Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Thirty-something years ago the biggest blessing of my life came into this world.  I had yet to be born and the plan for my life had already begun. The man that would be my husband, my best friend & confidant was beginning his own journey through life on the eve of Christmas. 

I am sure it's because of the season we are in, but when I think of Bonnie bringing her tiny bundle home that night, I always think of Mary. Two women with newborn babies, the futures unknown to them but fully known by the One who ordained them.  Obviously, Christ's life and purpose was vastly different from my husbands, but both births have changed my life forever.  I've often wondered how different life would be if these incredible women hadn't followed God's plan for their own lives.

Mary showed amazing faith and courage in her decision to trust God and bring a baby into the world. To raise and love Him with all her being and yet fully surrender Him at the same time.  To learn of a fate that she had no control over and witness the wrath of God laid upon Him alone in order to save those He  As a mother, this is beyond comprehension for me, but I am thankful for her strength. I am thankful for her obedience, and I am thankful for Christ.

I am sure the last thing on Bonnie's mind that December night was how her life & decisions as a mother would affect Eric's future wife & children.  What I am sure of is that she prayed. She prayed for her children, for her abilities as a mother, for guidance from the Lord, for patience, strength and endurance.  She, like us and all other moms, had moments of weakness, weariness and craziness... and in those times she trusted.  Trusted that God had heard her prayers, was walking with her and that He had a perfect plan for her and her children.  Like Mary, there came a point in the lives of each of her children where she had no control over the decisions they made or the path they would take.  She just had to continue to trust in God's faithfulness, praying for the Truth to be made real in their lives and that all she & Pete had strived to teach them would remain.

Eric- Kindergarten

And remain it has. The loving way Eric interacts with our children, his unwavering faith in Christ & what is right, his commitment to family, the perfect balance of strength and tenderness he offers to me in marriage and his amazing work ethic are the ultimate result of parents that were intentional about the task of raising him and trusting God to guide him.  I pray that I can be that for my own children. That when I talk to them, discipline them and pray for them I would think not only of the here and now, but of the eternal impact.  I am not just molding my own children, but generations of them. What a blessing and what a burden!

Eric, I know that you haven't always liked having a birthday so close to Christmas, but I am so thankful for the very real way it makes me consider Mary and the birth of Jesus.  I am daily challenged by you to be better, not because I am afraid I don't measure up, but because you make me feel confident enough to try. Happy Birthday, Baby. I love you!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Makes a Champion?

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of cheering on our hometown team as they finished off their football season as State Champs. It has been an exciting year with a write up almost daily in the local newspaper detailing their stats, past opponents and undefeated season leading up to the big game.  This season has been especially exciting for me for a few reasons. First, my brother in law, Pete Jr., is one of the coaches and his 2 sons are on the team.  Brad is a Sophomore and Ryan is a Senior.  Second, when I was growing up no one in my family played or even watched sports, so this is a brand new experience for me. Third, I watched these same boys play in the playoff game last year....and lose. 
Photo by Jodi Peck

It was absolutely heartbreaking for me to watch them stand on that field, tears in their eyes, knowing the season was over.  I particularly remember going down onto the field after the game & watching in amazement as my nephew, Ryan, gave a few minutes for an interview with one of the local reporters.  His teammates were huddled around with family and friends, heartbreak written all over their faces while he choked back tears and politely and precisely answered the questions of his interviewer with all the grace and class of a professional.  I wondered then if they would be back next year, fighting for first place once again, but I knew either way that they were champs. He had just proved it. His actions were nothing more than an extension of his team & coaches and the way they approach the game. I believe you could have put any player in his position that day and the same scene would have played out.  Like I said, champs.

