Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dude Party

Last night we hosted Grant's ninth birthday party. Dubbed the "Dude Party" and planned exclusively by Grant, it was one of my favorite kid parties to date. Grant planned the menu: pizza, Sprite, chips, salsa and Buster Bar ice cream cake. He was adamant that we serve only dude food and nothing healthy. We asked each boy to bring their bike, skateboard or scooter to participate in some "dude fun."

The night before the party all three Buchstaber kids slept over so Bucky and Britta could celebrate their 11th anniversary. Bucky, who is Curt's good friend, our church's children's pastor, and a kid trapped in a grown up's body, arranged his kid pickup time to coordinate with Grant's party so he could play too. When he arrived, he and Curt built a ramp for the dudes to ride on and perform various injury-inducing tricks. Peter, another Solid Rock children's pastor, also came to the party. The first thing he told the boys was, "I'm really eight, I just have a growth disease." Of course, they thought it was high-larious.

The three grown up boys devised a relay game, one biker and one skateboarder per team. When the second person finished their leg, they dashed to capture a flag and run it back to home. Grant was first to the flag, but Raleigh would not go down without a fight and the wrestling match that ensued was very dude-like, with Grant just barely coming out on top.

Bucky wowed us all with his spur-of-the-moment hand stand skateboarding trick and managed to break the trucks on Grant's new skateboard in the process. Good thing we had an extra set. Grant told Curt (who has been hogging Grant's new trick bike), "Dad, I don't want you to ride my bike anymore. It's not meant for grown ups."

A dude party isn't complete without some chicks to inspire them to greatness and the six little dudes had a good cheering section in Lucy, Kaitlin and Paige. Alli, in spite of her fancy party dress, believes she's one of the dudes and wholeheartedly rubbed elbows with the boys. She even sat with them at the dinner table. At least she looked good doing it.

Prayer for the meal sounded more like a pep rally than a prayer. Curt: "Dear God, thank you for a dude party. (cheers from the boys) Thanks for pizza. (more cheers). Thanks for Sprite to make good belches. (more cheers). And thanks for nothing healthy. (more cheers). Oh, and thanks for Grant's birth 9 years ago. (more cheers). Amen." The dudes commandeered the table leaving the girls to sit on the floor to eat. They hadn't taken two bite before Curt hollered, "Where's all the belching? It's not a dude party without some belches." (Sigh).

Conversations overheard between the belches:
"I can belch the ABC's."
"Let's hear it." (proceeds to demonstrate, but is interrupted by another boy)
"There's a GIRL, did you hear me a girl, in my class who can belch the ABC's."
"Dude, that's so gross."
"Gross? No way. That's SOOOOO cool."
"This is the best party ever (BELCH)."

By the time two 2-liters of Sprite had been devoured and some food had been thrown (we drew the line at a full on food fight), it was time for cake. Bucky came up with the brilliant idea of having a belching contest to determine who got the first slice of cake. After singing to Grant, he gave each boy 20 seconds to come up with their best manufactured belch. Raleigh was the hands-down winner. (Amy aren't you proud?). Raleigh also has a talent of putting his hands to his mouth, blowing really hard, and manufacturing the realest sounding toots. He had everyone dying laughing, especially Curt. Curt said between belly laughs, "That's funny. Even at 34, that is straight up funny."

Alden taught Peter how to skateboard (although I'm pretty sure Peter knew how to already) and Grant perfected his ollie (a skateboard trick) and was super pumped to complete his first real ollie at the party.

Britta and I tried three times to get a picture of us together, using three different photographers, and every last picture is tainted by either Bucky or Curt and Bucky being disgusting in the background. We are talking HIGH class party here ladies and gentlemen. Aren't you sorry you missed it?

