And the greatest of these is love…

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Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1 NIV84)

If faith is looking forward to God’s future promises, love looks around to the current need. Love is not a feeling, but expresses action. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self‑seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV84)

My faith that God’s care for my life is often tested, the storm swells around us, and the waves grow larger and more intense, yet I press on, looking only toward Christ as savior, and my Father as daily provider.

But as I fix my eyes on Jesus, and the waves fade from view, something else takes shape. I am more reminded of the people around me, going about their lives in darkness. Living in Northern Virginia reminds me wealth or power often become idols. There aren’t as many visible physical needs in this area and I think that makes it so much harder to recognize the necessity of God’s mercy. But what takes it’s place is an attitude of self-sufficiency and focus on things like career, goals, money, etc. Those things become gods of our life. And the fruit of our worship is not love.

I pray daily that my focus will always first turn to God and honor him as king, and secondly toward my neighbors, expressing my love through my actions.

Faith lessons from my daughter.

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Genevieve is mobile. She quickly moved from crawling to standing, and is now pushing her walker. But what’s really amazing is how she’s been playing with blocks. Her blocks sit in a tray and she uses her tiny fingers to pry them out one at a time. She pushes and pulls them until she can grab them. It’s amazing to watch her develop.

Today I started think what a lesson she is teaching. While her parents worry about all the cares of life, Genevieve only thinks about those blocks. Faith in God should be like that. God knows his plans, and he knows the future. All we need to be concerned about is looking forward, our eyes fixed on the goal, the call of Christ. I pray that you will grow in faith like a child.

No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:4 NIV

And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3 NIV

A whisper that turned into a hurricane.

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I am so grateful lately for what God has done in our lives. I’m beginning to realize that faith is not mearly expecting God to do something, it’s waiting and allowing God to work in his will. I know that we must live day by day hour by hour in the will of God not expecting more than that. Planning for my future comfort often causes me to worry about the provision. And none of us know how much time we have left anyway.

I am grateful to God for his lessons in faith. May I learn more quickly in the future.

Grateful to, not just grateful for…

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Last year, I set myself to the task of writing everyday. I started with three things each day for which I was grateful. That lasted all of 15 days. I recently re-read what I had written and felt ashamed for letting it slip away. I purposed myself to begin again. So here we are.

I will begin with a lesson I’ve learned in the past few months. Gratefulness requires direction. It needs to point to someone else. I’m happy with the things I have, my family, money, and so on. But gratefulness requires humility. If I am the creator of my own fortune, or master of my own circumstances, to whom would I be grateful? So I will begin with this.

I am grateful for mercy. I am a sinner, deserving of nothing, yet, God loves me. I do not know why.

He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
Psalm 103:9-10 (NIV)

To whom are you grateful?

 

A man un-done: A heroic rescue (Part 2)

We started the treatments for infertility in May of 2011. My fear of doctors was tested when I was asked to complete some tests. They discovered a small infection and treated me with an antibiotic. Fear combined with worry was so palpable that I often felt that my stomach would jump out of my throat. But I would be fine. The doctor’s official diagnosis for our infertility was “unexplained.” After everything we’d been through, after all the worries, tests, and waiting, the doctor didn’t know the cause. But he suggested that we move forward with in vitro fertilization.

That process meant my wife was going to start a course of multiple daily hormone shots for two weeks. I wanted to be a part of the process so I asked if I could give her the shots. It was hard to even think about the shots, but I girded myself and began.  I’m fairly sure it was more painful for me. My wife was a real trooper, every day, morning and evening, we sat in the kitchen and completed our task.

I should mention the complete process involved in our treatment. First, you complete two weeks of hormone shots designed to increase the number of eggs that are released in a given cycle. The doctor monitors them closely, measuring size and speed of growth. Finally, just before they’re ready to release, a trigger shot is administered, and within 48 hours, the doctor performs a procedure to remove the eggs and prepare them for the next phase.

I want to step back and address an important issue. When involving yourself in the IVF process, there are significant questions that arise, such as, when does life begin, what do you do with the ones left over, etc. My wife and I both believe that God creates life at conception. We specifically approached all of our decisions with this idea in mind. These children of ours are in God’s hands and we will give them birth if it be God’s will. Throughout the process, we refused any testing that would give us information about genetics, incurable diseases, or disorders. Because, they were living beings. Their condition wouldn’t matter, we would love them as they were.

The day of the trigger shot came. It is the final stage of the course and by far the longest needle. Because of the timing required, the clinic directed us to administer the shot within a 10 minute window. As the time approached, my wife and I sat in the kitchen and cried. Could this be it? After 12 years of marriage? What if it didn’t work? Could we afford another round? What if this were the end? What if we found out that we can’t have children?

