Walking Through Fireworks: A Father’s Day Blessing

We pushed the garage door opener on our life as a family of three, just released from the hospital with our baby girl bundle. The house felt huge after our cubby in the postpartum ward. Ladybugs and clouds danced the walls in her nursery.

The sunshine and celebration outside beckoned us. A short stroll before nap time? Why not?

For a first time father, there was nothing newbie about you. A physical therapist, babies were the brightest spots on your clinic schedule. You cooed and chuckled through our miracle’s first-bath-fussing, then confidently laid her back in my arms. I searched your eyes for reassurance. You smiled that everything was alright.

Finally home, the whole neighborhood was in party mode. The 4th of July was sparkling out there. Fresh air and freedom called. Shunning the infant carrier, you scooped our girl up freehand, and through the door we went.

Slowly we climbed the hill, my momma-legs wobbly. Rounding the corner, we saw the street lined with open garages and lawn chair gatherings. We qualified, too, now, a full-fledged family.

Ambling closer, the landscape shifted. The smoke and sparks, crackles and pops hit a crescendo, considerably less festive at close range. Fireworks exploding everywhere, no one paused to welcome the newest neighbor. We decided to run for it—or at least waddle.

close up photography of fireworks on the street

Photo by Markus Spiske freeforcommercialuse.net on Pexels.com

Baby toes tucked in your elbow, we plodded through a gauntlet of ground flower whirls and fuming fountains. It felt like a battle zone. I fought panic that some spark or tipped-over rocket would sting our sweet girl. You spoke peace and curved like a shelter around her. Toddling along as quickly as possible, we made it back safely inside our walls.  It had been the longest block of our lives.

First parenting fail on the books: testing out that verse on walking through the fire without being burned. Check. God must have a special ops unit for new parents.

All three of us exhausted now, you introduced her to the crib with a few pats for comfort. She fussed for a minute, then dozed off, trusting you. It was only when you came out of her quiet room that I saw you rub your shoulders. You had worried, too, along the sidewalk craziness. Afraid of dropping her, tense in the midst of sparks and noise, you had held her so close, your muscles cramped.

Somehow, that strain spoke your love more clearly than anything else. We weren’t business as usual,

We were yours.

We were heart-deep underneath your calm wisdom, and you would do anything to keep us safe.

We could trust you.

2004_1221AA crop cdocAlmost sixteen years later, our controller opens a gate part way around the world for our family of five.

You are still the adventurous one, speaking peace over my mothering flutters. You are the forward thinker, encouraging me to open the kitchen to our daughter’s exploration, placing the lawn in the care of our son’s hands on the trimmer. You carry us through the shifting landscape of new culture, language, and how-to-do-everything.

Sometimes it puts you into knots, but you are wise and strong. With the Lord’s help, you keep us safe.  We love you with everything we are, everything you help us to be.

Happy Father’s Day.

To all the ones we trust, to the pillars of our families, whether by blood or by spirit:

We would not be the same without you. Thank you for launching our babies into the sky and making moms everywhere catch their breath. You teach us all how to fly.

May the Lord be your strength as you walk us through the fireworks.

When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

Isaiah 43:2-3a NIV


Linking this post up to VelvetAshes.com at The Grove: Family


Fairy Slippers Along the Way

I spotted it just off the trail by chance, and did a double take.  It was one of those things in my wildflower book so unusual that you remember its name.  Fairy Slipper.  I forget many of the yellow blossoms cheerfully dotting the path, but no grown up pretend-princess could forget a name like that.  I made the most of the moment and photographed the floral gem in all of its 4″ inches of root-to-tip glory.  We looked around for more, but came up empty.  Usually when you see one flower of a kind, more are sure to follow as you trek through the micro-climate on the slope.  This was a single, unique blessing.  When I got down the mountain, my book told me just how privileged I was to have seen one.

