Friday, August 29, 2014

On Augustus Waters, a mother's love and the literal heart of Jesus ...


I have a confession.  Sometimes I indulge in Young Adult literature and I can't blame it on my daughter, because she doesn't share my love of reading (how did that happen?).  I read the book, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.  And then I went to the movie and sat in a theater packed with teenagers.  I may have cried a little.

If you haven't read/seen it, it's about a girl, Hazel Grace Lancaster, who has cancer.  She meets a boy, Augustus Waters, at her cancer support group and he begins to pursue her.  Relentlessly.  Hazel tries to keep her distance because she feels like a grenade that is going to hurt everyone who loves her when she dies.  She feels like it's her responsibility to minimize the casualties in her wake.  And then Augustus says the famous line:
"Oh, I wouldn't mind, Hazel Grace.  It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you."
And all the girls in the theater swooned.

Because, what girl wouldn't want to be loved by someone who says things like that.  Who wouldn't want to be loved by someone who sees beyond her mess and pursues her.  Unabatedly.

Flash back to the day my son was born.  I couldn't stop looking at him.  Those tiny fingers and those cheeks - he was perfect.  I named him and I loved him just because he was my son.  And then the thought crossed my mind, "One day he is going to break your heart...".  What a strange thought to have in that moment.  If I was as brilliant as John Green's Augustus Waters, I would have said, "Taylor Scott, it would be a  privilege to have my heart broken by you."

How many times is a mother's heart broken over her children?  A billion and one. When that baby is feverish.  When the toddler is defiant.  When your child is teased at school.  Or how about the child who stomps off to her room yelling, "I hate you!" as she slams the door.  Or the teen who is making poor choices.  A mother's heart is broken over and over and over again.  And yet her love for her children would chase them to the moon and back.  Or to Colorado.  Same difference.

A mother knows better than most that her children are far from perfect.  We know their faults and weaknesses and the mistakes they've made.   But still.  There is nothing that can change the way she feels about them.  Motherhood isn't easy.  It comes at a price.  Our hearts.

There is nothing like a mothers love.

Or is there?

I think about the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus is about to face His death.  He is alone and praying,
"My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine."  - Matthew 26:39
And Jesus went to the cross, paying the penalty for our mistakes and failures.
 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  - Romans 5:8
He paid the price for our sin, so that we wouldn't have to.  He died so we could live.  Because:
 ... the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.  - Romans 6:23
He said: 
"Insert your name here (Olivia Christine), it would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you."
 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you..."
These words, from the "literal heart of Jesus" (for those who read the book or saw the movie), are being said to you and me.

How many times has His heart been broken over me?  A billion and one.  When I am sick.  When I am defiant.  When I am going through a hard time.  When I am angry at Him.  He knows my faults and weaknesses.  He knows the mistakes I have made.  But still.  He named me - Beloved.  What's in a name?  I talk about that more here.  When God looks at me, he sees love.  And I didn't have to do anything to earn it.  I am perfect in His eyes.  How can that be?  I know how far from perfect I am.

There is nothing like the Father's love.

It pursues me.  Unabatedly.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life... - Psalm 23:6
The use of the word 'follow' in this verse is the Hebrew word, radaph - to chase; run after; hunt.  So this verse literally says:
Surely goodness and mercy will chase; run after; hunt me all the days of my life.
Here's another verse:
Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. - Psalm 139:7&8
I want my children to know how much I love them.  There is nowhere they can go that my love won't follow.  Just as much, I want them to know how much God loves them.  How can I make them understand, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is?  And then I remember.  "Surely goodness and mercy will chase Taylor and Celine all the day's of their lives".  God is relentlessly pursuing them.  Because He loves them more than I do. 

We spend our lives looking for someone who will love us.  Girls everywhere will swoon over Augustus Waters and dream of such words being said to them.  