Then like the downward slope of a roller-coaster, it began, in less than 48 hours we were in the clinic, the eggs were extracted, and our little children were conceived. The general procedure is to wait up to six days, checking once a day on their progress. Each day, a few stopped progressing. This is normal, and it even happens in the womb. We believe that God knows their names and they are in His purpose.

By the end of the week, we had three little babies ready for mom. The doctor recommended we implant two and the last one would be frozen for later. These babies are called snowflakes and there are even adoption agencies looking for loving families to have and care for them. If it be God’s will, we will try with our snowflake soon.

Two babies went in. My first picture of my daughter was at 6 days old next to her sibling. They both looked like hatching eggs. The wait began, two weeks of waiting to know if we were pregnant. On the day of the scheduled return to the doctor, we couldn’t wait any longer. My wife took a home pregnancy test and we were parents. We didn’t find out until later, but God had decided that we would only have one.

A rush of emotion like I have never felt washed over me. I wanted to be dad. I wanted to lay on the couch with my daughter on my chest, listening to her breathe. The doctor that delivered our daughter called it puppy breath. I wanted her to be safe. And I suddenly felt scared. What if she has Downs Syndrome? What if we couldn’t provide? What if my wife has a miscarriage? God help us!

And He did, but not in the way I thought.

This is the second part in a series of writings about parenthood and how I got there. More to come.

A man un-done: A heroic rescue (Part 1)

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him? Matthew 7:11 (NASB)

Just dedicated to Christ. Genevieve at 9 months.

My daughter turned nine months old on November 11. And last Sunday, we dedicated her, in front of our church, to the Lord. As I reflect back over the events that led us to this place, I marvel at what God has done for us.

My wife and I had been trying for 12 years to get pregnant, it was often a source of sorrow, and sometimes a source of contention between us. Yet, no matter how we tried, we couldn’t conceive. In 2010, we were living in Northern Virginia at the time, we began looking for a fertility doctor. I was terrified. I hadn’t been to a doctor in many years, and I had built up in my mind what might be wrong. Infertility, disease, cancer, all of these things plagued my mind. What would he find?

The first doctor was very clinical, matter of fact. He sat and talked to us about the options, tests, and probabilities. At the end of the session, he prescribed several tests, and left the room. We never went back and things seemed to stagnate. Hopelessness set in, despair even. We hardly talked about it, I kept saying, to myself and my wife, “If the Lord wants it, then He will do it in His time.” While that may be true, coming from my lips it was an excuse for procrastinating. I thought, maybe if I just throw myself into my work, that will take the edge off.

Since I was a little boy, I loved to be around other children. And as I grew older, my desire to start a family of my own grew as well, even from a very early age. I remember, in elementary school, pretending that my wife was sitting next to me and my arm was wrapped around her. God knew my heart’s desire and He brought her to me. But, after 12 years of marriage, and continuing to struggle to have children, I had reached a point of despair. Despair is an ugly thing, its like a pair of glasses, when you look through the lens at your life you see a distorted and cloudy picture causing further pain and despair.

Near the end of 2010, I gathered enough courage to try another doctor, this time, we went through with the tests. I say I gathered enough courage because I was the one the needed to be convinced. My loving wife believed it was right, but my fear, irrational as it was, was blocking the way. So the tests came back, inconclusive on infertility, but they did reveal that my wife needed surgery to remove a cyst on her ovary. Another roadblock, and can you image my panic on hearing that? I have a very creative mind so I’m sure you can imagine all of the awful scenarios that played over and over in my head.

Perhaps you may be wondering at this point, if I am a Christian, where is my trust in God?  I see it now, God was there, all the time behind the scenes, moving the pieces but I, like a sinful man, often tried to make things work my way. Its a never-ending cycle of dying to self. By not recognizing it in myself, it requires God to put to death the sinful nature. Oh, how painful that is.

Romans 6:1-3
New American Standard Bible (NASB)

6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?

Don’t misunderstand, I believed God existed, the way, I believed the moon existed. He was there, but if you want something done, do it yourself. Self-reliance, bootstrapping, grab ahold of the reigns, reach for the stars. These are all powerful ideas, that can lead to some measure of success, until you die. There is no control of death. Death comes for us all, and there is nothing we can do to stop it.

As I sat in the waiting room of the hospital, I couldn’t imagine where this could possiblely

lead. Worry for my wife consumed me, even though I knew that the doctor was the best of the best. And to top it all, the surgery may have no impact on our chances of conceiving. A little later that afternoon, my wife was by my side and feeling better. The surgery was a success. But on our return trip to the fertility doctor, there was still no conclusive diagnosis. My frustration grew everyday. I began begging God for His will to give us a child. A breaking point finally occurred and we decided to switch doctors, again.

My wife had always believed that God would give us a child. In fact, she used the story in I Samuel, about Hannah praying for a child, to name her blog, I’m not drunk, I’m just praying. She cried out to the Lord and He answered.

