Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!

I was reading this morning in Exodus 14.  The story about how God brought the Israelites through the Red Sea.  God allowed them to walk through on dry land.  But the mighty Egyptian army, fervently pursuing them to bring them back to slavery, was covered by the water and "not one of them remained."

Prior to the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, as the Israelites stood on the bank wondering why God had brought them out of Egypt only to die in the wilderness, they scoffed at Moses (and ultimately God).  But God responded to them through Moses and said,
"Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord which he will work for you today.  For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.  The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent."
I don't want to over analyze our lives or over dramatize the events of our summer.  But I also want to pause and listen to God - to remember the areas of our lives that he has recently touched.  For all of us, in the midst of our feverishly high-paced lives, we must stop and give pause to God's workings - to see him, to hear him, to remember him.  That is what Heather and I have been doing recently.  And God especially spoke to me through Ex. 15 this morning.  So walk with me as I remember.

We are in the midst of moving back into our basement now that the Missouri River is slowly edging back into its banks.  As we are moving back, we feel as though in the same way that our basement was completely emptied of everything - including the tearing out of carpet and scrapes and gashes on walls - God emptied our lives through a similarly painful process.  As the basement became a hollow shell where our kids could no longer live, our lives also seemed hollow and barren.  But God didn't just touch the physical house we lived in.  No, he touched much more.

I know that I've talked about our summer's woes here before, but I can't stop remembering God's vivid workings in our lives.  In addition to the basement (which now seems very minor), God brought about flooding at work, breast cancer in my mom, a heart attack in Heather's dad, kidney cancer in my dad, and a very painful situation within our family - painful beyond all the other difficulties we faced this summer.  And in the same way that our basement was gutted, our lives - including dear family members, and right in our own home - was shaken beyond what we thought possible.

We also stood at the Egyptian side of the Red Sea many times this summer, looking back at the approaching Egyptian army.  And we equally complained to God and wondered why.  In the same way, we saw no way out, no way that God could rescue us.

But he did.

As we were placing things back in the basement yesterday, and moving back from a state of semi-clutter that existed before the summer, to now a state of semi-organization, we see how how it was necessary for God's hand to empty our lives in order to bring healing and order back into our lives.  We see how God has healed both my mom and dad from cancer, we see Heather's dad's life spared from a serious heart attack, we see a restoration within our own family that is above and beyond what we could have asked or thought.  We have been slowly healed of the scrapes and gashes that occurred and are grateful that he is the one that brought about the scrapes and gashes and that he is the one who heals them too.

In all of this God walked with us.  His hand brought every instance of suffering.  And his hand brought every instance of healing.    No I don't fully understand how that works, but I do know that his word unapologetically declares that he is in control:  "I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things."  Is. 45:7.

We now stand on the other bank of the Red Sea and look back at God's victories.  The Israelites also stood on the other bank, and it says in Ex 14:30, "Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore."  That must have been quite a sight.  A sight that they should never have forgotten.

But they did.

We want to look back at the great victory that God brought about in our lives and never forget.  We want to stand on the bank of the end of our summer and remember that God can do anything and that he will stand with us through any depth of suffering.  And he will bring great joy to our lives in the process as we taste his nearness.  Whether God brings immediate rescue or not, he is faithful and he is greater than any depth of suffering you or I will face.

After passing through the Red Sea, Moses celebrates God's victory with a song in Ex. 15.  I encourage you to read through it as you look back and celebrate the victories that God has brought in your life.  These are times when we place stones of remembrance in an act of worship to our God.  We remember God's workings as Moses did (Ex. 15:11):
Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
Awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

and we also echo Moses' sister Miriam's song (Ex. 15:21):
Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously,
The horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
Imagine what those words meant as they literally were looking at the horse and rider washing up on the shore.  Though that may seem graphic, God wants to show his power and wants us to remember the utter and complete defeat of his enemies.  His careful protection of his children has no bounds.

