Friday, April 15, 2011

Faith Like This Child

I love the innocence of children.  The way they embrace life as one big adventure.  The way they are enthusiastic about the smallest - we are tempted to say silliest - things.  The way they make friends in the amount of time it takes to smile shyly across the playground.  The way they hope expectantly - not cautiously like so many adults. 

And I love the way that children love!  With complete abandon.  With fierce loyalty.  With the kind of acceptance that willingly overlooks faults.  With the sugar sweet affection that only a child's smiling eyes and squeeze-tight-hug can bring.

You know, there's a reason that God instructs us to have faith like a child.  The faith of a child is pure.  Genuine.  Not complicated with my doubts and  my stubborn pride and my insistence on seeing everything before I will move forward.  Children receive God with the blessed assurance that, sometimes, I find I only sing about.  Of course God loves me, they say.  Of course I am valuable!  Of course I am forgiven!  Of course God is good!

I say these things too ... and believe them!  But some days it comes out a little less confidently:  God loves me, right?  I have value, right?  God can forgive this too, right?  God is good even though children die in the streets and injustice runs rampant in this world and the empty aching of loneliness leaves tear stains on my pillow ..... right?
Every week I meet with youth from across Chicagoland for camp's year-round discipleship program. The kids are growing! They learn Bible stories and verses and are challenged with real-life application. I see an understanding of God's Word maturing in my kids as they consistently study. I can see the fruit of discipleship in their lives, and even in their families. Chelsea is 10 years old and this is her first year in Partners in Discipleship.  At the end of our Bible study time we always pray together.  These are Chelsea's prayer requests:

"Pray for my aunt and uncle.  They are going to have a baby!  I want to pray for the baby that she will get to hear God's Word and hear about how Jesus died for her."

"Pray that I will get to come to church every week.  Sometimes my parents can't bring me because they are working, but I still want to come."

"Pray that I will be good crop.  The Bible lesson this week was about the seed that feel on good ground and made good crops and the seeds that fell on bad ground and didn't grow crops.  I want my life to be the good crop for God!" 

What beautiful, beautiful prayers!  I can feel the smile of God as his child prays from a tender heart, wide open.  The faith of a child: innocent, pure .... and unexpectedly convicting.  And I can hear the whisper of the Spirit in my soul saying "Have faith like this child."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I Am My Grandpa's Favorite!

