Friday, February 25, 2011

Questions For God

I was standing in line at JCPenney’s today with my little Gabby in tow when I noticed a lady behind me in line staring at my baby.  She smiled sheepishly when I said hello and then she explained why she was staring, “Your baby is very precious.  I could never have children and I would have loved to have them.”  Her eyes looked away and I felt like I was an intruder in her quiet world of sadness.  My own eyes shifted to Gabby’s peaceful face with her long lashes resting on dimpled cheeks.  I was reminded of how grateful we should be for things that are easy to take for granted in the daily grind of life.

I left the department store carrying a bag full of children’s snow-boots and a mind full of questions.

Why is it that there are so many people who long to hold a baby of their own yet can’t conceive one?  Why is it that the people who would be the kind of parent that claps the loudest at a piano recital and puts down their urgent work to throw a baseball in the backyard will never get to do that?  Why are other people sitting in a waiting room at a family planning clinic with a beautiful girl (maybe a future piano player?) or boy (future little league pitcher?) growing inside them and a doctor with a vacuum in an adjoining room ready to end that life?

Why does life just not make sense sometimes?  The pretty but sorrowful face of the lady in the store stayed in my mind as I wondered what God is up to sometimes.  I wondered this same thing a few years ago when I was sitting in a hospital gown on a bed in an emergency room.  Bob held my hand that was still shaky from losing a lot of blood as the doctor told us news that we didn’t want to hear.  We were losing our baby.  Four days later under a bleak winter sky, we buried our little boy we had named Tzion.  We had prayed and pleaded with God for that baby to survive but we never did get to hold him in our arms here on earth.

Fast forward a year to a different hospital that my family had rushed me to during a relaxing vacation on the lake that took a scary turn.  I was expecting again and when I suddenly started bleeding, I felt the room start to spin and my knees turn into jello.  I begged God in between tears and shallow breaths of pain on the way to the ER to spare our baby’s life.  Again Bob held my shaky hand as we lived out a twisted déjà vu when the doctor informed us we were losing our baby.  Four days later, I was still pregnant.  Five months later, against all odds, we held a tiny miracle in our arms and named him Judah David.

Why will I only hold Tzion in Heaven but yet I get to hold Judah everyday here?  Why did it seem God answered one of our prayers yet ignored the other?  Why do some people long for babies to smother in kisses and tears of joy while others throw away their baby’s life when it isn’t convenient for their own life?  Why does God seem to not always answer our questions?  

I don’t have any answers to that, just more questions.

One thing that does make sense to me is that God is God and I am not.  I love the way the famous songwriter and singer Steven Curtis Chapman sums it up with these poignant lyrics, 

God is God and I am not 
I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting 
God is God and I am man 
So I’ll never understand it all 
For only God is God.

If God made perfect sense, would He truly be God?  If WE could figure Him out, then wouldn’t we be on the same playing field with the Creator of the universe?  If God and all His actions (or seeming lack of action sometimes) were accountable to ME, then wouldn’t that make Him more human than an omnipotent God?

I think God is making our lives into a stunning tapestry that is a masterpiece in ways so beautiful and touching that we couldn’t begin to comprehend it.  The only problem is we are living underneath the tapestry so all we see sometimes is the mess of colors and the twisted knots of thread.

But one day…when we get to the other side, I think God is going to flip the tapestry of our lives around and we’ll see it.

We’ll get it.

We will be speechless at the beauty God created out of our messes.

And I don’t think we’ll have anymore questions.

Check out this video:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Great Debate

It is truly the Great Debate. 

Where are you sending your kids to school: Public, Christian, Private, Homeschool…the options are hotly debated as to which is the “best”.  Where will your child be best sheltered but yet safely exposed to all things worldly?  Where will they receive the best education?  The best biblical knowledge?  The most attention?  Which is the least expensive or is the most expensive still worth it?  

Open houses at schools are scrutinized by parents who adore their children (rightly so) and hope they will be taught a good mix of ABCs and God’s truth.  I am on board with all of this but where I jump off the band-wagon is when we start to EXPECT a school to do what God told us to do.

