The Angel on the Train

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The Angel on the Train

A couple of days ago a local tragedy occurred, and it gave me great pause.

In the early hours of Monday, December 18th a passenger train was traveling south from Seattle when it derailed onto I-5, the largest interstate freeway in the state, near DuPont, Washington.  At least three people died in the crash, and dozens of others were taken to local hospitals.

In the moments directly after the crash two witnesses rushed onboard the train and began administering first aid and moving the trapped passengers to safety. For at least 20 minutes they were the only first responders on the scene.

I saw a video clip of our local television news station doing a phone interview with this good samaritan first responder, Dan Konzelman (Watch the video clip here). At about 6 minutes into the interview, the news reporter asks Mr. Konzelman why he ran into the train. His response? Because I was there and I could (Sidenote: I am adopting this as my new motto for life.).

But there’s more. The interview continues and Mr. Konzelman described the work that he did onboard the train while they waited for help to arrive, and it is nothing short of heroic. The things he was able to do were not things that someone could do on their own. The peace that he had during this time of crisis was unnatural. And there was lots of prayer.

Then something really interesting happens in the interview, the thing that made me stop and go, “Wow!”. After hearing the unexplainable strength and fortitude showed by this young man in this moment of great need, the reporter–on live televised news–concludes the reason behind his super-human strength and super-calm state of mind:

“I mean, a guardian angel, honestly. What else can you say?” (minute 8:30 in the clip)

And I know it’s true. I know that there was a guardian angel helping Mr. Konzelman that morning in DuPont. I know, because I have met that angel myself.

The Angel in the Car Crash

I went to college in a small town located in the very northwest corner of Washington state. I was studying to be a teacher, and during the fall of my junior year I found out about a unique teaching opportunity for after graduation.

There was a missionary organization that was looking for teachers to travel to mission sites around the world and teach the children of missionaries. It sounded amazing and I wanted to learn more about it–the only problem was that the closest informational meeting would be happening in DuPont, about a 3-hour drive from my university. And I didn’t have a car.

Luckily I had just met this kind, outgoing, silly, smoking-hot guy who had a car (that guy is my husband now, so we all know that turned out well). When I told Jon about this info meeting and how I really wanted to go but had no way of getting there he offered to give me a ride. And, not being one to turn down free rides from people I barely know, I accepted.

Before we left school that afternoon I remember sitting in his car and he asked me something that nobody had ever asked me before: Would I like to pray with him for protection over our journey? Sure, sounds like a fine idea.

So, as we sat in Jon’s car parked in the garage under his apartment, we prayed for angels to protect the front and back of our car and that they would keep us safe.

And then we left.

We drove for a couple of hours, and as we got closer to our final destination in DuPont the weather turned for the worse. It was already dark outside and a storm had been picking up all afternoon. It was raining hard now and, with the darkness, it was hard to see the road well.

When we were just a few miles from our exit off I-5 chaos broke out around us. About four cars ahead of us we saw the crash begin. We could hear loud screeches and the tell-tale crunching sounds of metal-on-metal. We could see taillights ahead of us stopped and skewed off of the roadway. A car accident was happening in real time, and this was a big one.

Jon slammed on his brakes, but nothing happened. Literally nothing. For some unexplained reason, when he slammed on the brakes everything stopped. The car engine turned off. The lights went out. The radio stopped. The power steering failed. We were just in this little black hole-of-a-car in the middle of a car accident and we were completely powerless.

When it was all over we looked up and were shocked to discover that we were totally and completely fine. We could see 4 or 5 cars piled together in front of us. Jon’s front bumper was inches from the rear bumper of the car ahead of us but, despite his brakes going out, we hadn’t run into the pile-up. There were a couple of cars crashed to our right, and several behind us. But us? Nothing. We were in this bubble of absolutely nothing. In a dead car. In the middle of a storm. In the middle of I-5.