Yet there they are.  Right in front of us:
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.." - Jeremiah 31:3
Jesus is saying your name.  His goodness and mercy are chasing you.  And me.  The literal heart and body of Jesus have already been broken for you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Brant's on Vacation

Summer flew by and the kids are back in school.  I am hoping you had some lazy days full of reading and lemonade (or whatever your favorite lazy thing is), as well as fun times with the people you love.  Here's a bit of our adventure!

This raised-in-Arizona girl has finally seen the Grand Canyon!  Scotty, Cel and I took a splendid end-of-the-summer road trip.  We headed north, to Williams, AZ.  I didn't know that such beautiful forest-covered mountains existed in Arizona!  We rode a zip line and wandered in and out of the shops on Route 66.  Scotty and I even went for a run and took on a couple of steep hills.  You know you're a runner-geek when you can't wait to run a new trail in a new place!

Zip Line!

Her favorite - pistachio almond
Early  morning run with Scotty
The town was alive long after the sun went down and Scotty and I took a stroll in the cool evening air, stopping to listen to a live band play outside of a restaurant.  It was loverly.  The next morning the three of us hopped onto the Grand Canyon Railway Express for a two-hour ride to the Grand Canyon. 

Amazing.  That's about all I can say about the Grand Canyon.  You just have to see it.  We took a billion pictures and returned back to the hotel, exhausted and famished.  What a great weekend it was!

We were excited to start Part 2 of our trip - Provo, Utah, to visit my sister and her family!  What can I say?  Nothing is better than just hanging out in the familiarity and comfort of people you love too much.  We stayed up late talking, shopped, played cards, had a family Nerf gun shoot-out and ... of course, went for a run around the Provo River Trail.  I love that my sister and her hubby are runner-geeks too!  I can't leave Provo without telling you how beautiful it was there.  The mountains.  And the waterfalls.  And the people I love.  Simply beautiful.

My beautiful sister
Family shoot-out

Vacation, Part 3 took us to Colorado Springs.  Oh my.  The drive.  Ten hours of beautiful mountain roads, through rocky gorges and the summer-green slopes of Vail, and did I mention the mountains?  Finally, I got to hug my boy and see that he is healthy and clothed and alive after being away from me for 8 months!  It was the four of us again, being a family.  

We went to the zoo, Garden of the God's, visited Focus on the Family and Whit's end.  I must say, I was most excited about that tour.  I grew up without television and Mr. Whittaker and Adventures in Odyssey were my childhood!

Garden of the Gods

Whit's End

Odyssey and Narnia

We celebrated Taye's birthday and ate way too much!

And Scotty and I took a wild leap!


We spent the final day playing laser tag and bowling.  It was a day I wished would never end.  We said goodbye to our son and hugged him hard.  Before leaving Colorado we met up with childhood friends of mine - 27 years later!  It was oh-so-wonderful to meet their families and reminisce.  I barely remember my food coming or even eating it, before the waiter came back to take my plate.  Can't wait to do it again!

Jamming while they wait for their turns

We returned home 2,526 miles later, happy and road weary, to say the least!

After more than 36 hours in the car, I've seen enough truck stop restrooms and fast food to last a looong while.  But our hearts are still brimming and running over with time spent together.  It's rough getting back to real life after such an adventure.  I am ever so grateful to have had it.

Love these two!

I'd love to hear about your summer!  And then - let's dig into Fall! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When you are dreading what's around the corner ...

Photo Credit: Olivia Brant

We're going on a bear hunt! We're gonna catch a big one!
I'm not afraid!
Are you? Not me!
Oh, no!  It's a big puddle of mud
Can't go around it; Gotta go right thru it
Yuk! Well, let's go.
Sqwish, Sqwish, Blaaahh.
This song was a favorite when I taught preschool, a hundred years ago.  It's cute seeing three and four year old's eyes light up as they go over pretend mountains and through imaginary tall grass.  The girls squeal and giggle, covering their mouths with little hands.  The boys sing loudly, sloppily bumping into classmates as they stomp and conquer each obstacle.

But what if the obstacle ahead of you is not imaginary and fun or even remotely cute?  It's dark and murky and scary.  It's going to take a lot of messy, hard work.  You know you can't go around it.  You have to go through it.  And you dread it.

