Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Not So Random

It's amazing what you can think of when you're busy sweeping the floor! Why do messes help us organize our thoughts?Hmmmm...while cleaning up, I had some memories playing back in my mind. One of them was about friends who had come and gone, in my life, over the years. When you meet someone, you imagine that you'll be in each other lives, forever. Everything seems so grand, so wouldn't change a thing...and then, it happens: life changes things for you.

When I was 2-1/2 years old, my parents relocated from Nebraska to Minnesota. We settled into a middle-class neighborhood, in Rochester. My mom was finishing up nursing school at RCC and my dad worked in retail. For me, it was as if the whole world had opened up: there were kids, toys, and bikes going here and there, around the block, again and again. The ice cream man would glide through the streets with his little cart and alluring bells--and instantly, every child would be pulling on their mother's pant leg, shirt, or arm--begging for 50 cents to get their favorite Popsicle--he was like a modern day Pied Piper! I'm sure our parents just loved it when he came around(ha,ha).

I lived next door to the Peterson family. They had a boy named Michael, who was my age, and a little girl, Sarah, who was a few years younger. We had great times, playing together. Across the street was the Sandberg family, with their 4 kids(at that time). I was good friends with their oldest daughter, Allison. Our October birthdays were 2 days apart. Allison's sister, Emily, was also part of our little pack. We would have many adventures together. One of them was climbing the humongous willow tree at Michael's house. I'd like to think that I was the bravest one of the bunch, who somehow managed to get to the very top! We would make bets and dares upon double dare, to see who would win. It was a great time to be a kid!

And then there were swing sets, sandboxes, monkey bars, and my big backyard--which seemed so deep that I was sure a football team might have played there. My mom would comment that it always took so long to mow the grass with our puny little push mower! I recall draping sheets and blankets over the monkey bars in our yard. I would lay on the ground, gazing upwards, imagining that I would someday live in 'an outdoor room'--where you could feel the breeze and see the sky. I think truly, God puts those desires in our hearts so that we will someday strive to make our dreams come true(Did I mention that we have our retaining wall up now? Soon we'll be enjoying our new patio and outdoor room!).

Do you think it was some random, incidental choice that brought my family to this state, this city, and into this neighborhood? Probably not. I've come to believe that everything happens for a reason. Our family went to church and followed the ritualistic traditions that had been passed down for generations. We were a normal, American family by many standards. Were we happy? Did we have our share of troubles? The answer to both questions is 'yes'. But God knew that we also needed Him in the center of our lives. He placed us next to the two families I've already mentioned, so that we could see Jesus reflected from their lives and into ours.

I absolutely loved spending time with the Petersons and Sandbergs. Watching them be together was such a comfort to me because my own family was becoming more and more broken, as each year passed. Although my childhood memory can't recall when and how it all happened, I still could sense that something was not right; little by little, much sadness began to creep into our home. God surrounded us with good neighbors that helped us in so many ways. Even though they couldn't stop the inevitable, they were there to support us through the many changes that would be coming.

And Life did change for all of us. Our family divided into two homes when I turned seven. The Peterson's moved to Colorado, and the Sandbergs--across town--when I was about nine. I remember how devastating it was to lose those connections. Kind of like seeing that big willow tree get cut down, next door. No more shelter, no more tree-climbing. Sadly, those days were now over.

But around this time, I was invited to Camp Victory by my friend Allison. It was there that I discovered who God really was and how much He loved me. And not only that, I had never heard music like I had heard there. No church organs, no chanting, no dismal hymns...well, that's how they seemed to sound to me(I do like some hymns!). No, it was so different. I thought to myself, "Whatever it is they have, I want that in my life." And so began my walk with God, my journey of faith. That was back in 1986. My life was not very secure at that time. There were still many unknowns and changes, but I felt peace because I knew that someday it was going to be ok. And even today, music is a big part of who I am and what I do. I love to sing and use those gifts to praise God. He put that into my heart, even before I chose to trust Him with my life.

Now, here we are, 24 years later! Thanks to the miracles of social networking, I'm back in touch with Allison. My heart was warmed, knowing that her walk with God is also strong today. So coming full circle, God put her in my life many years ago--knowing all the events that would take place, ahead of time. Isn't our God amazing? He definitely has a plan and purpose for all of us(Jer. 29:11). I don't have to despair as to why He chooses to remove friends from my life, for a season. Or maybe I will never see some of those friends again--who knows. But, if I'm trusting Him completely, I know that He will continue to bring new people into my life, as well. Like another old friend once said, "Your heart grows bigger with more room to love all the new people God brings, into your life." So true.

"Into the darkness you shine, out of the ashes we rise.
There's no one like you, none like you:

"Our God is greater, our God is stronger. Our God is higher than any, other. Our God is healer, awesome in power, our God, our God..."(Chris Tomlin song)."