Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Waiting For My Wedding Day

I live in a military town. McConnell Air Force Base is right here in Wichita. That being the case, chances are if you live in this town you know at least ONE person that is active military. In our case, Paul and I are friends with a couple where the husband is in the Air Force, stationed at McConnell. Because I want to give them their due privacy, I will refer to them as "Collin" and "Anna". They are both very dear friends to us. In the two or three years we've known them Collin has been deployed twice for long periods of time. I believe the first time it was a little over six months that he was serving in Iraq. The second time he spent around four months in Honduras. Anna amazes me each time with her pure strength to get through that kind of time without having her husband. Can you imagine? Let me paint a picture for you, but mind you this is MY perception of what it must be like, not Anna's.

For six months I cannot touch my husband. I cannot hug him. I cannot kiss him. I cannot hold his hand. I cannot lay eyes on him. We can't exchange knowing glances at one another. When I talk to him on the phone I can only have twenty or thirty minutes of his time. I miss his laughter. Six months. Maybe longer. A year, eighteen months? I put my life on hold.

And I must do everything for myself. Mow the yard, or in the winter shovel the drive. Take the trash out. Gas up my vehicle. Kiss our kids good night. Every spur of the moment decision that must be made I must make, without consulting my husband.

It makes my heart ache.

To pass the time I must mark down the days on a calendar. 180 days to go. . .

Every time the phone rings I jump to get it, it might be him!! Every time I log on to the computer I wait anxiously to see if there's an e-mail there. Every day I trek to the mail box my heart is hopeful to see his handwriting.

My days are filled with thoughts of him. Memories we've shared. Vacations we've taken, quiet times we've spent in our bed talking about our days. Sharing inside jokes. Taking the kids out for ice cream. I long for him, yearn for him. I love him so much that I think my heart might explode.

And then the day comes, he comes home. I go to the airport to welcome him. I wait with arms wide open to greet him. Can you imagine the homecoming? To be wrapped in your husband's arms once more? To bury your face in his chest after so long of being alone?

You've got the idea, right? Now put yourself in this position. Does your heart ache too?

I was thinking about all these things the other day. Really I guess I should say that the Lord was speaking to me about all these things.

Then the bombshell:

"Jamie, why don't you think of me as your deployed husband?"

The Bible tells us that Christ is our husband. What's more, it tells us that we are his bride. And that some day he's coming back, coming home. Do we long for that day? Do we count down to the time of his return? Do we look at the Bible as his love letter to us? Do we long to know every detail about him?

If my heart aches thinking about my earthly husband in this way then shouldn't it ache even more so for my heavenly husband?

The Bible also tells us that we are to love Christ even above our own husbands. Hmm. If I were to really, truly practice that then shouldn't I be spending more time with him? Listening to Him, talking to Him, learning about who He is and what He wants from me, what He wants me to be.

If I didn't speak to Paul for an entire day wouldn't it offend him? What if I went longer? But yet we do this to Christ. Or if we do speak to Him is it for more than five or ten minutes a day?

If my husband really did leave for six months at a time I wouldn't dare forget that he was my husband, right? I mean, I know he'll be back. I wouldn't be unfaithful to him. But don't we do that with Jesus? We know he's coming back for us, but we fail to make him a priority. We don't dwell on his love for us. Instead, we find new loves. Our love's name is: Money, Greed, Idolatry, whatever the case may be for you. We prostitute ourselves for the love of something else. And all the while our husband, Christ, is remaining steadfast. Counting down the days until he can return to his bride.

So tell me, is your husband deployed? How will you spend your time until he returns?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Who's YOUR hero?!

Have you ever had a moment where you're in awe of your kids? I recently had one of those moments with Payge. I guess I should start by saying that oftentimes I feel completely under qualified as a parent, and I truly mean that. It's such a daunting task sometimes, especially in the "spiritual raising" of children. I know that God has called me to teach my children His ways, as it says in Proverbs 22:6: "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." I've known this scripture for many years, but if you really think about what that means, well, it's a tall order. I want my children to be more than me, to know more than me, but how do you teach that when you don't know what you don't know and you can't be what you're not?