We know that God does not always throw the horse and rider into the sea.  Sometimes he allows suffering to last for long periods of time.  Sometimes the suffering is not removed in this life.  He is perfectly just and righteous in placing it in our lives whether it is brief or long-lasting.  It is in those times that we taste and see him in ways not possible during the more pleasant periods of our lives.  So in suffering, we can rejoice, because we feel his presence.

Even though there is no guarantee of relief in this life, we know that there will be a full and perfect healing and restoration on the last day.  He will perfectly make all things complete when we cross that final river and are brought home safely to our Father's arms.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Happy Anniversary! 23 years???

It's been 23 years and I'm thankful for my girl.  It started back in Lincoln where we met while we were attending school at the University of Nebraska (say it with me, "GO BIG RED!!!").

To help celebrate all of our amazing memories from those early years, we went to Lincoln to remember everything our 40 something year old memories can remember.  We may have been wrong about every fact we remembered, but as long as we both have fuzzy memories, it really doesn't matter.

Included in our memories was taking a picture in the Cornhusker Hotel on the same staircase that we had had a picture taken back in year before we were married.  We had only been dating for 6 months.

See if you can figure out which is the picture from 1987 and which is from 2011.  We're both fairly certain that we have not aged.

I know, I know.  Where did I get those goofy glasses.  Arghhhh, the 80's were kind of strange.  Don't you think that her blue eye shadow was mesmorizing?

Our view from our room at the Cornhusker Hotel included this:

We went to the Green Gateau for dinner (which I found out in the process of making a reservation on the phone as I asked them whether they had any desserts since their menu on the internet didn't show any desserts that "Gateau" means "cake" in French....oh, duh.....I guess you probably have plenty of desserts).  The food was phenomenal!!  If you're in Lincoln, you must eat there.

So this is a picture of my girl while we ate at the Green Gateau - Gorgeous!

Here's a picture of her out in front of the restaurant:

And this is a picture of my dessert....yes, I ordered the Green Gateau (which if you're an ignorant American you probably don't know that that means cake in French - I am well aware of that now):

They even serve Ratatouille.  Which if you've seen the movie, you know it's pronounced, "Rat Patootie."

We followed up our dinner with a very romantic movie - "The Rise of the Planet of the Apes."  Surprisingly, I didn't notice too many other couples celebrating their anniversaries at that movie.  Probably went to the later showing.

After spending Friday Night in Lincoln, we headed back home.  The amazingly cool thing about the trip was that we left all six kids at home by themselves.  Yes, all six kids at home by themselves!  It was the first time that they did an overnight by themselves.  They did such a great job that I can assure you there will be many more trips.  I'm thinking Europe!

On our way home, we stopped in Fremont to see my folks.  Dad is still recovering from his kidney cancer removal surgery.  He's doing well.  We called mom on Saturday morning and told her we'd be coming through.  She invited us for lunch and told us that she would put something together for lunch - we're thinking sandwiches.  When we arrive, she is pulling goulash out of the oven, has a nice salad prepared, and bread on a nicely set table.  You're amazing mom!  It was a great meal and great to see them.

I'm thankful to God for my girl.  Thankful for 23 years.  Looking forward to many, many more!

Love ya girl!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happy 7th Birthday Eddie Joe!!!!

Happy birthday Eddie Joe!!!  Even though this post is a day late, it's fun to look back at a cool dude who is now 7.  (I apologize that these are not in order.  One of those blogging struggles that is not worth the fight tonight!).

Enjoy these great pics of Eddie Joe.  He gets cooler every day.

This was taken on the day he was born

 Always cute.

He's always had a thing about climbing into tight places.  There was no telling where we were going to find him from time to time!

1st day of Kindergarten.  So excited to learn!

Time with the Big Fella and his sista

2nd Birthday.  Looking good in his new Huskers shirt.

Always hangin' out with the Big Fella.

Cuddle time with Grandma.

Maybe the only advantage to living up north.....there is a lot of snow to play in.  It's especially good with the Big Fella, T-Bird, and Rye Bread.

The day before his 3rd birthday, chillin' with the Big Fella, listening to their big sister's iPod.

Birthday #3!

