A Lesson from Noah’s Wife

On that very day Noah and his sons… together with his wife and the wives of his three sons entered the ark…. Then the Lord shut [them] in.   Gen. 7:13, 15-16

 

He couldn’t have done it alone. We tend to see Noah’s story as his… alone. But that’s not what scripture says. Eight adults took the steps of faith needed to make it on that ark. And let’s face it, from what most of us know about life and trying to manage a household with kids, no one really does it alone.

My husband is on an overseas trip. His first of many. He’s stepping into the role God has called him to and gifted him for and it’s exciting to watch him thrive. It’s also tempting for me to think, “What about me, God? I want to follow your call. I’m willing for you to use me. When do I get to go? I’m left behind with our three sons… where’s the glamour in that?”

This is not the first time I’ve wrestled with thoughts like these. Not the first time I’ve watched others step into new roles, roles I’d love to fill: a spot on a cheerleading squad that went to the one with a popular football-playing older brother; a part in a musical number that went to the one with finer vocal skills; a teaching position that went to the one with flashier stories and a younger face…

I’m not bitter. Not anymore.

No, really I’m not!

Yes, it was hard being passed over, or feeling like I didn’t get my due. But now that I’m 40-something and have been seasoned a bit by marriage and disappointment, I look for the unique ways God has gifted each of us and the roles He wants each of us to play.

When God is calling in the context of family, each of us has a role to play.

I mean, think about it. Noah’s wife had to be “on board” with this ark building project!

She had to pick up the slack when Noah’s other household chores went undone. She had to feed her family with limited resources while living on the ark… no refrigeration!  She had to step inside the smelly ark loaded with wild animals (and snakes!), even when none of her friends would join her. She had to be willing to start again, rebuilding house and homestead in a new place once the waters receded. She stood by her man. She didn’t hold him back. She didn’t squash his dream. Maybe she even dreamed along with him…

She is a model of how to walk beside a man of faith, a man called by God to do the work of God.

Sadly, many of the other wives mentioned in scripture aren’t model partners. Remember Abraham’s wife, Sarah – too impatient to wait on God’s timing for a promised child; or Lot’s wife – too tied the the comforts of Sodom to fix her eyes on the one who came to rescue; or David’s wife, Michal – too concerned with maintaining her royal image to engage in joy-filled worship. And then, Adam’s wife, Eve, who was too curious about what God might have withheld from them to stay the course and obey.

Most likely, God’s purposes in these men’s lives weren’t thwarted by the support they lacked from their wives. God is not limited by our disobedience. But, I do think we miss out on some of the joy He desires for us when we obey.

I want to be as faithful, industrious, resourceful, creative and loyal as Noah’s wife.

Hand HoldingLet me not complain when my husband is distracted by work. Let me pick up the slack and come alongside to cheer on and celebrate steps of faith. Let me support him in struggles and cloudy vision, and lie with him after long, exhausting days. I know that’s a high bar to set. And I know I won’t reach it perfectly. But Noah’s wife has shown me a little bit of what it might look like.

 

You have called us both, my Father. You have equipped and supplied and enabled us both. So even though right now, I’m the one called to stay behind, I thank you for this role. I thank you for the specific ways you’ve equipped me, and I thank you for what you are building in me as I wait on You. Let us both run with endurance this marathon of faith.

 

Graduation

I stumbled into a longboard leaning against the garbage can this morning. I had come in through the side door — from my walk in the sun-drenched morning, into the dark, cluttered garage — and my squinting eyes didn’t adjust to the change quickly enough. I winced as the board nicked my shin, then rolled and tumbled to the floor. Memorable.

May 31, 2014 was also a day to remember.

B-speaking gradIt was a “eyes squinting in the brightness of all that God has done” kind of day. Our first born, completing homeschool high school, coming to the other side of his recent health challenges, standing proudly with his peers in his graduation. Tears flowed and laughter spilled out of big smiles etched by years of growth and trial and error.

Here are my words to him that day… my looking back and remembering.

