Wednesday, November 23, 2005

For All Twenty-Two

Twenty-two people. It feels colossal. That's my immediate family. Nope, that's not a typo. I'm not talking about extended. Not even grandparents. This is just my parents, siblings, and their wives and kids. And next to salvation, I count them to be my greatest blessing this Thanksgiving.

What is it that you are thankful for? Pause and praise God for His goodness this Thanksgiving. But don't stop there. Praise Him each and every day. Try making a running journal of your praises. Then in times of trial, you will be reminded of God's goodness in your life. This is my cyber-journal of my praises for today. You see them pictured above.

I am thankful for my oldest brother Mark, his wife Carol and their three girls: Kirsten, Brittney, and Lindsey. Mark has taught me the importance of knowing what I believe and being able to defend my beliefs.

I am thankful for my second oldest brother Randy, his wife Lori, and their daughter Joy and son Matthew. Randy has taught me how to love people regardless of who they are or what they have--simply because they are made in God's image.

I am thankful for my third oldest brother Brian, his wife Cyndi, and his four children: Breanna, Christopher, Jeremy, and Zachary. Brian has taught me what it means to have a life of service and he has revolutionized my life and philosophy of ministry. I am majoring in Christian Formation and Ministry largely because of his influence.

I am thankful for my brother Kevin, his wife Melissa, and their three children: Christina, Luke, and Rebecca. Kevin has taught me what it means to be a good listener, to show empathy and compassion, and to give of oneself. Thanks to him going out of his way each week, we have a place to meet for Come Thirsty. And not once has he complained.

And finally, I am thankful for my parents. I am who I am because of the way God has worked through them. If my dad had not sacrificed everything he had to send five children to Christian schools and my mom had not prayed daily for her children, my brothers and I would not have the relationship with Christ we now have. My dad has taught me the meaning of sacrifice and my mom has taught me what it means to rejoice when another is rejoicing and mourn when another is mourning. Together, they taught me how I have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

This is my family. They are my legacy, my heritage, and my greatest earthly joy. Thank you, my dear family, for teaching me how to love God. For you, I am eternally grateful.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Arms of Comfort

I absolutely love being an aunt. There is nothing greater than having twelve nieces and nephews. But this week I had to do the worse aunt duty possible. No, it wasn't changing dirty diapers; it was going to the shot lady, as I not-so affectionately call her.

This week Christina and Luke had to go for their flu shots. Since my grad school is in the area, I volunteered to go with them, thinking it would be another time of bonding with the kids.

My nephew was up first, and as the needle was injected into his leg, he calmly and rather unconvincingly said, "Ow. Ow." No tears, no shouts, no problem! Even though his reaction was undramatic, my niece began crying loudly and clinging to my neck, knowing she was next. I held Christina while Luke got his shot, then her mom went to pry her away from my arms. Her screams grew louder. "I WILL NOT LET YOU TAKE ME!" My heart began to break as I was trying to push her away from my arms while she clung on with all her might. She refused to let her mom take her, and she chose me to hold her for the upcoming ordeal.

Now I must say at this point that my worse phobia in life is needles. I'd rather be confined to an enclosed space, touch a snake, conquer a high cliff, eat octopus, whatever. Just keep the needles away. So when Christina boldly proclaimed to the nurse through her screams, "I AM GOING TO KICK YOU!!", I was feeling her pain. The nurse stated matter-of-factly, "Mam, I want you to hold the little girls' legs down. Cross your legs over hers so she cannot move."

At this point, my niece began to shake uncontrollably. She and I have an extremely close relationship, and I was feeling like I was betraying her as I numbly obeyed the nurse's command and held her little body down so she could not move. My niece asked me why through her sobs. All I could do was try to explain the concept that this injection would prevent her from future illness, but a four-year-old cannot rationalize like an adult. She didn't understand, but she knew that my love for her was too great to allow anything to hurt her permanently. She trusted me in spite of that awful moment. I had all I could do not to cry along with her as I held her shaking body in my arms and the needle was thrust into her leg.

As I reflect upon that experience, I am reminded of my relationship with Christ. Trials come my way that I cannot make sense of in light of my limited understanding. I cry out to God, "Why?", but any response I receive seems inadequate. I can fight all I want, but ultimately I must fall back into His arms, trust, and surrender. I don't understand, but He does. He knows that these trials will refine me until I reflect His beauty. And in the painful and slow process, He cries with me as He holds me in His arms.

Have you felt those arms of comfort in the midst of your trial? Have you watched the tears fall from His face as He walks with you in the fire? Rest assured, your Master knows. And His love for you extends beyond comprehension.