Favorite moments for me include watching Alden, Grant's normally very reserved best friend, let loose and lose his mind laughing. He was doubled over a bar stool, gasping for air, and laughing his head off. He told me later the source of his mirth was when he tried to imitate Raleigh's hand farts and he blew snot out his nose. Watching Griffin, who is 17 months going on 8, think he was a big boy and try to do everything the big kids did. He's deliciously adorable and such a mini-me of his father. Chatting with Crosby about our Converse (he has black; I have orange). I told him, "I almost got black, but chose orange at the last minute." To which he replied, "But orange is SO you." Crafting with Lucy, Crosby, Alli and Paige while Grant was at school. They each painstakingly made him a birthday card that showed their individual flair. When Grant was showing me all his birthday cards/gifts after the party, he showed me other hand-made, individualized birthday cards and gifts from his other buddies and I was just overcome with gratitude over how well-loved my son is.

As I reflect on the party and the pictures, I think the best part was stepping out of the social norm and just letting boys be boys. They got to wrestle, compete, do risky tricks, be disgusting, and not use their manners. And they thought it was hilariously fun. I can't say I understand, but the memories of Grant's Dude Party will stay sharp and fresh for a long time in my mind.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Nine Year Old Dude

Nine years ago today, Grant Andrew Stilp stole our hearts and made our dreams of becoming parents a reality. Although I'm certain I would have loved a first-born daughter, there is something so profound and moving about having a first-born son. When I was pregnant, I secretly longed for a daughter and was afraid I'd be disappointed if we had a son. This fear was so ridiculous that I never acknowledged it out loud, not even to Curt. Less than five hours after my water broke, our doctor announced, "It's a boy" and promptly got hosed down as only a naked baby boy can do. When the nurse placed him in my arms and I held my son for the first time, the sobs started and didn't subside for what seemed like forever. I was so overwhelmed with love for this five-pound-ten-ounce, scrawny, fuzzy, and wrinkly little man. How could I ever have thought I'd be disappointed with a son?

The past nine years have been filled with lots of joy, laughter, and tears. Poor Grant is the Parenting Guinea Pig in our house, but I guess that comes with the territory of being the first-born. His non-stop questions and ridiculously large vocabulary have always been a constant source of amusement and laughter. I'm currently madly in love with his confident sense of style. He knows why and what he likes and I find it so endearing. His honesty is a trait I want to emulate. For the most part he's a stellar big brother, protecting his sisters and successfully tolerating a world full of princesses, Barbies, babies, and emotions on hyper-drive.

Last night I wrote him a love letter and taped it on his bathroom mirror for him to find this morning. As I wrote in my half-cursive, half-non-cursive handwriting, I marveled that I have a child old enough to decipher my handwriting and to appreciate the specific things I was writing about why I love him. Wasn't he just born yesterday?

At precisely 7:00 a.m., Grant crept through our bedroom door and tapped me on the shoulder. As I woke up, he said in a super excited voice, "Mom! It's my birthday. And I found my note on my mirror. Thanks so much. Can we open presents and make pancakes now?" While Curt fried bacon, I cooked pancakes, and Grant opened presents. He was thrilled with his new bike (now he won't look like a big guy on a little bike) with the trick pegs and spinning handlebars, skateboard and helmet. He'd better keep a close eye on the bike though. If it ever comes up missing, the first suspected thief will be his father.

Having company for the past few days threw my schedule out of wack and Grant's birthday completely snuck up on me. I was at Fred Meyer last night at 10 p.m. finishing off the birthday list (and still forgot donut holes and strawberries) and I forgot to email his teacher to set up a time to bring in treats to share with his class. So after he got on the bus, Paige and I ran a few errands. At the Dollar Tree, Paige picked out a birthday balloon (one of the "A-nited States because Grant likes the A-nited States"), Jelly Belly candies, a cookies and cream candy bar, and a plastic dinosaur to give to Grant, while I picked out a "World's Greatest Son" button for him to wear at school. We moved over to Safeway and scored the missing donut holes and strawberries. Our last stop was Subway. It's anything-you-want-day on your birthday and Grant wanted the "Grant Special" sandwich from Subway. Armed with my 3x5 card with instructions, I ordered his special lunch and then we headed to school to make our deliveries.

