Tuesday, August 4, 2015

the long struggle short

If many aspects of your life seem like a long struggle, you're not alone. I feel that way, too.

I realize my life is pretty sweet and I need to get back on the gratitude train, but even so, some things just seem like permanent struggles, my own sin and shortcomings premier in the line-up.

But in my morning fill-up-my-cup spot, I was reading about the Lord speaking through Samuel, choosing David, and anointing him as King years before he actually took the throne.  I've read the story before, so I know there is a long struggle ahead for David. 

From my journal in which I ask lots of questions:

Why was Saul allowed to go on so long?  Why the long struggle with Saul and David?  Maybe God was building David's character?  

After all, "The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance.  The Lord looks at the heart."  I Samuel 16:7

And this:

"...but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."  Romans 5:4

And of course, the long struggle seems long, but it only seems that way.  We pass through life and learn and grow and then one Day the long struggle will seem like a whisper of a moment. 

In the meantime, we persevere and we gain character and we hope in the One who knows the struggle and will end it. 

Amen. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Dent cousins

Usually, it's moderately difficult to get these guys together for a picture.  But I think they might have sensed some sort of familial unity in the hot Texas air that day.  When I asked for a picture, I got it and even despite the long and harsh shadows of high noon, I like it. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

camp on the mountain


One night toward the end of the week, someone asked one of the girls in another church group what she had learned that week at camp.  She was holding a glow stick and made a profound connection right there on the spot.  "I learned that people are a lot like this glow stick," she said.  "They have a lot of potential, but they don't work (shine?) until they're broken."

Bingo.




Love this crew!












I thought camp in the mountains was going to be easy and fun and mountain-toppy.

Oops. 

Granted, Colorado in the summer is gorgeous and mountain biking was one of the most fun things I've ever done.  I developed a love for and a relationship with all the kids from our church which was and is supremely wonderful.  But I realized very quickly that this was going to be hard.  And that I was going to be broken.

From day #1 as a parent, you are no longer the kind of person that can leisurely stay up late without consequences so you don't.  Maybe every now and then you stay up a little past 11:00, but that is only because it is a VERY special occasion.  You think it's adorable how people might go to a concert that starts at 10:00, but you would never even consider it.  So that first night when we stayed up really late I realized that while I may be starting to come out of life-with-small-children, I'm still there.  I am way out of practice with staying up past midnight and definitely staying up past midnight a lot of nights in a row. And it broke me a little bit.

And besides the lack of sleep, I realized just how introverted I've become over the years.  The lack of time alone broke me a little bit.

And besides all the togetherness, I was grieving all week having just lost my grandmother.  It broke me a little more.

And besides the grief, Anna Grace got sick and my boys at home were at home and I missed them and I almost fell to pieces one night.   More breaking. 

So I was broken, stretched, tired, and short-fused through much of the week but as another one of the kids said to me that week (what is it with amazing insights of teenagers one minute and really corny laughs the next?), our God is SURPRISINGLY CONSISTENT through it all.  He's right.  The Lord surprised me with a valley experience on the mountain, but He is surprisingly consistent- faithful through it all.  Looking back, I learned that when He calls me to do something for Him, it might be beautiful and back-breaking all at the same time.  In fact, it probably will be. 

So yes, mountain camp broke me, but hopefully I can shine brighter these days for it.

After I catch up on some sleep of course. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

so much camp

Camp Bethany,  basketball camp, American Girl doll camp, soccer camp, weird science camp, Mountain Camp... I'd say AG had one amazing summer!  It makes her little extroverted heart so incredibly full. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

10 million heartbeats


Last night, I held my very sick 5-year-old and felt his heart beat on my chest.  It was galloping twice as fast as mine and I marveled at this muscle-engine that is the heart,  beating life through our veins for 90 years or more, never stopping. Indeed, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Then, I thought about my Leah's grandmother's heart, recently given rest from its constant duty.  And then I went back- I thought about that day in late October 1921 when newly born Anita's tiny heart first beat outside the womb instead of in.  It was small but it grew as she ran and played with her many siblings.  Maybe it skipped a beat when she saw her childhood friend George one day in a new way and maybe that heart skip gave her a clue that he was the one.  Her heart was probably full when she walked down the aisle to become Mrs. George Dent and it must have been grieved but steadfast as he was shipped off in 1943.  Her heart must have raced as she birthed her children, David, Karl, and Donna. Her mother-heart grew even more over the years of love and service and devotion to her family.  Lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub... it kept beating in the good times and in the struggles.