Fast forward to 2011, the season went by in a blur of shut-outs and running clocks. The excitement of playoffs grew after every game.  Before I knew it, we were standing at a football field in Cottage Grove getting ready to watch Ryan, a Senior, play his last High School football game ever.  I felt silly that day, being so emotional but I remembered. I remembered last year. I knew these kids were champions and I wanted them to have the trophy to prove it.  I wanted Pete to share the thrill of victory with his 2 boys. You see, the last time The Hornets won a State Championship game was in 1990 and he was on that team.  So, I watched and I cheered. I sat freezing cold, surrounded by friends & family and watched as our team finished the game 66-22 and were told something I already knew, they were Champions. 
Brad & Pete Jr.
Photo by Jodi Peck

It was an incredible season and I am so thankful that I was part of it.  I have thought a lot about that game this week.  Remembering the emotions of the day, the pride I saw on the faces of fathers & grandfathers.  The tears of a mother realizing that this was just another 'last' for her oldest son.  A grandmother wondering out loud how she will ever make it through the graduation of her oldest grandchild.  Brothers celebrating together in victory. It was a beautiful day, one I think I will always remember.  But it got me thinking.....what makes a champion?  Is it just the winning, or is it the way we win? Or is it really about winning at all?

The conclusion I have come to is that, in the game of life at least, a champ is made by the way he plays.  Brad and Ryan are champs because their dad is. Not because he won a championship, but because everyday he lives his life for Christ. He isn't a preacher. He has no soapbox or sermon for you, but he lives what he believes and he teaches his sons how to be champions as well. He loves their mother, he works hard, he honors his parents, he is honest and steadfast.  He reflects the life of his earthly father (My amazing father-in-law) & the love of his Heavenly Father.  These boys are champions alright, it's in their blood.  So while I am thankful they were able to walk away with a win and some great memories, I am even more excited to see all the 'Championship' moments they will live out in the future. 
Left: Pete Jr. with his sons, Brad & Ryan
Center: Pete Sr.'s uncle, Jerry
Right: Pete Sr. with sons Scott & Eric (My Champion)
Photo by Darla Foster

I have been blessed to witness some already during these past 5 years.  I have seen Ryan ask his parents for advice and truly consider it, even if he doesn't agree. He trusts them.  He sees the beauty in the Christ-like attributes of his mother and desires them in a future wife.  Brad is humble in his accomplishments, determined, resourceful and talented. He works hard and his hands are rarely idle.  I was honored to be at his baptism this summer, the humility and maturity he showed that day were incomparable.  I am excited to see these boys continue to grow and be leaders for their own families some day. Until then, I pray that they will follow Christ and the example set by their father.  I know that if they do, December 3, 2011 will be just one of the many moments in their lives that they are reminded of what I already know....they are Champions.
Photo by Jodi Peck

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Remind Me

I heard this song sometime ago and I literally pray it every time it comes on. I pray for the words to sink in deep and penetrate every fiber of my being so that I will not forget them when the music stops. There is something about music that moves me....deeply. Maybe it's because it moves me physically, too. You see, I am a Dancer by name but I was a dancer by trade first! I have danced since I was about 6 or 8 years old. You name it, I took it. Tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, swing, etc. I even took and taught a worship dance class for a while.

There is something about that time of communion and fellowship with the Lord that is unexplainable, but when I am dancing, I am near to Him.  I know for some that closeness comes by the raising of arms or the bending of knees, but for me it is dancing before Him as He sings over me and I worship....truly and deeply worship the One that I adore.  It is such a freeing time for me and is most often while the kids are napping and I am alone in my living room. When I can move and pray and sing and be free. This song reminds me that I need that closeness, it draws me in and I can't help but move. It reminds me that I am just one of many trying to navigate my way through this fallen world.  I pray that I will truly understand His love and grace this side of Heaven, but I've got to be is hard for me.

The perfectionist that I am, I have zero tolerance for my own failures. (Rest assured, I am nowhere near this critical of everyone else and I don't look at YOU this way!) I need to learn to accept His grace regardless of whether I ever come to understand it. I see my shortcomings and I feel disqualified.  I feel that I am not even worthy to run the race, let alone finish it. I know, it's not a fair statement...but it is an honest one. I pray daily for growth in this area. I pray for those in my life that will speak truth to me and that I will have ears to hear. I am thankful for my husband and others who have been willing to fill that role. I thank God for placing them in my life and I thank Him for amazing, talented writers and singers like this one that share His truth in such a beautiful way.

 One of the worship teams at our church has started playing this song during our regular services and it blesses me beyond measure to pray this with and for my brothers & sisters on Sunday mornings. I hope it blesses you, too!

If you like this song, check out my What Moves Me tab for more of my favorites.