As soon as we opened the door to his classroom every 9-year-old girl collectively sighed and then oohed, "Ohhhhhh Grant.... Is that your little sister? She's soooooooooooo cute." Paige loved being in the spotlight and I'm pretty sure Grant didn't mind all the extra attention from the girls either. I showed him the "World's Greatest Son" pin and shockingly, he agreed to wear it. He even seemed really pleased. He got to be in charge of calling back groups to help themselves to the treats and I laughed out loud as he called all his dude friends first. The poor girls who were showering him with affection because his sister was so cute were left waiting and waiting and waiting. The class sang "Happy Birthday" and he obligingly acted embarrassed. But my favorite part was when his teacher cranked some dance music and the whole class started busting a move. Grant has great rhythm and I couldn't believe that he just let loose and broke out some of his best moves (normally reserved for the privacy of our living room) for his classmates. I'm still smiling just thinking about it....

He chose to eat dinner at home, but selected the menu (bratwurst and cheddar hot dogs on the grill, pickles, fruit salad and more BBQ chips) and then we went to Dairy Queen for dessert. On the way to Dairy Queen we stopped by his buddies' houses and dropped off their official party invitations for his birthday party on Friday.

As I've been writing this, Grant has been jabbering non-stop to Curt during their nightly bedtime rehash-the-day session. I'm so grateful for my sweet son, Grant Andrew, and for nine years of being his mom. Happy birthday Sweet Boy. I love you.

Friday, April 16, 2010

As If It Wasn't Exciting Enough....

I knew yesterday was going to be a flurry of activity so I tried to plan ahead. I stayed up until almost midnight planning the meals for the next two weeks and compiling my grocery list.
Originally I was scheduled to chaperone a walking field trip for Alli's kindergarten class, this time to the fire station which sounded more fun to me than a shape walk and trip to the orthodontist. But as my list of "Must Finish Today" grew, I knew I couldn't do it all. Alli's teacher put me on stand-by for the field trip, so I got the older kids on the bus and Paige and I were at the first grocery store by 8:30. We rushed around the store then dashed home to stash the food. Got back in the car and made it to the gym in time for a yoga class. Left yoga five minutes early to hit another store before rushing to school to pick Alli up. Stopped at Subway for lunch which they ate in the back of one of those monster carts at Target. Finished at Target and ran through the craft store before we hit Costco.

By the time we arrived at Costco, the girls were getting crabby and I was running out of my new-found calmness. It had potential to be disastrous, but I remembered my Love and Logic class and found two choices to give them that didn't include "obey or else", and they had a quick turnaround. Alli reminded me multiple times "Isn't it great that I changed my behavior?" The girls sat on the curb in the beautiful sunshine while I played Tetras to fit an entire two-weeks worth of groceries in the back of the van. We got home and spent the next hour and half putting groceries away and getting organized for my in-laws, Mo and Carole, who would be arriving in a just a couple hours for their first trip to Oregon.

Their arrival was two hours and counting down by the time I got the groceries put away. I wanted the house to be perfectly cleaned with "Welcome to Our Home" signs taped up everywhere, kids perfectly dressed, toys picked up, candles burning, dinner ready, etc. You know the whole game of everything is perfect in my head, but then real life gets in the way?

The first dinner pan was on the stove when our neighbor called. Grant is going to take care of their salt water fish tank while they travel for a week and they were ready for us to come over and get some instructions. I put Katie in charge of Alli and Paige and told the girls they could play in the house or in the back yard, and then Grant and I headed two houses over for our ten-minute tutorial. We opened their door to leave and Alli was standing on their front step holding our phone, newly plastered with bright orange 911 stickers from her field trip, looking nervous.