“Fairy Slipper is a very rare wildflower… in fact its endangered. One could look for years and never find this fascinating Orchid.”–DenverPlant.com 

Fairy SlipperIt’s the same way with our launch to serve at the Home of Life in Costa Rica.  As we are climbing the mountain of tasks that will move us from our home in the prairie to serving in a new country/culture/language, we have been a part of some incredible moments of blessing.  Loving words from the Lord delivered to us after worship.  Prayer ministry that lightens heaviness into peace.  Coming out of the bathroom stall at the movie theater to meet an old acquaintance who stopped right there between stall and sink to speak provision and grace over me.  Extravagant gifts of support and affection.  Our church’s homeschool community circling up around us in anointed prayer, doing battle on behalf of our family.  Each one is unique.  Each one a special encouragement.  We could look for years and never find more exactly like them.  The Lord is decorating this trek with different glimpses of His magnificent presence through the kindness of His people around us.  And when we get off of this mountain, I will already know just how privileged we have been.

Common Cowardice

Last spring, as I was considering the magnitude of changes our family is embracing, the Lord did a sweet work of encouragement that made for a poignantly vibrant Full Heart Moment.  A copy of Marcia Moston’s book, Call of a Coward, came into my hands and drew me into the story of someone just like me who had been called to serve with her family out in the nations.   I was eager to walk alongside her struggles and triumphs as she traveled the path the Lord set before her, much of it riddled with pot holes, sharp drop-offs, and breathtaking views.

Lady walking in San AndresAs the pages turned, I began to wonder if she had lived in the same village that we had traveled to for mission work in 2006 and 2011.  Then Tim drove up on his three-wheeler, and there was no doubt.  I was treated not only to laughter and lessons pondered with a new friend, but with old ones, too,  as Marcia’s story twined with the Stromstad family during the early years of the Home of Life in Guatemala.  Hugging them all from my reading chair was a warm sunbeam of hope and joy in a season that had been looking rather gray.

Out of the overflow of the heart, this person writes.  My post, Full Heart Moment, was the fountain, dashed off contentedly in the quiet hours when the rest of the house was sleeping.  Basking in the Lord’s encouragement through the book and the satisfaction of a completed post, I assumed the blessing was complete.  Then Marcia Moston herself commented on TheGoodNewsFamily, and we traded emails in the days following.

When the Lord desires to do a work, the ripples often travel further than we can see.  Marcia was also touched by the common places and faces we loved, and wrote about how she discovered the connection in her post Counting the Cost on her blog.  As our family explored the grocery store in Costa Rica this summer, translating the ingredients to make meals in our cabina, she posted an interview with me, God is Able to Turn a Woman’s Heart about our calling and the way the Lord coaxed me back under the wing of His plans for our future.  I’m amazed by and grateful for her kind support of our family’s journey and for the way she is helping me overcome my own fears by the word of her testimony in her book and her blog.

Through the Front Gate, Guatemala

And that is the essence of why I write, spending hours playing with words and tinkering with nuances: yes, so that I can express my heart, but more so that the Lord might use it to be an encouragement to someone else in the steps of their walk with Him.  When we share our stories with their difficulties and victories, faith is multiplied and our common cowardice becomes a stepping stone rather than a barrier.

“They overcame. . .by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;” Revelation 12:11a

Close Encounters–A Bump and A Blessing

We arrived safely back to our cabina home Saturday evening from our time at the Arenal Observatory Lodge.  Of the places I have seen, this has to be on the list as a paradise.  I hope to post more details and picture from that experience soon.  Right now my heart is processing two contrasting experiences here, and how they symbolize the faces of our journey in a nutshell.

First, the bump.  Thursday morning I was getting ready in the bathroom and planning out how to share some of my testimony with the Hogar de Vida family at morning devotions.  I was leaning in close to the steamy mirror, applying a bit of make-up when I heard the sound of tiny claws.

