Saturday, December 1, 2012

His Story

"Hang in there."  ...one of my father's most frequently used phrases for us kids.  

Life gets crazy, no doubt!  But I've found it's really true that there's a silver lining, peace after the storm. 

The other night, I read through my old blog posts and was blown away at the faithfulness of God.  I still miss Mom and Dad, but as I read through those posts, I was reminded how heavy the cloud used to be compared to now.  I remember the raw emotion and tears that were cried as I spilled my heart.  I realized how much healing has already been done. 

Sometimes the scabs are ripped off, and I have to start over, but one thing has not changed.  My Rock and Redeemer has never left my side.  He has been my strength.  He is redeeming every heartache and moment of brokenness.

One day in class, we had a guest speaker...two, actually.  It was a young lady and her mom.  The girl, Jen, was in a car accident with her family in 2006.  They were hit by a drunk driver going 80 mph, only a little over a mile from their home.  All four members of the family survived, a true miracle!  However, Jen, 15 years old at the time, suffered such severe brain injuries that she was in a coma for 5 months.  They went on to tell us how when she awoke from the coma, instead of being angry and swearing like patients often do, the only time she could speak clearly was through praise songs and while speaking with the Lord as though He were right there in the room...because, of course, He was.  While she is still mostly blind, has little short term memory, and often thinks more like a child than the adult she is, she's alive.  She's alive and sharing her story all over the country, giving people hope and a reason to continue on.

I have a confession: when I first heard her story, I was a little bit bitter.   I mean, I was happy for her and all, but a nasty little thought cut through that happiness.  What about us? Why does her story get to be one of continuing life instead of seemingly life-cut-short? Why does she get a different story?

And then it hit me.  Our stories are really no different at all.  You see, as followers of Christ, we're not really living our stories...we're living His Story.  We are characters in one Story, living out different chapters, playing different roles--both rather insignificant supporting roles.  It's the Protagonist we're supposed to be focused on. 

The crazy part is that while we play rather insignificant roles, we as characters are deemed the farthest thing from insignificant.  We are, by His grace, "His own special treasures," and you can be, too.  Because of the blood of Jesus spilled on the cross, we both live stories of victory, not for ourselves, but as messengers of the One who saved us from utter despair and depravity.  We may not see how the chapters fit together now, but we have the promise that in the final chapter, the Protagonist of our story wins once and for all.  This gives us, as warriors for the King's army, worth beyond measure.

...
I was struggling the other day with what to do with my chapter.  How do I best love people and use the comfort God's given me to be a comfort to others?  At least, that's what I thought I was struggling with.  After discussing it with a dear friend, I realized that in all honesty, I was becoming much more interested in promoting my story than I was in promoting God's story.  I was trying to write in my own bits and then tell the story on my own terms.  Control and recognition were becoming gods I wasn't sure how to obtain.  And it was just terrible! I was miserable and disconnected without even realizing how much self-absorption was clouding my view. 

After becoming aware of this fact, I was able to resurrender my life--past, present, and future--to the only One who's been by my side without exception.  He will determine who hears Our story and when and how.  He will decide what the next page brings, and my job is to  actively trust Him.  This means living in obedience to what He's telling me to do right now.  It means taking a deep breath and not worrying about the future, trusting that He will tell me what to do then, too. 

I get so stressed out about what I'm supposed to be doing now so that I can be all God wants me to be in the future.  While this is good to an extent, I'm realizing more and more that seeking "God's will"--a plan, a formula--is rather stressful.  Seeking God, however, is as simple as a prayer or 5 spare minutes in Scripture.  God promises that we will find Him when we seek Him, and each time He's found, His face--His character and the things He wishes from His children--are ingrained into me a bit deeper.  As He becomes familiar, the things I should do as His daughter are easier and easier to identify.  Following His wishes becomes more and more second nature.  Opening my heart and eyes to the works He's doing and wants me to do is less and less challenging, less and less frightening. 

Life gets crazy, but God is trustworthy.  Your life is important to Him.  His desire is to give your toughest moments meaning in the end.  So..."Hang in there."  Don't quit on God.  I promise He hasn't quit on you. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Urgent!!

The war is won, but the battle is certainly not over.

Recently, a rather troubling thought keeps coming to mind:  Why is it that in the midst of a tragedy, leaning on the Lord is seen as amazing and a story worth sharing...and yet...a few months after the fact, using the name "Jesus" respectfully is an offense. an abhorrence. a nuisance?

Folks, God hasn't changed.  He is still the Strength and Peace and Joy and salvation we need every single day.

Tonight, I had the privilege of singing Christmas carols to a terminally ill, 5 year old boy who isn't expected to make it until Christmas.  It was truly a Hallmark movie moment.  The family and surrounding neighbors have lights and decorations up, fake snow in the bushes, and joy in their hearts.  After we sang, the children ran around the yard, turning cartwheels and using some of the girls as horses.  The parents stood and talked to us of God's goodness and faithfulness and how He sustains them every day, in the midst of grief.

The parents are facing the loss of their child and yet they opened their home to us for Thanksgiving dinner in case we aren't able to make it home.  They brought dessert out to us.  They told us their home is always open...except when they're not home, and then it will be open as soon as they get back.  That's only the beginning.  This family goes around to other families facing the same painful realities they are and brings gifts to them.  But most importantly of all, they share the Gospel because they get it. 

They understand that life is not a game.  Life is not a guarantee.  Every day is a blessing.  Every single day, we look eternity eye-to-eye.  There's not a single one of us here who knows how many more tomorrows the Lord will choose to grant us.

And we have a choice to make:  will Satan get the last laugh, or will we be able to look him straight in the eye and say, "Bring it on, though guy.  Guess what?  I've already won."?

I fear too many of us try to dance around Satan.  We think we can trick him into leaving us alone.  We think a self-made righteousness--doing and saying the right things at the right time, while "important" people are watching--will get us by.  But that is exactly what will trip us up. 

There is such a burden on my heart for those who don't know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord.  All my life, I have loved people, but I have shied away from proclaiming the cold hard Truth for fear of offending or having people tune me out.  I can't do that any longer.  I have seen too much death for that to be a possibility even one more night.

You see, tonight, a whole bunch of people will die, and you could be one of them.  That's truth number one. 
Truth number two: when you die, you will spend eternity in either heaven or hell. ...that's a long time, in case you didn't know.  Please don't tune me out already. I'll try to keep it short.
Truth number three: I love each and every one of you dearly--even those of you I have not personally met--and I do not want to spend forever without you because you denied Christ and are unable to dwell in heaven with us. 
Truth number four:  God loves you more.  More than you or I could ever perceive.  I'll prove it. 

