Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Vacationed In Hell And Lived To Tell About It

The Westin Desert Willow
     Well, to be accurate, Palm Springs isn't exactly Hell, but when it's 121 degrees in the early afternoon on Highway 111 near downtown Palm Springs, it's mighty close to that undesirable location. Or when it's 100 degrees at 10:00 at night and my cheerful, heat-tolerant husband says, "Hey, wanna' go for a walk? It's a beautiful evening!" I feel guilty and wimpy for saying, "No way, Jose! (or, Tim, in this case and in every case. I actually have never taken a walk, or will, with any man named Jose. Not that that's not a nice name for a man, just no man I will ever stroll around with at 10:00 at night. Boy do I digress!) Please remind me NEVER to vacation there in the late summer. My Dad and Step-mom were kind to give us some of their time share days in the brand new and lovely Westin Desert Willows, but this vacation princess can't handle the heat.
     The desert landscape, especially in winter, spring, and late fall, is actually quite magnificent. I really appreciate and enjoy some of the lovelier views of the San Gorgonia mountains and the lovely desert flowers in the Palm Springs and Joshua Tree desert areas. Just not in the dead heat of summer.
     Interestingly enough, the day (early!) we returned from Palm Springs, I had started Chuck Swindoll's biography about Moses, entitled Moses: Man of Selfless Dedication. Chuck describes how Moses, at around the age of 40, killed an Egyptian man, and then fled to the desert of Midian. (His description of the hot desert was so familiar to me!) Moses begins tending sheep for Jethro, marries the man's daughter, and has two boys. He led this quiet, humble, obscure life for FORTY YEARS. He had been schooled in the finest Egyptian schools and was being groomed to be the next pharaoh of Egypt. That is, until that fateful day when he avenged a fellow Hebrew's honor, leading to murder, and then his escape after he is found out.
     Chuck goes on to make the application that many of us are in "desert seasons" where life is not as we had hoped or would like. Life is hard, confusing, unsettling. We wonder when things will change for us. Apparently, Moses had no hope of ever leaving the desert. About 80 of his 120 years on earth were spent in the desert. God used that man in a mightily memorable and potently powerful way, though. NO doubt about it. It is quite reasonable to conclude that he was being prepared to be God's agent in leading the Israelites out of Egypt during his "desert training" which had been custom-fit for him.
      It made me wonder about a couple things, naturally. Am I in a desert season of my life? Do I wish things were different? Am I waiting for God to deliver me from trials and difficulties that seem unabated? Hmmm...
     Yes and no. At the foundational level of my faith, my desire is to be content in ALL seasons, even the hardest ones. The Apostle Paul encourages this when he says, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content" (Philippians 4:11).  It seems ungrateful, proud, and presumptive of me to say, "God, I feel like I'm in a desert. When are things going to get better?" Does that kind of thinking mean I'm not grateful for all I have now? I've come to accept that life is not fair (my Dad was right!). This outlook is actually not depressing or negative - it's based in reality. And once I accept this reality, any pleasant circumstance, person, or turn of events is really appreciated and welcomed. I find I enjoy life more because I'm not expecting or feel entitled to ease, convenience, or comfort. I have quite a ways to go with this outlook, but so far it has been quite helpful at keeping more emotionally even-keeled and calmer with life's unpleasant surprises. This is particularly true when I go shopping now and, heaven forbid, have to return anything!
     Encouragingly enough, Chuck Swindoll cites this passage of Scripture regarding Moses' time in the desert: "He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye" (Deuteronomy 32:10). How Chuck applies this to Moses' life, and the application for our lives as well, is most heartening. I highly recommend the book.
     As I was writing this post earlier, I was reminded of a "vision" I saw about 20 years ago when I was a new Christian. I was living at home, going to PCC, my Mom was sick with breast cancer, and there was the ever-present garden-variety smattering of conflicts, tension and challenges that I grew up with, and one newer challenge to boot. My parents weren't happy about my zealous, new-found faith. They were critical and unkind.
      I remember one particular day when I was in my room depressed about life and talking to Jesus about the whole thing. I was probably crying. In my mind's eye, I saw a picture of a desert that I had never seen before. This was a desert in the extreme sense - a desolate wasteland, ground so dry there were deep, jagged cracks all over the surface, and absolutely NOTHING around as far as the eye could see. There was not one living thing anywhere. This place was death personified in a landscape form. And....there I was, right in the middle of it, hovering by myself, sullen, upset, all alone. And then in my mind I see Jesus - not really his face, but a man that I knew was him in long, flowing robes and a walking stick. From out of nowhere he appeared and was walking straight toward me. When he got close to me, he simply looked at me. I had been found. He had met me in the place that I had gone to hide in my self-pity, despair and discouragement. He didn't hug me, chastise me, or even smile at me. He just looked at me with a warm look in his eyes that said: "Here I am. You can't ever get too far away where I won't find you. And I will always find you."
     To say the least, it was profoundly encouraging then and now. Perhaps you're in a desert season? The temptation in those times is to GET OUT in ways that might not honor God or benefit you in the long run. What's so amazing, though, is that He's looking for you and He will find you. He's just a heart's cry away.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Happy 18th Wedding Anniversary, Tim!