 

So, Benjamin – as “son of the right hand” – steady, loyal, adept at learning – you and I have invested hours and hours of our brief lives into your education. We’ve sat on the couch and wrestled with phonics – and now you can read whatever you set your mind to – from CS Lewis, to The Economist. We’ve walked through the woods – and now you can tell a cardinal’s cheep cheep from a mourning dove’s coo coo. We’ve worked through long division – and now you can recognize patterns and figure complicated equations. And we’ve waited in hospital rooms for doctor’s answers, answers we haven’t liked and didn’t ask for – and now you know something about suffering and unanswered prayer.

And who could have guessed that one week in the Rocky Mountains learning about Austrian Economics would set you heart on fire and give you a passion through which you will change the world? …well God.

God saw all that you were becoming as I fumbled around with how to teach you history and math. The Father saw the man He is calling you to be and never let go. Even when I begged Him to “let me be done homeschooling,” He loved you and had this work to carry to completion. I know you know you’re not done learning and growing and becoming, that this is just a respite in your journey of embracing all that the Father knows. But this is a moment I will cherish, and be forever grateful that I got to stand here with you.

B and us - Grad

So, maybe my sharing this moment of reflection will encourage you to pause, reflect, and acknowledge all the Lord has done on your behalf. The insignificant moments of everyday stack up, and eventually become weeks, and then years. God is working, and building, and shaping, even when it feels like all we are doing is stumbling around in the darkness.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.     Philippians 2:12-13

Transplanted

It’s not the land of my birth, but it is the land of my growth, of my becoming… my forming.

Indiana.

Sunrise

I am formed by rich red kitchen walls tinged with splatters of bacon grease and pancake batter on Saturday mornings. Clinking silverware and stacking clean plates from the dishwasher remind me that early morning chores call as faithfully as the sunrise. And I am transformed by meals at the kitchen table shaping this family into one that loves good food and conversations that always end up about movies.

And I am formed by the Indiana clay under my fingernails as I plant and weed and tend red lillythe roses and lavender in my garden beds. The hostas in the shade and lilies in the sun have taught me about blooming and pruning… necessary ingredients for growth. The redbuds we planted out back with their spindly branches and magenta blooms never fail to enchant. Every spring, they tell me that new life lurks just beneath the surface, merely waiting for a warm sun-kiss.

I am formed by three boys whose ever-bouncing, climbing, running feet found mud puddles to splash and balls to kick. They saw forests and imagined new worlds. They saw boxes full of Legos and built spaceships. They saw me and knew I could be trusted. What a gift. And every once in awhile, I convinced them to slow down and notice the caterpillar creeping along a leaf… which fostered in me a bit more childlike wonder.

I am formed by sure-changing seasons, sometimes subtle, sometimes brash. By soft grass and smiling daisies and sticky humid days passed poolside. By falling leaves, apple daisies and lavendarpicking, and bonfire crackles in the crisp night air. By chilled still bare tree-patterns against stormy skies and the hush of fresh-fallen snow. And by robins digging, creeks trickling, and buds bursting while rain pitter-patters on the window. They’ve taught me to watch, listen, and expect beauty at every turn.

I am formed by family time on the olive green couches. Guitar strumming, scripture reading, hearts singing, quiet praying time — inconsistent, but forming just the same. We’ve sought to listen to each other and to God. Together. Sometimes questions go unanswered, but we ask them anyway. Our belief in the One who knows all is strengthened in the asking.

I am formed by hospital beds and emergency rooms, by disease and unknowing. Struggles not just with tight budgets and traffic jams, but with temptations and tempers and immune systems. I have grabbed hold of Hoosier grit. It tells me that keeping on is better than giving up. And that friends who stand with you in the darkness love to celebrate with you in the light.

And I am formed by my partner in life. Marriage has taught me about giving and receiving Hand Holdingand how to be true. My dear one has loved me well and patiently listened while I railed against the hand of the One who loves us best. He stands beside me, stands up for me, stands to protect me, and stands with me in the place we’ve made home. His strength has softened me, and his softness shows me that loud and quick are not necessarily the only way to get something done.

