Posted by: karanoel | November 2, 2020

Love, training & time

The dog breed we were getting was going to be pretty perfect. I’d done my research, talked to people who owned them and even taken Chase to meet a friend’s. They were great family dogs who were easy to train, didn’t shed or bark much, and their energy levels were said to be manageable.

The timing of getting our dog was going to be pretty perfect too. The litter was due in April and would be ready to go home by early June. School would be out, construction on my parents’ cottage on our property would be nearly finished and, most importantly, the work on our yard and pool would be done.

Do you ever find that life doesn’t go exactly as planned?  

Sunny did come in early June. She didn’t shed, which was great, and the barking was minimal (at the start, anyway). Turns out she was pretty trainable too, in the sense that she learned commands quickly, but reinforcing them required me to be on task nonstop… as in every single waking moment of every single day. As to manageable energy levels? As if!!!  Sunny had unrelenting energy, the likes of which I’d never seen.

Though a pandemic hit, dramatically changing Chase’s school schedule, he did get out for summer right before her arrival. But permit delays on my parents’ cottage meant the trench running their gas through our yard could not be filled. Because of the order of things, this meant our torn-up yard and pool could not be completed and our fence couldn’t get put back up. So our 8-week old puppy came home to an unenclosed danger zone and, since we couldn’t take her on walks until she was fully vaccinated, nowhere to expend that boundless energy. Things like ‘What have I gotten myself into?” and “Help me Lord Jesus!” escaped my lips on a regular basis.

It’s not like we were feeling fresh as daisies to start with. It had been an exhausting year and we were spent. Since I had been the one driving the puppy purchase, I carried the weight of added stress her craziness brought to John’s overwhelming world of work and construction. And since I wanted a positive experience for Chase, I felt angst over her excessive biting and jumping and a need to get her in line ASAP. Plus, we had a few rounds of guests coming causing me to feel especially responsible for her energy and behavior, not wanting it to negatively affect their stay.

To make matters worse, the handful of friends who had gotten puppies had ended up with freakishly mellow ones that hardly even needed training. “How is that fair?,” I wondered with a good dose of self-pity. And all the training I worked on so constantly with Sunny simply evaporated in her exuberance around people, causing them to ask so frequently, “When are you going to have her trained?” I was expecting hard, but this was hard.

At the end of one particularly defeating day, John caught me googling, “Are Sheepadoodles crazy?” The internet didn’t seem to think so. Clearly they hadn’t met mine. But no matter what exasperating things happened during the day, a shift would happen at night. Hope would rise that there was some way to tackle this; that order could establish itself in the chaos. So after putting Sunny to bed, I would search for videos on whichever behaviors were at issue and delve back into the training books I’d read. By the time I closed my eyes, I had a strategy for the new day. Weeks came and went like this, every day pouring myself into the work of this puppy. What happened as a result wasn’t some magical transformation that was (or is) obvious to onlookers. As much as I would have loved that, it was even better. 

It was the development of relationship – a really sweet one – which couldn’t be escaped with all the time we were spending together. Since this is the reason we got Sunny in the first place, it’s a much bigger win than simply having a calm or well-behaved dog. Another thing has happened along the way. I’ve realized that she is learning. Maybe not at breakneck speed or in a way that impresses others, but enough for me to know that we are on the right track. It also hits me every once in a while that she is still a really young puppy and there are certain things that will come with age and maturity; no sooner. So now I’m not in such a hurry for either of us to get it right because I’m learning to trust in the process of love, training and time. 

The even bigger takeaway has been a revelation that has affected me pretty profoundly: The God I serve is a God of relationship, not of good behavior. He isn’t phased by any of my areas of sinfulness or acting out because He sees them as opportunities to engage with me; to spend time hearing my heart and imparting His; to establish connection and trust. He’s in no rush for me to get it right and isn’t worried if other people – myself included – see the progress, because He knows that the very intentional work He is doing in my life is on track. His unsnuffable hope brings new mercies every single morning, along with masterful wisdom to establish me in the best ways, bringing order from chaos to bless not only me but the family and community He’s placed me in. And He will never compare me or my progress with anyone else the way I do with Sunny (Sorry Sunny!). I can’t tell you how much I needed this encouragement right now. It brings me such a sense of rest as I let His hope rise day by day and trust in His process of love, training and time. Praying it does the same for you.

