I love you more than that

MY GIRL:
Annalise has had a prayer for as long as I can remember her talking… She has prayed for her cousins to live by her. Sometimes it makes her so sad that she cries. “Mommy, I just don’t understand. Why do some kids have their cousins live in the very same town, and my cousins live in another state and on the other side of the world?!? I might never even get to go to their house ever!”

It breaks my heart when her little heart is broken.

We’ve had discussions about it. God sent her Uncle John and Auntie Ko-Ko and her same-age cousin Ellia that she loves just so much, and Jacob’s same-age cousin Alyssa, all the way to Indonesia for a purpose. He has them there to do the job He wants them to do. So we pray for the job they’re doing there, reaching unreached people, building churches in jungles where people have never heard of a savior, being the hands and feet of Jesus in a land we’ve never seen.

And right now, God has her Uncle Ryan and Auntie Ky-Ky and cousins Riley and Mason in Nevada. And she loves them so much, too. So we talk about that God has a plan for them, and right now the plan is to be where they are. And that even though we miss them, too, we’ve been blessed to get to visit their house every once-in-a-while.

And we talk about how blessed we really are, that even though her cousins are so far away, we’ve been able to see them lots. And sometimes we get to Skype with them when they’re home. But right now, they’re here! And they even get to come to Annalise’s 6th birthday party, the first one since she turned one!

Just the same, Annalise still prays that she’ll get to have her cousins live here, just like other kids. And I don’t have the heart to tell her that I don’t think that’s going to happen, to just give up on that big request of hers, because God has Ellia in Indonesia. That is where they live now.

The truth is, some days it breaks my heart, too. Because while I didn’t always grow up with my cousins in the same town, we were just on the other side of the Cascades, and we got to see them often. They were a big part of my life, and one day, my prayer was answered to live by my cousins. We lived in the same town and went to school together for the last 5 years.  I even lived in their house for a while during college. God answered my prayer in a bigger way than I could imagine. I loved the blessing of them in my life, and I have longed for Annalise and Ellia to have a similar experience.

Well, it just so happens that one of the cousins that I prayed to live by and graduated from high school with and lived with in college, moved last year from Eastern Washington back to Whatcom County.

And it just so happens that a week ago, he became the head pastor at the church he grew up in right here in Ferndale.

And it just so happens that his middle child is Jilly, another same-age-girl-cousin that Annalise loves.

And it just so happens that when that cousin of mine got his new job as a pastor, they moved into the church parsonage in Ferndale. Which meant Jilly and her big brother Josiah got moved to a new school this week, which just-so-happens to be the same school I teach at, and more importantly, the same school Annalise attends.

Annalise was already bursting with excitement when she found out Jilly would be at her same school. And then, the unimaginable happened. Josiah was put in my class, and Jilly was placed in the same kindergarten class as Annalise.

Leading up to Jilly’s first day, it suddenly hit Annalise exactly what was happening, that this was not an “it-just-so-happens” event. “Mommy! Do you know that God is answering my prayer? I prayed for a cousin to live here. I really meant Ellia, but God answered my prayer in just a different way. And I never even thought about having a cousin in my school or especially in my class. God answered my prayer, but even better than I thought, because I get to have a cousin with me every day!”

And then, Annalise became sad again. Because, “What about Ellia, Mommy?” Ellia has the same prayer. She loves her cousins just so much. She wants to live in America, to be by her cousins, too.

God has not forgotten Ellia. Several weeks ago, He answered her prayer, too, also in a different way. First, He brought her here for 5 whole months, enough time to make lots of American memories, from the Northwest Washington Fair, to cousin’s birthday parties, to starting kindergarten, and she’ll even be here for Thanksgiving. But there’s more. While she has been living here, God called her aunt and uncle and a same-age-cousin for both her and her sister to Indonesia, to the same church she is a part of, in the very same city. She will likely attend school with her other same-age cousin.

God couldn’t move Ellia here to Annalise. But He gave Annalise and Ellia different same-aged cousins to not just live close by, but to be in their same school and same class. At the same time He did this, God brought two churches a new pastor, one in Ferndale, one in Indonesia. (And by the way, that church in Ferndale was in need of a pastor because the former pastor  had moved with his family to a place God had put on their heart… Indonesia.)

