Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Launch Forward: the Background Story

The background to every story matters...
The road from yesterday directly connects our tomorrows.

For most of you, this picture I took of the majestic mountains of Colorado will be "pretty", "nice", maybe even stunning. But for me, it is a deep well of emotions as vivid memories--real as the keys I type upon--of the days spent there just before the accident flood my soul. Yes, these are memories etched deep into the fibers of my heart, not just my mind.

Tears caught me by surprise as I sat here staring at this scene earlier. Lots of them. Trying to find words that would accurately pen my heart and the heart of God's as they intertwined and danced upon the Colorado Rockies, unaware that days later a thief would cut in and attempt to steal me away. In this scene you can see it, as I stood safely atop one mountain peak, drinking in the beauty with each deep inhale of the soul. The distance warns of an encroaching storm with shadows engulfing mountains one at a time, and storm clouds swallowing blue skies. Jesus held me so close, I didn't even notice the hovering cloud in the upper corner about to cover me.

Let me explain.

I had the amazing experience of attending the Captivating Advanced retreat with John and Stasi Eldredge and their team of Ransomed Heart Ministries September 29th through October 2nd of last year (2011). It was during a previous Captivating retreat several years earlier that God confirmed he wanted me to minister in the same message (if you've been following the blog for a long time, you've probably read some of my story and previous experiences there.) Such deep healing and life-giving words from Jesus paved the way from that first trip in 2006 to this past Fall of 2011. My husband, Andy, and I had begun writing and speaking in 2010, and though I had felt more alive than ever before, we had suffered some blows in those first two years. I was desperately thirsty for deeper personal healing, as well as fresh affirmation and equipping for the ministry he'd given us.

My thirst was truly quenched, as Jesus did not disappoint!! I will share various specifics along the way in future posts as they relate. Little could I have known at the time, though, just how much his words to me, the beauty, and the rescue would continue to be so vital to my rescue me time and time again in the storm that engulfed me on October 8, 2011.

As mentioned in the previous post, so many crucial things happened in the moments before the ambulance arrived to take our precious Abby from the pecan orchard to the capable hands of a children's hospital not too far away. Though my eyes saw horror on her crushed face, when Drew pulled up beside us on the 4-wheeler, I steadied her in his big-brother arms and did the first thing that came to mind. All I knew to do was lay hands on her sweet head and pray, pleading for God's healing touch! Had not the experiences in Colorado been so fresh--fresh enough to still smell the aroma upon waking every morning--I don't think I would have had the same knee-jerk reaction.

Next, I frantically thought through scenarios of how I could attempt to get her to the hospital on my own. None of them would work with her fragile state.

A neighbor's voice from the last house before the orchard entrance broke my racing thoughts, "Do you need an ambulance?!" She had seen the kids riding and heard the screams from her bedroom window. I ran toward her and stopped mid-way. I couldn't answer clearly. Each word and footstep I stumbled over brought me closer to the reality that Abby needed help beyond what any of us or our local hospital could give her. She read through my lack of an answer and dialed 911.

Then a safe distance from Abby, who was no longer crying and clearly in shock, yet out of earshot, I called Andy who was at work. He knew we had gone riding, so I dove right in. My calm composure broke down at the sound of his voice, "Hey... Andy, Abby and Ashley had a's really bad, Andy...Abby's face is's really bad,'s really, really bad...a neighbor called an's really bad...I already know she's going to have to have surgery, it's so bad!" He immediately said he was on his way, a 30-minute drive that he made in less than 20 minutes! We quickly decided what to do with our other three kids (thankfully they are all teenagers and were able to get the un-wrecked ATV and the rest of our gear home), and hung up with desperate I-love-yous.

I took liberty of the moment out of earshot of the others. In tragedy, when suffering sneaks up on you like a thief in the night, our heart is the target and most vulnerable to attack. I began to heave out breathless words as my heart beat so hard, "Catch my heart Jesus! Jesus catch my heart!! Catch my heart Jesus!! Jesus catch my heart!!!"

Looking back, I see clearly how God was paving the road that would follow my return from the Captivating Advanced. The very last session on Sunday was with John, and he spoke on suffering. I had no idea then just how life-giving his words would be. I learned, as I said in the previous post, that the worst part of suffering is not the pain, but the damage it can do to our heart.

Remember John 10:10, our enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He hates God and would love nothing more than for us to hate him, too. He rushes into our pain with lies to get us to distrust God's heart. When a great suffering hits us out of no where and catches us off guard, we must cry to Jesus in that moment to catch our heart. "Catch my heart Jesus!"

Doing so while waiting for the ambulance to whisk my daughter away set the stage for God to intersect our world in tangible, unmistakable ways as we navigated through ominous skies of suffering for days, weeks, and months. I am thankful the background of this story's "yesterday" directly connected my heart (and my family's) to Jesus in the tomorrows that still continue to follow. Oh it's been messy, and certainly not easy, but catch us he has!

The invitation of Jesus is to cry to him when suffering snatches the rug from underneath your feet. His promise is that he will come running when we call. Psalm 18 speaks beautifully of this truth. "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help; he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry for help before him came into his ears...He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters...He rescued me because he delighted in me." (v. 6, 16, 19)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Launch Forward

Setbacks. Thin places. And torn veils.

