Day 39: Storms
It's snowing right now.
Seriously. It's May 9th and there's a blizzard going on outside as I type this! I really thought that moving to Colorado would guarantee a white Christmas, but no! A white Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and possible white Mother's Day? Yes!
I also read this morning that Tropical Storm Ana is barreling down on the Carolinas and about to pound the east coast. The National Weather Service says she's 3 weeks ahead of the hurricane season, so get ready…the inland aftermath will most likely make things soggy for you two as you hike through Virginia. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I just want you prepared.
They're going to come, whether we like it or not…whether we're expecting them or not…and whether they ruin our Mother's Days or not. I'll quickly get to the Bible verse of the day. It's about storms--and one that I know you're familiar with. Still, it's good to go over this again…especially for me. I tend to get complacent when there isn't a cloud in the sky and everything seems great. I get to thinking it's always going to be like that, and then…BOOM! I get rattled by the storm because I wasn't ready. Jesus says that's what happens when I hear what He's telling me, but don't put any of it to use. This is how He put it in Matthew 7:24-27:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Storms. They're going to come. Jesus makes that clear. It's not a matter of IF…it's a matter of WHEN. The storms WILL come…the rains WILL come down…the streams WILL rise…the winds WILL blow and beat at whatever we hold dear, whatever we cling to for support. The question is: Is it rock or sand? And what exactly is the rock? To find out, all we have to do is back up 2 chapters in Matthew and read through Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. He's VERY clear about what the "rock" is. There's all kinds of stuff in the Sermon on the Mount to build our foundations on: Not worrying…loving people like we want to be loved…how we should approach God and so on. And right after Jesus talks about not worrying about what we're going to eat or wear or live, He says this (Bonus Bible verse!):
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)
I can't think of a stronger, more reliable rock to build on. You both know how that rock has held us up under some pretty nasty storms. Stuff like destructive relationships and financial disaster. Matthew 6:33 is a great promise…from the mouth of God! Seek HIs kingdom…seek after His desires...and His desire for you. Do THAT first and you can't go wrong. Build on THAT rock and you can stand up under any storm; physical, emotional, relational or spiritual. It's a rock to stand on…to build upon…and to live.
Get ready. A storm is coming.
Day 40: Tears
We missed you two tonight. As usual, the families rounded up at the Burgens for Mother's Day. Jim's mom is in town and we all invaded Jim and Robin's around 4PM today. It was chaotic and noisy and wonderful! The only thing missing was you two.
Katie, I kept thinking of you tonight because of Emery. She was having some real struggles tonight because she fell down on the way back from the park. The men all agreed to give the moms a break and take the kids down the street to the park. Emery tripped and fell as we crossed the street heading home--and hurt herself. It was SO cold…and Emery's hands were like icicles…and when she went down, I think she scraped her hands. She cried and cried to the point where she couldn't (or wouldn't) be consoled. Nothing stopped the tears. She was inconsolable…and she reminded of the way you would get when you couldn't (or wouldn't) be consoled, Katie. I'm such a bad Grampa. I'll give her anything…I really will…to make her happy. When Emery cries…something inside me aches like I've never ached before.
I have to admit, I've always had a hard time when ladies or girls cry…especially those I love the most. My Achilles Heel has always been a crying female. My earliest memory of this was in 1st grade. On the first day of school at Madison Elementary School…on the way to lunch. I saw the minister's daughter (whom I had my first crush on) crying…and it broke me. 1st grade! And I can see it like it happened yesterday. We were walking down the hallway in single file on the way to lunch. I was SO excited! I felt SO grown up! I was clutching my hand-me-down space age lunch box (I've attached the picture below) and I was marching with the rest of Mrs. Hyslop's first grade class.
As my class slowed down to step up the 3 or 4 steps into the gymnasium/lunch room…the principal, Mr. Brenkus (I can't believe I remember these names!) was walking our minister's daughter, Sherry Hanze, down the stairs and she was crying…sobbing inconsolably. My heart broke. I can't explain it, but something scarred me that day and whenever I see a pitiful, helpless girl or woman crying…my heart breaks…like it does today, whenever Em cries. I will do almost anything to make that stop!
But Katie, as you well know, I didn't have any problems whatsoever with your tears growing up. I don't know…I guess it was the reality of parenting or the sense of responsibility that comes with raising your own kids. For some reason I was able to set aside those feelings I normally had and I could deal rationally with your tears when you were little. That's not true today. I probably shouldn't say this, and show all my cards, but now that you're a full-grown woman…I have the same problem. When you cry…I will move heaven and earth to fix whatever is the issue. I know…where was that when you were growing up? I guess now that you have Nick to love and protect you…I can revert back to my "soft underbelly".
I can't tell you how hard it was to drop you both at the airport when you flew to Georgia to begin this big adventure. Katie, you were a bucket of tears and I had the hardest time seeing you two off. Everything in me was saying, "Do something to help her, dummy!" But I also knew you would be okay…that the best thing for you to do was get on that plane…fly to Georgia…and spend the Spring and Summer hiking to Maine with Nick. As much as my heart wanted to do anything to stop your tears…my brain knew what the right thing was…stepping aside and letting your husband lead. The worst thing I can do…as your dad…is get in the way of Nick. Proverbs 12:4 reads:
"A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones."