Answered prayer… Two little girls pray for a cousin. Two churches pray for pastors. Two families pray for guidance on where the Lord wants them. 

Strengthened faith… An impossible prayer answered. All those prayers answered, all at once.

God’s word lived out…  He who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine… I could have never imagined.

Here is what I’ve been reminded of:
1. Ellia and Annalise, your prayers have been answered, and God has big plans for you.
2. Pastor Elis and Pastor Andy and your families, your prayers have been answered and you have followed the Lord’s leading, and God has big plans for you.
3. Whatcom New Life Assembly, you have been given a new pastor, one you poured into as a child, and God has big plans for you all.
4. Indonesia, you are a land being blessed by two more wonderful families, and God has big plans for you, too.
5. God has not forgotten this land, or these families, or even the hearts of two almost-6-year-old girls. And God has not forgotten you or me, either. He knows the desires of our our hearts, and He knows our greatest needs. He has big plans for us, too.

MY BOY:
Jacob has this little saying that melts my heart. Whenever I say “I love you,” he responds with, “I love you more than that.”

“Jacob, I love you more than the moon and stars.”
“Mommy, I love you more than that.”

“Buddy, do you know I love you more than all the waves in the ocean? And farther than from here to Indonesia and all the way back?”
“Yep. And I love you more than that.”

“Hey kiddo! Come here. I love you so much!”
“I love you too, Mama. I love you more than that.”

I love that boy so much more than I can describe. But even if I could, he’d just say with his joy-inducing, heart-melting, God-awing smile, “I love you more than that.”

MY GOD:
He still answers prayer. Even prayers of little girls.
He still amazes with his creativity. Two girls, impossible prayers, answered in ways I never imagined. One boy, with a big smile, and even bigger words that melt every time.
He still can do and does immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.

And when His plans are carried out, and are far beyond what we could imagine, it’s almost like He is saying, right to the heart of my almost 6-year-old girl,  “I love you so much Annalise. But I have different plans. I need your cousin where she is.  I’m not going to give you just exactly what you ask for. I’m going to give you more. Because I love you all more than that.

Remember His promises. Pray big prayers for His purpose and glory. But keep in mind, His plans might be a bit different, because He loves you more than that!

“14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” ~ Ephesians 3:14-21

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12 sleeps and snow

12 SLEEPS!    JUST 12 MORE SLEEPS!!

My sister and nieces are coming! The ones I haven’t seen in over 2 years!! The niece that Leesie longs to play with so much she named her imaginary friend then blue bat friend after her. And the other niece that I haven’t seen since she was two months old. THEY WILL BE HERE AFTER JUST 12 MORE SLEEPS!

Not that I’m excited or anything. Ok, I’m ecstatic!!!

And as if that weren’t exciting enough, we – my big sis and I – are taking a road trip with our 4 kids to see our lil’ sis in Nevada! I haven’t seen her in far too long either. Aaaaaaaaaannd, we will be meeting our brand new adorable baby nephew, Mason! Who hasn’t actually been born yet, but I already know he’s adorable. And my older sis and nieces will meet Mason’s big brother, Riley for the first time, too – even though he’s 1 already 1 1/2. And I will get to squish-kiss his adorable cheeks.

AND ALL THE 6 COUSINS WILL GET TO PLAY TOGETHER for the first time! Well, Mason will probably just want to sleep since he’ll be just a week or two old. Every party has a pooper…

Aaaaand, my mom will be there, too, because she is flying down to be there when Mason makes his appearance.

So to sum up:

Mom + her 3 girls + all six (by then) grandchildren on this earth (3 boys, 3 girls) + 1 husband (Kylie’s) = LOADS AND LOADS OF FUN AND MEMORY MAKING that hasn’t happened since… since everbecause the last time we were all together at the same time was 2 years and 5 months ago, and 3 of these babies – all the boy grandbabies – didn’t even exist yet!

Sadly, we will really miss dad, and 2 of the husbands (mine and Korie’s).

Hmmmm…. The 3 men that have been around the longest in this family are not going to be there at the reunion of the 3 sisters and mother + 6 grandbabies. I wonder if they have some wisdom from experience they forgot to share with Ryan…

Kidding, of course. They are all working. I know they – dad especially – would love to be there. Hoping and praying for a reunion next year that includes all of us.

