Monday, February 17, 2014

Angels

I believe in angels.

I know this isn't news to most people who know me, but I am a bit of a Charismatic. So it probably isn't a surprise to anyone to hear me admit that I believe there are angels among us.

But I don't just believe because I've read in the Bible that they are real...no, I have seen the evidence of their presence.

My mom says that when I was little, I would ask her questions about the shiny man who lived with me in my room. "He's smiling at me, Mommy," I would tell her. She told me it was my guardian angel.

My youngest son, Gabe, used to smile and wave to what he called "that nice bright guy" in his room. I told him that his angel was with him, to protect him. He would nod his little curly head and grin when I told him that the Lord always had angels protecting him.

I am certain there was an angel present the day Nate burned his arm. He was 7 months old and had just started scooting/crawling, and I had walked out of the room for one minute when I heard him screaming. He had managed to pull my 400 degree hair straightener down from the counter and onto his wrist. When I rounded the corner, he was laying on top of it, face down. For a split second I just KNEW his face was covered in burns, but somehow it was only his arm. There was an angel there, with a hand between my baby's face and that 400 degree device. You'll never convince me otherwise.

Last week came the most dramatic testimony yet of the presence of angels.

We got snow...a lot of snow for North Carolina. Eight inches graced the area, and 25 degree temps insured it would hang around for several days.

We couldn't get out of our driveway, and so the kids wanted to search of an acceptable place in our subdivision to go sledding. I got everyone dressed in their snow clothes and sent them out, telling them I'd be a few minutes behind them. I knew they wouldn't last too long, since it was so bitterly cold, and I also knew I would freeze to the bone in half that time because I don't own snow gear, other than a pair of boots. So, I was stalling, taking my time in an attempt to save my southern bones from frostbite.

Less than ten minutes passed, and then I heard a screaming child coming toward the house.

"Emergency!!!!" Clay was gasping for breath and yelling at the top of his lungs.

"What?!?!" I met him at the door, only mildly worried. My kids can be a bit on the dramatic side, being that they are MY KIDS and all.

"Faith...and Gabe...fell...in the...creek..." He was breathing so hard it took him a few minutes to get the sentence out, and my entire body froze.

"What creek? Where is that?" I asked, slamming my feet into my boots.

"I'll show you," he gasped again, and we took off running.

We had to cross behind our house and down the length of the back yard, across the back of a neighbor's yard, and down the side of another yard to get to the hill they had discovered. It sloped down nicely, and I didn't blame them for thinking it was a good place to sled. But on one side of the hill ran a creek...and on the snowy bank sat my oldest and youngest child, huddled together, crying.

They had ridden down the hill together, and gotten slightly off course, and veered into the creek.

INTO THE CREEK.

IN 25 DEGREE TEMPERATURES.

When Gabe tried to stand up, he slipped on the icy bank and fell in deeper, till he was chest deep in the water, and Faith had to wade in further and pick him up. Then she collapsed because her feet were numb and her boots were full of water, and they fell in again. Finally she managed to drag them out of the water, and she stripped off their boots, soggy socks, and Gabe's drenched snow pants. She sat down on the sled with him, and wrapped her arms around him, and that is the sight I came upon as Clay and I sprinted through the snow.

"It's okay Gabe, Mommy is coming," she was sobbing over and over, rubbing his feet between her hands. When she saw me coming, she called out, "I'm so sorry I couldn't stop the sled. I'm so sorry."

They were both shaking violently, and so was I by this point. Yoga pants and a t-shirt aren't exactly snow gear, just FYI.

I grabbed Gabe up in my arms and yelled, "Clay, help your sister."

Sprinting up a hill through the snow is not really an easy thing to do, and its even worse when you're carrying a 40 pound child who is shaking uncontrollably and unable to hold onto you.

I was praying out loud.

Behind me, Faith kept saying how sorry she was, and then she said she couldn't feel her feet and didn't think she could walk.

"Get on the sled, I'll pull you," Clay offered.

"You can't pull me Clay, I'm too heavy. Just help me," she sobbed back. So with one hand Clay pulled the sled, loaded down with the soaked boots and snow pants, and with the other he dragged Faith by the arm.

I had stared coughing pretty hard by this point, and gasping for breath only made me cough harder. I was wet, too, from the water that was dripping from Gabe's coat, and he kept screaming "My feet have needles, my feet have needles."