Oh Indiana, I’ve still yet to mention homeschool co-ops and history clubs and milk runs to Rockville. Dunes camping, summer projects, tour buses, farmer’s markets, and state fairs are all part of life that has become mine. How you’ve changed me. How you’ve taught me. How you’ve welcomed this California transplant and encouraged her to grow.

Thank you.

fall trailside

I Am From

This entry is long overdue. I wrote it in October, but somehow didn’t see fit to share it in this venue till now. It speaks of my childhood roots, which somehow seem fresher to me right now, since we are preparing to move to another state and say goodbye to a place that’s become dear to us. But those thoughts are for another post…

 

I am from a walnut-stained upright piano and dutiful students playing minuets, and fugues, and concertos, and my mother’s gentle prodding to “do it again; this time with more feeling,” and I sit at the kitchen table, the center of our home, and anticipate every note to be played, those songs etching their way into my memory.

I am from the green stucco house on Janine Drive and creamy white shutters standing sentinel on either side of the picture windows that look out front. A bed of pink geraniums lines the street, and avocado and lemon trees shade the back. Running between the driveways, a boxwood hedge grows thick and entangled. The liquid amber tree my dad planted when we moved in the summer of my 2nd grade year stands straight and tall. I see those limbs, the branches bearing scarlet and orange leaves every fall, and I realize that we grew up together, that tree and me.

1st ChristianI am from Joanie and John, the soprano and bass who found love in the choir Grandfather Gene directed… and from Grandmother Betty who knew they belonged together even before they did. I am from The First Christian Church of Whittier and Thursday night choir practice and Sunday morning donut runs after Sunday school. The backlit cross hanging over the baptistery and the stained-glass windows in the balcony point me to a faith in the One who calls us to His light.

I am from mom’s hugs and dad’s backrubs – strong hands each with a touch all their own – and Rummy Cue played late into the night while camping in the desert. I am from Peazle-Weazel stories and leprechaun hunts in the orange orchard, and “Jesus, tender shepherd hear me” ushering me to sleep every night just like it did for my Daddy. Little sister and I sing along with the Carpenters or Donny and Marie while our record player spins and skips, or harmonize to show-tunes in the back of the station wagon. Melodies and rhythms and rhymes so fill our days and nights, we hardly know a time when we didn’t have a song stuck in our heads.


I am from
ferry rides to Catalina Island and sunburned weeks at Ida Courts Apartments. I am from old quilts blanketing sandy beaches and early morning hikes up the windy roads overlooking Avalon Bay. The tiled fountains, saltwater taffy, red painted paddleboards, fishing off the green pier, and sunset walks out to the Casino all tell me that “family time” is to be savored and that things done over and over again take on a rhythm of their own, shaping us by their repetition.

avalon-beach-catalina

I am from the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service and the White Gift Processional – first known to me in Whittier, California, but rooted deep in the patchwork of Europe that speaks of my ancestry. I am from pork chops with applesauce, barbecue chicken with baked potatoes, and enchiladas with guacamole; from chocolate chip cookies, homemade strawberry jam, and frosted sugar cookies at Christmas; from Advent Calendars, Easter baskets, and ice cream cakes for my birthday. I am from hallways lined with family pictures, trinkets filling bookshelves testifying to world travels and curiosity long-lived.

I am from words spoken with passion and truth, and from The Word, who shows me whose I am and how He sees me – which is truer than anything else I know.

Mama’s Dreams

It’s happeningboys' backs
my boys becoming men
brandishing desire and direction different than mine.
Their otherness stares at me
unblinking.

But still, my heart holds dreams
first given by God when each still dwelt in womb safety.
Dreams rooted in the naming –

The son-of-the-right hand
steady, faithful, loyal,
holding fast to the Word of life
and nothing else.

The bearer-of-light
creative, transforming, authentic,
bending to the Light that brings life
to this world.

The strong-and-courageous-one
inviting, open, humble,
taking boldly ground he knows God
has secured.

So even though doubts assail me,
my tongue betrays me,
my fears malign me,
I stand assured –
what God started
He will complete.