You've heard it said, "Jesus died on the cross for you..."  Let's do a quick history lesson on Roman crucifixions like the one Jesus endured for you.  The 39 lashes given to this sinless One, fully man and yet fully God, were not like when your friend snaps you with a wet towel because you deserved it.  On the ends of 9 leather strips were lead and broken bone that would penetrate the skin and tear chunks of muscle from the body as they were ripped away.  The lashes were distributed from the shoulders to the calves, and He wasn't wearing that loin cloth like you saw in The Passion.  It is believed that by the time Jesus had made it through the lashes, His internal organs were nearly exposed.  After that, they draped a robe across His bloodied body and He carried His cross nearly 1/3 a mile, until He could physically carry it no more.  It would have taken nearly 90 minutes to make it to where His cross would be put in the ground, and when He got to the top of the hill, they tore the robe from His body, re-opening His wounds.  Driving spikes through His wrists and feet, they missed every major artery and vein, yet struck the largest nerves in the area.  That secured Him to the cross, certainly not a smooth, finished one like we display in our watered-down sanctuaries.  Splinters and knobs would have scraped against His raw back every time He breathed in or out.  And the breaths did not come easily.  In fact, many deaths that occurred on crosses were due to suffocation.  The weight of the body often dislocated shoulders and elbows. With the stretching of the arms, it was impossible to get a breath without using leg muscle to push up on the feet that you will recall have a spike driven through the largest nerve.  His death was ugly. His death was real.  His death was out of an unexplainable, unending love for broken, miserable, hateful people.  That is truth number five.

Truth number six: The death He endured not only demonstrated the lengths to which His love will go, but it was also the ransom payment for all of our sins. past.present.and future.
Truth number 7:  Jesus rose from the dead after three days, conquering death.
Truth number eight:  If you will believe that Jesus was the blameless son of God, and repent of your sins, He will forgive you. That's a promise.  (Repent: turn away from your sin and towards God, a complete 180.) You do not have to make your life right before you go to God, you just have to go.
Truth number nine: "Becoming a Christian" is not just about the salvation (forgiveness of sin so that you can be with a perfect, just, holy God).  It's about Lordship.  Who are you letting run the show?  Be careful. This still is not about you. Lordship is still about God.  It's giving Him control and letting Him take over. 

Sometimes, I still struggle with giving God complete control of my life.  I often have to remember that He would not have willingly endured all He did just so I would follow Him so He can make my life miserable.  I do a fine job of that on my own!

His desire is to make my life complete, and that's His desire for your life, too. 

He has already done it all.  There is absolutely nothing you can do to add to or take away from this incredible love story.  It is by grace, through faith we are saved.  The one and only part you play in this story is accepting the free gift of forgiveness and abundant life that God offers.  By placing your faith in Christ and Christ alone, you can have hope for the future, and assurance for tomorrow--no matter what tomorrow brings.

If you have not already repented and given your life to God...will you?  And if so, when?  There are no magic words; only a sincere heart is required.  May I remind you: tomorrow may never come. 


Sunday, September 16, 2012

The End of an Identity Crisis

Life. Living. Being alive.

So many people wonder what these things are all about.  It's a question my professors have already started asking me.  It's a question we all wonder about whether we realize it or not.

Well, folks. I figured it out.  ...at least, I figured out what God's trying to teach me at this stage of my life.  And here it is.  It's deep, so be ready.

I. am. loved.  and. I belong.

I've always known these things, but I knew them as facts in my head.  I chose to believe them because it got me through each day.  Until recently, that's all they were. Facts.  But the other night, my heart grasped them as Truth for the first time.

After the accident, I struggled with who I was.  A bit of an identity crisis, you could say.  I knew I was still loved and wanted, but all of a sudden, the people I was so identified with were gone.  And that, mixed with grief, threw me for a loop. I felt so lost and confused.  Suddenly, the confident, carefree girl everyone knew was gone, and I wanted to find her again so badly. 

I am so pleased to say that God has been faithful yet again!

Let's back up a little :)  .....
Upon my leaving for Liberty, my boyfriend, Jason, and I decided to "take a break."  We wanted to get plugged in where we're at and to make sure our focus is where it's supposed to be.  To an extent this added to the confusion and feelings of "lostness," but it has no doubt made my relationship with God that much richer.  In getting to know Jason and then having that source of strength "taken away," God showed me so much about His character.  Many of the things bulleted below are things God helped me see through reflections of my relationship with Jason.  God made it so clear that the blessings I received through dating and getting to know Jason are just a glimpse of all that He wants to give me.  ...oops, I got ahead of myself again!

I'd been here a week, and homesickness was settling in.  I missed home. I missed my church family.  I missed Jason and the people I'd come to know through him.  I missed my siblings.  And I wanted so badly to pick up the phone and call Mom and Dad.  But all those things were out of reach.

I felt broken. and alone. and lost. 

Like God so often does, He started prepping my heart for the lesson He was about to teach me.  I came across verse after verse about love.  I knew God was trying to teach me about love, but for some reason, the words were hollow.  They didn't bring the restoration and joy I knew they were supposed to.

Then Wednesday night, I attended campus church, and the message was about God's powerful, fierce, undying love for us.  I returned to the dorm, still feeling empty, even after crying at the "best" service I'd been to for a while.  So, I grabbed my bible, journal, music, and hot tea (and a Fudge Round, of course! ;) ) and headed for a quiet spot outside.  And as I poured my heart out to God on the pages of my journal, His Spirit was allowed to come alive in me again.

I cannot begin to retell all that He showed me that night, but I can tell you I am changed from the deepest part of my being.  You see, for the first time in my life, my whole heart belongs to God...my Creator and Sustainer, my Portion and my Joy, my Provider and Protector. 

As I sat alone under the stars that night, God kept reminding me that I had never confessed my love for Him.  Why? Because quite frankly, it had always felt kind of cheesy.  But more than that, I was scared.  I've always hated disappointing the people who "mean the most," and the enemy had me so convinced that if I say, "I love God," then I have to be perfect.  He had so twisted the Word of God in my heart that I thought, "If you love Me, you will obey what I command," meant, "If you really love Me, then you'll be perfect for Me.  No more room for error.  And if you do mess up...you must have been lying to Me about this so called 'love.'  Lying to ME, the One who created you.  Do you really want that to happen?"