Katie, you have SUCH great character…and you are the joy of Nick's life…his "crown". You are Nick's greatest encourager and support, but all of that would end by becoming "disgraceful"…by allowing anything to get in the way of you two being "one"…whatever it is. Including a father who…maybe even out of love…gets in the way of your oneness. I've seen it happen too many times; dads who don't know when to step aside and let their son-in-laws be the leaders God wants them to be. I never want to do that…I really don't. So no matter how many tears fall…I want to do what's right…what's best for you. Katie, you have yet to call home in tears…and Lord willing…that won't happen, but if it does…I pray that I'll have the strength and wisdom to do what's right and best for you.
Now…if I can only do the same with Emery...
Day 41: Afire
I came across this quote--a piece from a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning--and I immediately thought of you two:
Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.
Earth is crammed with heaven.
I'm guessing that you guys are feeling the same way, right? In all that you're seeing and experiencing out there on the trail, I can't help but think every tree and bush and bald is afire. At least that's what I'm hoping for you. I felt that way yesterday when Jim and I hiked his property. As we worked our way up to the waterfall, you could hear it way before we saw it. The water looked like it was bursting out of the rocks, cascading down into the rushing stream. It was afire. We traipsed silently through the woods looking for antler sheds (antlers that have dropped over the winter) and you could sense something. It was afire. As we walked down that county road in search of a phone and passed the 2 elk bucks grazing…afire. Afire with fingerprints.
And that's what I wanted to write you today: the fingerprints. King David writes in Psalm 102:25:
"In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands."
Earth IS crammed with heaven…everything in nature IS afire with God…but here's the thing: nature is NOT God. It's beautiful and awe inspiring and…the work of His hands. The mountains, the trees, the sunrises and sunsets are His fingerprints…and they are everywhere…afire with evidence of Him. Showing us that He was…and is still…here. So wherever you two are right now (and I hope you're able to call soon to let us know where you're at) I hope and pray you aren't sitting around plucking blackberries unaware, but taking off your shoes…enjoying the evidence of God's goodness, love and creativity….and your hearts are afire.
Day 42: Guilt
I will state this right up front: I'm missing you. I was telling Mom tonight that I think of you both all the time throughout the day…honestly, more than I do when you're here in Colorado…and just a 20-25 minute drive away. But as you know, when you're gone…and you're more like 20-25 hours away…I think about you more…and miss you more. As I've said (and written) multiple times, technology has helped greatly. We're able to talk more (and via FaceTime) and see each other more than any of us expected. Still. I miss seeing you both face-to-face and having real, tangible contact. And I know! There are people and families dealing with some serious, serious separation. Folks with kids living overseas…missionaries out in the bush, completely out of contact. I know! I get that! But knowing that doesn't make me miss you less…and I'm not going to feel guilty about it.
I've lived with enough guilt. I'm done.
I am so grateful for what I always call my "faith heritage". I am thankful and grateful for the way Nana and Papa raised me and for the heritage of faith they passed along. I am grateful for the friends that God has placed on my path along the way…guiding me to a closer walk with Jesus. I can stand and look back over my life and see where God has directed where I was…and where I am now…and where I need to be. Part of looking back is seeing the reality of my journey--the good and the bad--and guilt is something hard to overlook.
Growing up in the Church of Christ/Restoration Church movement had some great parts to it: a close-knit group of believing friends and family, deep respect and emphasis on the Bible…and the pursuit of Bible knowledge, and a strong call to rid followers of man-made rules, credos and ritual. But buried in there too was an unspoken works-based philosophy where sin and salvation see-sawed back-and-forth, battling for your soul and…depending on the day…eternity (and God's love) hung in the balance…where I was always unsure when my "sin limit" would top off…and Jesus' grace and forgiveness had been depleted. It's a crazy place to live…filled with guilt and fear. But John writes in 1 John 4:18:
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."
It was a long, hard road away from guilt and fear…and even though I know I'm still on it…I'm in a much better place than before. My guilt and fear no longer drive me. They still raise their ugly, little heads every now-and-then, but I've been given some really good tools to deal with them. I've been given a deeper understanding of how my guilt and shame have driven me to turn my life completely over to Jesus…and I've given Him ALL of my sin…my past, my present…and ALL of my future sin. I understand that Jesus is never surprised when I trip and fall and screw up again…and that "by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy" (Hebrews 10:14 Bonus Verse!). And even though all my sin is erased, I know that I'm called to do better each day…and to serve Him better each day, but out of love for Him, not guilt.
So I'm done with guilt. I know that my life is great and that there are so many more people around the world in much, much worse situations…with serious, serious struggles and heartache. But I still miss you…and I'm not going to feel guilty about it.
That being said, please call. Mom talked with Katie the other night, but I haven't heard from you in over a week.
Hmmm. Feeling guilty yet?
