Sunday, May 25, 2008

Running thoughts...

Well, now that school is out, I finally have time to get back into my exercise routine. About 2 years ago I started running for stress relief and fitness and was getting pretty good at it. I was by no means the fastest, but I was holding my own in most races. Then, after running my first half marathon, I let life get in the way and I pretty much just stopped running. I never intended to stop...only to sit out for a while, but life has a way of filling in the empty spots with something and before I knew it, I hadn't run in almost a year.
I knew I'd be slower when I finally tied on my running shoes again, but I had no idea how much ground I had lost during those months of inactivity. What had once come easily was again a trial. Every step was a struggle. Make that every step IS a struggle. Even now, after trying to get back into the swing of running I'm struggling to regain lost ground. I am far more "out of shape" than I realized. Tonight, I tried my first Spin class....that's when it really hit me just how far back I'd fallen.
For those who've read my blog, you know there's a spiritual connection coming in here somewhere - and you're right. As I sat in my Bible study tonight, I had the thought that when we aren't actively seeking God and studying His Word, it's a lot like not exercising. We may think that we can pick up the Word and be right back where we were when we left off, but we can't. If we're not actively growing in Him, we're actually losing ground. Just as I struggle now to find my pace in running, if I stop growing in Him, I'll find myself struggling spiritually. It doesn't happen all at once. We get "busy" and let our study slip and before we know it life fills in the empty spaces and we turn around and realize it's been months since we've spent time with Him...really spent time with Him. I don't want to find myself in that position again. I want to thirst for Him like I thirst for water after a hard run....and nothing else can satisfy.
Okay, one more "running revelation" before I end this blog.
One day while out running, I was thinking about the phrase "run after God" and it started to puzzle me. If God is the one who draws us near, and He is like the father in the story of the prodigal son who runs out to meet his wayward child, then why do we have to run after Him? I began to wonder if this was some idea I had come up with from songs and such that wasn't based on scripture. In researching, I discovered the verses about running the race and about walking with God, but nothing about running after God. (Anyone who knows of such a verse, please let me know!) Evidently, this running after God was in the same vein as 'cleanliness is next to Godliness' and 'God helps those who help themselves'. In other words - a man made idea.
As I meditated on this, I felt as if the Lord was prompting me to not be in such a hurry all the time. All He required was that I WALK with Him. I didn't have to try so hard to 'do things for God'. I was simply to WALK with Him...and at times we would run together. This has changed the way I do a lot of things, including how I run. It's still hard to get out there in this heat and put one foot in front of the other, but now on my runs I try to be aware of the blessings around me....the evidence of God that truly surrounds us. I try to meditate on the scripture that I'm studying at the time, or pray for those who come to mind. And at times, I simply walk...with Him.
I don't know about anyone else, but I don't ever want to go back to sitting on the couch again - either physically or spiritually. Life is too short to waste it on something like that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The spice of life....

The other day in my 5th grade class, one of the students happened to ask about my sons ethnic heritage. Of course, being 5th graders, the question came out more along the lines of, "What is he?" I've long since learned to bite my tongue and not blurt out 'Human, what are you?" because I know they simply want to know what his ethnic heritage is. "My son," I replied, "is Chinese, Korean, Caucasian, Filipino." To which one of my sweet kids blurted out, "Jalapeno? Did you say he was jalapeno?!?"

Now, not only is that funny when you hear it, but it struck that 'Random thought' nerve in me when I realized my son has definitely brought spice into our lives.

Almost eleven years ago, we decided that we wanted to adopt again. (For those who haven't read the story of our first adoption, check out God made.) Now our daughter was adamant that she wanted a baby sister. We decided to leave it up to God. We filed the papers and began the wait. Of course we were anything but idle during the wait, we were after all chasing around a two year old! This time, however, the wait seemed to take forever! After almost a year of waiting, I began to wonder if perhaps God didn't want us to adopt again. Perhaps I had forced the issue. We were so blessed with our daughter, maybe I was being selfish wanting a second child. And still, we waited.