I didn't. I didn't want that at all, so without even realizing it, I built up a wall between God and me.  As if I could protect Him from my failures.

Then God oh-so-gently spoke His Truth into my heart.  "I don't want your perfection. I want your heart. All of it."

All of it? What does that even look like?   ...He showed me that, too.

First, He wants our relationship to be mutual.  I could almost feel the Creator of the universe begging me to just tell Him I love Him.  After years of putting it off, I gave in, and my heart and mind flew wide open.  Every time I wrote the words, "I love You, God.  I really love You!" a piece of the wall fell down.  The fears dissolved, and in their place was joy and excitement.

Now, I know that loving God is more than fuzzy feelings, but I'm a teenage girl.  Let's face it.  My picture of falling in love is still that excitement over first dates, and having a song, and getting cute letters on a day when I feel at my worst.

I think God likes that kind of love, too.  Those first stages of falling head over heals! The moments that I still saw in the 20+ year marriage of my parents when that significant other was the only one in the room.  Here's a snapshot of what He showed me.

  • Not only am I loved, I am unconditionally desired.
  • I don't have to be afraid of where He's taking me.  I am His most valued possession, and as long as I trust Him, He will do His part in leading me to places that are safe and good.  Life will still happen, and we will end up in places that seem horrifying to me, but He is strongerHe will protect me and lead me through as He sees fit. 
  • He gets excited about treating me!  He loves bringing me a field of flowers and the people who brighten my day.  He doesn't just watch the sunset with me, He paints it for me!

  • Every day brings opportunities to learn more about how wonderful He is.
  • Doing the little things for Him is a treat, not a burden.  They don't prove my love for Him. They are the expression of a heart so excited about Him that I can't wait to see the smile on His face when He sees I've been paying attention to the things He likes. I get to go out of my way to make His day!
  • He wants the little, goofy things that come up in my day to make me smile as I think of Him.
  • He thinks I am fabulous and drop-dead gorgeous, so it really doesn't matter what the rest of the world thinks :)
  • He is Enough.
So, those are the fun things! :)  I believe God wants this relationship with all of His chosen beauties--princesses, even!

...Let God love you. And love Him right back, with your whole being!

Like any relationship, this one will take work, but you can rest assured that God will never leave you.  He'll never change His mind about how He feels.  He'll never sit there and wish He would have chosen someone else...someone better.  In His eyes, you are the best there could possibly be.  He chose you knowing exactly what He was getting Himself into, and you are still enough for Him.  He delights in you.  He wants you to sit there and drink in that amazing, all-consuming love without feeling insufficient or unworthy to the point that you hold back.

He would do anything for you--live and die for you if that's what it took for you to begin to grasp all that He is.  ...In fact, He already has.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Every Good Thing

Well, I've been in my dorm for one whole night!! And tonight, I decided I was ready to hear Dad's voice, a piece of wisdom straight from his mouth as I look at the days and weeks and months ahead. 

After the accident, things changed.  Some of the obvious ones were our living situation and simply not having Mom and Dad here.  But things changed inside, too.  I suppose it's natural, but I don't like most of the changes I've seen.  Sometimes I feel so hard-hearted and like I don't even care about people anymore.  That's not true, but it seems more often than not, I shut out the bad news cuz I just can't take any more.  And I've done an awful job at having regular quiet time--something Mom and Dad stressed and I have come to value over the years.  Yet in the midst of my biggest trial, regular devotions just weren't a part of the picture. 

So recently, I decided it's time to give up and fight, all at the same time.  I've got to give it to God, and I've got to give Satan the fight of his oh-so-pathetic life.  No more letting him tear me apart and have the upper hand. 

Anyway, I went onto our church website where you can listen to the services and was amazed to see that Dad's last sermon was titled, "Prepared to Fight."  My heart was grabbed, and I clicked play, ready to hear Dad's voice. 

Instead, I heard my own. 

I heard myself reading from James 1:17 about how "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."  And then I went on. "This morning I want to encourage you guys to let yourself be amazed by God, to remember that every good thing does come from Him.  And even if it feels like your life is crashing down, and like every good thing you have has been stripped away, you can rest in the fact that God does not change.  He will always be faithful. And that is a very.good.thing." 


That was one day short of exactly two weeks before the accident.  And part of the week between those milestones, Mom and Dad were away at a conference.  I didn't realize how much I would have to be practicing what I had just preached. 

Life went from being beyond easy to presenting a challenge bigger than I ever thought I'd have to face.  But. God is indeed faithful.  He has provided for us financially and given us friends and family to support us emotionally.  He has given me His Word.  (when i actually read it...) It sustains me and encourages my weary heart.  It challenges me and makes me want to be better for Him.

 As Dad went on in his sermon, he talked about the battles we will fight as Christians.  No matter how peaceful we may wish to be, Satan has other ideas.  The question is not whether we will find ourselves in a spiritual battle, but rather if we will be prepared for it or not.  Dad always stressed the power and authority that the bible has and reminded us that, "He will indeed inspire us with His Word."

I didn't make it through the whole sermon, but one of the questions he asked really stood out to me. 

"How do we begin to rebuild after life has fallen apart?"  There are so many days I wish he was here to tell me where to begin with the mess before me.  But as I sit and wonder, remembering who Dad was and the Truth he stood for and preached, I know what he would say.  He'd get all teary-eyed, hold me close, and kiss the top of my head.  And he'd say something along the lines of, "This really stinks, doesn't it?"  I'd nod my head, unable to speak around the lump in my throat, and he'd go on, "It's no fun at all.  It's one of those times I sure wish I knew what God's up to, but I don't.  Hang in there, Colby. God knows what He's doing.  He's still God. He's still good.  He's still in control. Seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness, and He'll take care of the rest. ...Doesn't make it any more fun though, does it?"  "Nope." That's about all I'd get out, and he'd squeeze me tight, tell me he loves me and how proud of me he is, and then he'd tell me to, "Get some sleep, babes." And everything would be ok for just a while. 

I don't have that luxury anymore, but I'm so grateful for the 18 years I was able to spend under his care and guidance!  As far as Dad's work goes, I couldn't have been better prepared for the battle I now fight.  I was trained to trust, to pray, to seek, to fall apart, and to allow God's healing power to begin its work in my life.  I was reminded daily that we are a work in progress.  God is alive and working in our lives every.day.  He is sovereign and I don't have to have all the answers...that's why He's God, and I'm not. 

