Thursday, September 16, 2010

Nothing Ordinary About Them

I've had the privilege of sitting across a table with some amazing women this week. None of them have had best sellers published or starred in a movie or television show. Outside of their own sphere of friends and family, you wouldn't even know any of these women but that doesn't change the fact that each of them is amazing.
First, on Monday morning I had breakfast with my friend, Denise. We get together infrequently to drink tea and share what's happening in our lives. Denise and I haven't known each other a real long time, but we share some things in common that draw us together and we are a good "listening ear" for one another.
The main thing that we share together is our faith walk. Denise loves the Lord with all her heart and has such a tender, sweet relationship with him that I love to be with her.
Over our meal of omelets and muffins, she told me a story that I simply have to share (with her permission) because it was so encouraging to me.
First let me say that when I look in the mirror, I see an ordinary woman. I mean it. Sometimes I look better than ordinary because I've won the "what do I do with my hair?" contest or I've dressed in a way that hides some of my flaws (a small miracle, to be honest) but by most accounts, I am ordinary at best. I would describe my friend, Denise, the same way. Neither of us has a face that would launch a 1,000 ships, if you know what I mean. We're just garden variety, "somewhere in the middle" age women.
BUT! Denise is a superwoman of faith. Humble. Loyal. Honest to a fault. And she has an incredible prayer life. Her life mirrors many of the people I know. She came to Christ as an adult. Her husband is still an unbeliever but she continues to pray for him daily. She has two teenage sons and a full-time job.
Denise works for a huge, world-wide, well recognized company that is in the business of making people happy. As is often the case, when you pull the curtain back from a place like that, you find that its a bit of smoke and mirrors. Denise works behind the scenes in an accounting capacity. She has worked for this company for nearly 25 years.
The short story is that one day, in the middle of her daily routine, she was told by her supervisor to come with him. She soon found herself in a very small room with an "interrogator" and three other people of in supervisory position. Denise realized almost immediately that she was being accused of stealing from her company. For four hours she was drilled, questioned and put on the defensive. Talk about terrifying!
She calmly walked through all her processes and procedures, showing the investigator exactly how she does her job. But as she was telling me this story, I kept thinking how scary it would be. She had no warning and she no chance to prepare herself for the meeting. I asked Denise if she had an advocate in that room with her during all the questioning. She smiled and said, "Only Jesus. He was in that room with me the whole time. He was standing behind my chair with his arms wrapped around me." Wow! That's a beautiful picture. When I asked her what her demeanor was, was she crying, etc. She said she was very matter of fact, she said, until one point in the conversation when she felt like the investigator was trying to get her to confess to something she would never do (embezzle funds). Denise said, "It was the only time I raised my voice. I shook my finger at the guy and said. 'I am a Christian. Jesus is my Lord and Savior and I would never do something like this.'"
After she was finished with the investigation, everyone left the little room except Denise. She was just sitting there all alone. She looked around the room, knowing she was probably still being taped or videoed, and she prayed aloud, "Jesus, please help me. I know I am innocent and you know I am innocent. Help me." What a great response. She placed all of her hope and trust in her Lord and Savior, knowing he was in the room with her. I would hope that I would have handled myself as well as Denise. Of course, she was completely cleared of ANY wrong doing and she is back at work, a bit wiser and more wary but more than anything grateful that God protected her, her integrity and her job. I thought as I drove away from our time together - that girl is something special. She's a warrior!
Then, on Tuesday night, I was invited to a home by my friend Fayanna along with 3 other women for dinner and prayer. All five of us have kids attending California Baptist University and all but Fayanna have a new freshmen there. She invited us to gather, get acquainted and then pray over our kiddos.
We all had a chance to tell our story around the dinner table. I was so impressed with these girls. All of us were mothers who had given their child over to God. All of us thrilled to have our "babies" at this great Christian school and thrilled that, from all initial indications, our kids were thriving at the school in just a short period of time.
Daphne, Cathy, Denise, Fayanna and Cyndi. Five women with very different backgrounds and stories, but linked by that immeasurably wonderful reality that we were all sisters in Christ. We talked and laughed, ate and talked some more. I am pretty sure Fayanna's sister Cora, who lived in the home where we were meeting wanted us to go home sometime before daybreak but it was just so lovely to be together: expressing fears and concerns, telling stories of God's incredible faithfulness and providence, discovering "small world" connections that drew us closer together. Finally, the joy of sitting around a quiet living room praying purposefully for our children as they begin their college adventure: What joy!
All these women, by the world's standard would be considered ordinary. Not worth a second glance and yet, to hear their stories and to sit at the very throne of God with them in prayer reminded me again that it doesn't matter at all what the world thinks of us. In God's eyes we are all anything but ordinary.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Oh Boy! Here Come the Brides