He gave us some serious homework in Deuteronomy 6:5, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall write them on the doorpost of your house and on your gates.”

First of all, I have no idea what frontals are either.

But what I do get with this major assignment from the Big Guy is that WE (not sweet lil’ Mrs. Smith) are the ones responsible for teaching our kids real truth.

I tried the whole binding verses to your hands and forehead suggestion but was having a hard time getting the kids mittens and hats over them when we went outside so I figured I could take that more figuratively.

But in all seriousness, we can teach our kids about how amazing God is and they can take it with them in their hearts to ANY school.  I also love how creative we can make the time we spend together sharing from God’s word.  Sometimes when we tell the kids a classic from the Bible, we put a little spin on it to hit them where they are at.

For example, the other night Jonah from the Bible was kicked out of a space-ship instead of a boat and a great outer-space monster swallowed him whole before spitting him up on the shores of a Jedi-knight training camp-island.  Another time when I was having a hard time explaining how even though we don’t see God, He is still very real, I grabbed a blow-dryer and a ping-pong ball to demonstrate an “unseen force”.  And one of my favorite memories (see vid below) is when Bob acted out the story of Queen Esther, complete with lady voices and silly costumes!

So if Mrs. Smith at the local school is teaching your children some great lessons from the Bible, that is really wonderful...but it’s bonus.  We parents are the ones that have both the privilege and commission to open the Good Book and bring it to life for our children.

Cole Fam: Queen Esther Story (You Tube)

What are some of the ways you make family devotions fun?  What are some things that are important for you to pass down to your children?

Honk If You Love Your Hero

Who is your hero?

If you posed this question to my boys, you would definitely get an ear-full!  Their list of heroes would not be short: Spiderman, Superman, Bumblebee and Optimus Prime Transformers, Captain America, Iron man…pretty much if the person wears a cape, underwear outside of their clothes or has some kind of robotic powers, they are hooked.  Once in awhile, if we get lucky, they may (as an afterthought of course!) mention a parent or grandparent but we usually don’t have a high enough “cool-quota” to compete with the big muscled and high-flying heroes of their world.

The heroes of our youth are usually easy to peg: they are decked out in cool costumes and jump out our TV screens bigger than life!  But as we grow up and realize theme songs don’t follow people in real life, our heroes become something else.  Someone else.  Many times the people that we have known all along but never realized how brave and spectacular they really are.

One of my heroes is someone I have known for as long as I can remember and have quietly admired in many ways.  He has transformation abilities known only by an inner circle.  When I was a kid, he could transform into a horse or an airplane and valiantly rescue a captured princess.  These super powers remained strong through the years so that even today he can transform (with the help of the Wii) into a daring sword fighter and challenge my little warriors to a great battle.

the captured princess, age 5
Although he has never donned spandex tights and a cape, he has often come to my rescue when he received a call for help.  Whether it was a frantic call from me in Mexico saying, "The good news is I made it to Mexico.  The bad news is I'm in jail!", or a call from a hospital in Thailand where I had a small favor to ask of him, “Would you mind wiring me $300? It’s no big deal…really, but I have been in a hospital in Chiang Mai the last three days with typhoid fever.  Can you believe how cheap it is here compared to America though!?”

This week, this man will be celebrating six decades and a few additional years that were no doubt spent waiting for a girl that promised she was “almost ready” and would be “right out to the car”.  He waited so patiently most of the time with just an occasional horn-honking; probably just to make sure the horn was still in top notch condition.  Come to think of it, my husband must like to run an occasional test on our horn too.  This man is showing a few gray hairs that I may have contributed to when I brought home a boyfriend covered in tattoos or announced I was roadtriping cross-country with my girlfriends to Colorado even though none of us had ever used a map or changed a tire.

It was not only the words of wisdom he had shared through the years but also the things he never told us that gave him hero status in my heart.  Like the way every Christmas he would open an assortment of office supplies from his four kids who knew he loved to study and always act both surprised (“Oh, wow-more index cards!”) and grateful (“Thanks for the highlighter, I was needing more!”) with each gift.  It was only after we were all grown and gone that he pulled out a giant bag full of unopened highlighters, index cards, pens and white-out one holiday and shared a good laugh with us all.