There are many times when the ache in my heart is still so real, but I must remind myself that it's not the end of my story.  It's merely the beginning of another beautiful chapter God intends to write if I'll let Him.  So I'm trying.  Shifting my focus from all that I'm not to all that He is is a challenge, but it's so worth it! 

As a dear friend told me, "We're told all our lives that God is our Rock and Shelter and all that, but we can't know God's comfort if we never experience pain.  We can't know His power if we're never weak.  We can't know the depth of His grace if we never mess up...Our struggles are what allows us to really see and know God's character." 

God is not the Bad Guy.  He is everything good and real and lasting that I have left. the only solid thing we have to hold onto during life's worst storms. 

All around me, people are crying out in pain, and as God begins to patch my wounded soul, my heart and ears are being reopened to them...depending on the day or even moment, of course.  Each time I let God pour into me, I have a little more to pour back out on those I do life with, and I am inspired yet again by His living Word.

"...love one another deeply, from the heart....For all men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass whithers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever."
1 Peter 1:22b, 24-25 

He is faithful, and that is a very good thing.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Beach. My Remedy.

There is something so stinkin relaxing about the beach.  I don't know what it is...the sound of the waves or the smell of the salt water, the breeze or the fact that I don't know anyone else here.  Or maybe it's the fact that God so brilliantly combined all those things :) But every time I come to the beach, I am reminded of God's greatness and that everything will be ok.  He's got the ocean under control, so I'm pretty sure He can take care of little ol' me! 

Almost every summer for as long as I can remember, we have joined Dad's side of the family for a week in a beach house in North Carolina.  Honestly, I used to hate being out on the beach.  It was too hot, and I'd rather be inside coloring with Grandma! (I was a boring child.)   But Mom always made me go out for a while, and now, there is something about the ocean that is...healing :)

This year, we will be spending week one with Dad's side (his sister, her two kids and their families, including four very adorable, very energetic little boys!).  Week two, we will switch houses and be with the Fiordelises (Aunt Beth and Uncle Bill, their three kids, and Grandmom). 

I plan on spending the weeks simply enjoying my family and all that comes with being at the beach!  And, I plan on finally resting.  Oh, how I need to rest! Not only my body, but my mind and my spirit, too.  Sleep will be lovely, and devotions will be sweet and refreshing.  ...I say those rather confidently, but I believe God has given us this trip for just those things.  I need this time both to reflect and look forward to the future--without fear or anxiety.  I need this time to laugh and cry as I break down and am built back up by the Restorer (I'm not sure that's a word...hehe). So I thank God for this opportunity and pray you all find time for whatever it is you need. That you will make time for those things.  I sometimes wish I was smart enough to schedule "quiet time" into my life without feeling guilty! 

Anyway, after stopping to see Dad's parents and spending a lot of hours in the car, here's a look at day.one.    :) 

We arrived to find that the tide comes in a lot farther than it did last time we were here!  Just last year, that fence was buried in the ground and those HUUUGE sand bags were covered with sand.  Now, high tide washes up onto the second or third stair, and well...the sand is disappearing!  D:  eek!


My toes were reintroduced to the sand and salty water...


We got a head start on family photos...


Aaaaand...Chase practiced his modeling skills....


The fun of catching minnows and building sandcastles began (don't worry, they'll get better :) )...


Cute shells lined up on the stair rail were admired :) ...


Pretty pink clouds accented the horizon...


And I propped my feet up, forgetting my cares and soaking in the peace that encircled me :) ...


Aaaaaahhhh...vacation has begun! :)





Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Real Dream Life

I've realized lately...although I suppose I always knew it...I am a dreamer. 

I dream of restoring a huge, old farm house to fit the modern country decor I love so much.

I dream of having the time and talent to keep a garden so I could eat fresh veggies all summer and then some.

I dream of making beautiful pies and learning to be a multitasker so I can make a whole meal at once without freaking out and burning everything.

I dream of my house being a home.  Where people are free to gather and catch a breath while feeling welcomed and taken care of. 

I dream of hosting hayrides for family and friends and Valentine's Day parties for young single ladies.

I dream of spending my evenings taking walks and sipping sweet tea on the front porch swing. 

I dream of days spent more simply.  Working hard and sleeping soundly.  Enjoying relationships and hands-on projects instead of running all over the place from one event to the next to the next.

I know, I know, I'm old fashioned!  And it doesn't bother me a bit :)

But those things are all down the road a ways.  And I do have other dreams...bigger ones, I think, for this less settled phase of my life...

I'd love to take a road trip out West! See the Grand Canyon and the mountains of Montana with my siblings...is that still West? haha, geography has never been my strong suit :)

I'd love to go on missions over seas and hold a lonely child in my arms, reminding him that he's terribly loved. 

I'd love to go wind surfing and zip lining and on a hot air balloon and a sleigh ride!!

And when I'm old...my friends and I have a genius plan for when we're all still alive and our husbands are gone!

The plan then is to have a mansion in Colorado.  The house will be full of windows that overlook our lake.  We'll have an art studio full of natural light and a cozy breakfast nook, a wood stove and maybe a nice neighbor boy we can make cookies for for when he's done chopping our fire wood. A huge ramp for mattress surfing, and beautiful homey decorations. We, of course, plan on being crazy old grandma's who still go fishing and ride 4-wheelers and race our wheel chairs!  ...Don't worry, we realize how unrealistic this is! But you gotta give us props for this one :)

I have no idea how my life will actually turn out...if there's one thing that's become certain to me, it's the unpredictability of life.  And I've discovered that the busier my life gets, the more I dream about the one described above.  To me, life is a crazy mix of learning how to step forward, to take action so that my future is one I want to live with, and enjoying the present moment all at the same time.  I'm learning to be thankful for the new opportunities God gives me and to cherish the memories I already have. 

Like the song says, "Life's a dance we learn as we go. Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow. Don't worry 'bout what you don't know, life's a dance we learn as we go."   And so, I keep going, twirling, and dipping, stepping on a few toes, and learning a lift or two.

I'm learning that this has to be my own, unique dance.  ...This gets to be my own, unique dance.  I don't have to fit into a mold, trying to mimic another's style of movement or song.  God has created me to be me, not another dancer I admire.  Sometimes I try to be someone I'm not, but it never ends well.  It only leads to frustration and disappointment. 