Alli, holding phone out to me: "A man called for you."
Me: "What man?"
Alli, still nervous: "Uhhh... I don't know." I knew something was suspect because she is ALL about answering the phone and takes ridiculously precise messages. I checked the caller ID and it said "City of Dundee" which I thought was a little odd, but I mused out loud, "Well, if it's important, they'll call back. Thanks for giving me the message."

As I started heading across the cul-de-sac, two "City of Dundee" cop cars turned the corner. I glanced at Alli and she took off for our house. When the slightly grumpy police officer got out and asked me, "Do you live here?" pointed to my house, and Alli hid behind the pillar, I knew she was the source of this unplanned visit.

Mr. Grumpy Pants said, "We got a 911 hang up call. The dispatcher called back and a six-year-old answered. And you (big pause and surmises what I'm wearing) look like you just got back from a walk?"
Me: "No officer. I was at my neighbor's house getting instructions for home care while they're traveling. These are my gym clothes from this morning. Haven't had a chance to change yet." (Or shower, but I didn't put that part in there because Alli had already asked me earlier, "Did you remember to put on Dove so your arm pits don't get stinky?")

Mr. Grumpy Pants continued to grill me, wrote down my name (spelled incorrectly) and birthdate, and other pertinent information. While we're talking, kids and dogs continued to pour out the front door or holler "It wasn't me" out bedroom windows. It was pretty impressive if I do say so myself. I assured him I would have a conversation with Stilp Children 1,2,3 and 4, figure out which child called 911 (as if I didn't already know), make sure they all had a new definition of what emergency is and isn't, and apologized for wasting his time. His partner, from the other car who never said a word the entire time, appeared to be fighting back a gut-busting laugh the entire time.

After the officers left, I sat the kids down on the couch and starting with Katie, asked each one if they called 911. I purposely asked Alli last because it was blatantly obvious that she was guilty and I wanted her to squirm a bit. When I got to Alli, I knew she'd be tempted to lie, so I asked, "Why did you call 911?" When she shrugged an "I don't know," I dismissed the other kids and she and I had a little talk. Apparently the orange stickers were too much temptation so she called 911 while I was gone to see what would happen. She hung up before the dispatcher answered and when the dispatcher called back, here's how the conversation went:

Alli: "Stilps, this is Alli."
Dispatcher: "May I speak to a parent?
Alli: "My Dad is at the airport picking up my grandparents from Minnesota and my Mom just left."

Apparently they talked a little longer and sent out the police cars to find out what kind of negligent mom leaves her six-year-old alone in the house. Next time Alli has a chance to go on a field trip to the fire station, I may just say NO. As if this day wasn't exciting enough....

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Easter 2010

I'm killing time, waiting for the washing machine cycle to end so I can switch the clothes and go to bed. Curt just stopped by the computer and asked, "When are you going to blog about Easter?" I gave him a really blank stare and realized I never did blog about Easter. Oh the horror...

Easter weekend was wonderful, family-oriented, and so relaxing. I just have to throw it out there - I can't stand dying Easter eggs. Even as a kid, I really didn't like it and as an adult I think I dislike it even more. I have no idea where the tradition came from or why we do it which makes it even more annoying. HOWEVER, I have four children who like to dye eggs AND carve pumpkins and while I would do it with them as an act of love, I defer to Curt who actually enjoys both tasks. I boiled the eggs and then sat at the counter filling in immunization records in baby books while the kids and Daddy took great pleasure in carefully coloring eggs. I did participate in taking pictures and made sure each participant, Curt included, knew how beautiful their eggs looked.

We threw together a delicious meal of piping hot stromboli (which to me is the exact same thing as calzone, but with a different name) but had to leave it steaming on the counter to make it to church on time. It was slightly odd to attend church on Saturday night, given that according to the Biblical time line Jesus was still dead in the tomb while we were celebrating his resurrection. But we enjoyed going to Solid Rock's downtown campus and freeing up our Easter morning to hang as a family in our jammies without the pressure of an agenda.