And we knew. We knew that the angels we had prayed for at the beginning of our journey were there. We knew that they had protected us and that the reason we were able to turn the key in the ignition, start the car back up, and make it to my meeting in time was because our prayer had been answered. Totally and completely answered.

Fifteen years later, Jon and I still reminisce about the “angel car crash” story. We joke  that our guardian angels have skid marks because of us, but the reality is that on that fateful night our lives were changed forever. On that little stretch of I-5 near DuPont an angel intervened for us.

I think that the same thing happened this week when a train crashed in that exact same spot on I-5. I think that an angel was present when lives were spared in what could have been an even greater tragedy. I think that a prayer was answered when those two witnesses ran onto the train and did what nobody else would do. I think that God intervened when he gave those two witnesses the strength and wisdom to care for people in their hour of greatest need.

Although this train crash is in and of itself a tragedy, I find great hope in this story. Hope because God intervenes in our tragedies. Hope because He can use even the most ordinary person to accomplish great things in His name. Hope because there are good people in the world who are willing to sacrifice in order to help others. Hope because prayer works.

Hope because the angel who saved me all those years ago is still busy at work–skid marks and all!

 

 

 

Dear Hannah: A Love Letter To My Daughter On Her First Birthday

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Dear Hannah,

Happy first birthday, darling! As I gaze at your sweet face I am at once questioning how a whole year has already passed since I first met you, and at the same time feeling as if you’ve been a part of me–a part of us–forever. I am so blessed to have shared this, your first year of many yet to come, with you.

Looking back at this year is like viewing a mosaic–many small pieces that come together to form a full picture. Small pieces like your first smile at 8 weeks old, and the thousands of smiles that have lit up the world since then. Small pieces like your tender cuddles,  your tiny body sinking into mine. Small pieces like your snarl nose when you’re feeling feisty. Small pieces like the way you sneeze three times every time you see a bright light. Small pieces every day, a thousand moments meshed together.

And then there are the bigger moments. The loving relationship you’ve already developed with your big brothers (May you always keep your big brothers close. Especially when you’re a teenager and claim that you’re ready for a boyfriend.). The bond you’ve created with your daddy (May you train him in what a princess is and how to treat her.). The growth you’ve made from a tiny, squirmy infant to an independent mover and self-feeder (May you continue to become more self-sufficient. Maybe even learn to wipe your own bum some day…and teach your brothers, too, will ya?).

This year has been a big year for our family, and I’m glad you got to join us on the journey! This year we gazed into the depths of the Grand Canyon and wondered at the massive granite walls of Yosemite. We dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean (…and ate lots of Pacific Ocean sand. Lots of it. And by we, I mean you.). We flew on airplanes and drove the entire length of the West Coast. We fueled old relationships and made new friends. We learned and laughed and loved together. We had ups and downs and learning curves, but we made it. And, truly, we are all better for it.

So now, as you begin your second year, my prayer is that you will continue to grow into you. That you will realize more each day the you that God created you to be, and that he would bless that growth.  That you would learn to depend on God in the same way you now depend on me–for your very sustenance and life. I pray that you would know the same love and joy that you bring to me each and every day.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure called life–I can’t wait to see where life takes us this next year! Happiest of birthdays to you!

All my love,

Mommy

Dear Kindergartener

  
Dear Son (Who Is Now A Kindergartener),

For the past 5 1/2 years I have alternated between dreading this day and pleading for it to arrive: your first day of kindergarten. And now it is here. The day I had been anticipating and wondering about and preparing you for and praying over is actually really truly happening. Tomorrow is the big day. In the morning you will wake up a new person, a Big Kid Kindergartener. Not my baby or my toddler or my preschooler, but my school kid. And I couldn’t be more proud.

You are an amazing person. Did you know that? God has created you to be uniquely you, and you are utterly and perfectly who He wants you to be. He made you to be loving and passionate and feisty and strong. He made you with Big Feelings. He gave you a deep desire to fiercely protect the underdog. He made you to be curious and creative. He made you to run and jump and climb like an American Ninja Warrior. He made you silly. There is no other you, and you are wonderful.