Then the call came. There was a baby boy whose birth mother had chosen us. He was 3 weeks old and if we were willing, we could pick him up the next day. The excitement must have carried us, because in 22 hours, we put up a Christmas tree, put up a crib, told our daughter that we were getting a baby boy not a baby girl, bought formula, clothes, etc. and drove 4 hours to meet our new son. He was the most beautiful little boy I'd ever laid eyes on. His jet black hair and big brown eyes melted me...and so did his beautiful birth mom. She was such a gift to meet. I think of her and her parent each time I look at my son's big loopy curls and freckled nose.

She asked us to keep a family name that she had given him. Of course we said yes. We'd already chosen his first name based on the fact that we'd never met a kid with that name who wasn't a great kid, (teachers - you'll understand that!) His middle name was to be my maiden name. So we decided to add her family name after my maiden name. That is, until I called my mother to tell her she had a grandson. When I told her his name, she said I should change it to where the name the birthmother had given him was first. All I could ask was "Why?" "Because," she said, "when you put that name first, his whole name is your grandfather's name."

Now that may be confusing, but in essence, by adding her family name to the two we'd chosen, we were naming our son with my grandfather's name. For me, this was a confirmation from God that not only were we to adopt again, but that we were to adopt THIS child. And believe me, with him, we've needed that at times! Life with our son is never dull! There was the time he went running up and down the hall with a towel tied around his neck jumping and running, jumping and running. Finally, he leaned exhausted on the door frame and said "Daddy, I'm having trouble flying! I keep on landing!" There was the time he learned to write his name and wrote it on a name tag at the Bethany Picnic. When he went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror, he sighed, "Oh no! I did it again! I wrote my name backwards!" Then there was the time he decided to run away from home - without evem a diaper on...don't worry, he only got as far as the door. Oh, life has definitely been full of spice since he came along.

I heard in a Bible study this week that when something that comes so naturally to others doesn't come naturally to you, then you are a candidate for the supernatural! It is so humbling to think that God looked down at our family and heard our cries and gave us not one, but two beautiful children. God does hear the prayers of His children, and though the answer may seem long in is coming.

My son once said, "I wish I'd been born in your tummy." All I could say was, "I wish so too, but God had other plans. He put our family together for a purpose. We needed to have two children just like you, and the only way for that to happen was for him to have you grow in another mommy's tummy and in my heart. We are a forever family, put together by God. If that's not spice in life, I don't know what is.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

God made.....

We have always known what a blessed family we were. Since our daughter entered our lives through adoption over 13 years ago, we have been a family living with the constant reminder of God’s grace toward us. When we were blessed three years later with her baby brother, we knew life would never be the same......

Most families begin the same way, man and woman fall in love, get married and have children. For us however, things didn’t follow the pattern they were supposed to. I met my husband in Jr. College. He was sitting on the air conditioner - right above the sign that said “Do not sit on the air-conditioner” and it was love at first sight. Of course, it took us 5 more years to get to the married part. Soon after we married, we decided to start our family…only things didn’t go according to plan. Things rarely go according to my plan.

Our story isn’t unique, many couples go through the heart-ache of discovering that having a baby isn’t an option for them. Since we realized that the love in our heart didn’t require that the child be “flesh of our flesh”, we decided to adopt. Unfortunately, the adoption fell through and we found ourselves heartbroken and questioning God. I didn’t understand why God wasn’t hearing our prayers….why it seemed that the world was crashing down around our shoulders and there was nothing we could do except ache. Life lost its color and joy. Laughter left my heart for a very long time. God did slowly heal the hurt, but there was still that empty space in me that longed for a child. Since I wasn’t willing to be hurt like that again, I often said that God would have to send a telegram telling me Himself that we were to adopt again. Eight years later that telegram came in the form of an invitation to a Bethany Christian Services banquet.

At that banquet, we heard adoptive parents speak, a birth mom speak, and we saw countless pictures of happy children who had found their forever families. Before the night was over, we knew that we were on the road to adoption once again. Nine months later, our daughter came into our home. With her came laughter like refreshing water to a thirsty soul. I never knew how much I could love someone until I held her in my arms. I also realized what a sacrifice her birth mother had made in choosing adoption and I prayed for her….I still do.