I’ve done a few re-posts of Facebook notes I wrote over the last year to keep them all in one place. I only have a couple left. The one below was for my niece, Ellia, on her 4th birthday this past January. Since I get to see her in just 12 sleeps and she is on my mind constantly right now, I’m posting it today.

I LOVE YOU, Ellia!! I can’t wait to see you and your mommy and sis in just 12 sleeps!!!! (And YOU Kylie, Ryan, Riley, and Mason – just shortly after that!) This is one happy girl over here!!!

A Prayer for Snow – January 26, 2012

Last week, when many of us were waking up to inches of snow, my older sister and her family were “enduring” temperatures in the upper 80s. They live in Surabaya, Indonesia, where they serve as missionaries and pastor a church. Korie and John have two adorable girls (my adorable nieces), Ellia and Alyssa, who have spent most of their short lives (they’re just 4 and almost 2), over there.

 So while we were all posting pictures of sledding, snowmen and igloos, Ellia was praying for God to send snow to Surabaya. “Mommy, I’m afraid that I’m never going to see snow again!” she said. Even when she was told God would probably not answer her prayer for snow in their hot city, she said, “It’s ok, I’ll just keep praying.” (Now there is a girl with some faith.) Korie posted Ellia’s comment on Facebook and told all their Washington friends and family to enjoy the snow. I read the post and felt sad for my little niece who likely wouldn’t understand why God wouldn’t answer such a simple request for snow. (Oh, ME of little faith.)

So here’s what happened…

I was typing up a response to Korie, when I looked up and read the response above mine. A friend of hers posted something about fake snow that looks and feels like the real thing. I remembered seeing the same stuff when I went to Victorian Christmas. I was with some church friends at the time, and one of them had mentioned purchasing some in Whatcom County for her grandkids before Thanksgiving.

I called her up. She said she bought it at Grandiflora in Lynden, but that was before Thanksgiving. She doubted they’d still be carrying it now. I called there. No answer. It was the middle of a snowstorm and all the county schools were closed as well as some businesses. I figured Grandiflora was closed, too.

So I called Michaels. They were out and wouldn’t have it until Christmas. I called JoAnns. Out. I was actually ok with that, though, because I was without a car and there was a snowstorm, so really how would I get it anyway?

 I searched the internet and found a couple brands that were kind of pricey, and I didn’t want to add shipping costs on top of the shipping costs I’d have sending it to Indonesia. I figured I’d wait and when I came across it, I’d pick it up and send it to her. It just may not be until next Christmas.

Then I remembered Grandiflora had a voicemail box. I called them back to leave a message. Only this time someone answered.

I described the product I was looking for. She knew what it was but thought it was an odd request considering the weather. After all, I could just step outside and get as much as I’d like for free. She was kind, but said that although they had some packs left, they had already packed it up with some other stuff for next season. It would probably be very difficult to find, and the owners weren’t in. She didn’t even know where to begin to look.

So I began to tell her the story of my little niece’s childlike faith and her prayer for snow… only I didn’t get very far. I barely got the those words out when the woman on the other end nearly shouted, “Oh! It’s here! It’s here! God just directed my eyes RIGHT to it!” She seemed very surprised, because it was supposed to have been packed up, but there was an entire box of snow that had not gotten put away.

Perfect.

She set aside 6 packs for me and put the rest away. Now I just had to get through the real snow to pick it up … Thankfully, unlike Michael’s and JoAnn’s, Grandiflora is only a couple miles away and Matt would be home with a car before they closed.

Now here is what I love about this. Ellia was going to get snow. It was set aside for us to get. But even better, she was going to get it while we still had snow. Because my mom – who has never traveled out of the US/Canada – was going to visit Korie, John, Ellia and Alyssa. And she was leaving in three days.

Just the fact that she was going at all was a miracle. It wasn’t likely going to ever happen, but a wonderful friend blessed mom with a trip and didn’t give her a choice. Mom was going. Another wonderful friend blessed mom by going with her. They – and the snow – would be arriving the day before Ellia’s birthday.

We had just enough time to wait out the real snow, get the fake snow, and drive it (safely) down to Mt. Vernon to meet my mom and stick it in her suitcase as she was leaving.

