Because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ there is so much to be thankful for. Life, salvation, hope, freedom, family, the promise of Heaven and so much more. I am even thankful for thankfulness itself. It’s powerful stuff. When there is a spirit of thanksgiving in your soul it alters the atmosphere in your life. Grateful hearts have no room for tantrums or pity-parties. It’s impossible to complain while you are busy saying, “thanks!” You can focus on what you don’t have and what you didn’t get, or you can thank God for all you have received and have been blessed with, but you can’t do both at the same time.
It has been a very hard year in our home, but we have never in our life experienced God more: Through His presence and His peace that surpasses understanding, through the outpouring of love and prayer from Christians all over the world. (those of you who have left blog comments and sent encouraging notes in the mail have blessed us greatly) Through the church that we are planted in that we call home. Our anchor has held within the veil and we are so thankful for Jesus!
2 Corinthians 2:14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
About once a month we take a day to fast and pray as a church. This is one practical way we live out one of our core-values and that is: “3. We bow before the battle.” On these very special days we get together in the evening, across the state, and pray and worship together. Nothing flashy or fancy, just an old-school Holy Ghost prayer meeting. It’s awesome.
The format changes, but I often have different campus pastors give devotional thoughts. Sometimes we take communion. I love these nights so much. No webcast or time crunch. They are some of the most extraordinary and powerful worship experiences. I often will share something about our vision or something the Lord puts on my heart right then in the moment. Last night we also heard something very special from a daughter of the house, my oldest daughter, Miss Alivia Sky Lusko. Check it out:
Today our oldest daughter Alivia Sky is eight years old! Her birthday is October 13th but in our house we call it “Ockatober-Firteenth” because that was how she first learned to say it when she was three years old. She would constantly ask us if it was “Ockatober-Firteenth.” Well today it finally is!
I am so proud of the young lady she is becoming. By the strength of God inside her she is the head and not the tail. Her love for Jesus and her insight is constantly a source of surprise and refreshment. She is smart as a whip, hilarious, and thoughtful.
She is a night-owl who considers anything before 9am too early and loves to stay up way too late reading. She is an extraordinary leader to her little sisters who look up to her — all three of them.
In her short eight years on the earth she has had to walk through incredibly difficult days, but she has done it with grace through her Savior Christ Jesus. The way she has processed and handled the pain of her sister and best friend Lenya going to heaven has been amazing to me.
Alivia made the decision to give her heart to Jesus a while back and she is very excited to be getting baptized today, on her birthday! I love her so much and it is an incredible honor to be her daddy and her biggest fan.
I’ve always thought she had the coolest birthday. September 8, 2007. When you just use numbers it becomes 9-8-7. How rad is that? I don’t know anyone whose date of birth is a countdown. It was always so easy to remember when filling out forms or booking airplane tickets. 9-8-7. I told her once that no matter how many kids we had or how challenging it became to remember all the different date of births I would never be able to forget hers.
Today is 9-8-13. That means Lenya would turn six years old today, if she were still in our space and time. I don’t know how old she is in heaven, or how old she will appear to be when I get there. I have heard some suggest that since Jesus went to Heaven at 33 we will all be that age. If thats true then since I am 31 Lenya would be older than me! She would get a kick out of that. Of course, we have no way of knowing.
What I do know is that I miss her so much today. My reservoir of tears which ran dry several months ago is once again full and flowing. Waves of sorrow have been hitting me in the weeks leading up to this day when I instinctively would feel the need to begin purchasing gifts for her, help Jennie with party planning or consult the birthday girl as to what the menu for her breakfast in bed was going to be.
It is such a difficult and clumsy thing to face this day without the guest of honor here. I want to tell her happy birthday. To wake her up with the whole family singing loudly in her bedroom and watching her sleepy little face beam to see everyone in on it as we march around her room with a plate of her favorite breakfast foods topped with birthday candles. I want to ooh and aah as she comes downstairs dressed to the nines in her birthday outfit. To celebrate her all day long, speaking words to honor and bless her at every turn. Watching her open presents and envelopes with checks from relatives far away. To listen to her laugh and play with her friends at her party, taking pictures of all the fun.
I love being a dad. I love being Lenya’s dad. As hard as it is to be separated from her today, it gives me great comfort to remember that Jesus is in me and she is with Him. She is experiencing fullness of joy and pleasures evermore in His presence, and I am filled with the same Spirit that rose Christ from the dead — so there is a connection. She is in heavenly places, but I am seated there. I think that means my name is sitting on a space at the table. I can’t wait to join her. I have a backlog of hugs and snuggles I fully intend to deliver and I’m counting down the days. Until then, Happy Birthday Lenya!
The first time I ever held Lenya, six years ago today.
Celebrating her fifth birthday.
When you first get married there is a newness to it that causes everything to glow. It is surreal, like living in a dream. No more saying goodbye at the end of the night. No more falling asleep with your mobile phone because after you dropped her off you still wanted to talk as you drove home and got ready for bed, brushed your teeth and drifted off together. (Thanks Verizon.) Now you get to brush your teeth together!
When Jennie and I first got married we didn’t want to leave the house. We had spent our engagement at church, restaurants, other people’s houses and public places in order to avoid being alone in our two apartments like the plague. We knew ourselves and our desire for each other too well to put ourselves in a place of temptation. So once we said “I do” we had no desire to go out. We played board games, cooked, ordered food in, and pretty much became shut-in’s. It was awesome. A new marriage is like a new car, everything is so fresh and magical.
This is a wonderful thing but it is not sustainable. The euphoria and newness of it all has no choice but to give way to the reality and inevitably of life. Goosebumps can’t last forever. Marriage is an endurance sport. You can cultivate those initial feelings by doing the first things but you can’t count on them. Try as you might that elusive new car smell can’t be kept longterm. Believe it or not, this is actually a good thing.