Day Fifteen

I am grateful for the smell of warm bread. It reminds me of coming home after school and my mom would have fresh baked bread ready and other treats. My favorite was the custard. We have made a commitment to make sure that Genevieve is taken care of by one of us before she goes to school.

I am grateful for this first Mothers Day for my wife. This is the culmination of her hopes and dreams. The Lord has blessed us with this miracle.

I am grateful for diaper pails. Do you know how many trips we’d have to make outside otherwise? That brings up another one, diaper pail inserts. Plunk and twist. Don’t forget the twist. Things you don’t think about before children.

What are you grateful for?

Day Fourteen

I am grateful for coffee in the morning. I don’t really have a great story to tell but coffee in the morning the best part of the day.

I am grateful for air conditioning. To all my Washington friends, Virginia can be hot, miserably so. And in the summer people tend to move from one air conditioned space to another. Today, I’m standing under the vent.

I am grateful for the kids we got to host in our home in Virginia. For the last several years we’ve flown several of our godchildren and nieces out to stay the summer with us. It was amazing to see these little kids grow up before our eyes. God provided for those trips and I pray we can continue to bless them.

Night all. What are you grateful for?

Day Thirteen

I am grateful for the lessons I learned when I ran my own business. I started it from my bedroom. I began calling around to people that I new and asking if I they had any design work for me to do. While none seemed to present itself, I had one client ask me if I could get signs for them. It peaked my interest and started me on an incredible journey, including opening an office, learning photography and building sales reporting tools for the company. I met a lot of interesting people and was schooled by life’s tough lessons. All those experiences prepared me for the future.

I am grateful for music. I didn’t really appreciate music until I got older and began to find my taste. My wife tells me I am old soul and that seems to fit my taste in music. I love big band, oldies, jazz, soul, and the classic crooners like Sinatra and Martin. My father in law introduced me to Johnny Cash and country music, which I love. Music calms me, it helps me focus. I love the stories it tells with words and melodies.

I am grateful for my little radio that I bought from Radio Shack. On it I listened to the Mariners beat the Yankees for the first time in the playoffs. I listened to the Trail Blazers play against the legendary Michael Jordan in the NBA championships and I many nights instead of going to sleep I listened to Old Time Radio with Stan Freeburg. Freeburg was a voice over actor for many years and is credited as the Beaver in Lady and the Tramp as well as numerous animated cartoons. I learned an incredible appreciation of the power of the voice. I love old radio shows from the 20s – 40s during the golden age of radio. Never is a scary story so real as when you are picturing it in your mind, late at night, under the covers.

So those are my reflections tonight. What are you grateful for?

Day Twelve

So I’ve noticed something as I’ve been writing these blog posts over the last eleven days. At the beginning of this journey, I really didn’t want to write. In fact, it was all I could do to drag myself to the computer to conjure up some feelings of gratefulness. But, as time passes, each day it gets a little easier. Each day my mind is a little clearer and my memories a little sharper.

Experts say that it takes at least 20 days of repeating an action for it to become habit, and now I see why. I’m now looking for things to be grateful for every day and reminding myself of stories throughout the day. I actually don’t have to force myself to write anymore. I’m enjoying the journey. So, continuing on…

I am grateful to my parents who introduced me to my first political experience. It actually happened when I was 16 years old. My mom had heard of an event put on by some local political activists. She asked if I wanted to attend. I’m glad I did, because that night at dinner, I met a woman who hosted a radio show. Before I new it, she invited me and my mom onto her program to talk about our political opinions. I loved it, I couldn’t get enough, in fact I even applied for a local weekly teen talk show. My involvement grew from there and turned into an amazing adventure. But I always look back and remember that night and thank my parents for their support.

I am grateful that I went to private school. From fourth grade through seventh grade, I attend a private school in Albany, Oregon. It was the most formative time in my life and I grew with leaps and bounds. That school offered me a chance to push my mind, learn what I loved, and sharpen my skills. It was those teachers that offered my a door to a wider world of learning. I even had one teacher in fifth grade that taught me rudimentary calculus. I am grateful that God provided the means to attend that school and teach me things that I carry today.

I am grateful for the insurance provided by T-Mobile that allowed us to begin IVF and lead to our baby girl. Prior to last year, my wife and I always believed that God would give us children, but we took the stance that if He meant it to happen, then he would open the door. About two years ago, we were suddenly impressed with the need to get a doctor’s opinion. I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, why didn’t they go earlier? My only answer is, it wasn’t God’s timing. Anyway, T-Mobile’s insurance covered most of the cost, and, while we still don’t have a good answer as to why we didn’t get pregnant, we have our daughter. I will always be grateful for that.

So now it’s your turn. What are you grateful for?