I guess you could say I've been through a bit of an identity crisis.  For a time, stupid ol' Satan wiggled his way in, and I lost sight of the fact that who I am in Christ and the way He's made me is enough.  Worse than that, I forgot who that person was all together.  I was so lost in what I thought I was supposed to be for the world that God's voice, reminding me that I'm His child--loved and protected and beautiful and...simply enough--was lost in the hurt and confusion.

I struggled with all of this for some time here recently.  I let my mind dwell on what I'm not instead of who I am and who I can be with God's power in me.  And I don't think I'm the only one who has this problem from time to time.

I'm so very grateful for the people who helped pull me out of this awful state of mind and spirit!  Yes, grasping the good is still a process, but we're getting there.  A dear friend--one of those Godly women who has poured herself into me more than she'll ever know--gave me this illustration:  Sometimes, we find ourselves in a hole, and being the "fixers" that we are, we try digging ourselves out, making the hole bigger as we claw and try doing it all on our own.  Sometimes, I think we need to be momentarily ok with the rut we're in--to say, "you know what? today I did a horrible job with my devotions! but it's ok" Because when we do that, it allows us to focus on the good.  We've recognized the issue, and it calms us down long enough for us to grasp God's hand as He offers help, instead of trying to fix it on our own. 

That wasn't exactly what she said, but it's what I got out of it, and it has helped so much! ...that, and some tears, angry words, and a hug from my sister, and dear Jason giving me orders to stop worrying about what other people think of me :) 

Honesty with others gets me through a lot these days.  ...No one can help if they don't know where you're wounded the most deeply.  And the secret seems to be exposing those hurts before they become scabs, ugly and scarring. 

Words cannot describe how much I feel for those of you lovely readers out there who don't feel like you have that person you can pour your heart out to.  The other half of this journey has been learning to let God be enough.  To be so real with Him that it's almost ridiculous.  But hey, He knows it all anyway, so why not pour my guts out, right?! And I'm learning to let Him hold me. To speak to me directly through His word, and not just through other people.  Trust me, when given the chance, He will speak so clearly it cannot be missed.  ...Do we give Him the chance He deserves?

Well. There I've gone on quite the bunny trail again! In short, I'm learning to look forward to the mystery that is my future while embracing the beauty of the present.  I find myself in bad moods far more often than I'd like, but I also find myself being refined day by day, moment by moment. 

I don't always get it right, but His grace is sufficient for me--in times of hurt and failure, disbelief and wandering.  And for that, I'm eternally grateful. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Evidence Room

The other day, I was watching one of the millions of crime shows on TV.  It talked about how the evidence from a crime is never really gotten rid of.  It just sits there and piles up.  I don't know if that's true or not, but that with some other recent events got me thinking...

Is there evidence that I have touched other people's lives?

If spreading the fingerprints of Christ were a crime, would I have been arrested more times than I can count?

Do my words and actions towards other people make a lasting impression on who that person is and becomes? Or am I just another face in the crowd because I never took the time to invest in another's life?

...If I died while those I did life with are still alive, would my facebook wall be flooded with accounts of the differences, or at least impressions, that I made?  ...Has my life spoken the volumes I know Mom and Dad's did? 

I share these thoughts, not to hear affirmation. not to be told what people think of me. Just to be honest. With myself, I suppose. 

I want to live a life as full as they did.  I want to have an impact on as many people as they did. I want people to know me for the person Christ molds me into, and not the fears and insecurities Satan hurls at me. In fact, I don't want people to see me at all.  I want them to see Christ. 

And that means making some changes. some sacrifices. It means letting go of me and holding onto God. 

 ...I tend to share my deep, put together thoughts on here, but I promise I'm still a work in progress!  Trust me, I'm as messy as the room I sit in (and that's bad! ask my sisters, hehe). 

Pride has always been something I struggle with.  Pride and wanting to have a reason to be proud. to be flawless and beautiful and talented. to have other people like me. to be admired when I'm seen. 

I confuse myself!  I'm sure glad God knows what He's seeing when He looks at me, cuz I have nooo idea!! For example, I love serving people, but are my motives pure?  Do I serve because that's what Christ did and because the people I'm serving are worthy of it, or do I serve to be seen and have people know how much I enjoy serving? to have them think I'm just wonderful?  I think it depends on the day....

I don't think I'm the only one who thinks and feels this way.  I just get so impatient sometimes! And lazy.  I want my heart to be pure and blameless, but do I really take time to check out the dark corners and give things over to God?  Not often enough.  Am I brave enough to hear the things I need to work on?  Rarely.  When the things tripping me up are exposed, do I focus on getting rid of the obstacle or blazing a new trail so they're not an issue?  Eh, on occasion...for a day or so...maybe.  See. I'm more pathetic than I care to admit. 

I will admit that blogging is kind of scary.  What if people don't like what they read? or they think less of me after they read it?  ...But there I go again, looking for my value and worth in the approval of other people. 

Cuz what if my writing has the opposite effect? What if it gives hope to another young lady struggling with letting go of the world's expectations and figuring out instead what it is God wants her to be?  What if it gets other people thinking and chosing to make changes in their own lives?  What if exposing a bit of my heart lets one other person know that God is still on their side, and so they join the family of believers and find the love God so desperately wants to give them?  What if me spilling my guts is exactly what someone else needs? 

Honestly, I hope most of my readers are other ladies--of all ages!--because I feel like we'll be more on the same page with all of this.  Men...well, we need them, but they're not always as understanding about these things. No offense to any guys reading this :)  And ladies, I believe we need eachother.  Nothing beats sharing your heart with other women who can comfort and encourage and share wisdom!  I wish more of us had older ladies in our lives who we weren't afraid to fall apart in front of.  I wish more of us reached out to the younger ladies in our lives who just need a friend.  I wish we took time to slow down, enjoy our favorite refreshments with another woman, and talk with "mentors" about school and sports and boys and our struggles and the things that simply make our hearts smile!  I think we would be much healthier if we did.  Even if those favorite treats have a bit too much sugar :)




  
...Anyway, I got my father's gift of going off on bunny trails :) But somehow it all ties together.  This one being that I miss Mom and our heart to hearts, and I hope I can be the person who others feel comfortable spilling their guts to because they know I really care. just like she did.  I would love to see girls (including me!) embrace who God has created them to be, and to get there with the support of other Christ-loving women.  I want to forget about me and embrace God. And I want other young ladies to do the same. 