Posted by: karanoel | October 23, 2020

When life feels small

The tiny little plants I bring home from various nurseries tell impossible tales of how big they will be someday, demanding large chunks of space for their roots and leaves to expand. As a gardener, I really should take this into account. But it requires faith that this supposed growth will actually happen and patience to tolerate the underwhelming, barren look of my garden until then. Because I lack in both of these areas, I’m a notorious overplanter.

Take, for instance, the zucchini plant I bought for my veggie garden a few years back. There was no way a little leaf sprouting from a few square inches of soil was going to take up 5 or 6 feet of space. I mean, come on… who makes this stuff up?? Plus, I was not about to waste all that needed garden space on a single plant. So I gave it about a foot on each side, which felt extremely generous at the time, and surrounded it with corn, tomatoes and peppers. It turns out that whoever wrote the info card that came with the plant knew what they were talking about because that thing got HUGE.  All the surrounding veggies had to be moved – more than once, if I remember right – to accommodate the surprising growth of that leafy giant.

Sometimes my life has felt small like the zucchini sprout I brought home, underwhelming the landscape and looking decidedly unimpressive. I’m pretty sure God has spent a good many years uprooting weeds and crowding plants of busyness and false identities so my roots can grow deep, my branches can spread wide and my life can produce fruit – hopefully lots of it. For someone who has struggled with faith and patience in more areas than just gardening, it has often seemed like we are going in the wrong direction. Like, shouldn’t we be planting more instead of removing what I’ve worked hard to put there?? But God is not concerned with how things look (or how I feel about how they look). He is a master gardener who knows His plants well – each unique person on this earth – and will tend to them with faith and patience until they are mature and thriving, fulfilling the potential contained in each seed.

I don’t know exactly what that will look like for each of us, except that it will be different. But I do know that there has been a shift for me; a growing surrender in my need for an above-the surface identity and a comfort in the space around me, even if my life never fills it with grand branches or flowering vines. Because my roots are getting established. They are growing healthy and strong in who God made me to be. And anything that grows out of that, whether big or small, has got to be good. I’m encouraged by this sense of rest and security and think that someday it might even gain the scope of imagination and excitement, knowing that what I see now – in  myself or in others – is only a small glimpse of what is to come.

Posted by: karanoel | October 20, 2020

Brothers

Cole and Chase had a different relationship than typical brothers who might fight over toys or debate who’s better at burping. This probably had to do with their 17 year age difference, the result of my long spell of singleness between marriages. While genuinely happy for me when Chase was born, Cole wasn’t thrilled about having a loud, needy newborn around. Still, he graciously surrendered my attention (which had historically been his) and managed the extra noise brought by his wee little brother with the judicious use of his headphones, like the fairly mature but equally hands-off teen he was. 

But then Chase started to form a personality; one that was sweet and charming and endlessly entertaining. He adored his big brother, glowing brightly when he entered the room and eagerly conversing with him, using surprisingly big words in his tiny cartoon voice. Cole’s defenses were powerless against this animated warmth and his heart was won over in no time flat. 

Though Chase had just turned two when Cole left for a six-year enlistment as a Navy nuke, the pair had already formed a forever kind of bond. Their closeness was reflected in this sweet story in Cole’s first letter home from bootcamp: “My RDC made me open up your letter in front of her and the rest of the division to make sure you didn’t send me any contraband and when I opened it up and saw a picture of Chase, I lost it. Fortunately, everyone else was too busy with their own mail to notice me standing in the middle of the room crying like a damn baby.” “It has been really tough,” he continued, “being away from Chase (and yes, all of you as well) and realizing how much of his life I’m going to miss out on.”

Little did he know when he wrote this how much of Chase’s life he would indeed miss, not just during his enlistment when visits were rare and texts, photos and videos had to suffice, but when he chose to take his own life just shy of four years later. My heart hurt deeply for myself, but far more for my boys… for Cole who was in such a place of darkness and fear that he felt the need for such a desperate measure, and for Chase who now has to deal with the pain and fallout of Cole’s actions, something that is getting more tangible for him each year.