If you could only understand the significance of Big Kitty Cat.  How he loved that cat, until she was lost on the plane to DisneyWorld.  Many tears shed......

Sunshine and Eddie Joe at the park in St. Louis.

Christmas present.....a Packers Helmet!

Welcoming Peaches home.  Together as a family of 8 for the first time!  Eddie Joe loves his new sister....though there are a few fights from time to time.....that should probably be left for another post....

At the Alamo!

Eddie Joe loves his bike.

Eddie Joe and Rye Bread at the Mall of America.

A couple of mean cowboys!

Eddie Joe loves to play in the sink!

He was so excited to find Donald at DisneyWorld since he had a Donald Duck shirt on!  And I think Heather cried when we took this picture.

Fun in the rain puddles is always good with Eddie Joe!

Did I mention that he has super powers?

Birthday #6.  That is some serious candle blowin' that's goin' on!

Excited about the new addition!

Eddie Joe with his friend Oksana from Unto Him We Live.

Our celebration of getting our Referral for Peaches.  We went to the nicest restaurant in town and had steak for the adults....and what did the kids order?  Chicken nuggets and hamburgers!  We even included a spot for Peaches' referral picture.  What a great night!

Eddie Joe was so excited for his new sister that he wrote out a note for her all by himself.  It says "Kom Hom Med E".  And even includes some celebratory balloons!

Eddie Joe and his good friend Kate at a wedding.  That girl is going to grab him someday!

Fun at Johnson Lake!

Jumpin' in with his sister.

At the Omaha zoo!

We love you Eddie Joe!  You always make us smile.  You always want to cuddle.  You always want to laugh.  We are so thankful for you.  We hope you had a great birthday!!!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pray for this family!

Thankful for godly friends
Godly friends who are willing to give their lives to others
In spite of the busy-ness of their own lives

Lives that have recently included 
Adopting three from Russia
Giving their oldest in marriage
Sending one of their children to Central Asia
And another to Russia

In the midst of all of this
They still have a passion for orphan care
A passion to share their lives with others
A passion to live for Christ

As they are currently traveling to Central Asia
Where one of their girls will serve others
Their posts will be listed here and here and here

Please follow them
Please pray for them
Please encourage them

Their family is the type to jump on board with
And they will encourage you as you join them
Leave some comments
And let them know that they are not alone
Even though they already know
The One is who with them will never leave or forsake them

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Summary of our Summer - Pain and Peace

We are working on getting our lives back to normal.  As you may or may not know, our summer has been a little different than normal.  Getting home with our Peaches at the end of March, we were prepared for that segment of our lives to be the most consuming.  We were prepared to cocoon and to lay low, adjusting to our new lives with our new little girl.

During our first trip to Ethiopia at the end of February, my mom, who was watching our kids back at home, found out that she had breast cancer.  There was a lot of bittersweet feelings knowing we were soon to bring home our Peaches and knowing my mom was to begin a battle with cancer.  How do you split your feelings between such opposite emotions?  Did I mention that my family has never had any cancer?  God, is your timing always good?  Are you really in control?

Later in the Spring, in late May, we found out that a flood was coming.  The Missouri River would run at three or four times its normal flow for the duration of the summer.  We were told that basements in our town could flood due to rising groundwater.  So we emptied our entire basement - furniture, carpet, doors, everything.  This included the basement section of our new addition - yes, the basement addition that had just been beautifully finished just a mere six months ago.  We also had a similar flood threat at work which resulted in working long hours, seven days a week for the month of June.  There was no time to breath.  We also felt as though we had very little breathe with which to breath.  God, why a flood?  Don't we have enough going on already?

During the middle of the month of June, Heather's dad had a serious heart attack.  It was serious enough to leave his mind not as sharp as it was.  It also affected his cardiovascular system so that he is now very out of breath in everything that he does.  It was a very sobering time to think about possibly losing him.  This was his first heart attack.  It was again a wake up call to God's timing and to His voice.  We begin to now seriously examine our own hearts and lives.  God, what are you saying to us?