"Jesus, help me." It's all I could say, over and over, as I coughed and gasped and stumbled to the house.

I don't really remember making into to the house, or getting to my bathroom, or stripping Gabe of his clothes and tossing him into a lukewarm shower, but I do remember that as soon as I put him in the water, he screamed louder, and I collapsed.

Nate was standing beside me, rubbing my back, saying "Mommy, don't go back out without your coat. Mommy do you want a blanket? Are you okay, Mommy?"

"Watch Gabe," I wheezed to him. "I have to go help your sister."

Faith and Clay had almost made it to our yard by the time I got back outside. She was still crying, but she was shaking so bad that she didn't have much energy for sobs, so it was silent tears.

"Is he okay?" was her first question. "I tried to stop the sled, Mom. I'm so sorry."

Telling Clay to get the rest of  the stuff inside, I took over hauling her to the house, and had to strip her clothes off her because she was shaking so badly.

Black spots danced in front of my eyes.

"Get in the shower, NOW!" I told her, and then I collapsed again.

I don't know how long it was before I managed to stop coughing. I thought I was going to die. If you've ever experienced nearly frozen lungs, you know what I'm saying when I say I've never felt that kind of pain in my life.

Hours passed before any of us felt like talking about what had happened. I was still coughing and wheezing, and Gabe and Faith were still shivering and sniffling. We were all somber.

Faith kept saying she was sorry.

Gabe kept saying he was scared.

I kept kissing them, and kissing them, and kissing them.

"Faith, how did you know to take off the wet stuff right away?" I finally asked her. "That was pretty quick thinking."

She shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. Something inside me just said to get the wet stuff off and then snuggle up to stay warm. I knew Clay went to get help, so I just waited, and I just knew I needed to keep Gabe as warm as I could."

Hours later, I called my mom, who was out of town, to tell her about the incident. After I had finished recounting the tale, she asked me a strange question.

"What time did this happen?"

I told her.

"Oh my gosh, that's exactly the time we were praying with some people here, and the lady prayed for protection for my family."

I looked at my kids, Faith and Gabe snuggled up together under blankets, and tears started falling again.

After I hung up the phone, I asked Faith again how she had known what to do. She shook her head.

"I just had this feeling inside that I needed to get us dry and warm. I don't know Mom. I don't know how I knew what to do."

"I do," I responded. I told her of the prayers, prayed by a stranger from 2 states away. "An angel was standing beside you, Faith. An angel was whispering to your heart, telling you to take off the wet clothes and snuggle up to stay warm. The Lord sent an angel to help you."

Every day, every moment, every accident, every close call, every regular uneventful second of our lives we are held in His hands. We never slip through the cracks, we never escape His notice, we are never left to our own strength.

I sprinted up a hill carrying a 40 pound child through the snow. An angel was pushing me, his wings spread around us to take some of the bite out of the wind.

Clay dragged his older, heavier sister up the same hill, pulling a laden down sled behind him, after having already sprinted the hill twice. Angels surrounded him, urging him on, lending their strength.

Faith saved her little brother's life by pulling him out of that water and stripping him of the sodden clothes and wrapping him up in her arms. An angel stood beside her, helping her, guiding her.

Prayers are heard in the heavens. Angels do the bidding of God Almighty, in response to the prayers of the saints.

If you don't believe me, come over to my house and I will walk with you down to where this happened, and you will see what it would have taken for any of us to do any of what we did that day on our own...and you will know what I know, with every breath, with every kiss on my baby boy's rosy cheek, with every moment of quiet snuggled up with my daughter and my sons.

Angels are real. I believe it.

"The angel of the Lord camps around those that fear Him, and delivers them." Psalm 34:7

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pressure cooker

If there is one feeling in my life that stays with me no matter how I try to shrug it off, its the feeling of immense pressure.

Part of it comes from being firstborn. There is a natural pressing forward and striving for better and better that comes with being the first child. Parents can't help it, and mostly don't even know that they are doing it...but they push their firstborn more than anyone else.

I did it with my kids too. I began encouraging my daughter to try to walk when she was 8 months old. A month later, she did. I coached her to say words very early as well, and taught her Bible verses and songs before she could even form all the syllables she needed to recite them.

And then I had the boys...

I taught Clay sign language because he hadn't started talking yet and I was tired of hearing him grunting when he wanted something. But I didn't pressure him to talk. No sir. I had all the talking I could handle coming from his big sister.