     Oddly enough, I won't be seeing Tim till tomorrow. He has the girls till tomorrow in Palm Springs all by himself, plus one of the girls' friends. I've been home for the weekend soooooo enjoying myself! When I've called to see how everyone is, I hear urgent pleas, "Please come soon! It's crazy here!" I hear the screaming in the background and I don't doubt it. I'll be leaving tomorrow with my sister, Sarah, to join them. I think it's beneficial that they all really miss me. What a sweet reunion it will be!
     18 years of marriage....what have I learned? A couple of thoughts come to mind:
1) God loves me and my husband more than I could possibly understand.
2 )God is more committed to my marriage than I am.
3) God will do anything and everything to help me honor my commitment to Him and my husband. Usually the "anything" is protracted, painful, disorienting trials that force me to depend on God.
4) I experience severe trials quickly when I go against my husband's authority in a rebellious manner. I have come to believe this is God's quick and kind discipline to keep me in a position of safety - submitted to my husband who is under God's authority. This is primarily protective for me.
5 ) My marriage is not about me, my feelings, my rights, what I deserve, etc. It is about glorifying God in every way I possibly can with each thought, comment, act, deed, etc. toward my husband. It is the resolution of my heart and mind to love and delight in my husband and want his good and well-being above my own comfort. This is only done with complete, constant dependence on God. See # 3.
6) My daughters are watching my example as a wife, friend, and partner to my husband, their father. They are learning everything important about marriage by observing my behavior, attitudes, and words toward their father. By loving their father and trusting God for strength and biblical guidance, I provide a protective environment of peace (even in the craziness of our large family) and unity because I am submitted to Dad's authority and trusting God to lead their father. This has provided many moments of laughter, instruction, and joy in our family. This is God's doing.
7) God will reward me for my faithfulness and commitment to my husband because it is done to please my sweet, loving savior, Jesus Christ.
8)I fear God. He watches and sees and knows. He will not be mocked. He will hold me to my commitment. See # 3 and # 7.
9) No one can be happily married for the long haul without following biblical principles, regardless of whether they acknowledge God or not. Marriage works because God's commandments of submission, respect, service, and sacrifice between husband and wife are followed. Again, this is regardless of whether the couple would acknowledge that these are God's laws or not.
 10) Only Jesus can satisfy the depths of my needy soul. Only Jesus can bring delight and peace to my troubled thoughts and painful emotions. He is my perfect Comforter, Counselor, and Lover of my soul.
    Anyway, those are a couple of my thoughts. I love Tim.  I love his sweetheart lips, which several of our daughters have (yeah!), his beautiful sculpted nose and his fabulous hair. I sound superficial, but there are many more things I love about him. He's a hard worker, an excellent provider, he has a sweet, decent, kind heart, he's very hospitable and welcoming to our home, he delights in our daughters and wants the very best for them, and he's got a funny sense of humor. He asks me out on dates on a regular basis! I love that he wants to be with me. I cherish him and see him as a gift from God.
     I'm looking forward to seeing him tomorrow!
A picture of a picture taken in November of 2009

