Saturday, June 27, 2009

Finding What is Lost

I spent this past week as the lone adult in charge of 14 teenagers who were let loose on the LSU campus for an enormous 4-H event. It was a wild and crazy week, made even wilder and crazier by the fact that the LSU baseball team was playing for the National Baseball Championship ... and won! LSU was one hopping place!

I spent most of the week, racing around LSU, with my cell phone stuck to my ear, trying to keep track of everyone. LSU is a big campus, and parking spaces are hard to come by. It was HOT this past week. I felt like I was melting as I drove all over campus, fought for parking spots, and walked to and from buildings to find my 4-H'ers. Oh, and I had forgotten all of the more lovely aspects of dorm life ... elevators that don't work so you must climb up 5 flights of stairs, showers that are frigid unless someone flushes the toilet and then the water is scalding hot, a/c units that work unpredictably, halls that magnify and carry even the tiniest noise so that someone going to the bathroom at 3 am sounds like an airplane taking off right in your room. Yes ... it was an interesting week, with mornings that started at 5:30 am and days that didn't end until after midnight.

It seemed that every time I turned around, another one of my charges was calling me on the phone, needing my assistance:

"Ms. Paige ... can you come pick me up and take me to the Union?"

"Ms, Paige ... I feel sick. Can you take me somewhere to get some medicine?"

"Ms. Paige, I'm over here in Tiger Town and I don't know if I can make it back to my class on time. Can you come get me and take me there?"

"Ms. Paige, all of my friends left me here at the Union, and you said I couldn't walk on campus alone ... now I can't get back to my dorm. What should I do?"

The most memorable phone call was the one that actually made my blood turn cold in the beginning. It came from two girls who are most definitely blondes. (I can say that ... I'm a blonde, too!)

It was 4 pm on Thursday evening when my phone rang. We had reservations for dinner at a fancy restaurant at 5 pm, followed by the awards assembly and dance that evening. Everyone was supposed to meet in the lobby at 4:45 pm, dressed in church dress. I was expecting one of the girls to be calling about borrowing my hair dryer for the 25th time that week ... or maybe someone with a clothing crisis (forgotten shoes or unable to tie a tie, etc). Instead it was Samantha and Mikayla. Our conversation went like this:

Sam: Ms. Paige ... You gotta help us! Mikayla and I ... well, we are lost. We don't know how to get back to our dorms. Can you come get us?

Me: Well, Sam ... tell me where you are first of all and I'll see if I can help you out.

Sam: We don't know.

Me: If you can't tell me where you are, then I can't come get you. Surely you know the name of the street ...

Sam: No, mam' ... I don't know that. Hold on ... Mikayla, what's the name of this street?

(In the background I can hear Mikayla sobbing, "I don't know! I don't know! We are going to be stuck here forever!")

Me: Okay, look, Sam ... you girls try to calm down. Let's try this. Why don't you just describe what you see ...

Sam: A road.

Me: Can you give me more details? There are a lot of roads. I'm going to need you to be as specific as possible so I can figure out which road it is and be able to find you.

Sam: Okay, I'll try. It's a curvy road, Ms. Paige. It's near a lake. There are old houses everywhere.

Me: Okay ... how did you get there? Did you walk there? Where did you walk from?

Sam: We walked here. Andrew pointed the direction we needed to walk from the Union and we walked this way. And now we are LOST!!!!!

Me: Okay ... it's okay. You aren't going to stay lost forever. Take a deep breath and let me think for a minute. You said it was a curvy road near a lake with a lot of old houses .... Praise God because I think I may actually know where you are! I am going to come looking. Here's what I want you to do. I want you and Mikayla to find a shady spot near a tree but in a place where I can easily see you from the road. I want you to sit there and stay put. DO NOT MOVE. Do you understand me? DO NOT MOVE!

Sam: (sniffling) Yes, mam' .... We won't move.

Me: If I haven't found you in the next 15 minutes, I will call you because at that time I will have to call the police to help me locate you. But we will find you. Just stay where you are and stay calm and trust that I am coming ... and it wouldn't hurt for the two of you to do a little praying while you wait.