The world is full of incredible people and incredible moments, but it can also be harsh. So, when the world starts to tell you that you isn’t good or isn’t good enough, remember how amazing you are. Keep your head up like the warrior that you are, and be confident in the you that God has created. Up until now you’ve been under the shelter of my wing, but now it’s time for you to spread your own wings. As you venture out into the world, you will become more and more independent each day. Carry on strong as you make your own mark in the world, because I can’t wait to see what that mark will look like!

So when you wake up tomorrow morning (probably tired) and you refuse to eat your breakfast (because you hate eating in the morning), I hope you are at least a little bit excited. Excited to meet your teacher and classmates and new friends on the playground. Excited to find your seat at the table and sit in circle time (it will be a lot of sitting…just try to enjoy the rest).  Excited to play in the science corner and the art table and the dramatic play center. Excited to learn more about reading and numbers and telling your own stories. Excited to listen respectfully and take turns and be a good sport. Excited, most of all, for the grand adventure you’re about to begin. Because this year? This year is the beginning of one of the greatest journeys of your life.

Enjoy the ride, my not-so-little boy.  I am so very proud of you and I am 100% for you. Be kind, be happy, be attentive. Sometimes (if the teacher isn’t looking) be really super silly. Be you. Because you is amazing, and

I.

Love.

You.

XOXOXOX,
Mommy

P.S. If you see me tomorrow morning and my face is extra watery, just know that it’s a common condition that all kindergarten mommies undergo on the first day of school. It’s a love leak. It will likely reoccur during many of your milestones, including but not limited to: Any and every graduation (kindergarten, High School, College, Masters Degree, PhD, Doctorate, etc.), losing your first tooth, winning a participation trophy in Little League, every time you give me flowers,  getting your drivers’ license, seeing you in a tux on prom night, whenever those dang Facebook Memories pop up and I see you as a baby, and your wedding.

 

DIY Advent Tree

Advent, the season of preparation for Jesus’ birth, is officially upon us. I’ve been wanting to do something special with the boys to celebrate advent, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Since we recently moved and downsized, we don’t have any of our Christmas decorations or usual Christmas activities with us. Plus, we’re going “home” to Seattle in 2 weeks so it’s hardly worth the effort or the expense of a full Christmas set-up at hour house here.

It seems like everyone I know went out and got their Christmas tree last weekend, so I decided that we needed a tree of our own. And that’s where I came up with the idea for our advent tree:

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I basically put together all of the ideas that I had floating around in my head and this is what I came up with: a simple, Jesus-focused project that will get my kids thinking about the true meaning of Christmas every day.

I started by painting a large tree on the back of some wrapping paper (the only paper I had that was big enough for the size of tree I wanted to make).

Then I went online and printed off some color-your-own Christmas tree ornaments and cut them out. On each ornament I wrote three things: Read, Pray, Do. For the “Read” part of the ornament I wrote a scripture verse relating to Jesus’ birth or why He was born; “Pray” has someone or something for us to pray for that day; and “Do” is a project or act of service that we will do together on that day to share Jesus’ love with others (just Google or search Pinterest for “acts of kindness” to generate a good list of ideas).

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Each day David will choose an ornament from the basket, decorate it, and hang it on our advent tree. Then we will complete the “Read, Pray, Do” items that are on the ornament.

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By the end of advent (or, in our case, the first 2 weeks of advent!) we will have a beautifully decorated tree. More importantly, though, we will have learned more about God’s great Love sent to us. And that, of course, is the most beautiful thing of all.

Experiencing Cork City

Jon has become quite the coffee connoisseur over the last couple of years, and item one on his agenda has been to find a quality espresso machine that he can use over here. He’s done months of research on the types of machines that are available so he was just itching to get out to a store and buy one. We decided that this weekend would be “find Jon’s dream machine weekend”. We set out early Saturday morning to downtown Cork where we had a number of recommendations for specialty coffee and kitchen shops to look in.

