How We Spend Father’s Day

Often I have been asked if this holiday in particular is difficult.

Blessedly, it is not.

On this day that honors fathers, we instead choose to focus on what we do have, not what we have lost.  And that is truly a lot!

This year, as every year since Keith died, my boys have figured out cards for the men at church whom God has convicted to be part of our lives.  This year’s card said, “As a father figure, you’ve nailed it.” and we included a nail in the cards.  We passed out upwards of 18 cards, and probably could have used a few more.

They get really excited, dashing around church looking for each of the men.  They welcome them with a big hug and present the cards.  They even fight over who gets to give cards to which man.

The men were touched.  One of our friends even got a bit teary (yep, I said it, though I won’t confess which friend).  I myself got choked up a few times.

This year we had the added blessing of taking a dear friend whom the boys call “Uncle” out to lunch.

All in all, a happy day here.

It’s HUGE that so many men from our congregation have followed the Biblical model and taken care of this widow and these fatherless boys.  I have said it before, and will say it again:  I cannot be a guy.  If I even tried, it would be dishonoring to myself as a woman, and dishonoring to my Creator.  Therefore, I rely heavily on the men in our lives to come alongside my boys to “father” them, modelling for them Biblical fatherhood.

And these men have never let me down!  There is always one ready to jump in and catch a ball, wrestle a boy, pat a shoulder, give a high five, teach a manly skill, or fix a door.

No question about it, my boys will remember the love showered upon them by so many, and, Lord willing, will model it in their own homes and in their own churches when they are grown.

And they will also remember the source:  the Lord God Almighty. Everything that has been done for us and to us has been in the name of the Lord.

Even though their earthly father took the early train for glory (going ahead to prepare our mansion, as I told baby Tanner so often right after Keith died), they have a heavenly Father who’s got it covered here on earth.

And so do I.

Because of the Lord’s great lovewe are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” — Lamentations 3:22-24

Seasons of Soccer

Single mom raising a passle of boys = a hair-raising (or should I say hair-graying) experience!

Especially in the area of sports.

But God provides, sometimes in ways I don’t expect, but I can certainly glory in.

Alex’s second soccer season, he had a coach named Scott who had a daughter a bit younger than Alex on the team.  He was a great coach–nice, good with the kids, the right amount of praising them and driving them.

We were blessed when two seasons later, Matthew had the same coach.

Right after that season, Keith died.

I called one of the moms on the team to tell her.  Keith had been sick and in the hospital during part of the season, so they were somewhat in touch with what was going on.  This mom took it upon herself to call the whole team.

Imagine my surprise when, right with the family, Scott walked into the funeral home for the viewing.  I was gratified that he chose to come and express his sympathy, but what he did next quite literally floored me.

He sat down, prepared to stay the whole length of the viewing, and talked sports with my big boys.  Just talked.

Since then, this family, mostly Scott, has become a part of our lives, showing up just when my boys need them.

The next spring, Scott showed up between his kids’ games to watch Alex play.  Matthew, wanting to get his attention, went over and started talking to him.  Then another adult came to talk to Scott.  Scott had the conversation with the adult, but kept him arm around Matthew for like twenty minutes.  Matthew gloried in the male attention.  I thanked God for His provision (and asked Him when he was going to fill that dad spot, but that is another story).

Later that same season, Matthew scored his first goal.  I was in the car with the little ones at the time, avoiding a drizzle.  Alex ran back to the car to tell me Matthew had scored, and I was bummed that I had missed it.  Once again, however, God provided.  Scott happened to be again between games and saw it and was able to whoop and holler for him.

Fast forward a few seasons until Jackson starts playing soccer.  We were blessed once again to have Scott be our coach.  More time for him to speak into my kids’ lives.

Jackson did not score his first goal that season, but when he did a season later, it was against the team Scott was coaching, and even though he was the opposing coach, Scott hugged my son and told him what a great job he did.  He also witnessed Jackson’s second goal (again, I missed it, being on the field with another son–story of my life).

