Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas and Angels

Well, it's over.  We've officially celebrated Christmas.  We've eaten the omelet.  We've unpacked the stockings.  We've opened the presents and hugged all the grandkids.  We've nibbled gingerbread men, and munched hors d'ouvres.  We've watched "The Grinch", and sipped some wine, and solved all the problems of the world while Joanna lay snoozing on the couch.

There was only one thing left to do:  READ COSMIC CHRISTMAS!  

Every year for the past ten years, I read Max Lucado's imaginary journey into the heavens that depicts what may have happened when God chose to send His seed into the womb of the virgin, Mary.  Every year I have tried desperately to get through this little book without shedding a tear.  Haven't done that yet.

Usually it's this passage that gets me going - it's the part where the Angel Gabriel is speaking, unheard by Mary, but understood by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, nestled against His mother's breast:

"Do you know who you hold, Mary?  You secure the Author of grace.  He who is ageless is now moments old.  He who is limitless is now suckling your milk.  He who strides upon the stars, now has legs too weak to walk; the hands which held the oceans are now an infant's fist.  To Him who has never asked a question, you will teach the name of the wind.  The Source of language will learn words from you.  He who has never stumbled, you will carry.  He who has never hungered, you will feed.  The King of creation is in your arms." - p. 95, 96 Cosmic Christmas

However, today, before I got to that part, I had already broken down.  

It was because of the angels.

Years ago, more than 25 years ago, it was an ordinary day.  I had run out to the Christian school to pick up our oldest daughter.  My four year old, Heather, had begged to come along for the ride.  I relented, and Rick stayed at home with the others.  

I was in a rush, so I told Heather to wait in the truck while I ran in to get her sister.  We weren't more than a minute, and we hurried back.  Heather was sitting there, and I opened the driver's door, allowing Adeena to clamber in before me.  "Put your seatbelts on," I urged, then started the truck and headed up the hill, turning left onto the highway.

As I turned, to my horror, the passenger door flew open, and out fell Heather.  I slammed on the brakes, and sat there, frozen, convinced that I had just killed my daughter.  I must have run her over - how could that back tire have missed her?

An instant later, there she was, climbing back in.  She didn't look hurt at all.  I hollered at her, shaken to the core:  "Why didn't you put your seatbelt on?  Why were you playing with the door handle?"  I was distraught, and I lashed out in frustration.  Heather stammered out a few words of explanation, which I didn't hear.  I was too intent on driving home, and too shook up to listen.

Much later - weeks, months, years...I am not sure - Heather told me that she never hit the ground that day.  She fell out of the truck, straight into the arms of a man.  She felt herself caught, and she heard a voice inside her head telling her that she was okay, and that she should get back into the truck.  She knew, deep down, that this "man" was an angel...and that he had caught her and saved her life that day.

We were discussing this angel story in the living room one day, and Jared piped up:  "That happened to me, too!  I was in the back of the house, by the wrecked-down barn, when I was about 5.  I knew I wasn't supposed to be back there, but I was having fun exploring.  I was on the top of the rubble wall, and lost my balance.  A man in white caught me - he just appeared out of nowhere - and told me to go home.  I never told you because I knew I'd be in trouble.  I wasn't allowed to be back there."

Two different children.  Two different angel stories.  

The Bible tells us in Psalm 91:11 that he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.  Angels are commanded to watch over God's children - those who make the Most High their refuge.  God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble.  He sent His angels to guard my children, to keep them from harm, even though it was their own foolishness (and their mother's neglect) that caused them to be in danger.

But get this:  He did not spare His own Son!

Max Lucado captures it beautifully in the fictional words of the Angel Gabriel:

As we looked at the baby  Jesus, the darkness lifted.  Not the darkness of the night, but the darkness of the mystery. . . Our minds were filled with Truth we had never before known.  We became aware for the first time of the Father's plan to recue those who bear His name. . . 

At once amazed and stunned, the eye of every angel went to the one part of the child: the hands which would be pierced.  "At the pounding of the nail," God told us, "you will not save Him.  You will watch, you will hear, you will yearn, but you will not rescue." p.92, Cosmic Christmas

The angels, God's messengers, protected MY children, yet were ordered to stand by and do nothing while God's Own Son was led like a Lamb to the slaughter.  

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

What manner of love is this?  God did not spare His own Son, yet He spared mine.  God spared my daughter.  He spared ME.  

I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor anything in all creation, can separate me from God's love.  And that love included sending His only begotten Son to be the propitiation for my sin.  There was no other way.  I needed to be rescued.  The price had to be paid.  And it was paid, that day on Calvary.  

33Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. [9] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors throughhim who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Home Safe and Sound

It's just past midnight.  We're home, but it wasn't pretty.  We left Guelph around 9:30 pm, after a wonderful Christmas Candlelight Service and Fellowship Dinner.  What joy it was to listen to testimonies and songs of praise, celebrating the birth of God the Son!  We were reminded by Pastor Bob that God is with us...that He will be with us for all eternity!  Amazing grace!

