CROSSeyed contemplations

the random ramblings, musings, & ponderings of a jesus freak

Friday, July 3, 2009

48 hours

Yesterday our family was told that we would have 48 hours left with my grandpa. My mom held his hand as he lay frail, shriveled, and unresponsive in a bed at a North Carolina nursing home. But then in the dark, early hours of this morning, Grandpa went home to be with Jesus. Our family is now left with 48 hours to plan his memorial service.

Death and grieving have become an all too familiar part of life these past few months. I find myself dealing with Grandpa's death in a way that I don't fully comprehend. The tears stopped flowing this morning as I lay in my husband's arms, but the memories of Grandpa are coursing like a strong and steady current through my mind. I spent the majority of the first half of the day searching in vain for a particular photo of Grandpa smiling and looking full of life and charm. I'm happy that the photo is etched in my mind, but right now I want it in my hand!

My favorite memory of my grandfather took place about a year and a half ago. In fact, I already wrote a blog about it (Ready to Fly). At the tail end of a mountain road trip, some friends and I visited my grandfather at his North Carolina home. There was something special about that day.
It was the most tender experience I have ever shared with my grandfather. Somehow, he was gentle and fragile to me for the first time in my life that day. He let me just hold his hand and stroke his arm as I sat at his feet. His eyes teared up just looking at me. I don't know how clearly his 89-year-old eyes could see me as I sat there, but I know that those eyes had a depth and sincerity that were more real to me than anything else in the world at that moment as he told me again and again that he loved me.

Then Gramps said something that I wasn't at all expecting to hear. Gripping
my hand, he turned to me and said "I'm ready to fly, honey..." and my heart almost stopped beating in my chest. "I'm ready to go home." Those words pierced me with their gravity and I couldn't stop the tears from instantly welling up in my eyes no matter how hard I tried to fight them. Would this be the last time I would ever sit at my grandpa's feet? Would this be the last time I held and kissed his hand? Would this be the last time I heard him repeat the jokes I've been hearing him tell over and over again for the last twenty-plus years?

I stifled a sob and replied, "Okay, Grandpa." He squeezed my hand again and said, "When I get to heaven...I'm going to be a lot younger. Like 80...or maybe Jesus!" And I had to laugh! "Grandpa," I corrected with a smile, "Jesus was only 33 when He went back to heaven...not 60!" Gramps looked at me with a slight look of surprise and said, "Well honey, I'm old. I can't remember these things!" And we laughed together at his innocent mistake.

That memory and hundreds of others are at the forefront of my thoughts today. Paul Nemec wasn't just some 90-year-old man that died today. He was, to me, the spiritual head of our entire family. He started out as "Little Paulie," a poor kid playing football and getting into trouble on the streets of Chicago, and grew into a man of strength and integrity with a wealth of knowledge and wisdom who worked hard to share the Truth of the Gospel with as many people as he could get to listen to him. He leaves behind a beautiful legacy in the form of a family who shares that same faith in Christ that was so central and essential to his life.

Tonight I wish I could sit there at Grandpa's feet and hold his soft, fragile hands just one more time. Or I wish that I could sit at his kitchen table while he cooked up a perfect, Chicago-style hot dog just for me! I want to see again that twinkle that would appear in his eyes when he knew he had just said something that he really shouldn't have. I want to smell the stinky scent of the cigars he used to smoke, in spite of all of our protests. I want to hear his big band music playing loudly from the back bedroom. I want to hear his joke about buying chairs for the standing army just one more time.

I know Gramps is with Jesus now and that the twinkle is there in his eyes as he greets the many men and women whose lives he touched and poured the love of Christ into. His broken hip is healed now and I'm sure he's ballroom dancing with Granny, his first love. And I know that one day I'll see my grandpa again.

More than anything else, I know that Jesus is happy to have "Little Paulie" at home with Him at last.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

the beginning or the end?

Tonight was the last meeting of a church ministry that has been my home away from home for the last four years or so. It was a night of reminiscing, remembering, smiling and laughing, crying, hugging, thanking, and recognizing. It was our last meeting as a group, but was it the end of an era...or a new beginning?

I heard about Revolution, a discipleship-based (home group based) ministry geared toward young, single and married adults, through the newspaper at my church but it took me months to work up the nerve to actually attend a group where I knew no one. Talk about stepping out of my comfort zone!

As much as I knew I was in need of an area to get "plugged in" at my super-sized megachurch, I also knew that I was overly shy when it came to the thought of walking into a room of strangers and trying to form new friendships without at least one friend there with me as my crutch.

I finally visited Revolution. I felt uncomfortable, out of place, and isolated. I went again. Same feeling. I wasn't liking it, but I kept going back. In a way, I guess you could say that I made a deal with God.

"Lord, I'll keep going until I get plugged into a home group and I'll see how that goes. That's all I'm committing to for now..."