He is also a man who discovered many unknown things (at least to my mother).  Like the time I came home from college and he pulled back my bangs to discover an eyebrow piercing (how did he know to look!?) or like the time my family went out for pizza and my attempt at going unnoticed with my hood pulled over my head was thwarted as he pulled it off to reveal my neon orange hair (a self-hair dye job gone bad)!  What I discovered through all of his discoveries is that there was nothing I could do (or wear, pierce, or color) that would ever stop his super powerful love for me.  I think we should all honk our horns when we see a man like that, a man that is kind, honest, selfless, and just plain super.

So hat’s off to you, Dad (and I promise my hair isn’t orange this time), you have always been a hero to me.

"He didn’t tell me how to live, he lived and let me watch him do it."

Who is your hero?  Leave your comment below, I would LOVE to know!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Throw Pillow Therapy

To quote one of the most world-famous, well versed and greatest theologians of our time, Larry the Cucumber from Veggietales.

I laughed.  I cried.  It moved me, Bob.

That describes my night tonight, in one deep and profound thought.  It was nothing fancy, a group of girls gathered on couches in my friend’s living room munching popcorn and sipping hot chocolate.  It was a warm your toes by the fireplace while your heart warms in the presence of dear friends kind of night.  It was conversation that never used the words “pee-pee” or “poo-poo” and required no guessing games to figure out what a certain grunt or squeak meant.  It was heaven.

I literally scooted to the edge of my seat to hear about one friend’s dreams and another’s inspiring goals.  I laughed until tears filled my eyes to hear another mom share a funny story that was complete with hilarious actions and sound effects.  I learned that throw-pillows can be great therapy when thrown across the room when you are overly frustrated about a certain subject.  I soaked it all in knowing when the alarm clock would go off (I.e., my baby cooing loudly enough for our 90-year-old neighbor to hear) the next morning, I would feel like a new mom!

You could live life without friends…but why?

Why not get recharged when the battery of our soul gets depleted.  I am an avid texter, face booker and (of course) blogger but there is something about being in the PRESENCE of people that is refreshing in a way a text message or face book note can’t compete against.

In the hurried pace of our technological savvy society, I think it’s easy to forget that plopping into a rocking chair on a front porch with a dear friend and glass of sweet tea does more medicine for the soul than a thousand of Mary Poppin’s spoonfuls of sugar.

So in the spirit of a silly cucumber that probably has more wisdom than we would ever expect, find a friend that makes you laugh, cry…a friend that moves you and throws pillows with you.  Then get into their real-life presence and get refreshed.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Golden Rule Gone Wild

This whole Golden Rule training I’ve been working on with my boys is getting out of control.

You are no doubt familiar with the classic proverb known as The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”  I thought this would be a fairly simple and helpful concept for our three and four year old boys to grasp but after the last few months of Golden Rule Gone Wild, I have some regrets.

Here’s an example of some common mishandlings of the Golden Rule in our home on a daily basis these days, 

“Jude, how would YOU like if someone flushed when you were going peepee?  Would you like that done to YOU!?”  

“Bro, how would you like if someone did to you what you did to you?”  

“Gid, don’t do that because if someone does it to you, would you like it to do too?”  

And my favorite so far, “Judah!!  Don’t do that to me or I will do it back to you!!”

Is there a way to unteach something to children!?  Because I’m pretty fed up with the Golden Rule these days!  

The truth is though, no matter how much it goes through the word blender before the boys spit it back out, truth is truth and I’m going to keep on dishing it up!  That is one of our joys and sometimes chores as parents, to present truth to our children.  What they do with it (or their own interpretations of it!) may need a little tweaking now and then but when a seed of truth begins to grow in their heart at an early age, something beautiful grows out of it.  

