Do yourself a favor and check out Mike Huckabee, if you haven't already.
I really like him. He's my choice for President 2008. Now, I'm just praying that he makes it to the big show!
Yesterday, after Mike picked me up from work, he asked me to call my dad before I did anything else. Since I had asked Mom and Dad to watch Ruby on Saturday, I just figured he was going to tell me they wouldn't be able to do it. Instead, he said, "Honey, are you with Mike?" "Yes," I said. "I have some very bad news." And then he paused. My body started to panic from toes to head, and then he said some of the worst words I'll ever hear. "Honey, your Uncle Dan died about an hour ago."
For those of you who don't know, my dad (and his twin brother) were a great big surprise to my Grandma Burke when she was 40 years old and finished having children. I think my Aunt Judy was 12, my Uncle Dan was 17, my Uncle Jim was 19, and my Uncle Ted was 21. Ten years later, it was obvious why God "surprised" my Grandma with twin boys. My Grandpa Shorty died of a heart attack. Grandma Ruby often said that her boys (all of them) kept her going. Needless to say, losing your dad at the age of 10 is heartbreaking for a little boy. My dad was blessed, though. He had three older brothers who loved him and stood in the gap, even through their grief. My Uncle Dan was the closest thing my dad had to a father as he went through his puberty years, teenage years, and on.
By the time I came along, Grandpa Shorty had been gone for more than 15 years. Since my mom's dad was also out of the picture, I was left with no grandfathers. But God chose to bless me, too. He gave me a grandfather named Uncle Dan. Someone to give me big bear hugs. Someone to tell me (false) scary stories of three-legged men living in the basement. Someone to take out the dentures and gross me out, tickle me into tears, encourage me in my faith, and fawn over my daughter.
When I could have been left with no grandfatherly influence, my Uncle Dan accepted a burden for which he had no responsibility. I'm not sure I was ever able to express my gratitude in a proper or accurate manner. I truly miss him already, from the very depth of who I am, I just want one more hug. One more goofy lopsided smile. To hear that unique raspy voice say, one more time, "Hey, kid. I love you."
I guess I just wanted to say "I love you, too." one last time.
Almost one year ago, I met an amazing woman named Amy Focosi. I was teaching a bible study called "Brokenness" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. (As a complete side-note: If you haven't ever studied this topic, then I highly recommend this study to you. In fact, even if you've already studied brokenness, I'd recommend you do this study anyway. It was a pivotal lesson in my life.) One of my Elston sisters, Jessica, had invited Amy to be a part of our Heart2Heart women's group. Soon after the study started, I was put in the hospital on bedrest, and I didn't get a chance to get to know Amy. In March, however, Heart2Heart had a retreat, and a bunch of us stayed up for the vast majority (or ALL) of the night! Amy was part of that crazy group, and I got to know her a little better. I instantly liked her and wanted to know her more. Best of all, Amy came into contact with the love of Jesus Christ that weekend, and she made a decision to follow Him for the rest of her life.
Throughout the last year, Amy and I have become closer friends. Our husbands have quite a bit in common, and it has been a natural friendship. This summer, we had the kids at the park playing, and Amy got dizzy when she stood up from tying Alex's shoes. I joked with her and asked, "You're not pregnant, are you?" She gave me a silly look and said, "Well, actually..." I loudly (surprise surprise) said, "Oh my gosh!! Congratulations!" She told me to quiet down, because they were going to wait a little while to tell everyone. I immediately began praying for the little life inside Amy. When I got pregnant just two months later, one of my first thoughts was that it was going to be VERY exciting to be pregnant with Amy and even more fun to watch our children grow up together.
God had a different plan. A plan I couldn't have ever imagined and would have never requested.
A week after I found out I was pregnant, I lost our baby through a miscarriage. I couldn't imagine a harder lesson in brokenness.
Two months later, I found out that my imagination is not nearly big enough. It was a Monday morning, and I was catching up on phone messages from the weekend (since my phone had been dead...again.) There was a panicked message from Amy from Friday, asking me to call her as soon as possible. I cursed myself for letting my phone die, yet again, and I quickly said an outloud prayer: "Father, please let the baby be okay." Mike said, "What?" And I said, "That was a message from Amy. I think something's wrong." When I got ahold of Amy, she told me that her baby had been diagnosed with anencephaly, a fatal condition. She also told me that she had decided (after a lot of struggle, thought, prayer, and advice) to continue with the pregnancy.