As I hung up, I prayed with all my heart that God would help me find those who were lost. And thankfully, I did find them right where I thought they might be... about a mile from our dorms along Greek Row. As I approached the girls and they saw my car, they jumped up, hugged each other in the biggest embrace I've ever seen and raced toward me. I pulled over and they got into my car, hugging each other and me and crying. Sam said, "Oh Ms. Paige! You've saved us! We thought we were going to die!"

So maybe the girls were freaking out just a tad. They weren't going to die, but even so I have to admit that my heart was racing and my blood felt icy to know that two teens in my care were totally lost on such a large campus.

Since that night, it has been on my mind ... and it seems like God is reminding me of a lesson from this event in my life. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to seek and to find that which was lost. God wants to allow those of us who have been found already to be a part of the rescue of the rest of the world. No ... we can't save anyone. But we are to point others to God, and to do our best to make sure that those we know and love are rescued from being lost for eternity.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

UP ...

I took the kids to see the movie UP this weekend. We've been looking forward to it for a while now and it was definitely a movie worth seeing. I cry easily at movies ... but it is unusual for me to cry in the first 15 minutes of a movie. And yet, I did with this movie. I don't want to give away movie plots, so if you haven't seen the movie and you don't want to read about it before hand, please don't read further until after you've seen the movie.

The movie starts off showing Carl and Ellie ... who both are fans of the same adventurer. Carl is shy and quiet and enjoys thinking about adventure, but he is really more scared and faint of heart. Ellie, on the other hand, desires adventure. She dreams of it. In just random clips (mostly without words) it shows Carl and Ellie growing up and eventually getting married. Ellie still dreams of adventure in South America. Carl is content with life, but he wants Ellie to be happy. They save for their adventure, but things happen to prevent them from going ... broken arms, house repairs, etc. And yet, the scenes show the two characters loving each other through it all. The scenes that clip by are just mundane, normal life ... dusting the living room, washing the windows, going to work, etc. And yet, there is just obvious love and affection, even though there is no big adventure. Carl and Ellie grow old just going through the normal, everyday life, always loving each other.

Tears streamed down my face ... what it must be like to experience a love like that! Marriage is more about the everyday living, day in and day out, than it is about the big moments of adventure or romance or special times. It's about choosing to live life together, choosing to love each other while you wash the windows or dust the mantle. It's about every day for the rest of your life. I think the great disappointment in my life has been the failure of my 14 year marriage ... I never dreamed that would happen to me, and so when it did it sort of took me by surprise, even though now that I look back I can see the writing on the wall.

The movie shows how Ellie dies, without ever having realized her dream of adventure. Eventually, Carl tries to take the adventure Ellie dreamed of even though she can't go along. Even as he realizes her dream and it begins to come true, he feels like a failure because she isn't there with him. Then he discovers a note from Ellie, in her childhood adventure book ... she has placed pictures of their life together in her book as her life's adventure and then instructs him to go find new adventures of his own now that she is gone. And the next scenes (again without words) show Carl learning to enjoy life without Ellie by his side, as he has new everyday normal adventures, such as eating ice cream and going on hikes and visiting the zoo.

Monday, June 22nd will officially mark the end of my marriage. Over the past two years, I've come to terms with it in many respects. I don't grieve like I once did. I know that I did give it my all ... I tried my hardest to make it work when everything was falling apart. But the past week my heart has felt heavy, almost as if once again I feel a burden from the failure of my marriage. And yet, as those final scenes played out, it was almost like a whisper from God ... like He was saying to me, "It's okay ... now go ahead and have some new adventures. You've still got a lot of life ahead, so enjoy living it to the fullest."

So at the end of the movie, I was crying too ... I believe that God speaks to us in many ways. Sometimes in it is through the Bible or through a song or through a person. This weekend, God spoke to me at a movie. And He gave me an extra measure of peace about losing my marriage. And I've no doubt the He will continue to trade me all of my ashes for something more beautiful ... just as He has been faithful to do for the last 2 years.

I hope that someday God will give me a second chance at loving someone. I have a lot of dreams about that. I try not to make it a fairy tale in my head. Life and love isn't about fairy tales and romance and adventure. Of course, those things are great and have their place in life ... and I think that sometimes love can feel like those things. But I think that a real and true love is more about washing windows and dusting the mantle and eating ice cream together, as you choose to live out love in a more everyday kind of way... and I look forward to the possibility of having someone special (besides my children ) to share those everyday adventures with for a lifetime.


