Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Madi's World

I was digging through some stacks of paper this afternoon attempting to weed through the scraps and come up with enough recyclables to start a fire.  Madi's World slipped between my fingers and my eyes rested on it with a smile. I don't remember which day it was carefully crafted, but my eyes welled up with tears.



My world hasn't felt like this lately. The clouds have been thick - in the sky and in my brain and the tears and rain have fallen easily. The flowers have started to wilt and almost anything that was green is now covered with brown, crunchy leaves. I'm digging hard to find the blue sky. And the sunshine?? It seems far, far away.

The truth is I've thought a lot about this world lately; the world I live in - the one I'm raising my children in. The one where people die too young, where friends get diagnosed with cancer and where gunmen walk around slaughtering people like they're playing a real-life video game.  This world where our hopes and dreams come crashing down around us and everyone just seems to keep on keeping on.

I'm aching for the aching and I'm crying out to the only one who can heal this broken world.


"During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." Hebrews 5:7-9

Our perfect source of eternal salvation. He suffered, by choice. He was crushed, by choice. He submitted, by choice. He knows this pain, because He chose to.

He came to show us he knows. He came to show us he sees. He came to show us he feels us. He came so that He can be near in our suffering. He came so that He could be our source of eternal salvation. He came so that the sunshine will be here again someday. He came so that the clouds will part and He will appear! He came so that the world will flourish again one day. He came so that we could all be made new!

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." Revelation 21:3-5

I'm longing for the day when Madi's World is my reality. I'm longing for the day when this pain will no longer be remembered. I'm longing for a day when the sunshine will be the glory of the Lord and the sky will never, ever grow cloudy.

Thank you, sweet girl, for the reminder.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

His Path of Totality

There was a lot of hype. I mean a LOT. News crews couldn’t stop talking about it. The coverage on it had started well over six months ago and if you’ve been breathing in the last two months then there’s no chance you didn’t hear something about it; the path of totality, the horrendous traffic it was going to cause, the gas shortages, the lack of groceries. Businesses had closed down and planned their day around it assuming their employees wouldn’t be able to make it into work. People were prepared; geeked out, or maybe just ready to stop hearing about it.

If you live local, chances are you were just as curious if the crazy was going to be as crazy as they predicted, as you were about the actual event. Either way, there was hype!

I was excited, mostly just excited that it was convenient for us to see. But to be honest, other than a two-minute computer simulated video clip I watched, I really had no idea what to expect.

            So we put our glasses on, pulled out our lawn chairs and buckled up. I tried to be extra cool and show up to the party with donuts, but alas the apocalypse really did occur and the ENTIRE TOWN OF STAYTON was out of donuts by 8 am. And the coffee lines, don’t get me started on the coffee lines! Those were the only two things the news should have been warning people about, but I suppose I digress…

            Emmitt was really into checking the eclipse through his glasses and keeping me posted on the moon’s status.  He heard all about hurting his eyes so he wouldn’t even look out our tinted car window (pre-eclipse) and tell me if there was a cloud in front of the sun for fear of hurting his eyes.  I tried the faceplate thing for Asher to which he screamed like he was being attacked by a lion so I played it cool and ripped his glasses out and just pinned them over his face. He liked looking through them and finding the “moon” and then he’d pull my hands away and try and find it without the glasses (pray for him). Madi just marched around like a princess carrying her newborn cousin, Cami and wearing shades when necessary. We were as ready as we knew how.

            We watched with wondering eyes as the last percent of light from the sun slid away and the moon glowed with wonder.  Darkness swallowed up the light, but not without an unremarkable glow radiating from behind. I really don’t have any words to describe it. Majestic.  Jaw-dropping.  Mystical.  None seem to do it justice. We hooped and hollered and jumped up and down. The kids ran around on turbo speed with glow sticks strapped around their necks and legs and arms. The temperature dropped and the birds started chirping.  Matt reported seeing a super confused owl flying around the sky. Our shadows became extra sharp and a few planets twinkled like stars.

            Matt was watching it from the parking lot of his school (work, *eye roll*) and he said people’s shouts and cheering could be heard all through town. In an instant, an entire valley erupted in worship. Instant, simultaneous worship at the hand of our God.

But I’m not sure they knew it. 