Well, I signed up for a home group and thus began the longest year of my life as I sat on a waiting list and sporadically attended the weekly group meetings with much trepidation and reservation.

And then it happened. Through a "slight miscommunication," an email circulated that an all girls Bible study, led by Christie and Angela, would begin the following week at MY house! I figured I had better attend. And so I did. For the next couple of years...

That home group, which I eventually began to co-lead, would change my life. Through a series of newly formed friendships, heart-to heart talks, discipleship and accountability, my walk with Christ went from good and strong to amazing and contagious! I met friends who not only loved Christ and talked about Him on Sundays and at Bible study meetings, but actually lived like Him on a daily basis.

Parts of my heart that had never before been awakened were suddenly drawn out and developed. I fell in love with being a servant of the King and I tapped into the power of prayer in a way that I had never experienced before.

I came to Revolution over four years ago, knowing no one and feeling lost. I am leaving with a family of close friends that is too large to count and a support network that I know will continue to uplift me and pray for me even as I move away to the other corner of the country to start my life with the husband that I met through this very ministry.

To me, this isn't the end of a ministry or the end of incredible memories made. It's the beginning. In the words of our leader Casey, we've been sheep in constant need of feed and care and now it's our turn to become the shepherds who go out and care for our own flocks. I'm leaving Revolution armed with more tools for service and spiritual growth than I could have thought possible at this point in my life.

It's my prayer that Dan and I will take what we have learned and transfer it to our own personal ministry as man and wife....that tonight would be the beginning of something far greater and far more beautiful than we've ever imagined...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. Judges 7:2

I have always loved the story of Gideon in the Bible. It's truly remarkable to see how God delivers His people in the least expected ways! Today, my daily devotional book led me to revisit the Old Testament story of when Gideon was about to face an army of enemies and God repeatedly commanded him to reduce the number of his own army by the thousands! The devotional went on to give a powerful charge to let my vulnerability be the occasion for God's power.

Yea. Easier said than done.

There's nothing easy or comfortable about the Christian life. It's the road less traveled, the beauty less obvious, the painful climb to a summit glorious. It seems pretty clear to me that God is more visible, more glorified, more desired and needed in our moments of weakness and frailty. Why then would He pass up an opportunity to bring us to a point where we see our need for Him? The tough part is, He often doesn't.

I, in my human flesh, am so short-sighted that I'm rarely able to see beyond my own nose and recognize that I simply CAN'T do it on my own...whatever "it" is. I think I speak for all humanity when I say that we have a NEED for God and we have a NEED to be reminded on a painfully regular basis.

These last several weeks have been a painful lesson that I'm still in the process of learning. The basic Cliff's notes version is that God has been stripping away my army by the thousands, just as He did with Gideon. Now I'm left with just the few good men that God wants me to be equipped with and we're facing giants together. Armed with little ourselves, we're rich with the power of God and it's now abundantly clear that He and He ALONE will lead us to victory over our enemies.

Now to abandon the analogy and speak plainly about the hardcore reality of what I'm talking about, I have been literally (or verbally) battling for some time now about the changes that are destined to occur in the midst of my getting married. With my job disintegrating by the minute, no new job in site, outrageous wedding expenses, and now moving expenses (yes, it's official - we'll be moving to Seattle after the wedding)...I am for the first time in my life completely broken financially and at the mercy of God's hand alone to provide for me. I've always been financially stable "on my own" (I think God just laughed at me) and it's not easy for me to be in this place. But I know God has brought me here and He has great plans for me here.

At first I was somewhat angry and indignant to find myself here in this place of vulnerability and utter dependence. I never thought I'd be bringing NOTHING financially to the table at the start of my marriage. I wanted to bring more of a bonus than a burden to Dan's finances. I see now that God wants to show me that He and HE ALONE can provide for my needs and for the needs of my upcoming marriage. He has led me to this place so that I will see how great His love is for me.

God saw that I had too many "men" to feel the need for My Deliverer and so He is stripping me of my own resources so that I can rely more fully on Him for my every need. He's pulling me into His lap as His child and caring for me as my Father.

The Lord has already blessed me with the desire of my heart in giving me a godly husband in Dan. How can I do anything but trust that He will continue to take care of me beyond my wildest expectations?

Friday, May 16, 2008

from muddy to majestic

I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest -- I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm." Psalm 55:6-8

I say this fairly often, but the thing that I love most about reading David's Psalms is reading his words of distress and anguish. His words are so raw in the Psalms as he cries out to God in his pain. You can hear the unveiled fear in his voice. You can imagine his lip quivering as he holds back the tears and shakes his fist at the Most High in a desperate plea for his Savior to come to his rescue. Knowing that David was called "a man after God's own heart" and knowing that he was a man set apart by God to literally bring down a fierce giant of a warrior and rule over an entire nation, it makes me feel pretty good to know that he too had times of utter dependence on God and moments of complete weakness and frailty. If he had those moments, surely it's normal for little ol' me to have them too. *Sigh of relief.*

I love how as I read my devotions this morning, the book mentioned that God actually insists on our enduring suffering because it produces results that nothing else can accomplish. It's so true. It's in the midst of our grief and pain that we cling to Jesus Christ in a desperate, no-holds-barred kind of surrender. We don't do that when things are going fabulously and completely in our favor. Instead we become complacent and arrogant in our serenity.