I pray for my children daily, and it usually goes like this: "God, give them the wisdom of Solomon. Open their minds to knowledge. Lord, I pray prosperity over them, prosperity in wealth, prosperity in relationships, prosperity in friendships, prosperity in wisdom, prosperity in understanding. I pray for them to be like Jonathan was to David, and I pray that they have a Jonathan to depend on. I pray protection of their minds, I pray protection over them physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually." Just a tidbit, but you get the idea. I tell them everyday when I drop them off to remember that God is with them, and if they run into trouble they should ask Him what to do. I tell them to help their friends, and if their friends are unkind I tell them to show their friends Christ through how they respond.

But in all my prayers I forget one thing, one very, very important thing. "Lord, I pray that they will witness to anyone, any chance they get."

How could I forget that? It was, after all, Christ's last words to his disciples. It is, after all, the Great Commission. We are, after all, supposed to do this every day, every chance we get. How does that go unnoticed?

But God gives me hope, above all. Which brings me to the point of this story.

When the girls come home with their dad in the afternoons I commence the questioning: "How was school today? Anything exciting happen? How much homework do you have?" Usually it's pretty typical stuff, but one day last week Payge surprised me. She told me that they have a project to do that kind of let's everybody know who you are to the rest of the class. It's a big piece of paper with questions they are to answer, like "What's your favorite subject?" "What pets do you own?" That kind of stuff. One question is "Who is your hero? Tell us in a paragraph" Payge's teacher went around the room and asked each student who their hero is. When he got to Payge he said, "Payge, who is your hero?" And with absolutely no hesitation she replied, "Jesus is my hero." She said his eyes got really big and he said, "Good answer Payge!"

I couldn't believe her answer. No Hillary Duff? No Gabriella Montez from High School Musical?

My heart raced. She really said that in front of the class?! I have to admit that when I was her age I would not have had the courage to say it, never mind the fact that Jesus probably wouldn't have even entered my mind.

This weekend she wrote her paragraph to back up the statement. She astonished me even more. "Mommy, I need my Bible so I can look up scripture." WHHAAATTT? Yeah, she put scripture in. John 3:16 to be exact. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Her paragraph ended with "Spread the word to everyone."

This really convicted me in how I live my life. Typically I stand on the famous words of Saint Francis of Assisi, "Preach the gospel on a daily basis, and if necessary use words." I have to say that for the most part I do not use words, but I can tell you that thanks to my ten year old, I'm going to start. So, who's YOUR hero? Today, mine is JESUS. And Payge.

First day of school pictures!

Before school:

After school (doing homework)!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Before their dream world came crashing down

As the summer drew to a close our house was in a flurry of activity, trying to squeeze out the last drops of lazy days, sleeping late, and the carefree attitudes we had all enjoyed this summer. One such activity was a "Back to School" jewelry party that Payge and Kate threw for their friends. They were excited to enjoy a creative activity with girls they hadn't seen since May (and a few they had seen). We enjoyed making bracelets or anklets, eating pizza and cupcakes, and of course some giggles. It was a lot of fun, but I must thank Maria for sticking around to help me out, it would have been way more stress for me if you hadn't, so thanks Maria!

Here are the little ladies showing off their beautiful creations:

On the last day of summer we were invited to a "Back to School Bash" thrown by Samuel and Maci McKinley. Debbie is so creative, she set up her backyard with multiple "stations" for the kids to enjoy, almost all of which had to do with water. The favorite by far was the trampoline with the sprinkler underneath. As you can see from the pictures, they all had a blast!!

Here's the kids sitting still long enough to enjoy a snack:

Paige and Payge, or as they are lovingly referred to, Little Paige and Big Payge:

Another recent outing was a trip to the Wichita Art Museum. I'm embarrased and ashamed to say that this was my first trip there, despite the fact that I've lived in this town for almost exactly nine years (this month will officially mark our 9 year anniversary of being Kansans). Maria and I loaded up our children early that morning, but decided to take the scenic forty-five minute trip through Wichita to get there. (For those who don't know, it normally would take no more than fifteen minutes). I guess we were chatting too much, because before we knew it we had missed our turn, which happened approximately two or three times!! So despite our early departure, we were only able to spend about an hour and a half at the museum. We decided we'd have to make a return trip soon. Anyway, the museum has a fairly large area for the children to play, so we spent most the time there. The girls put on a split second puppet show:

Here are my girls making some art of their own:

And finally, proof that we were actually at an art museum. This is a glass sculpture that hangs in one of the main areas of the museum:

