I forgot my lead vise in Minnesota! I use it to stretch lead before I use it in making stained glass panels. Without it, I can't stretch lead, at least not alone. You see, it holds one end of a length of lead while I pull on the other end with a pliers. Lead stretches a good inch or more on a six-foot length.
I've been thinking about my lead vise a bit on the long drive here to the Jicarilla Apache Nation in New Mexico. And as the days dragged on, driving between 200 and 350 miles per day with a very heavy Penske Truck, I realized that I was being stretched, too.
Really, it was a relatively easy trip in many ways. We had no accidents, no close calls, even. No one got sick or hurt, not even the two cats that were with us. The older cat, Serena, couldn't make it all day in her kennel without creating stinky laundry for me, but that wasn't so bad. Each hotel we stayed at had a laundry room, and I don't mind doing laundry.
But driving that truck, even on the easy stretches of highway, was a challenge! Going 60-65 mph in a 75 mph zone was annoying, but that was all the truck could handle most of the time. And going up hills? Yikes! Don't even think about the mountain passes we climbed at 10-20 mph, followed by irritated locals. Not to mention that the truck was built for big people, and I had trouble reaching the pedals comfortably. Thankfully, my husband drove the majority of the time!
When I wasn't driving the truck, I was, of course, driving the Subaru. It was pulling a trailer with two of my kayaks lashed tightly onto it. It also had two cats and our daughter in it (after the novelty of riding in the noisy truck wore off!). Our wee one did a fabulous job of entertaining herself, with a little help from the silly "surprises" I had purchased and wrapped in newsprint before we left. She even had a few left for the trip to Sante Fe yesterday to return the truck.
But driving the Subaru also meant leading the way... finding the restaurant that had pull-through parking for the trailer and the truck... figuring out which of the roads had the fewest hills... deciding which hotel would allow us to bring our cats in with us...
I am thankful for navigation systems and smart phones, but there were times I was ready to strangle that "lady" telling me to turn left in 200 yards! Seriously! And add to that the six-yr-old who was constantly asking if I was following the phone lady's directions correctly! I have to admit, I growled at that six-year-old a few times.
One evening, after the longest driving day (most of Nebraska) was over and we had reached Sterling, Colorado, I was looking for a particular hotel (Rumor was, they allowed cats!). A confusing sign led me to take a left turn too early, which put us back on the interstate... where there wasn't another exit for this town, and where the next town with hotels was almost an hour down the road. Ugh! Poor kitties... poor kiddie... poor Daddy driving the truck...
It took us most of 5 days to make the drive. At the end of each day, as we collapsed into hotel beds, Brad and I thanked the Lord for safe travel and asked for grace for another day. And grace we received each day.
The day we arrived, eight wonderful folks from our new congregation greeted us with lunch and help unloading. Six strong guys came by to help with the biggest pieces. All went very well! Until everyone left and our wee one went to bed and Brad and I realized that Webster, our daughter's kitty, was missing.
We had shut the cats up in the basement for the move, but sometimes the door had to be opened to put things down there. The outside doors were open all afternoon...so Webster had a straight shot outside if he escaped the basement. My husband and I looked for Webster for a loooonnnggg time after our daughter went to bed. We went to sleep knowing that the morning would bring a very sad girl. I awoke before dawn and went outside, calling and calling the cat with no luck.
When she woke up, we asked our daughter to call Webby, saying that we hadn't seen him yet. She went down the steps, calling his name, and he popped right out of his hiding place! My tears of relief brought questions from our wee one, and I told her we had thought he was gone forever... and that I knew how sad she would have been if he were gone. We stopped and thanked God for protecting our baby girl from such heartache.
It was a good stretching. We all need to be stretched sometimes; it makes us lean into the Lord harder and more often. I thank God for the easy times and the challenging ones. I thank Him for putting my heart in the right place every time I sought His help. And I ask His forgiveness for when I forgot to seek Him.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
We've said good-bye to dear friends, to grandchildren and adult children, to our siblings, to our church family, to our parents, to co-workers and more. Our daughter's birth family came to say good-bye.
We know it's not like we're moving to the furthest reaches of Asia or something, but New Mexico is a long way from most of the people we know and love.
And now we've got the boxes packed, we're praying all the "stuff" fits into the 26-foot truck we rented, and we're ready to load the truck tomorrow morning. We will have the truck and our Subaru, pulling a trailer full of kayaks.
I'm getting ready to pack up my computer, but wanted to write one more post before I shut it down. It will be at least a week before we have internet access again, other than spotty public access. And what do I want to say???
I want to say this:
I am really sad we're leaving all of you. Truly. But the emotion on the forefront of my heart right now is excitement, not sorrow! I am so very deeply excited to be following God's Call into service with the Jicarilla Apache people. I know my husband's skills and personality are a fabulous fit for this congregation. I know that I will find meaningful work and service to do in Dulce. I know that our daughter will grow into an amazing person there.