Mom and Darlene boarded a plane and about 36 hours later, they were in Indonesia. It was evening there, and by the time they got to Korie’s house, everyone was exhausted. I don’t imagine there would have even been time for playing in the snow even if they wanted to. It would have to wait until the next day, Ellia’s birthday.

So guess what? Ellia got snow. It arrived on her birthday. With about 16 Indonesian friends who I’m guessing have never ever seen it before and may not ever again. My sister says it was a hit. They all played and played and played in it. They went outside and threw it in the air and at each other. A little boy who has cried the whole time every time he’s been at Korie’s before laughed and played for the first time. Ellia got snow. With friends. In Surabaya. On her birthday. Just a week after she first prayed for it.

You may be rolling your eyes. “Why would God answer that prayer?” And I’ll admit. I thought it too. “Poor Ellia. God won’t be answering her prayer for snow.”

But then again, why wouldn’t He? He is GOD, after all. Clearly HE is capable. But snow? In Surabaya? Just because a little girl prayed for it? That’s really just a child’s silly wish, right?

Here’s the thing. God answered Ellia’s prayer. Not in the way she expected, but it was answered nonetheless. Some may read this and chalk it up to a series of coincidences. But I know God loves us. He knows us. It says in Isaiah 43:1, “I have called you by name, you are mine.”   We are HIS. I am HIS. Ellia, YOU are GOD’s.

He not only loves us and knows us, but He delights in us. Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”  We are HIS children. What father doesn’t take joy in the laughter of his children? What father doesn’t rejoice and celebrate the life of his child?

I will be the first to say that every request we bring to him isn’t granted. I’ve had some big requests go unfulfilled. It doesn’t always make sense. But I do know that His thoughts are not our thoughts, His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). I guess when it comes down to it, I’m thankful for that. My ways are awfully selfish. And I don’t see the picture He sees. And I know God isn’t our magic genie to be used to grant wishes.

So why the snow? I know some people will read this and think, “God doesn’t do stuff like that. He isn’t worried about silly requests like that.” I’ve even heard friends say, “God doesn’t have time for those little prayers. He’s too busy dealing with wars and big stuff.” I say to you, don’t minimize the power of God. He is all-powerful. He is all knowing. He is supreme. And I am so thankful that he is not so distracted by the “big” events of the world that he has no time for me. Because not even the biggest events in my life can compare to the massive needs in the world.  If God was “too busy dealing,” he would never have time for me. Or probably you.

But he is not too busy. He is not distracted. He is not a distant God that only cares about “big things.” WE are HIS. HE cares about US. EACH of us. He is WITH us.

And he rejoices over us with singing.

Ellia had a little prayer with some massive faith. And she is God’s. HE cares about HER.

Sweet Ellia, GOD delights in YOU. HE was rejoicing over YOU with singing on your birthday. HE was celebrating YOU.

Happy 4th birthday, my beautiful niece.

A Bat Dream

Over the past year, I’ve posted some notes and stories on Facebook that I’d like to save. Since I now have a blog, I decided to save those stories on here so I have them all in one place.

This story is from last summer about Annalise missing her cousin so so bad. It is the perfect story to post today for two reasons:

1) Today (March 10) is my mom’s birthday. And I’m pretty sure there is no one she loves more than her 5 (+1 on the way +2 in Heaven) grandkids. Except maybe my dad. But grandkids are a close second. Closer on some days than others… am I right, dad? All kidding aside, mom always loves a good grandkid story, and this story is about 3 of them. So, happy birthday, mom!

2) Annalise has really been missing her cousin Ellia lately. Just this morning, she was carrying around pictures of her and talking about when she’ll get to finally see her again. We really miss that girl. So so bad. And her mommy and daddy and sister. We are hoping to get to see them soon. And when we do, there will undoubtedly be stories of antics from FOUR hilarious kids – 5 if my other sis and fam get to visit, too. Until then, most of the stories will be of our two. But that’s okay, because even on sad-and-missing-my-sisters days, these two bring joy in a thousand different ways.