       I love my grandpa!  And he loves me!  A couple of years ago we picked up my brother from the airport together.  Grandpa stayed up half the night talking with Matt and I suddenly realized:  He loves my brother too!  I had no idea.  I mean, I knew that he loved Matt.  But I didn't know he loved him as much as me!  My grandpa has always made me feel so special, I just figured I was his favorite. :-)
Our most recent time together, Christmas 2010.  I need to print this for the frame.  Just in case you think all my favorite pictures all have my grandpa with his eyes closed:  they aren't!  That's as much as he can open his eyes and smile at the same time. :-)
       (I feel the need to add a disclaimer:  I'm not always great at accurately recounting the events that happened yesterday.  So I'm sure some of these memories, having been filtered through the glasses of childhood and carried through the past 28 years, may have inaccuracies.  Enjoy them for the comfort they bring, just the same).
       My grandpa has a great sense of humor.  Ever since I was a little kid he's had a collection of annual jokes.  The start of school: "I've got my new backpack all ready for tomorrow.  What time are we catching the bus in the morning?"  Halloween: "Sure hope my snowsuit fits over this costume."  Christmas: "I hope Santa doesn't get lost again.  He didn't make it to my house last year ...", etc.  In the past couple of years grandpa and I have taken 3 trips together down to AZ to see my aunt and uncle.  This picture is from Easter 2008.  Grandpa is always telling me that he is going to email me and the other day he said he was going to Twitter.  Pretty sure he's getting that from the news, lol.
Grandpa arriving for Christmas morning.
Grandpa singing Christmas carols in German with Aunt Clara, Uncle Alvin, and Aunt Ardena. Well, my aunts do most of the singing, but grandpa and Uncle Alvin are generally good sports. :-)
This is my very favorite picture of grandpa and I!  Not only is he wearing the hat for my 4th birthday - he looks happy about it!  I LOVE THIS PICTURE!
       My grandfather, Richard Rueben Schenk, has celebrated his 86th birthday. Married for 56 years to my late grandmother, Viola Edna Schenk, he has been an example to me of faithfulness.  I was in 5th grade when my grandma experienced the first symptoms of what would be a long and painful illness.  I remember grandpa sitting beside her bed.  I remember him learning how to work with pantyhose and fix hair so he could take grandma to church the way he knew she wanted to go.  After grandma's eyesight worsened, I used to help her paint her toenails.  I remember grandpa making me redo them after he came home one day and they were bright blue with glitter, since he knew that she wouldn't have approved!  My grandpa loved my grandma in sickness and in health, and I will never forget watching his care for her and the legacy of faithfulness he has passed down to me.
       My grandparents live a mile up the road and my grandpa continues to work on the family farm with my dad.  When I was a kid I had constant access to my parents and my grandparents.  Us kids helped out, but make no mistake about it:  we were the spoiled kind of farm kids.  I'm sure you would have had a hard time convincing us of it then, but we truly did not have to do as much as the generations before us!  Anyway, grandpa was our snack supplier.  He figured if we had to hoe beets we at least needed a pop and some ice cream.  He was also good motivation.  Hoeing beets doesn't add up very fast at 10 cents per row.  But if we could manage 6 rows at a time like grandpa and dad, well then, we might just get somewhere! 
       I have a very distinct memory of being trained to hoe beets when I was about 5 or 6.  I had a half hoe and I would trail along behind them, with our puppy bouncing through the field behind me.  They would pick out a weed for me that was big enough to see but small enough that I could get it out.  When I had that one taken care of I would run to catch up and they'd assign me another weed.  If I hoed without asking what time it was then I could go in after a half an hour to watch cartoons, otherwise I had to hoe during the cartoon.  (I caught on quick.)  
       Grandpa and Matt.  Every year grandma and grandpa used to take Matt and I to Lava Hot Springs.  They put us in the backseat of the truck with a book of Lifesavers for the trip there.  I now know that was to keep us quiet.  :-)  One year they took us to the store to pick out a toy.  I remember the effort it took to convince grandma to get crayons to go with my coloring book so I could use it before I got home.  Matt and Grandpa came back with a cart so full of toys that they had to take the corner slow.  I'm sure you can imagine my chagrin. 
       And it wasn't even Matthew ... Grandpa put up quite the argument about how they couldn't put back the army tank or army men or squirt guns or bubble gum, etc.  We compromised:  the boys had to part with a few things and I picked out a doll and the biggest box of crayons!  I also remember grandpa riding along to go pick up our new puppy.  Matt and I were having a hard time agreeing on the cutest puppy ... so grandpa suggested we bring home two!  That was the last time Dad brought him along to get any pets!  Shopping with grandpa still goes pretty much like this, by the way. :-)
       My grandpa has written me letters ever since I left for college.  Hand-written pages full of jokes, commentary on the weather, admonitions to stay well, updates and news, warnings about running out of gas, and a little gas money.  And every letter ends with "Make sure you don't work too hard.  You have to have a little fun."  I have a huge pile of letters that I will always cherish.
       Grandpa and Sarah.  Does this look like a "grandparents house" or what?!  And I think that owl pillow might be back in style - I wonder where it's at, lol.  We used to sleep at grandma and grandpa's house all the time.  I feel like I was in second grade when they made a rule that I had to sleep at home more nights during the week than I slept at grandma's house.  I always slept in grandpa's white t-shirts and on the floor at the foot of their bed.  Every morning grandpa would step on me when he headed out for lines.  I'm still not sure why I didn't sleep in the perfectly good bedroom across the hall, lol.
Grandpa and Matt.
Grandpa reading stories to Matt and Sarah. 
Grandma, grandpa, Matt and Megan in front of George K's. 
Grandpa playing memory with me.
       How can you not love this picture?!  Grandpa laying on the floor reading the paper with a bunch of toys spread across the floor .... and Sarah with her hand in his mouth trying to get him to come play with her.  I love this picture! :-)  And I LOVE MY GRANDPA!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Things that make me chuckle!

Life is better when you chuckle.  I'm convinced of it.
So the other day I noticed a sign around the city.  When you're driving you can see this picture.  And a big, red "WARNING" ... but driving by you can't read the text.  So I'm driving down the street wondering what warning involves a man walking a dog being followed by rats?  "Walk fast so the rats won't eat your dog?"  I mean, I feel like any warning involving rats is just not really going to work for me.  So of course I had stop sometime to get a closer look:
Turns out that's the warning.  Turns out I really care if my neighbors pick up after their dogs.  I saw a rat the other day that I thought was a cat.  My kids thought it was hilarious that they had to correct me about this.  I have never in my life thought rats are hilarious.
Many of my kids eat hot sauce quite liberally.  On chips.  On pizza.  On all pasta.  On eggs.  On garlic bread.  So I bought this bottle of hot sauce for my house.  I had to call a friend to find out what brand.  I figured a 6 oz bottle would last for quite a while since I don't eat it and the bottle says "one drop does it."  The kids were making fun of me, talking about "we've never even seen such a little bottle of hot sauce."  And they have clearly never read the part about one drop, it is amazing to me how much hot sauce they enjoy!  And apparently you aren't supposed to store hot sauce in the fridge.  The kids said it loses its hot if it gets cold, lol.
So ... for Tavaris' 13th birthday I bought him a gallon of hot sauce.  :-) 
It's finally sorta warming up, so Mr. Percy is back outside.  Although with this coat (and those baby blue gloves) I think he coulda been out sooner!  Hopefully this means there will be more Mr. Percy coming soon!
My friend Rachel has an excellent blog where she posted the pictures of this bag of chips she found on her walk home from the train.  She says she loves everything about this: "stay in school" and "Bar-b-quin' with my HONEY". 
And "the official snack of hip hop".  Surely this is worth a chuckle!