Hopefully children who are taught absolute truths will stand for something so they won’t fall for anything.  Or maybe they’ll think they should fall for something so they don’t stand for anything…or stand up if they are falling…or something falling will hit them if they stand still too long…

Yeah, you get the idea.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Extreme Dirty Jobs Home Makeover Edition

Here's an interesting equation for you:

Boys + dump trucks + unattended potted plants + company coming = one bad idea and one unhappy mama

Oh, how naïve I was back in the day.  My boys were the curious (i.e., mischievous) young ages of  18 months and 2 years old and I should have been awarded that Darwin Award for thinking it would be okay for me to use the restroom and leave them downstairs.  What was I thinking?!  Obviously, the need to pee had overridden my common sense at the moment.  Add to this scene the fact that I had just moved some potted plants off our deck and into the front porch (that was also a little play area for the kids) and had just cleaned the entire house top to bottom as we were expecting company any moment, and this scene had bad idea written all over it.  Or, if you’re under three feet tall with some lonely, giant dump trucks, it was a GREAT idea.

I thought it seemed strangely quiet as I hurried (with my newborn baby) back downstairs and pushed open the door leading into the dining room.  The scene that awaited me made my smile melt into a horrified, mouth-gaping and wide-eyed face.  My son Judah, that was previously white was now black from head-to-toe.  He stood in a mound of dirt surrounded by dirt tracks that marked his journey from the porch and through our entire home.  He gave me a sweet, innocent grin and where his teeth should have been, an avalanche of potting soil fell out instead.

His older brother who hadn't been the brains behind the operation had nonetheless been an eager accomplice and was no where to be seen.  He was found later, hiding under the bed and pleading the fifth amendment.

We are so blessed to have crème carpet in our living room (was already that color when we moved in, I would have chosen something more boy-friendly) so close your eyes a moment to imagine three large potted plants, now empty, and how all those contents would look on light carpet and furniture.  Then imagine how the perpetrators of this crime might look after every last bit of dirt was dispersed in creative ways throughout the house.  The dump trucks (which I was now thinking were terrible birthday gifts) were parked nearby with a full load, seemingly ready to dump in a clean location but since no such area could be found, they were parked in an early retirement.

Still in my pajamas, I looked at the clock and realized our company would be arriving in under ten minutes.  I was ready to collapse and it was only 9 am.  Good morning, Mom!

I remember thinking as I gave those two very dirty (and happy) rascals a good scrubbing in the bathtub that I doubted I could ever laugh about this.  I had this same thought as I quickly swept, vacuumed and scrubbed floors with a baby strapped on my back.  

But when two little Underwear-Men wrapped their tiny arms around me as I was cleaning and said, “We soh-wy, Mama.” (even though I knew they would probably do it again in a heartbeat as they had such joy during that dirt and dump truck party), I stopped being a grown-up for just a minute and looked at life as a kid.  

They won’t always want to play.  They won’t always make huge messes.  One day they’ll be grown up and these memories will be the joy and laughter of my old age.  This huge mess that I want to cry over today will one day bring tears of nostalgia to my eyes as I see a strapping young man drive away to college or wait at the end of an aisle for his new bride.  I have such a short time with my children, what’s a little mess now and then?

Then the doorbell rang and I thought, “Oh, crap…look at this mess!”

But here I am, just two years later, and I am laughing at that memory.  Finally.

Where the Wild Things Are (Your Boy's Bedroom)

What can turn a simple stick into a gleaming medieval sword, the top bed of a bunk bed into a tall building (to be leapt off of in a single bound), a giant, gnarled old tree into a secret fort and a frightening heart attack (for their mother)…you guessed it, a boy.

We started off with boys so we thought all this was somewhat normal but the most common assessment among our friends that had girls first then  boys is usually, “Wow, boys are NOT girls.”  No, they aren’t!

Let me just say, I am NO expert on boys.  That disclaimer being said, I do have some boy experience that began with having two little brothers.  So I thought jumping off roofs and eating bologna sandwiches into the shape of guns was fairly normal.  Of course, I’m sure that some of my hair-brained ideas didn’t help my sweet mother sleep better at night.  Including the time I had a new driver’s license burning a hole in my wallet and convinced Jon and Ben (the brothers) to don rollerblades (which were all the rage back in the 90s!) and by slamming a rope in the trunk, I pulled them through the streets of our neighborhood.  That was done at speeds we shall not mention in case aforementioned mother is reading this blog. Unfortunately, that fun came to a halt when Ben got dragged a bit on his knees.  C’mon, bro--what’s a little blood?
One of my wonderful "little" brothers, Jon (all grown up now, playing with Gid here)
With that boy background of safety and sanity, I have now been blessed with two boys of my own.  Oh, BOY.