I have happily been the mother of boys my whole "mother" career. I wouldn't have minded having girls back when I started this job but God knew what he was doing when he kept me clear of girls: Everyone who knows me, knows that I can't do hair.
So the boys came, one after the other. We had bunkbeds and baseballs, Tonka trucks and Ninja Turtles, Legos and Light Sabers. I loved my Super Hero boys with their towel capes and plastic Golf club "rifles". Rough and tumble was the norm, along with skinned knees and black eyes with a few stitches thrown in for good measure.
Every new era brought new joy for me. The "Toddler Years" were hilarious: Daniel was the certified leader of the pack: Jordan did what Daniel said and Andrew tried his best to imitate both of them. I really wished I had written down more of the things they said or did ("Oh, I'll never forget that", I would tell myself. Humpf. I can't remember breakfast) Elementary school days were precious. I remember thinking that 4, 6 and 8 were the perfect ages - they were a bit more self-reliant but still did everything I told them as "the Mommy". When Isaac arrived, all older three boys were thrilled - helpful to a fault.
The teen years were even better. All of the boys are funny - seeing them heading into adulthood with these great funny personalities and servant hearts, the love they all have for each other, their commitment to Christ and Family. I just thought it couldn't get any better!
Well, here come the Brides!
First, it was precious Erin. Poor thing - to be the first daughter in this family. Finding a place on the couch was a death defying feat: the boys were always diving on top of each other and wrestling away. Somehow she remained intact and, despite all the lurking physical danger of four Monroe brothers, she married Daniel in late December 2007. That is one brave girl!
She held her own for 2 years then Jordan met Georgia Anne Huckabee of San Angelo, Tx. Almost a whirlwind romance, darling Georgia Anne swept Jordan's heart into hers and they had a story-book perfect wedding just 2 months ago. Suddenly I've got two girls, girls that I love and am thrilled to call my daughters.
Now, this past weekend, with barely enough time to catch our breath from the June wedding, Andrew finally proposed to the "just this side of perfect", Ashley Geiger.
Ashley and Andrew met on their very first day of classes at Azusa Pacific University in September, 2005. They were in a racquet ball class that took place off campus. The teacher asked students who had cars to raise their hands (Ashley had a car). He then asked the students who needed rides to raise their hands. Andrew raised his hand. The teacher looked at him and said - "You, ride with her" and the rest is history. Almost five years to the day from that first uneventful meeting, Andrew proposed to Ashley at a beautiful park in San Diego county and we are all still reveling in the joy of it. A spring wedding in is the works.
Three girls. Three beautiful, special girls who are very different and yet have much in common. They all love Jesus as their Lord and Savior. They all come from great families with wonderful moms and dads who have welcomed my sons into their lives with open arms. They are all adventurous in their own ways: Creative, bold and full of curiosity for what life has to offer. They are all funny and smart and pretty.
Hands down, though, the best thing about each of these girls is that they each love their Monroe boy completely with true love AND they love their Monroe boy's brothers. That's a boatload of love.
I am blessed - which is a totally wimped out description of what I really feel. Fortunate beyond words. Richer in love than Solomon was in gold.
Now, Isaac has some living to do. Starting college is a whole 'nother blog and I hope that the girl God has specially picked out for him is far off in the hazy future. Still, it's not so bad to be loved by three big brothers and their adoring wives, all of whom think Isaac is the best brother ever.

It's been astonishing to watch them all grow up so fast. I love seeing their faces light up with a look that is now reserved for their beloved. Andrew was positively giddy when Ashley said "yes". It's the face of pure joy - a look I treasured when the boys were 3 (Look, Honey, I brought you a Popsicle) or 7 (Look, Honey, here's a new action figure for you) or 16 (Yes, you can use the car to drive to the beach) and now grown men in their 20's (She really loves you and wants to be your wife!). Oh Boy! I'm going to love this new era!