When the overworked network finally calmed down I got a text from Matt that said, “I was really hoping to hear trumpets. Not today, I guess.”

Not today, I thought. Not today.

His beauty, His perfection absolutely radiated our little valley yesterday, and essentially every person stood in pure bewilderment. I haven’t talked to a single person who said, “Meh. It was okay.” Everyone’s response has been even more amazement than they anticipated. For a split second, we all stood in wonder.

            Wonder. 

            Neck’s craned--eyes wide open in complete wonder.

            And the reality sunk deep, of the day we really WILL stand in wonder. 

            A teeny-tiny glimpse of what His radiating light will be like.

“For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. Immediately after the distress of those days,

‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
Matthew 24:27-31

             I doubt I’ll make it to another full solar eclipse. 

             Which is totally fine by me. 

             I find so much hope in knowing that what I saw was only a glimpse of the glory I will see one day.  
            
             Words can’t even describe it.

Majestic.

Jaw-dropping.

Fall-to-my-face glory.


-->
“He who testifies to these things says, 
‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” 
Revelation 22:20

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Three-Year-Olds

In two weeks we would have a three-year-old in our house. I've been thinking a lot about what that would look like. I LOVE three! I was just telling someone the other day that it might be my all-time favorite age. They are so excited about life! (They still love their Mama!) They're so verbal and the constant attempts at new vocabulary end up with the cutest expressions. Their tiny little life-perspectives are exemplified in all the ways they try to learn new things-pulling on what they already know to make more assumptions, often either completely wrong or shockingly profound. Soaking in all the grammar around them like little sponges. And always so cute. So, so cute. As I was mulling over all of this, I stopped, in total awe of their tiny little life perspectives-TINY little life perspectives.

That's me, I thought.
I'm three. 

"You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You  discern my going and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain."
Psalms 139:1-6

Your knowledge, Lord, is too lofty for me to attain. YOU KNOW ME BETTER THAN I DO!
My three-year-old perspective is vain in comparison to your all-knowing, all-seeing eyes. 

My heart wandered back to my three-year-old. The ways he would test and learn, try and try again to grasp this life just a little more--explore with his speech, ask with his eyes, search with his actions. I would laugh with him, smile with him, marvel in his tiny little thoughts, cry with frustration, agonize over the trying times, all the while teaching and showing truth and more life. The perspective would broaden. Connections would be made. Vocabulary would grow, and progress, and we would keep guiding him through this life.

So I cry out to my God for more eyes to see, more ears to hear. For a three and a half-year-old's perspective, instead of just a three-year-old. Show me the big picture, Lord!

"How precious to me are your thoughts,
God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of
sand--
when I awake, I am still with you."
Psalms 139:17-18

Once again I'm left longing for the eternal perspective. The one I can't have yet. This birthday that will come and go without anyone here to celebrate-what is the Lord whispering?

"You'll have a thousand birthdays with him again someday." 
"Trust me."
"This is like a drop in the bucket."

But also,

"I hear you." 
"I feel your ache." 
"You are not alone."


"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and 
wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the 
depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were
written in your book
before one of them came to be."
Psalms 139:13-16

All the days ordained for me...before one of them even came to be. I will praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 


Friday, May 19, 2017

Picnics & Cemeteries

I've been promising the kids for  months now that when the weather finally gets nice we could take a little trip up the road to the hidden cemetery.  It's less than a mile away and it's tucked back behind old, overgrown trees.  It's quaint. It's cute and we explored it with compassionate eyes this afternoon. We packed a picnic and put on running shoes, because Emmitt's request was that we "take a run together". We drove to a closer pull out since our road is deadly and packed the stroller for Asher. He caught us off guard with his snores in less than 10 minutes and we spent several minutes strolling the old stones reading them together. 

"Mom, what's this one say?" 

"How old is this one?"

"When was he born?"


Most of the headstones were old. We brushed off some thick moss and did our best to read them. Tiny little headstones with just initials from the 1800's had been replaced with communal family headstones listing all their loved ones with birth dates and death dates. Babies. So many babies that just read, "infant of..." in fancy cursive writing. Reading each made me wonder what that day looked like for each family. One family we found had buried four, FOUR children all under the age of five, all in a different year, and the mother lived to be 95. I read it three times cause I kind of couldn't fathom it. Another family buried a six month old, a five year old, and then the wife died 17 years before her husband. I read them all to Madi and she looked at me with pained eyes, "Mom, that's a LOT of suffering for that man!" Yeah, baby, I whispered. That's a lot of suffering. 