Yes, this happening,
this inevitable affair
forces us to face places
new
unfamiliar
but known to the One
Who knows us each by name.

Here I rest.empty road

Tucked away for the future

A writer-friend of mine, challenged me to write a poem entitled, “What I would tell my granddaughter” based on things I know to be true. Well, yes, my granddaughter is still years and years away from making an entrance into my life, but still, I’m hopeful she’ll be here one day.

So, here’s where my thoughts landed.

If I should have a granddaughter… 

I would take her out in the morning early so we could catch the sun rising over the horizon shedding its rays of pinks and purples and yellows.

And I would tell her, “Sweetheart, the sun always comes up in the morning; and even if you can’t see it through the clouds or the haze or the tree-shaped shadows, it’s there ready to offer warmth and a start to a new day unwritten.”

Sand

I would take her on walks along a salty shore lined with shells and seaweed and driftwood; and we would pause to let the waves wash over our toes.  The outgoing water would pull the sand from under our feet and we would sink just a bit each time.

And I would tell her, “Baby, the ocean never stops coming and going, one with the other.  And even though it’s painful sometimes, life is filled with hellos and goodbyes, bringing heartache and healing, tears and tenderness, longing and laughter.”

 

I would take her to city parks crawling with children with different colored skin and hair and eyes, speaking languages strange to her ears.

And I would tell her, “Darlin’, a smile needs no translation and the best way to approach an unfamiliar situation is open-handed rather than close-fisted; and people who aren’t like you are often the best people to help you know you.”

 prayer candles

I would take her to houses of worship where Jesus is known and loved and spoken of; places where the Spirit moves freely and mysteriously, where people have “met their maker” and lived to tell about it.

And I would tell her, “Angel, you have a story to tell, a story worth telling.  It started the moment God thought of the very idea of you and placed you in your momma’s belly, and it’s still unfolding to point people around you, who know you and your story, to the God who lives to redeem.

 

I would take her to a mountaintop covered in sweet smelling firs, where the wind speaks to the trees who whisper back, “He’s here.  He sees.” And we would wait, hand in hand, blood warmth pulsing through our entangled fingers, for the moon to rise and take its place among the stars.

And I would sit with her quietly, knowing that some moments are better left unsaid, untainted by words that fail to bring understanding. And we would mull our thoughts in the cool moonlight.

A picture of delight

As a homeschool mom, I love speaking in the boys’ creative processes.  For me, this mostly comes when I get to coach them in their writing and speaking.  My youngest, Andrew, has been working on descriptive writing the past few weeks.  I love his description of a barn.  Just to clarify, this barn only exists in his imagination.  We haven’t seen anything like this in Orlando!

I think it’s a nice picture of what “delight” looks like.  Enjoy.

***  ***  ***

by Andrew Sanders

Our barn stands at the base of the large hill, strong and steady, like a sentinel watching over his charge. White paint, slightly curling off the walls exposing the dark wood underneath, has taken on a shade of flecked eggshells. The hefty, humped roof, streaked with bird droppings, protects the interior with steadfast firmness, resisting the wind, rain, and snow. High windows offer the setting sun an opportunity spotlight the barn floor below.

Under the roof stands the darkest corner of the loft, which houses all of the precious gifts and heirlooms Ma and Papa want to keep: a chest full of great-grandpa’s letters from the war, Ma’s first sewing machine, and Papa’s first rifle. Heavy dust lights upon every surface coloring it silver gray, so different from the atmosphere on the floor below. The darkness coats everything within its boundaries with a soft, black, blanket, hiding both worthless boxes and priceless family heirlooms.

Moving toward the main space of the loft, bright lights hang from the rafters giving the space a playful air. Dry hay carpets the wooden panels that act as the floor, offering a soft cushion. Bales of hay lay strewn across the boards, creating benches and chairs for twirling ladies and gentlemen after dancing.