I want us to make an impact on everyone we come into contact with.  And I want to see us invest time and wisdom into the lives of others.  I don't want all this "independence" stuff to get in the way of leaning on the support systems God offers. 

Most of all, I want us to quit doing life on our own.  Life is exhausting that way.  God placed other people on this earth for a reason.  And above all, He gave us direct access to Himself.  He is so powerful, and yet so gentle as He handles our hearts and our deepest fears! Though giving up control is scary, it's always worth it when we give the control to the One who knows the "big picture."

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Ants go Marching On...

The ants go marching one by one...down the the ground, to get out of the rain....

I guess everyone goes through this phase at one time or another...and right now, it's my turn.  I'm feeling a bit like one of those poor little ants who kept marching, trying to get out of the rain.  But the rain doesn't wait until they're safely inside.  Each turn of the page leads to yet another adventure, another thing that keeps them marching, moving forward, as they try to deal with life's storm. Time simply won't stop--not even for a little bit, no matter how badly they want it to.  And that poor little guy in the back...it doesn't matter how they march--2 by 2 or 8 by 8--something else always comes up.  Being the smallest, I'm sure he's got to work twice as hard to keep up--trust me, I know about that! :)  And if we've got anything else in common, he's probably been wishing for quite some time that he was safe in the ant hill. -Finally able to sit and relax. to breath and figure out what's going on in life.  But still, a steady drizzle and the unexpected loom around the bend. 

Now don't get me wrong.  Some of the distractions are fun! Like the "jump and jive" part. Those moments of laughter are like an umbrella, able to keep us dry for a bit, even if the sound of rain above never completely lets us break free.  But other times, the everyday moments of life trip us up. Sometimes I find myself tying shoes to avoid loose ends and tripping when I'm not expecting it.  Other times I'm left picking up sticks--moving the junk so other people see a nice, pretty yard when they look at me.  Often, those "sticks" make it no farther than to a pile in the back yard to be dealt with later.  And so, the pile keeps growing.  And eventually, it spills over into an entry like this one, exposing everything that's been buried for so long.  Making public the frustrations that only a few people have heard about.

I suppose blogging like this is my way of sorting out the sticks--the emotions and struggles that clutter things up.  My time to figure out which things I can hold onto for later, knowing they will someday bring joy, and which things I need to let go of.  Which sticks can be used for roasting marshmallows and which need to go straight to the burn pile, if you will!

When I stop and look at life right now, it's crazy!  I suppose that's what makes me feel like one of those ants, wishing I could just stop time while the storm passed. But life's really not that bad.  The force of losing Mom and Dad has lessened from a raging hurricane to more occasional scattered thunderstorms.  The sun stays out longer, and I'm learning to carry some sort of umbrella to block out or lessen the effect of the unexpected storms, as they do still come.  I suppose they always will.  But as with the clouds that must eventually let go, unable to hold another drop, I'm finding those times of letting go bring a sense of relief and refreshment, softening my heart so good things can grow. 

...Whether all those metaphors make sense or not, I'm not sure.  If not, I suppose you can join me in the confusion that life brings.  Just when I think I've got it figured out, I'm reminded how out of my control life really is. But now, I'll talk in plain English to give you an idea of some of the adventures--the good ones :) --that life has handed us over the past few months since I last wrote.  ...Brace yourself or feel free to skim--a lot has happened! :)

I survived the National Honor Society banquet, break-down-free!  ...I came close to losing it for a while after the time of honoring Mom and Dad, but managed to pull it together.  Below is me and my "most influential teacher."  -A wonderful lady who taught me about life, both in her biology classes and the way she lives day to day.



Next came a trip to the big city--New York City to be exact! The adventure began with a care package from my wonderful cousin, Debbie, and her four boys.  It was filled with lots of yummy food and a precious note to help get us through the looooong bus ride.


The following few days were filled with sight seeing, a bit of performing (it was a choir trip, after all), and more food!

...We experienced the crazy traffic (I definitely prefer a tractor slowing things down to a NYC traffic jam!) ...


...tossed pennies into a fountain just so we could say we had :) ...


...saw the Broadway show, Wicked!!...



...and so much more! (haha, I sound like a commercial now :) ) Over the course of this trip, we also lived on sleep deprivation, bargained in China Town, saw Ellis Island, and did a variety of other tourist-y things.

The next big thing to get through was Easter.  While not having Mom and Dad there just didn't seem right, we still managed to have some fun with riding around on the 4-wheeler and an Easter egg hunt...




After that came prom!! 
...Carrie and I got to get our nails done--a new and very fun experience for us! ...


...and that Saturday, Debbie joined me with a "strawberry daiquiri" as I got my hair done by the lovely Mrs. Seward...


...after spending some time with the girls at a friends a friend's house, I returned to my house and finished getting ready...with a little help from my cousin who wanted to get fancy with me :) ...



...and theeeen, my date showed up looking all handsome in his tux :)  Once I FINALLY got his boutonniere pinned on (with a little help), we couldn't pass the opportunity to take pictures with some dandelions! We had joked about having them as our corsage and boutonniere because they were yellow like my dress :) ...


...after that, we enjoyed a meal our parents had prepared for us, and then took part in the Grand March! (I'm told I walked too fast, but hey, they had plenty of time to see us all dressed up :) ) ...


The theme for the evening was "Into the Ocean" and I suppose this would be an appropriate time to mention that the Monday before prom, my date and I jumped into the official world of dating! :) Since then, we have just enjoyed getting to know each other.  "Dates" are usually hanging out at one of our houses, talking, learning about the other's childhood pass-times, cooking dinner over a fire--even when it rains!--and watching family "classics."

...We've also enjoyed an evening bowling on a triple date :) ...


Other things filled our days before the end of school,  such as going to Dan Gable's house with the Mid-Prairie wrestling team and enjoying a meal by their pool side.  This awesome opportunity was set up for us during the benefit auction that was held for our family...


...and my spare minutes were spent with charcoal all over my fingers as I finished putting together my AP Art portfolio. While my favorite 5 pieces were sent off to the college board to be evaluated, these are a few I displayed at my graduation party...


...At last, the final day of my high school career rolled around!!  I signed out for the last time ever...


...and Carrie and Hannah and I sent out the year quite well! We enjoyed spending the night in a cabin and using the row boat to catch bull frogs! ...After we squished some spiders that were crawling on the boat.  That's what's going on in the boat picture :) ...