After we put the kids to bed, I dug out the "Seasonal" bin from the storage area to find the kids' Easter baskets. While I filled them with candy, Curt filled plastic eggs with bubble gum. I saw in the paper that Michelle Obama was encouraging parents to not buy candy this year, but come on. What's Easter without those nasty Peeps marshmallows and tons of Reeses' Peanut Butter eggs? Once the baskets and eggs were full, Curt set to work hiding them. If I was in charge of hiding the baskets, there would be one on top of the kitchen table, one on the kitchen counter, one on the dining room table and one in the middle of the family room floor which is why Curt does the hiding. He was like a little kid dashing around the house trying to find the perfect spots to hide the baskets. (I, however, did hide Curt's basket. On the kitchen counter.)

The kids woke us up Easter morning and were ready to search for their baskets and do the egg hunt, but we sat down at the table as a family first and read from the Bible the story of Jesus' resurrection. "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!" When we finished celebrating Jesus' victory over death and Satan, we released the hounds to search for eggs and baskets. The kids gave up on finding their baskets after about five minutes, so Curt made up a riddle that had a clue to each one of their baskets. It was very clever and he made it up on the spot. I was so impressed. Eventually, all four baskets were found and the kids dug into their candy. The Easter Bunny didn't bring me a basket, but I did buy myself an entire pack of Reese's eggs to eat by myself with no sharing. As my Dad once said and has never lived down, "I predetermined in my mind that I'm not going to share."

Which leads me to the rest of the day. My Dad and his wife Marcy came for the day from Bend. They arrived around 10:30 a.m. and we spent the entire day together just being a family. We made a nice meal and I even set a fancy table complete with my china and silver flatware. We enjoyed adult conversation and also time with the kids. It was a lovely mix of family and fun and we enjoyed every minute. My Dad, who is always on time, even left 40 minutes later than scheduled which I considered a big compliment. (Thanks Dad!)

So that was our Easter. Fun, faith, family. How was yours?

Psalm 103

Was so blessed by Psalm 103 this morning. Here are my favorite parts, but I'd encourage you to read the whole thing.

"Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's... The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Follow The Way of Love

People are difficult. Annoying. Hard to live with. And I lump myself into the annoyingly difficult and hard to live with category. But living in isolation would quickly get old so we're all forced to live with each other, like it or not.

Yesterday the assigned Bible reading was I Corinthians 13, the Love chapter. As I read it, I felt God encouraging me to take some time to really soak in what love is and what it isn't, but I chose not to take the time and closed up shop with God early. Today I got irritated with someone over a minor issue and felt myself mentally berating them. Why is it so satisfying to start rehashing every last thing the offender did or has ever done and why does it brings a sick sense of justification for getting upset? When I sat down for my time with God, I was still irritated. I opened to I Corinthians and the verses I read yesterday started playing back in my mind. As I re-read them, the squirming began. "Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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 perserveres. Love never fails."

I realized as I re-read these words that I was acting like a toddler. I was easily angered. I was keeping a record of wrongs. I was not protecting or trusting this relationship. I was not being kind and I was being proud. OUCH. While I initially tried to give myself bonus points for internalizing my struggle and keeping it to myself, I eventually realized that didn't matter. Internal or external, it was still ugly. I confessed my sin and felt the Lord restoring my spirit as I moved on to chapter 14. The first line jumped off the page: "Follow the way of love." Huh? How have I never noticed that before? Is it really that simple?

I'd argue that it is. If I take LOVE, as defined by God in chapter 13, and consistently follow the way of love in my relationships, every person in my circle of influence will be blessed. So that's my desire. That's my goal. With God's help, I will follow the way of love in every personal interaction I have each day. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

No Vile Thing...