Connecting the levels with straight precision, firm ladders provide a means of moving from story to story. On the ground floor, freshly swept wooden planks look smooth, ready to support dancing feet. The smaller tools of farming, pitchforks, saws and hammers stand propped up or hung on the walls in neat order, cleared away from the main area to give more room for the jubilee. The animals are stowed away in their stalls far into the barn, away from the area for the dance. The cows, chickens, goats, sheep, and pigs, happily sound their own calls, oblivious to what was about to come but somehow affected by the joyful air.

 

 

 

photo credit:

The Gaze of Trust

We met with a new doctor for Benjamin in Orlando last week.  Like others in her profession, she sees the disease, huge, foreboding. We see it as reality, but not defining.  Ulcerative colitis isn’t a period at the end of a life sentence for Benjamin.  It’s providing context for his story… and mine.

I’m drawn to the words of my story, to get them out.  So, here are bits of my journal, my honest heart before the Lord of mercy.  I pray you find a piece of your story as I share reflections on mine.

____________________

November 6, 2011

God, I need more of you.  

I need to see you, to adore you here, in the unknowing.  I don’t really know anything accept that I am afraid.

Afraid B’s not going to get well.  Afraid of him bleeding.  Afraid of the long, slow road of healing.  Afraid of harsh medicines that don’t heal the problem, only arrest the symptoms.  My fears pile up waiting for you to address and consume them.

How can I be so fearful?

Is this what lack of control feels like? Sleepless nights with stomach in knots, mind racing, weight on my chest.  Anxiety, God, is what this is.

Where is your peace?

I need to know what to do today.  How to help him today.  I wish my hugs could make him better.  I wish homemade chicken soup was all he needed.  Every day he’s not better, honestly, I feel like I am failing him.

How could he be so ill on my watch?

When he was a baby and having trouble sleeping, I would let him cry it out, and I would cry outside the door, hating to hear him struggle, but knowing he needed to learn how to sleep on his own.  It wrenched my heart and I asked you then what you were trying to teach me, through his struggle.  I didn’t get it then — or now.
Trust me.
I want to trust you.  I thought I was.  I am… I only want to do what you say.  But, you’re silent.  Where is the way to walk?  I’ll walk there.  I just don’t know where…
___________________
November 11, 2011
In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him.  Yet at present, we do not see everything subject to him.  But we see Jesus…                                                       Hebrews 2:8-9
I want to be subject to Jesus.  I want my life to reflect his glory.  I want to live in humble obedience to him.  That’s the only way life makes sense.
I’m definitely not experiencing “everything” subject to me!  My world has twisted completely out of control.  What I thought I knew about health and my ability to produce it seems shallow and vain in the shadow of B’s illness.  And, yet, this passage seems to be saying that seeing Jesus sets things right, in order.
Oh Jesus, you are my everything.  Really, there is nothing else to hold on to.  Health is fleeting.  Money runs out.  Possessions rust.  People disappoint… and die. Fill up my vision.  Be what I see.  Be my hands and feet, pointing others around me to you.

Is God Near?

We’re entering into an anniversary of sorts.  One year ago this month we began to live life with the realization that our oldest son has an inflammatory bowel disease… ending up with the diagnosis of indeterminate colitis.  It’s chronic.  It’s disruptive.  It’s incredibly inconvenient. But, it’s the place God has us.  We are seeing God “show up” in amazing ways as we walk this journey.


This blog entry is the first in a series where I will try to recount the valley we began to walk last year.  We aren’t to the other side yet.  But, I believe that it’s important that we share this journey in community.   The way a few grains of sand in my shoe drive me batty, sorting stories alone leads to isolation.

But those same grains, when joined with thousands of others, provide a tender and inviting place to walk.  So stories, when shared in community, provide a gentle place to process what God’s doing.  The difference in is in the gathering.

When we share the journey with others, openly, God reveals himself in the process. Not just when everything works out like we hoped.

I’d love to hear your own stories about how God has met you in the midst of unknowing.

_____________________

September 28, 2011

Gathering information is a strength of mine.  It’s my “go to” move when I’m trying to cope.  So, when we learned that Benjamin has “indeterminate colitis”, I consulted my nutrition books and websites looking for answers, looking to fix it.  Unfortunately, there isn’t an “easy fix.”  But what in life worth doing or learning is ever easy?  Even so, information by itself is cold and steril.  In my searching, I craved more than information.  I craved a presence I knew was beyond me.  I needed God near.