How could I feel anything but excitement? This is God's work, God's plan! I can't wait to get started with it.
Friday, August 16, 2013
I tried to answer her, but I'm afraid what I said sounded like mumbo jumbo without much substance. I've thought about this a lot since, and I would like to answer her question. It's a question I would've shared at many points in my life... one that many Christians and non-Christians share.
How do I know that what I am choosing is in accordance with God's Will? And...is that different from God's Call on me?
I suggest that the Call of God is indeed different from living in accordance with God's Will. Making life choices that honor God's Will is a life of obedience to God's Word in Scripture. It is general, but consisting of specific choices to obey. I believe that my marriage was within God's plan for my life, God's Will. My husband and I chose (and choose now) to obey God's rules and laws about how people should relate before and in marriage. I don't consider our marriage as God's Call, but as an acceptance of God's gift to us.
However, my husband and I were clearly Called by God to be parents to our youngest daughter. I wrote about her adoption earlier, but I want to revisit the Call. How did I know that God wanted us to adopt her? How do we know that God wants us to move to Dulce, New Mexico? For that, too, is definitely God's Call.
In my experience, the Call of God comes as a series of options, in which ONE option always seems the best. With our daughter, I prayed that it would be made clear to me if God wanted us to adopt her. The first step of my knowing was that my husband was so positive about adopting her. (He was actually praying that if we weren't supposed to adopt her, it be made clear to him!) Because he was choosing that option as the positive one, I could consider it more fully.
As the weekend progressed, I prayed and thought a lot about what kind of changes would need to be made if we were to adopt our wee one. Daycare fell into place with one phone call to a dear friend. Also, we were in the middle of redecorating a spare bedroom for our grandchildren; all of a sudden, pink just seemed to be the RIGHT color. And on Sunday, the children's message at church was all about God asking us to follow Him, even when he was going where we hadn't imagined going. For some reason, that message was aimed directly at my heart. When my husband came home that afternoon from work, I asked him what his prayers had led him to. He said that he had had no change in his opinion that we should take her in. When I told him where my heart was, we made an easy decision to foster, then adopt, our daughter.
With the move to New Mexico, it began when my husband was talking about the jobs listed on our denomination's website. He usually only mentioned the churches available in the geographic locations we had agreed upon, but this time he said, rather flippantly, "And there's one in New Mexico...It's a mission posting." I felt an immediate tug to pursue this further. We discussed it, and he sent his information to the church. Later, when he read their profile, he became even more interested in it, feeling it was a good match to his own personality and skills.
Unbeknownst to us, the search committee had received my husband's information and immediately felt a pull toward him. Through the next few months, each bit of information in both directions brought us closer together. When we visited in April, my husband and I felt like we were coming home. Our daughter made friends and is excited to return. Again, at each crossroads of decision, this one particular option always seemed the very best.
Another characteristic of God's Call in my experience is an unbelievable peace with the decision. We have never once regretted our daughter's adoption. I have felt no trepidation at the move to an unfamiliar place within a completely foreign culture. Not to mention the remoteness of the location (90 miles to the nearest Target). But there is no fear. No worry.
Please note that this is not a Pollyanna-ish "peace," expecting all to be easy and golden. That is not God's way. He doesn't Call us to ease, but to service. We fully expect there to be difficult moments, perhaps even difficult years. There have certainly been difficult times in parenting our 6 year-old!
Instead, this is God's peace, that surpasses all understanding. The peace that envelopes one, even in the midst of strife. This peace is, for me, a hallmark of both God's Call and of living in accordance with God's Will.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
The song Here I Am, Lord has been running through my head for the past couple of weeks, thinking about Brad's ordination. I couldn't remember all the words, so I searched for it on Youtube, and then I got to wondering...
Which of God's people was answering with "Here I am"? So I did a search on my Bible app and found three Biblical men who answered God by saying, "Here I am, Lord."
The first was Moses. God was calling to him from inside a burning bush; how spectacular! What a call! After Moses answered God with "Here I am," Moses tried to get out of what God called him to do. He didn't want to go talk to Pharaoh and demand that Pharaoh let God's people go. He did eventually follow God's directions and God performed a mighty work in freeing God's people.
Then there was Isaiah. His call involved telling the people of God many things they just didn't want to hear. But Isaiah was faithful, and spoke God's truths all through his life. He even speaks to us today through his book in the Bible.
And finally, there was Samuel. He was just a boy, serving Eli in the temple, when God called him in the night. At first, Samuel didn't recognize God's voice and thought it was Eli calling him, but later he understood that it was God Himself calling his name. God gave a message through Samuel to Eli regarding the sins of Eli's house. Samuel was reluctant to give the message, but Eli insisted that Samuel tell him everything as God had said. Eli accepted God's message as the Truth.