If you knew her, you knew her heart as overflowing: with joy, with love, with service, and with strength- it was a well deep and rich, supplied by the love and life of her Savior.

My cousins, siblings, and I knew our grandmother's heart as a laughing one.  The lines on her face drawn up, the woo-hoo, the sing-songs were the outflow of her light heart that loved us well.  As I held her hand the day before her heart stopped, I was grateful for the ways this 93 year old heart pumped and the way it imparted life and love to so many over those many years.

One day, we'll hold hands as something more like sisters.  Inside our chests, we'll have new hearts that will beat forever, our Rescuer having overturned our sin and death and we will be gathered together, facing eternity of life that is greater and better than we can even imagine.

Thanks be to God for that great reunion coming, for the One that makes it possible, and for the 10 million heartbeats of Anita Morris Dent.  Amen. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

mountain bound


I'm sitting in a hallway in Augusta, Kansas.  While it's true that there's no place like home, it's also true that there's no experience like a mountain top experience and I am lifting my eyes to this next week's adventure in Winter Park, CO, with a whole big bunch of teenagers and Jesus.

Besides the mountain biking and whitewater rafting, a highlight for me will be helping to teach a photography session.  I am thrilled.  In conversation with the leader with whom I am teaching, he mentioned off-hand that we might start with the theology of photography and added with a question mark in his voice that maybe that's a little weird.   Really, there is nothing that makes more sense to my heart.  To take in the beauty of creation, to open our eyes, to compose a photo with intention and surprise is to partner with our Creator in seeing what He has made, using the tool in our hands to capture it and make it still, make it last a little longer so we can look and give thanks. 

Personally, it's especially appropriate for this week as I mourn for my grandmother- if you knew her, you knew how she almost always had a video camera rolling.  She loved life and its beauty, too.  So this week, I'll carry on for her, camera rolling.

Lifting up my eyes.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from? 

 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber; 
 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand; 
 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

between the two



"The power of stories is that they are telling us that life adds up somehow, that life itself is a like a story."  Frederick Buechner

Life is indeed like a story, and I have more to tell.

Last Monday, I captured two births- two amazing, beautiful and holy moments.  The baby's first cry takes my breath away every time. 

And then there's death.  Just yesterday, I knelt by my grandmothers bed, held her swollen hand with the opal ring, and as she slept, her body inching toward eternity, I sang to her, prayed over her, asked her to hug my dad for me, to hold my baby, to say hi to PawPaw, too.  Tonight, she's doing just that.  She's gathered to her people, knowing Glory, with Jesus, seeing clearly, made whole. 



The moment was peaceful and rife with coincidence.  I had been reading through the book of Ruth, scratching in my journal about clinging to Jesus like Ruth clung to Naomi. The hospice's nurse's name?  Naomi.  Her sister's name was Ruth (of course).  As Naomi was telling me about my grandmother's waking the night before and how she was getting her to copy sounds, my little sister texted me at that very moment about a dream she had about my Memaw copying sounds and then "she turned into looking so pretty and good in bright teal clothes" and our dad was sitting in the corner watching.  It was rife with coincidence or rife with glory and the comfort of the Lord, nudges confirming Presence and great Care and Love.

I, of course, firmly believe the latter.

I'm only a whisper of a life, but even so, this is part of my story:  I've witnessed the beauty of life and the heartache of death.  But Something heavy and important pervades both experiences. What we do between the two really matters.

"It is hard to have patience with people who say, 'There is no death.' and 'Death doesn't matter.'  There is death.  And whatever is matters.  And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible.  You might as well say birth doesn't matter."  CS Lewis, A Grief Observed

"The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up."  I Samuel 2:6

"The arrival of new life eclipses everything.  When all goes well, the room is filled with happiness and all the pain that went before is forgotten.  Where there was mystery, there is knowledge.  Where there was fear, there is love...   The departure of life eclipses everything.  When a death is good, the room is filled with peace and all the pain that went before it is forgotten.  Where there is mystery, there is knowledge.  Where there was fear, there is love."  Jennifer Worth


Anita Dent,  October 22, 1921- July 15, 2015, how we loved her! 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dad's the best



Our Father's Day 2015 Round One was a bust.  We spent the morning with him, but soccer camp was waiting and our whirl of suitcases and snacks and goodbyes made for a less than stellar day for this man we love so much.