This afternoon when I was reading my Bible, I came across a verse that immediately took me back to high school and our house in Scio. My parents splurged and got some new furniture and a new TV, one with a bigger screen and where the color didn't fizz in and out. It fit nicely into the built-in bookshelf and nook in our family room.

One morning we woke up and on the shelf directly above the new TV was a photo frame with a piece of paper in it. Written on the paper in my mom's handwriting was, "Psalm 101:3 I will set before my eyes no vile thing." We teased her mercilessly for being so rigid, but she stuck to her guns and that verse stayed above the TV for quite a while. Long enough to make sneaking movies or TV that we knew our parents wouldn't approve of just slightly uncomfortable. Long enough for me to see that verse scroll across my mind, twenty years later, every time I'm tempted to watch something that is inappropriate. Long enough to leave a mark (now I'm thinking Tommy Boy...). Thanks Mom!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tulips, Tulips Everywhere

Last year some of my friends visited the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in nearby Woodburn and posted stunning photos of their children in fields of tulips with Mt. Hood looming in the background. The scenery was so beautiful it almost didn't look real, and I determined to add "Tulip Festival" to my list of places to visit this year.

About a month ago, when the weather was enviously beautiful and we were still in the heart of the driest and warmest winter Portland has seen in the last 70 years, I saw an advertisement for the tulip festival. It started on Alli's 6th birthday and ran for exactly one month. Curt took the day off work and we planned to kick off her birthday with a family trip to the tulip farm. Of course the warm weather spell was broken early into our spring break and Alli's birthday dawned gray, cold, blustery and with an all-day rain. Add to the mix the fact that Kaitlin and Paige woke up with the flu and our plans to visit the tulip farm flew straight out the window.

Today I chaperoned a "walking" field trip for Alli's kindergarten class to a nearby orthodontist office and Safeway. (Don't ask me how the two go together. I was on the field trip and I still don't get it.) It was supposed to be super rainy and windy, but the sun defied the weather reports and we stayed dry. When we came home for lunch, I checked the weather at the tulip farm and it reported blustery and chilly with sun and patches of blue skies. On a whim, Alli, Paige and I jumped in the car and drove the 25 miles to go and see the tulips.

It really was a blast. The walkways through the fields were a mass of thick mud with puddles perfect for jumping in (thankfully the girls wore their rain boots). Mt. Hood was shrouded in clouds rendering it invisible, but the beautiful Cascade Range boasted fresh snow and huge cotton ball clouds that danced around their many peaks and valleys. Tulips in every color lit up acres and acres of fields. It was spectacular. We chased each other through the flowers, splashed in the puddles, and took tons of pictures. Alli found two flowers that had fallen on the ground and she and Paige carried them around like lost treasures. When we were done looking at tulips, we rode the shuttle to the touristy area of the farm that had food booths, a gift shop and children's games. I conveniently forgot my wallet in the car on the other side of the farm so we only participated in events that were free. Alli's favorite part was pumping water down a ramp to race a duck. She would have stayed at that station all day. Paige's favorite was a play structure with a surprisingly fast slide. She flew down and almost landed straight on her tushy. Her eyes went from fear to utter delight and she giggled and ran back to fly down again. They were so excited about our time that as we were leaving, Alli borrowed my cell phone and left Curt the longest rambling message accurately highlighting everything we did. She even said, "It was a bit of a bummer that we didn't get to see Mt. Hood, but we saw lots of other pretty stuff."

Both girls fell asleep in the car on the way home which almost never happens, so I pulled into the driveway, left the car running and dozed with them in the bright sunshine. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. We'll definitely be back next year and I'll always take with me the memory of a wonderful afternoon with my girls.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Help Me Papa

I started The Shack well over a year ago. I was instantly drawn into the story and found myself bawling my head off at the sad twist of events that occurred early in the story. I made it about two-thirds of the way through the book within the first couple times of picking it up, but I got bogged down with some of the wacky theology and with life and it started collecting dust on my nightstand. The longer it sat there, the more withdrawn I got from the story and the less I cared about finishing it. (For those of you who LOVE this book and found it life-transformational, I'm not bashing it. I just got stuck in a part that didn't interest me and couldn't find it within myself to see how it ended.) It eventually got kicked off the nightstand and moved to the growing pile of books on the shelf that I've started and haven't finished.