It soon became quite obvious, however, that this quest was not going to end well. Most stores had no espresso machines whatsoever, and the ones that did carry espresso machines were very high end and out of our comfort zone, budget-wise (we really don’t need to spend over $2,000 on an espresso machine that he can use for two years, do we?). We abandoned our goal of bringing home Jon’s espresso-baby and turned our attention to something more positive.

Since we were already downtown, we decided to make a day of it and do a little sight-seeing. We bought delicious snacks and drinks from a chocolate shop and ate them in this little park:

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Then we crossed the River Lee that runs right through the middle of Cork City:

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We walked up a large hill to Shandon where the famous “Four-Faced Liar” clock stands at the top of St. Anne’s Cathedral:

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When we got back to downtown Cork they had set up a huge street festival for the Street Performance World Championship. They had some really neat street performers for us to watch:

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The boys enjoyed watching the live performances:

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There were also lots of fun activities for the kids to do. David’s favorite? The soccer game where he won a bag of candy every time he scored a goal!

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After we’d had our fill of street fair fun (and maybe a bit too much sun) we went to pick up our NEW CAR!

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I’m super-excited about this new car because it’s an automatic–no more trying to figure out a manual while driving on the opposite side of the (narrow) roads. It was quite the journey to actually get this car. After many days of calling car companies we came to the conclusion that there was really only one way we could get a car here. We are doing a long-term rental on the car because they don’t do leases here in Ireland and we don’t qualify for insurance to buy a car. We had hoped to get two cars, but long-term rental is VERY expensive (our car rental costs almost as much as our house each month!). So, for the time being, we will share the one car. One benefit to having a rental is that we can technically change out the car we have every 28 days if we need to. If this car doesn’t end up working well for us, we only have to keep it for 28 days and then we can try something different. We are also going to buy Jon a bike so he can can commute by bike whenever he’s able. Just one more change that we’ll have to adapt to!

One more change that we’ve been thinking and praying a lot about for…well…as long as we’ve know that we’d be moving to Ireland…is the church community we would join here. Getting plugged in to a Jesus-loving, gospel-preaching church is our first priority, but–as with many things with this move–we discovered that would be easier said than done. There are very few evangelical Christian churches in Ireland. In fact, our city (the 2nd largest city in the Republic of Ireland) only has about a dozen. A few months back we heard about a church here called Calvary Cork from a friend of mine who knows the pastor. We decided to check it out today.

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From the moment we walked in the doors we were blown-away blessed. It’s a small church (50-75 people were there today), but one of the most welcoming I’ve ever been to. Everyone was very friendly and they made us feel right at home. David was able to play in the creche (childcare) during the service (Jacob could have gone, too, if he wasn’t such a cry-baby). David had tons of fun coloring, eating snacks, hearing a short Bible story and playing with lots of sweet little Irish girls (his first response when we picked him up was, “I’m girl crazy!”).

The sermon was great (at least the parts of it I could hear from the baby cry room!). One of the best parts if the whole service, however, was the music. One of the first songs they played was “Grace Alone”, a song written by Dustin Kensrue from our church in Seattle, Mars Hill. We sang this song all the time “back home”–it was so neat to hear this song halfway around the world and worship with these new brothers and sisters who I’ve just met. Really, really cool.

We also had two of our other more petty prayers answered at church this morning. Jon got a great recommendation for a new coffee place that sounds a lot like Philz (his favorite coffee place EVER). And for me: I got invited to a mommy playgroup that meets every Wednesday not too far from our house. I’m really excited to meet some new friends and get to know the people I’ll be living with for the next 2 years!

All in all, it was a great weekend experiencing our new home city. And it really is starting to feel a bit like home.