Half of the many appendages of a large scorpion began flailing from behind the side of the mirror at eye level.  Calling out frenzied prayers and trembling like a leaf, I leapt for a large drinking cup–my weapon of choice for dealing with undesirable characters in the house.  The strategy is simple:  imprison the intruder under the cup, slip a piece of stiff paper underneath it to box it inside, and carry the offending insect outdoors.  It sounds very compassionate, but the real goal is keeping a safe distance away from things that go “sting.”  This time I only had access to about half of the unsavory character.  I pinned him to the wall, but for the sake of photography, didn’t want to squish/saw him completely in half.  Matt removed the mirror from the wall for me, but I didn’t let him intercept the conflict.  This was my battle and I knew I needed to face it.  With the help of a tube of girl-stuff, I got the scorpion lifted over the sink and onto the floor, safely under the cup.  Shaken but victorious, I began to pray over that cup and the adrenaline coursing through me.  I don’t think it was a coincidence that I had to face one of my biggest  fears about living in Costa Rica minutes before trying to share my heart with the people here.  When I checked under the cup, my new friend had checked out.  Either I had squished him more than he could handle, or I prayed him to death.  We didn’t mourn much, but we did take a few pictures for posterity’s sake.

The blessing took place on the front porch of our shared cabin at the Arenal Observatory Lodge.  We had a terrific view of the Arenal Lake, the fragrance of gorgeous landscaping, and the chorus of many varieties of magnificent birds.  Humming birds came in close to feed on flowers right in front of us, and one must have gotten confused.  As we enjoyed our quiet time, a small thunk by the window drew our immediate attention.  A sweet little jewel of a bird lay twitching on the concrete.  After about 30 seconds wondering whether I would frighten it to death, I scooped it up into my hands to keep it warm.  Tiny feet grasped my skin and held tight as the dear little thing sat up and blinked the grog out of her noggin.  I was able to hold the blessing of a lifetime for about 5 minutes, admiring the green fire painted on each tiny feather, until with a whir of wings she was gone.


Being in Costa Rica for this 5-week trip and working towards a full-time ministry here in the future has plenty of hummingbird moments.  Eliana feeling comfortable enough to go upfront and dance with a friend during worship today.  Kind comments and encouragement from friends and family here on our blog.  Seeing a tia and some of her house children slip-n-sliding in the rain yesterday with a long piece of black landscaping plastic and some dish soap.  These are the things that make for good blog posts.  I try to share them so that they will uplift others as the Lord is uplifting me.

But to be honest, this journey also has its share of scorpion moments.  The language barrier keeping me from being able to understand a hurting tia’s prayer request.  Homesickness for our family, friends, church, and culture.  The weight of having to sell our beloved house without any good idea of what we will be able to rent for our family’s future nest.  I never realized before how attached I was to air conditioning and sleeping in the quiet of a room with closed windows.  Matt’s heart is full steam ahead in this calling.  I often have a fair supply of “can do,” but find myself running short on “want to” at times.  I won’t camp out here, but I want to confess that I’m not perfect and this walk can be difficult.  It’s why we need people to link arms with us in prayer covering and support.  His power is being made perfect in my weakness.  Perhaps He is holding me tenderly like a dazed hummingbird, enjoying the closeness yet waiting for the moment when my wings are able to take flight.

The Final Stretch

We head back early in the morning this Thursday so tomorrow is our final day at the Home. Our prayer right now is that we will be able to finish strong and do all of the things Our Father has for us in this remaining time.

We look back at all of the therapy sessions with kids and staff, preschool classes, hugs for the kids, prayers, meetings, fellowship times, cookies baked, devotions, trips down the slides and shovels of dirt. God called us to come here. We pray that everything we have done was a blessing to the kids and the staff.

Your prayers have covered us throughout this trip. We have been safe and richly blessed through this entire time. The Lord has shown up in mighty ways throughout our time here at the home. He has shown His healing power, guided us and protected us. He has revealed Himself in hugs given and received, smiles shared, praises sung, words spoken, quiet moments, the glory of His creation, the spirit of His people and the life in His Word.

Thank you for continuing to pray for us as we finish our time here, as we travel home and throughout our transition back into life when we arrive home. It is always a challenge to come back from a missions trip. The enemy pounces as our defenses relax, ‘real life’ crushes back in and tries to steal everything the Lord has done in us during our time.

Thank you for blessing us.