Although I am 100% mom (translation: worrier who would love nothing more than to somehow grow healthy and normal citizens in a sterile bubble), I am also pretty laid-back (though my husband would no doubt scoff at my self-assessment) when it comes to bringing up boys.

One thing I seemed to catch on to as a big sister is that not only will “boys be boys” as the saying goes, but boys MUST be boys…or this amazing sense of adventure and bravery could die a little bit inside.  

Let me clarify what I don’t mean when I say “boys MUST be boys”.  I don’t mean they don’t need to be corrected and disciplined for hauling off and socking a loved one in the face.  I don’t mean it’s okay for them to be too rough with their sisters or we should just shrug when they are too loud at an inappropriate place.  I don’t mean let’s let them be just downright ornery if they feel like it.  I do believe that boys and girls alike must have the standard of what’s right and wrong clearly defined and modeled then kindly, firmly and CONSITENTLY enforced (as great of a challenge as that can be!).

What I mean by the importance of letting boys be boys is that it’s a good thing sometimes to step back and let them do something adventurous.  They don’t want to just play house, they want to STORM THE CASTLE!!  

Click here: Have Fun Storming The Castle!!

In a world where most men no longer need to go out and “shoot a bar” (that’s bear in pioneer slang) for their families’ dinner and their greatest adventure of the day may have been getting a cool parking spot at Wal-Mart, it’s a true gift to allow the men (little and big) in our lives to live on the edge now and then!  Letting them shimmy up a big tree (without making them wear a bike helmet and knee pads, ladies!), build a huge fort out of your couch cushions and having a light saber battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in a dark living room (even if it knocks of a lamp now and then) can feed their sense of adventure!  It can help to create the heart of a warrior in them.  

From my humble observations in life thus far, it seems that Warrior-hearted boys become strong but tender hearted men. Theses tender-hearted warriors have a sense of adventure and daring that makes them take a few extra risk but it usually brings about a positive change.  They know who they are and are okay with who they aren’t.  They have a nobility about them that causes them scurry to help a lady in distress and hold doors for elderly queens.  And best of all, they turn around and raise boys that they climb trees with and battle in exciting sword fights against.  

They raise boys that storm the castle!  And that God-given inner sense of bravery and adventure in boys lives on.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Grace-Givers...My Saving Grace

I can’t rave enough about the people in my life that give me grace.

I’m talking practical, in-your-face grace that doesn’t blow a gasket when I can’t return their phone call in under five minutes…or five days (unless you don’t mind a call at 1 am)!  It’s the kind of grace that smiles and understands when I have to reschedule a night out because a little one has spiked a fever or my big guy has to work late at the office.  It’s the “no big deal” shrug they offer when LIFE happens and things don’t go according to plan.  

On the days that having two minutes alone in the bathroom listening to Jimmy Buffet on my MP3 player is the closest I have to a mid-day break, it’s a relief to have loved ones who cut me a little slack during this action-packed season.
As the ancient proverb goes, “We judge ourselves by our intentions but we judge others by their actions.”  If only all my intentions could be seen…the people I’m about to call when two rumbling mini-WWF fighters start up their “waa-ambulance”, the letters I start to write before they are interrupted by a baby demanding dinner or the cookies I bake for a friend that require a fire extinguisher to cool them as I was distracted by four wonderful but very needy little people.
So this blog is just a way I want to give a HUGE shout out to all those grace-givers in my life.  The friends and family that just know I truly love them, even if I don’t always get a chance to spend lots of time with them or call them everyday.  

So thanks to the grace-givers in my life.  The grace you give me humbles me.  You all are truly my saving grace!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Being Billy

Does anyone else think that Billy Graham just plain did it right?  He walked the talk.  He lived what he loved.  He is rare kind of man these days in a world that lacks integrity.  He started with a bang and is finishing just as strong.  Amazing.