I have faced situations that made me want to curl up in bed and pull the covers over my face.  I don't want to be a growned-up.  I don't want to think.  I don't want to make the difficult decisions.  I don't want to be responsible.  I am afraid.

What to do then?

Those are the times when we see our desperate need for Jesus.  We never not need Him, but those difficult times are the times we realize that we are not in control.  Do I have the faith to trust the God I claim to trust when times are good?  It's easy to trust on the clear, sunny days.  But when the waters are murky do I remember Who holds the whole universe in balance?  Do I remember that He's not as surprised as I am about what is happening?
When you don't know what to say
Just say Jesus
There's still power in the name
The name of Jesus
If the words wont come
Cause you're too afraid to pray
If the words wont come
And you don't know what to say
Just say Jesus
-7eventh Time Down
I have found that allowing myself to be wrapped up in His presence settles my heart so that I can go on and take the next step.  Because even if things are not going well, God is always good.  Let your favorite worship music saturate your day.

Am I suggesting we place our heads in the sand and pretend that life is grand?  NO!  I am suggesting that we remind ourselves of the truth.  Because it's hard to see clearly when you are in a boat and all you see are the dark, scary waves crashing in on you.  Remember Who is in the boat with you. 

Let's not be so hard on ourselves and so afraid of not handling the circumstances perfectly.  YOU WON'T.  Let's just get that out of the way right off the bat.  We are all just trying to figure things out and there is no one perfect way to handle it.  But you have One perfect God.  Remember?  He takes broken things and makes them whole.  He makes up for our lack.

Now that that's established,
Give yourself permission to:

Cry.  Cry hard and loud.  Then dry your eyes, but on some lip gloss and carry on.  And when you feel the need, cry again. 

Tell somebody.
Reach out to someone.  Just don't carry it all alone in silence.  In the blogging community, we believe in telling our stories for a reason.  There is a weight lifted in the telling; in saying it out loud.  That doesn't mean your life is an open book for everybody.  It means you have sought out someone who will listen to you and cry with you and pray for you and with you. Ask for help! 

Set up boundaries.
This is your story and you get to tell it to who you want to.  But you don't owe everybody a detailed explanation.  You don't have to tell people who you don't want to tell.

Give yourself a cut-off at the end of the day, like, no more thinking after say, 9 pm.

Set up a lunch date where the rule is to talk about anything but that.  You need a break from it, if even for an hour, and especially when you should be sleeping (easier said than done, but it's a goal and goals help you be more intentional).

Let yourself smile.
There is no law saying, 'thou shalt not laugh or smile when life is hard'.  It's okay.  Find something to smile about.   

You are strong.
 I can do all things through  Christ who gives me strength. 
- Philippians 4:13

We are going to get through this.  Just do the next thing.  And the next. And the next.  Moment by moment.  Day by day.  Just fall forward and when you feel tired, stop, take a breath and then move again.  We will reach the other side.

You are never alone.  You are always loved.  And God is always good.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Tell

I have to tell you something.

I love you!  No really, I mean it.

Life has been crazy and it's been over a month since I've written here.  There have been some wild ups and downs.  Like a vacation and FINALLY seeing the Grand Canyon and a thrilling aerial dive.  There's saying hello and goodbye and plan changes and OH MY!  All the things.  It's so much! 

And in the midst of all that I lost the time to come to one of the places that allows me to breathe.  In the crazy I almost wondered if I would even know what to say to you.  But this morning I logged on to my computer and saw that my friend, Ashley (love her!) had a Five Minute Friday Post.  And it was like coming back home.  It is all still here - the blogging community and Five Minute Friday and YOU.  I have so much to tell you!  But not now, because well, five minutes is not enough time.  And not everything because as Ashley said in her post, there are some things that "We just need to tell the Lord, without saying a word to the world."

So I leave you with the most important:

Being here with you fills me up!  And I just wanted to tell you.

- Liv

five minute friday :: tell