Friday, April 27, 2007

Kindergarten Circus

Today I went to the Kindergarten Circus. What an oxymoron! I thought kindergarten was a circus. Wait! This outing made my day a circus.

Enough! This post is not so much about the circus. It's really about my tiger, Alyssa.

Now, I've been to the Kindergarten Circus before. I enjoy the Kindergarten Circus as much as the next parent.

But, today was super duper enjoyable.

My little tiger growled and clawed and arched her back. She raised up on her hind legs and clawed the air as the tiger trainer commanded her. She lept through the fiery hoop with such ease, finesse, agility, strength and height her costume of furry ears flew off her head.

Then I got a great look at her orange and black face filled with animated expression. She had a fierce and confident look plastered to her face. She was not shy at all. She loved performing as a tiger. She was full of movement, the sly, strong movements of a tiger.

She stayed in her itchy costume without complaining. She stayed in character with a roar stuck to her face.

She didn't just wave to me like the other kids. She clawed at me from the circus arena. She didn't yell, "Mama," she growled and purred like a big, furry beastly cat.

She acted just like a giant circus cat throughout the entire circus...and it was a long circus!

She impersonated a tiger in animated characterization with such careful attention to details. She knew traits and mannerisms of tigers that I have never really noticed before today.

The "animal angel" got to be a tiger today. Even though she did not get to be a monkey like she wanted (there were no monkeys in her class), she superbly and joyfully embodied the tiger with her whole heart. She did her very best and it was absolutely amazing!

(She said Jung-Woo could have been a monkey. His class had the monkeys!)

It was honestly one of my best moments as her mother. I was so proud of my tiger!

Alyssa is such a cute furry little tiger!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Beautiful Feet

Fourteen months ago, my son, Palmer, was born. He was a beautiful dark haired, blue eyed, chubby, cuddly baby. He was perfect in every way.

But, there was just something about his feet.

The doctors said he had probably just laid in a funny position in the womb and not to worry. By the time he was two-weeks-old, I was scared. I could not figure out why his feet looked so different to me, so unique and unlike my other babies' feet.

I casually asked the doctor. He casually answered me. This momentarily eased my fears.

After all, if something were horribly wrong, a doctor would notice it, right?

I prayed and asked God to allow others to see what it was I could see, to show me if I was being a weird, paranoid, freaky mom.

We continued to get check-ups and to get the okay.

Fourteen months passed. I did not consciously worry. He has been described as "pigeon-toed" and other such terms. I asked general questions to the doctor and to others. Again, slight reassurances were gained.

Subconsciously, I was terrified. I silently declared victory as each developmental phase was reached. He rolled over, stood in the exersaucer, bounced in the bouncy thing, crawled, stood and walked around furniture. I breathed a sigh of relief each time we put on tennis shoes and he attempted to take a step. Each time thinking that when he hit the next milestone I would believe nothing was wrong. No achievement eased my fear.

Then someone I love who is around Palmer regularly voiced concern over his foot turning. As she voiced her concern exhorting me to call the doctor, I silently vowed to race him to the emergency room if I needed to.

The truth is there is something unique about his special little feet that only his mother (and his Heavenly Father) can see. I believe God gives us the "mother alarm" to alert us to things with our children that no one else seems to notice. Whether the sounding of the alarm moves me to pray more fervently or to demand a diagnosis more quickly, I believe God truly helps us to parent our children. I had asked God to allow someone else to see what I had been seeing if I needed to pursue this matter.

Outwardly I calmly replied that he was due for a check up as I echoed my concern. Inwardly my mind raced through hair-raising possibilities beginning a downward spiral that would threaten to overwhelm me with fear...and (gasp) guilt.

As I visited each worst case scenario in my mind, I began to pray. I scheduled a doctor's appointment. I prayed some more.

The first thing God did was remind me that fear of any magnitude is sin. I repented.

He then showed me that any "concern" or preoccupation we have is darkness and sin until it can be uncovered and totally in the light. I was worried about Palmer's feet. I would talk it out, look for answers and ask for God's help. I had been telling myself that everything would be fine when...He crawled, stood, wore tennis shoes, walked, turned one, etc. The Lord reminded me that the only way to dispel darkness is by getting it into the light.

I told myself I had asked the doctor about it...Light.

The Lord reminded me of the difference between a cloudy, rainy, dark day and a clear, bright, sunny one. Both are day. Both are in the light. One is marvelous light.