Mike and Amy had not been able to find out if they were having a son or daughter at their ultrasound, so we made sure that they got a second (elective) ultrasound to determine the sex of Baby Focosi. At that ultrasound, they learned they would be having a baby girl, and they named her Lydia Grace.
For the past six weeks, I have been able to pray for Lydia by name. I have come to love this little girl with a ferocity that I can't really explain and don't really understand.
Now, however, she's gone. Yesterday, in the late afternoon, Amy delivered Lydia almost six weeks early. Lydia was only able to stay with her earthly mom and dad for about a half hour before going on to be with her heavenly father.
About two hours after Lydia was born, Mike and Amy were incredibly gracious, and they gave me the great pleasure and opportunity to meet the little girl for whom I have been praying for so long. They sacrificed a few precious minutes of their very short time with Lydia to allow me to be with her. I cannot express how it has changed my life. And I cannot thank them enough.
In just 24 hours, God has taught me a lifetime of lessons. Applying them will take every single minute of the rest of my life, and I know that God will continue to show me new truths and teach me new lessons. On this day, however, I feel the need to write out what I've learned, so as not to forget it. I feel that if I write these words on (virtual) paper, I will also write them on my heart.
He is challenging me to hold on to that promise, even when I can't see how it's possible. Even when I can't see why it's necessary. Satan has been trying to convince me that God is a trickster, that He gives and takes away to be mean. Satan has been trying to convince me that God doesn't care, that He makes us wait just because He can make us wait. What lies! The truth is that God has a plan. He does things for a reason.
When I can't understand how or why, I lean on this: I know that God loves me and works for my good, because he has secured my eternal future by sacrificing his. only. Son. Does that make any sense? God has the power to save us any way he wants. Why did He choose to do it in a way that was personally painful for Him? Why did He choose a way that required a very personal sacrifice?
Of course, I can't know for sure. And I wouldn't even dare to claim that I understand the mind of God. However, I have a theory, and, for now, I feel like it's fairly theologically sound. I believe that God knew we would come to these places in our lives. Places where His plan would require us to make sacrifices...painful sacrifices. He knew that being called His follower would require times when it wasn't easy. I believe He wanted us to be able to see that He was willing to endure something just as painful and sacrificial as He was asking us to endure. I think He wanted to show us his love in a way that we couldn't dismiss, rationalize, ignore...or doubt.
Right now, I'm leaning hard on my faith that God is, indeed, working for the good of Mike and Amy at this time. I know that they love Him, and I can't wait to see how His promises will manifest.
Psalm 45:11 says that the King is enthralled with my beauty. Isaiah 1:18 says that my sins, though they are as red as blood, will be forgiven and made as white as snow. Romans 8:1-4 says that I am not condemned, because Jesus Christ has paid the debt for my sins. A debt that could not be paid by following all the rules of the old law. A debt that I was powerless to repay. It's gone. And now, I face no condemnation. 1 Peter 4:8 says that love is enough to cover sins.
I promise those things are linked for me. Why? Because they are the things that I have the hardest time believing. They are the hardest parts of my faith. That's where my biggest doubts lay. God thinks I'm beautiful? I don't even see how He could, because I don't think I'm beautiful at all. God doesn't hold my past mistakes and short-comings against me? Are you sure? Because I can't forget about them. Satan is faithful to remind me of them constantly. How in the world can God, the One who knows all, look past them, much less forget them??
I understand now. In the most real and awesome way, I understand.
Lydia's condition caused her body to look different than normal. To be perfectly and brutally honest, her condition is supposed to cause her head to look horribly malformed and even somewhat scary. I was priviledged to see and hold Lydia. Do you want to know how I would describe her? How I would honestly describe her?
Beautiful. and Perfect.
Intellectually, I know that I shouldn't have seen beauty and perfection when I looked at her. I'm sure that by worldly standards, she was not beautiful and perfect.