There exists a unique beauty in being desperate. It's in those moments of desperation that we gain clarity because our eyes are finally open to the fact that we can't manage to live fully without Jesus Christ. We can get by in this life by maintaining a mediocre existence if we're dependent fully on ourselves, but we know the end result of a Godless life: certain death. In those times where we feel hopeless, those are the instances where we are made truly aware of where our hope lies -- in Christ and in Him alone!

And so how is it that we are to endure in the midst of suffering? When everything in our lives seems to be spiraling out of control, how are we supposed to persevere as the Scripture urges us to? My devotional book reminded me today

My friend and I just completed an endurance marathon called the Muddy Buddy. We trained for the race beforehand by running and biking as much as we could. Although we knew there would be obstacles to complete during the race, we didn't know ahead of time what type of obstacles we would be encountering exactly. All we could really do was prepare ourselves to endure whatever challenges we came up against.

When the day of the race finally arrived, we were surprised at how difficult it was. Biking and running through the sand was incredibly difficult. We never knew what obstacle we would have to complete at each transition point until we actually arrived there. At one transition station, it was a rock wall we had to climb. At another, we had to cross over a long balance beam. Each station was different. Pedal stroke after pedal stroke, one foot in front of the other, mile by mile we traversed through the sandy terrain and through the black, muddy pit at the end of the race to finally make it across the finish line. We were covered in black mud and our eyes were blinded by all of the dirt in our eyes, but volunteers awaited us and hosed us off so that we could finally see again. It was such a rush having completed such a difficult journey so victoriously!

That's how it works in a life dependent on Christ. We can't know ahead of time what obstacles or trials we will face as we round each bend in the winding path. We simply know that hard times will come up and that we will indeed suffer in the midst of them. It is in the process of enduring those trials and tribulations that we build eternal results as we learn to lean more dependently on Jesus Christ and rely less on our own strength mile by mile, one foot in front of the other. We will inevitably have to face the dark, muddy pit of humanity and pain and filth, but we will indeed reach the finish line. We have a Redeemer who washes us clean of all of the mud and the muck, who refreshes our soul after its long and weary journey. Our pain and suffering isn't in vain. It has a purpose that is rich with hope and grace. At the end of this endurance marathon called life awaits our Heavenly Father who will remove the dirt from our eyes so that we might finally see clearly and with eternal perspective. I can't wait...

Friday, March 21, 2008


Something always brings me back to you.
It never takes too long.
No matter what I say or do I'll still feel you here 'til the moment I'm gone.

You hold me without touch.
You keep me without chains.
I never wanted anything so much than to drown in your love and not feel your rain.

Set me free, leave me be. I don't want to fall another moment into your gravity.
Here I am and I stand so tall, just the way I'm supposed to be.
But you're on to me and all over me.

You loved me 'cause I'm fragile.
When I thought that I was strong.
But you touch me for a little while and all my fragile strength is gone.

I live here on my knees as I try to make you see that you're everything I think I need here on the ground.
But you're neither friend nor foe though I can't seem to let you go.
The one thing that I still know is that you're keeping me down.

I love music, but rarely do I take notice of the lyrics to most songs. Every once in awhile, a song will take hold of me and its lyrics will penetrate my psyche. That happened recently as I was driving home one night with my iPod playing. I played the song over and over again, letting the words resonate within my mind and saturate my thoughts. I don’t know what or who Sara Bareilles was thinking about when she wrote the song Gravity, but each time I listen to it…I hear a broken heart crying out to God. It sounds like the voice of the prodigal son who returned home to his father after coming to the end of his rope…or the voice of the adulteress who humbled herself before the feet of Jesus.

I hear my own voice crying out to a Holy God as I admit that I can’t do it on my own. I can’t make it through this life on my own feeble strength even though I sometimes fool myself into thinking that I’m stronger than I really am. No matter how often I try to stray from the course God has set before me, I find myself falling back into the strong, capable arms of a loving Savior.