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. " (I Peter 2:9)

I'll take the marvelous or wonderful light over dimness or dreary and gray any day!

As I rocked him that night and prayed for a quick diagnosis (or quick walking), an effective treatment (if necessary), a wise doctor whose heart would quicken in response to my pointing this "thing" out and relenting guilt for not strongly pursuing this issue earlier in his little life.

God asked me a series of questions beginning with the issue of His sovereignty. Do I really believe He is sovereign in all things? Did I entrust Palmer to Him even before he was born? Do I believe God is in control of Palmer's life? Do I believe He's sovereign in identifying any potential problems at just the right time? Do I believe He can lead us to just the right treatment or heal him instantly if He chooses? All of these I answered yes. Do I believe anything I did or did not do while earnestly seeking God in prayer could mess up His plans? No, I do not believe we can thwart God's plans no matter how many blunders we might make.

Then, I recited Palmer's life verse, his name verse, claiming it for his life once more.

"See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands." (Isaiah 49:16)

As I prayed I began to see and once more believe that God is totally sovereign, even in the small, personal details of our individual lives. As belief and trust and faith began to well up inside of me, I began to experience His peace. I began to once more focus on who God is and not what may or may not be wrong with my baby.

I saw the purpose of this from an eternal perspective. God wants glory. This is not my life; it is God's. This life is not about me; it is all about God. God wants to receive glory from everyone and everything even little Palmer's feet.

As I began to pray this way, the war was so clear to me. Whether my baby's feet are used to run track or to climb to mountain villages in faraway places to share the gospel, God wants to get glory from Palmer's feet. He wants my baby to live a life of service and worship that gives God glory using all of his gifts and talents...even his feet.

As I prayed for God to make his feet healthy, whole and beautiful, God spoke again.

"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16:7)

How does God's Word define "beautiful" feet?

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" (Isaiah 52:7)

There is a spiritual battle taking place over my baby's feet, over my son's purpose in life, over how this child's life will glorify God.

Please pray with us as we fight for him on our knees.

"He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes (whether they are sickness, fear or worry)." (Psalm 112:7-8)

P.S. We had our first doctor's appointment this week. Our regular doctor said he would like to see him regularly until he begins to walk or until he turns eighteen- months-old. He is considered a "late" walker. I had two other "late" walkers. He said his foot position could be a sign of a balance issue, neurological problems or a muscular issue. There are a number of things it could be that would resolve themselves as he grows, develops and walks. Then again, he may need help getting there. We are getting a second opinion. Pray for wisdom, direction, peace and protection for us during this time.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Retreat & Escape

"Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who trust in Him!" Psalm 34:8

Where have I been? Well, mostly, just doing life. Busily, tiringly, daringly, lovingly, joyfully doing my life, my wonderful, wonderful, busy life.

I have so desperately needed some extended R&R. Not rest and relaxation, although, I have desired those. Refreshment and revitalizing...

Of my spiritual life. I got to go on a Grace Women's Retreat. I had solitude and soul searching. I had fellowship and soul sharing. I had laughter, gut-gripping, side-splitting laughter. I had the proverbial kind of cheer that medicates the heart! The combined effect was soul feeding, nourishment and connection that I was so desperately craving.

I realized that I am truly so blessed to be part of such a wonderful place of grace at Grace Bible Church. These women are amazing! They don't do anything halfway. Everything Grace women do is extravagant, fun, over-the-top. That's one reason a chocolate retreat was so awesome!

I love these women I get to serve alongside. Really love them.

I knew God would be at work when my day started in typical retreat form...hectic. I had clients coming into town. Clients I was looking forward to meeting. Aggie investors who wanted to look at lots of condos. Condos mean numbered buildings and walking around and around and around. It was a gorgeous day and all went well. We even finished ahead of schedule. A wonderful, fun and surprisingly, low-stress morning.

Alas, I had missed about nine phone calls during our viewing. Yikes!

As I mentally made plans to go home, load the boys up and pack my own retreat items to be on time to meet six other women, I realized I needed to make phone calls and someone wanted to buy a condo. Yes, I said, "BUY a condo!" Sounds wonderful, right?

Well, yes. Wonderful and time consuming!

Immediately I start the phone calls, paperwork and emails.