Here is the thing. Even though I completely disagree with Cole’s choice and wish he could have received the love and help that was held out to him so he could have chosen life instead, I feel nothing but love and compassion for him. No one does damage to himself or others, intentionally or unwittingly, without it coming from a place of fear, lack of understanding or brokenness. Cole was no exception. And while I know that it is going to take a lot of processing for Chase that I would never want to shortcut, I feel like my role is to help him know who Cole really is, to forgive him for the pain his choice caused and to enter into an even deeper love for him than he would have otherwise… because it will have to be a selfless, God kind of love at this point; the agape kind.

As Chase was processing his sadness with me on Cole’s birthday, I thought about the hurt God’s kids are causing each other in the world right now. It may not always be between bonded siblings like my boys, but between those called family by God, created with a potential for a bond even stronger than brothers of blood. As Cole experienced, it’s not always easy or convenient to have our peace interrupted or our comfort taxed by calling someone “brother” who is so different from ourselves, but what a beautiful, blessed thing it can become. And as I experienced, I have to imagine it breaks God’s heart, even more for us than for Himself, to see the damage we are causing each other by our choices of word and action… sometimes intentionally, sometimes unwittingly, but always from a place of fear, lack of understanding or brokenness. 

The same God who has seen beyond our (often poor) choices to who we really are, forgiven us without fail and loved us with relentless compassion is calling us to do the same. We don’t need to agree, but we do need to love. As with Chase, at this point with hurt that’s gone so deep, it will have to be a selfless, God kind of love. One that believes the best, is not easily offended, keeps no record of wrongs. One that doesn’t draw lines of where worthiness begins and where it ends. Because He has made us all worthy of love and it is only when we receive this gift and the grace that comes with it that we are able to see clearly, to love our brothers and sisters well and to choose life – for ourselves and others – in our words and actions.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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

If you have a chance, I encourage you to listen to Jenn Johnson, For the One:

Posted by: karanoel | October 14, 2020

Anchored.

We have this certain hope like a strong, unbreakable anchor holding our souls to God himself. Hebrews 6:19 tpt

Wednesday, October 7th, would have been Cole’s 25th birthday. Last year, our little family wore temporary anchor tattoos as a way to celebrate him since he was in the Navy and loved tattoos, but more significantly because of our hope that is anchored in Jesus… our hope of heaven, of seeing Cole again, of comfort and healing while we are here on this earth. Chase had also instituted the tradition on this special day of creating art, a particular enjoyment of Cole’s. Because of a friend’s suggestion, we invited others to join us this year in these young, humble traditions.

It felt vulnerable to put my heart out there like this; to invite others into our joy-filled memories of Cole – and into our pain. And yet what poured in through that vulnerability was profoundly moving. Texts and posts of anchored arms sprinkled my vision that day, as did heartfelt drawings and paintings and caring notes that wrapped me up in comfort as my emotions began to rise. Many friends from our neighborhood and community stopped by, most of whom had never even met Cole. But still, they willingly entered into this sacred space of joy and pain, alongside so many others, drenching me in an overwhelming love that shook walls of self-protection that were erected long before Cole was even born, causing ancient bricks to crumble and allowing me to show up uncovered, unburdened, embraced and accepted.

Because that’s what love does. It enters into the vulnerable places, breaking down what never belonged in the first place and building up what was always meant to be. So thank you all for entering in with me through reading this blog and all the other ways you have shown unbelievable kindness and love. I can only hope to enter in with others as you have done for me.

Posted by: karanoel | September 28, 2020

Do you love me?

“When you love someone, truly love them, you lay your heart open to them.” Sherrilyn Kenyon

I was sitting on the kitchen floor with Sunny the other day, petting her floppy mane and teasing her with a toy, when I was flooded with a realization of my love for her. I knew I’d been starting to bond, but was surprised by how vulnerable I felt. With it came a profound desire to be loved by her. Not for what I do for her – like giving her a spoon of peanut butter when I brush her or throwing her rubber chicken time after time in the backyard, but because she loves me.