As our daughter grew, we were blessed with joy that words could not express. She was and is the apple of our eye. We talked wherever we went and she was becoming quite expressive with her language. As we would drive, I’d point out the beautiful colors in the sky and ask her, “Who made the sky?” She would respond, “God made the sky.” I just knew that we had a child prodigy on our hands.

At the park, I’d point out the flowers and ask, “Who made the pretty flowers?” Her response would be, “God made the flowers.” What a joy! My child was so smart!

When we’d see butterflies, I’d point out their beautiful colors and ask, “Who made the butterflies?” She’d answer, “God made the butterflies.” Obviously, my child was destined to become a spiritual giant!

Then one day, I walked into the living room to find the floor covered with crayons! I put my hands on my hips and said, “Who made this mess?” She looked up at me with those big brown eyes and said very matter-of-factly, “God made the mess.”

I still laugh when I think of that day, but her words make me realize afresh and anew just what a miracle working God we serve. Through all the turmoil, He brought laughter. He gave us hope where there had been only heartache. Where there was emptiness, He brought fullness of joy. Where there were wounds, He brought healing. He truly did give me the oil of joy for the ashes of mourning. Though I did not deserve it, He gave us the most precious gift and He did what no one else could do.

No, God didn’t make the mess….but God certainly can take the mess and make a miracle.

Next time, maybe I’ll tell you about my son!

Monday, May 5, 2008

I am Iron Man

I took my kids to see Iron Man this weekend, and other than some objectionable “womanizing” scenes at the very beginning, it was pretty good. There’s the whole ‘bad guy realizes the folly of his ways and turns good’ kind of message. I was surprised to the modern day references that seemed so much like they were pulled from the front page headlines. The horrors of war were, well, real. But that’s not the purpose of this blog. This blog deals with the closing line of the movie.

Spoiler alert – for those who haven’t seen the movie, I may give away the ending here!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog. At the very end of the movie, after Tony Stark has defeated the bad guy (at least we hope he has), he is about to go into a press conference. Just before he goes out, he is given an iron clad (sorry for the ‘iron’ pun) alibi as to where he was when the city witnessed this cataclysmic battle between the huge bad guy iron man and the much smaller, but far more resourceful, real Iron Man. All he has to do is stick with the story and his identity remains a secret; he can continue to do good and no one will ever know that Tony Stark and Iron Man are one in the same. Just read the cards. That’s all he has to do; read the cards. Of course, he doesn’t follow the plan. (Has Tony Stark ever done things according to plan?) In a flurry of words, Tony Stark blurts out that he is Iron Man. In fact, he inadvertently refers to himself as a super-hero in the process. That is the story of this blog.

That last scene of the movie really bothers me, probably because it hits so close to home. All I could think of as I watched was, “Shut up, you idiot, shut up!” It was as if I was watching an exaggerated version of myself. As a Christian, I know there is truly no good thing within me except Jesus. In myself, I am no different than the first Tony Stark, the one who lived for his own pleasure alone. But occasionally, I am able to see God do wonderful things through me, in spite of myself. Through His mercy and grace, He allows me to play a part in what He is doing on the earth. To be able to share His love, His mercy, His power with others who are desperate for a Savior is so amazing. Then, I am given the perfect opportunity to slip quietly into the background and just watch….problem is, there’s too much Tony Stark in me to do that. I find myself wanting to blurt out, “I am Iron Man.” I want to call attention not to God, but to myself. That part of man that wants desperately to be noticed screams out. Even though I tell myself, “Shut up, you idiot, shut up!” I continue on. And in an instant, the beauty of the moment is tainted by my own selfish ambition.

But, there is hope that this is slowly changing. Some would say wisdom comes with age. For me, I think it’s just finally starting to sink in through my thick skull. Say no more than needed, allow God to work and then quietly continue on. As Joyce Meyers says, "It's really not about me." Hopefully, I'm finally starting to learn. No, I’m not iron man. I’m just blessed enough to have been allowed to be a part of what God is doing. For a moment, I was used for something far greater than myself. That feeling is golden….and no moment of iron can compare.