Andrew wants to go to lunch. I now have two hours to make calls, type paperwork, scan emails and show pack.

I politely decline. I cannot eat.

My wonderful husband begins my paperwork for me, finishes it, scans it, emails it, completes it, scans it again, emails it again, begins negotiating my deal. (Thanks, Honey!)

We go to lunch.

I show condos.

I pack.

Sort of. I forgot contact lense items, make-up and some other stuff that I already forgot that I forgot it.

I get picked up last at 4:00 or so.

I am told as I cram into a suburban with six other women to sit on it or leave it. I leave some retreat items and sit on the essential two suitcases, two pillows and two blankets. I don't consider myself high maintenance just disorganized.

We get there after only small amounts of car sickness and queasiness.

As I enter the cafeteria I see some friends who I've known for years and don't often have the chance to visit with or worship with, ladies I love. This was so great!

Then, I see Cindy Brantley, my sister, my mentor, my precious friend. We've been going on ladies' retreats together for years. Almost fifteen years. Since I lived in the dorm at A&M. We go every year...

Except this year. We missed our retreat this year, a first for me. Seeing her was a total surprise. A wonderful blessing for obeying His voice to go. Isn't that just like Our God?

Cindy introduced me to Becky Imperial. I got to pray for and reminisce about my beautiful and sweet Korean sister, Hyeong-Sook. Becky Imperial and Mary Laskowskie were both friends with Hyeong-Sook. They were both on the retreat. Miss Mary from Kingdom Kids! Miss Mary and Julia shared a special bond when Julia was in her preschool class. Miss Mary and Hyeong-Sook shared a special friendship when Hyeong-Sook was in the states. Hyeong-Sook and Julia share a special bond and friendship as well. Sometimes we wonder how everyone we love fits together and at other times, it's so obvious!

Hyeong-Sook was always asking me if I knew Mary and Tom. I did not know Mary's husband's name. Yes, Hyeong-Sook, I know Mary! What a joyful discovery to know the Mary and Tom already that ministered so sweetly to my precious Korean sister and her husband.

Another precious blessing was getting to know so many ladies even better. I love my Bible Study peeps and my GKAB gals.

These ladies bless me. I loved that cramped Suburban ride with six of them. Amy Eppes rose to "funny person status," a very important place in my life. Lisa Sledge, who is on every person's "favorite people list," just flitted around gracefully like the social butterfly she is, caring for every lady she knows. Jill Butler, well, she's been a fav for years. Jennifer Moore, the greatest, most organized person ever, is coming to my house. Yippeee for organized spaces! She's so pretty she could create her own TLC show about organization! Sweet Jenn Chalmers who loves on my kids each week is going to love that smooth porcelain doll skin one day! Crystal England allowed me to look deeply into her heart in a way that we don't get to do on a day-to-day basis. Amy Pilkington shared her many roles as wife, mother, student, worker and leader with us. Kim Nash shared the first hours of her engagement with us! Precious Pam Koch encouraged us with her powerful testimony as only one who has already walked our road could.

There are so many more ladies that gave me glimpses into their souls and invited me to see all that God has done. Thanks, ladies for all you shared with me this weekend.

I got a rare chance to pray for one of the most influential women in my life, Becky Segrest. She has impacted my life deeply, from a distance. She has traveled in and around my life for the last fifteen years as a Godly wife, mother and "older" woman. She is one who has richly shown me how to respect and highly esteem my husband. She is an encourager and teacher to younger women. She is also leaving to share Christ with Ethiopian children and their moms. Please pray for Becky and David as they prepare to depart in July. Pray for their children and grandchildren they leave behind. Pray for the worship ahead. Pray for the medical miracles, the teaching experiences and the relationships ordained to happen since before the beginning of time.

The worship was intimate, powerful, broken and joyful. The teaching was piercing, changing, inspiring and transparent.

Grace women were touched and healed physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I had the awesome privilege of witnessing it all.

I love Grace!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Waffles and the Wave

Look at this cute face! His newest word is, "Cheese!" Palmer says it with this look on his face and then he claps for himself! What a cutie! True to Smith form he loves the camera. With a face like this, it's no wonder!

He can say lots of words now. He's beginning to try to take some steps and he's certainly got the personality of a big boy!

He's a picky eater. Well, maybe not as picky as independent. If he can't put it in his mouth himself, he's not eating it! But, if he can put it in his mouth...He usually loves it.

