Monday, January 20, 2014

A True Legacy

The year was 1971 and my parents were 2 wounded people from very different backgrounds trying to make their marriage work, though it clearly wasn't. My dad was an Italian-Catholic who grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA. My mom grew up in St. Paul, MN without her dad, poor and one of 8 children. Together they had myself and my brother Nick.

My parents purchased a small home in what would be my hometown of Richfield, MN. The biggest selling point was a huge bar in the basement. Alcohol was an ever present staple in their life.

There was a Pentecostal Pastor and his family who lived directly across the street from us. His wife showed up at our door to welcome us to the neighborhood one day with a pie and a book. The title of the book was 'The Cross and the Switchblade' by David Wilkerson.

David Wilkerson was a small town pastor from Pennsylvania to whom God gave a passion for the Gang members of New York City. "It all began when he saw a photograph in 1958 of seven New York City teenagers charged with murder. He later wrote that as he felt the Holy Spirit move him with compassion, he was drawn to go to New York in February 1958. It was then that he began a street ministry to young drug addicts and gang members, which he continued into the 1960s. Later in 1958, he founded Teen Challenge, an evangelical Christian addiction recovery program affiliated with the Assemblies of God, with a network of Christian social and evangelizing work centers."(Wikipedia)

My mom read the book and it changed her life. She gave her life to Jesus and began attending Bible study at our neighbors house. My dad noticed the difference in her and was interested in what caused it. About six months later, he too read the book. Shortly thereafter he went to a rally where he heard David Wilkerson speak. He gave his life to Christ that night. My family was forever changed. My mom had been ready to divorce my dad. My brother and I were about 2 and 4 years old at the time. After becoming Christians, my parents went on to have 5 more children! They have been married now for 45 years. My siblings all love Jesus.

 Ironically, years later my family would once again be changed because of the passion one man had for Christ and for those addicted to drugs and alcohol. We sent our son to Teen Challenge, the recovery program started by David Wilkerson. It changed his life and he has been sober for 3 years now. One man, whom I have never met has impacted my family's legacy profoundly. The ripple effects within my family alone from one man's passion and obedience to Christ is beyond comprehension. I don't think there is any way to adequately measure the impact this man's life has made for the kingdom.

This got me thinking about how none of us knows what kind of impact our life will have on others.  One of my greatest desires is that my life have meaning and to make a difference for others for Christ.  I think we all fear not making a difference in some way.  I love the visual of throwing a rock in the water and watching the circles start out big and end up smaller and smaller.  I believe that both our good and bad choices have a ripple effect like the stone in the water that can leave an impact on those closest to us as well as our acquaintances.

I am not Dave Wilkerson.  I am Gina Lind.  My life looks pretty good in pictures.  Come live a day or two in my home and you will see I'm in the midst of several storms.  I'm pretty honest and open about things.  I believe that through my failures and successes, I can share how God is faithful no matter what.

I can be a good neighbor.  If our neighbors in 1971 hadn't reached out to my family, my life could have looked very, very different.  What if a pie, a book and an invite into my home was the beginning to changing a life for eternity?

I believe in loving and serving people.  Sometimes I am not the most loving to the people I care about the most, but that is my desire; to love well, to serve others and to reach out to people who are hurting.

Two years ago I came across this verse and it is one of my favorite verses.  I have it posted in several places through out my home.

"Above all, let your love for one another be intense because love covers a multitude of sins." 1Peter 4:8

If I'm going to leave a legacy, then I really need to live this verse.  I believe this is how David Wilkerson lived his life, otherwise he would not have had the incredible impact he did on the lives of drug addicts and gang members.

Lord, help me to be willing to reach out to others no matter my own personal circumstances.  Help me to look for ways to love and serve others.  Thank you for the people you have placed in my life who have pointed me to you.  Help me to be someone that points others to you by the way I live my life.  Thank you for loving me and for being my Father.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Giving Them Wings

Several years ago, I let my 18 year old daughter travel to Uganda with 10-20 women from across the US I did not know. It actually ended up being a comfort to me because I could strongly feel the love and the nurturing she'd be getting from the other women who love Jesus. My heart was wishing that I had been able to be with her on this incredible experience.