I often tell her I love her, but this time I asked her, “Do you love me too?” She didn’t answer, but my guess is that she is learning to love me. And truth be told, I’m still learning to love her too. I keenly remember the regret I felt about her purchase when, according to my journal, I considered her “an unnegotiable constant that magnifies all my other difficulties.” And yet here, after only a few months of showing up to care for her, I find this love and desire in my heart. And I’m pretty sure that even if she never answers my question with a clear “yes,” I’ll keep showing up and pouring myself out for her.

You guys, this made me think of God’s love for us. He didn’t have to grow into it like I’ve had to with Sunny, because it was pure and perfect and complete from the beginning of creation and it could never be anything different because it’s His very nature. He has cared for us relentlessly, showing up day after day and hour after hour, no matter what behaviors or difficulties we bring, always telling us – and showing us – how much He loves us. How vulnerable that must feel; how exposed His heart is. He has laid it open to us, willing to be hurt if we don’t return it.

I picture Him asking, “Do you love me too?” Some might give a quick, biting “no.” Some might give an exuberant “yes.” But I think that most of us are learning to love Him. Not just for what He gives us or what He does for us, but because in that tender, faithful care, we come see the beauty of who He is. And more than any blessing, we just want to be with Him.

Posted by: karanoel | September 24, 2020

Without further ado

Many years of conversation about getting a dog came and went. One that was past the puppy stage appealed, but despite the intensity of my on-again-off-again searches, the right one never seemed to show its face. Plus, we were renting and didn’t know what our long term situation would be. Other important questions kept making the rounds, like ”Who would care for our pet when we traveled?” “Would it actually scratch the relationship itch Chase had as the only child living at home?” “Would it be a repeat of The Infamous Craigslist Puppy Purchase?” And most importantly of all, “Do we even want a dog?” With a lack of answers, we always dropped the subject and moved on.

But then this past January came. Life had changed a bit. The pet fish I’d planned on getting Chase at Christmas didn’t materialize because something inside said, “This is the year you’ll get a dog.” So after the holidays, I broached the subject again. John was open. Timing-wise, it made sense. We had settled into our purchased home with plenty of room for a dog to roam. The construction of my parents’ cottage on our property would be wrapped up within a matter of months and their presence might make travel a possibility. Our simultaneous pool rehab would be completed by summer, when Chase, who was now a good age for a dog, would be out of school and available to help.

Of course big questions still lingered and we didn’t have clear answers so research and discussion were heavily peppered with prayer. I kept handing it back to the Lord, unwilling to enter the decision lightly or impulsively, but He seemed to keep handing it back to me, as though it were a gift he wanted to give. Direction came just when it was needed, like stepping stones appearing before every footfall. Chase was ambivalent about the possibility, saying he thought it could be good but “wouldn’t want to help with it every day.” But John thought we may just need to call it and draw Chase into the adventure (and responsibility) with us. I agreed and also had a strong feeling that it could help minimize the growing fear that had replaced Chase’s early fondness of dogs, and possibly soften the blow of his best friend moving away after the school year. When Chase met our friend’s Sheepadoodle, the breed we were leaning towards, he was immediately smitten and became the loudest voice in the puppy campaign.

And so it was that we put a deposit down by the end of January. And then became puppy owners of a fluffy little Miniature Sheepadoodle named Sunny in June. There are plenty of posts to come on the subject, but I will end this one by saying that Chase’s fear of dogs evaporated almost immediately (despite Sunny’s early terrorizing of him with her unrestrained puppy self) and he has become a self-professed dog lover, daily declaring his affection for Sunny, jumping at the chance to accompany me to the dog park and spending a fair amount of time pondering which breed he will get as an adult.  And while this dog ownership journey has – at times – seemed harder than I thought possible, I too am smitten with this shaggy character I love calling mine. I look forward to getting her up in the morning because her joy makes my life better and her antics make me laugh out loud. I would venture to say that despite all the craziness she has added to an already wild ride this year, John is bonding too. So, without further ado, I introduce you to our sweet girl, Sunny Luker…

Posted by: karanoel | September 15, 2020

Landlubbers no more

A conversation with a friend recently got me thinking about what I consider a good day, which is pretty much one that goes smoothly… with no hitches, unanticipated stresses or flatout disasters. There’s nothing wrong with that and I am grateful for each and every one of those days, but the problem is that I am pretty tempted to consider anything else a bad day or at least one I would gladly swap out for a better one. The thing is that as much as I like “easy” – and believe me, I do – it tends to shortcut the growth that will produce the freedom and joy I most want in this life.