You may have heard me speak about the nearness of God.  It’s my favorite thing about Him — that he doesn’t run away in times of trouble, that he celebrates with us in victory, and draws close when we cry.  But I have to say, after many days of Benjamin bleeding, even in the hospital, I started to feel desparate.

One morning, about 10 days into our hospital stay, I needed to be loud with God.  I went on a walk and yelled at him.  OK, God, this has gone on long enough.  Why don’t you do something?  Where are you?  I need you to press in nearer.  You’re not near enough.  I felt desparate.  Many times I sobbed and nearly collapsed.

As I plodded along the nature paths in our neighborhood, the morning silent and misty, a strange thing happened.  Instead of my thoughts swirling in despair, I realized that they had begun to settle on what brings God glory.  I noticed glistening dewed blades of grass, the beautifully haphazard array of wildflowers and weeds, a seasoned stump ringed with age.  Unintentionally, I was thinking about how God was bigger than “indeterminate colitis.”  He gently led me to a place of surrender and I no longer cared about being “delivered.”

Instead of rescue me… rescue Benjamin, my heart whispered do what brings you glory.

I asked him to glorify himself in the midst of our struggle.  I told him that if we could just stand in the radiance of that glory, it would be enough.  I rested there, sweetly.  God drew near.

I can’t say that Benjamin has been healed.  He will most likely have this condition for the rest of his life.  I can’t say that anything I’ve planned has worked out my way.  But, I can say that God isn’t wasting a minute of this.  He is bringing himself glory as he shepherds us in the valley.  He is good and the writer of good stories… and I’m so glad I’m his.

Remembering Leprechauns

Seven young cousins stood at the bottom of Grandpa’s driveway scanning the hilly orchard.  We donned our Christmas outfits, complete with white lace ruffled socks under black patent Mary Janes.  Grandpa had convinced us that leprechauns lived in his orange trees and we were on the hunt.

Proceeding in a single line behind our white-haired leader, we stepped carefully through dried leaves and fallen oranges.  Every sound made us jump.  Grandpa continued to weave his tale about the sneaky leprechauns, how they hide in treetops, and are terribly shy around humans.  But, he said, if we were quiet and brave, we just might catch a glimpse of one.

Suddenly, a tree to our left began to shake and quiver, we turned to look, but a loud crash made us take off running down the hill.  Not one of us stayed long enough to see the clay pot laying at the foot of the tree, and my dad and grandpa patting each other on the back, sharing a belly laugh.

Eugene Morrison Riddle, Grandpa to me, filled my child-days with stories and music.  Grandpa stood about 6 feet tall, lanky, and muscular. Bright white curls mischievously adorned the top of his head, making playful peaks and valleys like meringue atop a lemon pie. His baby blues sparkled when he laughed, which was often.  He enjoyed tennis, photography, and traveling – the world.  But his passion was music.  He conducted multi-voiced choirs, brought pipe organs to life, and savored old records played on his then state-of-the-art stereo system.

Grandpa’s birthday

Music connected us – Grandpa and me. Many Sunday afternoons, I would accompany Grandma and Grandpa to the symphony and learn to love Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms.  When I went to Saltsburg, Austria on a tour in college, I choose to attend an organ concert in a tiny round theater just because I new Grandpa would like it.  His love for music shaped my own.

Now that he’s gone, I imagine him in heaven with angel choirs.  Sometimes I think he meets me in song. Although I can’t imagine Grandpa appreciating the modern style of worship in our church today, on occasion, when we stand to sing the doxology, I remember him standing next to me as a little girl in church on Greenleaf Avenue.  His hands, gnarled by arthritis, gripped the wooden pew in front of us as we rose to honor and thank the Lord from whom all blessings flow.

He died before my boys could know him.  That saddens me.  But, he lives on through the stories I share about him and the pictures I have.  Like the one of 7 little children and one grown man, hands to their foreheads, looking for leprechauns.