We kept wandering and we talked about whether these people were with Jesus in eternity right now. I looked at each one and I hoped they were. Some of these people had lived a couple years, some had lived decades, a few had rounded off a century, but they all had one thing in common. They certainly weren't here anymore. I thought about my restlessness with this world and I wondered if they were ready to meet their maker. 

Cemeteries give a weird aura. You either enter their presence and feel the urge to turn and run or the desire to wander and wrestle, almost like you're acknowledging that it will eventually be you on the other side of the dirt. I can't say I've ever minded them. Strange, maybe, but the longing to know each story has always drawn me in. I think that's how Madi felt today too as we read through the names and talked about the years. 



Finally, we found an old oak, threw down the blanket and pulled out the goods. We chatted and ate and the kids pulled down maple leaves to make brooms and fans and we wandered again before we left.  "This place sure is sad, Mom," Madi commented, but she never wanted to leave.

I agreed. There was certainly an element of sadness to it. But we talked about how that's real life. Finding joy, but always acknowledging the hard. The sad. The brokenhearted... because they are all around us.

That's what really keeps us hoping, right? Hoping that all the pain and sadness and heartache around us will someday be gone, truly gone? Hoping that there must be something better? 

"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." C. S. Lewis

Indeed, C.S. Lewis, indeed.




Oh, also, there were BEES! :)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"Home, Lord, home, Lord - ALL THE WAY!"

My dad turned 65 last week.  Ten years ago that sounded old, and twenty years ago it sounded really old.  Neither of my grandpas made it to their 66th birthday, so as a kid my perspective was slightly skewed (not to mention anyone over 18 just IS old when you're little). So I suppose what I'm saying is that as I ease closer to the halfway mark of 65, I've realized it's actually not that old. (You're welcome, Dad ;)

Several months ago we had this one super sunny day in the middle of February. You probably know it if you live around here, because there are literally no other days to get it confused with. Anyway, in the excitement of the moment I sent a text to a few friends and low and behold we all spent our afternoon at the park soaking in the rays. It was glorious. The kids played and we chatted about all the things. Somehow dying came up and I announced that I couldn't wait to die and that my goal was 65 - I felt that was a fair age for me to aspire to as it still feels like forever but at the same time I really don't want to be 90! I think one of my friends may have choked on her water and they basically all assured me that was probably too young. I kind of agreed to disagree and we moved on with the conversation.

A few nights later it was my birthday (remember that almost halfway to 65 part?!?) and I had the opportunity to steal away for a couple hours and listen to whatever I wanted to all by my lonesome in the car. I turned on a podcast that I'd been wanting to get to and soaked in every breath of this sweet lady's words. Jill Briscoe is almost 82, grew up with bombs being dropped all around her during World War II, and has spent countless days in countries all over the world sharing Jesus with strangers.  She read this poem she wrote at the very end of one of her recent trips to India:

One day in India after a traumatic and wrenching ministry visit, Jesus asked me a hard question. It happened like this:
Shaken, drained, discouraged, sickly
Tired and troubled and depressed, 
Glad the time of serving over,
Now I’ll go home and rest.
Hot and humid was the weather
Sad and needy was the crowd, 
Feeling I had done my duty,
Earned the time of rest allowed. 
Soon I could return to family
"Yes," tomorrow I’d be gone, 
Sitting in the last hot meeting,
I tuned in to what went on.
Listened to my husband preaching,
My, it was a great last talk, 
All about the call of Jesus,
All about our life’s “faith walk.” 
Stuart opened up the Scriptures
Talked of Jesus’ pain and loss, 
How He who was our great sin bearer,
Bore our guilt upon His cross.
What a great word for the students!
Hoped “they’d” listened, yield their hearts, 
They were young, their lives before them,
Now their turn to do their part.
Time for prayers of dedication,
I was tired, so late at night,
Shut my eyes and wished it over,
When a picture sprang to sight!
Saw a cross alone, discarded
Lain at rest against a wall, 
Who’d lain down such holy symbol?
Who’d abandoned life’s “faith call”? 
Then a voice so dear – familiar,
Asked a question – pierced me through, 
Who is it that you’re expecting
Carrying it home for you?
How could I lay down that crossbeam?
How to think that no one saw? 
Who did I expect to lift it,
Carry it to heaven’s door? 
"Jesus, Jesus, please forgive me,
Carried Thou your cross for me, 
All the way to hell to save us,
Help me carry mine for Thee!"
"I’m no hero – special woman
Just a lady, old and gray, 
But my cross, Lord, I will carry,
Home, Lord, home, Lord – ALL THE WAY!" 
Spoke His voice so quiet – but clearly then:
"All the way home, Jill; all the way, all the way home!"
I sat there and wept in the car. "Home, Lord, home, Lord, all the way!" I whispered. The conversation fresh on my mind of dying at 65 creating a much needed conviction about whose life this really is.