...We then had a week or so to get ready for our graduation party.  Family came in from out of town, and the mix of getting ready for our own party while trying to sleep and make it to other parties was quite the challenge! It all came together at last. With the help of a group of wonderful ladies from church, our menu of cheese cake, chips and an assortment of dips, homemade mints, and sweet tea was a success I hear :) ...


...A "Welcome Table" that was seen when guests first came in displayed pictures of Carrie and I together as we were growing up.  I should mention for those of you who aren't as familiar with our family, Carrie is my cousin and has been my best friend as long as I can remember! ...


...we found the coolest thing online and decorated with "floating" pearls!! This picture from above doesn't show them quite as well, but it was awesome :)  ...


...And of course pictures were taken with the family--both sides...



...the next day was my official last day as a Mid-Prairie student.  Graduation had come at last!  Our seminar (same group of students, with the same teacher all four years of high school) got together one last time for a group picture around the bench they placed in front of the school in honor of Mom and Dad...


...and theeeeeennn...I GRADUATED!!!! ....


...more pictures were taken with friends and family...



...and the day was finished off with more parties. 


Whew.  If you made it all the way through that, I commend you!  Those are just the highlights, and not all of them!  Also thrown into the mix has been teaching Vacation Bible School, trying to make it to baseball games, some babysitting, and dealing with the thoughts of college and all the changes that will bring. 

As you can see, life has been a blur for quite some time now.  I suppose my break-down this afternoon may have been from finally stopping and realizing the craziness of it all.  While I obviously have moments of feeling defeated, I believe God is using this time to draw me closer to Him.  I am learning that He truly is my Strength in times of weakness.  My heart has to be reminded every day to cling to the Rock instead of the passing things of this world.  He is trying to train my mind to rest in Him and His security, even in the midst of uncertainty.  And every.day. a blessing is sent my way to assure me that I'm not forgotten.  That I am still loved and valued.  That "God is faithful. Tomorrow will be better."  And He has it all under control.  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Truth Hurts

Our lives have seen a lot of changes the past month and a half.  With the loss of our parents, we have been forced to look into our futures with a new "normal."  College, weddings, our first homes, and having kids all take on a new light...well, most days it's still a shadow.  Or a snap shot with two very key figures cut right out of the center.  My heart still aches at these new images, and I'm sure it will for a very long time.  But that's all a ways off, and right now I have more immediate things to adjust to.

With the end of my senior year comes a lot of awesome opportunities and events, but each now comes with mixed emotions...Tomorrow night is the National Honor Society banquet in which seniors honor their parents...good practice for graduation, I suppose.  And then there's the choir trip to New York City!  I'm sure there will be pics from that one :)  And next comes prom!! to which I have a wonderful date and group of friends to share the evening with.    ...All wonderful, all events I wish I could share with Mom and Dad. 

If you're reading this, I assume it's because you want to know how we're really doing.  So here it is:  we really miss Mom and Dad.  We still laugh and enjoy life as much as possible, but right around the corner sorrow often lurks.  Today was one of those days I wanted to spill my guts out to Mom...about what exactly? I'm not sure.  But she would have listened as I sat on the kitchen counter and told her about life. That I know.  And if I had ended up crying even with the stress of Mom and Dad's passing being out of the picture...Dad would have come through the door and given me a big strong hug. kissed the top of my head. and even though the craziness of this time of year would have still been there, they would have made it all okay again. at least for a little while.  And I miss that.  A lot.

I miss seeing Mumsey's goofy side--the side she reserved for a lucky few while she was making dinner for us.  :)  Her gentle spirit and the patient wisdom that came with it. 



I miss Pops.  Being able to leave sticky notes on his computer at church. and finding them in random desk drawers years later.  The crazy adventures we had floating down rivers and picking up dog kennels on a Saturday. 


 Their love and security.  I miss knowing they'd be there for me no matter what.


I guess even though they're not physically here, they will never leave me.  The lessons and values they have instilled in me will last a lifetime.  I know what a good marriage looks like. I know the importance of an apology.  I know what it is to be human and yet strive every day to look more like my Creator.  And we have been left in very capable hands. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Our New Beginning

My goodness life is crazy.  It's been well over a month now, and some days I feel so much less put together now than I did the day of the accident.  We've found our first four weeks each had a personality of their own. 

For those of you who've been where we're at, trying to figure out how to put life back together when every piece seems to have shattered and flown to a different, dusty corner, I hear the journey is much the same for us all.  I guess we'll see if that rings true or not. 

Week 1:  Life was a big. fat. blur. 
A crazy haze of family and friends, in and out of the house. 
Enough food to start our own soup kitchen. 
Us sisters camping out together...cuz sleeping alone? not gunna happen. 
A basketball game to attend in which our wrestlers were honored, t-shirts were worn in honor of Mom and Dad, and my little second graders had a bake sale for our family, along with other donations. 
And of course, the visitations and funeral.

Week 2:  Reality had not yet set in.
Our aunt and my dad's parents stayed with us. 
We went about our lives.
School continued.
And I went on a college visit to Liberty University with my dear cousin, Carrie! :)

(check out our facebook pages for more details on this awesome trip!! :) )

Week 3:  Reality hit.
The house got quiet.
Every minute we were there alone, it felt like Mom and Dad should come walking through the door at any moment.
Life was hard.
The world around us went on while we were stuck with our new reality.

Week 4:  Our new, temporary "normal" set in. 
For a few days, God gave us a little break.
For whatever reason, life was a bit better. 
The cloud was not as thick, and we were able to breath.
And then reality would hit. 
Tears would stream all over again, and for a while our hearts would be left broken.
The ups and downs came unexpectedly.


And they still do.  I'm not really sure what "normal" is, but we cry when we need to.  And thank the good Lord for giving us moments of laughter!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Their Legacy

(The following is a long post.  It was hard to write, and may not be fun to read, so bear with me.  If you just want the happy stuff, skip to the paragraph right before the photo.)

On February 4, 2012, life changed dramatically for this family.  The day started out normal.  Brittany was at work. Jordan was attending Acquire the Fire--a Christian youth rally.  Chase was at his wrestling tournament.  And Mick and Julie got in the car with Nicole to go watch Chase wrestle. 

It was snowing that morning, and the roads were slick.  A little too slick.  They drove on, discussing the church and family like they always did.  Laughter was shared, and everything was normal. Except for the roads.  As the three came over a hill, they hit a patch of ice I suppose, the car spun, and they went into the ditch.  Some accounts say the car flipped, but I can't be sure.  I don't remember.  ...In case you hadn't figured it out, I am the same Nicole listed as a daughter of Mick and Julie in the previous post. 