All of these have interchangeably described the past five months of my family’s life.

A setback. (perhaps the greatest of our young family’s life)
A setback can be described as a “reversal.” You are moving forward, when something spins you around and takes you back a few steps before you can stop it.

In the beginning of October, 2011, Andy (my husband) and I seemed poised to leap ahead in one of the greatest adventures of our lives—fighting for the hearts of others through Rally Point. We had direction, confirmation, affirmation. Even preparation. Then the unthinkable happened.

Saturday, October 8, 2011, ushered in a lazy sun-shiny, crisp fall day. Lavishing in the final weekend of our Fall Break from school, I decided I better fulfill my promise to our youngest who had begged all week to go “4-wheeler riding”—a joy I and my kids grew up with. This would be our last chance before school resumed on Monday. Elated, the kids threw open the shed doors, gassed up, suited up, and had the two ATV’s parked out front and ready to go before I made it out the door!
Oct. 8, 2011
Earlier in 2011
Summer 2010
Overgrowth in the pecan orchard we usually romp and race through forced us deeper into unfamiliar territory. I rode alone for a bit to scope out the area. Handing over the larger ATV to my oldest, Drew, and one of our daughters, I waved the other two girls in on the smaller 4-wheeler and pointed out the safe perimeters to all of them for riding. When I finished the exchange with Drew and Emily, I turned around to realize Ashley and Abby were nowhere in sight. Drew drove off with Emily in search of them.

As they also disappeared into the orchard, I began to hear screams...

My heart stopped with my feet. Above the roar of 4-wheelers in the distance, I couldn’t discern if it was play or serious. The sounds stopped. I assumed they were playing and resumed walking to find a place where I could keep watch, thinking to myself, When they get up here I am going to tell them not to scream like that! It’s scaring me! And to stay where I can see them!

Sickening screams reached my ears again. Drew bolts back into eyesight driving full-speed towards me with panic on his face, and I see Emily racing into view on foot, screaming, “MAMA!!!” over and over in a frantic call no mother wants to hear. Picking up the pace in their direction, my heart sunk when Abby, just ten years old, appeared. From far away I could see the bloody mess from head to toe. Up close, her face didn’t even look normal it was so badly crushed in the center, severely affecting her nose and eyes and everything behind them.

Ashley and Abby had driven into another area of overgrowth in the unfamiliar territory, which completely concealed a deep, narrow, V-shaped ravine over six feet deep, slamming them unaware into the lower wall of it. Abby had taken the brunt of the force to her precious face.

So many crucial things happened in the early moments before the ambulance arrived. I’ll share those details in later posts—but the specifics that unfolded during the wait set the stage for all the thin places and torn veils that were sure to follow us into the hours, days, weeks, and months of this setback.

Thin places.
Author Mary DeMuth writes in her book, Thin Places: A Memoir, that “the Celtics define a thin place as a place where heaven and the real world collide, one of those serendipitous territories where eternity and the mundane meet. Thin describes the membrane between the two worlds, like a piece of vellum, where we see a holy glimpse of the eternal—not in digital clarity, but clear enough to discern what lies beyond.”

She further writes that “thin places are snatches of holy ground, tucked into the corners of our world, where, if we pay very close attention, we might just catch a glimpse of eternity…these are snatches of time, moments really, when we sense God intersecting our world in tangible, unmistakable ways.”

He has come so near in the midst of unthinkable pain, in times when all that beat were the shattered pieces of a numb heart. I’ll bear the “how’s” in future posts.

Torn veils.
In 2 Corinthians 3:7-18, Paul imparts to us the difference of seeing God through a veil verses a face-to-face unveiled encounter. After receiving the Ten Commandments from God, Moses’ face shone with a glory that would soon fade, prompting him to cover his face with a veil so that others wouldn’t see the glow dulling. The problem with veils is that they not only keep others from a clear view of us, but they also keep us from having clear sight of God.

Only Jesus can tear the veil and set our sights no longer on the ministry of death and condemnation written on stones, but to see with unveiled faces the glory of God. Suddenly we recognize that God is a living, personal presence desiring to come for us in the hardest of places, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when we turn to the God who is personally present, a living Spirit, we are transformed, “our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” (v. 18, The Message)

Suffering wickedness in this world can turn our blood cold and cause us to lose heart (Matt. 24:12). That is when many of us trade our freedom for a veil. The worst part of suffering is not the pain, but the damage it can do to our heart, our view of God and our relationship with Jesus. Turning to the living, personal God in these raw places allows the Son of God to adjust our view, and fit together the pieces of our broken heart until we are whole again, shining brighter than before and looking more and more like him. I never understood how suffering could make us one with Jesus until these recent months in the wake of the accident.

I invite you to read through the pages of our family’s life as we sift through the porous membranes of setbacks, thin places, and torn veils that allow pain and joy to intermix until suffering has produced its great reward in all of us—and, as James says, through such we are found lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

For me, I hear the Spirit saying, it’s time to turn a setback into a launch forward.