Then, within a few weeks after Heather's dad's heart attack, my dad found out that he had kidney cancer.  Did I mention that my family has no history of cancer?  He ended up having surgery 9 days ago to remove the kidney with cancer.  There were concerns because the full extent of the cancer would not be known until he was opened for surgery.  We were thankful to find out that the cancer was completely confined inside of the removed kidney.  Following the surgery he was completely cancer free.  However, he is now down to a single kidney.  God?  Cancer again?  We are listening intently to Your voice.  We are bowed low.  Selah.  Speak Lord.

As if this were not enough, there have been some serious issues within our family that we have had to deal with.  Issues that cut to the heart as much, if not even more, as the health issues of our parents.  Issues that absorb every ounce of mental and emotional energy that is available.  Issues that make you wonder, why now, Lord?  We have no strength.

In the midst of all of this, it is easy to ask, is God in control?  And if He is, then why is He allowing this?  And is it even possible that He is the author of all of this, directing it for His purposes?  Heather and I have spent many hours pouring through scripture, pouring our hearts out in prayer with these and many other questions rolling through our minds.  We have pondered the very being of our great God and have once again come to see that He is high and mighty and beautiful and glorious and that all of His purposes and plans are perfectly issued from His will with great tender care.  We have tasted Him in ways we never thought possible.  We have felt a greater need for Him than ever.  We have realized our frailty and sensed that we are always sheltered under His wing, always protected even in the midst of seeming chaos.

Now as the summer is winding down, the flood waters are soon to recede.  We are thankful that we did not get any water in our basement.  My mom's breast cancer has been removed and she courageously withstood 33 radiation treatments.  For now, she is clean.  Heather's dad continues to recover.  He is easily winded, but is able to get around.  My dad, as mentioned above, is cancer free.  He is at a rehabilitation home recovering from his major kidney surgery.  Oh, and our amazing Peaches?  She has been the easiest part of our lives over the last 4 or 5 months.  Sure, there have been many adjustments as part of having an adopted toddler from Africa, but how we thank God for His many workings in her life.  He is so good.

Life is returning to normal.  God has blessed us greatly.  Not just with many answers to our prayers, but with His presence during times when we received no answer but had to wait.  Our prayer now is that as we move away from some of our recent heart-wrenching struggles, that we would still realize that we are just as frail, just as weak, and equally under His wing.  We have fallen before God's throne many times this summer.  Even though it was during painful times, there was no better place to be. 

I encourage anyone else who is hurting with their own indescribable pain, there is peace, there is mercy, there is healing with Him.  Fall before Him, call out to Him, quietly listen to Him.  He knows your need, He know your pain, He is your peace.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Seven Years Later....We Still Scream for Ice Cream

Now that's some good ice cream!!!!

It was almost 7 years ago that our Eddie Joe was born.  Two days before he was born, we went on our last outing as a family of 6.  The outing included a stop at a cool park in LeMars, IA as well as a stop at the Blue Bunny ice cream store.  After all, LeMars is the Ice Cream Capital of the World!

Tonight, we also made the same trip to LeMars and went to the same park.  And no, we are not two days away from giving birth again!

Enjoy the before and after pics.  We sure enjoyed reliving the moments.  Oh how much has happened in nearly seven years.  Who would have dreamed of all of the ups and downs we have enjoyed as a family.

Sunshine, Rye Bread, and T-Bird - livin' large in August 2004

Same three kids, same swing, seven years later.

Sunshine and The Big Fella.  How awesome is that pic!

Sunshine and The Big Fella again.  Love reliving these moments!

Heather (with Eddie Joe nearly ready to surface) and The Big Fella.

Heather and Eddie Joe on her lap (rather than in her lap) along with The Big Fella.

 Love those kids!

 Still having fun?  Oh yeah, all of the kids were playing in the park!
(great pic Sunshine!)

 Me and my girl

 The Big Fella!

 They are all in jail after being tagged by the Monster!

 T-bird - the Monster

 Peaches had a blast at the park

Eddie Joe loves a good park too

 The eight of us outside the Blue Bunny Ice Cream store in LeMars, IA

Thanks to Blue Bunny for a great night!