What’s his secret?  When I first heard it, I was blown away.  Not because it was so profound and intense but rather because it was so…simple.   It was so easy that even someone like ME could be like Billy!

This secret was something someone told him when he first began his “Just As I Am” crusades and he held on to this idea for dear life.  Here it is:

*Everyday, spend at least 15 minutes talking to God.
*Everyday, spend at least 15 minutes listening to God.
*Everyday, spend at least 15 minutes telling someone about God.

That’s it.  Simple.  True.  Pure as driven snow.  And best of all, easy!

One time, a university student posed this question to Billy Graham, “What is the greatest surprise you have found about life?” 

“The brevity of it,” he replied without hesitation. “Time moves so quickly, and no matter who we are or what we have done, the time will come when our lives will be over. As Jesus said, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4).”

I can’t host a “Just As I Am” Crusade that will lead thousands to make a decision for Christ, but I can come just as I am to Christ and pray for a different person every day for a thousand days in the hopes they will make a decision too.

I’m going to be thinking these next few weeks a little more about what I CAN do and stop worrying about what I CAN’T do right now.

Talk to God?   I can do that.  Listen to Him?  I can do that (granted, it may have to be in the bathroom with the door locked if I want to actually hear Him!!).  Tell someone about God?  I can do that too.  In fact, I’m doing that right now (smile).

Being like Billy is something I can do…at least in a very small way.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Tribute to the One Who Wows Me

It was a rainy fall morning when the leaves where swirling in a vibrant splash of colors to the ground.  It could have been a day like any other day except for one thing, a very excited girl dressed head-to-toe in white was holding onto her daddy’s arm and about to walk down a long aisle into another man’s arms.

It was September 25, 2005, my wedding day.

As I walked in a dream-like haze towards the kindest and most handsome man I had ever laid eyes on, I had no idea what was to come.  I had no idea that marriage and life could be so hard.  But I also never imagined it would be so good.
Bob Cole, you have been just the man I was waiting for.  The kind of man that married my Barbies and swept them off their feet.  The kind of daddy to my children that my own dad was; a dad that gave us airplane rides through the living room and left little presents under our pillow when we were sick.  You have been exactly what I thought you were and exactly what I never expected.  

You keep me guessing at all the amazing ways you will show me your covenant-kind of love;  the way you helped with EVERYTHING (kids, meals, dishes…after working ALL day) and held me as you prayed for me every night for the two years I struggled with chronic pain, the little surprises like flowers being delivered for my un-birthday, the way you always kiss me passionately and look me in the eye (in spite of four little excited monkeys hanging off you), asking, “How was your day?” when you walk in the door.

Only you could make me feel sexy when I’m in sweats covered with kid-prints (paint, spit-up and food) and my hair in a messy ponytail.  Only you would never tire of editing my run-on sentences and crazy English in my blogs at 1 a.m. (which is why this one probably will have some errors!).  Only you could make McDonalds seem like Six Flags when times are tough.  Only you get me on those days that I don’t get myself.
What has surprised me the most is the way the birth of each of our children has revealed a side of you I never knew and I find my love for you blossoms as each child grows.  The moment you held our firstborn son and your eyes filled with tears, I thought that would be my most precious memory.
But that has been just one of many priceless moments that reveal the power of your love for our family.  It’s the times you clasp your giant hand on our boy’s boney shoulders and tell them you are proud of them, just because they are your sons.  It’s the way your eyes light up when it’s time to rock our oldest daughter to sleep because you love that special time you have with her (and she loves it too as she will cross her arms and stand in your chair, saying, “Dadda!” if you ever have to work late!).  It’s the gentle way you snuggle our baby on your shoulder and order me (with a twinkle in your eye) to escape or rest while you take over.  It’s all the ways you love each one of us, no matter how exhausted you may feel or how much work is waiting for you at the office.  You take the time to show you care.
This is just a few of the thousands of reasons that you can still make my heart skip a beat and you can still make me melt into a puddle when you give me the look.

This is why I look forward to saying Happy Valentine’s Day to you for the next fifty years.  This is why I don’t mind getting wrinkles and some gray hair if it means I can wake up next to you when I’m eighty years old.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to you, Bob Cole.  Love, your very lucky lady