So here it is… “A Bat Dream” – June, 2011

Jacob has a giant blue blow-up bat that is as tall as Leesie. (No, I would not purchase such a ridiculously tempting sister-beating tool for him, but a nice boy gave it to him at the Raspberry Festival after Jacob tried to steal it about a dozen times. Thank you, “nice” boy.) Anyway, it is the only thing in the house that is the exact same height as Annalise, it is easily transportable, and it is the perfect squeezable toy for ginormous hugs from a girl of the same height.

So, naturally, Annalise took possession of the bat and named it “Ellia.” The real Ellia is Annalise’s same-age cousin who is a missionary kid living in Indonesia.

Annalise misses her dearly, and since Ellia left, Leesie has played with an invisible playmate she named “Pretend Ellia.”

Blue-bat Ellia has replaced Pretend Ellia. Finally, Ellia exists in a physical form… just one of a giant blow-up bat.

Having a physical replacement-Ellia seems to be much more fun for Annalise than an invisible-Ellia. First off, inflatable-bat-Ellia can give hugs. Well, not really give hugs, but hugs are definitely easier than with invisible-Ellia. Annalise squeezes the bat tightly and says, “I LOVE you, Ellia!” Then she kisses it, talks about being friends forever, and tells the blue inflatable how much she has missed her. And although she used to dance with Pretend Ellia, I now know where to look when she says, “Mom, watch Ellia spin!” So yes, inflatable-Ellia has been a step-up, (or I should say an upswing.)

But it has also been a problem. Mainly because Jacob also knows exactly where Ellia is now, too.

Sometimes, Jacob gets a hold of “Ellia” and beats people with it… I mean her. Or, he whacks the end of the bat on the ground. Both generate blood-curdling screams from his older sister about him hurting Ellia’s head. Never mind my head. Or arm. Or whatever it is Jacob can reach at the moment with the 3+ foot tall bat.

Other times, usually when Annalise has just set Ellia down for a moment, Jacob grabs her and runs as fast as he can out of the room with a big goofy grin on his face. This is usually a very comical site, as inflatable Ellia is much bigger than Jacob, and he doesn’t run very well when he isn’t holding anything in his hands. And of course, Annalise is right at his heels yelling, “JACOB!!!  PUT!  ELLIA!  DOWN!  NOW!!!!!!!” This usually makes his goofy smile even bigger, and sometimes even triggers a giggle. I’m thinking we’re in real trouble here…

But the biggest problem with inflatable Ellia is not that Jacob can run off with her, tormenting his big sister. No, I’m certain the biggest problem is yet to come. At the moment, Annalise spends nearly all her waking hours at home telling Ellia what to do. And at the moment, “Ellia” is nothing but compliant.

“Ellia, you sit here. I will sit here.” Ellia does.

“Ellia, lay down and take a nap.” Ellia does. And for as long as Annalise desires.

“Ellia, you sleep on the bottom bunk, I’ll sleep on the top, okay?” No arguments from Ellia. Not even about the choice of blanket or pillow.

Next year sometime, the real Ellia – the one that Annalise misses so badly that she actually carries around a giant inflatable toy to give her some sense of her presence – will be here. And I’m thinking she won’t be quite as accommodating to each and every one of Leesie’s demands. In fact, I’m thinking she may have a few demands of her own, as she is also a strong little three-year-old much like her cousin. (Right, Auntie Ko-Ko?)

I’m just so curious how this meeting will go, when both strong little girls at last get to be together to play – with a playmate who has her own strong opinions. Not to mention, there will be two (three, counting Riley!) younger siblings together to torment their older siblings as a team. And from what I know of Jacob and what I’ve heard about mischievous Alyssa, I’m thinking the combination of Jacob+Alyssa will be more than 1+1=2.

Whatever happens, I am so looking forward to the time when we can all be together and cousins can play and make memories like the ones I have of growing up with my own cousins. They are some of my greatest memories.

Although a giant bat may not argue much, real cousins definitely have more interesting things to say, and you don’t have to carry them everywhere you want them to go. But most importantly, they can return ginormous hugs with their own arms. That is a moment I dream of for both my kids, and for me. Auntie Holly loves you so much, real-Ellia. And your mommy, daddy, and sister too!

The REAL Ellia and Annalise running to meet for one of their ginormous hugs. Early Spring, 2010. I can’t wait to see this again…