He loves waffles! He loves the ninety-nine cent frozen variety. Seriously, he eats two or three at a time.

He recently tried one with powdered sugar on it. He ate three of those!

I was beginning to worry. He just spits baby food all over you if you try to feed him that. He does the same with yogurt, apple sauce, oatmeal and jello.

If he doesn't want the solids you feed him, he chews them up and spits them out by just letting them run down his chin. He's a very picky eater.

But, he loves waffles!

I know that as he tries new foods, he'll find things he likes and more things he loves. After all, I wouldn't be a good parent if I didn't let him try lots of different kinds of foods.

Our Heavenly Father gives us different kinds of food so that we can mature too.
"But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:14)

He's at a the cutest stage of waving. He's just discovering he can clap, wave and make a fist with his hands.

He has the cutest little flick of the wrist as he says, "Bye-bye!"

I love that his personality is starting to bloom.

I love this stage of baby. Bye-bye!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Beautiful Thing

This Easter I've been struck with the power of the cross all over again.

God so desired to have a right relationship with us, He sent Jesus, His only son to earth. Jesus was all God and all man. Jesus lived a perfect life yet it was filled with suffering...For us.

"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering..." (Isaiah 53: 2b and 3a)

Beth Moore has an essay titled, "Beautiful." She says, "You know, I've never been a person who saw things like anyone else...Perhaps love is blind. On the other hand, perhaps only love can truly see. Because, my Christ, my Hope, I want you to know...You were always beautiful to me."
I happen to agree.

"But he was pierced for our transgressions...and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)

He loved us so much he didn't just suffer one wound that drew blood. He was pierced seven times. I heard this quote from a friend and it has touched me in a very deep place. "Blood flowed from His head, back, side, hands and feet. Seven places." He wasn't just pierced once for us. He, The King of Kings and Lord of Lords was pierced seven times for us.

When once would have been enough. He was pierced seven times.
He was pierced in seven places to totally cover us in his blood. Seven places that need covered and purified by his blood.
"His hands cover the sinful things we've done with our hands. His feet cover the places of sin we've walked. His back covers all the times we've turned our back on Him, and His side, which is really from His heart, allows our hardened hearts to be softened. It is all about His blood and the fact that we're being covered by it at all points." says Seth Gilbert of the contemporary Christian band, Seven Places.

"He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." (Isaiah 53:5)

Jesus is to be our example in all things. This means how we handle suffering of any kind. Jesus accepted his Father's plan for his life...It was death, to become an atoning sacrifice for mankind.

How do I sacrifice myself for those I love? Am I silent when the mountains of laundry threaten to overtake our home? Am I silent when one or more children are up all night with viruses? Am I silent when pressures of many kinds threaten to overwhelm me? Am I silent when I myself am ill or suffering physically?

All too often, the answer is no. I whine, I complain, I "serve" with a grumpy and sluggish attitude. Forgive me, Lord. My sufferings are so small compared to yours!

"After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities." (Isaiah 53:11)

It is our suffering that leads us to see Jesus, the Light of Life. After we have suffered and come through it, we are satisfied. Only Jesus can satisfy so through suffering, we must find Jesus.
Praise God there is a wonderful purpose in suffering!

"For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53: 12b)

I love the fact that Jesus is praying for me. The ultimate act of intercession was made on the cross where he gave his perfect life as a sacrifice to allow me (and you) to have a relationship with him, with God here on earth and in heaven one day.

Jesus stepped in to give something that I will never have to give. Even if I wanted to give my life, I will never have a perfect life to give. Jesus did something no other human can ever do. He gave a perfect life, a blood sacrifice, to pay the price of all mankind's sin.

I would give my life in an instant for my children. But, would I sacrifice it for a stranger? Would I be willing to leave my children motherless, my husband a widower just so some strangers could go to heaven and be with Jesus one day? I guess Jesus didn't do this for TOTAL strangers...We were each one created by God in the image of One who knows us intimately.
So much to ponder.

Spend time this Easter reflecting and meditating on what Jesus did for us. Spend time in Isaiah 53, the Old Testament prophecy of God's eternal plan for the redemption that was to come.
This is where I'll be this Easter.

"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering...But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed...He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth...After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities...For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:2b,3a,5,7,11 and 12b)

He is risen! Thank God for the power of the cross. He is risen, indeed!