Here's the truth. For the last two and a half years I haven't really felt like this is home, and I am so thankful for that perspective. We moved shortly after Zekey died and people were often asking how much we loved our  new home and if it really felt like "home" yet. I often smiled and said it was getting there, but deep down I've longed and prayed for nothing to ever feel like my "forever home". I know it's not here. I might be here for ten more years, or twenty or even forty more years, but I won't be here forever. I long for the day I'll be home, really, truly home, and if that means I'll have wrinkles and gray hair, then BRING IT ON old age!!! I know it's healthy to want to be with Jesus. I know deep down that to die would be such a gain {for me} but what I hadn't been focusing on is all that can be gained, for Him, while I'm still here. I want to be whole. I want to be free from sin and pain and all the evil in this world, and I want to spend my days in the presence of the Lord, but I want it to be in His perfect timing, and I want to carry my cross to the end. "Home, Lord, home Lord, all the way!"

So this is my cross - to dig deep into his word, to point my kids toward Jesus, to love my husband, to beg Him to show Himself to me more and more and ask Him to reach deep into the lives of my friends and family, to take big deep breaths and say, "You are good", even on the days that hurt, and to long to be made whole.

Jesus, help me carry this cross. I can not do it alone! 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Five-and-a-half

We have a five year old in our house who is just dying to be five-and-a-half! He’s been asking wih eager anticipation now for months and we’ve basically had a count down until that day arrives… Because obviously five-and-a-half sounds so much bigger than just five!
I remember so many things about November 15th, 2014. For just an ordinary day, I can recite what we did almost hour by hour.  But sometime that afternoon I pulled our oldest up onto my lap and I said with excitement, guess what tomorrow is?!? It’s YOUR half-birthday! That means you’ll be exactly five-and-a-half! She squealed with excitement.
We don’t necessarily celebrate our half-birthdays, but we do get excited about them…at least the kids’! Milestones are the best when you’re a kid. They make you feel old and extra special, and it seemed so old to think about my biggest baby being five and a half already!!!
Little did I know that that day would be marked by much more than just a half-birthday. It would come and go without me ever exclaiming with excitement, You’re five-and-a-half! It would be a half-birthday forever marked by the sting of death.
So as we ease up to Emmitt’s half-birthday, the same half-birthday that marked such tragedy for Madi, there’s a part of me that gasps a little with the thought of Emmitt reaching this milestone. Could my second possibly be this big already? Has time really just kept marching by?  Will February 24th be another catastrophic landmark in my life or just another half-birthday in the books?
The thoughts are all over the board and the sentiment is high. Emmitt was so little when his brother died, just barely over three, but he’s always been the chattiest about Zekey. He often exclaims how he wants him back again and just this week he asked me with deep sincerity, “Mom would Zekey be playing Legos with me if he was still here?” The disappointment of that reality stung a little as I assured him he probably would be.
Yesterday my almost-five-and-a-half-year-old was taking pictures and videos of his baby brother on his watch when he exclaimed, “Mom, I should keep these ones, huh? Cause that way when Asher dies before I do, and I’m still alive, I’ll have pictures and videos to remember him with!” and I whispered, yeah baby, keep those pictures.
Five-and-a-half is here, and I’m excited to celebrate you, Emmitt Matthew!




Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Death - Oh Your Sting

Today marks two. Two. Whole. Years. Two years since the air hasn’t smelled the same. Two years since the leaves started crunching a little different. Two years since my heart was broken -- shattered, into tiny little pieces.  I’ll never forget that morning, or all the things I did that week leading up to that day-when all things came to a screeching halt.