However, I saw and held an absolutely beautiful and perfect little girl yesterday. She had an adorable pink cap that fit perfectly. She had big open blue eyes and a cute button nose. She had amazingly delicate little lips, and, in true Ruby fashion, had her adorable little tongue sticking out just the tiniest bit between her lips. She was long and lean with delicate features. Beautiful hands with long nails and perfect little baby feet and toes (my favorite!)
Do I think my description would match an impartial description from someone who didn't know the situation or the family? Not in a million years. Why not? Because they don't love Lydia. My love gives me a completely different view of her. Her life means so much more to me than it would mean to a random stranger on the street. I have invested much time and energy into her, and I love her. When I look at her, I can only see her beauty and her perfection. She is exactly who God made her to be.
That's how my Heavenly Father looks at me. He has invested an eternity of time and energy into me. He invested His Son's life for my future. Because of that, I am SURE that He LOVES me. God is much cooler than me. He is much better than me. Do I honestly think that my love for Lydia is so much greater than His love for me that my love covers Lydia's imperfections, but His love can't cover my imperfections?
My Father loves me, and, because of that, He sees me differently than the world sees me and even differently than I see myself. When he looks at me, He sees beauty, and He sees my future perfection. He has forgiven my past imperfections, and He has forgotten them. He will continue to forgive my imperfections, and He will continue to forget them.
Matthew 6:26-34 says that I should look at the birds and the flowers and see how well God has taken care of them. Then I should realize that I am much more valuable to Him, and I should not worry about how (or if) He's going to take care of me.
I love Lydia and her family enough that I would have done anything to change this situation for them, if I could have. I love them enough that I will do anything in my power now to help them during this time. God loves me, just like I love Lydia. In fact, he loves me more. Best of all? He is all-powerful. He loves me, and he will take care of me.
All of these truths are universal. These lessons are not just for me. They are for you, too. Anyone reading this. God truly loves you. His gift of His Son was for ANYONE who wanted to take it. No exceptions. If you have read this and come to an understanding that God loves you, and you feel like you want to explore more what that means, feel free to e-mail me.
Here are the basics. God's perfect. We're not. Because of our imperfection, we must die. After that, we will either spend eternity with God or without God. He can't be around us when we aren't perfect. So he made one way to restore our perfection. He sent his Son down to earth. His son lived a perfect life, but still paid the price for an imperfect life. He died when he didn't have to...for us. Because of that, we're perfected. We can choose to accept that and believe it. That choice will cause us to live a life that is pleasing to God. To please Him is simply to love him and to love the people around us to the best of our ability and always try to do it better than we're doing it now. It's as simple as that: a choice to live for God. When we die, the reward of a life lived *for* God is an eternity spent *with* God.
Thank you, Lydia, for letting God use you to teach me. I truly don't deserve it. I can't wait to meet you again one day.
Mike and Amy, I love you. I am inspired by you and in awe of you. All through the Bible, God chose to use people and circumstances for his greater purposes. He chose to work through them, because He knew they would give Him the glory. And He blessed them. We talked about Job on Sunday night. God did not enjoy letting his loved one go through such pain, but he knew it was necessary. He grieved over the pain that Job endured, and He is grieving with you right now. But I know that He is proud of you. He is encouraging you to keep leaning on Him, keep trusting Him, and keep walking in faith. You will be blessed.
Hey everyone. I apologize for the slowness of content on the site right now. I'm trying to update the pictures as much as I can. As a result, I haven't been able to write much or post the latest photos of Ruby. I hope to be caught up by the end of the year, but I again apologize.
The plans for the business are coming along well. I'm trying to make our personal site and the church's sites the "flagship" sites. So, there should be improvements to all of them in the near future.
Things are going pretty well with our family. Ruby is still growing like crazy. She can now wave, roll over, shake her head no, etc. It seems like she adds something new each day. We have lots of good pictures of her recently that should be posted soon.
- Now that I’m done with my OP, I’m going to concentrate on spiffing up our personal site and the church site. I’m also working on plans to start my own side business, designing websites for local businesses, churches, bands, organizations, etc. in my spare time. I’ll post more details about that soon.