Not to say Father's Day 2015 Round Two was all that redemptive.  I tried.  But the kids are really tough customers sometimes and maybe too young to understand all the many ways their dad loves them and it mostly ended in them arguing about whether or not it actually was, in fact, Father's Day or not.  At least we had a gift this time.

And now that I think about it, his new watch is appropriate.  I stayed up too late folding laundry and watching the movie About Time, which involves time travel and lessons on loving people and life with all you've got.  I've only got 45 minutes left until the clock strikes midnight on Father's Day Round Two 2015 and I wanted to spend it writing something we can remember:  That Jack Chaney is like my favorite band playing my favorite song in my favorite venue.  He's a good dad, a great dad, the very best dad to these three growing people we're raising and I am grateful to the highest degree for all that he is and all he does and all he has become, a rock of a guy if there ever was one.

So sorry about Round One, Jack, and Round Two for that matter.  Too bad we don't really have that time machine we've always wanted.  But here's to making the next one, and every day in between for that matter, really count. 

You're the best. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

a favorite


Waking up to a dining room table full of empty glasses and small plates because all of the dishes couldn't quite fit in the dishwasher the night before- that's one of my favorite things.  Candles burned all the way down means light and life was served here and I may not like cooking necessarily but I sure do love feeding people. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

enough

Asher this morning:  "When I grow up, I want to be a kid again." 

I always seem to want more of everything, but most especially, more TIME.

More time to work.  More time to rest.  More time with the kids.  More time with my husband.  More time with my friends, to run, to clean, to write, to think, to read, to snap pictures of this life that flashes by me so quickly.

But sweet Momma T reminds me that today is enough, I am enough, but most importantly, my Creator God and what He's given me is enough:

"Be happy in the moment; that's enough.  Each moment is all we need, not more."  Mother Teresa


Enough, not more. 

happy campers


His first year of Sky Ranch was a great success!  Zeke and cousin William had a blast. 


My heart swells.

"Jesus calls us to his rest, and meekness is His method.  The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort."  A.W. Tozer

Sunday, June 21, 2015

the Secret Things

These days I can very often be found wearing ear buds.  I have found Audible.com to be a wonderful way to boost my productivity-  I chop onions, clean toilets, match up clean socks, edit pictures, and even walk the dog while listening to books.  It's great.  My husband and I share an account and it was his turn to make a selection, so I've been listening to Stephen King's 11/22/63 - a story about time travel and the JFK assassination.  The story's main idea is set on finding a moment in time that changes lives and going back and changing that moment.  It's an interesting thought. Jack and I are big fans of stories of time travel and big-thinking science for that matter so although the book is a little too dark for my liking, it spurs some good conversation.

What would you go back and change if you could?

my dad in the 1950's, top left
 Jack says maybe he wouldn't change anything.  After all, God uses all our mistakes and is in the business of redemption and what if all the mistakes we've made have brought us to this moment- this good moment in time?

True.

But I was thinking less about mistakes and more along the lines of accidents.  I wasn't even thinking about big events in world history like Stephen King.  I was thinking of my life, people I know.  What if I could go back to late October of 2002 and stop my parents from getting in the car that night that Dad crashed into a tree on a dark Texas highway?  I think if I could change any one thing, that would be it.

But then we talked some more about the possibilities and whether or not time was linear or if some sort of multiverse reality would blow our minds one day. But of course only God knows the why and the how and the what if's of this fragile life we live.  The "everything happens for a reason" cliche is too much of a cliche to really settle our big questions.  It just doesn't.  What settles them a little better is what I read in Deuteronomy a few weeks ago- "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."  (Deuteronomy 29:29) Maybe that's the same idea as the cliche, but really it's more complicated, deeper and more layered than that. There are Secret Things too much for us and it's more than a just a reason, it is a reality and a host of possibilities, all sparked and set in motion by a God that is Love. 

It makes it simple, but it doesn't necessarily make it easy.  Some things have been revealed and some things haven't.  The Secret Things belong to the Lord our God and we trust Him as the small and vulnerable children we are.

Still, on days like today, I think about finding a wormhole to change that moment in 2002 only because I sure do miss my dear old dad. I'd even hang out for years in the late nineties if I had to like King's protagonist did in the 1950's.  But alas, the Secret Things are too much for my capacities, so I'll trust in what has been revealed.  Death to be defeated, everlasting life gifted, and an eventual Reunion.  And though I may tear up thinking about my dad's hearty laugh on this Father's Day, what HAS been revealed is still enough.  More than enough.  It is the Gospel, Good News, for however long the Secret Things remain secret.