Pregnancy is the first example that comes to mind. The stretching and growing my body had to endure to produce my babies was uncomfortable and inconvenient. It taxed my energy, my mobility and even my sleep as I, a human beach ball with heartburn, attempted to find a decent position to get some rest. I remember a particularly trying day in my first trimester with Chase when I said to John, “I changed my mind… I don’t want to be pregnant anymore!” Of course I didn’t mean it. What I meant was that though I really, really wanted this baby, it was hard when I wanted it to be easy. But the birth of both my boys, as I held their tender bodies against my own, was so great a joy that I would have willingly undergone the discomfort, doubts and pain all over again to obtain the treasure on the other side. Of course pregnancy was only the beginning because motherhood stretched me in far deeper ways, forcing my roots down into Jesus and causing more growth that I needed (and desperately wanted) but wouldn’t have chosen because, as we’ve established, I like things smooth and easy. 

I’ve been experiencing growing pains of another sort. The house we bought last year had a separate office/workshop that would be ideal, we thought, for my parents to renovate and move into. Their agreement with our happy idea began a 1 ½ year process that was anything but easy. In fact, it was downright hard. We were all stretched and pressed and inconvenienced. The costs were far greater than expected and, because of permit issues, the time to complete the project went months and months past original (and revised) estimates. I had a couple days, as in my pregnancy, when I told John, “I’m done. Over it. Tapping out.” Of course I didn’t mean it. I meant I wanted to be done having to grow. I wanted it to feel easy again and within my control. But with most of the construction completed on a beautiful cottage that suits them perfectly, my parents were finally able to move in last week. And, despite some serious threats by an inspector to make them move back out, today marked the signoff on the final inspection. It is now a done deal. We hold this tender new family setup on our God-given property with gratitude and joyfully embark on a new adventure. Of course, as with motherhood, there will be plenty more stretching to come… always followed by growth and freedom as we surrender to the process and allow God to form Himself in us.

Since growth in its truest form produces something, like babies or fruit or parents’ cottages or maturity, I have realized that many of the very challenges I would have escaped given the opportunity have actually been answers to the prayers of my heart. For who I’ve wanted to become. For the things I’ve wanted to be able to let go of. For the freedom I’ve yearned for. 

When I was praying for a friend in a very hard place many years ago, a picture formed in my mind that I’ve never forgotten. She was out at sea in a storm. The water was choppy and rough, the skies gray, the wind howling. She feared for her life and all she wanted to do was get out of the waves and onto the shore where she would feel safe and in control again. But God in His mercy knew that if He plunked her right back on the sand with sunny skies, she would be bound to that shore – a landlubber forevermore. He had a bigger vision for her life. So out of His vast patience and knowledge, He wanted to teach her to sail the seas with such mastery that she would never fear the water – or a storm – again, and would be free to go wherever He called her, no matter how big the waves or deafening the wind. Let me just tell you that I have seen her surrender to His compassionate but relentless teaching these past 20 years and though the storm of her circumstances has only intensified, she is no longer afraid and is now teaching others how to sail those daunting seas.

I know He wants to do the same for each of us, leading us into far greater growth and freedom than we would ever choose in our shortsighted desire for comfort or control. It might not be easy, but it will be so worth it as we hold the precious treasures that result.  I don’t know what you’re going through, how long or how hard it has been, if you feel stretched beyond breaking and want nothing more than to tap out of your trial, but I do know that He will not abandon you here; that He will see you through to the other side and that He is using even your hardships to answer the deepest cries of your heart. So my prayer is that no matter what things look like or feel like right now, we can choose to look to Him and let Him teach us how to sail the high seas.

Posted by: karanoel | September 1, 2020

Quiet prayers

Audio version:

If you have ever met my 7 year old, Chase, you most certainly know that he is a Lego fiend. Not only does he request Legos for every birthday and Christmas, but he was handed down thousands of the tiny little plastic pieces from my younger brother, older son and nephew… so very many of which are used every day in his creative expressions. Each weekend, he is tasked with a “super duper room clean,” when all the creations and the seeming millions of scattered pieces need to find a home.