And then we headed home.  The roads were snow-covered with icy sections, but there were tracks to follow, and it wasn't so bad.  After all, we're CANADIANS!  We're used to snow.

But after we left Highway 8, things got dramatically worse.  One whiteout followed another in quick succession.  Drifts were across the road, but we plowed through them, thankful that all of the kids were in the van, adding weight and traction.  I was worried about Joanna travelling home with her three babies, and phoned to see if she arrived safely.  No answer.  Shot up a prayer to the God Who is With Us, then kept watching the road to warn Rick if he was getting too close to the ditch on my side.  

Finally, after some hair-raising moments, called Joanna again.   She was safe, PTL, but experienced dreadful white-outs.  We were happy to know she was home, but we had at least an hour of nasty driving ahead of us.

It got worse.  The further west we travelled, the thicker the snow was.  Drifts we plowed through threatened to stop the van completely.  We lost all sense of direction, and more than once we ended up part way in the ditch.  Miraculously, we drove in and out.  

We reached Bornholme, normally only ten minutes from home, but even travelling past houses that normally blocked the wind and snow didn't help.  The alternator was dying; we were losing our lights and the heater was straining to put forth heat.  Lord, help us.

It took almost 20 minutes to get to Brodhagen, and then it got horrendously bad.  We couldn't see a thing.  Rick kept going, and finally we saw some lights ahead of us.  A truck was buried in a snowdrift, lights flashing, nobody on board.  Daniel got out and banged off the wiper blades, and we crawled past the truck.  

We plowed through drift after drift, often almost heading into one ditch or the other.  We could barely see.  Passed Beechwood (oh, joy!) then hit a snowdrift that stopped the van dead in its tracks.  It was a little dip in the road and a bit of a hill, and the snow had accumulated there for at least a fifty foot stretch.  

We tried pushing, to no avail.  We tried kicking away the snow, but that didn't work.  We all piled into the back of the van to put more weight over the tires, but that only got us a few feet.  When Rick tried to rock the van back and forth, the back of the van kept slipping sideways, down towards the ditch.

Daniel and Patrick took off for home, running through the snowstorm.  The plan was for them to get the tractor started and to come and rescue us.  I stubbornly thought I could do something, and got back out of the van, landing in a drift that was up past my knees.  The snow was up to the floorboards!

I persisted, kicking the snow away from all four tires, and clearing a path with my feet.  I marvelled that there was no evidence that we'd just cleared the snow away in the last attempt, just five minutes before.  It filled in so quickly.

Anyway, I kicked and cleared the snow (in my dress and Sunday boots - the snow was up past my knees, but my boots only went up to my ankles) and urged Rick to give it a try.  He did, and went a few feet.  "STOP!", I yelled, then kicked and cleared another 10 feet of snow so he could take a run at it.  I got back in, and Rick put the van in gear.  We were all praying...and the van started to go.  Rick kept it going, and we cleared the snow!  YES!

We were only 2 miles from we plowed on, looking for Daniel and Patrick.  There's footprints!  Do you see them?  Relief!  There they are!

They climbed into the van, and we drove the rest of the way with only one more huge drift to plow through.

We're home.  Safe and sound.  We checked the radar, and there's a band of yellow straight up our's like the trial was prepared specifically for us!

Next time the internet has a blowing snow warning, I think we'll stay home.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mom Song

Get up now, brush your teeth, comb your sleepy head!  Ya gotta love it!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Emma and Becky - dancers!

The girls had their dance recital today - and they did a wonderful job! Here are some pictures (notice how cute they are?):

Beautiful dance, girls! 


Monday, December 08, 2008

My Birthday

Linda, Daniel, Elena, Tiana, Rick, me, Critter, Jared and Patrick.

Yesterday, we all were invited to Heather's house to celebrate my birthday.  Before we went inside, Matt took a picture of Rick and me and all of the kids that still live at home.  Can you tell we were freezing?

The grandkids were giddy with anticipation, because they had decorated everything, hanging streamers and ribbons and balloons, and making some signs.  They even made me a birthday hat:

Granny in her Birthday Hat.
Most everyone was there - except for Rachel and Mike, who had a previous commitment.  We ate a delicious meal and enjoyed listening to Jeff talk about the mine.

Levi.  Isn't he adorable?

Ava, looking coy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Everything's Amazing...but Nobody's Happy.

It's too true. A sad commentary on the sinful nature of man.

I would take it one step further: it's AMAZING that your heart beats steadily, one beat after the other. It's amazing that you can breathe, all day, all night, every day, and that you don't even have to think about it. It's astounding that you can cut yourself and your body just heals. All by itself. With no effort from you, except maybe washing or stitching the wound.

Life is astounding. This planet is incredible. We've been watching a series on Planet Earth, and the incredible variety of animals, birds and insects blows us away. How they survive in harsh conditions points to the provision of God...He sends the rain in due season.

Everything IS amazing. We ought to be happy. Life is good, and we are truly blessed.

Be ye thankful, people.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008