Friday, August 20, 2010

Summer Birthday Highlights

     Julia's 2nd birthday was July 13th. Here are some highlights:

     Next was Camille's 13th birthday on July 26th. We had a small family dinner because I had taken her to Magic Mountain a month prior. I bought her a small cake and some cupcakes for my other girls.

Happy Bumpa - we're happy he's alive!

     Elena's birthday was August 8th and she turned 15. She had a slumber party with her friends. 
Elena was hiding in this picture - but not Camille!

     Whew! I'm done with my girls' birthdays for the year. It was a nice birthday season. Happy birthday girls!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Are We Having Fun Yet? The Princess Goes Camping

     Umm, I don't consider myself a "princess," but I never grew up camping on family vacations. My family lived in Mammoth Lakes from about mid-June to early September every summer from 1971 to 1982. We hiked, fished, canoed, water-skied (a total blast! although a little algae-ish at times), went inner tubing (so much fun!) down the Owens River, and did all sorts of really fun outdoorsy things in the High Sierras.

     And then we went to our large, spacious condo and showered, ate hot pizza and ice cream sandwiches, and sat in the jacuzzi down at the Rec Room after playing endless games of Pac Man, ping pong, and Pool. We had lots of friends and loud music (Reo Speedwagon, Journey, Billy Joel, Van Halen, U2 - this was the music of my childhood and early 'tweenhood - so awesome!). We'd walk up the road from the Rec Room gazing at the marvelously God-glorifying bright twinkling stars against the black night sky and breeze in the front door of the condo. We'd watch some VHS (so new and novel at the time!) God-dishonoring, stupid, teen horror flick, and then collapse in our cozy beds with warm, comfy blankets and soft pillows. Ahh...it was bliss in the High Sierras.

     So, you see, I never knew sleeping on the hard ground in sleeping bags (or in the car after a 3 am trip across the dark campground to the bathroom and then returning to find Tim and my little ones sprawled all over my portion of our bedding and so off to the car I went), eating wienies and beans over a smokey, dirty fire grill, wrestling with roasted marshmallows and chocolate stuck to every inch of my and my toddler's hands, and dirt - dirt, dirt, dirt, and showers that cost 75 cents after a  hike across the campground lugging all my clothes and camp shower toiletries.

     I don't want to be a princess, but in some ways, I am - a High Sierra Princess! (That sounds so much better!)

     Several months ago I discussed with Tim the idea that maybe we should take a family vacation. We have a very limited vacation budget. So, I reserved a couple of days at McGrath State Beach in Oxnard. I don't like the idea of having to hide our camp food from bears. That is way too difficult for me to fathom. So, beach camping it is! A week approaching our camping trip, I was rather disinclined to try and round up all of our camping gear and figure out food and how to work a brand new propane stove we've never used, and all the bedding. Ugh....if Tim didn't want to help out in a BIG way - no problem. We'll just forgo the trip.

     Tim was willing to help out. So, off we went. We had an enjoyable time. I only had one temper tantrum over access to the bathrooms without going through other people's camp sites. (Please people, make a path!) At any rate, my plan was to sleep over Friday night and then leave with my little ones on Saturday evening, after some friends joined us. Tim would leave the following day with our friends. I was happy to see our friends, and happier to leave.

     My own shower felt so delightful and my bed was so welcoming. You see, I'm not that much of a princess. Okay, okay, I'm willing to try camping again, but I have to make adjustments to the whole bed thing and learn how to work that propane stove. I will, because camping is adventurous and memorable, even for a High Sierra Princess.