This brings me back to some verses God has given to me over the past several years. It's been a true struggle learning to let go of our children. We have given them wings and soon it will be time for them to fly. It's really something we start doing as early as when they begin walking. The question is, are we ever really ready to let them go?

"Let your hope make you glad.  Be patient in the time of trouble and never stop praying." Romans 12;12 I think that one was written especially for me! I feel strongly about hearing the Lord tell me to have hope and this verse makes my heart happy.  The patience part, I'm still working on.

Lamentations 3:22-23 -
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

There is no exclamation mark after this verse but I think there should be. I am an emotional person who feels deeply and I love the exclamation mark! His compassions are new every morning. That is just amazing to me! Thank you Lord for your great faithfulness!

So here's what happened: Hannah arrived in Dallas airport with 2 bags to check, a carry on bag, a purse a backpack and a small bag. She had to leave security to meet up with the team she was going to Uganda with. She rented a luggage carrier, which didn't help as she was told she must leave them within the security area. My 110 pound daughter begins to drag all this luggage across the airport. I received a phone call from her, she was frantic and scared. I was wondering what I had been thinking letting her go alone! Thankfully after her ordeal with the luggage she had a pretty easy time find her teammates.

Those 2 weeks she was gone were a lesson in letting go. I was so proud of her and yet so shocked that she was learning to manuever this life without me being there every minute.

When God was teaching me about giving my children wings and letting them fly, I completely didn't connect that perhaps Spencer would be the one I had to let go of first. That was a complete blow to me! I wasn't at all ready for what happened.

Two months prior to Hannah leaving for Africa, we chose to send Spencer to Teen Challenge, a Christian faith-based solution to life-controlling drug and alcohol problems. He was only 16 years old and it was a 15 month program. Though there are hundreds of Teen Challenge sites, we chose Florida, which is a long way from our home in Minnesota. We chose this program because we thought it best suited his needs.

All this happened smack dab in the middle of my depression, making it even more difficult for me to to process. I missed him and I grieved the many losses involved with this situation.

Fast forward almost 3 years and I am amazed at what God has taught me and how I have grown.  I'm still learning to let go.  Hannah is now 21 and Spencer is 19, both of them live on their own and are needing me less and less and when they do need me, it is a different kind of need than when they were children.   Sterling is 17 and he's beginning to look at music schools in other states.  Learning to maneuver the road of parenting older children is a whole new world.

I continually remind myself that they were never mine to begin with. They belong to the Lord.

I recently came across a blog 'Keeping up with the Clarks'.  The author of the blog, Shirley wrote this very wise piece as a new mom and I'd like to share with you. I have paraphrased it a bit. Check out her blog, it is full of beautiful writing.

One day soon my child will outgrow my lap...though never my heart.

And that is the way it should be.

One day soon this baby will become a man/woman.  God will be his/her source and sustainer of life.  My child's needs will be met by Him and not I.

And that is how it should be.

One day soon they will be too big for me to wrap my arms completely around and soon after he/she will prefer the arms of their spouse.

And that is how it should be!

I really love what she wrote and it hit home in a way I hadn't thought of before.  I don't want my children to need me, I want them to need GOD!   I want them to be happy and confident in who they are as my child and as a child of God.  I want them to find that special someone and make their own life.

Of course, I want them to call me every now and then(texting is good but phone calls are better) and I love it when they come home, even for a few minutes to grab some food or play with the littles.

Sometimes I find myself worrying about them moving out of state or what kind of choices they will make.  I know I need to let them figure it out on their own and fail every now and then so they learn.

My husband will wrap his arms around me when this happens and look at me and say "When we have done our job as parents and everyone is gone, it will be just you and me.  We will always have each other and that is very important to remember."

I love him and am so thankful for how he loves our children and for how he loves me.

Dear Lord,
I'm a mom who has given my whole self to parenting.  I have never been perfect and I am always making mistakes.  One thing I know is that I always try my hardest to be a good mom.  I love my children.  I love who they are becoming.  I love that you love them more than I do and that is a lot!  Help me as I learn to let go of my children.  Help me as I learn to let go of control and let them make their own choices.  Help me to figure out how to parent adult children because this is new to me.  Also Lord, please give me the strength and endurance I need as I not only parent adult and teen children but also the twins who are 5.  Sometimes I am tired and think the road ahead is very long.  Thank you for gifting Kevin and I with 6 amazing kids!