While I weaned Faith early from nursing, convinced that it was time for her to move onto more grown up pursuits, I was slow to let go of Nate...he nursed longer than any of my other kids, and I didn't pressure him at all. He was ready when he was ready.

When Gabe started acting like he might want to walk, I had a panic attack. "Push him down," my husband advised, only half joking. There was no pressure on him to achieve that milestone. Quite the opposite, in fact. We were pressuring him NOT to walk.

My daughter still feels that firstborn pressure, and I try to lighten it some by reminding her that she doesn't have to be perfect, she only has to do her best.

This week she bombed a spelling test. It was a list of really tricky words, all of which require simple memorization, because there is no logical reason for their spelling. When I had finished grading the test, I turned the paper over and said simply, "We're going to have to retake this one, Faith."

She began to cry. She asked how many she had missed. She wanted to know her percentage score. I told her it didn't matter, that we just needed to spend more time on the words. Her response? "I can never look at myself in the mirror again."

The pressure of being perfect is ingrained in the firstborn.

It isn't just birth order, though, at least not for me. I am also "Dan and Patty Bausum's daughter." There is a whole separate level of expectation to go along with that.

If you know my parents, you know what I mean. Their stats speak for themselves.

They have been married for 35 years.
They raised 5 children.
Mama home schooled those 5 children for a total of 21 years.
Daddy has been a pastor for around 20 years.
They are marriage counselors.
They are both gifted speakers and Bible scholars.
They both sing and dance and cook.
Everyone who gets to know them loves them tremendously.

That. Is. Too. Much. Pressure.

I can't live up to that! People look at me and, after knowing who's daughter I am, automatically expect me to be a clone of them.

Ha!

I home school my kids too, sure, but every day carries with it the weight of knowing that if they don't turn out as brain surgeons...its my fault and I've scarred the family name forever.

I have been married for nearly 15 years, and most of that time has been happy. But when we have a fight, I do NOT tell my parents about it. Because I need to be perfect in their eyes.

And even though I know I'm not, and even though they have never looked at me and said "Be perfect..." I feel the need to strive for perfection anyway. I am constantly under the pressure of their legacy to me.

I work hard to keep my house clean, because if anyone ever stopped by and saw it as it would be if I didn't work hard...I would be horrified that I had marred my family name forever.

I cook supper every night (well, almost) because that's what my mom did my whole life and there is an expectation that I will be just like her.



Here is the flaw with all this striving for perfection: Its unachievable. Its a facade. We cannot do it, regardless of the pressure we or others put on us.

My kids work hard in school. But sometimes they bomb tests. Or forget the name of the letter 'U.' Or have to count on their fingers to answer an addition problem.

I spend more time cleaning up my house than is really good for me, probably, and still its dirty. At this very moment there is a pair of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle underwear in the middle of my living room floor...and no, it is not a clean pair.

Not even the Gold Medal Olympic athletes are perfect in their winning performances.

Perfection is impossible.

So why put all the pressure on myself to be so?

My mom would probably not be shocked to see the underwear in the middle of my living room floor.
My dad would certainly not be surprised to learn that my husband and I have arguments on occasion.
They would most assuredly still love me, and, I daresay, still be proud of me.

They are proud of me because I am their daughter, not because I have pressured myself into some fake perfection mask that's impossible anyway.

Ha!

I can't be anything but who/what I am. And all my striving and working and faking aren't making me a gold medal winning Olympian. They are just wearing me out and beating me up with failure.

"It's okay." The Lord whispers to me when I cry to Him about my failings. "I have done all the work you could not do. My Son walked perfectly so that you don't have to. I see you through the filter of The Blood. Give me your burdens. Sit down and rest beside me, little girl. You don't have to strive so hard."

So I will curl up beside Him today, and lay my head in His lap, and just BE there.

No pressure.
No striving.
No failing.

He is proud of me because I am His child. And His grace is the same for me whether I only make a few technical mistakes in my Olympic performance, or whether I fall on my face. He still wants me to carry the flag that identifies me with Him.

His great grace.
Such grace.
It finds me.
It wraps me in it's perfection.
I breathe in His grace.
I breathe out His praise.
Forever.
Perfect.
All. Consuming. Grace.

"For by that one offering He forever made perfect those who are being made holy." Hebrews 10:14

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=hmFJkGEv3Lw

Throw pressure to the wind today. Lay your head in His lap and breathe in His grace.

There is no pressure. You've already won.