Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A great Easter

Abbie and her "bubby", Kyle

Yesterday was just a good, good day. I don't know how many times Ray and I said that to each other, but it felt new and true each time. The realization that this is yet another last -- the last Easter I will have all my children with me, made it very sweet. Church was wonderful, and then we went to brunch where they had a special room set aside just for us. Quiet and most importantly, air-conditioned.

Abbie's brothers humored me as I led them to the Easter Bunny so I could have a picture with all the kids in it. Abbie was a little upset that we'd gotten there too late for the egg hunt. Actually, we were eating when the announcement for the egg hunt for 4-7 year olds rang out. She jumped in her stroller and looked at me. I felt a little sad for her, but told myself it was too hot and sunny anyway. Besides, the Easter Bunny had given each of the kids a basket, so naturally Abbie ended up with all of them!

She did marvelously, which is always a praise during a long outing. I don't know how she does it, but she seems to grow more beautiful each day. We are blessed.

The contents of my heart, all in one picture

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Where the Spirit of the Lord is....

I've been mulling over in my mind this week how to put words to our Spring Break adventure to the Cascade mountains in Washington. Of course, since this is Abbie's site, most of the news should be about her. She did wonderfully on the plane both ways. Managing to stay awake, not need oxygen, and keep me and Genevieve plenty busy, just until we began our descent, at which time she nodded off...BOTH WAYS.

We had been practicing snow angels in the weeks leading up to the trip, and were looking forward to seeing an Abbie angel in the snow. But, two conditions conspired against us. The snow was welcoming Spring, getting hard, icy and not good for angel-making. We also found that the dry, cold, thinner air was not Abbie's friend. Breathing was not easy for her up there, and she was on oxygen for at least part of every day. We did get to take her for a couple of walks on the nicer days, but most of her time was spent on a couch near a big fire place.

It's always difficult to relish the fun parts of a vacation if Abbie can't join us, but I committed to opening my heart to the joy of my boys, without being overwhelmed by missing our girl. So, we did have some adventures! Suffice to say, I feel fortunate to still be a mother of five. A snowmachine trip saw one boy crash into a parked truck 300 yards into our trip (he rode with me after that), another boy bury his machine in a ditch (requiring an hour of further misadventure to get it out), and yet a third boy send his machine sailing off a cliff...fortunately he heeded my screaming "JUMP" before it disappeared from sight.

(This is before Ray's machine landed upside down on Chase's trying to get it out, before we buried both of them with the tow rope pulled so tight between them we couldn't unfasten it, and before my wondering about how long of a hike down the mountain it might be...)

This picture was taken with the aforementioned cliff behind us, moments before that incident. I'm glad it's not the last one of all of us!!

Realizing that motorized snow vehicles may be dangerous for our progeny, we diverted to snowboarding. I hadn't skiied since I was a teenager, so I thought, "If I have to be bad at something, I might as well be bad at something new." Everyone warned me the first three times are tough. Oh my -- they didn't exactly spell out how hard the getting up was -- I knew about the falling down a lot, but the getting up about wore me out! The helmet earned it's price, but by Day Two, I was getting better. The older two boys had long since abandoned me for the blue and black runs, but it was a blessing to have quiet moments on the chair lift with the twins.

We got to see my mom and Auntie Hazel, my sister and her family, and some precious friends in Seattle. A heart-filling time!
But, even with all that good stuff, I couldn't get focused to write. Sometimes when that happens it means that the real subject of the post hasn't been revealed yet. That's what happened this time.

We visited a new church tonight, because we have a commitment tomorrow that will prevent us from attending in the morning. We knew many of the folks in attendance, so felt comfortable right away, and jumped right into the singing. A familiar song, but sung with such purpose that it came alive -- especially by the number of people dressed in white shirts. Being new, I had no clue what that was all about, and surmised they were a ministry group of some sort.

A special speaker came to the podium to address the group about a recent ministry trip, taken by the group in white, to a prison in Arizona where 2000 prisoners from Hawaii are held. Pastor Roy was special, not only because he strived for two years to make this vision a reality, but because he spoke to us as a former prisoner. Repeatedly he extolled the "God of miracles" who saved him from a life sentence to serve Him, and who removed every roadblock for the Arizona trip -- and there were many, like a fundraiser that ended up losing twenty thousand dollars, but saw many bikers come to Jesus.

As he spoke about insurmountable odds, stones in the path, and crying out to God, you can imagine the twinge of identification that began to grow in my heart. As he described the prison environment, I pictured Abbie's body. Hearing about the confined men, I saw Abbie's spirit. Moment by moment the emotion grew deeper; I didn't know we were still wading in the shallow end.

Then, there they were, on video: tough, hardened, stone-cold, abandoned, convicted, confined men, filing into the service. Slowly, faces softened, smiles came, tears followed. Heads lifted, bodies stood. And, then I heard it...the song we'd sung earlier with such gusto, but these men were shouting it. And, I thought, if they can sing that between those walls, then I can sing it over my girl with the same intensity, knowing that it is true. "Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is FREEDOM."
No razor wire, shackles, constricted muscles or weakened bones can change that fact. Praise God.

It wasn't over yet, though. I watched the folks in white weep during Pastor Roy's talk and the video, moved at how deeply they'd been affected by the trip. He called them forward, and introduced them not only as the prison ministry team, but as former prisoners, each of them. My jaw dropped. They wanted to sing and sign for us. "Lord I give you my heart, I give you my soul, I live for you alone...." More than thirty radiant faces and redeemed lives proclaimed the transformational power of the gospel. All shame had been washed away. The chains of bondage remained behind in a dust-covered past. They were free -- truly free. The God to whom I pray for my girl is the God who had freed and restored them. Big men with tattoos, older aunties, and lithe young women -- what was broken is now whole, and what was lost is found. This image will remain in my mind and soul when I pray to the Lord who has already done the same for Abbie.