 

My New Year’s Resolution

Our last sunrise of 2012

Our last sunrise of 2012

It’s been a CRAZY month. Jon’s company has a major project they are shipping this week, so he’s been putting in a lot of time at work getting everything ready. Jon spent the first part of December traveling for work in Ireland and Turkey. While he was away I went down to visit with my extended family (and get some much-needed help with the boys). He got back the weekend before Christmas jet-lagged and sleep-deprived. He got Christmas day off, which was wonderful. We spent the day with family opening presents, eating, and truly enjoying each others’ company. Then, the very next morning, he was back to working like a mad man trying to get this project out the door. Cypress had him working around the clock (quite literally. On Saturday he went into work at 8 AM, then got to come home for a 3 hour nap from 3:30-6:30 AM Sunday, then he was back in the office by 7). I am happy to say, though, that after nearly a month of not seeing each other the end is in sight!

Jon’s reward for the manic work schedule this month was a surprise week (mostly) off work this week. My reward was a run. Since Jon was home this morning, I decided to seize the opportunity and go out for a run. All. By. Myself. I’d nearly forgotten how much I enjoy running when I’m not pushing an 80 pound stroller full of two screaming children.

One of my favorite parts about running is that I’m truly all alone. In my life that is constantly interrupted by the needs of others, I relish the times that I experience solitude. I purposefully leave my iPod at home when I run because it’s just about the only time I have to be alone with my thoughts. I usually find my thoughts wandering over to prayers, and that’s exactly what happened today.

As I was running, I was just reflecting on this year and all that it has brought. We’ve had so many wonderful things happen and, yet, I still find myself complaining. Complaining about how things are or how I wish they would be. And, so, as I was running along my favorite trail (the one with the bumps and the stairs that I can’t bring the stroller on) I had a great conversation with God. I just gave him all of my complaints, and he showed me the praise in each of them. It went something like this:

Complaint: We still don’t know when we’re moving to Ireland. Or even IF we’re moving to Ireland. Cypress is really dragging their feet on this one. Can we get some answers here already? I need to plan my LIFE! I mean, should I buy the Costco pack of toilet paper or just get a 4-pack?
Praise: I am not the one in charge of my future. No matter what happens, I just need to live today for today and know that God is in charge of all of my tomorrows. He always has the best plans, and I just need to be patient in waiting for them to unfold. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Complaint: I never get time to be alone. Someone always wants my time, my attention, my physical body (a familiar scenario finds me simultaneously rolling out play-doh and nursing a baby while dinner cooks on the stove).
Praise: I have an incredible husband and two amazing children. I get to care for them, teach them, help them, and love them every single day. God has given me the opportunity to be home full-time raising my children and serving my husband. There truly is nothing else in the world that I’d rather be doing right now.

Complaint: I’m lonely
Praise: I know it sounds like a bit of an oxymoron to say that I never get to be alone and yet I’m lonely, but there is something very isolating about being the only adult present for hours on end each day. However, I have great friends who are also moms. We can relate and we get together regularly to let our kids play while we confirm with each other that it’s normal to not feel normal as a mother. Another benefit to my loneliness? Since I have nobody else to talk to, I gab at the kids all day. I talk to them incessantly. You’d think they’d be annoyed, but I think they actually enjoy it. And David is becoming quite the chatterbox himself now! He will have the vocabulary of an Oxford theologian by the time he enters kindergarten.

Complaint: My house is always dirty, there’s too much laundry, the yard needs to be mowed, yadda, yadda, yadda…
Praise: My dirty house and never-ending piles of laundry mean that little people are living in my house, exploring their surroundings, and learning the life-skill of cleaning up after yourself. And I have a house.  7 years after buying our house “for 2 years so we could sell it tax-free”, we have a home that still meets our needs and provides a safe place to raise our family.

..and on and on and on. So, here is my resolution on this eve of 2013. To find the praise in every complaint. When I am tempted to fall into worry, doubt, or distress to turn it around and find the good in every situation.

May your glass always be half-full. Happy New Year!