The kids and I sponsor a child through Compassion International ... a little 5 year old boy named Zavario who is from Uganda. It's a recent thing for us, and a way for us to be involved in worldwide missions even though we can't go serve ourselves.

From time to time I get an email from Compassion International. This morning I got one and it included a link for an 11 minute film on the unfairness of God's grace. I watched it and found the message inspiring .... by the end I was crying.

Here's the link:

If you have 11 minutes to spare, please go watch this short film. If you have $32 a month, please consider sponsoring a child with Compassion ... it is more than just food and clothes. It's about sharing the love of Jesus with children all over the world.

And honestly ... for this Southern Baptist girl ... it is more real than giving to Lottie Moon. I do give to Lottie Moon and fully support our SBC missionaries worldwide, but I've never had personal contact with anyone that my money touches. Missionaries will often visit churches and show slideshows and tell us how our offerings help ... but I've never encountered those people that the missionaries serve. But with my Compassion offering, every so often I get letters and pictures from Zavario ... and I can read about how my gifts are helping his family. Just opening up an envelope that contains a drawing he colored for us makes it so much more real to me and the kids, and encourages us to know that our small amount of money is doing something wonderful and good in the life of another person.

That's my personal experience anyway ... and after all, I don't suppose it is really about how we serve or give because God can use all of us in a myriad of ways. Rather it is about making sure we are leaving the corners.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

God's Love Looks Like Blueberries

Four summers ago I was living in this great little home in rural southeast Georgia. Matt was training at Officer Candidate School, and I was at home with a 5 year old, a 3 year old and a not-quite-two year old. And we had blueberry bushes!

I know it might seem strange, but I remember that summer as being the most perfect summer I can recall. I was so happy at home with the kids ... we played in the sprinkler and the sandbox and enjoyed playdates at the park. And every evening we picked blueberries off of the bushes in the backyard. Nathan and Julia would eat them straight off the bushes. Joel and I would pick until our bowls were full and our legs were itching from the mosquito bites.

In the mornings, I'd eat cottage cheese with fresh blueberries. I made big batches of blueberry muffins, or filled the kids up on suppers of blueberry pancakes. My mother came to visit and made us a blueberry cobbler. I had friends come over and pick blueberries to take home with them. There were so many blueberries that we really couldn't pick them all.

That fall, we moved to Virginia. My life was really never the same in so many ways. While I know I can never go back and recapture those moments of the precious summer, I have often longed for and even prayed for blueberry bushes in my backyard.

Fast forward to this week ... it's been a hard one. There are a myriad of reasons. We are still living out of boxes and it is so hard for me as a working mom to come home in the evenings and cook dinner and spend time with the kids and still manage to have energy to unpack yet another box. My kids are having a hard time adjusting. After nearly two years, my divorce will be officially final next week. Even though I've come to terms with that situation it is still sort of like a small stab in the heart for divorce was never part of my plan for my life. I'm uncertain about what to do with my job or the kids' schooling. In other words, my life feels like it is in a state of upheaval. And I've been praying for peace ...

Last night I was feeling especially down. I even shed a few tears as I was cleaning up the kitchen from supper. The kids had gone outside to play in the water hose, so I went out to walk the dog and watch them. There is an area of my yard that is secluded on the opposite side of my storage shed. I haven't spent much time over there ... not any reason to really. But last night the dog led me there as she seached for the perfect place to do her business. And that's when I discovered them ...

Blueberry bushes! Four of them, loaded with ripe blueberries! It was like this amazing hug from God. It was as if He leaned right down and put His arms around me and whispered in my ear how much He loved me. Sometimes I think that God is all about just meeting our needs. And yet, sometimes He just takes my breath away when He gives me something like blueberry bushes. I forget that He wants to give us our desires, too.

I think I squealed with delight ... and called for the kids, who ran in the house for bowls. We picked an enormous bowlful, while we talked and sang. Julia, who has been to cheerleading camp all week, made up a little cheer about God and blueberries ... which I thought was the perfect way to express our happy thanks on the surprise gift.

Last night, after I put the kids to bed, I enjoyed a bowl of blueberries. I had another bowl this morning for breakfast. You see, blueberries are quite possibly my favorite food ... I know for sure it is my favorite fruit. I'm looking forward to a summer of basking in God's goodness and love for me with bowl after bowl of delicious blueberries.