A couple weeks ago, during one such cleanup, he was tired and overwhelmed. Frustrated tears were starting to flow. He had already been working on it for a couple hours and was nowhere near done. But he had left it until Sunday, so it had to be done. Honestly, I couldn’t see how. I discreetly asked John what I should do. Jump in and help? Let him off the hook but give him a consequence? Give an unwelcome motivational speech? I’ve chosen all of these many times over, but none felt quite right in that moment. So I sat in the living room and quietly prayed for grace to infuse that weary boy; that he wouldn’t have to forego the emotional and financial benefits of a job well done.

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It must have been about 20 minutes later that he turned the most surprising corner, for which I could find no other answer than the last-ditch-effort of prayer. His discouragement and defeat had been replaced by a hopeful optimism that he could get it done. His efforts became more productive and though it took a long while yet, he persisted. By that point, I felt very comfortable jumping in to help him cross the finish line. In the end, his room looked pristine, his face was beaming and I have to believe that some little nugget of inspired confidence was instilled in the process.

Yesterday, I was the one who felt tired and defeated. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed, read a book and take a nap. If I’d thought it would truly refresh me and wasn’t just a case of escapism, I would have gone for it. But I had a feeling that I needed grace more than sleep. As I looked around at all the tasks needing attention and hoped I wouldn’t have to just grind it out until bedtime, I prayed quietly in the spirit. It probably wouldn’t kill me to fold the laundry on the bed while I prayed, I thought. So I did. And then the ones in the baskets didn’t seem like such a big deal. Nor did bathing the dog and chatting it up with Chase while I tackled several other things. Somehow in the process, my whole demeanor changed to one of hopeful optimism and my energy level followed. How could I have even thought I needed more caffeine or a nap??

John took me up on a suggestion to walk Sunny around Balboa Island, so we picked up ahi poke to eat by the bay and had the most magical evening as a family. Chase spent the best time yet that he’s had with Sunny and although he is not a fan of walks, said he loved every single minute of it and wasn’t even tired. And do you know what? Neither was I. So much for grinding it out.

I know these don’t qualify as miracles, but they sure did feel like it. And it’s made me think that if God cares enough to tend so compassionately to these small matters we bring to Him, how willing must He be to reach into the utter darkness of all who struggle? You’d better believe I’ve had renewed hope in the power of prayer and have been bringing before the throne those around me who need this compassion. If you are one of these, please let me know and I’ll pray for you too. And I can’t help but encourage you to bring all your needs – no matter how small, no matter how impossible – to the One who cares with everything in Him, who has the power to flip your defeat on its head and delights in instilling the most beautiful nuggets of hope in your heart.

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Posted by: karanoel | August 25, 2020

The wondrous shape of the wind


Audio Version:

The home we moved into last year had been remodeled a couple years before so thankfully there wasn’t much work to be done. But in the big wall at the end of our wide open living space were two tiny little windows that allowed scant light, no view of the yard beyond and barely a whisper of the magnificent breeze that blows through our yard from the distant coast. 

Our plan wasn’t just to install bigger windows, but to bust down most of the wall and replace it with a sliding glass door. With the reasonable labor of a friend and a discounted door through my uncle, we were able to tackle the project fairly quickly. The result was dramatic. Not only did it improve the view, allowing us to see the pool and yard, but it let in a significant amount of light and changed the whole atmosphere of our living space. And, of course, it gave us abundant access to that magical breeze. 

Not too much later, we put up a big curtain rod with some thick drapes to provide privacy if needed. When John suggested some sheer drapes for the smaller second part of the rod, I dashed off to Bed, Bath & Beyond and spent $20 on what is arguably my favorite part of the house. Because now, not only can I feel the wind blowing through the wide expanse of the door, but I can see the shape of its movement as it catches the folds of fabric… lifting them, filling them, making them leap, dance, pause and fly. I could honestly watch it for hours. I’ve only used the thick drapes once, but nearly every time I open the door, I draw the sheer ones to experience the wondrous shape of the wind.