I do remember the prayer of my mother,  "Lord, help us."  I echoed her prayer, and blacked out. When I came to, things were a bit foggy, but I remember very clearly things I simply will not share with you all.  I slid myself up over the seat, onto the trunk of the car.  The back windshield was gone.  By then, some people had arrived on the scene.  They carried my up the ditch, and I sat in a stranger's truck and she held me and prayed with me as I sobbed over and over again, "God, they have to be ok.  Make them be ok!!"  Deep down, I knew they weren't.
Mom and I were taken separately to the hospital.  I was held in the emergency room for several hours while they made sure I was ok.  I was.  I came out with a minor concussion, a few bruises and scrapes, and a bit of whiplash the next day.  Other than that, I was fine.  But Mom and Dad were not.  After lying in the ER for a while, my mom's sister, Beth, came in a had to break the news.  Dad had not made it.  We cried as she told me they were still working on Mom, but the injuries she had sustained did not look good. 

After a bit, Brittany and Chase came in to see me.  We cried again as we held each other, aware and yet completely naive about the situation that would soon be our reality.  Jordan was still in Minneapolis, but was driven home and was there later that night. 

By the time they said I was free to go, we knew Mom would not make it.  She was on life support, and we had one last chance to say, "Goodbye."  But as Dad had said so many times, "For Christians it's never, 'Goodbye.'  It's just, 'See ya later.'"  So, I walked into Mom's room, held her hand one last time, and told her I'd see her in the morning as I had every night before bed for as long as I can remember. 

I was released that night and came down to the waiting room to find a good handful of people there to give us hugs and support.  Thus began our week of people in and out of the house.  Hugs.  Lots and lots of hugs and prayers!! ...Enough hugs to give my poor chin, which happens to be a bit lower than most, carpet burn!  But I didn't mind.  Each hug was a reminder of the love and peace God was surrounding us with.  There were tears of course.  And wanting to cry, only to find the well was all dried up and our minds too exhausted to grasp everything and need to cry. 

Because Mom and Dad knew so many people, we had two visitation nights.  People came from all over.  Even from Ohio where Mom and Dad were first youth pastors.  The funeral was held in the high school gym, for the church simply was not big enough.  And that building, that group of people, was as much a part of their ministry as the church had been. 



On that day, exactly one week after their death, we truly celebrated their life.  Yes, for the first time we fell apart in front of everyone, but we also worshiped our Creator along with nearly 2,000 community members.  My uncle gave the "sermon" and reminded each person that every single thing Mom and Dad did was so that they could know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  He reminded them that not one person was at the funeral by accident.  They were there because God wanted them to be.  And as he invited people to accept Jesus Christ and His forgiveness, literally hundreds of people stood to their feet.  Students and teachers, parents and children, alike. 

In that moment, we saw why it was Mom and Dad's time to leave us and be Home.  They had done their job.  And they had done it well. 

"Mick and Julie went on the best date night of their lives. They thought they were only going to wrestling sectionals. How awesome to walk into paradise with your best friend! God is good."  This was sent to me by one of their good friends, and how true it is!!  So, while our hearts still ache, I believe Mom and Dad got the happiest of "happily ever afters," and in that, I find comfort. 

And I have no doubt they stood before the throne of the Most High and heard, "Well done, My good and faithful servants."

The Middle

After being married on what I hear was a miserably hot day, Mick and Julie officially began their lives together.  From the very beginning, the foundation of their marriage was built not on trying to please themselves or their families, trying to get ahead in careers and money, or even on putting the other first.  They knew their only hope in making their marriage last and be a blessing was to follow the Lord.  To seek and follow His plan for them. Every day. Every moment. 

Time was spent learning how to mesh two very different families.  Adjusting to the other's way of life. 





Making the choice to love one another daily.  Mick always said, "Love is a choice, not a feeling." Yes, she drove him crazy from time to time, and yes, he did the unthinkable of making her cry on occasion, but they were learning, and the Lord remained their focus.  His dreams were big, and she was the most supportive wife on the planet! So, she followed him to Ohio to be youth pastors, Iowa to train bird dogs and hunt pheasants, Maryland to create jewelry boxes and chairs, and finally back to Iowa where he would settle down and pastor a church in the small town of Kalona. 




Oh ya! ...A couple small, but rather significant facts I left out.  In that time, they also began adding to their family.  On the first move to Iowa, they had a beautiful baby girl named Brittany.  She was her daddy's little girl, with her mother's nurturing spirit and the attitude of a first-born. 




Next, while living in Maryland, was another girl, Nicole.  She was inquisitive and loved being outdoors with her father, but her mother's love for puzzles and word games came right along with the package. 

Once back in Iowa, they had a boy, entirely his father.  He grew to love hunting and hate trying to get his brain to work the way society thought it should.  Making people people laugh fueled him, and everyone wondered how he could possibly get away with as much as he did. 


Finally, there were 6, another girl completing their precious family.  She grew up under her brother's wing...or shall we say hammer?  Her grandmother's fiery spirit was evident, and her whit undeniable.  Her laughter often filled the house, and although she wouldn't admit it, her mind was as bright as the other three kids' put together. 

The children had their squabbles, but they loved one another, and each had a special bond with both their parents.  Mick was adventurous and loved treating the kids, while Julie was practical, but the best listening ear in the world!  They were both generous with their time and resources.  They were involved in everything from youth group to bible school to coaching to being on prom committee and serving as "seminar parents." 

There wasn't a lot of extra money floating around, but for good reason.  It was invested in a home not only for the 6 in the immediate family, but for everyone in the community.  Every Sunday evening, the house would fill with teenagers in the youth group.  Drinks spilled, food was dropped onto the carpet, and a few butts went through the drywall in the regular game of basketball, but they didn't really care. "A wall can be replaced much easier than a bone. We're just glad you're here having fun."  Mick had plenty of opportunities to pull out this line over the years. 

Their home was open because their minds were--to whatever situation a kid was coming from.  Their pantry was filled because their hearts were--with an Agape love that couldn't bear the thought of even one of these precious children missing out on the Lord and His salvation.  The adults in the community would say the same.  Every life they touched was marked with the finger print of God.  They knew that to love and serve Him instead of themselves was to have life to the fullest.  And they knew that this earth was not their home.