(I have told Scott several times that I wish they had four kids so that there could be one Tanner’s age that he could coach as well.)

Do you notice a theme here?  God providing through a precious family, a precious man, who just loves on my kids when he gets a chance.  He takes the opportunity when it is presented to him, and God has used that mightily to comfort my boys, to strengthen them, to fill in part of that missing “dad” piece.

Here is the part that amazes me.  This is not a believing family.  (My boys here want me to say…NOT YET!)  God is using someone who is not even on board with His general plan to speak so mightily into the lives of my boys.

Provision, my friends, provision!

The LORD remembers us and will bless us – Psalm 115:12a

Following the Fire

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, SO THEY COULD TRAVEL DAY OR NIGHT.  – Exodus 13:21 (emphasis mine)

Reading today the second half of this verse struck my eye.  It seems that the Israelites traveled day and night.  Imagine!  A million people! Small children and pregnant women!  Surly teens and overworked parents!  Day and night!  Makes me weary just thinking about it!

But God was there.

He may not have saved them from the work — He could have, but He didn’t.

He had His purposes for them to have to work hard for their freedom.  I imagine it had to do with trust of God.  If things were easy for them, they would not have to trust God so fully.  They could have escaped in their own strength, and not have had to work to become the devoted, obedient believers they were in the process of becoming.

How much like the Israelites I am!  I need constant reminders of God’s love, my own pillar of fire!

And God graciously provides!  He is always, always, always there.  He is always leading me, whether I am traveling light — or with the baggage of a thousand sad days, a thousand bad choices, a thousand moments of uncertainty — or a thousand-pound bad attitude.

He doesn’t promise the journey will be easy, but He promises to be there.

Just as God led the Israelites day and night, He will lead me…if I let Him.

But the people You redeemed, You led in merciful love; You guided them under your protection to Your holy pasture.  –  Exodus 15:13 (The Message) 

The Fleece I Didn’t Know I Needed

Sometimes I have put down fleeces.  I think God honors my efforts in the fleece if I put them down with a sincere heart, desiring to be in His will.

Sometimes He gives me the fleece I did not know I needed.

We have had a couple hard weeks here.  Raising a teenage boy is a daunting practice at best.  My oldest and I have been squabbling more lately as he tests his wings and boundaries, trying to negotiate this journey to manhood without the benefit of his dad’s direction.  I was a bit discouraged when I arrived at church.  I sought the counsel of a couple male friends, but God was already working.

We have had a group of men visiting our church who have been in town for a few weeks for a training course.  Being the perpetual greeter-of-all-who-enter at church, I met them the first week they arrived and struck up a conversation.  Their first Sunday was the day the Giants played the Packers in the playoffs.  I remember specifically because Alex was “representing” (huge Giants fan) and the guys had already scoped him out for ribbing (one of them was a huge Packers fan and wanted to”belt” him–victory dance thing–guys will get it).  When they found out he was my son, they asked if they could tease him, and like any good mom I said, “Go right ahead!”

This began a relationship between my son and these men.  Being the kid he is, he has gone over every week to talk to them, tease with them, gloat over the Giants victories (good year for that), and just check in.

On Sunday, not long after I had been commiserating about the hard week, the guys came in and told me they had brought new guys with them.  I did not meet them then, but I did a few minutes later in the service.  I was introduced to “B.”  I shook hands with him and worked my way down the line of guys.  When I got to the end of the line, one of the guys, Dan, asked me if I had met “B.”  I told him I had.  He asked me if I knew who he was.  I said I did not.  Much to my surprise, Dan said he was a former NFL center!  Then Dan told me that they had made sure to get Alex over to meet “B.”  Later I found out that “B” did not want his identity known, but did want to make sure that he met my son, and so these guys made sure that it happened.  Without my involvement or prompting, they acted.

Cool story in that Alex got to shake the hand of a former NFL player!  Even cooler that God has used these men, just here for a few weeks, to speak into my son’s life, to give him man stuff that I could not give him.

The fleece I did not ask for, but desperately needed!

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 
— Luke 12:6-7