God's call is nothing to take lightly. Saying "Here I am, Lord" is the only acceptable answer! I am blessed that my husband has heard God's call on him to be a pastor. Many will be blessed to receive Brad's leadership at the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church. I am looking forward to seeing God's work come to fruition!
And I'm not along for a "free ride," I expect God to call me to His work in Dulce, New Mexico, also. I do not know what my call will be, yet, but I will be searching, listening, and watching to discover what I am called to do in the community.
And I will say, "Here I am, Lord!"
Sunday, August 4, 2013
But a couple of weeks ago (away from church), she asked me when our church was having communion again. I told her that I didn't know, but that if she wanted to take communion, she needed to learn about what it means to do so. She and her dad spent several short periods of time together talking about communion, and they decided to talk to an elder this morning about her taking communion today. So I knew that it could be a big day!
After talking with the elder before the service, she was invited to participate in communion today. She listened carefully through much of the service, awaiting her first communion. Before that came, however, there was the children's message.
Our pastor is adopted and is very aware of adoption issues, but I'm positive he didn't consider the statement he made as "dangerous." He freely acknowledged later in the service that the topic of honoring our fathers and mothers is tricky because some people's experiences with their parent(s) weren't positive. But I'm absolutely sure that he had no idea how devastating it could be to my precious daughter for him to tell the children that their parents had taken such good care of them when they were babies and toddlers. He even asked one of the kids, "Did your parents take good care of you when you were a baby?"
I'm glad he didn't ask our daughter that question. We, her adoptive parents, weren't there when she was a baby. And her birth parents were very young, and didn't really know how to take good care of her. That's why she's with us! If he had asked our beloved daughter, she would've answered honestly. She knows her story. But it would've broken her heart. As it was, she remained blissfully unaware of exactly what he was talking about.
But not me or my husband. We exchanged a look of trepidation that the pastor would continue on this topic (which he didn't, thankfully!), both of us had tears in our eyes. When our sweet daughter returned to our pew, she got lots of hugs and caresses from both of us. I was so thankful that she had missed the import of that part of the message.
I don't tell this part of the morning's events to fault our pastor in any way! He meant no harm whatsoever, and probably every other child in church today could've answered that question with a resounding yes. Instead, I tell this part of the morning's events because it opens your eyes to the condition of my heart when the next part happened. I was feeling very protective and close to my daughter following the children's message.
And then we sang The Family Prayer Song. And that same precious daughter sang loud and clear, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." I'm sure everyone in the room could hear her sweet voice calling out those words with a depth of feeling that surprised me. I melted as we sang the refrain after each verse.
When communion time came, my husband was asked to help serve. He was privileged to be able to serve our daughter her first communion. I was privileged to sit beside her, hear her excitement, and watch her prayer after she took each element.
Our Almighty God was powerfully present this morning. In protecting our wee one, in calling her to serve, and in the serving and receiving of her first communion. I am humbly grateful, tearfully proud and honored, and deeply moved by these events.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
When that thought crossed my mind, I had been contemplating the myriad blessings of my life. This song by Crystal Lewis was playing. And I thought, I am living in a riot of blessings!
All Christians are.
We live in the peace of God's blessings for His people. In the words of the song, we have:
Beauty for Ashes
Strength for Fear
Gladness for Mourning
Peace for Despair
Rest for the restless and the weary
Hope for the sinner
Hands that are mighty to deliver, giving us freedom.
These words come from the Newsboys' song, In the Hands of God.
And of course, the Bible itself gives us many promises of blessing for God's people. The most important is in John 2:25, "And this is the promise which he has promised us: eternal life." Psalm 119 is full of God's promises and human response to them; I find verse 133 especially powerful: "Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me."
Blessings everywhere! We have God's promises, which are sure and certain.
We live in a riot of blessings!
Friday, August 2, 2013
In three weeks, we have to have everything packed, of course. I've been working on that for months, but there is still a lot of packing to do! We have trips to make, guests to greet, an ordination to have, several going-away events to participate in, and lots of good-byes that will be very difficult.
And still, we're excited. We have felt the call of this particular church community from the beginning, when I encouraged my husband to send his profile information to them, even though it was far away from everyone we know. When Brad received their profile information, we read it with growing interest and conviction. This was the kind of place God was preparing us for! And after the first interview, while we continued to pray that God's will be done, we began hoping that this was the place.
After our visit in April, when the search committee revealed that they, too, had felt led by God to us, we began to seriously consider what it would mean to live so far from most of our family, to raise our daughter as a minority in a small community, to reside 90 miles from the nearest Target store.
It won't always be easy. We know that. But it will be good. We will grow in ways we can't imagine right now. God will provide strength and insight for us and for the congregation as we learn each others' ways.
Back to packing....