Sunday, October 16, 2011

Surprised by Love

I'm stuck in Numbers.  I mean really stuck.  I think I'm now 6 days behind in my daily reading.  It was bound to happen, right?  I'm a busy lady.  Four kids, homeschooling, and so on and so forth...

Plus, my pain medication makes me sleep like a baby... right through my alarm clock.  

Numbers and post-narcotic fog aren't a great combination.

I'll catch up.

It'll take a few cups of coffee, but I'll catch up.

I'm sure there's gold to find in Numbers.  Just gotta dig for it.

I'm continuing to pursue gratitude in my day to day struggle with pain and the "shaking" that comes with it.

Today, Mark comes to mind.

I fell in love with Mark in a moment.  Literally.

One minute I was expressing my love to the Father and the next moment I found myself head over heels in love with a man I hardly knew.

We were in Juarez, Mexico, co-leading a missions team of teenagers from my church in Colorado Springs.  Mark had been hired to lead the trip and I was paired with him as the female leader.  

In retrospect, I think it was a set-up.

Regardless, this guy with long, curly black hair and a huge personality seemed to me to be out of my league so I turned off any initial "stirrings" and focused on the job at hand.

I tend to do that.

Turn my heart off.  

God usually has to turn it back on for me.

Our first night in Juarez we gathered the team in the upstairs room of the orphanage for a time of worship.  It was a sweet time of singing and sharing.  As I led the team in "Oh God, You Are My God" I was overcome with gratitude for all that God had done and was doing in my life so I stopped singing.  The team followed my lead and the room became very quiet.  After a minute or so of silence, Mark began singing the song once again.

In that moment, as I was completely focused on my love for God... a thought came to me - out of nowhere.

"I can't live without this person."

I think I gasped.  


I know I cried.

Love was ignited and I was completely overwhelmed by it.

And then, true to form, I chose to despair.

"How could a guy like Mark ever love ME?  God, why would you do this?  He's NEVER going to feel the same way!"

"He lives in TULSA!  That's in OKLAHOMA!"

I spent night after night during that week in Juarez tossing and turning.

I lost 5 pounds. (didn't mind that part so much)

Little did I know that God was doing something in Mark as well.

The day after I had my "moment," Mark was back in the upstairs room with the team leading them in morning devotions.  I wasn't there because one of the teen girls had somehow locked herself in the bathroom and I was stuck trying to communicate with one of the NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING orphanage custodians as we tried to keep her calm and get her out.  Good times.

As Mark led the kids in their quiet time, he sensed the Lord speaking to him and saying, "Remember all those things you have asked me for in a wife?"

"Ummm, yeah.  Where did this come from?"  (This is what he told me later he said in reply)

And the Lord said, "Well, they're all in Kaysie."

Now, the difference between what God was doing in Mark and what God was doing in me is pretty important here.

I had actually had initial thoughts of my own before my "moment."  Mark had not.  His God moment was his FIRST moment of any kind as far as I was concerned.

In retrospect, I think God spent that week stirring Mark's heart towards me, while teaching me to trust Him.

I wonder why He insists on constantly teaching me lessons on TRUST?

By the end of the week, with some help from a couple of friends playing matchmaker, we had some idea  of the mutuality of our feelings (though we never discussed it) and a spark of hope had ignited in my heart.

I remember such a sense of wonder in it all.

I remember being amazed that this guy would like me - maybe even LOVE me.

I was surprised when I knew for sure that he did.

And grateful.

Three weeks later we were engaged.

Yep.  When you know, you know.

Seventeen years later I still find myself surprised by Mark's love for me.

I'm selfish, perfectionistic, controlling, distrustful, pessimistic... broken.

He loves me anyway.

It surprises me still today.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I Remember When...

Still plugging away at the Old Testament.  Halfway through Numbers now and it's definitely more interesting than Leviticus.  I've read the Old Testament several times before, but this time, as I read, I'm reminded of something Mark noticed when he read through the Bible several years ago.

God wants us to remember.

So many times, throughout the stories of the Old Testament, the Israelites would be led to stop where they were, build an altar or a monument of some sort, and take time to say thanks to God for whatever He had done for them in that place.

They marked the place where it happened.

This way, whenever they came across that spot again (or whenever someone else traveled by), they would remember (or learn about) what God had done there.

Surely these markers of remembrance (or "remembrance stones" as I've heard them called before) helped them when times got tough.

I've lost count of the times when people, who were/are much wiser than me, have told me that gratitude is one of the greatest weapons I have when in battle against Fear, Anxiety, Depression and countless other enemies of my soul.

It's true.

When I spend time reflecting on a moment in time when I KNOW God met a need or desire, or comforted and carried me through a crisis, my heart is calmed and the places within me that are shaking are steadied.

This is a good time for me to be doing that.

Today I am remembering a Christmas when I was about 11 years old.  I know... Christmas - and it's only October.

But I've got Christmas on my mind.

Anyway, this particular Christmas things weren't going too well with my family.  Money was tight.  Actually, there just wasn't any money.  My mom was struggling to find ways to keep us fed and my dad... well, he was struggling.  As Christmas approached it was pretty clear that without a miracle that day would be like any other day in our house.

My mom begin to encourage my brother and me to pray.

Now, I'll tell you I don't really remember praying.  I remember my mom praying.  In fact, I have strong memories of getting up every morning for school to find my mom had been up for hours, with her Bible and a prayer notebook.  I knew what she was doing.  I knew how desperate things were.

I was already pretty cynical and pessimistic at 11.  It seemed safer to me to keep my requests to myself.

I do remember telling my mom that I wished I had just $25 to use for Christmas shopping.

It's important that you know that as a general rule, we didn't talk about our situation with others.  I'm sure word got around.  It wasn't a very big town.  But we didn't do the talking.

This was true that Christmas.  My mom prayed.  That was pretty much it.

So, about 2 weeks before Christmas my mom received a phone call.  A man in our church had decided he wanted to give a handful of children $25 for Christmas shopping.  My brother and I were two of them.

Cool, huh?

I was thrilled.  I'll never forget the day we got to go shopping.  We felt rich.  I bought my mom a pair of earrings.  Patton bought dad a tobacco pouch.

But that's not the significant part of this story.

Besides shopping money, there was ONE THING I really, REALLY wanted for Christmas.

And I didn't tell anyone.

I didn't pray for it either.

Too risky.

I just kept it quiet and tried to prepare myself for the disappointment that I knew would come on Christmas morning.

Christmas morning came.  I woke early.  Patton and I were notorious for waking at the crack of dawn on Christmas day.  I walked toward the living room, and there... kneeling before our Christmas tree, with her Bible open on the floor at her knees, was my mom.  She was crying.

But she wasn't crying tears of sorrow or disappointment.

She was crying tears of thanksgiving.

And she was surrounded by gifts.  There were many, many packages under the tree.

Really, it seemed like magic to my eleven year-old mind.

Until we began opening presents.

There, in the midst of it all, was the ONE THING I really wanted.

It's going to sound silly when I tell you what it was.  In fact, it doesn't really even matter what it was.

What matters is that He knew.

And in that moment, I knew... He loved me.  He knew me.  He SAW me.

It marked me.  And today as I tell the story, I remember.

And I'm grateful.