So there's a sampling of what we've been doing this summer. Here's the biggest kick in the pants to me as a mom; when you ask my children what they did this summer they will inevitably tell you "Nothing really, just mainly watched TV and stayed at home." AHHHHH, whaaaattt?!?!?! Seriously, I heard Kate telling this to someone. Of course I had to set her straight. Besides the three activities listed, this summer we: went to vacation bible school, visited the local library for books and videos (on a weekly basis!), vacationed at the lake, spent a week with Grandma, hosted Jenny, Ben & Isabelle for a week, had multiple sleepovers, went to the zoo a couple of times AND took classes at the YMCA (rock climbing and gymnastics)!!!! Gesh, all I ever did during the summer when I was a kid was to watch TV and stay at home! (It's a joke, get it?!?!)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Apparently we live on Zuckerman's farm. . .

. . . because Charlotte has moved in. The past week or so we have had a nightly visitor in the corner of our sliding glass door. I'll admit that I'm more than a little frightened when I open the door to let the dogs in and out, because she sets her web up right at eye level. It makes my scalp tingle when I see her there. At first I was trying to convince Paul to kill it. Now, I'm not normally so mean when it comes to creatures, but here's my train of thought:

1) when/if it comes into the house will it bite me while I'm sleeping?!

2) when/if it has a million little babies will they come in and bite me when I'm sleeping?!

3) when/if it or it's babies bite me while I'm sleeping will it get infected?!

4) when/if it or it's babies bites me and it gets infected will I have to go to the hospital?!

5) when/if it or it's babies bites me and it gets infected and I have to go to the hospital will it be too late for them to save me?

6) when/if it or it's babies bites me and gets infected and I have to go to the hospital and it's NOT too late for them to save me will I end up with a staph infection that results in major life-long disabilities?!

You see my delimna. But I overcame my fear and let it live.

Paul managed to get some great shots the other night. When we viewed them on the computer I was more than a little surprised at what I saw. Take a look:

Do you see the cross on its back?!?!?! Now tell me there isn't a God in heaven.
"How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures." -- Psalm 104:24

Thursday, August 9, 2007

My husband, the painted man

Okay, so we've all made a few mistakes in our lives, right? I know that a few of my mistakes have been permanent, but at least the mark they leave is in a more subtle, internal way. But what if they weren't? What if you had to wear one of your mistakes like a big "stupid badge" for everyone to see? And what if it looked like this:

This is my husband's left leg. Or at least it was, up until Tuesday night.

Paul was nineteen when he got this tattoo. It's a Rastafarian, which to my husband, or the boy my husband used to be, was symbolic of marijuana. Yeah, in his teen years he liked to do that sort of thing. (Insert praise to Jesus here for his power to change a person's life.)

Anyway, most people didn't know what this little running man stood for, so for years it wasn't a big deal. Except it became a big deal.

As most know, we volunteer our Wednesday nights to a ministry at our church by the name of ARISE. ARISE is for students 6th through 12th grades.

Add to that formula the fact that a band by the name of "Insane Clown Posse" uses an image identical to this little man, which they refer to as "hatchet man". A lot of the students that come to the ARISE ministry are familiar with this band. For those that don't know or aren't familiar with ICP I will tell you that they seem to promote some pretty disgusting things. Things that are so vile to me that I won't dignify them by posting any of they're lyrics. 'Nuff said.

So for the last couple of years Paul has had to explain time and time again that the image that he bears is NOT that of hatchet man. Most of the kids don't believe that.

I personally didn't think it was a big deal, until one day we were in line at a local restaurant when a complete stranger asked Paul the million dollar question: "Is that hatchet man on your leg?" To which another explanation had to be made. That's when it hit me that it was a big deal. I didn't want people thinking that. I finally understood what it must have felt like. I would be revolted if someone linked me to that band.

Paul has researched having this tattoo removed, but the cost prohibits that from happening. So for my husband a bigger, brighter light came on. "Why not cover it with a NEW tattoo?!?!"

He asked me what I thought and I was for it, with one condition. "Why don't you ask God what he wants you to cover it with?" It seems it didn't take the Lord long to answer that question.

So August 7th Paul went in for a new look. It took 5 hours, but the results are amazing. Here's my husband in the chair, with the very talented Duncan:

Here's the beginning stages, the outline:

And the finished product:

The tattoo is based off of Ephesians 6:10-18 which reads:

"10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."

Now no longer a mistake, but a tangible reminder of our task as followers of Jesus Christ.