When I was delighting in one such moment, I couldn’t help but see the parallel to the Holy Spirit  – a beautiful, enchanting wind that blows God’s heart through our lives and into the whole earth. Carried upon this Wind is all that we crave – hope, joy, delight, comfort; a tangible, extremely personal experience of the living God who might otherwise feel distant or unknowable. When this grace-bearing Spirit blows through the doorways of our lives, we experience the love of God with all its renewing, refreshing, life-giving benefits and we take the shape of that love as we move in a way that visibly, surprisingly, exquisitely demonstrates who God is. This is how we are transformed. This is how the world is changed. Not by trying to be good people or finding a cause to fight for, but by giving God access to our lives through His Spirit and letting Him move uniquely through us; accomplishing His extraordinary purposes as we joyfully follow His lead.

If we haven’t experienced Him in this way, it’s possible that the view of what lies beyond our immediate environment and understanding has been impeded by tiny little windows that allow only a breath of light or breeze to enter, or maybe even solid walls that allow nothing in at all. If that’s the case, it’s nothing to be daunted by. The cost of construction has already been paid; the expansion plans already drawn up. All it takes is willingness… “I want more than my current measure. I need more than what I am now experiencing. Lord, bust down these walls and show me who you are.” What an exciting adventure to undertake as we see beyond our current boundaries and the whole atmosphere of our lives is changed; as we allow this wind to fill us again and again, causing us to leap, dance, pause and fly….

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. John 3:8

Posted by: karanoel | August 21, 2020

Let the learning begin

IMG_1343Before the start last week of Chase’s 2nd grade year, our school delivered the thrilling news that we would be returning to campus, albeit with some fairly dramatic modifications of time and space to allow for social distancing. Even though they were going to be much shorter days, Chase was delighted to be returning to the classroom to learn from his teacher in person. 

A very short while later, our governor announced restrictions that would not allow a California county to return to campus until certain covid milestones had been reached and held for 2 weeks. Chase was disappointed for sure, as was I, but we did our best to roll with it. 

On his first day of distance learning, we encountered a few technology glitches, like when we somehow landed in a Google Meet full of unfamiliar faces who only spoke Spanish (and Chase ended up in tears on the floor). But our second attempt got us right into his actual class where he recognized several friends and happily launched into his new school year. 

There were more technical issues those first few days, like getting regularly bumped off the internet, a homework submission app that wouldn’t let him submit homework and an ipad microphone that refused to work, making it incredibly difficult to participate. But he pressed on and started to settle in. 

Then our principal communicated that due to declining enrollment related to the pandemic, some teachers had to be moved to other schools and Chase’s class would now be a 1st/2nd grade combo. This didn’t set especially well with Chase (or me, since learning already seemed severely challenged), but it wasn’t nearly as hard as the exodus of 2nd grade friends who left the class the following day (apparently they weren’t thrilled either). Chase doesn’t handle change well and this was a whole lot in a matter of days.

Yesterday was especially rough. The app and microphone still weren’t working and the email request I’d submitted for technical help (to the address we were given) bounced back, leaving me feeling frustrated and helpless. The internet connection continued to fail and Chase got a headache from staring at the screen. I was wondering if all the stress was worth it and, mostly, when the actual learning was going to start.

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But here’s the thing that hit me. The learning has started. It may not be centered on subtraction or sentence structure, but on subjects that will be of far greater use to him in life… like being adaptable, developing real-life perseverance, learning to problem-solve when things go wrong and giving grace to others who may not be fulfilling our expectations. We can talk to our kids about these things and let them watch educational shows full of lessons about them, but the only way they will truly learn them, grow in them and own them is if they personally experience them, with some necessary guidance along the way to help shape them.

Which is where my conviction lies right now. I want to allow this “education” to teach my own heart so that instead of modeling victimhood and complaint about all the things that are wrong, I can help him shape these trying experiences in a way that helps establish him as a person in this world who is not easily defeated by the many hardships he will certainly face; that he might even revel in a challenge because he knows – from personal experience – that he will not only make it through, but will benefit from it, and that he is most certainly up to the task.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10 

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked generation, in which you shine as lights in the world. Philippians 2:15

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