Death.  It doesn’t just sting. It downright hurts. It comes and it takes and gives nothing in return. It robs us not just of what we had, but of what we thought we had.  All the future memories. Gone.  The birthdays we were going to celebrate, all the Halloweens we had left to dress up. Death takes it all, and replaces it with tears. Buckets and buckets of salty tears.  And two years ago today marks two years since death came and it stung hard.  It tore away the baby in my arms and it left me gasping for air. It burned. It gouged. It was more than a sting.

So today we just sat and reminisced. We reminisced the burn, because today, today it’s just a sting. We reminisced the memories, and we reminisced the memories that came instead. The ones I never planned--not the birthdays that didn’t happen--but the relationships that DID. The tears that have been spilt, and the conversations that have come. The friends that have stood --stood tall like oaks, and the family that has been faithful. The love that has been poured, poured all over us, because of the sting.  


And just like that we celebrate being closer, TWO YEARS CLOSER to eternity. Two years closer to having every tear wiped away. Every. Salty. Tear.  There’s a song I can’t sing without crying and it goes, “When we arrive at eternity’s shore, where death is just a memory and TEARS ARE NO LONGER. We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring. You’re bride will come together and we’ll sing YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL.” And like clockwork the tears pour, because my tiny little soul can hardly imagine a day where death will be just a memory. It can hardly believe a day when the tears will never come. It can hardly believe a day when the STING will be GONE!

"'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'" 
Revelation 21:4-5

Sunday, February 7, 2016

141...again

Today, I'm having my very first "guest blogger", and he doesn't even know it! :)

My dad sent this to me first thing this morning. It is beautiful and captures so much, so perfectly. I don't know how to encapsulate this day, besides to say I'm happy to see it come and go. Although there's a part of me that feels a twinge of jealousy and guilt to see my little Asher soar past this milestone, it is exactly what I want, all at the same time. Thank you, Jesus for 141 days...again. We love you and miss you, oh so much, Ezekiel James. We love you and celebrate you, oh so much, Asher David.

From my dad...

Asher at 141

Woke-up sometime after 5:00 AM as I did for so many months.
Asher is clueless today, to what this means, to what he reminds us of.
A celebration that this day has come, and that it is going.
Like the Angels in Heaven celebrating for the one lost soul that is redeemed but doesn’t know that a joyous party is going on. A day with a huge hole in our lives, now still a wound, but getting smaller.
Emmitt’s words when learning of a new baby brother: “This Baby is NOT going to die!”
The events of the day we lost Zekey are simply dreadful to recount. The 2:00 AM call. The anguished cries in that hospital room of our beautiful daughter and wonderful son-in-law. “He’s perfect!” She cried as the waves of grief crashed over them and into us.
And so he was, and is still, ever perfect in the arms of a Loving God. The same one who entrusted him to them and to all of us from the start.
But fear and grief want to say, to whisper, “It could happen again."
But it didn’t. Not this time. Not today. It could have. Yes, there is a risk in living that leaves us vulnerable to devastating injuries. The God-created antidote, the medicine, is turning to, not away from, the great healer, Jesus. He was for a time in Palestine a health-care machine, and is so today.
Thankfulness to our God, gratefulness is the Rx with love and time for this wound. Reach too far, stretch in the wrong way, and the wound re-opens. Grief is always waiting in ambush when least expected and least wanted. Sometimes we know it is coming, waiting for us and we are in anguish in anticipation of another smaller Tsunami of feelings. Christ is our Breakwater. Thankfulness is our response, because it turns us to Him and puts our loss, my loss, in His perspective, where it is appropriate.
This is it. Today is it. Gratefully we live through it. Saying again to the High King of Heaven, "Thank you for Ezekiel James Olson, and thank you for Asher David Olson.”
Thank you Emmitt, because you are right. This baby is not going to die. He’s not going to Heaven too. Not yet.
Asher will never know what he, and this day mean to all of us. He is at once a reminder of the sting and the ointment. 
So… smile today. Laugh for us to hear. Cry for your needs as you do so well. Remind us. Help us to say again, aloud, "Thank you Lord for 141 days! Twice."