My original proposal went pretty well. On Thursday Dr. Cooks told me and Anthony that these were not “talks” where we controlled what happened. He said it’s rather an “exam” where we get tested, asked questions of, etc. However, mine seemed very much like a talk. The entire process took an hour and 45 minutes, and I probably talked for 95% of that time…not what I expected after what Dr. Cooks said on Thursday. It went pretty well. My ideas were thought out fairly well and there were no glaring problems with my idea. There were a couple of questions that I didn’t know how to answer. One was a simple physical chemistry question that I really should have known (fluorescence time scales), and the other was a very difficult question that I would have never known (about where a term came from in an equation for imaging resolution). All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with it, and I’m glad that it’s over!
I’ve attached a pdf of my slides in case anyone is interested in what my idea was.
Attachment Size op-presentation.pdf 1.24 MB
- My OP is at 2:00 this afternoon. I’m pretty nervous, but I have high hopes that it won’t be completely terrible. I’ll probably post later tonight or this weekend about how it went.
Stanley while Michael is testing a dummy at his desk to make it look like he’s there even when he’s not:
“I don’t understand while sleeping at your desk is better than not being here.”
Dwight while trying to pee in a cup in the car:
“I think I cut my penis on the lid.”
Dwight while they’re about to pull a prank on another branch and he’s contemplating hurting a guard:
“The eyes are the groin of the head”
Michael trying to write a want ad to replace Stanley:
WANTED: middle-aged black man with sass”
Andy singing the best jingle ever in his opinion…which he can’t remember:
Give me a break, give me a break. Break me off a piece of that __________.
Michael introducing his staff to the commercial guys (paraphrase):
Stanley = urban
Michael doing more intros:
“Phyllis, like our Mrs. Buttersworth”
Dwight while playing a game on his computer:
Second life is not a game, it’s a multiplayer virtual environment...It doesn’t have winners or losers.
Jim (response to Dwight):
Oh it has losers.
I was five years old. I couldn’t even talk yet.
Michael after calling Ryan a curse word then finding out he was on the line:
What’s up my brotha’?!
Andy finally thinking he figured out the jingle:
Break me off a piece of that FAN-CY FEAST. It’s a cat food. Nailed it!
- We take it for granted, friends. We serve a God who allows us to live for Him and make our own decisions. Does He expect us to make decisions that please Him and glorify Him? Of course! But I think we get bogged down in the legalities of “pleasing God.” We decide what music is good or bad, or if music itself is good or bad. We inadvertantly judge other peoples’ choices, and then we fall under a level of judgment, as well (even if we’re only judging ourselves.) It may be that I am just rambling, but I’m witnessing a friend learn about God in a real sense for the first time. She has been taught about God by her family and community her whole life, but she’s been taught about a very strict, judgemental, and legalistic God. She hasn’t been taught about God’s bigger agenda: Jesus Christ and the love poured out on the cross. A love that covers all sins. A love that has torn the curtain and opened up the opportunity for a relationship with God. A love that gives us the freedom to worship in our own way, as long as it is pleasing and glorifying to God. She and her husband have decided to come to Elston Family Church, and they are being blown away by the love of God. They are being blown away by the freedom God offers. In fact, they have fallen so much more in love with Christ, that they are willing to follow Him, even if it means facing harsh judgement and critical attitudes by their families. Can you fathom this? Can you fathom being willing to sacrifice your family to follow God?? Because it’s exactly what God has commanded us to do, if that’s what it takes. I can’t tell you how much I am growing by watching this sister. Her actions are so whole-heartedly devoted to pleasing God that it ignites a fire in me that is raging. It is renewing a gratefulness in me that is humbling. It is stirring a passion in me that is contagious. And you know what? We don’t serve a God of destruction. We don’t serve a God who wants to see families divided. We serve a God of the opposite. A God who can’t wait to deliver healing and understanding. A God who seeks to restore families and take them to a higher level…to a new love for Him and a new love for each other. We are seeing it daily at Elston, and I don’t believe it’s about to stop. I believe we’re about to see some modern miracles. I believe my friend is living her life in total abandon to God and living her life by doling out His unending love for us. Do I think that will be a force that separates her family? Maybe for a short time, but more importantly, I believe it is going to be a force that is going to impact her entire extended family (biological and in-law) and her entire community to run after this loving, contagious, amazing, powerful, almighty, sacrificial, and compelling God, who has shown Himself to us through Jesus Christ. Does that get me fired up? You bet.