I got tired of staring at that unfinished pile of books so I loaded two in my gym bag and determined to start polishing them off one bike ride at a time. Today I brought The Shack. I was worried that I wouldn't remember enough of the story and would have to backtrack, but I found myself mentally picking up where I left off. Before I knew it, I was fighting back huge sobs and using my sweat towel to wipe the tears that were pouring more freely than I would have liked in a public arena.

The book has such powerful moments and I found myself relating personally to Mack, the main character, as he wrestled with forgiving people who had deeply wounded him and seeking forgiveness from people he had deeply wounded. A powerful theme of reconciliation was woven through the last portion of the book and why wouldn't it be? It's a story of God relating to man in a fictional setting but resonating with some deep truths of who God is. At His core, God is love and He is relational. But He is also just, which means every offense has to be punished. This combination of love and justice puts Him in a quandry since our own stupidity created an uncrossable chasm. He values reconciliation. If He didn't, why on earth would He have sacrificed His only Son to bridge the gap between humanity and Himself?

In my life, I feel like God is hammering home this concept of forgiveness and reconciliation. My mom spoke to a smaller congregation within a large church last weekend and I went to support her. Her topic was on forgiveness and I found myself forgetting that I was there for moral support and really being ministered to and challenged by what she shared. (Follow the link and scroll to the bottom of the screen to podcast her talk.) Armed with a fresh reminder of what forgiveness is and what it isn't and equipped with tools to do it successfully, the Lord gave me opportunities to put this into practice. I must say, I pushed back a bit. I didn't want to spend the emotional time or energy and I can't say I've fully submitted to this exercise yet, but my soul is stirred and I know I have some work to do in my life.

With that said, I wasn't surprised when I opened The Shack and it picked right up on a theme of forgiveness and reconciliation. Pages 224-227 are now covered in pink highlighter but I wanted to share some of the treasures I found particularly impactful from the fictional conversation that Mack (the main character) has with God.
  • "...for you to forgive this man is for you to release him to me and allow me to redeem him.
  • Forgiveness is not about forgetting, Mack. It is about letting go of another person's throat.
  • Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation. And sometimes - and this may seem incomprehensible to you right now - that road may even take you to the miracle of fully restored trust.
  • Forgiveness is an incredible power - a power Jesus gives to all whom he indwells so that reconciliation can grow.
  • Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver, to release you from something that will eat you alive. When you choose to forgive another, you love him well.
  • I love him (the offender), not for what he's become, but for the broken child that has been twisted by his pain. I want to help you take on that nature that finds more power in love and forgiveness than hate.
  • Forgiveness does not require me to pretend what he (the offender) did never happened. But now you can love him in the face of it.
  • You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness and give him over to me so that my love will burn from his life every vestige of corruption.
  • Feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what to do, Mack cries out, "Help me Papa. Help me. What do I do?"

That last sentence, "Help me Papa" moved me to a place I haven't been in a while. It's so simple really. When I desperately want to reflect who Jesus is but am handicapped by my own sin, I can just throw up my hands and say, "Help me Papa." I love that with God, all things are possible. I love His willingness to pour His Spirit into my life and empower me to let things go that on my own, I could never let go. I love that He empowers others who I've wounded to extend that grace to me. I love that His grace covers every sin, every wound, every pain. I love that the God I serve is the Restorer of Broken Relationships and that His victory over death gives Him power to take dead dreams and dead relationships and breathe life into them. Thank You Papa. And Papa, help me please.