read about from Biblical times until now? I hope you don’t miss that God has built this place and protected its name to bring Himself glory and honor! He is faithful even when His people aren’t!

And my hope for you as you read this is that you KNOW that there is one true sovereign Lord.

I have been seeing some horrific stories in the news lately – stories that make my heart ache. And I wonder, where is our fear of the Lord? If we know God – if we truly believe that He exists, that He is the Judge and that all His promises (blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience) are true – then our behavior ought to reflect some fear of our Maker. I’ll give you a few recent examples receiving media attention. In Baltimore (not all that far from Lancaster, PA where I grew up), a man died potentially as a result of how he was arrested and subsequent rioting began. Opinions about the story were everywhere, and I saw one amusing picture on Facebook that said “Don’t want to be mistreated by a cop? How about trying not breaking the law?” And there’s some truth to that – having fear for God and respect for the laws of the Country in which you live will prevent you from having such encounters. But, on the other side of the coin, did the police officers in question have proper fear of God as well? I’m not judging anyone here (I know many folks who are cops and I am grateful that there are people willing to walk into the worst of situations to protect others from harm! They are truly heroes!), but I’m just looking at all sides of the story as a complete outsider. Do the rioters fear the Lord and recognize Him as judge? Do those in the media fear God when they pick which sides of the story to tell? If we would all start with recognizing God as THE Lord and understand that He sees all and knows each one of us, perhaps it would help keep us “in check” when the temptation arises to mistreat others or let a situation get out of hand.

Another appalling story (which I’ve only read a few of the details on) was about a man who was shot in the parking lot of a restaurant we used to enjoy by another driver due to a road rage incident. Sadly, the man was shot IN FRONT OF HIS KIDS WHO WERE IN THE CAR. How do you get so angry behind the wheel of a vehicle that you find it necessary to pull over and shoot someone? I understand anger – anger so deep that it makes you not think! But a genuine fear of God – knowing that He is the sovereign Lord – should keep us from pulling any triggers (literally!).

I’m concerned for our nation. Just like the Israelites, we have witnessed prosperity and blessing and abundance. But, also like the Israelites, we have allowed pride and the subtle “worship” of our blessings to cloud our judgment. Have we lost a sense of Who God is or what He has promised in His Word? Have we missed that there is one Judge (so thankfully any opinions I have on any of these situations are truly of little value!) and that He knows each of our hearts? Do we recognize that God has been merciful to us, even when we don’t deserve it? Can we take a moment to pause and reflect and realize that many of His actions have been so that we can KNOW THAT HE IS THE LORD!?

This is National Day of Prayer. Will you join with me in interceding for our nation? Can we ask God to give us all a healthy fear of Him, which the Bible tells us is the beginning of wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 9:10)? Will you choose this day to KNOW and accept that God is the One and Only Sovereign Lord? Can we praise Him together and ask for His undeserved mercy?

Dear Heavenly Father, we love You and praise You. We acknowledge that You are the One and Only Sovereign Lord. We confess that we have been guilty of the same sins the Israelites committed – we have taken for granted the many blessings You have given us and spent our time, resources and love on things that are of lesser importance and value than You. Will you please forgive us? Will you forgive that we have lost our fear of You and have been proud of “our” accomplishments that are truly Your blessings? Will you forgive us for mistreating others in rage or hatred or unbelief? Will you forgive our nation and spare us the destruction You could easily and rightfully bestow upon us? Instead, will you treat us with mercy and grace like You did the remnant that You saved for Yourself out of the Israelites? God, You even promised to give them a new heart and mind that would seek after You and know You! Through the blood on the cross, can we boldly ask for these same blessings? Not that we deserve it, but that we have been honored with changing spots with Jesus…I ask for a new spirit and new mind – to KNOW You and to love You and Your Word. I ask these same things for my children and my neighbors and friends and country. For the sake of Your holy name, will You preserve Your people for Yourself? We humbly ask these things in the power of the name of Jesus. Forgive those who have made the headlines for sin – for we have ALL sinned and fallen short of your glory (Romans 3:23). Not one of us has the right to throw that first stone. So, we ask that You keep us from sinning through Your spirit inside of us. We are all a hot mess without You! Thank You for being a gracious and loving God, forgiving sin and providing a way back to You. Thank You for not giving up on us even when we have done wrong. Help us love others the way You have loved us. We are grateful for all You do and who You are! AMEN!

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