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Road to Celebration

Today, I drove the country roads that built me.

Each Sunday, our little family would pile in the pickup truck and travel with eager hearts to visit my grandfather's farm. While other children were seated quietly in Sunday school classrooms looking at flannel boards, I was spinning on the steering wheel of a Massey-Ferguson tractor, captivated by the stories of an old man in overalls on his front porch beside me. We laughed. We cried. We believed about half of his tales, knowing full well he was apt to elaborate to get a louder laugh out of us. Just before we piled back in the pickup truck, I'd lean over him with my pigtails, and let prickly lips plop a slobbery kiss on my young face. I knew better than to complain if I wanted that shiny quarter that was always waiting for me in his pocket. Besides, I wouldn't have hurt his feelings for all the money in the world.

We adored each other - every day of the week.

He died a couple weeks after my eighth birthday. We moved to our own farm just after that. The number of memories made there outnumber the ones I can recall from the one down the winding gravel driveway where I spent my Sundays, but today as I traveled those old roads - this time as a mom in my thirties driving a minivan - I was reminded of my deepest roots, the ones that took hold first, the ones that have never let go.

The little girl perched on that dirty steering wheel felt God's presence just as clearly as I feel him in the sanctuary today. I learned there - so far from those church walls - just what I needed to learn in those moments, in those days. My parents loved me enough to teach me to revere Him, to live life with integrity, to work hard, and to love well. I never remember one day of feeling legitimately afraid or unprotected. I was loved, encouraged, and praised. I had baby dolls, bedtime stories, and a bicycle. Our refrigerator was always full of food and our home was always full of love.

The woman driving that minivan today teared up at the realization of what a miracle that is.

Two of the little ones traveling with me today could not say the same thing if they were asked.

They have known more brokenness in their little lives than I can begin to fathom and it wrecks me; to the core of me, it wrecks me. I wonder if one day they will travel the roads that built them, too. Or will they travel the ones that broke them?

These little ones entrusted to me do spend their Sundays at church. They are taught characters, names, and truths I never knew at their ages, but I do not fool myself for one moment into believing I could begin to teach them more than I was taught on my childhood Sundays. I know full well how capable God is of calling little children to Him in ways we can neither see nor know. I've heard too many stories from friends who experienced God in the hardest places I could never imagine to believe I am in absolute control of the relationship these children enjoy with their Creator. I believe - and I hope beyond all hope - that He is bringing healing now to places I can know nothing about.

Our God is the father to the fatherless, the defender of widows who sets the lonely in families and leads prisoners out with singing. There is nothing He cannot do. No road too dark, too steep, or too long for Him to find us. He is good to those who wait for him. He is full of compassion, abounding in steadfast love when nothing else is steadfast. He does not grieve children or deny justice. He hears our cries from our deepest pits and comes near when we cry out to Him in fear. He takes up our causes and redeems our very lives. He sees the wrong done to us and promises to repay our enemies for all their evil deeds.

There is no greater defender, no better advocate, no fiercer father than our Abba, our Father God.

He is bigger than we give Him credit for.

"Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear." 
Isaiah 59:1

Neither our past nor our position holds any power over Him. He is mighty to save, sister. He's as real and active in that orphanage as He is in the Sunday school room. Parents may walk away, but He never has. 

"Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." 
Isaiah 53:1-3

He doesn't just see us. Almighty God loved us enough to put on flesh and become us. Long before our lives began, He was well-acquainted with the sorrows we are facing today. 

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 
Let us then with confidence drawn near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
Hebrews 4:14-16

Wherever we have spent our Sundays, may we now be captivated by the stories of an ancient man who loved us from the very beginning. May we know the joy of laughter, tears, and everything in between in a life leaning over the Living Word. May we know better than to complain over what is seen if what we are truly longing for is the unseen. May we trust Him with our hearts and never aim to break His. May we adore each other - every day of the week.

May we - and all the little ones coming after us - be loved enough to be taught to revere Him, to live life with integrity, to work hard, and to love well. May we never remember one day of feeling legitimately afraid or unprotected. May we all love and be loved, encouraged, and praised. May we have our needs met and some of our wants, too. May our refrigerator always be full of food and our homes always full of love.

May we never lose sight of the miracles we are.

And when we know more brokenness than we bargained for, may we make the choice to travel the road toward Home and toward Him that will build us up again.

"And he arose and came to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. and the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.

And they began to celebrate."

Luke 15:20-24


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