Day 43: No Email to Katie and Nick
Day 44: Checking In
I'm checking in...and I'm checking in sad, happy, excited and tender.
Katie, this is something we picked up from the Crucible. You can ask Nick. He knows what I'm talking about.
I'm up in the mountains again for another weekend retreat. This time it's for The Crucible. Three out of the four weekends this past month, I've been away from home. I'm in Como, CO this weekend at a little Christian camp hidden on a mountainside near the Kenosha Pass. We're getting ready to lead about 33 men through The Crucible--this intense men's retreat a bunch of us have done (including Nick). I hesitate calling it a retreat because there's nothing calm and restive about it at all!
So, I'm checking in: Sad.
I'm sad because I'm away from Mom again for another weekend.
I'm sad because I feel like I let you down. Yesterday was the first time I missed emailing you a note since you started your AT hike. I know I wrote to you earlier that I wasn't going to be legalistic about it or beat myself up about missing a day or two, but I still feel like I let you down.
I'm also sad because it was your birthday yesterday and...for your first birthday in 25 years...we didn't get to celebrate it together...in person.
Those are the reasons I'm checking in sad.
I'm also checking in: happy.
I'm happy because I know you two are happy. You're living out one your dreams--and loving every minute of it.
I'm happy because...even though I'm away from Mom...I know I'm doing what God has called me to do...and Mom is in complete support of it.
I'm happy because we got to talk on the phone yesterday. I loved hearing your voice, Katie, and even though we weren't together in person for your 25th birthday...we got to celebrate via cell phone anyway.
And I'm checking in: excited.
I'm excited about you two. I'm excited because you're about to exit Tennessee and head into Virginia on your trek north to Maine.
I'm excited because you're both doing so well on this journey--strong, encouraged and upbeat.
I'm also excited about this weekend here in Como. I'm excited for the 31-33 men who are about to land here in a few hours...for the junk they'll be bringing...for the hard work they're going to do...and for the change God is going to do by the time they leave on Sunday afternoon.
That's why I'm checking in excited.
In the book of James, I think I can see part of what makes me excited about you two...and the men coming for The Crucible this weekend:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)
I know that a lot of what you're going through...and what these men will go through this weekend...will test you in many different ways. But in the end...it will produce perseverance. So that makes me excited for you all.
And that's how I'm checking in today.
No...I didn't forget. I'm also checking in tender. I'm checking in tender because you checked in with us and called before I left home for Como...
...and that makes me tender.
Day 45: Handiwork
This is going to be a short one. It's early Saturday morning and I've got to get ready for today. It's a real intense one…a full day at The Crucible.
Here's one thing I know: There's going to be a lot and pain…and anger…and hurt shared today this morning and afternoon. A lot of men with damaged pasts are going to have a chance to share their hurts, struggles and pain…and hopefully…by Sunday afternoon…will leave with some relief and some great tools to move forward in a healthy way.
As I get ready for the stories I'm about to hear throughout the day, I wanted to share this verse with you:
"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10)
We all need to hear and try to understand this truth: We are God's creation--His handiwork...beautifully created and crafted by Him. We are all created to do good works...to reflect God's goodness...something He's set in place from the beginning of time for us to do. I need to be reminded of this...and the men up here at The Crucible need to be reminded of this too…our pain and struggles can be redeemed (Romans 8:28).
God has created us to do good...to even take the ugly, destructive parts of our lives and use them…to redeem them...for His good.
So whatever you walk through on this trip…all the good days and the bad days…the "zero days" and the 20+ days, let God use them. Let Him redeem them if they're too hard to bear…and let God show you His will on the days when it seems like He's not there.
This weekend is supposed to be a "zero day" for you. You're supposed to stop and enjoy Trail Days in Damascus, VA, so have fun...but not too much fun. :)
Day 46: Scars
I have another short one for you two today. It's been a very long weekend. I just got home from The Crucible and I'm dog-tired. After this weekend, and the stories I've heard, I keep thinking about this:
Issues with Dad.
So many of the problems men (and women) are working through today lead back to one relationship: their father.
This weekend, no matter what struggle or addiction or emotional impasse I heard about pointed back to a relationship with dad: a missing dad…an abusive dad…an absentee dad and so on. It was humbling and convicting to hear…over and over again…the impact a father can have on his children. I heard men from every age range…from mid-20s to late 60s share the same common thread: their dad messed them up, one way or the other. It was heartbreaking to experience. Men, 30+ years out of the home…still yearning for the love, acceptance and approval from a dad who either wouldn't or couldn't give it…or didn't want to. It makes me think of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:4:
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
There are all sorts of ways we fathers can exasperate our kids…and I know I've exasperated mine. The thing is, one of the common ways I've heard this weekend of how dads have exasperated their sons is…complete absence. I heard stories about dads who checked out…or left home…or abused their kids…and the damage done. I have learned this lesson over the last several years, "No one leaves the home unscarred. We all leave homes with wounds." With God's help, the damage done will never outweigh the time, effort and love we (Dads) put in.
Which is why I will continue to hound you…in writing or on the phone…until you are both back in Colorado.