My belief in God is as certain as my confidence in the law of gravity. It’s real and it’s always there and it affects every single aspect of my life. I can’t shake it. I can’t escape it. And I don’t want to.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

finger paintings

My favorite part of each day comes just as the sun is setting. About that time, I usually make a point to be working out on the cardio machines which are located on the second floor of my gym. The view from the elliptical machines and treadmills is just perfect since they're directly across from the windows on the West side of the building. I watch each night as the sky changes from a pale blue to a dark purple streaked with different shades of golds, ambers, pinks, oranges, and grays. The colors morph and merge and mingle each night as I watch’s almost like watching a slow dance. It's breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly romantic. I know it's God romancing my heart. He's pretty good at it. I picture God finger painting in the sky, creating this personal masterpiece for me to ooh and awe over as He calls me His Beloved.

I remember as a little girl sitting up at my dad's drafting table and watching him as he would paint with watercolors. With a little prodding, he would let me join him. He'd give me special paper and free reign over an expensive assortment of stunning, vibrant colors. I'd ask him the names of the different colors like cerulean blue and cadmium yellow and crimson red and I'd mix my own unique color combinations. In the end, my watercolors were never as organized or as beautiful as my dad's works of art, but to my mom they were worthy of display in the Louvre. She’d print a Bible verse on a transparency film and place it over my blended hues before framing them and finding a suitable spot on one of the living room or bedroom walls to hang them, proudly displayed for all who entered our home to see.

I have to wonder if life is full of creative moments like that. I wonder if when I’m serving God selflessly by doing a service project or helping a friend in need or something if those moments are so beautiful in God’s eyes that they’re like a child’s mediocre replica of the Creator’s brilliant evening skies. Does He frame moments like those and hang them on His heavenly walls and smile with remembrance each time He gazes at them? I imagine that heaven is glittered with paintings like those…amateur mock-ups of an Artist’s brilliance, given a value by the Father far greater than any man would ever attribute to them…counterfeits viewed as priceless treasures by the Authenticator merely because of the great love He has for the person whose fingers put paint to paper.

I hope I see a lot of familiar paintings as I wander the halls of heaven one day...

Saturday, February 2, 2008

leavin' on a jet plane

I’m on a plane flying to Denver, Colorado as I’m writing this. I’m thousands of feet in the air, so high all I see outside my window is a sea of puffy, white clouds below a flawless blue sky. This plane ride isn’t just the beginning of my ski trip though. It’s so much more. It’s a new beginning for a new chapter of my life. You see, I think life pretty much plays out in chapters. Some chapters are terribly dull or painfully long and you just can’t wait to get to the end of them so you can start the next one. Some are so beautifully joyous that you wish they’d stretch on for hundreds of pages!

Well, I’m sitting here ready for a new chapter. I’m determined to make a fresh start for myself. In some ways I’m still trying to figure out what exactly I want to read when I look back on this chapter some day down the road.

I know one thing though…I’m determined to be different. I just ordered a diet coke from the flight attendant. I don’t even like diet coke. Maybe I need to take this fresh start business down a notch.

From Ski Trip 2008

I’m reading a book right now about God’s grace – well, I just started reading it for the second time. The first time was a few years ago but at the time I found the book to be too thought-provoking and potentially life-altering and I wasn’t ready to make changes to my life just yet so I cast that book and those newly provoked thoughts aside on a shelf somewhere.

But here I am now on this plane flying to Colorado and away from my life as it once was. I’m ready for books that will make me fall so madly in love with Jesus that I’m willing to make sacrifices for Him. This isn’t just a plane ride to Colorado. No, it’s an escape in some ways. It’s a sprint towards Jesus with arms outstretched. It’s a lot of things. It’s both an end and a beginning.

My diet coke just got here. Note to self: no more diet coke. The new me still doesn’t like it.

When I step off of this plane, I want to see mountains. I love the mountains! They always remind me of how big God is and how small I am in comparison to his bigness. I need to see God as big right now.

Today I’m making a commitment to God and to myself. I want more of God and I know that He wants more of me. I want to spend more time alone with God – talking to Him, reading His Word, taking walks with Him, and just being still and quiet long enough to hear His voice.

I want to stop being so “busy” all the time. I want to sleep more. I want to pray more. I want to run more. I want to spend more time with my family. I want to trust God more. I want to drink less coffee (shocking, I know!). I want to complain less. I want to love God more deeply. I want to have afternoons where the only thing I do is climb trees or sit reading and sipping iced tea on my front porch as I ponder all the questions I want to ask Jesus someday.

About two years ago, I was involved in a Beth Moore Bible study with a group of girls from my church. During the study, we were asked to select a Bible verse that we found especially difficult to believe. The verse I chose was the verse that says that God would grant me the desires of my heart.

I’ve always known that verse is true because God’s Word is truth, but it still has never felt true to me. Doubt remains at the back of my mind and I always cringe at the mention of this promise in the Bible. At the same time, I’ve always known and understood that the key to this verse is that God will alter and refine our desires to be a reflection of Himself and His will for our lives.

Oh God, let this be You changing me and transforming me – not just me selfishly seeking a change of pace, or a new chapter!